WPC: Object – Broken Tree

A day late and a dollar short, ha!  Story of my life.  Well, better to show up than not at all and here it is Tuesday but as promised, with my take on this week’s Weekly Photo Challenge theme which is ‘Object’.  So many thoughts about this, so much to ponder.  Can an object in this context mean just about anything?

Last week, being completely bereft without my laptop and I am not ashamed to admit it, (blog post coming up about technology addiction!) I became reacquainted with the ancient art of handwriting as with a pen, on paper.  Not a bad thing as it turned out and with surprising and therapeutic results. I needed to be productive during my ‘offline’ time and so, after I got over my self-pity I decided to revisit my fiction assignment for the writing course I started three years ago and have until October to finish.

I was very inspired by my good pal Dylan’s excellent post over at Suffolk Scribblings where he shares how he came about his ideas for his recently published book, ‘Second Chance’. Congratulations once again Dylan!

I have no problem in writing about my experiences, past and present in a non-fiction, and of course, memoir capacity, but fiction?  That’s another thing altogether.  I have this mental block about being able to use my experiences and turn them into characters and plots for a novel.  I just can’t seem to visualise a character or an idea. Usually when I write I know the ending first.  Sometimes just a simple few words.  That’s all I need.

So I sat down and started to jot down some ideas.  Before I knew it I had come up with a (very) bare-bones plot outline and four characters, as per the assignment requirement.  As I wrote, I began to see that indeed, my characters began to take shape and form and I got quite excited about this!  For the first time in my life I began to believe that perhaps one day I might actually write a novel.  Taking the time out to hand-write these ideas helped greatly.

This revelation led to another one: I realised that I have always hand-written my poems. Even when, as a teenager, I had an old typewriter (I taught myself to touch type on my mum’s old manual typewriter, took all my RSA typewriting exams on one and thought I had died and gone to heaven when I sat down at my desk in my job as a PA working for a lawyer in Los Angeles when I was given my very own electric typewriter!) I always hand-wrote everything.  

In fact, when I was at school we had cursive handwriting classes using fountain pens with a flourish!  Needless to say, my writing looks nothing like the writing I produced in those classes.

Perhaps in the very act of writing down our thoughts and our ideas by hand and so recording them in this more personal way we are able to discover more easily what is really churning around deep inside our hearts.

Moving on then to the theme of this post, and I do admit that a heaviness bears down on me as it has for a little while.  That old black dog stops by for a visit and likes to sit at my feet from time to time.  He is strangely familiar and perversely comforting, yet I hope he doesn’t stay too long.

So doing what I try to do at such times in search of a cure,  he and I took a walk together to try to clear away the cobwebs.

Victim of the Storm - Dead Tree, Somerset(c) Sherri Matthews 2014

Victim of the Storm – Dead Tree in Somerset
(c) Sherri Matthews 2014

This beautiful tree, felled by the recent storms and lying motionless on its side, broken, never to rise again.  Black mud, not frost-hard as it should be in winter but soft and deep, emerging from its flooded, watery grave.  A tractor has driven through the mud, somebody has seen this tree but has left it where it lies.

This broken tree has had its day, with nothing but the still of winter’s air to mourn it.

Yet see the deep, blue sky?  This could almost be California.  At a stretch.  Life and death underneath the wide-open expanse.  We all have our day.  It is good to reach high while we still can and put down strong, deep roots to keep us firm in the day of our storm.

Why are we all so ‘busy’ to the point that we fill our lives with so many distractions just so that we don’t have to stop and be forced to listen to the clamoring sounds of silence?  Yet, as writers, this is just what we have to do.

In the cold light of day we come face to face with our limitations, our failures, our worries and, of course, our fears.  Yet it is here, in the very silence, where we meet our deepest expression.  Maybe it is here that we also find our healing, our hope and ultimately our deliverance.

This is a poem I wrote last week, out of my silence. Dark though it may be, the blue-sky beckons.  Always.

Havoc In The Peace

Wipe that gash of a smile off your
sick, plastic gaze, toying as it creeps up
into the no-doubt-about-it
lines leaching out from the
Death around your eyes.

Reach up into the cruel expanse
of purpose-built lies
As you grasp and seek havoc
Where the lonely dove sighs.

Oh to wonder in the meadow-green
with the cornflour-blue
and the Red-River seen
pure and driven, carcass-riven
In the deep of the unclean.

Reach up into the cruel expanse
of purpose-built lies
Where they seek havoc in the peace
while a little boy cries.

