Green Windows has retired, after twelve years!
Green Windows held a Retirement Celebration on June 28, 2020. The evening honored the community that we’ve built over the past twelve years and acknowledged Peggy’s creative guidance and nurturing of our space together.
Below are Peggy’s goodbye remarks, partly from her introduction to Book.Ends, and below that, reflections and goodbyes from members of Green Windows’ community.
Firstly, there are so many people to thank for the last twelve years!
My own last words are here are an excerpt from my introduction to Book.Ends:
After writing in workshops that use the Amherst Writers and Artists (AWA) method since 2004, I realized, in 2006, that the AWA method was a perfect partner for my passion of bringing very different people together, safely and as equals, purposefully with care and intention. In 2007 I was certified as an AWA facilitator. In 2008, I started Green Windows and joined Intersection for the Arts as one of their incubator programs. And in the last twelve years, I’ve facilitated workshops in community colleges, youth centers, schools, community centers, affordable housing complexes, museums, libraries, juvenile halls, nonprofit retreats and for the general public. In these workshops I’ve had teens and seniors, students and teachers, homeless and housed, people with and without degrees and from different corners of Oakland. In 2009, I started a monthly drop-in workshop, sliding scale, finding a perfect host and partner in The Rock Paper Scissors Collective. And with this workshop, I drew my vast network together and people who would not otherwise cross paths wrote together, safely, as equals, each encouraged to be true to their own voice.
I’ve only skimmed the surface of what Green Windows has done. I haven’t mentioned the dozens of people who have supported the work in various ways (thank you), or the mentors and mentees who make the work not a paper but a circle. The books, blogs and articles. Twelve years of words given and received.
On March 24, 2020, we had the 127th and last monthly workshop. I am ready to shift my energies while deeply grateful for all this time with your words and seeing you listen to and affect each other. And deeply grateful that we made it, together, to this moment, sheltering in place from a pandemic and writing online. Twelve years brought us here, so profoundly needing each other and needing to write with each other that it feels fated. We wrote ourselves to this moment to have community while isolated and surrounded by tragedy and insecurity. Fate bewilders me; I would have never even known to ask for this blessing. And I am grateful.
Listen. When I write that I am grateful for this community, I am talking about you. You. Twelve years came to this moment with you all in a Zoom room. And I will leave the room, the moment, the dozen years, with an understanding of people and of words that I did not have before, that I need to navigate the gloomy foggy future. I thank you.
And I invite you. I invite you to continue the work. Each morning with your candle, over coffee six feet apart, while walking along the beach, in your dreams, in a secret notebook, I invite you to continue the work of being true to yourselves and of letting the choosing of words, the choosing of images, the choosing of characters, the choosing of plot, the respect of your own rhythms, your own voices, your own language, your own stepping stones into phrases, letting them help you to see what the truths are in yourselves, and by listening for what you like, on the beach, over coffee, in the zoom meeting, to see what the truths are that others’ offer you. I invite you to continue the work. You do not need me, or Green Windows to do it. I believe in you. I believe in your words and, when you let them, the truths they carry for you.
- Peggy Simmons
Green Windows: Art of Interchange
Below are participants’ answers to the following questions:
“How will Green Windows live on? How do you bring what you have learned, experienced and created with GW into your life and the world? Consider your artistic practice, sense of community, how we relate to each other, and how you see the world around you.”
My view of the world has expanded from what I consider a creative collaboration with other people, their writing styles, backgrounds, points of view. Careful, close listening skills, appreciation for words and phrasing, intended communication and subtle messages - all these attributes have been enhanced in myself and I dare say everyone else who has been part of Green Windows.
I've never talked to anyone who has been to a Green Windows workshop who didn't get some kind of deepened connection - to writing and or community and or poets... the world. I've been to many a writing workshop - Green Windows had an accessibility and a spaciousness I didn't get other places. Green Windows is the only AWA based writing facilitation I've participated in that never left poor folks behind.
Green windows has helped me be more authentically me and just show up as myself. It has also encouraged my writing voice. I'll be forever grateful to Peggy and Green Windows.
