Tigers and Lions, Even Leopards, Okay?

For The Sunday Whirl: Wordle #63
http://sundaywhirl.wordpress.com/

Animal Hand Painting – http://www.damnfreshpics.com/2007/01/amazing-hand-painting-art.html

Tigers and Lions, Even Leopards, Okay?

In ever changing world, harsh words
uttered from thin angry lips
might quickly become black
and white snapshots, hanging
forever, like depressed targets,
in dimness of emotional memory.

A gesture, touch, other aggressive
acts, even when sent, or received
from a distance, can swiftly come
to stand alone as only map
of reality.

Unless one chooses to learn
how to wear skin loosely,
like the big cats, protecting
vital organs in everyday battle
while nurturing self.

Elizabeth Crawford  7/1/12

Notes: When writing down the list of Brenda’s words, I got to the two words “thin,” and “skin” and was thrown back over thirty years ago to a very distinct memory of how I came
to learn the lesson referred to in this piece. The last stanza is a mere echo of another piece
I tried to write later, but buried deep because my college professor, at the time, used it as a lesson in his classroom about how “it was the most schizophrenic piece of writing” to ever cross his desk. He demonstrated that by walking around the room, making sure that every student in attendance saw the “skull and crossed-bones” he had drawn near half of the lines. I tried, on several occasions to redeem the poem, but it just wouldn’t work for me.

I have been slowly rereading through a lot of the material on my blogs and even found the story of how I learned this current lesson from an imaginary tiger in my Personal Mythology. You can read that backstory here:
http://1sojournal.wordpress.com/2008/12/13/a-tiger-named-pain/

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About 1sojournal

Loves words and language. Dances on paper to her own inner music. Loves to share and keeps several blogs to facilitate that. They can be found here: http://1sojournal.wordpress.com/ https://soulsmusic.wordpress.com/ http://claudetteellinger.wordpress.com/
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20 Responses to Tigers and Lions, Even Leopards, Okay?

  1. I read this and thought it was about domestic abuse. Then I read your story. Wow.

    Thanks so much Tilly Bud for taking the time to read the back story. It was a very different adventure and perhaps one of the best ones of my existence. The Tiger was only one amongst many, but he remains set apart and special because he taught me so very much.

    Elizabeth

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  2. vivinfrance says:

    This poem merits several readings to absorb the various messages. A seriously good Wordle. I’d love to wear my skin loosely – it might mean there was less flesh inside!

    Thanks Viv, I was worried that others might not understand. And I know exactly what you mean about the flesh inside. It continues to migrate south but still holds all of its weight, lol,

    Elizabeth

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  3. Mary says:

    What an awful experience with that college professor! Wouldn’t he know that his words would echo with you over the decades ahead? I had an art teacher like that in college. Her words live with me still. A person does need to learn to wear one’s skin loosely, but it takes time; and once the ‘aggressive act’ takes place, it can never be undone or forgotten or, in my case anyway, forgiven…for the affect it has had. But if it happened to me today, I would just tell the woman off!! LOL.

    Mary, my semester in his classroom was definitely unpresidented and unforgettable. But, two things have helped me fade out that black and white snapshot from the past. The man did teach me the basics and years later when I started teaching at that same University, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt what kind of teacher I never wanted to be. In his own way, he had a lot to do with the individual I became. I sometimes even smile when I think about him and what I have accomplished despite my semester in hell under his “tutelage.”

    Elizabeth

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  4. They say you learn something new every day. I never knew that about big cats and their skin. What an awful Professor. He must have had his own demons too.
    This was wonderful!

    Daydreamertoo, I think you are probably very right about his demons. But it was also very ironic that he was one of the individuals that helped me truly understand that lesson from the big cats. I certainly needed to learn it. Thanks for reading and commenting,

    Elizabeth

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  5. brenda w says:

    Professor….harsh, but he stuck with you all of these years, and you are re-examining things through a lens he colored… hmmm. I love this piece, Elizabeth. The lesson is an important one. That last stanza is strong. The image of the loose skin makes me want to go explore it on my house cats. They thank you this morning.

    Lol, Brenda, all I can see is your cats stretching and purring beneath your hands. And you are right, in many ways he stayed with me and became a yardstick with which to measure my own endeavors against. Think that’s why I can write about him so easily now and not be overtly upset by the remembering. Thanks for understanding,

    Elizabeth

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  6. anl4 says:

    Interesting how an unkind word from a thoughtless prof can stop creativity, even for a very long time. I always say, when one is willing to open his mouth, he is willing to tell you what he does not know? This is a lesson for the young… and old.

