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As a professional writer, are you so concerned about the “business” of writing these days that you seem to have lost your overall passion for writing itself?
This can happen when you feel overwhelmed by all you must to do on a regular basis to promote your writing and your writing business.
But here’s a way to rekindle your passion for writing.
Set aside just 30 minutes every day during the next week to work on something you’re most passionate about. This could be that novel you’ve put aside for a while because you’ve got too many other paying projects, or it could be that how-to book you’ve been meaning to write, or maybe it’s a short story you really, really want to write someday, yet “someday” has just never come.
Once you’ve set aside just 30 minutes for each day in the coming week, plan to write just ONE page (of this work that you’re most passionate about) each day.
Then simply show up each day in the coming week to write that ONE page. Use a kitchen timer and set it for 30 minutes each time you sit down to write your ONE page. If you finish one page BEFORE the timer goes off, keep writing, or go back and rewrite what you have already written.
You may think you’ll never finish this book or story if you write only one page at a time like this. But you’re wrong.
In a week’s time, you’ll have 7 pages. That’s longer than most short stories, so you’ll probably finish your story within a week. The next week you can go back and polish it for 30 minutes a day until it’s ready for submission. If you’re working on a book, 7 pages is probably a chapter, or most of a chapter – so a chapter a week is GREAT progress. In less than a year, you’ll have written a complete book!
A few words of caution here: Don’t spend more than 30 minutes a day on this project you’re most passionate about – even though you may be tempted to do so after a few days. If you do, chances are you won’t be able to stick with it after a while. If this happens, you’ll get frustrated and the project you’re so passionate about will go to the back burner, yet again.
So what are you waiting for? Rekindle your passion for writing. It only takes 30 minutes. You can start today.
Note: This post is for the letter “N” as part of the Blogging A to Z Challenge.
Want a fun project for the whole family that is also educational?
What about creating a nature collage bracelet?
Yep, even the boys will love this one.
Here’s how to do it:
• Wide masking tape or duct tape
• Construction paper
• Glue or spray adhesive
Wrap your child’s wrist with tape, sticky side out, so she has a few inches of sticky tape to work with. You’ll want to make sure your child has plenty of wiggle room and that the tape isn’t too tight around her wrist. If it’s too tight she’ll spend the next few steps trying to get out of the tape and she’ll miss the fun.
Additionally, if you;re using duct tape, you may want to touch it a few times with your fingertips to reduce the stickiness. Delicate items like petals and leaves can tear when you try to remove them from duct tape.
Head outside for a nature walk. (Hint – if you have to drive to a nature area, don’t put the tape on your child’s wrist until you get there. If you put the tape on too soon she’ll spend the car ride touching it and getting stuck to things and then the tape won’t be sticky enough for the activity.)
Start the hunt. Depending on the age of your children, you can structure the hunt any way you desire. You can ask kids to find things in a given category like “green” or you can let them run with it and find things they want to make their collage with on their own.
The goal is to use the sticky part of the tape bracelet to collect their items. So, for example, if they find a rock or a frog it probably isn’t going to stick. However, a flower or a leaf will. Consider giving them a time limit so they know what to expect. For example, you could say, “We’re going to go on a twenty-minute hike and you can collect items during that time.” If they’re particularly young, you may want to let them know not to fill their bracelet up in the first five minutes or they won’t have any room for things they find later.
Head back inside. Have your child choose the color of construction paper she wants and get ready with the spray adhesive.
Tell your children to carefully remove their items from their tape. They can spend a few minutes deciding how they want to position the items on their collage. When they’re ready, you spray the paper with the spray adhesive and your child can position her items.
The project can be completed or you can let your children continue with the project by coloring and labeling or decorating their collages further.
A nature collage is a fun and inexpensive way to combine your child’s imagination with a good outdoor hike. It’s also an educational experience as your child learns about nature and the elements.
Well, Anna is here! She’s in a book! And you can meet her.
THIS BOOK. I’m not even sure I can explain about this book, and what it means. I’ll write more later, about how this book came to be. Honestly, I still can’t believe it’s happening!
