The Mind — An Amazing Container

Tree Shadows, Watching

Tree Shadows, Watching ©2012 Bo Mackison

. . . collect glances, glimpses, nuances, images, and tonalities
. . . remember the essences of performances
. . . snap-shot memories.
~ Eric Maisel, describing artist’s memory in his book Creativity for Life

I read the above quote while taking Eric Maisel’s Advanced Creativity Coaching training and wondered if I could write a vignette using these words — glance, glimpse, nuance, image, tonalities, essence, snap-shot.

I decided to tackle a memory from my childhood, one that I recalled but had never fleshed out in writing. In using the words as prompts, I discovered this was a potent way to kick-start the writing process.

I also discovered that the mind is an amazing container of details. When I focused on a specific memory, I could re-create the setting in my mind.

In this poem, an example of the technique, each stanza addresses a single word, in this order — glance, tonality, glimpse, nuance, image, essence, snap-shot.

Entering Ward B-3 at Jacksonville State Hospital*

The grizzle faced men sit like stone statues in their straight-backed chairs.
Hard to ignore their faces, I sneak glances while keeping
my head down, I pretend-watch my feet.

Tree branches grasped by swirling winds, November trickery,
knock against a window. A blind man curses
each time the branches strike the dark beyond.

My grandfather lies asleep in his bed, the last cot
on the left. A sheet covers his head.
His feet stick out from the edge of the brown wool blanket.

I walk on sunlit shadows, patterns of leaves
on the black and white tiles, avoiding the cracks.
“Step on a crack, you’ll break your mother’s back…”

Rows of metal beds, head-boards of white enamel bars,
windows of frosted glass, more bars; two men play checkers,
another covers his bed with sections of the Chicago Tribune.

These beds are like church pews, evenly spaced
on either side of the aisle; and the nurses station is a sacristy
protected by glass and metal grating.

A ruddy-faced patient, dressed only in striped pajama pants,
peers into the nurses’ station. No one notices him.
He spits on the glass and demands that his toe nails be trimmed.


*Jacksonville State Hospital was one of the first state hospitals built in the United States to specifically care for the mentally ill. It was built in 1848. The hospital closed due to deteriorating conditions and budget cuts in 1975, and was demolished.


Bo Mackison is artist, photographer, book-maker, collector of stories, naturalist, poet, curator and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC.    She and her family spent many Sunday afternoons visiting her grandfather. They often brought Kentucky Fried Chicken and had a picnic lunch on the grounds of the hospital. Her grandfather loved Kentucky Fried Chicken.

About Bo Mackison

I'm a photographer, book-artist, traveler, naturalist, and creator of the Contemplative Creatives Journey, An Online Workshop and Community and Desert Wisdom Cards and Workshops. Though often not well known, I find the desert a welcoming place - a healing space. Its mysteries and gifts transformed me several years ago. Since that first encounter, I return again and again to fill my well in what most people think of as a desolate region. I'd love to share my desert discoveries and wisdom with you. Please subscribe to receive my five part mini email course The Gifts of the Desert. It's my gift to you.


  1. The images and emotions in this touch me right to the bone. Thank you.

  2. So very powerful. I’m suddenly transported – right there with you. Beautiful work!

  3. Deborah Hansen says:

    This is so visceral. I too am a child in this ward.

  4. your poem goes beyond being a poem and crosses over into experience – wow!

  5. Wow. Just, wow.

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