The Messages All Around You

Nothing to write about?  That’s so often the first thought, and yet I’ve come to believe that if you look, there are interesting messages all around you.  Some of them you’ve left for yourself.  Some of them turn up unexpectedly.  Some are left by other people using the language to create.  Meaning lurks!  Here’s what I found.  I’d love to hear what you find.

Notes from my Keyboard

I look down.  “Zoom,” my computer keyboard says. And I imagine taking off, my arms as wings, and I soar into the bluest of skies.

My keyboard gives me many commands.

Redo!  I am pleased to hear this.  Whew.  I don’t have to get things right the first time.

Save!  I believe this is the moral thing to do.  I consider saving whales, plastic bottles, and starving children.  So far, I think I’m okay on the bottles.

Help!  Perhaps if I hit this button, answers will come.  How do I find meaning in life?  What are the right choices?  Where are the limits?

Control!  I take this as a command to butch up.  Stop whining!  You’re the one whose fingers are laying this line of type.  It’s up to me to help and save, even if I have to redo. 

Then perhaps I can zoom.

58 responses to “The Messages All Around You

  1. How very clever, Ann. And a prompt with infinite possibilities.

  2. And I suspect you are in a position to decipher many lurking messages as you go forward on your travels. I trust you will keep your eyes peeled, Gullie.

  3. Messages

    Scattered around and on and under my desk are messages. The messages implore my immediate attention before (insert a date already gone by here). A thick envelope from AARP offers to save me money on prescription drugs. “Outside” magazine acknowledges receipt of the gift subscription for my nephew, and now wants to sell me one also.

    The Aircraft Pilots and Owners Association sends its annual Christmas card selection from which to choose, with free return mailing labels if I buy two or more boxes. The electric utility, credit card companies, fuel oil provider all thank me for my last payment and note the date the current invoice amount will be subtracted from my checking account.

    I go online, and messages abound at my “spam” e-mail address. Robert G. Allen is very concerned about my income, Viola want to sell me the magic elixir to enlarge my “member,” and I wonder if that means–for a woman—one boob will become larger than the other, or do you have to take double doses or buy two prescriptions to attain equal enlargement . She’d have better luck if she offered me a magic potion that would reduce those cumbersome things. Another offers life insurance in a box that I don’t have to pay for, Lufthansa welcomes me to its airline miles program, and Google advises me that I have yet to verify my AdSense account.

    Pinned to the bulletin board above my computer is the itinerary and confirmation code for my recent trip to Hawaii, the one I should have taken with me instead of the itinerary for a trip to Mexico in November, which is still (battered, folded, and worn) in the carry on I brought back with me yesterday from Maui. And, in a manila file folder, one-third cut tabs, is all the accumulated information pertinent to the trip to Russia, most of which I have not yet read. I still have time; I don’t leave until Friday.

    Itineraries, confirmation codes, passport and ID, a small change purse decorated with wolves in which I keep flash cards and extra batteries for my Nikon Coolpix camera—all these things speak volumes about my life the past three years. Before that—I was afraid to fly.

    Judy made me to be afraid of spiders. Because I did not known my own path in life, I became afraid of spiders. Before that, I would let them crawl all over me. She also taught me that spaghetti pasta with only butter, salt, and pepper was much more preferable to marinara sauce. On that, she was right.

    Kathy is the one who made me afraid to fly, because she was. Figuring that she was much more savvy about these things than I was, I adopted her attitude on the whole thing. I could always think of reasons why we shouldn’t go anywhere when my husband suggested a trip. And when we did fly, he preferred the red-eye flights so as not to waste time, which only left me comatose the next day and I thought that was a huge waste of time. He slept soundly on airplanes; I did not.

    “Someone had to be awake to hold the airplane up,” he told friends. I am sure than more than one airplane had my fingerprints permanently squished into the plastic arm rest.

    My fear kept my husband from seeing New Zealand, a place he very much wanted to visit. My fear kept me from flying to the Pribilof Islands in the Bering Sea while he was working a construction job there, and he felt—but didn’t say—that I hadn’t cared enough about him to brave the tumultuous birthplace of horrendous winds and storms.

    As quickly as Kathy stopped being afraid to fly, so did my epiphany occur. “I’d rather die in an airplane crash going somewhere than sitting at home on my couch,” said another Kathy. That sounded pretty darned good to me, so I adopted that attitude also.