But the short version is that the text is a collaboration, between myself and my childhood-self. Because as a little girl I was obsessed with Anna Pavlova. I scribbled about her, decades ago. And now?
I guess I still am obsessed.
SWAN will be coming from the fabulous folks at Chronicle (my first book with them!), in August. If you’re at TLA this week, you should swing by the booth and meet Anna in person. Some very exciting things (that I’m not at liberty to discuss) are already happening to her! But I’ll tell you about them later, I promise.
Note: This is Day 10 of the Blogging A to Z Challenge
The 10-day virtual book tour for Helping Herbie Hedgehog, by Melissa Abramovitz, started this past Monday. But it’s not to late to jump on the tour and visit all the online sites from Monday through Friday.
Just use the following links to follow the tour last week before the tour starts up again on Monday.
Note: Today is Day 8 of the Blogging A to Z Challenge – The Letter “H”
Making homemade paper is a wonderful craft to do with kids of any age. It is also a great way to recycle waste paper into exciting new items. Here are the instructions for making homemade paper.
To make your homemade paper, you will need some scrap paper. See what’s laying around your house or in your recycling bin. You can try using unprinted computer paper, newspaper, magazines, egg cartons, old cards, napkins, construction paper, or anything else you can find.
You will also need:
• A sponge
• Window screening
• Wood frame
• Plastic basin large enough to immerse frame into
• Blender or food processor
• Staples or tacks
• Liquid starch if you want to be able to write on your paper
• Fabric or felt squares
• Two cookie sheets
1. To make your homemade paper, first choose the paper you want to recycle. If you can’t decide, you can even mix the types of paper you use.
2. Rip up the paper and put it in the blender until the blender is about half full. Fill the blender the rest of the way with warm water. Put the lid on the blender container, then start the blender – slowly at first, then gradually increase the speed. Blend until the paper pulp looks smooth and well blended. This will take about thirty to forty seconds. If any pieces or flakes of paper are still visible, blend it a while longer.
3. To make your paper mold, stretch the window screening across the wood frame and staple or tack it as tightly as possible.
Fill the basin halfway with water. Add three blender loads of pulp and stir the mixture.
If you’re going to be writing on your paper, stir in 2 teaspoons of liquid starch.
4. Put the mold into the pulp. Level it out until the pulp on top of the screen looks even.
5. Very slowly, lift the mold until it is above the water. Let the water drain from the pulp on top of the screen.
6. When it stops dripping, ease the mold onto a piece of felt or fabric, with the paper directly on the fabric. Use your sponge to gently press out as much water as possible.
7. Hold the fabric flat and carefully lift the edge of the mold. The new sheet of paper should stay on the fabric. It may take some practice to get this part right.
8. Repeat the above steps and stack your fabric squares on a cookie sheet. When you have one square left, save it to put on top of your last piece of paper. Use the second cookie sheet to put on top of the pile and squeeze out the remaining water.
9. After all the water is squeezed out, separate the sheets. Dry them by letting them lay out on sheets on newspaper. When they’re dry, peel off the fabric, and you have your new, homemade paper.
When you’re making paper, the important thing to remember is to have fun. Experiment with different kinds of paper. You can even add other items after your paper is blended, such as scraps of yarn, pieces of tin foil and seeds. If it doesn’t turn out, just try again. See what you can create!
There are so many things you can do with glitter. It adds sparkle to just about anything and is the inspiration for many craft ideas. However, you don’t need to go out and buy glitter. You and your child can easily make your own with products you’ll find in your kitchen.
To make your own glitter from salt, you will need some salt, food coloring, aluminum foil and a cookie sheet.
To make your glitter, you will first need to choose the color you want your glitter to be. This is where you get to be creative. You are no longer restricted to what’s on the shelf at the store. You can experiment with the food coloring to create your own unique colors. Just play with the colors until you create one that you like.
If you don’t have any food coloring available, you can use water color paints instead. They work just as well.