I will always keep writing and utilizing my listening skills to appreciate other people's writing and to develop my own. I really appreciate the openness of Green Windows and the ability to share anything and everything. It's like a makerspace, and this is the mindset I will carry with me.
I will continue to write with and be in community with the people I’ve met in Green windows. I will continue to use the AWA method when I write with others and incorporate everything I’ve learned into my writing practice. It’s hard to say how GW has influenced how I see and relate to people as it has been so fundamental in my growth but I’m sure it has opened my mind to different perspectives, seeing more of our shared humanity.
Compassionately listening. Seeing what we like about people's lawns instead of what we don't like. A sense of imagination. A web more vulnerable & real than most. Duh.
Green Windows has created bonds for me that I feel will never be broken! Immensely grateful that boundaries of space aren't keeping me from connecting and creating with others. I am much, much more daring in my creative practice.
In a real and lasting way, Green Windows has shifted how I approach writing and creativity. More and more, I'm learning that the act of making something has value in and of itself. Even if there's seemingly nothing salvageable (rare!), sometimes making the thing clears the way, primes the pump, and/or offers a foundation for something else. I feel such gratitude for the opportunity to write with many of the same people month after month, listening to their words and getting to know each person's unique voice and style has deepened my appreciation of "voice" in storytelling, including my own. I find myself more observant of everyday expressions of creativity: a hand-painted shop window, my neighbor's little garden, an auntie's colorful outfit, a friend's cooking, zines galore. Participating in Green Windows has amplified the gratitude I feel for other community spaces in my life, and it reaffirms my commitment to cultivating mutual trust and sharing my life with other people.
After writing with GW for so many years and being exposed to great writing, writing very different from my own, I have been able to try on new voices, explore the page, break all the rules I've learned. I've thoughtfully and carelessly put words and sentences and verses together always trusting that support would follow. It's precisely the support of the community that made me feel free to play in all those ways, and Peggy's voice always repeating, "trust your voice, trust your images, trust your words."
GOODBYE, Green Windows! You made a difference!!!.
Green Windows has been an opportunity to give my writing. For me the worst part and what turns me away from writing is the initial blank page. The prompts give me direction. They help me fill that white page. Through them I have been able to express emotion in a way I have never done before. I'll be honest though, I don't know if I have the motivation to keep writing like this on my own. But now I guess no choice but to try to fill that blank page on my own. Good thing I have great examples to take inspiration from.
I took a chance and went to write there with you, one evening, and it was a good experience. Though it felt odd, not knowing anyone, and I know I look mean when I am nervous, it was good for my mind and my writing to sit with people I did not know and didn't connect with to write. Made my brain work differently.
Peggy what you have done with Green Windows is so remarkable....You are very special...most of us don't find a way to 'make a difference.' You
The method of teaching and facilitating really stuck with me, and as I move on to become a teacher I know I will carry those principles with me!
Very grateful for the couple of times I was able to take part in Green Windows! The artistic spirit and positive environment inspired me and those vibes will live on in my life.
Thank you for all you’ve done as shared and thank you for always creating spaces that felt safe. GW definitely helped me come out of my shell.
I know GW will live on in my sister, all of the GW writers, and in the works they all made together!
I'd like to challenge myself more to generate prompts & really think outside of just written lines; how to make them multidimensional & invite the other senses. I loved the variety of prompts & have kept a few over the years. Perhaps I shall put them in a jar.
Goodbye, Peggy! What a wonderful thing Green Windows was!! You always
are so creative. Hurray!
Further spontaneous writing exercises, community writing opportunities, and MORE NANOWRIMO!
Peace and Love
I will definitely be bringing the confidence I've gained in my writing and ways of giving good feedback in Green Window's writing workshops with me. I will also try ways to connect with people creatively through Zoom just as Green Windows has done.
I have met people at the workshops who have become friends and mentors. I have heard points of view I would not otherwise have heard. I have written some of my favorite pieces there, pieces that would not have been written anywhere else--a couple of which are still getting published.
GW has changed my life forever. Not only does it live on in my artistic practice, but it has given me a place to belong in the greater community, and a greater sense of how I can contribute to community.
