Carol A. Hand
This morning I realized that every word counts when you’re trying to tell a story. And perhaps, some words count more than others. They’re the links that tie things together and give the story meaning. Despite some moments of serious doubts about what I wrote the day before, I’ve continued writing without looking back. As I craft each new chapter, the story gains clarity and coherence. I realize what I need to add to my previous day’s work. Not wanting to get sidetracked by editing until the whole story is complete, I simply created a list of things I need to add.
I’ve been trying to figure out how to interweave community stories, my creative nonfiction memoire, and academic content in a narrative flow. This morning, I did go back to a previous day to add words. For me, they represent an epiphany even though they’re simple. Here’s the new ending for chapter 2 (with new words italicized).
When Thomas returned to the table, it was time to leave. As he stood at the table, he carefully folded the papers I had given him earlier and put them in his pocket. We said our goodbyes. As I was leaving, Xena called out to thank me for coming. “The center will be closed tomorrow,” she added. “There’s a community funeral so all of the offices will be closed.”
No one had mentioned this today. I feel a momentary sting of insecurity before I face reality. Why would anyone mention this or think to invite me? I’m an outsider. Even if some people in the community learn to trust me in the future, I’ll remain an outsider. My role here is as a researcher. Eventually I’ll leave. I don’t have a right to exploit their grief or traditions. I need to remember to respect community traditions and draw a fine line. It’s not about my personal needs – curiosity or meeting my needs for a sense of connections and belonging. I’m here to study families and child welfare. It may be that someday, I’ll be invited to participate in ceremonies outside of this narrow focus. I hope I have the integrity to resist and the skill to decline respectfully.
But I was grateful for a break, the chance to go back to my motel to type out my fieldnotes and spend some time thinking. It would also give me the morning to review my purpose here and explore places where I might be able to stay before heading home for the weekend.
My plan is to keep writing even though I know there are important decisions that I will need to make about structure and content for the next chapters. I’m grateful I kept writing through the fog of self-doubt.
Image: Microsoft Office Clip Art
The challenge before me is to keep moving forward, just as I did when I entered a strange community many years ago with only a vague idea of where my research might lead.
[Please note: The names of people have all been changed in the preceding accounts to protect identity, and the names of states and towns have been removed. These stories could come from any of the states where Ojibwe reservations are located.]
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