When your food coloring is ready, pour about 1 cup of salt into a bowl. Add your food coloring, about one drop at a time, until it’s just the color you want. Mix it with a spoon. Your salt might start to dissolve, but that’s OK. That will be fixed when you bake the salt in the oven.
Cover your cookie sheet with foil. That will keep it from getting stained with your food coloring. Pour the salt out of the bowl onto a cookie sheet. Using your spoon, spread the salt in a thin, even layer across the sheet.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. You’re going to bake the salt to get rid of any moisture that was added when you poured in the food coloring. When the oven is ready, put your cookie sheet covered with salt into the oven. You need to bake it for about ten minutes.
After your salt is baked, take the cookie sheet out of the oven and let the glitter cool. Some clumps may have formed while you were baking. To get rid of them, just use a fork to break them up.
Now your homemade glitter is ready to use! Store it in a salt shaker so it’s ready to use whenever you need it.
If you used non-toxic food coloring to make your glitter, your glitter is also safe to eat. You can add some sparkle to your meal by putting your glitter in a salt shaker and sprinkling it on your food.
Now you can also have glitter ready to go when you need some, and your child can amaze her friends with all the different colors the two of you can create.
Read more fun and informative posts that are part of the A to Z Challenge. For the list of blogs, just go to:
Note: This post is for Day 5 – The Letter “F” – of the Blogging A to Z Challenge
Finding a book that is appealing and the appropriate reading level for a child can be a daunting task. Sometimes kids don’t want to take a risk and read material for which they are clearly ready. Other times children will choose books that are far beyond their capabilities. Here are six easy steps for parents to follow when helping their child choose appropriate level reading material. These steps will become second nature for children when they begin to independently pick their own books.
1. Look at the cover – The cover will provide the reader with some idea as to character, setting, and plot. Remember the old adage, however, and don’t judge a book by its cover, alone. Follow the next 5 steps as well to see if this is going to be a book that will interest the reader.
2. Read the title and the author — Read over the title and the author with your child. Maybe this book is by an author that the child has heard or read before and really enjoys. Sometimes children don’t always pick out the author’s name and it is good for an adult to make sure they understand where to locate the author on the cover. This same rule extends to the illustrator as well.
3. Read the blurb in the back – The short synopsis found at the back of most books will give the child an idea of what is going on in the book. It will also provide just enough information to get the reader to read the entire book to find out what else happens in the story.
4. Flip through the book – Look through the book. Notice any illustrations. Take note of the spacing and letter size. These are all good indicators of level of book. The more spacing and bigger letter size is indicative of younger age level. (Unless it is for the visually impaired).
5. Read the first page – Read the first page through with your child to see if the book is one that he/she would still like to choose.
6. Use the 5 Finger Rule – Flip to any page in the book. Have your child read down the page and place a finger on words they do not know.
0-1 fingers – Too Easy
2-3 fingers – Just Right
4-5 fingers – Too Hard
By following the above steps, you should be on your way to finding a book that is not only enjoyable but at the right level for your child. Happy reading!
Alison Murray is a member of the Working Writer’s Club and a Resource teacher with 23 years of experience in the Manitoba education system. Alison has long been interested in writing and has a special interest in researching for non-fiction articles and books. She has completed two courses from the Institute for Children’s Literature.
You’ll be amazed at some of the artwork of very young children that is included in this book. And you’ll probably be amazed at the artwork your own children – and you, yourself – produce as you work through the lessons in the book.
About the Book
This perennial best-seller is the definitive guide for parents and teachers on how to encourage drawing.
Mona Brookes’ easy-to-follow, lesson-by-lesson approach to drawing has yielded astounding results with children of all ages and beginning adults. Her unique drawing program has created a revolution in the field of education and a sense of delight and pride among the thousands of students who have learned to draw through her “Monart Method.”
Note: Today’s post is for Day 3 (the letter “C”) of the A to Z Blogging Challenge.
Creativity is about possibilities not probabilities. It’s about the process, not the product. Creativity is a key factor in a successful life since it is a component of problem solving. As a parent, you can help set the stage for your children’s success using these tips to develop and enhance their creativity.