And when the end comes
As surely as it must of any
craven-filled dearth, spluttered
out and kicked to Christ
Where then, in a touch of breeze;
Just give it to me now, then

Turn into a whisper, caught unheeded
singing sweetly, spoken lightly on the air:
‘Keep your charm, for I deliver,
casting lots for my despair.’

Reach up then, into the cruel expanse
and embrace your dark lies,
As they reek of havoc in the peace
Where my broken heart dies.

‘The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.’
Psalm 34:18

About Sherri Matthews

Sherri has been writing full time since 2011. Currently working on her memoir, 'Stranger in a White Dress', she has been published in a variety of national magazines, websites and three anthologies. Sherri raised her three, now adult children, in California for twenty years and today, lives in England’s West Country with her hubby, Aspie youngest, two cats, a grumpy bunny and a family of Chinese Button Quails. She keeps out of mischief blogging, gardening, walking by the sea and snapping endless photographs. Her garden robin muse vists regularly.
This entry was posted in Photos, The Black Dog, Weekly Photo Challenge, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

63 Responses to WPC: Object – Broken Tree

  1. A very powerful photograph – to me that poor tree seems orphaned and alone, more powerful this seems aginst the clear blue sky – the calm after the bereavement perhaps?

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  2. Your photo brings mixed emotions, Sherri. The tree makes me sad, but the blue sky makes me feel as though everything will be okay. Lovely poem…your talent is endless!

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    • Sherri says:

      Ah Jill, thank you , you are too kind. But yes, with me too with the contrasting emotions. As I shared above with CM, I wanted to give poor tree it’s life back by sharing it here, so stark and lonely against the blue sky, which seems to bring hope and resolve. I can’t bear to see trees felled like this. So I’m glad that it’s here with us!

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  3. Dylan Hearn says:

    A lovely post (and not just because of your kind words). I especially love “this could be California. At a stretch.”
    I’m so pleased you’ve been inspired to write fiction again. You’ll find lots of advice on how to write but the only rule I’ve found to be true is “whatever works for you.” It appears you’ve found what works.

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    • Sherri says:

      Ha! Thanks Dylan. Some stretch, eh??! Ever the optimist and all that….
      You really have inspired me. Where it goes, who knows, but it’s a start and that is better than where I was before! It was as if my thinking did a complete turn around and I was actually shocked at how much the ideas began to flow!!! Let’s hope it does work, and you are absolutely right about that, it really is ‘whatever works for you’.:-)
      Hope the book sales are going well…

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  4. Everyone I’m speaking to at the moment seems to be in the company of the black dog. Must be something in the water. Blue skies beckon indeed. Always remember that! And keep that psalm close to your heart.

    ‘a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance’ – Ecclesiastes 3:3-4

    For some reason, I feel that quote is appropriate.

    Handwriting things is wonderful, I find. It really can heal pain, and help the creative river flow. I handwrite an awful lot for my story – you should see the endless mounds of paper on my desk! Not good. I also write letters to friends 🙂 It will always be more intimate and meaningful. You could totally write a novel if you put your mind to it! Don’t doubt yourself. You ARE Sherri Poppins, after all 😉

    Seeing fallen trees always upsets me, I don’t know why… But a powerful picture, and post, nonetheless.

    Keep seeing the blue skies! I know it’s hard to see at the moment, given all the dark clouds over Somerset… but it is there, hiding behind them all.

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    • Sherri says:

      Ahh, thanks so much Jennifer, perhaps I should remind myself more often that I am Sherri Poppins with a magical brolly who only needs to snap my fingers and everything is done, just like that, ha!!!
      Seriously though, yes, that old black dog is making the rounds it seems but hopefully he will wonder off soon…
      I wish we could have a proper winter, with frost, and snow and ice. But then it’s not good for the roads, but ok if we are all snug at home 🙂
      I think it’s so lovely that you hand-write letters, so important. When I lived in the States I wrote reams of letters to my mum and a few friends. I have boxes full of letters she wrote to me and a few from when my children were young but they don’t write letters anymore. Saying that, my daughter does, when she has things on her mind and going through a bad time, she does write long letters to me as she is able to express herself so much better in that way.
      I feel very sad too when I see trees down like this. I wanted to show the contrast between the poor, alone tree, forgotten yet the blue sky looking down on it and so bringing hope and meaning. I wanted to share tree here and that is good 🙂
      Thank you so much for the scripture, which is perfect. God’s timing indeed is everything. As with the seasons, and the time of year. As I type this another storm is raging outside, I’m sure where you are too in your part of Somerset.
      Here’s to those blue skies …and twilight nights 🙂

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      • Haha, I think you do need to remind yourself of exactly that 😉

        Let’s hope he does soon. No one likes the black dog.

