Cover photo credit: Julia Forsman
Fine point Sharpie
THE WRITING PROCESS
The sensory experience was marvelous. Inspired by the change in location of my last exercise, I decided to do this outside on a sunny day. The smell of the orange combined with the beautiful setting made this an absolute pleasure.
However, as a writing experience, it was incredibly frustrating. I was curious about how it felt to write on food, especially something with interest of an orange – the textured peel, the distinctive scent. Plus, part of the fun of these experiments is working with whatever happens to be in the house.
I figured that a fine point Sharpie was my best bet to actually be able to write on this material. But whether the fruit was waxed, or there is just something inherent to orange peels that clogs up the points of sharpies, this combination didn’t work very well. I had to keep stopping to refresh the tip on a piece of paper. It was impossible to get into any sort of flow.
An orange has a unique kind of weight. There’s something that feels almost flesh-like about it, with the curve and the heft, and the surface full of pores. You can feel how much it’s still connected to life, to light, to sunshine. In size and shape, it’s not unlike a baseball. But you can never forget you’re holding something living (or that was living, in its former life on a tree).
The turning and turning – to write in circles around the fruit – had an almost hypnotic quality, although this was soon broken by the problems with the pen. The process confounded any attempts to fall into a rhythm. Additionally, while it was interesting to be limited by writing on something so small, it created a pressure I found challenging. There’s less room for exploration or free writing when real estate is so limited.
I had thought there might be an affinity between the sensual qualities of the orange and those within the photo. My ideas kept swirling around touch, contact, and the qualities of skin. (Or should I say, peel?)
Usually Julia sends photos with no commentary or notes attached, but this week she included a line making it clear that this was a photo of two women. Which only adds to the beauty and mystery of the image.
However, the interest isn’t only in the foreground – these two figures stand out against the scene playing out behind them, and religious icon floating above them. This is wonderful inspiration for a dramatist, and in fact I was inspired to write in dialogue this week rather than monologue. However, whether due to the frustrations of the object or the distractions of the park, I wasn’t fully able to tap into the potential of this image.
I found myself circling round and round the orange, and cliches. The language never found its own quality or character. I liked the simplicity of the language, but nothing was revealed.
I thought it might be interesting to peel the orange and move the pieces about, to see what possibilities this could create.
The result was very sticky.
I think of Sharpie ink as indelible. But soon as I started peeling the orange, its juice dissolved the ink, staining my hands and erasing everything that had been written. By the end of this exercise, the words were gone entirely – erased by the very object they had been created on.
I hadn’t copied down the text before I started peeling – and frankly, I don’t know that there was anything in this to be worth noting this week – so I was left with nothing at the end.
Except for the memory of the heft of the orange, the delicious scent, and the turning, turning, turning. And maybe there’s something in that.