    Annell, if it had been one unkind word, I probably would have forgotten it. But it was an entire semester of such behavior, at the end of which he told me that although I worked harder, improved more than anyone else in the class, he couldn’t possibly give me an A because I was a middle-aged woman still raising her children and would only ever write an occasional poem, maybe even one or two that was worth reading, much like other women knit socks. He actually said he had to reserve the A’s for the young men in the class who would struggle to make writing a career and truly needed his endorsement. He didn’t stop the harrassment there. Went on to use me as a prime example of the saddest and poorest kind of student for years afterward. Didn’t stop until threatened with a formal complaint.

    Brenda mentioned his demons and I’m fairly certain he never forgave me for 1. winning the first poetry contest on campus, before having taken his class or any formal training in the subject, and he was one of the judges; 2. going on to become the Moderator for the longest established poetry group in the area (one that he had a hand in starting; and 3.for having one of my poems published as the anchor piece for an anthology that was nominated for a Grammy Award in the spoken word category; and lastly becoming an Instructor at the University where he taught.

    I love your quote about being willing to open mouth and display ones ignorance. But, all of that was the reality that we learn our truths and lessons in layers, covering the ground many times before we actually travel that longest distance of the eighteen inches between heart and mind, finally finding balance through the voice of the soul.

    Thank you my friend,

    Elizabeth

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  7. 4joy says:

    use of wordles done so well….and good advice to ‘learn how to wear skin loosely’….sometimes we need to thicken this loose skin to deal with the barbs of life’s issues….

    4joy, glad you enjoyed. Each of us is a hero on a journey, and every Hero’s Journey has its tests and trials, as well as its dragons and detractors. Perhaps that is all in the pursuit of that thicker skin you mention. Thanks for reading and commenting,

    Elizabeth

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  8. Mr. Walker says:

    Elizabeth, a wise and wonderful poem. I know I carry some of those “black / and white snapshots” in my memory. And a good reminder that it is just a “map” and not reality. And the reality/metaphor of the big cats in the final stanza – I did not know that – but see its truth as if I’d always known it.

    Richard

    So glad you got it Richard. Wasn’t really sure I had made it clear enough. And I felt the same way when I stumbled onto that metaphor all those years ago. I truly believe that the animals around us are some of the best teachers we could ever have, even when they are imaginary, lol,

    Elizabeth

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  9. JulesPaige says:

    Enchanting wisdom. I never did like professors who ‘picked’ on people or writing that just didn’t suit their fancy. I write always first to please myself. When others enjoy something I have written it is truly a bonus. May you continue to visit, revisit and revise only if you choose to do so – that which you have written. However I stretch the ink there always seems to be a personal link. I read somewhere that it is best to write about what you know. Thank you for your visit and kind words.
    I did enjoy your back story. Thank you.

    Thank you so much for taking the time to read here and the back story as well. I believe you are wise to write first for yourself. If we don’t like it, why would, or should others? Because writing is so hard-wired to our subconscious mind, there will always remain something of the personal within the endeavor. I used to tell my students that the longer they kept writing, the more apt they would be to come to that one place they didn’t want to be. Smack dab up against that brick wall of personal truth we most likely desire to avoid. That may be the best and biggest reason I go back and visit and revisit what is written here and on my other blogs. Not just to see what I have done, but to learn from what all my visitors are willing to teach me.

    Thanks again Jules,

    Elizabeth

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  10. “Wear skin loosely, like the big cats, protecting vital organs.” Yes, my friend, this is some of the deepest wisdom we learn on this journey. I cant believe the insensitivity of a teacher to his vulnerable students. Good grief. I am amazed at the hand painting of the tiger……fantastic.

    Sherry, good to see you here. I have long believed that the individuals with whom I come into contact, have a message I need to hear. That each one is a teacher in some form and all teachers are not created equal, lol. Am so glad you liked the image. I sort of collect images of tigers, big cats, and he was back there amidst hundreds of others. Lucky me, I actually found the site and could mention it here. It’s worth a look and lots more.

    Elizabeth

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  11. Laurie Kolp says:

    I agree… we must wear skin loosely!

    Am so glad you agree Laurie. Some lessons have to be repeated many times before actual understanding occurs. It was time for me to go back and take another look. So glad that I did,

    Elizabeth

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  12. I have needed to learn that the hard way I might add too. I’m so grateful for this piece and your process notes, Elizabeth. Thank you!