    On my computer are pages bookmarked with sites I’ve scanned for adventure—China by bike, hike, and bamboo raft, animal safaris in Africa, Costa Rica by kayak, Antarctica by ship. I try not to pay too much attention to my bank balance and the interest rate on a CD.

    Instead, in my pocket is a pewter token that spoke to me from a woven basket in a gift shop at Kailua-Kona. On one side is an embossed design of a sailboat. On the reverse side is one word: Explore.

    That is the message for me, the one I follow daily, whether at home, on the computer with my muse directing my fingers on the keyboard, or in places known and unknown, I explore.

    • No wonder I am so stressed all the time. I look around my desk and I see Chaos. Ann looks around her desk and see’s hope. Gully looks around her desk and sees life and adventure. I think it just might be time to clean my desk.
      Nice job ladies.

    • You explore with words also. Diving in and giving meaning to what most think may be a mundane topic to write about. Instead you explore the inside of that topic, get below the surface and wow us, as you just did with the clutter on your desk.

  4. “Honey, can you go to the store and get me a couple packs of index cards? I need to make some flash cards so I can study,” said Big J.

    Why do they call them index cards? Does anyone really use them to index these days? They ought to change the name to flash cards. Yet, that is what it says on the label—Index Cards.

    Swingline—Where did they come up with that name? Is it because the staples are all stacked and glued tightly next to each other, like a long continuous line of orgy. Are my staples swingers? I think I will buy some more paper clips.

    Exercises—now there is a folder on my desk I must look into. Every time I peer inside, I imagine the papers are in some twisted origami Pilates move.

    Bank balance—It’s not the banks money, IT’S MINE!

    Credit Card Debt—If it’s the card’s debt, let the card pay it.

    Conair—Ever since the movie came out, I can’t brush and dry my hair without thinking of handcuffs and Nicholas Cage. I brush my hair a lot, more than it really needs it.

    Last but not least, Paper:mate. The Write Bros got that one right!

  5. Conair! Love it!

  6. Piled up, mostly unopened are my writing books. Can a writing book give fodder to the writer? Let’s give it a whirl…..

    The Pocket Muse. So that’s where my muse hangs out, in my pocket. All this time I thought it wa…never mind.

    The Little Red Writing Book. Hey there Little Red Writing Book. You sure are lookin’ good. You’re everything a big bad writer could want.

    Bird By Bird. Isn’t that the way a lot of fights start?

    The Novel Writer’s Tool Kit. Inside is a keyboard, two pads of paper, pencil, pen, and the number to your local liquor store.

    On Writing, On Dasher, On Dancer, On Vixen…

    Dictionary. When I forgot to zip my pants.

  7. Clever, clever, clever, Walk. I don’t get the last one, about the dictionary, yet, but than might be because my mind and body are running in opposite directions today, trying to get ready to leave tomorrow for Russia.

  8. OK. Got it. Funny, Walk. Only you.

  9. I just realized I can’t post here in a made-up persona because that little one inch picture will give me away. Rats! Posting anonymously is always fun in the online classes when I want to play instead of be helpful. Some days I am Bertha and other days I am Bartram. But it is a bit weird when I then have to comment on my own posting. Kind of like leaving yourself a message on your own answering machine.

    “Hi, this is Ann. I’m not here right now, so leave me a message.”

    “Hi, Ann. This is Ann. I’m not home right now, but I will be soon. My message is, will you start supper so it’s ready when I get there? Sure appreciate it.”

    (I think I need a day off.)

    • Ann, what happens if you log out of WordPress? If you are logged out and use a different e-mail address could you then post anonymously? I love the idea of you sneaking into your own site and leaving messages!

    • Your comment about leaving yourself a message on the answering machine reminded me of something I used to keep on my refrigerator. I can’t remember exactly word for word and I sure wish I could locate it around here but anyway, it goes something like:

      “I have gone to look for myself. If you should find me before I get back, please keep me here”.

      Slipping around your own writers workshop, Bertha and Bartram–oh, this makes me smile.

  10. Messages sometimes come to me in oblique forms – complicated puzzles I only figure out long after they’ve actually been solved.