1. Broaden Opportunities.
Creativity is not limited to the Arts and their associated skills. Creativity is a part of everyday life. For example, if you needed a rubber band and didn’t have one, you would brainstorm possibilities and options. Then you would use one of those options. As you broaden the scope of creativity, you will also need to expand the learning environments for children. Introduce them to a variety of people, places, things, and circumstances to maximize their understanding of the world around them.
2. Provide a Creativity Space.
Keep it simple! Creativity and creative solutions are often a result of working with what you have on hand. Keep in mind that necessity is the mother of invention (and creativity.) Create an area that contains a few books about the “interest of the moment” as well as a few supplies for “make do” things. For example, rather than always building with purchased blocks, save cardboard boxes and other items for your children to use instead. Shoeboxes, small jewelry boxes, empty plastic coffee canisters, and powdered creamer canisters work well while prodding the children’s imaginations.
3. Make Time for Creativity.
Life gets busy but it is very important for children to get fun, self-structured, creative, free time every day. For many children, and adults, this is quality “Me time” when there is no hurrying or stress. Their minds and imaginations can just go where they will. When possible, children should choose the time for themselves. However, if the children are young and in school all day, the first hour they are home may be the best time. They get to relax while their minds process what they learned and they get time to do something they enjoy.
4. Invite Questions.
Children, especially young children, are full of questions that usually start with how, why, when, who, what, does, will, can, etc. Yes, the constant stream of questions can be annoying at times, but keep smiling and answering them. Remind yourself that as long as the children are asking and answering questions, they are learning how to be creative and successful. Once children can write, you may want to use a special notebook where questions, ideas, answers, images, and options are written down and shared. This could be very helpful as the children grow older, especially when documenting data, progress, or results.
5. Encourage Trial and Error Experiments.
Trial and error is a wonderful way for children to discover what works and what doesn’t. It gives them firsthand experience in gathering and evaluating data as well as making predictions based on background knowledge. Because this type of experimentation is a learning experience, adults should not consider an error to be a wrong answer. An “error” is simply data that helps rule out a possible solution. Encourage children to use the new information to re-evaluate the options.
6. Praise Efforts.
Creativity is not about being right or wrong but about the experience as a whole. It’s about the children’s dedication to the process and the information learned. Your objective praise and positive attitude boost children’s self-confidence and encourages them to continue forging ahead. “I see that you added a lot of details in your picture,” and “I see you are thinking this problem through carefully,” are examples of positive objective praise that encourage without judging. If this is method of praise is new to you, consider making a list of examples that you can alter according to the situation.
7. Stimulate the Senses.
Creativity is often affected by one or more of the senses. Your senses are always turned on and your brain is constantly processing their signals. Sometimes these signals trigger an emotion, memory, mental image, or idea, which in turn can aid in creative thinking and problem solving. Ideally, physical trips to new places and events provide the greatest amount of stimulation. You could visit a museum, park, bakery or any place that triggers the senses.
8. Fuel the Imagination.
Many things can fuel or inspire imaginations, from physical items and experiences to mental images and memories. However, something that jumpstarts imaginations like nothing else is questions, and one question in particular – “What if.” The question often includes a change of some sort in a story plot or event, color, method, etc. While providing interesting tools and items in a creativity area is a must, also teach children to question, create, adapt, and invent new scenarios or solutions. To do this, ask open-ended questions that hav no “right” answer. “What if” and “how could” questions can help to prompt for details and encourage children to come up with complex thoughts.
9. Promote Independent Thinking.
Independent thinking is based on an individual’s personal preferences, perspectives, and experiences. To lay this important foundation, encourage children to think, make choices, and problem solve for themselves, without depending on others for approval or ideas. For example, give children limited choices. Respect/accept these choices. Teach them to entertain themselves without television or related electronic devices. Children should be able to enjoy their own company while doing things that promote creativity and imagination.
