This quote was in my planner for the month of March.

Since it is the month of the Slice of Life Writing Challenge, I thought of it in terms of writing, and of the mind—where writing lives.

I picture “comfort zone” as a little garden surrounded by a stone wall; there is no gate. There, in the coolness of the day, the grass remains lush and green; dew glints like diamonds in a sun that never rises nor sets. There is no twilight in this zone, nor any dawn. Time is irrelevant. The season is constant; perpetual spring. Flowers remain in bloom, lavender, pink, lacy white like a wedding gown, but they give off no spirit-stirring fragrance, and they never die. They just are. A little fountain bubbles quietly in the midst. In the distance, birdsong. The birds don’t come to visit this garden, though, beckoning as it is. They are living things which need living things. Nothing grows in the garden. It is not stagnant, only static.

This garden is a place where nothing ever happens; to attempt feeling, to imagine, to have any hope of creating, one must risk climbing the wall.

There is no guarantee of what lies on the other side…except that the ground is there to land on, and that the stars are overhead for guidance, and that the wind will not be controlled, it will blow where it will, and somewhere in it you learn what holds and what does not, like the stone walls, mossy, cool to the touch, henges of the human mind. That is the strangest zone of all. It has nothing to do with time, but with that small green thing that desires to grow, seeking cracks for tender tendrils to poke through…whether in or out. The little living thing simply reaches for the light.

And so we write. We scale the wall of the comfort zone where nothing beautiful grows… and discover unexpected light. Perhaps in the wonder of words, in the glory of ideas, in the power of story… and then we realize: Different gardens, different flowers, different wellsprings, perhaps…but underneath, the living root that connects us all, one to the other. It is deep. It is ancient.

Going more than a bit out of my comfort zone here: sharing Golden Shovel poems built from the planner quote. They still need a good bit of work. As we sometimes do. They are imperfect, unpolished. As we are. You can see the poems are mirror images of each other. For so are we, in the end…

The writerly zone, after all, cannot be the comfort zone.

It is a scaling of the wall. Of the mind, and also of the heart… for that is called trust.

Note that one definition of “mind” is the element of a person that enables them to be aware of the world and their experiences, to think, and to feel; the faculty of consciousness and thought.

Sounds like a writer to me.

Before the Writing

A keen awareness of World
comfort beckoning
zone of reckoning
is this defining one’s mind?
A vast, inner expanse encompassing the
beautiful, a safe
place of keeping
but does that matter if
nothing leaps from yours to mine, or
ever climbs over the stone walls where
grows our vine of stories, inextricably
there intertwined, and infinitely rooted.

After the Writing

World of awareness, keen, a
beckoning comfort
reckoning of zone,
mind, one’s defining, this is
the encompassing expanse, inner, vast, a
safe, a beautiful
keeping of place
-if matter that does, but
-or mine to yours, from leaps nothing
where walls stone the over climbs, ever
inextricably, stories of vine, our grows
rooted, infinitely, and intertwined, there.


The annual Slice of Life Story Challenge with Two Writing Teachers is underway, meaning that I am posting every day in the month of March. This marks my fifth consecutive year and I’m experimenting with an abecedarian approach: On Day 26, I am writing around a word beginning with letter z.

Now that I’m over THIS wall…in which direction shall I go for the remaining five days?

31 thoughts on “Zone

  1. This is vivid, descriptive, and insightful. “Time is irrelevant. The season is constant; perpetual spring.” Your vulnerability shines through and you really make it over the wall. I was struck by the quote as well – comfort is nice but it’s not a place of growth. 🙂

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  2. Yes. The slice of life challenge is it’s own experiment with leaving the comfort zone. Your description reminds me of the Talking Heads song “Heaven,” a place where nothing ever happens. It’s beautiful, but it’s not real life. It has really been a pleasure to read your 26-day composition…in installments. It’s remarkable to see the month as not just a series of slices, but as whole pie, as well. I haven’t tried Golden Shovels…yet.

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    • Great connection to the Talking Heads… I also thought of the Wood Between the Words, in C.S. Lewis’ The Magician’s Nephew. It’s a beautiful wood, but “the sort of place where nothing ever happens” and people just get really comfortable and sleepy there. This is the first time I took a holistic approach to the slicing – it opened such interesting doors and allowed me to frame random ideas and moments that had been floating around for a while. The magic and mystery of writing. I am thinking of maybe sharing a couple more Golden Shovels in another post – when you do try: they don’t have to be on the same topic as the work from which you take your line. That’s the fun, shoveling your own golden meanings, making something new.

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  3. First, a vocabulary lesson; I didn’t know that “henge” was a stand-alone word, and was delighted to learn so. Your definition of a comfort zone suits you perfectly, with its natural setting, finely detailed…but nothing growing, nothing changing. You are forever climbing those walls and moving beyond, so I don’t think you need to be worried about being stuck there! I wonder if children would have different versions of their comfort zones, especially those who live in chaotic circumstances…I digress. This post, as well as others from this SOLSC, have me thinking that my year 10 of this challenge may very well be a month of poems, each a different style. Thank you for taking us on your alphabetic journey this month!

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    • “Stones” led me to “henge” as I’m sure you guessed; and there were instant associations with “hinge” and “unhinged”…it HAD to be used! Fascinating to ponder the children pondering their own comfort zones…especially with writing which so involves risk-taking. The climb can be slippery, laborious… maybe I will join you in that poetic adventure next March! Thank you for your words, always so bolstering. And it is a geeky little pleasure to look at my published post list and see it aligned in reverse alphabetical order. Hmmm. Next year I could work backwards…

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  4. My goodness, this is beautiful. I love how you picture your comfort zone and what it might mean to move beyond it. I’ll be notebooking today on this very topic, so thank you for the inspiration. One more thing: What planner do you use? The quotes sound wonderful!