        I would love to have a proper winter with the frost and snow! It’s what I love most. But, alas, here we are with the most miserable, wet, mild British winter we’ve had in a long while…

        Handwritten letters are so special. I guess it’s because someone has taken the time to put put pen to paper, to craft every single part of a word, and you can really feel that. People need to write letters more often! At least to those dearest to them. Aha, I always love getting letters from abroad; I act like a child and get ridiculous over-excited about the different stamps and what have you. Oh, so easily amused. I find that I can only express myself through words sometimes, and I often write letters to explain myself to people instead. Because I just cannot speak.. It’s really quite bad :/

        I can see what you did 🙂 It’s nice to be reminded of such hope lingering in the background, reminding us all of it, when such a sad scene is the focus.

        Ohh yes, I can hear the storm battering against my window! In fact, the particular window I’m beside is a rather dodgy one, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the weather took it out completely… Only one way to find out! 😛 Seriously though, I hate the wind sometimes.. More so than rain. I’ve been so interested to know for ages now, but where abouts in Somerset are you? If I can ask such things!

        Here’s to blue skies and twilight nights indeed! And to happiness and hope. What a perfect combination 🙂

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  5. What a solemn yet powerful poem you have written Sherri. Being able to express oneself through poetry is such a gift. It’s as if the poem fits perfectly with the photograph of the old uprooted tree that is highlighted by the brilliant blue sky in the background. It seems as though purging yourself of technology and writing things by hand is a magic charm for you! I’m looking forward to an upcoming post on technology addiction- I think I may be an addict!

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    • Sherri says:

      Oh Heather, yes, perhaps that is it, I need to write by hand more often! Although I do keep notebooks all over the place and scrawl ideas down here and there, as I’m sure you do! This post is solemn,yes, and I debated about writing it but I felt that I needed to. I took this photo before I wrote the poem and then it just seemed right that they went together. Thank you so much for understanding what I wanted to convey, as you always do, even though it might not be everyone’s cup of tea 😉

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  6. The tree says so many things to me, Sherri. You chose a wonderful picture.
    It’s often fiction writers who complain about the difficulty of switching gears to non-fiction. You have a creative opportunity, Sherri, to take your true experiences and write them as fiction. And the freedom in fiction is the permission (and necessity) to take a gem of truth and create obstacles, conflicts, needs and fears. Debra Dixon’s book GOAL, MOTIVATION AND CONFLICT (and there are other good books on this, too) can give you an outline for taking a practice scene from your life, developing a conflict for “your character” to face, a motivation to succeed, and then try writing the scene.
    I loved your friend’s example of writing pen on paper. When I’m in Kansas without my computer, I always have a little notebook or a yellow legal pad, and pens or pencils or even colored pencils to write snippets of what I’m thinking. Once I took blank computer paper and a box of crayons, setting my mood to capture light, funny, touching ideas. Sometime ideas just come. Other time, we find what we expect to find.

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    • Sherri says:

      Ah yes, those yellow legal pads, they do remind of my life in America so much! They don’t sell them here yet over there it seemed that everyone used them. They particularly remind me of my days working as a legal secretary! They are great for taking notes. I love your idea of taking computer paper and a box of crayons, I can just imagine you scribbling away and coming up with many, wonderful ideas, or, as you so poignantly say, being able to write about what you expected to find all along.
      Thank you so much Marylin for your great fiction writing tips and for the book info. I have been reading a lot lately about this business of creating conflict and motivation to overcome it. As you also say, I am learning that just a gem of truth is all that is needed and so much can grow from this. I love the idea of the freedom this gives us as writers, I am just beginning to see this!
      As you know I am concentrating on my memoir at the moment but I am excited that in the background are new ideas forming for a future novel, I hope anyway! I am finding that doing these photo challenges are really helping as I hoped they would 🙂

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  7. Sherri, I’m sending hugs across the oceans to you. I hope the black dog leaves you soon. Your writing, photo and poem all reflect were you are at yourself at this time and are all extremely powerful. I have always thought that poetry, in particular, can only be written when you are overcome by negative emotions and many of the great writers suffered from depression. Although you may do some of your best writing now I hope it leaves you soon.
    I’m in agreement with you on fiction and you should be proud you have come up with characters and story outline. I’m not a planner (in real life or writing) and just go where I am taken. The hurdle of doing what you are in the process of doing fills me with admiration. Lots of hugs💜

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    • Sherri says:

      Ahh, thanks so much Irene, you are so very kind. I don’t really like to write too much about the old black dog, although he has popped up from time to time, as this blog isn’t really about my particular difficulties with certain struggles, after all, we all have them in one form or another, yet you know me well enough by now to know that I do wear my heart on my sleeve so I have to be honest! I know this post is a serious one but I had to write it and this photo and poem seemed the way to go. I’m so glad that you get the reasons for this and you are so right, I do only write poetry when I am in a darker place. I’ve always been like that. I dig down that much deeper I suppose.
      I am the same, I do go with what I am taken with, hence these posts. I have never scheduled a single post. I just ‘go with the flow’. I am glad to have come up with some kind of story line, it will go on the back burner for now as you know I’m concentrating on my memoir, but it is nice to have something else simmering quietly. I love your stories by the way and really enjoy reading them!
      I’m feeling your hugs believe me, they help me so much, and I send big hugs right back to you 🙂

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      • Hugs received and much appreciated. There is an interesting group on Linkedin “Memoir Writers Society”. You might be interested. Just another thing to fit into a busy day. I think honesty with emotion is what gets us in with writing and yours does that beautifully. Both the good and the bad. And you are right – we all experience these highs and lows. I’m glad you enjoy reading my bits and pieces. 😋

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  8. lostinthelabyrinthh says:

    Hope you are well Sherri 😀 Lovely poem!!! I haven’t had much time in months to read many blogs so thought as I have some time now I’ll have a butchers 😀 Much love x x x x

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    • Sherri says:

      Thanks so much Maria, glad you liked the poem (you know how we like our dark stuff!) so lovely to see you over here as always, I see you have been a busy bee buzzing about in my summerhouse 😉 Hope you enjoyed the reads while having a butchers…much love to you on this wet, Somerset day… xxxxx

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  9. How could any one object to such a lovely photo? *Nav winces at his own pun* Actually, it’s a rather neat subject to photograph. So well done on this, certainly.

    The poem was powerful in a dark and perhaps slightly depressing way. Well done again, Sherri. Hopefully your canine companion departed with the pen being put to paper. Delightful post.

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    • Sherri says:

      Ha! I certainly won’t raise any objections…*groan*
      Yes, this is a dark post in some ways but I hoped to convey the blue sky as the contrast against that. I had a few other ideas for this challenge, but I went with this as the most honest one in line with my present thoughts. I feel then that I accomplish what I set out to do at such times.
      Thanks so much as always Nav…my ‘canine companion’ is sitting quietly in the corner of the room not causing too much trouble…

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  10. Your description of the tree againI the bright blue sky brought to mind a tune, a loud one. I had to plug my ears. Don’t laugh. It’s from the musical Annie. She inserted herself into the picture and sang for all she was worth, “Tomorrow, tomorrow I love ya, tomorrow / You’re always a day away.”

    Your poem was sad but you know how to stitch the words together beautifully. 🙂

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  11. bulldog says:

    Loved this post photo and all…

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  12. musingmar says:

    Striking photograph; it’s sad to see a fallen tree, once reaching to the sky, now slumped on the ground. Your words about writing interested me, as I’m wondering if I’m ever going to finish the novel that I’ve started. I continue to have faith! Best wishes.

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    • Sherri says:

      Thanks so much Marlene, and yes, fallen trees are a very sad sight indeed. I hope that the blue sky in the photograph brought some relief…
      I’m encouraged to know that you found the post interesting. Yes, keep the faith and keep going, you must! I wish you every success as you continue on and keep writing your novel… 🙂

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  13. Glynis Jolly says:

    For reasons that aren’t clear for me yet, I shy away from handwriting these days and keep on hammering on the keyboard. I am, however, working on a writing project I deserted not quite a year ago. Someplace within these first weeks of the new year I’ve been inspired. I’m fighting the stupid distractions and, believe it or not, have found some strategies that work.

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    • Sherri says:

      That’s great Glynis. I’m so glad that you have found some strategies that work for you and that you are managing to keep those darn distractions at bay. Keep it going 🙂

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  14. jennypellett says:

    I can’t handwrite these days – unless I’m composing poetry, for some reason. Anything else has to be on a screen and I’ve fallen into this ghastly habit of editing as I go – Dylan wrapped me over the knuckles about it last week. So perhaps I should persist with my parchment and quill…

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    • Sherri says:

      Funny that about poetry isn’t it Jenny? I think that the very act of handwriting it is part of the vital process in conveying the emotion as you write. More ‘real’ than tapping it out on a keyboard. Maybe?
      It was quite the revelation when I began to write down my possible-novel-to-be ideas (although after reading my tutor’s comments about my recent fiction assignment I feel rather deflated now…ah well, he did have one or two good points too so maybe I should focus on those…!)
      Ahh, editing as you go…isn’t that a no-no?? Did Dylan indeed? Hmmm…well, maybe pen and ink is the way forward for you…if nothing else than to help break the habit! Although perhaps it is just the way that it works for you…

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  15. thirdhandart says:

    The old black dog likes to sit at my feet from time to time too. A very haunting post that I can relate to Sherri… I like it.

