Under Santa Fe Skies

by Susan Tungate

Ten Years, Two Pages, Three Word Sentences

Writer and teacher Abigail Thomas often gives her students the assignment to take any ten years of their life, reduce them to two pages, and each sentence should be only three words long.     Without room to circle the truth or fudge, the writer is forced to reduce each event to its core.  You end up with a haiku of sorts: He was horny. I was smitten. We got married.

In looking back over the now substantial number of years of my own life, I see there were ten year periods when life pretty much flowed in the same pattern with a few minor bumps or high points. No big forks in the road. Perhaps a move or a promotion or interesting assignment. Visited  Rose Garden. Met President Clinton. Tripped on grass. Went to Havana. Faded pink buildings. Gave housekeeper shampoo.  Opened news bureau.

Then again we can all bracket a ten year period when things fell apart or finally came together or both. Often events start with a show stopper. Time AOL merger. Now we downsize. What will happen? But sometimes in the living of an event you have no idea when the seeds were planted. One morning you wake up and there is a big damn tree in your face. In the looking back you may be able to gain clarity on when it all began. A friend might write: Mother lost keys. Found in refrigerator. We all laughed. Mother visits doctor. She has Alzheimer’s. She knows it. We know it. We make plans.

The three word sentence can become addictive. Beware the danger of narrating your life in real time: Drove to Whole Foods. Strawberries on sale. Bought two quarts! Froze one quart! On the other hand, if we live in the moment, there are times in our lives when we know, know for sure in that moment, that something is about to shift. I have a friend whose company is going through a reorganization. She will meet with the powers that be this week to learn her fate. What three word sentences will she write later on?

Company is reorganizing. Met with Sam. Lost my job. Time to network!

Company is reorganizing. Met with Sam. Great new job. Moving to Portland!

Company is reorganizing. Met with Sam. Hate job offer. Take for now. Leap later on.

Regardless, the next sentence is  Onward and upward! It has to be.