10. Model Creativity.
Even if you don’t feel that you are particularly creative, you can be a good role model for your children. They don’t expect perfection from you. They simply need to see you creating something. A few examples could be cooking/baking, painting, gardening, writing, restoring cars, refinishing furniture, building birdfeeders, etc. The key is to focus on the fun and the process of the activity rather than the product itself.
Children are naturally creative. They use their primal critical and creative thinking skills as they explore and try to understand the world around them. So, children come “creative-ready.” To take them to the next level, implement a few of these tips to help develop and enhance their creativity.
Here’s a wonderful book that can help parents raise creative children (just click on the cover to learn more about it):
If you’ve ever walked into a bead store, you know it’s an amazing experience. Shelves line the walls and each shelf is filled with hundreds of different types of beads. Metal beads, shells, glass beads, colorful beads, simple beads, a bead for every taste, personality and jewelry type. You almost cannot help but buy a bag of beads with no plan for them.
Whether you have a bag of beads at home waiting for inspiration or you are interested in creating custom jewelry, here are two projects you can do yourself or with your preteen or teen.
Project #1 – Beaded Bracelet
• Wire or nylon thread.
Wire is more durable; however, it is less flexible. If you want a lot of movement in your bracelet you may prefer nylon thread.
• Crimp beads and the little beads you place on the end to keep the other beads from falling off
• Crimp pliers
• Beads of your choice
Plan your design. Lay out your beads the way you’re going to place them on your bracelet.
Cut your wire or thread. Add a few inches on the ends so you have enough room to work with.
Slide a crimp bead on one end of the wire and slide it through one end of your clasp. Then slide the end of your wire back through the crimp bead so you’ve created a loop with the clasp in the loop.
String your beads.
Add your crimp bead and the other end of your clasp and you’re done. You now have a custom piece of jewelry you created yourself.
Project #2 – Caribbean Foot Jewelry
If you have many smaller beads, or you’re ready for a more difficult beading project, you can make foot jewelry. In addition to about 50 – 75 small glass beads you’ll need:
• Elastic, about two and a half feet
• White glue
• Four silver or gold 4 mm beads
Stiffen the ends of your elastic with white glue and let dry.
String 12 glass beads on the elastic to the center of the cord. Make sure you have enough to go around your toe (the long one next to your big toe).
Slide both ends of the elastic through a 4mm bead. This will create a loop around your toe. You may want to position the elastic around your toe as you create the jewelry to make sure it sits where you want it and fits how you want it to.
String about 1″ of beads on each end of the elastic. Make sure they mirror each other and are the same length.
Again, push both ends of the elastic through a 4mm bead. Repeat this process a few times until you’re up next to your foot. Then slide your beads on in a pattern until you’ve reached the back of your ankle. You should now have a circle of beads around your ankle and a chain extending down to your toe. Tie off the back of the bracelet with a double knot and trim the loose ends.
Beading is fun and easy when you have the right tools and a plan.
Go ahead, visit that bead store and let your creative side come out.
Imagine what you and your teen can create and then make it happen.
About the Book
It’s a spring morning on the farm. Grandpa is fixing breakfast for his visiting grandkids. Suddenly his grandson reports that the cows have got loose! He thinks Big Brown Bessie just stepped on a goose!
About the Book
It’s April Fools’ Day, and Gilbert is looking forward to playing tricks on his friends. Unfortunately he’s the one getting tricked by everyone else, including Mrs. Byrd! But the worst prankster is Lewis the bully. In the end Gilbert outwits Lewis with the best trick of all.
Diane deGroat’s delightful story and fun-filled illustrations will enchant readers of all ages, especially when they discover the surprises in many of the illustrations. The reader is getting April Fooled, too!
Super excited to announce that our Bee Bully is being featured in Bookbub today and is only $.99 for a limited time. To celebrate we have some free gifts to tell you about. From April 1st – April 5th you can download our latest release, Caterpillar Shoes, absolutely free from Amazon. Check out what’s troubling Patches the caterpillar and the silly decision she makes to live her life to the full. There are some interesting caterpillar facts in the back of this book.
I’ve also got more surprises to share. My friend, Laura Yirak, is also giving away a copy of her delightful bee book, Bumble Babees during this same period.
