In the first-year class “Faith, Hope, and Love,” students at The Seattle School read Harry Middleton’s beautiful memoir The Earth Is Enough. The resulting assignment, affectionately known as the “Harry Paper,” is something of a milestone in the first-year journey: a creative engagement of trauma, story, grief, and therapeutic dialogue. Here, third-year student B. Mason Judy shares a radio drama that he and his brother, Cail Judy, created from Mason’s Harry Paper. Mason shares how writing this dialogue, which you can listen to below, opened him to the movement of grief he had been avoiding.
Before moving to Seattle in the summer of 2016, I spent two years in rural Vermont cultivating a relationship with my grandmother, Omi. When I was a kid, my family would visit her in the summers; but, I didn’t have the opportunity to know Omi as I did in adulthood. She was a woman with a stately pride, a fierce love of justice, and a wry wit. She spent her professional life committed to the welfare of others as a social worker and her personal life cheering for the Boston Red Sox. She loved her family and she loved life.
She loved me.
In March of 2016, Omi had no choice but to leave her home of 30 years on Weeden Hill Road. She moved into Stoughton House, an assisted living facility she helped found in the town of Windsor. She missed her independence and the solitude in spite of her increased amenities and security. Four months after she moved away from Weeden Hill, she died.
I felt sad, angry, and most of all guilty for the times I chose not to visit her at Stoughton House. I could not bear to witness her sorrow, her helplessness, and witness the increasing paranoia brought on by her dementia.
A month later with all these feelings in tow, I started my first trimester in the MA in Counseling Psychology program at The Seattle School. Initially, I distracted myself from the flow of my grief, let it recede in the midst of settling into a new city, meeting new people, and being inducted into the communal rhythms of The Seattle School.
Until it came time to write the Harry Paper.
The Harry Paper is a rite of passage for every first-year student at The Seattle School. After reading his gorgeous memoir The Earth is Enough, you are required to write a dialogue between yourself and author and fly-fisher Harry Middleton. The parameters are loose but the expectations are high. The dialogue is supposed to capture the person of Harry, what he’d say, how he’d react, and you’re told strictly he would not be open to a Jesus moment.
When I imagined conversing with Harry my mind traveled north from his beloved Ozarks to the forests of New England. We walked along the paths and overgrown fields around Weeden Hill woven between birch trees and crumbling stone fences. With each step my grief began to swell and submerged our conversation. I had no interest in giving anything to Harry. I wanted a way around the loss. Any dictum from a man, so adept with his words, to lower the volume of pain running through my body like a swollen creek bed.
Dogs and Mud is my entreaty to Harry. A map of my sorrow. And according to William Kittredge, storytelling is a kind of mapmaking; a means to find “ways home to that ultimate shelter which is the coherent self.”
My brother Cail Judy brought the play to life. He is the producer and director of Dogs and Mud. The actors are Shaun Morse and John Voth. The recording engineer and sound designer is Liam MacLeod. The production was made possible by a generous grant from CIVL-FM in Abbotsford, British Columbia.