During this whole quarantine thing, I’ve often found myself bored, impatient and maybe even not so nice to be around. I’ve never read so many books, watched so much TV, sent so many heartfelt cards and letters or written so many chapters for my latest book. That last part is actually a surprisingly good thing to come out of the virus.
Anyway, for the good of those around me, I decided I better get out of my own head and crawl inside someone else’s. Yes, reading is definitely a good way to do just that, but I somehow felt compelled to move my body off the couch, out of my writing chair and away from the kitchen table. I needed a new form of distraction that might also have the added side effect of expanding my mind.
While many of you are probably familiar with the eclectic world of podcasting, I was not until recently. I am proud to say that I am now. Almost every morning I have been getting up, lacing up my tennies and plugging into a different world; the podcasting world. I make it a point to choose topics I have no prior knowledge of and sometimes even no interest in. Why? To try to jar my brain back to life and it has turned out pretty well. So much so, that I’m now recommending it to the rest of the world or at least to my A Slice of Orange blog readers.
My morning walks or podwalks as I have taken to calling them, have turned out to be one of my favorite parts of my day. I’ve learned so many new and different things as I huff and puff through the hills where I live. I discovered the story of the paleontologist who actually coined the word “dinosaur. ” Now I’m not a real dinosaur fan, but this was one interesting and rather sad story of how ego can get in the way of success. I also enjoyed the tale about how the word “vaccine” was birthed. Both pieces were short, attention grabbing and informative stories from the FridayScience podcast; a site I highly recommend.
But wait, there’s more. I tuned through several other podcasts to learn about the fictional character, Dracula, how to make myself ten percent happier, the true meaning of the word imagination, how the brain adapts when learning a foreign language, techniques for taking a dress pattern from size ten to size fourteen, what happens when you have a heart attack and the value of including kale in your daily diet. I also listened to wonderful stories chronicling everything from mysteries to murders.
Not only did I learn a lot of new stuff, I also benefited in a couple of other ways. I found myself extending my walks for longer periods of time because I didn’t want to quit before the podcast was over. I was also introduced to new vocabulary and exciting strategies for expressing an idea—something every writer can benefit from. The word Crepuscular, a large or bulky body type, was just one of my discoveries and is sure to be a new character descriptor in my next book.
Okay, I admit there is a lot of weird stuff, out there . The number of programs about interestrial visitors is mind boggling. And some of the podcasts featuring famous murderers did nothing for my scaredy cat issues. The good thing is, with the touch of a finger, I can always flip to another topic. Oh, one more thing. I learned how to create my own podcast. Perhaps this could be my next endeavor?
Plug in and start your day with your own podwalk. I hope you find it as enjoyable as I have.
Happy May 20th!
I’ve heard it said that eyes are the window to the soul, but I’ve always been more of a total face person. I like to see smiles, dimples, scrunched up noses or puffed out cheeks. By getting a look at the total face, I think that it’s a whole heck of lot easier to predict what is going on in a person’s head and how to respond. When I’m creating a character, I never stop at just describing the eyes. I mean… do you?
So, what do you do when the only thing that isn’t covered by a mask is a pair of eyes? Unfortunately, during this pandemic, wearing a mask has become as common as wearing a t-shirt and getting to really “see” the person you are trying to communicate with can be uber challenging.
Lucky for me, I also take a lot of my cues from raised eye brows, crinkled crows feet, squinty eyes and furrowed brows. I’m far more comfortable with smiling eyes, bright eyes and even sleepy eyes than I am with angry or worried eyes. And it can really throw me off when those eyes are covered by thick or fringy bangs, glasses or the bill of a cap pulled taunt over a forehead. But if you practice real hard and pay close attention, I theorize that a pair of eyes, peeking out from behind a mask, can actually give you some clues to maneuver by. It’s sort of like learning a foreign language and I got a crash course while dropping by Costco the other day. Flashing, angry eyes mean – for your own good – get as far away as possible, as soon as possible. Sad eyes need a nod of support and happy eyes, well just enjoy those – they may be few and far between these tough days. One other clue to how a stranger might be feeling could be found in the mask they are wearing. I’ve included pictures of a few that I’ve made. How can you not feel happy when wearing something so whimsical?
So until the day comes when we can all greet each other with an upturned smile or a downturned frown, a hug, a giggle or a hoot—take care, be safe and stay home—then you won’t need to wear a mask!
I say “snuck out” because I promised all three of my children that I would stay home all day and write. I agreed with them that since I’m 65, I should stay home, sheltered in place, because that’s what we are all being asked to do where I live. This Corona Virus thing has me good and scared and I completely understand that to stay healthy, it’s best to avoid contact with others.
It’s not like I don’t have plenty to do. I’m in the middle of writing the next chapter in my book, making a quilt and I have a new found desire to bake. But that’s where my troubles began–I needed eggs and butter. That is, I needed eggs and butter if I was going to stay home for the next two weeks, feed my husband breakfast and still bake.