Scott Gordon has another treat for you. His book, The Most Beautiful Flower will be FREE April 2-April 6. This book is only $.99 on April 1st. Don’t you just love spring! Enjoy these goodies while they last.
आज समाज में इतनी टेंशन है कि बस हम हंसना मुस्कुराना भूल ही गए है … बस काम काम और काम इसलिए जरा इस तनाव से निकल कर कुछ समय खुद को दीजिए और मुस्कुराईए … मुस्कुराने से आपके चेहरे की खूबसूरती और भी बढ् जाएगी इसलिए Smile Please
सुखवंत कलसी कार्टून की दुनिया के सम्राट Journey from commerce to comics !!! बच्चों और बचपन का नाम लेते ही मन मे बहुत सारी बातें उभर कर आती हैं जैसाकि पढाई, मासूमियत, शरारतें, मस्ती और कार्टून. जी हां, बच्चों और कार्टून का गहरा नाता है. चाहे वो टीवी पर देखें या बच्चों की […]
Child Artist … हेतवी पारिख जिन्हे सपने देखना अच्छा लगता है उन्हे रात छोटी लगती है, जिन्हें सपने पूरा करना अच्छा लगता है उन्हे दिन छोटा लगता है…..!!! ऐसे ही अपने नन्हे मासूम सपने पूरे करने मे जुटी है आठ साल की हेतवी पारिख. जी, हां, वही हेतवी पारिख जिन्हे आप आजकल सब टीवी के […]
Happy World Poetry Day! We’ve been busy working on our latest children’s picture book, Caterpillar Shoes. This story is about a colorful caterpillar named Patches. She’s an energetic caterpillar trying to decide what activities to do. In the end, she doesn’t put any limits on herself and lives her life to the full. This is our twelfth children’s book and we are so excited for it’s release. Stay tuned here to learn about upcoming promotions for this book and others.
Th only limit to a paintbrush and a blank canvas is your imagination.
For toddlers and preschoolers, the world is full of new things to discover and learn. One thing young children need to learn is the basic shapes – square, circle, rectangle, and so on.
There are many ways to teach children the basic shapes. Here is a method that is fun and tastes good, too.
Bake a Shape
1. To start, you will need a can of refrigerated biscuit or sugar cookie dough. This is the easiest way if you want to focus on making shapes instead of mixing up a recipe in the kitchen. However, if you prefer, you can always make your own favorite recipe instead.
2. Roll out the biscuit or cookie dough. Be sure you do this somewhere low enough where you child can easily reach it, so you may want to do it on the table instead of the counter. Another option is to have your child stand on a sturdy stool or chair.
3. Find some cookie cutters that represent the shapes you want your child to learn. Show your child how to cut a shape out of the dough with the cutter. Remember to flour the cookie cutter so the dough comes out easily. If your dough gets stuck in the cookie cutter, you could end up with a frustrated toddler or preschooler.
Another alternative is to make the shapes by hand. Have some examples of the shapes nearby so your child can copy them. This could also be done with letters instead of shapes. Children love to see what their name looks like in print, and they will have a lot of fun creating it themselves.
4. When you have enough shapes made, help your child arrange them on the cookie sheet. You can make the shapes even yummier by spreading them with butter, then sprinkling them with sugar and cinnamon for a delicious cinnamon-tasting treat.
5. Put the shapes in the oven to bake, according to the recipe’s instructions. You can add to the fun by watching the shapes bake in the oven together. Children are fascinated by how cookies and biscuits grow and spread while they’re being baked.
6. When the shapes have baked, remove them from the oven and allow them to cool. When they’re ready to eat, examine the shapes with your child. Ask if he/she remembers what each shape is called. You may want to play a game – if your child can name the shape, he/she can eat it!
When your child begins to learn the various shapes, he will see them everywhere he looks. A fun activity like this one can help him learn to identify them on his own.
Here are some fun board books that also help children learn the basic shapes.