    I’d been in the same job seventeen years. I felt comfortable and was surprised when things began unraveling. Within months, the job became completely unbearable. I was frustrated and began tying myself into knots over meaningless situations that were out of my control. Though we’d planned I’d work another two years, my husband convinced me to retire.

    Retirement felt odd at first. I’d never considered staying home while he still worked.
    My mother had been a career mom who worked long hours building her business, so we almost never saw one another. By the time she retired, we lived in different states. I had a growing family that consumed my time and she and my dad were enjoying a lively social life. When my father died, she bought a home nearby but my 3 hour commute and stressful job sapped my energy and I only saw her once or twice a week. Retirement gave us a new opportunity to spend time together.

    Mom and I began going to lunch together once or twice a week and had a standing dinner appointment every Wednesday night. We’d go window shopping and even grocery shopping together. I loved antique shopping with her because the items in the stores helped her remember stories about her life and what it had been like growing up on a Kansas farm in the early 1900’s. Mom had emphysema so walking became difficult, especially in the winter or damp rainy weather. I’d bring her favorite pizza and have lunch with her at home when the snow was too deep and the wind too cold for her to go out. Sometimes when she got cabin fever, she’d just ride along in the car with me while I did routine errands. We talked a lot and laughed a lot. On good days we’d spend the day together baking Christmas cookies or making jelly with wild grapes or blackberries. She even helped out as ‘assistant chef’ for our first Cowboy Cookout party.

    Almost one year to the day after I retired, Mom suddenly became gravely ill. She died within a month. If I’d kept on working, I’d have missed my last chance to spend time with her and really get to know her. I didn’t understand the messages when they began coming, but they persisted until I finally did the things I needed to do.

  11. Ann: Bertha!!!!! I really liked her writing and wondered why she never chit chatted with us much. She even submitted a 500 word final, for Pete’s sakes. I think I have a copy of it around here somewhere. I don’t suppose you were ever Aloma, were you? Or Ken? Maybe….no, you couldn’t have been Orlando!

  12. Speaking of messages, I got a whopper last night. Kind of a Stephen King, Twilight Zone whopperooni. Go to my blog and read the post about, “Okay, I Fibbed.”

    • Okay, I am just not going to your blog any more, because now I am never again going to be happy with any of those teensy little $1.50 haas avocadoes at Pricechopper…
      At least we have real apples here in CT which I can make an AWESOME pie out of, with or without a volcano…

  13. Ditto on the avocadoes, Maureen.

    I’m gonna miss you guys. See you around the 22nd or so.

  14. I recently found a cardinal feather on the ground – that’s never happened before – not in all my years of bird watching / feeding and being a nature buff. A few days later, E found a blue jay feather – that’s never happened before, either.

  15. Walk! Your quilt square changed!

  16. This is slightly off topic (okay, way off topic) and not an original thought on my part, but Ann’s initial post brought it to mind, so although my Mac is having a minor malfunction, with any luck I can tap this out and post it:

    At first sight, this paragraph probably looks so ordinary and normal you might think that nothing about it is unusual (or similarly, my intro). But in fact, you’ll find virtually so such paragraph in any book, nor might you run across anything similar to it again in any form of writing. So study it and think about it, coz right now I’m quickly popping out to my Mac shop to buy a fully functional k yboard.