Rainn wrote this for our Retirement Celebration in response to the prompt "broken glass." Thank you for this powerful piece, Rainn, and for all the years of support!
by R. Sciryl
Pieces you’ve been broken in, still you remain strong
I revere your strength, sharp edges and rare tone
You are- Much deeper than the superficial
You are- Still resilient despite any issue
I admire you- whether amber, green or clear
What did you once contain? Essential oil? Water? Beer?
Or did you use to be a window
A Green Window
A Green Window
Or did you use to be a window
A Green Window
A Green Window
If you were, who all did you allow to see through?
Right (Write) into your psyche, your soul? Perhaps only a few?
I’ll bet you use to be a window
A Green Window
A Green Window
So I, express appreciation for your form
…… Your worth
Your essence, your charm
…. Your warmth
Though now broken, as paper when torn
You may never be the same, since breakin’ apart
How can I relate? I am human and have a heart
When that broke, I imagined a similar pattern
……. A shattering of sorts
….. Essentially- a divorce
Of one piece from the other, a separation
What used to be whole- now divided, in devastation
Because we/re used to being windows
Some writings tap into unconscious knowing. Such is the case with this one. It is a potent lesson that teaches us to listen to dreams, hunches, and our connection with the universe. I am ever grateful for the opportunity to write and share the pen's messages.
(The following beautiful piece was written in a Green Windows workshop on June 3, 2020. Thank you, Karen! )
by Karen Gordon
We walk down the path.
There are broken bottles everywhere.
You point out one spot to me that is clear,
A little stream gurgles by and
To our surprise
There are live frogs in it.
Thru the stark silence, one croak then just a few more.
Overhead a crow caws.
This is where the car wash used to be. Over there are
The empty bones of the mall.
I guess I really thought we would be somewhere else by now.
Yet the air has cleared and we can
now go outside without masks.
The sky is a harsh blue
Beating overhead with brutal passion.
It’s five years further
I can still walk a good long ways.
It’s sad to say that
I do this alone.
You wait in the old house and
will greet me as best you can when I return.
We didn’t know it would be like this.
Yet it is so.
Jenna wrote this beautiful piece in a Green Windows workshop on May 27, 2020, in response to the prompt "I write these words." Thank you, Jenna!
I Write These Words
by Jenna Frisch
Dive in. Mess the page up with ink.
i write these words to show myself to myself, first
to tease out the ideas / images / impulses & fixations that stir
& sometimes settle in the folds
of my soft tissue, sometimes
to take a chisel
to long held beliefs & feelings
calcified to bone
i write the way i run
one word, one step at a time
one ear to the body, one open to the world
with curiosity, care and abandon
i write i run
to lose myself
a seamless & sometimes labored act called
l o v e
i write i run
to get clear
to lose myself
on streets i know on streets i don’t know
on blank pages
on filled pages
i find myself
some version of myself i know or used to know
i find myself
in the swiftness of the pen & on hills i’ve run a hundred times
noticing new cracks, noticing old cracks
pieces of myself on concrete & centerfolds
i write i run
shades of experience
the Walpiri people don’t have a word for color, he said
they see textures & shades have felt sense like
fresh rose petal blossoms
feet that grip & a mind that floats
sometimes tugging insides in two directions
sometimes meeting gently in the middle
like a hot sun laying itself down
at the edge
of the pacific
across clear skies
fire meets water
& the Earth is held
in darkness & in light
setting sun reflecting heat off water & there is respite from cool before the air gets cold again
Roxanne wrote this romantic piece in a Green Windows workshop on April 8th, 2020. Thank you, Roxanne!
What Time is it?
By Roxanne Rocksteady Jones
It is time for me, Foxy Roxy Rocksteady Roxanne Jones to let my secret admirer
Troy Emmanuel, who has been in love with me ever since he was 13 years old and my baby brother’s best friend ever since elementary school
He has finally found me as we look into each other’s eyes and smile, as we bump into each other downtown
We’ve been dating now since August 2019 of last year
He has finally got his dream come true to tell me that he has been in love with me all these years
As we go on our first date to JB’s Barbecue Restaurant we’re waiting to pick up our barbecue ribs order to go, we look into each other’s eyes, holding hands
Smiling as we walk to the park he’s trying to steal a kiss from me
He has his jukebox on the picnic table
We’re dancing, smiling, looking into each others eyes
He whispers into my ear, saying
You think I just want sex from you, I’m falling in love with you all over again
Me and my wife are separated and haven’t been together in three years
I’m going to the courthouse and get my divorce, because I want to marry you
Will you finally make my dream come true and be my wife?
