Tattered Past

Tattered Past: My ongoing journey through genealogy, history, writing, self-exploration and art. ~~~ Rita Ackerman

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Remember When: Panning For Gold

This is a picture of my sister panning for gold in northern Arizona. There are many aspects to this memory. My sister, obviously. Her ever present cigarette. Her complete absorption in anything she did. Her sweaters.

It brings back other memories. Doug and I were involved in gold panning for quite some time and enjoyed getting out on the back roads. We never found more than a few flecks but we did have fun and enjoyed being together. We co-led a troop of Girl Scouts for years and one of the things we did was take them gold panning; very close to the area where we took my sister and family.

Some writers call digging up memories or finding writing ideas "panning for gold." This is a good analogy. Panning requires patience and dedication.

The water is usually very cold. You sink your pan and scoop up some sand or dirt from the bottom of the stream. Then you lift the pan out leaving the water in it. All this while squatting on the side of the stream which is hard on knees and backs. Then comes the real trick. Swishing the water in the pan in such a way the lighter weight sand and dirt swirl out over the sides, leaving the heavier gold in the bottom. Swish. Check what remains. Swish. Check what remains. Swish. Over and over. Once that pan is empty you sink the pan back in the water and start over.

In writing you write. Write. Write. Sometimes you read back over the pages and see if you find any "gold." If so you write to expand that idea or image. If not, you write. Write. Write.

When writing memoir the writing can bring up golden memories or dark memories. Those bits are then expanded into more memories.

It all takes patience and dedication.


  1. Rita--someday you and Doug and George and I have to get together. I met George when I lived in Arizona, because he moved to Arizona from Maine because he wanted to pan for gold!! I'm sure you all could swap some good stories!!

    1. Sounds like a plan. I don't know how easy it is to get to some of the places now-a-days.

  2. Remember how I thought I had no time to write? Now I've started a new daily ritual. I have two cheapie notebooks one for Morning Pages that I have to fill 3 pages of anything that comes to mind ramblings really and my Memoir Journal Workshop book that I answer your prompts in after 9pm. This coming from someone who never wrote anything beyond checks to pay bills for years. I'm an artist and it's freed my wordy burdened mind. I'm settled and creating some of the best work I've done in a long time.

    1. Mary, your comment brought a tear to my eye. Just knowing I have made a difference in your life makes it all worthwhile. This whole project has been so rewarding in that way. Thank YOU.


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