Frank Greco 7/26/06
EDLA 615 Midterm
Literature Circles Extension Project
Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen is a book about an abused youth, Cole Matthews, who takes out his anger and frustration by getting into all kinds of trouble. One day Cole severely beats up one of his classmates, Peter Driscal, for ratting on him. Cole is placed in a detention center until the courts decide what to do with him. After hearing about it from Garvey (a Tlingit Indian parole officer), Cole chooses to go through a Native American judicial system by the name of Circle Justice instead of being sentenced to prison. Circle Justice makes the decision to exile Cole to a remote island off the coast of Alaska. The purpose of the exile is to heal Cole so that he will become a contributing member of society.
Garvey and Edwin (a Tlingit elder) put Cole through several healing tasks. One task is to soak in a freezing cold pond. My interpretation of this activity is that it allowed Cole to both think and clear his thoughts so as if to cause time to stand still. Wading in a pool of freezing water can be considered a symbol of clarity, purity, renewal, or a washing away of sins.
Another task is to carry an ancestral rock up a hill and then release it from the top. From what I gathered, this activity allows Cole to think about his life as one entity. Each step represents a day and some days he stumbles as we all do. This activity got him to think about how he has grown since committing his inhumane act. It allows him to stop blaming others, including his father, for his fate. Letting go of the rock represents letting go of his anger and the way he used to be. Initially, Cole did not see the point in these tasks; however, both activities require discipline and one's own effort into actively participating in the healing process. In doing this, Cole was able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
This is not the forum for sharing the trials and tribulations of my life. However, please allow me to share some of my ways of healing as they have helped me through the winding parts of my path, one of many journeys, one without a destination.
Describe the process you went through as you created your project.
I gave thought as to how I could incorporate one important aspect of this book into my project. I considered something involving a totem pole but that was already taken. I had a little bit of difficulty trying to figure out what I wanted to do. After sitting in front of the computer for some time, my sister called and said she needed a ride home from work. This would be a good opportunity for me to take a break and get away from staring at the monitor. As I walked out the door, it suddenly hit me. The tasks that Cole had gone through were important for his healing. It was then that I decided to focus on connecting some of his tasks to my life in order to create this project. The synergy between his healing and my own healing would provide me with the energy needed to see this project through from beginning to end.
In what ways does your project reflect an important part of the book?
I feel my project reflects the important theme of healing found within this book. Cole had to go through a series of tasks and lessons in order to bring peace to himself and to those around him. My project shows some of the healing that took place for Cole and relates it to the healing that occurs in my life. The healing that takes place for Cole is unique as may be the healing that takes place in my life.
How does this project show what you have learned about this book?
I learned that it is important for people to heal in order to grow. People can have a tendency to run in circles when they fail to actively participate in the healing process.
Cole would have probably continued to get into trouble had he not gone through the process established by the members of Circle Justice. Everyone heals differently and what seems trivial may actually help you find the answers you seek. Healing is not easy; it takes time, care, and effort every step of the way.
When someone views your project, what will they learn about your book?
I hope they will learn that healing is as important to Cole as it is to them.