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Part III

By Remy Benoit

In Part 3 we will look at our dreams, daydreams, reflections, and memories in an effort to see what they mean to us and how they can help us to live in the present with a heightened awareness and appreciation of our place in the world and our progress along our personal paths. Please be aware that the writings you will find throughout this seminar were donated with love by many people, from all age groups, from all over the world, in the hope that their thoughts and writings will help you along your way to peace.


"Throw your dream into space like a kite, and you do not know what it will bring back, a new life, a new friend, a new love, a new country." — Anais Nin

Give your dreams form and substance by writing them down.

Where do you dream?

Do you only dream when you are sleeping?

Imagination is more important than knowledge... Knowledge is limited, but imagination encircles the world. — Albert Einstein

Or do you day dream too? Do you feel guilty when you are daydreaming? Who told you that you should?

We need to keep a record of our dreams. We need to examine what they are trying to tell us.

We need to dream, to daydream about where we have been, where we are going.

We need to take daydream journeys.

A Sunday Morning Reflection
the wind blows inordinately cold
this frosty Southern morning;
the sky hangs heavy, grey
as if lamenting its missing brilliant blues;
the few local trees that shed their leaves
reach out their limbs as though seeking warmth
from their still dressed neighbors; and we,
ah, we three celebrate the season
in this transitional house with the bubbling kittens
who think this small transitional artificial evergreen
that appeared in the living room
dropped from the heavens with its
shiny red cranberried garlands for their sole amusement;
we three, plus the old long haired, partially deaf and blind dog,
the jowly gentle patriarchal feline
on the way to la Ville de la Novelle Orléans
as the end of the transitional time has come
rested, and healed, and filled with wonder
we rejoice that soon we will see the things
we have come to see,
live the life we have come to live,
dance the joyful pulse of the streets
in the present held bosom close by the past;
in the loving arms of live oaks sheltering us with
with their long mystic Spanish moss hair;
by the wrought iron fences, on the narrow banquettes,
in homes, old and speaking their history
to those who will listen;
old homes protected by shutters and walled gardens
all being blessed, all being nurtured
by heavy nursing rains;
dance the pulse the of music, and life,
of the song of the city
with the words and the songs of our hearts.
I shall plant sweet peace roses
as an offering to Our Lady for Her gentle
care of this dream I have placed in Her hands;
an offering to Our Lady, our trust in Her Son
all given into
Into His Hands with absolute faith.

We need to remember, we need to reminisce:

From a letter to a friend on my son’s 16th birthday:

...yet I know I will never pick up the chubby little body that was once his and play with rubber ducks and tiny submarines in the tub while I wash him up and he giggles...

I know I will never have him sit cuddled up warm and sleepy on my lap again, matching his breathing to mine as I sing him to sleep with the special song I wrote for him.

I understand the Biblical quotation all too well, and Mary kept these things in her heart...

But I know too how very blessed I am.

I look forward with awe at the man he will grow into.

As I was lying there in the dark this morning, tears streaming down my face with the joy of this day, I thought of what you said about your girls; how from the first moment you saw them, when you picked them up and they looked into your eyes with such trust, when you knew you would do everything you could to keep them safe, what a wondrous gift we have been given to be parents. I knew too that each day I will put just a little more into working to try to bring some peace, love to their world.

We need to blend our past, our present and our future in our daily lives, in our healing, and in our writing.

Put on a record, a tape, a CD and let your character respond to it:

Journal Rhea Devereaux, June 5, 2000

Took my coffee and my book out to the patio as I do each morning...from the rain, from the heavy humidity, there are millions of droplets of water falling from the leaves of the big tree to the ground with the sunlight sparkling through beautiful it makes me cry...from whence cometh, my dear, all these tears?

The wetness in the tree across the street is sparkling gold; the Boston Fern I just watered is glimmering silver; I feel like warm, humid air myself...

I feel like if I could touch you right this minute we would both explode into exquisite fragments of light of all the colors of the rainbow...

am I losing my mind, or finding my soul...

Oh, Jacques, how could I, how could I have doubted, been impatient?

