Category Archives: Writer

Learning through reading

I don’t know about you, but during this pandemic I have read more books electronically than ever. Without book stores or libraries, I have turned to e-books for my fix.

I prefer a paper book, but needs-must. The one thing I do like better about an e-book is the built-in dictionary. If I don’t know a word, I touch my finger and, voilà, there is the definition.

Here are some words I have learned in the past few months, used in a sentence:

glabellar: The smooth part of the forehead above and between the eyebrows. (Now that I’m older, my glabellar is not as smooth as this definition implies.)

synesthesia: A neurological condition in which information meant to stimulate one of your senses stimulates several of your senses. (Some people with synesthesia always see the letter A in the colour red, and when I see I word I don’t know in a book, I see red.)

faffing: [UK informal] To spend time doing a lot of things that are not important instead of the one thing you should be doing. (At a cottage it is easy to spend time faffing around instead of writing blog posts.)

hierophant: A person, especially a priest in ancient Greece, who interprets sacred mysteries or esoteric principles. (I need a hierophant to help me understand some things in the books I’m reading.)

tricoteuse: A woman who sits and knits, a reference to women who did this at public executions during the French Revolution. (I would be willing to become a tricoteuse during the trial of a writer who uses the word tricoteuse.)

prelapsarian: Characteristic of the time before the fall of man [Editor’s note: they mean people], that is, innocent and unspoiled. (In the prelapsarian Eden, people used non-gender specific language.)

hoaching: Full of or swarming with people. (During this time of pandemic avoid hoaching places.)

How are you reading these days? What have you learned from that experience?

Boy jumping off dock into a lake.
At a cottage it’s easy to spend time faffing around.

What to do when you miss travelling

Imagine . . .

You planned for years . . .

You researched destinations and set aside funds . . .

You sold your home and whittled down belongings to the bare essentials . . .

At last, you set out for two years of world travel . . .

And then, a world pandemic hits.

That’s what happened to my friend from The Long Road Home. She and her husband planned to spend two years exploring the world, but COVID-19 made their long road home much shorter.

The mental adjustment to the abrupt change in plans has been tough, but she’s trying to cope with good humour, as you can see from this video in which her treadmill becomes an airport conveyor belt and moving sidewalk.

Click here: What do do when you miss travelling . . .

I invite you to read her other posts too. Kathryn is a journalist, so she knows how to ask good questions and spin a tale out of the answers.

Many suitcases lined up
This is our family collection of suitcases. We are equipped to travel . . . as soon as it is safe to do so.

3 important answers

Book cover for Jon J. Muth's The Three Questions

It’s time once again to remember The Three Questions by Jon J. Muth.

Muth took a short story written by Leo Tolstoy and reworked it with animal characters to appeal to children. In the book, a boy named Nikolai goes on a journey to seek answers to three BIG LIFE questions:

  1. “When is the best time to do things?”
  2. “Who is the most important one?”
  3. “What is the right thing to do?”

His steps lead him to encounters with a heron, a monkey and a dog. Each of these characters answers the questions in way that reflects personal biases. The heron suggests the best time to do things is after everything has been planned in advance. The dog believes the most important one is the one who makes the rules, and the monkey knows the right thing to do is to have fun all the time.

Not satisfied, Nikolai climbs a high mountain to seek the answers to his questions from a wise old turtle.

When he reaches the top of the mountain, he finds the wise, old turtle digging a garden. Wanting his full attention and knowing that a young boy digs much faster than an old turtle, Nikolai takes the shovel and finishes turning over the hard soil.

When he is leaning on his shovel after the last shovel full of dirt, he hears a cry for help coming to him out of the windblown forest. He follows the sound and finds a panda knocked out by a fallen tree. Nikolai rescues her and takes her to the turtle’s house to get warm.

When the panda wakes up, she asks, “Where is my child?” Alarmed, Nikolai runs back to the forest where he finds the baby panda, shivering and alone.

Before Nikolai departs, he and the wise old turtle reflect on the answers the boy has found.

  1. “There is only one important time, and that time is now.”
  2. “The most important one is always the one you are with.”
  3. “The most important thing is to do good for the one who is standing at your side.”

Tolstoy sure was one wise old turtle.

Tech-off Part II: The need for reliable, in-depth news

When journalists appeared on this kind of “jumbo screen,” (3 square feet!) all news gatherers had to dig deep for their stories.

Remember when the word Twitter was never a part of a news story?

I miss those days.

The first time I saw a Twitter news story—you know the kind where a person stands in a studio beside a big screen and points to Tweets written by prominent citizens, or ordinary citizens who write something pithy—I was looking for information about an Important Community Event. To inform me about that event, the news source relied on Twitter. He hadn’t:

  • left his cushy chair, except to walk to the big screen
  • made a phone call

I was shaken. How is that news coverage?

These days, anyone, anywhere can post information that hasn’t been fact-checked, or even alternative fact-checked.

Enter COVID-19 and social distancing. Even if journalists wanted to leave their cushy chairs to interview someone in person, it’s not allowed. It is not only acceptable but expected that journalists use Zoom, or FaceTime, or Google Meet, or any number of other such resources for video interviews.

What happens after social distancing passes? How many of our news gatherers will continue that practice because it’s easier, if less effective?

The newsrooms of the most reliable news sources don’t have the staff they used to; people don’t pay for news when there’s so much free stuff floating around out there.

Because we’re not paying, we’re paying in a different way.

Reliable, trustworthy, in-depth news is getting hard to find. Thinking about it has me feeling a little tech-ed off.

Subscribe to your favourite, reliable, trustworthy news source.

Temenos: Are you in your sanctuary?

I might have been a hermit in another life, I think.

This time of social distancing is easy for me. I’m in my home. I love my home. It is my sanctuary.

Or one of the anyway. I also find sanctuary in other places: the woods, friends’ houses, and, yes, church.

Are you in a sanctuary? Which sanctuaries do you miss?

Woods in the spring

Sacraments: Letting Go and Waiting

Pruned branches of tree with one sprig of new life

Another week begins.

Another week without our usual workplaces, casual trips to the store, or gatherings of friends.

Some of us have let go of long-planned vacations.

Some of us are seized with panic about lost income.

We have let go of what is not essential. We are waiting for “normal.”

Our situation reminds me of this beautiful work by Macrina Wiederkehr, a Benedictine sister, author, and lover of the spiritual.

She wrote this poem, which she gave me permission to share, about times when we are stripped down, vulnerable, and “wearing the colors of emptiness.” At those times, we are living out the Sacrament of Waiting, ready for a new, surprising kind of beauty.

The Sacrament of Letting Go

© Macrina Wiederkehr

Slowly she celebrated the sacrament of letting go. 
First she surrendered her green, 
then the orange, yellow, and red 
finally she let go of her own brown. 
Shedding her last leaf 
she stood empty and silent, stripped bare. 
Leaning against the winter sky, 
she began her vigil of trust.
Shedding her last leaf, 
she watched it journey to the ground. 
She stood in silence 
wearing the colors of emptiness, 
her branches wondering, 
How do you give shade with so much gone?
And then, 
the sacrament of waiting began. 
The sunrise and the sunset watched with tenderness. 
Clothing her with silhouettes 
that kept her hope alive.
They helped her to understand that 
her vulnerability, 
her dependence and need, 
her emptiness, her readiness to receive, 
were giving her a new kind of Beauty. 
Every morning and every evening they stood in silence, 
and celebrated together 
the sacrament of waiting.

© Macrina Wiederkehr