  17. Messages at the Wall

    Once again I found myself at the wall. The writers block wall—looming like a giant monster in my way. Well, this time I was not going to take it. I had had it with this wall. I began to scream.
    “Don’t do this to me again! Why do you always show up? Writing is in my soul, my heart, my mind, twenty-four hours a day. Get out of my way and leave me alone. Please.” I began to punch the wall with my fist.
    “Please, I’ll do anything, just let me write. I’ll give up everything—food, water, a roof over my head. I’ll live in a cave. A tent. I’ll sleep out in the open. Whatever it takes. I’ll starve myself into a gaunt, pale shell of a person. I’ll wear nothing but long, tattered cloaks of black. I’ll slink along the edge of town at midnight. Please let me write.”
    “Oh stop with the drama. You’re making a fool out of yourself.”
    I froze before the wall. Walls can’t talk, I reasoned with myself. I must be losing my mind. I gave the wall another swift punch.
    “Ouch! I said stop it. Sit down and be quiet.”
    I glanced around. No one was there to hear this wall. But I heard it.
    “Oh great, a wall telling me to sit down and shut up. Here’s a news flash for you. I’m not going to sit down. I want to be a writer. And you are keeping me from it.”
    “What exactly do you want to write, or have you even thought about that?”
    “Oh I know what I want. I want to write a magnificent novel. Not sure it’s ever going to happen since you always show up and get in my way.”
    “I’m not in your way. You are.”
    “Excuse me?”
    “Sit down and listen to me, will ya?”
    I threw myself down in front of the wall.
    “Gee, act like a spoiled brat, why don’t you.”
    Hey, I’m sitting okay. Now what?”
    “Here’s what I want you to do. Close your eyes. Good. Now listen. Tell me what you hear.”
    “What do they sound like?”
    “Get rid of the attitude. Now, tell me what they really sound like.”
    I mumbled a bunch of words about bird sounds.
    “Okay, open your eyes. What do you see?”
    “I hear birds. I see birds. I told you, I want to write a novel, not some goofy thing about birds. Quit wasting my time and get out of my way so I can write my novel.”
    “Not so fast. Look out through those trees and fields. What do you see? And don’t say trees and fields. I can see that for myself. Let your mind really look at it. Let your eyes really see it. And let your heart really feel it. Now, tell me what you see.”
    I allowed myself to ponder the trees and fields and then I mumbled some words about them.
    “That’s better. Now, write down exactly what you just told me. Trust me, this is not a waste of time.”
    So I began to write my thoughts on what I was seeing and feeling and hearing.
    “Now, you continue to do this every morning. Just a little each day. Write about the simple things you see right in front of you. Even the things you think aren’t important. Sometimes those are the ones that turn out to be especially important. You can’t be the judge of that so take your hands off it. You just write it.”
    “Oh so you’re saying I should spend my time writing about wet grass and chirping birds.”
    “That’s right.”
    “Oh well, so much for writing my novel. I guess I can just kiss that good-bye.”
    “You aren’t too smart, are you?”
    “Uh, you’re the one thinking I should write about birds and wet grass.”
    “Just keep writing. Trust me.”
    “You want me to trust a talking wall.”
    “That’s right. Oh, one more thing. I know it’s a matter of time before you start screaming and punching at me again, whining about your writing and your novel. So you need to know I will be back. I will get in your way. I will stop you. Think about it. How would I have gotten your attention if I hadn’t blocked you? And forced you to sit down and be quiet and listen to what I was telling you? Hmm? You were so busy acting the brat, you couldn’t hear the whisper behind me.”
    “What whisper? I didn’t hear a whisper.”
    “The whisper of the birds and the grass covered with dew. The sunlight dancing across the cornfield. The hummingbird humming. The way the path winds along the creek bank and the deer that disappears into the woods. Those whispers.”
    I sat with my tablet and pencil and considered the messages that were revealed to me. The simplicity. The quiet awareness. I began to see what I was hearing. And I began writing it all down. A wonderful thought came to mind and I quickly looked up towards the wall.
    “Hey, if I continue to write this little stuff, will you let me….”
    But the wall had disappeared.

    • Kathy, I think you need an appointment with Dr. Phil. I’ve heard of talking to yourself, but never walls. :>)
      Good writing, enjoyed it much. Now if I could just put that into practice.

      • Walk

        Ha! Me visit Dr.Phil? He’d pull his hair out. Oh wait. That won’t work, will it! After a session with me, he’d need a phychiatrist. Thanks for reading my post.

    • Kathy – Enjoyed reading this fun piece of writing. Truly creative thinking. I’m trying to give up talking to myself. My dog runs around barking and looking for the person with whom I’m having the conversation. Poor guy. I’m making him crazy.

      As for the visit to Dr. Phil, you don’t need to worry. He hasn’t much hair left so it will be virtually painless for him.

    • Hip-Hip Hurray for KathyH. Can I borrow your wall? Mine is not talking to me anymore. It has been ticked off at me ever since we watched Pink Floyd to get the creative juices flowing.

  18. Sheesh! It’s been forever since I stopped in here. I’m still not able to settle down and spend time with all of you, my friends. It appears you’ve been enjoying this prompt and I hope to catch up soon.

    Have a great week, y’all.

  19. Barbara–not sure you should stop talking to yourself. Besides, I vision a fantastic essay on what your dog is thinking to himself about your peculiar conversations!