What, what am I to make of all this?

How, how do we find our way back to each other across time and space?

What am I to do to help make that happen?

What am I being shown in this morning filled with glory and light and love?

Ah, the earth is the Lord's and the fullness there of, and He has given it to us, and what, what have we done with it? But better question, Jordan, Jacques, what can we do with it?

And if, if this handwork of the Lord, can look like this; can be so soul stirringly beautiful, what, what must it be to look upon the face of Creation?

"...listening to the Moody Blues, Jesse, love the Moody Blues...will miss the music like this where I am isn't there yet, but it is in my head, always will be....

"but Jesse, ‘ya know how we have talked about special when little Tommy Jefferson and the boys got together and they turned the world upside down and men in other places kept saying, 'it can't be done...'

"I know we've talked about why these men, these minds, all in one place at one time...always felt it was meant to be...

"all birthing is done with pain and blood, BUT out of it comes a whole new life...

"all revolutions have their excesses, but I feel, Jesse, I feel that the '60' s and the 70's were a special time...a time of a terrible birthin' in blood, tears, ideas, music, color, mind expansion, drugs, Eastern and Western philosophy meeting as West met East in blood spilling...

"why did so many of us come together at this time, ( know the biology of it, got a 99 in biology ) begin a revolution of thought...and then seem to let it slip away...

"but we tried to fall back into the middle class thing, the middle class thinking, only to live with an ache, an unfulfillment, until we individually, and again collectively, have come back to see, feeling, living the dream and working hard for it in so many ways...

"in so many peace filled ways...

"there are still those who say it can't be done

"to my way of thinking, they are going to be proved wrong, again..

"there are too many of us, too much energy, too much will for what is better, working together now instead of at odds; working for all of us instead of fighting over personal grievances...

"so many ready for it, working and praying for it, joining hands, not just us, but those from Brokaw's 'Greatest Generation' who have had enough; women who say I gave them my husband, I gave them my son, I don't want them to have my grandson too...

"seems the thing to be doing now is passing it on to the young ones...

"ah, can we build a new world from the ashes that are burning?

"I think so, Jesse, Melanie. I believe it with all my heart."


Put on a record that reminds you of a person, or a place, or a life event and write a letter to that person, that place, that life event. Write a poem. Write a short story about something that occurred between you. Express your feelings whatever they may be. Write your joy, your nostalgia, your desire for resolution of a problem. Write what needs to be said.

Can you pull a life event out of your character than would have impact on the story?

Look at the times you are writing about. During the times of the American Revolution there were many letters that spoke of the aspirations of the coming confrontation. There were personal letters to soldiers away from home.

Much work has been published of these letters from the War Between the States that you can research.

If you are writing about the times surrounding the First World War, the letters between Nicholas and Alexandra shed much light on what was in their minds and hearts.

Whenever you can, use primary resources; resources from the person directly involved; but keep in mind, what you read is their interpretation of what they saw. Get other references and balance the view.

Build a vocabulary of the times with which you work, but when you use the terminology of the times be sure your reader can understand the words and their meaning for that time which may be different from contemporary meaning.

The inclusion of everyday objects in the life of your characters consistent with their times gives them an enhanced reality to your reader. Be careful of anachronisms, don’t use flight bag where reticule is required.

Each time has its own biases and prejudices. Keep to the voice of the time of which you write; don’t put the politics of 2001 in the mouth of a person in the Middle Ages. Keep to the values and mores of the time of which you write. If your character is an advocate for change, progress, that is fine, but write in terms of how and what would be said in that place and time with wording consistent with that time. Having a speech come out of the mouth of a member of the clergy in 1990 housed in the wording of Cotton Mather just wouldn’t work.

I have a grandmaw who is so very sweet.
It isn't hard for us to meet,
because she lives right down the street.
When I have a bad sore,
all I have to do is knock at her door.
Even through snow or rain,
she'll be there to heal the pain.

— Cole Barton, age 9

Alone at Last

Oh my! Summer's here again,
and the kids are out of school.
Bob's decided to fix the house
and I'm tripping over a tool.

