The assignment is to STEAL FROM THE BEST by actually copying out by hand a piece of writing that you admire, then use what you observe to write your own work and approximating as best you can the style and tone of the original.
I'm working with Mary Oliver's essay "The Ponds," from her Upstream.
Here's what I have hammered out of my ABORTIVE ATTEMPTS so far.
I stand at the eastpoint, the entrance, the boundary, under the torii-like gate with its white tissue pennants and the Swiss cow bells, symbols of air, breath, wind. Before me, the long green circles on the far side of the labyrinth arc back and forth in calm, wide sweeps, while the paths closer to me twist and switch. If I step down the two steps and start walking, the path will lead me back and forth, around and around, this way, then that, until I reach the black granite circle at its heart.
The path is not always green, of course. Now, in late winter, the grass is browner than not. Enough rye grass has sprung up to give the illusion, at first glance, of lush growth, but that illusion is soon dispelled. It is winter in the labyrinth.
This is my labyrinth. It occupies most of the large, square, lower terrace of my back yard. The circles of the path itself nearly fill the square; a few feet of sturdy ferns and never inattentive ivy—always probing for annexation—edge it on the south and west. The north is a bank of grass and peacock moss, formed when I leveled that side of the yard, leaving an odd, semi-abandoned little path between the bank and my neighbor's fence. Not all of the labyrinth is tame.
The east is open, steps up to the brightly paved patio space, with its chairs and charming lights in the cherry laurel tree, the retrofitted aluminum airline service bar cart, the social space, the door to inside the house, the gate to the outside street. The way not in.
The path was not green to begin with...
So far, so good. Once I understood how Oliver's essay was constructed of little mini-essays and that the effect of the whole was that of a mosaic, that freed me from thinking of my own essay as one long blurp.
It also allowed me to start thinking of how that mosaic might be put together and what the pieces could be. Probably where I'm heading with it is a look at the cycles of the year overlaid with what the space means to me.
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