    Dark Sculptures–inspiration from Pink Floyd…hmm… just never know, do ya?

    I have to say this–I am still amazed at what a little bit of writing will do for a person who wants to write.

  20. Barbara– I meant to say “envision” in my comment to you. Good grief!

    • You’d fit right into my family, Kathy. Someone was always having visions of some sort – or premonitions.

    • Isn’t “envision” the last thing you see in this life? Or is it a command when you have a vision? Like, start vision………………..envision.

      • Very clever Walk! I’ve been racking my brain to come up with another clever “envision” thing but I reckon it’s too early in the morning. I thought I had one and was thinking how clever I was and then I realized I had left out the “en” (again) so it absolutely would not work. Thank goodness I caught it before submitting it! I would have really made a fool out of myself!

        Barbara–I have had several premonitions throughout my life. I find it startling. And since I don’t “fit in” here at my house, I certainly will come live with your family. Thanks for the invite! I’ll pack my bags and get a bus ticket outta here! I promise I won’t get in the way. And I’m good at doing chores. Most the time, I’m real quiet so you won’t even know I’m around. I’m low maintenence but I do require unbelieveablely huge amounts of coffee. So, how soon can you accommodate me? I can be ready before the sun comes up this morning! P.S. I’d prefer my own room on the quiet end of your house. A window with a fantastic view would also be very helpful. And I won’t have to cook, will I? And I like my mornings uninterrupted….

  21. Kathy,

    That sounds more like a dream than a premonition. I’d like my mornings uninterrupted, too!

  22. Kathy,

    I just read your story about the wall talking to you. It’s awesome and a good lesson for all of us. If we are honest with ourselves, we can’t go wrong.

    Keep going, my friend. You’ve a stash of words just waiting to bust that wall down and flow out into the world.

    • Well hey there, Shaddy. Welcome back. I might have a stash of words but I sure know how to butcher them. I misspell them. I leave off important parts of them. I add parts to them that shouldn’t be added. And I insert commas and things where they shouldn’t be hanging. And the more I stare at a word, the more it doesn’t look like a real word. I’ve been told that is a sign of old age. Uh-oh, is this a hidden message to me? That I’m too old to be trying this writing thing?

      • You’re way too hard on yourself. You’re not alone. I’m told the same thing repeatedly so I can empathize with you.

        Your writing skills look perfectly fine to me. I suggest you believe that and just go forward and write what feels right. You and I need to quit doubting ourselves. It’s just a poor excuse for us to continue spinning our wheels. As long as we doubt ourselves, we’re only hurting ourselves and why the heck should we do that?

        We should rid ourselves of the idea of being too old…regarding nearly everything. I think we should realize that with all the living we’ve done, we’re finally at the “right” age to start doing a whole bunch of things we’ve been putting off. We are wise and sensible.

        What do you think about that?

    • Shaddy

      Wise. Ah, yes. I am wise. I don’t care what my kids think. I am wise.

      Sensible. Me? Oh if my kids only knew.

      So Shaddy, do we have to be both wise and sensible? Can’t we just be wise and leave sensible behind like a distant, vague memory? Sensible doesn’t glow in the dark. Sensible doesn’t dazzle in the sunshine. Can’t we just kick off sensible and head out for the rest of our days with dirt between our toes and bruises on our feet? And be wise in our own knowing?

  23. I think maybe you two have different definitions of sensible.

  24. Hey. Anyone miss me?

    • Whatever happened to that gal from Alaska that had that parrot? Mallible, no that’s not her name. Oh yeah, I think her name was Gullible. Yeah, Gullible. Anybody know what happened to her? I hear she went to Russia to find Boris but that’s just a rumor.

  25. Hullabaloo, maybe?

  26. I finally got around to posting the details about the cardinal feather find on my blog – (I’d post it here but “the egg” is feeling under-visited so I’m trying to drum up attention.)

    It’s weird – I thought at the time that finding the cardinal feather was a sign of something, and then along came Ann’s writing prompt to confirm my suspicion.

    Oh, and Ann, check this out: my friend Akina, (I wrote about her in my miserable final assignment for BWW) well, she’s going to be on CMT Channel’s Karaoke Star (in Canada). And to think she got her recording start on my little cassette recorder!!! How cool is that????

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