I figured that if I ventured out early enough, I might not run into as many people. So I did and I was right. My beach city was quiet, devoid of crowds, bikes and surfboards. I got dressed and was in line by 9:10. The store had opened at 9:00 and there were already about fifteen people in line ahead of me. Kudos to the pleasant Trader Joe’s staff who kept the store well stocked and the line moving. And kudos to the folks in line who, thankfully, approached the whole event with smiles on their faces. We all made a point of not standing too close together and I’m grateful that I heard neither a cough nor a sneeze.
In thirty minutes I was in and out of the store with lots of good stuff, including eggs and butter. I also left with another unexpected bonus. I met a new character for my book. She is a combination of the three wonderful women who I stood in line with. Total strangers, they shared their good humor as they threw out questions to the crowd like, “How many of you are over sixty and snuck out today?” and comments like, “I won’t tell your kids if you don’t tell mine!” All three were colorful women with infectious smiles who I soon found out were actually as scared as I was to be out and about when we should have been at home. I took all three home with me in my heart and joyfully morphed them into my new character.
These are challenging times for our world and I do not take lightly the recommendations coming out from the CDC and our local health officials. And I must admit that it will be a while before I need or want to venture out to the market or Trader Joe’s again. But, I am grateful to the staff who continue to work so hard to keep our markets full. I also want to extend a personal hurrah to the medical community who are working so tirelessly to get us all through this crisis. I have a first hand view of it as I watch my daughter, who is a nurse, march off to work to keep her cancer patients safe.
Good health and best wishes for an end to this soon!
Meriam Wilhelm Author of the Month
The one thing I know, after all my years as an elementary school principal, is that there is magic everywhere and in everyone. While I miss those enchanting moments with kids, I have always wanted to let my imagination run wild as I seek out my own magic and write about it. When I retired, I started to write my first books, a series called The Witches of New Moon Beach and inspiration wasn’t hard to find.
I have lived in Redondo Beach all my life, and New Moon might have more than a passing resemblance to my hometown. Every day I walk on the path that runs along the beach, sometimes with my sisters, but most often with my thoughts as I plot my next book.
I am long married and mom to three great grown kids. When I’m not writing or walking on the beach, you’ll find me sewing, reading or traveling and taking pictures.
I have a beautiful room in my home where I write and sew everyday. The walls are a lovely warm and fuzzy peach color and I revel in the joys of having my very own private domain to work in. My talented husband installed cherry cabinets, a murphy bed and a very large table that folds down. I have bookshelves filled to the max with everything one might need to write or sew and a super computer. A large barn door covers a sometimes organized- although often not – cupboard, shamefully filled with more fabric than I could ever hope to use in a lifetime. Large windows let in tons of sunlight and ocean breezes and I often find inspiration just staring off into rolling hills of green. It seems like the perfect place to write and it usually is.
But yesterday, I ran into a glitch when I decided that the story I was working on needed a dark twist. I wanted to paint my character in shades of loneliness, sadness, perhaps even despair. My heroine was having mystical dilemmas that caused her heartache and pain and my happy, sunny domain just didn’t support the creation of those kinds of feelings. I tried to refashion my environment to support my writing needs. I outlined in my head where I wanted my storyline to go, I put on soft, melancholy music, closed the shades and dug down deep into my soul and waited for dramatic feelings to flow. But none came, I was totally stymied.
That night, I switched my writing spot to my moonlit back yard hoping for inspiration to hit. It was dark and cold and maybe even a little lonely. But the only thing that happened was that I got the sniffles from the fog that rolled in, enveloping me in damp blankets of white. This morning, determined to create the blues, I returned to my office, chastising myself for not just jumping in earlier. After all, I know what it feels like to be sad, to feel lost, wanting to tuck myself away and I was confused as to why I was having so much trouble tapping into those emotions. It was then that I realized that I had the perfect place to nurture those feelings – my closet. It’s the one place where I fled to when my mom died and I needed to remember, to feel and ultimately to cry. And cry I did in my silent hiding place.
Located on our second floor, is a very large walk-in closet and although it has a couple of small windows, closing the door and dropping the shades, effectively shuts out the world at large. This dark hole offered the perfect hiding place in which to create my whirlwind of dark emotion.
Grabbing my laptop, I headed upstairs, determined to write. Closing the door, I sat down on the carpeted floor, flipped open my laptop and began. I envisioned my main character, the turmoil she was feeling, the confusion and angst that plagued her and the sorrow that consumed her and I wrote. I never heard the phone ringing or the shouts from my husband. I just wrote. And within a couple of hours, I had created the world I had been searching for.
As I headed back downstairs, I met my husband who asked, “Where were you? I couldn’t find you. Didn’t you hear me calling you? Your sister phoned. I told her that you must have gone for a walk.”
I smiled. I’m glad that he hadn’t found me sitting on the floor in my dark closet, he might not have understood. I’m afraid he would have freaked him out. But for that one moment, my closet offered me the ideal place to feel, to imagine and to write. I hope that you find your own perfect writing place.
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