Busy busy busy and there’s not bee in sight

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, April 8, 2014 9:34 PM

When I was in college, I took a number of literature classes. As an English major, even with a concentration in creative writing, this was required. I didn’t have a problem with it because I love to read, and many of the assigned texts I hadn’t had the occasion to open. For instance, until I was in college I had never read Shakespeare. Now I can scarcely get enough of the Bard. At some point, I also read The Canterbury Tales, or at least some of the tales since no one knows for sure if they were ever actually finished, and because they were composed as part of a story-telling contest by a group of pilgrims as they journeyed to the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral. There are over 20 stories, all written by Geoffrey Chaucer at the end of the 14th century during the Hundred Years’ War waged by England for control of the French throne. The war was between 1337 and 1453, not quite a hundred years but that’s picking nits. It was still a long damn time.

I’ll be perfectly honest. While I absorbed Shakespeare, I didn’t take to Chaucer. I didn’t mind it; I just didn’t love it. Maybe it’s because as an English major, I was expected to love Shakespeare because of Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream and my personal favorite Much Ado About Nothing. I have grown to love Shakespeare even more thanks to Kenneth Branagh. Chaucer hasn’t been as lucky in having a film auteur turn his tales into cinematic treasures.

One of the anxiety dreams I have when I’m extremely stressed takes place at Ham-Smith, formally known as Hamilton-Smith Hall, at the University of New Hampshire where I received my degree. Ham-Smith is the English building. It even looks like a place book worms would hang out. Next to the library, it just looked scholarly even for a school that was founded in 1866. Gray stone exterior with small, arched windows, marbled columns in front. Wide cement steps leading up to two main doors. I spent hours and hours and hours in that building.

In my anxiety dream, I show up for class but I haven’t been there all semester. I have trouble finding the room, and then when I do, I realize that I haven’t done any of the reading, I don’t know any of the material, and there is a test and I don’t have a pencil and then I wake up.

Luckily I don’t have this dream very often and it’s not because I’m not stressed. I am, just like every other functioning adult in the country. It’s because I’m generally not anxious. My stress comes from the usual suspects. Too much to do and not enough time to get it done; generally things I can control. Anxiety comes from things I can’t control. Like when I get paid, or the building of a house.

I’ve been swamped lately. For about the last two or three months I have had a ton going on, almost too much if there is truly such a thing. As someone who’s self-employed it’s nearly impossible to turn down work since I never know when it will come my way again. I have many regular clients that I’ve worked with for years and some new ones as well. There is always time. I find it; I manufacture it if I need to.

I was thinking today as I was ping-ponging between clients and jobs that I’m flat out. Busy as a bee. Which got me to thinking because this is the warped way my brain sashays from one thought to another: Where did such a statement originate?

Which led me to The Canterbury Tales.

It seems that the first person to use the phrase “busy as a bee” (which means very busy and dedicated) or at least close enough to count, was none other than Mr. Chaucer in the Squire’s Tale:

Ey! Goddes mercy!” sayd our Hoste tho,
Now such a wyf I pray God keep me fro.
Lo, suche sleightes and subtilitees
In wommen be; for ay as busy as bees

Be thay us seely men for to desceyve,
And from a soth ever a lie thay weyve.

And by this Marchaundes tale it proveth wel.

You can also see why I never really took to Chaucer. It bee-eth a tad too hardeth to, you knoweth, read. Eth. 

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The great chicken wipeout of summer 2013

by Lorin Michel Thursday, September 5, 2013 1:20 AM

It happened like it happens so often. We were cooking on the grill, which we do fairly often. We were cooking chicken, which we do often as well because it’s one of the things we still eat. We were cooking chicken kabobs with vegetables, which we don’t do as often but they looked so good the other day at the grocery store that we bought two. Plus they were swimming in this spicy hot marinade called AZ Zing.

So last night, we fired up the grill. The night was balmy, the birds were just settling in for a short summer night’s dream. The neighbor’s sprinklers spritzed on. Around the corner, we could hear children giggling. A dog barked in the distance. It was a lovely evening for kabobs.

Now, before I go further, it needs to be pointed out that Cooper loves chicken. It should also be pointed out that Cooper loves just about everything except broccoli and green beans. I thought he was going to eat a green bean the other night when I dropped one the floor as I was preparing to steam them for dinner. He often stands perilously close to wherever the food prep is happening in desperate hope that something, anything will fall from above. Because, as the rule states, if it’s on the floor, it’s his. A green bean got away from me and he pounced on it like a cat, picked it up in his mouth, looked up at me as if to say “really? You couldn’t at least put cheese on it?” Then dropped it and proceeded to tear it apart, depositing each piece in a huff, tossing it to the side like a pair of old shoes. Once that task was accomplished, he moved to the other side of me and gazed upward. I think I saw the word “cheese” in his eyes.

But he loves chicken, as did our precious Maguire before him. Maguire was just a little more cultured about it. He had better manners. Not so our Cooper. Manners and Cooper do not really get along. Oh, we try to get him to sit and stay. We play the “easy” game as in “easy! Fingers are attached to that cheese!” It does not often if ever work, especially when he smells something fowl.

Kevin put the kabobs on the grill while I made us a nice tomato and cucumber, mushroom and red onion salad, mixed with a touch of northern Italian dressing with Romano cheese. Very light and always tasty.