My heart skips a beat as he dances with me in the park
Stealing more kisses from my juicy lips
As we’re melting together in each others arms, what time is it?
It’s time for me Foxy Roxy Rocksteady to let my secret admirer, Mr. Troy Emmanuel's dreams come true
To let him keep kissing me on my juicy lips and to let him keep holding me in his loving arms as we’re dancing in my living room floor, me and my sexy Victoria’s Secret negligee, him in his sexy pearly white boxers. We’re dancin to our favorite jams of Aretha Franklin, Teddy Pendergrass, Gladys Knight, Smoky Robinson, Whitney Houston, and Barry White.
As Troy turns down the lights, as I Foxy Roxy light a candle, Troy sippin on his E&J Brandy, I, Foxy Roxy, sippin on my lemon strawberry margarita, we’re looking into each others eyes, smiling laughing as Troy tickles my belly button, whisperin in my ear, saying, I can’t believe my dream has come true. I finally got my Foxy Roxy Rocksteady. Ms. Roxanne Emmanuel.
We both laugh, hold each other in our arms, and say, I do, I do, I do love you.
Me & Mrs. Jones, we got a thing going on, always and forever.
Yes, Green Windows is still scheduled to shut its shutters at the end of June.
This has nothing to do with the COVID-19 crises. You can read here about why Green Windows is retiring.
The timing, from my point of view, now seems perfect. I have been so deeply grateful these past several weeks for the community we've built over the last twelve years. I've needed you. I've needed to write with you. I needed you in order to find my own words to use as oars to paddle through these hard times day by day. I've seen you need each other, too. And sharing words helps us all understand everything better, not feel alone, and have a sort of collective empowerment.
We've also been able to write together a lot more. Not because I have more time (I don't) but because there is no travel time. Being with you online is not the same, and not as wonderful, but it is wonderful and the technology is a blessing, allowing us to be together and to be together even more often. And writing together more often has given folks an opportunity to explore ways the community might continue post-Green Windows. So I'm grateful that all the other times I considered ending Green Windows, I pushed on, so we could get to this moment together.
The timing of this retirement is also good for me because letting go of Green Windows will allow me the time, headspace and energy to find responses to the tragedies, deepening inequities, and opportunities of this crisis with organizations such as The Beat Within and the ATD Fourth World Movement.
Here's the retirement plan:
* Instead of a monthly Uniquely Yours workshop in June, we will have an online Celebration! June 28th, 7pm. Everyone is invited! We will do a little writing, because that's what we do, and I promise it will be painless even if that's not your thing. Please contribute your ideas for this celebration, your last words even if you can't attend, and RSVP here.
* Our 127th and last monthly Uniquely Yours workshop is Sunday, May 24th, 7pm, online. Please sign up for our newsletter and indicate your interest in online workshops if you would like to join us.
* Jenna Frisch and I will facilitate as many other online workshops as we can through the end of June. The schedule will change week to week to adjust to our other changing commitments. Please sign up for our newsletter and indicate your interest in online workshops if you would like to join us.
* We have been posting writing from the workshops, here on the blog. Check it out! Much of this blog is being put together into a book that will be available for online purchase at the end of June. You can still submit writing for the blog through June 30th, but submissions for the book are closed.
Thank you for all your support and all the words you've given Green Windows and each other over the years. I can't wait to see what you do next.
All my best,
by Alec West
Ten body-weight squats, ten push-ups. Ten body-weight squats, ten push-ups. Ten body-weight squats, ten push-ups. Ten body-weight squats, ten push-ups. Ten body-weight squats, ten push-ups. Then five rounds of shadowboxing with a two minute rest between each. He had the thought to skip his workout today but brushed it aside. It didn’t make sense to get beat up in the ring six months from now just because he had learned he had a new brother.