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    • Happy to know you will be notebooking on this! The planner is a “Bloom Daily Planner” – it asks on the front page: “How will you bloom this year?” It’s small, not especially fancy, really kind of simple, but it has a lot of little charts for listing goals, visions, “what to do and what NOT to do,” habit tracking – and a lot of great quotes. On Jan. 1st it gave me this: “Experiencing awe (the feeling of being in the presence of something bigger than you) can improve your physical health and make you feel more altruistic. Intentionally create awe this month by spending time in nature, meditating, volunteering, etc.” -I’d never thought of awe as something to make us more giving. Or that we could “create” it. In that moment – “awe” became my word for the year. Maybe for every year – maybe for every day from now on, as I am looking for the awe it holds.


  5. The comfort zone–not stagnant but static, a perfect description.
    “Golden Shovel” poems–that’s a term I don’t know. Is it your creation?
    Beautiful thoughts about writing taking us out of our comfort zone, where nothing ever grows. I’m afraid I stay within my zone too often, even when I write. You challenge me to do better.


    • Alas, I didn’t create the Golden Shovel – I picked it up from other bloggers and poets. I’ve written a few and have a couple I might post in these remaining SOLSC days – one taking a line of Gorman’s inaugural poem and the other, a line from a book. Usually each word in your chosen line serves as the last word of each new line that you write. Does’t have to concern the same subject; you’re making something new. I played with it here – one poem has each word of the comfort zone quote at the beginning and the other at the end, because I reversed it. I have written one where the beginning AND ending word of each line are from a quote. It gets to be a thing sometimes, you know…I so appreciate your words. Sharing one’s writing is a risk and definitely pushes me beyond my comfort zone – keeps me mindful of how students feel.


  6. An you end the journey of the alphabet with a golden shovel poem. Wow! You are a master manipulator of words that create emotions in the readers. I can’t wait to read your final days of writing exploration!

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    • Many thanks, Elsie – the mirrored Golden Shovels aren’t quite finished and I might have been all right had I NOT tried to make it work in reverse, too… so, here’s me risking the wall anyway and landing in this place to share – this encouragement zone, where you are a mighty force!


  7. There are two lessons here for me: “The writerly zone, after all, cannot be the comfort zone.” Writing is a mode for transformation and to change, we need those “walls of comfort” to fall away.

    And, that these walls fall when we write together in community using the writing of the masters, the ones who’ve written before us. This is the greatest lesson for me. I never realized how important it is to do the work among others. Thank you for this lovely post.

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    • Indeed, writing is transformative …in short, community is a landing place where one can go beyond the walls of the individual comfort zone. That’s where the energy is…and the growth. Many thanks for these words, Melanie.

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  8. Another stunning slice, I am constantly thinking of getting out of the comfort zone and hoping others will see the necessity and value of climbing that wall. It sure shaped our kids when we moved to India with them for nine years and they saw there was a world of poverty and desperation outside the comfortable world they’d grown up in! Getting out of the comfort zone is a constant challenge and there are so many areas to be challenged in.
    I just love the depth and thought you put into your work with all the intricate detail and description. Also being introduced to something new like Golden Shovel poems! So I am right in thinking the second one is meant to be read right to left? Also your planner sounds amazing, love the quote on ‘awe’. Thanks again for your fruitful slice!

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    • Once again your life experiences amaze me… reminding me that a side “fruit” of getting out of the comfort zone is empathy; I expect those nine years in India developed a deep sense of it in all of you and especially in the children. So glad you enjoyed the post. I will have another coming with Golden Shovel examples on Sunday but: The second one is really mirroring the first, a bit of a “reverso” for the changes in punctuation; it can still be read left to right (as reading it right to left is word-wise the same as the first).


  9. Breathtaking and life-breathing, Fran. The way you wield that magical writing wand of yours is truly inspirational. “We scale the wall of the comfort zone where nothing beautiful grows… and discover unexpected light.” Whenever I read your posts, I reread and reflect. So many ways to interpret your many hidden messages. Leaning into the discomfort and climbing that wall are great starting points. Thank you for sharing another poetic form for me to try.

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    • I treasure these words from you, Cindy, word-artist extraordinaire that you are! I do typically have lots of layered meanings…means much that you pick up on this. On forms: today I posted a little “backwards” poem and there are a couple more Golden Shovels coming on Sunday…I do hope you will give the form a try because I KNOW you will come up with something incredible! ❤


  10. Fran, you are a POWERHOUSE of writing. I’m continually amazed by the strength of your writing, day after day. And to manage BOTH a golden shovel AND a twist on a reverso poem? Really. You inspire me to climb the walls of my own garden, to dig in the earth to push my own craft higher, deeper. I loved your reference to story being the vine that we use to climb our way out of that comfort zone. And yes. Getting at our roots: “the living root that connects us all, one to the other. It is deep. It is ancient.” Even beyond the walls that separate us, there are elements that bind us all. So much beauty here. Thank you.

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    • Dear Lainie… I wasn’t quite satisfied with the “reverso” version, would have kept tinkering with the poems a while longer, but grew tired and let it all go as is. I have a couple more Golden Shovels coming on Sunday, as the form is a great way to make discoveries for oneself as well fun to share with students for a whole host of possibilities. The imagery in this post – stone walls, vine, roots – were all in my head as a picture stemming from the comfort zone quote, which is so true; and so the challenge was how to get them in to word form-?? Story does connect us all, only if we are wiling to share, and in so doing we honor that deep, connective root of our humanity. I so appreciate your heart and your words – so very much.

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