    Hannah, you are more than welcome. I think it is a universal lesson and one that takes time and repetition to fully comprehend. Glad I took this bit of a side trip, I needed to remember all of this,

    Elizabeth

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  13. Tumblewords says:

    Fascinating process notes and surely more common than we might imagine. The wisdom embedded in this wordle is wonderfully well honed.

    Thank you much Tumblewords. Your comment will definitely find its way to my kudo box,

    Elizabeth

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  14. Elizabeth, I love the last stanza, it speaks volumes. I remember you speaking of this professor before. Beautiful message in this piece of writing.

    Pamela

    Pamela, thank you. Yes, I wrote about him in the story I did about the Grammy Nomination. He figures prominently in ways I know he could never imagine, nor really care to know about, I’m sure. While I was teaching, I seldom entered a classroom without thinking of him and the responsibility and commitment I carried around because of his presence in my background. One of his favorite students in that classroom, a young man of course with a great deal of skill and ability, took me aside one day and told me his theory about the man. He said there would always be those who believed that one must feel pain to give birth to ones creativity. And that some of them made huge efforts to be that pain. He told me that I should look at the harrassment from that angle because the man was definitely sorting me out and trying to pin my wings to his wall. I remember that young man far better than the teacher. His was damned good advice and well earned wisdom. And it helped me through that semester and what came afterward.

    Elizabeth

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  15. Irene says:

    I’m intrigued by the title…Elizabeth I’d like to hear more about why the Tiger is special to you.

    Hi Irene, while I was working on the poem, I was thinking to title it “Thinned Skin”. I knew where it was headed, but was worried that the last stanza might not make sense because the big cats seem to come out of nowhere. Decided that the title might be the only place left to define and point to that underpinning of the poem. Started hearing that famous line from the Wizard of Oz (one of my favorites), just before Dorthy, the Tin Man, and The Scarecrow meet The Cowardly Lion: “Lions and Tigers, and Bears, Oh My!” But, I wanted to make sure that the Tiger came first, because I learned the beginnings of this Lesson from the imaginary Tiger in my Personal Mythology. Played with that for a bit and came up with the title you see.

    At the end of the notes, I added a URL where I tell the story about the Tiger, how I came to know him, and why he is such a significant aspect of my existence. It is definitely one of the keystones of my experience.

    Thanks for dropping by and for being curious,

    Elizabeth

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  16. A poem of brilliant wisdom for navigating the world of harsh experiences. I love the analogy of wearing skin loose, like the big cats, to protect one’s vital self from the insensitivities of nasty people, especially people who have authority and shouldn’t have it. Love the “black and white snapshots hanging forever…in the dimness of emotional memory. I have a few of those hanging around too.

    Diane, I believe we all have them. Also believe they remain for a reason and a purpose and that we are healed when we seek to understand and resolve the conflict inherent in them. That takes time, but then anything worth doing takes time, yes? So glad to know and hear that you heard and related. It soothes those depressed targets to know that. Thank you,

    Elizabeth

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  17. `depressed targets’ and `loose skin’ Kind of says it all about life. Wonderful poem.

    Purple Pen, I would agree to a great extent. Life is ever about learning, sometimes over and over again.

    Elizabeth

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  18. nan says:

    Great lesson in this! I enjoyed the back story very much. I am a big fan of big cats, and the idea of learning to wear one’s skin loosely for self-protection is profound and inspiring. Thank you!

    Nan, am so glad you think that. And grateful to those who went and read the backstory. I believe every poem has one in some form or another. It is the story of our process and can be doubly inspiring for that. Loved what you did with these same words and isn’t it wonderful how each person who responds to a prompt is triggered by just a word, a fleeting memory, or immediate association? The poetry circuit, here online, has proven to be an incredible classroom, as well as a hell of a good community.

    Elizabeth

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  19. pmwanken says:

    MeeeeOWzer! What a great poem! Love the last stanza…the wearing of skin loosely. I have two cats and have always thought about their skin and how you can pick them up by the scruff of their neck. That loose skin helps their mama protect them/train them/move them….but I’d never thought about how the loose skin in other areas is also a protection from those who are their aggressors. Well-told story, Elizabeth! ~Paula

    Thank you Paula. This is a particularly important lesson for me. When I lose sight of it, I have to remind myself. Perhaps this piece can be that reminder? Glad you enjoyed and could relate,

    Elizabeth

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  20. Marianne says:

    Strong and powerful write! Favorite line: “map of reality.”

    Thank you Marianne, I believe it’s an extremely important lesson as well.

    Elizabeth

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