“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
– from “The Summer Day” by Mary Oliver
Three weeks ago, Still Point Facilitator Lindsay Porter resumed conducting weekly Persephone Project classes with women at Lake County Jail. Lindsay said that the concept of “identity” has been a theme for reflection and writing in these early sessions. The above quote from Mary Oliver’s poem was used as a springboard for discussion: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
Lindsay remarked that this group is particularly supportive of one another, and that the Persephone Project environment makes honest sharing and imagining possible. I have heard repeatedly from Persephone Project facilitators, and have heard it confirmed in the testimonials of participants, that the supportive community created in this programming is vital. An environment which facilitates reflection, imagination, connection, hope and personal growth supports the women in reclaiming and rebuilding their lives.
In contemplating identity, the women have an opportunity to be honest about their worst moments and worst decisions, but to also realize that their entire identity need not be defined by these mistakes. That is part of who they are and part of their experience, but their being also contains many other facets that deserve to be acknowledged. The Persephone Project encourages them to explore these facets.
Lindsay shared that the group has also had discussions about how to look for precious and life-affirming moments even in the midst of the most difficult days of their lives. One participant shared that she likes to get up earlier than needed because she has a view of the sunrise from her cell, and the sight of the sun over Lake Michigan is something she looks forward to each morning.
The purpose of this work is not frivolous. The classes are focused on building skills and providing opportunities for growth that can have a meaningful impact. Lindsay recalls one comment from a participant in a past facilitation: upon completing their performance at the jail, the woman remarked, “This is the first time I’ve ever finished anything.” Her comment describes an event of serious personal significance for this individual: the performance was an opportunity for her to prove to herself that she could commit to a project and see it through to completion.
Lindsay stated that the jail administration at Lake County is very supportive of the Persephone Project, particularly Chief Jennifer Witherspoon, who is diligently focused on providing programs and services for inmates that give them the best chance at a successful life after release. We are grateful for the opportunity to have a positive contribution to women at Lake County Jail through conducting Persephone Project classes there.
The current Lake County Jail group is planning an original performance, tentatively scheduled for March 4. Honest creative expression takes tremendous courage. We applaud these women, and their willingness to share about their wild and precious lives.
by Anita Dacanay