His dad had sat him down with his mom and younger brother for a family meeting.
“I’m just going to start from the ending,” he said.
Alec thought his parents were sitting him down to hash out a plan for if they passed away. “You have an older brother.”
“No, that’s dumb!” Alec exclaimed. Things like that happened to other people but they didn’t happen to his family.
The body-weight squats and push-ups took about five minutes to do all five rounds of each. Alec liked the way he looked in the mirror. That morning he admired that his belly was not only slim, it was toned. He couldn’t remember when he had been in this kind of shape. Just before the shelter-in-place order came down, Alec had started seeing a new personal trainer. She was slender and lean like a jungle cat and called herself La Tigre. She had a goofy, all-knowing smile that reminded him of Red, the kid he’d first gotten high with in high school. She had a rhinestone encrusted on one of her canine teeth that made her smile look devious. She was a dangerous woman and she was training him to be a fighter. Just in time, too, his first amateur match was six months away.
Alec stepped across his bedroom jabbing and ducking. He imagined his opponent had a girlfriend he was living with who was training him. This girlfriend was merciless—even their sex was aerobic. Alec was training against them and he imagined their regimen was relentless, like the computer in online chess.
Just because Alec had learned he had a new brother he’d never met, didn’t mean he could take a day off. Anyway, he wouldn’t process this information any better watching TV.
It made sense. His dad had been a guy in San Francisco in the ‘80s. Of course he could have gotten another woman knocked up. He was a West. Luckily this had happened before he’d met Alec’s mother. She was understanding to a point.
Alec allowed himself to listen to sentimental music while he punched the air. Jab, jab, duck, jab, right hook, left hook, jab, right. Combos were the way to win in a fight: knock the opponent’s guard down and hit him in the jaw. There was a pandemic outside and through a genetic-mapping service, Alec had learned he had a new brother. Fucking 2020.
Written in a Green Windows workshop, April 1, 2020
Check out Alec's book What Happened When I Stopped Watching TV,
Kristina wrote this very thoughtful and thought-provoking piece in an online Green Windows workshop on April 15th, 2020, during a global pandemic and shelter-in place orders. Thank you, Kristina!
by Kristina Yates
Still life goes on. I often think about how long I will live. I’m so aware that next month I will be 70 y.o. When I write that number I find it hard to believe. Maybe 60, but not 70. Really?! That means I only have around 30 more years max left and what will those last 10 be like anyway? I’m working on being healthy, strong, flexible, etc. but honestly there is only so much one can do and the fact is we grow old and die. The hardest thing is being old and female and not having a valued role anyplace. Where is the family, the village? Why aren’t I the beloved wise elder? Instead I’m just this old single woman who feels like her life doesn’t matter to anyone.
And then they begin to fall all around me. New cancer diagnoses almost everyday. I know oh so many dead people. And then one day I will join them.
What is the point of life anyway? Seems like I should know it by now but I don’t. In fact I’m not sure there is a point other than enjoy, make it through the best way one can, fight the good fight and above all love. I do love and I love well.
Still life goes on no matter what. In spite of the pandemic, in spite of death and in spite of suffering all around. And life goes on in spite of global warming, in spite of war, in spite of our unbelievable president who seems as unreal as the pandemic, like a bad dream.
And still life is about love. Love of children, old people, animals, nature, social justice, and self. Self love. Oy, sounds so new age doesn’t it? And still life is about what? The truth is I don’t know what life is about and I’m not sure anyone does. But I’ll just trust there is perhaps a reason and would like to believe that good will reign in the end, but I guess part of me isn’t sure. Still life just is. It’s moment to moment. It’s about trust, love, and connection and that is the part that is challenged right now. Just how to feel the connection when we are staying 6 feet apart. Hmm and still life continues. My heart beats, I feel. I feel so much-loneliness, boredom, rage, hopelessness, hope, and love. And still life is.
by Karen Gordon
Life is breath, is mind, is ears
His life is still here, though very still
Sometimes he yells No
Pushes away hands
That try to give what he does not want
Or maybe even need.
