I was inspired by the incredible ideas shared at the San Diego Area Writing Project’s Fall Conference yesterday morning, and my mind was reeling as I stopped at my favorite Carlsbad beach on the way home. I didn’t expect to find a connection to SDAWP Fellow and poet Frank Barone when I kicked off my shoes and set off on my trek but that is exactly what happened.
While walking, I stopped as I always do to clean the beach of washed up debris and litter left behind by lazy beachgoers. The first piece of beach trash I came across was a shredded purple balloon that had obviously spent some time in the ocean. I snapped several photos of it for #litterati and immediately thought of the inspiration that Frank has provided to multitudes of young writers across San Diego County as an English teacher, writer, and speaker.
Frank, who many of our SDAWP colleagues also know as “the man with the purple balloon,” illustrates metaphor by holding up an inflated purple balloon and asking, “What else do you see?” Frank moves the balloon upside-down, sideways, and right-side up and urges students to consider everything that the color and shape evoke. With this simple prompt, students start imagining purple fish swimming in the sea, sweet grapes growing on vines, and vibrant wildflowers blooming in fields. As the children share their ideas orally, he assures them that they are creating metaphors and crafting poetry.
As I reflect on the impact that Frank has had on students and teachers with his purple balloon, my thoughts return to the shredded remnants of a balloon I found on the beach. What metaphors does it hold? A child might imagine a sea anemone or a jellyfish, but I can only see the environmental impact our throw away culture is having on our oceans.
Last Saturday was Coastal Clean Up Day. It is touted as the largest one–day volunteer project on the planet. Thousands of helpful hands picked up tons of trash in one morning. How many more pieces of litter must be cleaned up off our beaches before people realize the harm being caused by our carelessness and callousness?
A purple balloon can be a powerful metaphor in the hands of an inspirational teacher. A shredded purple balloon in the surf is a sad reality.
For more by and about Frank Barone:
“The Balloon Man” by Ariel Foy, Dialogue—Fall 2010.
“If I Ask You to Write a Poem” by Frank Barone, Dialogue—Fall 2010.
“Searching for My Muse” by Frank Barone, Dialogue—Spring 2005.
“Have Fun with Words” by Frank Barone, Dialogue—Fall 2005.
“21 Senses Revisited” by Frank Barone, Dialogue—Winter 2003.