It's too hot outside to do a thing,
and the kids are really bored.
We'll go to a little league game,
but the mosquitoes are all that scored.

Everytime I clean the kitchen
and turn with relief and a sigh,
the ice box door is left open
and the sink's restacked sky-high!

You'd think we had a dozen kids,
by the mountain of clothes there are.
“I'm sure I only had just three;
that's all that I've counted so far.”

On bended knee, I scrubbed the floor
and put on a coat of wax;
before I could holler for them to stop,
they left behind their little tracks.

But when I start to lose my temper
and complain at the end of day,
I'd stop and think of how it is,
and I wouldn’t have it another way.

Now years have passed and it's just we two
because now they're on their own.
I have to smile when one will say,
"I'll be so glad when they are grown."

— Sonia Carles

For Grandpop

I remember, Grandpop.
I remember being with you.
Couldn't forget, why would I want to?
Your love always being around me.
Always being a part of my world.
Your always being there when I reached out a hand.
I've always told everyone that you were the sweetest,
sweetest, most gentle man I ever knew.
With all you were carrying,
with all that you lost forever
with all that she just couldn't give you
not wanting to be cruel
its just belonging to someone else
with all that
and only you knowing what else
never, ever, an angry word
never, ever, a frown.
Nothing ever coming from you
but good,
but light
but love.
Taken me over half a century working at it
to even get near what you were by nature;
love and acceptance
love and forgiving.
I remember the day standing there in cemetery
saying come back if you're wanting to.
I'd like to be carrying a child.
Don't know how that kind of thing happens,
if it happens, but if it happens, in whole
or in part.
what was you is in my heart
moving me to your kind of loving.
Whatever it was in you that made you special
however you saw to its doing
whatever it was that made you special
you put in my son.
Don't know how anyone could have found a better way
of saying, "I remember too, little one, granddaughter, I remember too.
So you'd best be keeping that young man of yours well supplied with cheese."
I asked tonight, Grandpop, if after feeling you there all these years,
if it was possible that I could see you.

I can't see the screen I'm typing this on
my fingers finding their own way,
my cheeks flooded with tears.
I can't see the screen, Harout
But, oh, yes, I can see you.

Sometimes, sometimes, there are real hard issues you and your characters have to face.

Journal entries, letters, poems need a starting place to begin to get through these.

Some samples:

You were the enemy. I saw you take my buddy’s life. I took yours with this M-16 that did, in fact, have to be cleaned. I walked and bent down and looked you. I was looking for maybe some battle plan in your pocket and I found a little brown diary in a language I couldn’t read or understand, although I heard it around me everyday. Inside it though were pictures of you and a pretty woman and two little kids. My buddy’s pocket had a picture of his pregnant wife. You knew your kids, he never will and I, I just want to didi out of this whole nightmare but I can’t because, because inside, you know in that deep inside place I still feel, thirty years after, now...I still feel

Dad, Dad, can you explain to me why you had to...

Mom, that day on the back porch, why did you say...

You promised to love and cherish me...

I don't understand, Mr. Teacher why I wasn't allowed to ask why and get a real answer that took more than thirty seconds....I really don't understand why there is hunger...why...

You, know, Tommy, it was a beautiful Saturday morning, and you knew I didn't like baseball, after all, you were supposed to be my best friend. But I missed that ball, I struck out, and you joined them in laughing at hurt, it still does because...

The Cat and the Rat

I saw a great big rat running away.
It was running from a cat,
the other day.

— Cameron Lee Seabaugh, 9 years old, 1939

A Letter to the White Haired Lady at the New Orleans Airport on the 5th of October, at 2PM, in 1969

For thirty-two years I have had a question for you.

I am not your son.

I am a son of this country.

Did you give birth to a son?

If you did, my guess, by the lovely white of your hair, he would have come of age during the Korean War.

Did he serve his country?

Did he come back?

Did all of him come back, or just parts of him?

Did he come back at all?

The problems in Korea were cold; terrible toe and finger eating cold, and large scale confrontations.

We had heat; terrible heat and flesh eating humidity, the kind that makes radio and TV stations issue health alerts, especially for the welfare of the elderly.