He is still him
In the still waning time,
Night and day become the same
Yet each breath spends another hour
He will not give in, he will not give up
Determined no one will tell him
How to do this life, this time,
They broke the mold.
He is himself, still life
Still living to his dying days
A furrowed brow and then
The morphine smooths the lines, takes the pain.
A hand maybe he will hold
He pushes the covers away, needs the air on his groin
There is nothing forbidden his last times, his parting days
Now alone even when his family keeps him company
For 10, 15, 30 minutes.
His time alone, on his terms
Though surely not the way he would have wanted
Body thin and bruised from old falls.
Still as a leaf on wind
Crashing, not floating, to earth.
His mind comes and goes
Words cannot find their way from his mouth
Eyes closed mostly
He is not waiting for death.
He pushes internally, not knowing with what
A beautiful man, even now,
Lines of his jaw, fair and soft, softer than ever before
He is not waiting
He is participating
Inside where we cannot see
His inner demons, his inner angels
Come to visit, entities more vivid
Than we, on the outside.
He sleeps with them if he is sleeping at all
He moans to them – a beckon or a rebuff
The strength he lived with keeps him here.
His time is near but unknown
He is himself.
Such as this is
Until the last.
Life is this now.
For him for us
Until we die.
I first encountered Green Windows skimming through the Omni Commons’ event calendar, hungry for a way to break back into a more regular creative practice. I have a vivid memory of venturing up the back stairs and finding myself in a disco-adorned room with a ring of chairs in the middle. The workshop felt natural and welcoming, and most of all I was astonished by people’s readiness to read something so fresh and offer their thoughtful, genuine feedback. When I read that night, it was the first time since high school that I had shared my creative writing with anyone.
Green Windows has profoundly shifted my relationship to writing. The care and intention that goes into the space is remarkable. Writing is both taken seriously and made extremely accessible, with the understanding that the process of writing has value in and of itself. Peggy’s skillful facilitation, often opening with a reminder to “trust your voice, trust your images, trust your imagination,” truly roots and guides the workshop. I find myself looking forward to each person’s unique interpretation of the prompt, and I consider myself extremely fortunate to share space and time with this group. Through these past few years, I’ve become curious about and invested in my own creative voice in a way I hadn’t been before.
Flipping back through my notebook, every Green Windows page has not only my writing but underlined words, starred portions, and phrases I’ve jotted down while listening to other writers––all signifiers of the connection and mutual exchange that make the workshop so deeply meaningful.
The following piece was written in a Green Windows workshop on January 24, 2019 in response to the prompt "item of clothing you'd never wear."
by Katherine Genis
My cowboy lover sends me video diary entries whenever he’s at a station with strong enough wi-fi. He’s not really a cowboy, but we’ve had the good fortune of eating real beef: once a proper steak and once just broth but still made from an actual animal. Both were strange and luxurious experiences. The first time, I vomited after we got home from the restaurant. My stomach isn’t used to real meat, let alone red meat. That was years ago now, but I’d do it again, even if it was as good as flushing hundreds of dollars down our water-efficient toilet, zeros and ones sliding away instantly without fanfare.
These days, I tend to the local grove and help people make offerings. Occasionally, curious tourists and romance-inclined teenagers come by, but mostly I see the same handful of faces, people who have known the grove for years. It’s slow work, so I keep an herb garden on the side. The satchels turn my fingers fragrant and medicinal. When the next shift arrives, I pack up my workstation and head home.
A video message waits for me. My lover, all dressed in black with greasy hair. He’s wearing the silver face paint I gave him, and his image fills the thumbnail preview. I tap play, and he tells me about his day and the other cowboys he’s met. He talks with his hands and describes, in maddening detail, a poached egg he was gifted by chance. His recounting of the yolk spilling over potatoes turns my head fuzzy with desire. After this job, he says, we’ll have eggs together. He doesn’t go into specifics about work, but he still finds lots to talk about. Mostly I just want to know he’s alive. I think he knows this.
The video auto-deletes after playing. So long, partner. I pull my hood around me, grinning in the dark apartment with only my screen to see.