Jumping Backwards: A Writing Prompt

May 27, 2020 § 3 Comments

Santana Author Photoby Celina Marann Santana

I have been inventing quarantine games. For the purposes of this blog, let’s say I use them as writing rewards or prompts rather than procrastination from the writing itself!

One invented game is to investigate what I was doing on this day one year ago. Give it a go. Jump back through your calendar, do an email sort. As fair warning, it can be humorous, sad, curious, frustrating. Recently, I skipped forward to the summer months to see the types of adventures I’ll potentially miss this year.

I landed on June 23. Now there are many things I could have been doing on the many June 23rds of my past, at midnight. On the ones I happened to be in Puerto Rico, it was jumping backwards into the sea, seven or twelve times (depending on who I asked) in order to cleanse my sins, start anew, and get magic powers.

Noche de San Juan is celebrated every June 23 in Puerto Rico, Spain, and many other countries around the world. The original Noche de Feugo (Night of Fire) was a pagan tradition to celebrate the summer solstice but was co-opted by the Catholic Church to commemorate the birthday of Saint John the Baptist.

I managed to secure fragments of the history of the festivities while wandering the beach, weaving around bonfires, hammocks, drummers, loungers, drinkers and dreamers. There were those who had no idea why they had gathered in the dark (beyond a good party of course) and for those who knew something of this night’s origins, there were debates as to its traditions. Further research revealed some of the most common:

  • Go backward into to the sea, while watching the moon, for special powers or luck.
  • At the exact moment when the sun illuminates the dawn of the 24th, the waters of springs and streams are endowed with special powers to cure and provide protection. Bathe in the dew for protection throughout the year.
  • Sit under a fig tree with a guitar in your hands and you’ll learn to play it right away.
  • Look through the window of your home after midnight and you will see the love of your life walk by.
  • To rid yourself of things you would rather forget, throw representations of them (clothes, objects or memories written on paper) into the fire and watch them burn.

For me, the night represented change and looking back on it made me realize something new about change. Helen Keller said, “A bend in the road is not the end of the road…unless you fail to make the turn.” And Jennifer Donnelly writes about wanting “a word that describes the feeling that you get—a cold sick feeling, deep down inside—when you know something is happening that will change you.” Erica Jong advises that “accepting fear as part of life, specifically the fear of change…” allows us to “…go ahead despite the pounding in the heart that says: turn back.” And finally, Jarod Kintz says, “The only thing I am for sure is unsure, and this means I’m growing, and not stagnant or shrinking.”

These strange times of social distancing and sickness means lots of changes and can induce plenty of fear, but it doesn’t have to mean stagnancy. One June night, in a few hours of darkness on the ocean’s shore, I basked in the company of a friend, released the loss of an old friend, and celebrated the meeting of a new friend. “Staying in place” makes me realize this is more how life is: no matter how great the change, there is something we can hold onto, something we can let go, and something new to find. Maybe powerful, meaningful change is what results when we have the courage to do all three.

Celina Marann Santana writes brief nonfiction, loves writing from prompts, and is at work on a novel. She spends her days doing all kinds of things, like starting up a PechaKucha Night because she enjoys informal gatherings where folks share their passions in a concise, engaging format. She founded Your Dreamery to encourage others to discover their best selves through writing and exploration.


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