Author: ralphcuellar

Ralph Cuellar lives in Oregon, and loves nature and politics, and is usually in conflict over both. He is a writer and has played around with software and hardware a little too much in his life, so he left that world behind after a little dance.


One of our group’s members, who taught special ed for two decades, brought in a poem by anonymous about being who you are and proud of it, though it started each element with the negative.

The first few lines were:

If you can’t be a tree on the top of the hill

Be a shrub in the valley, but be

The best little shrub on the side of the hill.

Be a bush if you can’t be a tree. 


Write about how you go about being yourself and what attitude or perspective is required to accomplish this .


Prompt: Preoccupation of Humankind

We are experimenting with giving a prompt for the week so members can have more time to write on it and then bring their writing to the meeting the following Monday.

The prompt for this week is:

Watching is a preoccupation of humankind, but the inability to adequately react to all they perceive eventually blinds them.


The prompt this week is posing the question of how you would have conversations with those whose views differ from your own on subjects that you have a strong opinion about. It could be conversations such as between vegetarian/carnivore or democrat/republican.

How do communicate while still remaining friends and civil with one another?


The prompt this week is a poem by Mary Oliver from her book of poems titled, A Thousand Mornings.

THE MOCKINGBIRD, by Mary Oliver.


All summer

the mockingbird

in his pearl-gray coat

and his white-windowed wings



from the hedge to the top of the pine

and begins to sing, but it’s neither

lilting nor lovely,


for he is the thief of other sounds-

whistles and truck brakes and dry hinges

plus all the songs

of other birds in his neighborhood;


mimicking and elaborating,

he sings with humor and bravado,

so I have to wait a long time

for the softer voice of his own life


to come through. He begins

by giving up all his usual flutter

and settling down on the pine’s forelock

then looking around


as though to make sure he’s alone;

then he slaps each wing against his breast,

where his heart is,

and, copying nothing, begins


easing into it

as though it was not half so easy

as rollicking,

as though his subject now


was his true self,

which of course was as dark and secret

as anyone else’s,

and it was too hard-


perhaps you understand-

to speak or to sing it

to anything or anyone

but the sky.


Take any inspiration you find in the poem and write in whatever direction you wish to take it.



There were two prompt options presented today.

Prompt 1:

There was an incident in the news this morning concerning an Amtrak train that was traveling from Seattle to Portland. It had gone off the tracks while crossing an overpass over the I-5 highway and some of the train cars were hanging from the overpass above the highway. There were reports of multiple injuries and some casualties. This was a developing news story and that was all the information available.

The prompt is to consider what you would do if you were waiting at the train station in Portland expecting someone to arrive on this train and heard the news.

Prompt 2:

It will be a new year in a couple of weeks and it’s that time when people make New Year’s resolutions.

Consider this possible resolution: Who do you want to be in the time you have left in this life and what gift would you give yourself to become the person you wanted to be?

Prompt: How Do You Communicate With Someone Who Has A Very Different Point Of View From Your Own

Today’s prompt used as our starting point the following quote:

Dr. Amy Uehlman, Georgetown Law School

“Our goal in debating provocative topics is actually not to reach a consensus or agreement. We’re not looking for common ground; we’re looking for something much deeper. We’re looking for a sharing of personal narrative, a genuine respect for one another and understanding of others’ experiences that helped to shape their opinions even if, especially if, those opinions are divergent from our own. Not because we merely tolerate them, but because we truly see them and we truly care.”

Write about how we might be able to really listen to another point of view very different from our own and attempt to appreciate the experience of the person expressing it.

Prompt: The Treasure of an Object

One of our members related the story of having recently discovered and purchased a beautiful handmade shawl at a yard sale. She inquired of the seller to tell her as much about its background as possible so the story of its origin could continue with it. It turned out to have been made in Ecuador and was originally purchased by someone working with an aid group, who bought it from a local woman who had several young children.

Write a story of an object and the connection it has to the owner as it moves through time.

Prompt: Corrections – Ones that Worked or Did Not

This weeks prompt was introduced via a story related by one of our members who had been traveling overseas. As she was about to embark on the long return flight home to the US, she sent a short text her family using her smartphone. We’ve likely all experienced doing battle with the auto-correct function while texting on our phones, as it attempts to interpret what it thinks we are trying to say.

In this case she texted her family that the “flight was delayed.” A short while later on the plane she noticed that the auto-correct function had changed her intended text from “flight was delayed” to “wife was cremated.” At this point she no longer had internet access and so was not able to send a correction to her likely bewildered family!

Write about intended or unintended corrections in your life either made or received by you.