From the ferry: 11/19/08

Posted: November 20, 2008 in from the ferry, prison, general, teaching
Tags: , ,

My commute to and from the prison includes a twenty minute ferry crossing plus however long I get to sit in line to wait to board. It’s a good time to reflect on the night at Monroe, to record first impressions and document those moments that are resonating with me the most before I have a chance to filter them or make them academic. I’ll post these thoughts from the ferry each time I go to Monroe.


Perspective. I was in a bad mood today. A funk. My ex-husband has been haunting my dreams so I haven’t been sleeping right and I’m trying to figure out why he is there, what he represents, what I’m not getting. One of those days when you want to stay home, in bed, watching stupid, mindless movies and avoid having to think about much of anything at all because you know what you have to think about is going to take too much damn energy.


It was a good day to go to prison.


Perspective. It isn’t about comparing my issues, my history, my trauma with that of the men. I stopped a long time ago thinking that it is worth comparing histories. Everyone has baggage and we are all coping, recovering, healing or some combination of all three. What going up to the prison reminded me of was of just that. We are all working to figure it out.


Sometimes what I need, on days like today, days when I’m mired in my own “stuff” is to get out and give to others. Get out of my own head. Get out and remember that I am more than my past relationships and their failures and hurts. Get out and listen to the stories of other. Because in listening I remember that my story is also valid. That it’s not petty or nonsense or too old to still have to deal with. It’s my story. My journey and it has its place amongst all stories, even those of the guys in prison. These guys have loved and lost. These guys have hurt their partners and been hurt in return. We want to believe that we have nothing in common with men in prison, but the more I go to Monroe the more I realize just how human we all are – and that is my connection to them. Our shared humanity is why it gets harder and harder to ever think about not going to Monroe.


Perspective. There was a man our group tonight whose father, when he converted to Judaism in the 50’s while in Russia, was arrested and the man in our group, then a boy, was taken from his mother and sent to live in an orphanage. He was seven. Now he’s in Monroe. Okay, some stories humble you. Some stories, even if we are not comparing hurts, make you realize you don’t have it quite so bad.


Perspective. I wrote on one of the guys’ pieces, which he had given me to critique. I usually remember to ask permission to do so because I know that if they hand me a typed copy chances are that is their only clean copy, and getting to use a typewriter is a privilege only a few have. Typed, clean copies of work are treasured. Most of the guys, however, don’t mind if I write on their work. But this guy did. I should have asked. What seems so simple to me – retyping as I revise – is weeks of work and who knows what sort of bartering for these guys.


Perspective. The work I was the most intrigued with from the last batch of pieces I got to critique was written by a man who said tonight that he spent ten years hiding after jumping bail in 1997. When he was caught in 2007 he was also able to post bail and could have ran again, but he didn’t because in the span of that ten years he had married and had two children. If he ran, he couldn’t take them with him. And he couldn’t lose them so he is serving his time.


I don’t know that I’m in a better mood now that I’ve left prison and the guys and am here on the ferry. I’m weary about facing another night of sleep…or no sleep as the case might be. But I don’t feel so alone. And I feel rededicated to handling the issues that are up for me right now in the only way I really know how – write it out. Get it down. Make it real. Tell the story. My story (our story).

  1. Your blog is fascinating!

    I am also a writer (see my website, and I’ve done a lot of work on prison education. I have been thinking for some time about teaching a writing course at Monroe (I live in the Seattle area) and here you are, doing it!

    Your blog is wonderful — insightful, thought-provoking. I hope you turn it into a book.
    Barbara Carole
    (PS – I have a blog at wordparess, too)

    • islandwriter says:

      Hi Barbara,
      Thanks for being in touch and taking the time to look around the blog. I’ll check out both your website and blog in just a few–looking forward to it. If you’d ever like to talk further about the work we’re doing at Monroe, just let me know. You can reach me here on the blog. And/or if you’d be interested in coming to our group as a visitor sometime, since you’re in the area, we could see about that.


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