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  16. Steven says:

    “Life and death together” – perfect. Lovely how the background shows that although we are faced with immediate gloom, brightness is always around us. You are so good at these snaps – any chance I can hire you as chief photographer when I go back into design? 😉

    Seeing a tree taken down like that always strikes me as slightly harrowing, I guess because they are such striking marks on the landscape, and once were full of life – easy to forget, at times.

    Great stuff!

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    • Sherri says:

      I love what you see in this photo and post JG, thanks so much.
      Ha Ha, I’m not sure that I could handle that kind of responsibility! Although if this is an offer to buy me a better camera as part of my job requirement then count me in … 😉
      Yes, it is harrowing (great word!) to see a beautiful tree down like this but it’s good that you took in the blue sky behind it… 🙂

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  17. susancarey says:

    I had cursive writing lessons too but being a left-hander they were something of an ordeal! I think you’re right about hand-writing being closer to the heart though.

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    • Sherri says:

      Hi Susan. I am left-handed too and I know just what you mean! I used to come home with blue ink all down the side of my hand. I was always the kid with chocolate around my face too, go figure 😉

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  18. Pingback: Weekly Photo Challenge: OBJECT | The Adventures of Iñigo Boy

  19. Pingback: Natural Resources And Other Precious Objects | this man's journey

  20. It’s seeming less and less likely that we’re going to have much of a winter at all, but you can already feel the spring coming, so hopefully we’ll all be feeling more positive soon, Sherri. The tree is a sad victim of the storms, but also has a stark beauty – and no doubt it will go on to give nourishment back to the earth in one way or another, which I guess is another aspect of the symbolism of the blue sky. ‘the still of winter’s air to mourn it’ – such a melancholy, evocative line. You know I shared your experience of the manual typewriter – doing drills of practicing those ‘a’s, ‘q’s, ‘p’s, etc. was always challenging on the little fingers! Touch typing is one of the best skills I ever learned and I love writing that way because my typing can keep up with my thoughts better than my handwriting, but I often start a piece off in a notebook, or write ideas down there. Maybe this is what works for you – your ‘fictional’ imagination working better from the pen as an extension of your hand – the way you tell your true stories is certainly so imaginative and engaging, and your poems so powerful, that I don’t doubt you could write fiction too.

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    • Sherri says:

      Andrea, you bring out such lovely observations and symbolism with your writing and I feel very moved by the way you share this not only in your own posts but also when you read mine. I always hope that others will see what I see and yes, you do, feeling just as I did/do about the tree being dead but still very much part of the ‘cycle of life’ and giving back to the earth, the blue sky in the background being a symbol of this and the hope it brings. Thank you so much for this, and also for your great encouragement, as always, of my writing. This is a wonderful compliment and I don’t take it lightly, not one bit.

      How interesting that you also learnt to touch type! Oh yes, I remember those typing exercises so very well! I remember my little finger being the weakest, did you find that? Like you, I also believe that it is the greatest skill I ever learnt (as well as driving!) as it has held me in great stead all these years. Certainly came in very handy didn’t it with the advent of the home PC!! I know just what you mean too about typing being best for keeping up with your words as they come to mind and so the handwriting was quite a revelation, but it made sense to me that I always write my poems by hand. So interesting to read your experiences, thank you Andrea for sharing them.

      Perhaps too by writing by hand, I’m not so tempted to get side tracked with other things on my laptop, ha!!!

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      • Thanks Sherri – yes, the little finger drills were always the hardest. I can’t believe how we did it now – having to use carbon paper if you wanted to make a copy and then what if you made a mistake!

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        • Sherri says:

          Oh yes, those finger drills, and that carbon paper! No hiding mistakes with that was there? Thank goodness for those electric typewriters eh, with their self-correcting ribbon 😉

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  21. There’s a piece of us that relates to this broken tree. We faced storms. We got broken. In all, we strive to survive just like this tree. No matter how crooked, what matters is we tried walking again.

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    • Sherri says:

      Oh how I understand all you share here and bless you for doing so. You were down but you got back up again and that is the most important. Keep walking Island Traveler and don’t look back and so your healing walks with you and your joy beckons, leading the way…

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  22. Pingback: Broken Tree | Broken Light: A Photography Collective

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