We were usually made casualties one at a time; an incoming mortar, a pungi stick, a claymore under our fungused toes.

When I first saw you, there in the airport, the Louisiana skies had the clear blue of our low humidity autumn. I knew I would not see when my family came to get me, the colorful leaf turning of the New England fall. I might see, on the road home, some leaves of muscadines turning a brownish yellow. But the air was cool, and dry and sweet, coming through the doorway while I waited, my flight having come early.

When I first saw you, I thought of my Gran, long ago gone now. She loved to cook: gumbos, etouffeé and pecan pie. She was a gentle, God fearing woman.

When I first saw you, I smiled thinking I was truly coming home; your hair the color of hers, your height just a little bit more than hers. I was still in a combat mode, but felt just the slightest easing of tension. Just a few moments before, the slamming of the door of the men’s room had set me to almost dropping and seeking shelter. But the sight of your Granma frame, even though you were looking the other way, had eased that, just a bit there in the New Orleans airport, just about thirty hours out of the green. Yeah, I felt just the tiniest inkling that I was truly, not dreaming, but truly coming home; Mom and Dad and my baby sister would be coming through that door any minute, smelling of warm Louisiana sun.

There would be no more incoming; no more snakes; no more greasy silver rain turning to white dust; no more two, two and half inch beetles biting me when I slept; no more leeches sucking my blood. No more Bouncing Betty’s.

When I first saw your pretty white hair, I could smell and taste the pralines Granma made melting right on my tongue.

And then, then you turned and saw me. Your eyes were blue, smile wrinkles around your eyes and mouth.

You had turned and you saw me and you said, Are you just coming home?

I said, "Yes," as a thought danced through my mind that maybe you had a grandson in the green, a brother to me; that maybe you wanted to give me a hug for him.

You said, "From ‘Nam?"

I said, Yes.

Your smile wrinkles turned upside down, your blue eyes iced.

You called me a fascist, baby killing, murdering rapist and turned and walked away from me.

I was raised to not hit a woman; a man did not hit a woman. I had just come from where those rules were turned upside down and women carried and used AK-47’s sometimes with their babies strapped to their backs. But I was in the New Orleans Airport with a white haired woman who reminded me of Gran.

I was immobilized by your stinging venom.

I did not, white haired woman, ask to go to ‘Nam.

I was sent, by you and millions of others like you.

So my question, blue-eyed, white haired woman: Why did you do that?

You sent me to serve our country.

I had not much choice but to do that.

I did it.

I did it with honor as I was taught a man should do.

I went for my country’s honor.

Whatever lies I was told about what was going on there, were not my lies.

They were the government’s.

You, white haired woman, are part of that government. Or were, if you are still breathing free.

You did a real big disservice to me and all my brothers and sisters who went with honor.

All of us who went, leaving our real lives on hold; only coming back to them some of us, some of with parts missing. With pieces of heart and soul missing.

You dishonored our service, our country, our honor and us.

And after thirty-two years, I would still like to know why and how you got it all so mixed up; and what was in your head, under that pretty white hair, behind those cold blue eyes.

— Loving

Write about sweet memories too. Write letters, poems of thank you to those who have meant so very much to you.

For Margaret

She used to peel grapefruit for me.
I’d toss them in her lap
and say
‘Peel it, Monny.’

I was so little.
She was so big,
so strong.

I didn’t know how strong
until I was big.

And by then she was married
a second time.
The years when she worked all day
and baked all night
to raise her little girls
were passed.
They were big now too
while I was little.

She wasn’t just my great-aunt anymore.
She was my friend.
She taught me about hot ovens
and strength
and womanhood.
She asked about things
as I grew up
and she grew old.
There was a hot oven
she asked me about
but like me, when I was little
she didn’t listen
and got badly burned.

But we were friends
and shared out secrets
and special parts of our lives.


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This item is part of historian, author, editor, and educator Remy Benoit's ongoing weblog for Veterans, writers, students, and others who believe in learning from and making history; including thousands of articles and posts and the free writing seminar, Using History for Healing and Writing.

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