About the Book
Combining scooped-out die-cuts with raised, shaped elements, two new TouchThinkLearn books offer youngest learners an irresistible opportunity to explore their universe in a hands-on, multisensory way. See the image, trace its shape, say its name: these modes of perception combine in a dynamic way to stimulate understanding of essential concepts. Contemplate a circle by touching the raised surface of an owl hooting at night on one side, and the form of a moon rising on the other. Featuring a format unlike any other, these groundbreaking books translate abstract thought into tangible knowledge.
About the Book
Can you find what is round? What is square? In this timeless new split-pageboard book, children can find the bottom half of a page that matches the top half. Find the right pairs, and you will learn to identify all kinds of shapes. From dome-shaped ladybugs to diamond- shaped kites, this clever board book makes learning fun.
I just learned that my Lives essay, “A Doubter in the Holy Land,” will be included in Best American Travel Writing 2015. The guest editor is Andrew McCarthy. Thank you for choosing my essay, Andrew McCarthy!
I was tearing up a Zambian highway on my white Honda “Dream” when it hit me.
I thought it was mud.
A convoy of trucks thundering past in the opposite direction was kicking up debris. Even after the last tanker had passed, the flak was stinging my hands and face.
What the hell—that mud?—bees! I was plastered in bees.
I’m telling you this story because I love the road and the dire straits into which a journey often leads. If you’re like me you love to hop aboard a good road story and be taken for a ride.
Bees! I was riding headlong into a swarm. They were inside my shirt. They were up my nose and in my ears and stinging my skull. How could they be biting my skill? I was wearing a helmet. I yanked the clasp and jettisoned the thing before I came to a stop.
Where they came from, I have no idea, but I was immediately surrounded by children.
They didn’t ask permission to debug me, just began pulling them out of my hair, out of my ears. They pulled one off my eye, which was swelling. These kids swatted bees off my back and off my thighs. They were inside my khaki shorts, for god’s sake. They were inside my mouth. My lips were swelling. I had to do something, and quickly.
Africans have a saying: If the snake bites you within sight of your village rooftops, you will die. The victim dashes home, I guess, pumping the venom to the heart. You get bitten far from home, however, and you have nowhere to run. You will stay put and do the right thing.
Though my heart was racing, I could feasibly ride the motorcycle without making things worse. I thanked the kids and sped back toward the city. At home I slathered calamine lotion over the worst swelling before lying on my bed. Calm down, I told myself, just breathe. I felt no panic, no sense of tragedy at the prospect of dying. No regrets.
Here I was in Africa living a dream. I worked the rivers, measured their flow when hippos would allow it. For two years I crisscrossed that high dry plateau by Land Rover, camping out most nights lulled to sleep by the sounds of deep nature on the prowl. I earned my pilot’s licence flying a Cessna 172, shot my 8 mm movies, and rode that Honda almost to death. I was 22 years old.
I lay as still as death. Is this what the Sufis advocate—to die before you die?
I’ve been lucky for the “still as death” moments that life has forced upon me. I’ve learned how to cultivate such moments but back then I was dependent upon bad luck to trip me up and pin me down. I hope you know what I’m talking about.
We normally operate from a sense of being a physical-emotional-thinking entity. That’s us, the subject of our everyday lives. Then we’re brought suddenly and against our will to a full stop and an amazing thing happens. I’m lying there fully aware of “myself” in all its physical-emotional-thinking-ness. But if I can see it, then what is this subjectivity that’s aware of it?
Who am “I,” really?
The question creates a vast space in which time seems not to exist, but the clock on the wall showed that an hour had passed while my condition had not worsened, so I checked my physical self in the mirror. I would be okay. I remember starting to laugh.
I’m telling you this story because I have a vault full of road stories that might add up to a travel book one day. I was mentioning this publishing possibility to an old friend and without hesitation he instructed me to begin with the bees. It’s a short story which not only doesn’t get very far but then I hurry home. What kind of travel story is that?
Long or short, the key to a good road story is that it distances the protagonist from who he or she mistakenly thinks they are. That would be the point of a story, wouldn’t it? We leave home in the hope that we might reach closer to who we really are.