Cooper doesn’t much care for salad as a whole, but he does like cucumbers so he munched on a couple of those and seemed largely content until he got a whiff of what was cooking on the grill. Kevin came in at one point smelling like grilled chicken. I thought Cooper was going to take a bite out of him. Instead, he raced by and out into the backyard. Of course he didn’t make it to the backyard, stopping instead at the grill on the patio. He stood below the closed lid, because he’s short. But his nose was up and he was working the air near the grill lid for all it was worth.

In and out we went a number of times. Finally, it was time to bring in the chicken. Cooper was nearly out of his mind with anticipation, prancing around, racing forward and then back in an attempt to get me, the carrier of the chicken, to move a little faster so that he might be able to partake in what he was sure was for him. Cooper is a herder and I was getting herded big time.

I realized I had forgotten the tongs on the grill so as if to torture him just a bit more, I turned around, still carrying the chicken, went back outside, retrieved my utensil, and then started back toward the kitchen. He raced ahead.

Now we have hard floors in the house, and they can be difficult for a racing dog to navigate especially when said dog is trying to negotiate the 90º turn that’s needed in order to get into the kitchen. He did not apex his turn and instead his feet began to spin and flay and as he desperately tried to right himself, he lost complete and total control, crashing into the wall into a heap with a yelp.

This will forever be known as the great chicken wipeout of late summer 2013.

It was a laugh out loud moment. Luckily he quickly reassembled himself just in time to sit down next to me to consume his favorite thing in the world, besides me, of course.

Cooper Michel. Living it out loud in September. With chicken. But not green beans. Or broccoli.  

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The pen is mightier

by Lorin Michel Thursday, January 19, 2012 11:59 PM

I have a fascination with writing utensils. I suppose that makes sense, given my profession. I love the feel of a wonderfully sleek, sexy pen, one that writes with ease, where the ink flows across the paper like silk in a gentle breeze, no effort, hardly any pressure needed. I prefer a black rollerball as fine as a pin. There can be problems with some fine points because many don’t seem to allow enough ink to flow, but when they work, they work oh-so-fine. I’ve dabbled with ballpoints, and I find them clumpy. I’ve long been fascinated with fountain pens, but they always seem to be messy, oozing ink everywhere. I don’t like blue ink; it must be black. It’s sexy. After all, you can’t go wrong with black. Black dresses up everything, even words.

I also like mechanical pencils, with thin lead. It’s my writing tool of choice when trying to come up with an idea. My current favorite is a blue pentel with 0.5 mm lead and a worn eraser. I sit at my desk with a blank piece of paper and my pencil and I begin to scribble. I’ve never been the kind of writer who can confront my computer, face a word document and begin. Instead, I work with just one sheet of paper. I put words together and take them apart. I write a sentence and cross it out, scribble another word and then add another to it, then another, cross out the first word, replace it with another. Write another sentence, and then another. Then just a word. And then, and then, and then. Maybe? Yes! An idea pops out from the end of my pencil and I finally move onto my ultimate writing tool: my keyboard. Anything I do professionally needs to be typed anyway, so it makes sense.

My pencil is a means to an end.

But a good pen in my hand makes me feel powerful, like I suddenly have all of the words of the English language flowing through me just waiting for use in the most unique story ever written. Of course, a good pen is hard to find. I haven’t found one in years. Luckily, Diane and Gene found one and gave it to me for my birthday. It’s an ACME Studio pen from a creative studio, founded in 1985 and currently based Maui. They started with jewelry, ventured into wrist watches, men’s accessories, designers, artists and architects. In 1997, they released their first collection of fine writing tools changing the way people think about pens. They actually developed several new pen-making techniques so designers can create new shapes using a variety of materials.

Ancient Indians were the first to use a pen, an instrument which consisted of bird feathers or a bamboo stick. Ancient Egyptians used thin reed brushes, and reed pens continued to be used for parchment writing until around 3000 BC. From then until the 7th century, reed pens were gradually replaced with quills which were first used to write the Dead Sea Scrolls in about 100 BC and until the signing of the Constitution of the United States in 1787.

The first pen to hold ink was in 953 when the Fatimid Caliph of Egypt demanded a pen that would not stain his hands. It went on from there until a student in Paris named Petrache Poenaru invented the fountain pen in 1827. In 1888 the first patent on a ballpoint pen was issued to John Loud. In 1938, László Bíró, a Hungarian newspaper editor started designing pens with a tiny ball at the tip. He ended up getting a patent on his ball point on June 15, 1938. The felt tip came along in the 1960s; rollerballs first made an appearance in the 1970s.

My pen was designed by Michael Doret, an artist known for hand-lettering, illustration and graphic design. He designed the logo for the New York Knicks, the Kiss Rock and Roll Over album cover and of course the Squirrel Nut Zippers. Add to that the QWERTY pen by ACME studios. My pen. The perfect black rollerball finepoint, a pen that is reflective of my profession and my craft. A pen that gives an outlet to my sometimes wild imagination. A pen that helps me write something as simple as my name, a linear scrawl across a page with occasional arcs, dips and loops.

It’s a mighty pen, and like all the best pens, it is wielded with determination, because to use a pen is to create something… with words, an illustration, a drawing. To use a pen is to make a statement, to say that words matter, that they are powerful, the ultimate weapon against ignorance and a closed mind. Words matter. As Edward Bulwer-Lytton coined in his 1839 play Richelieu; Or the Conspiracy, the pen is mightier than the sword.

Use yours wisely. And celebrate the tools of words.

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The keys to

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, July 26, 2011 8:24 PM

I find keys fascinating. They have such incredible shapes, mostly round and inviting at the top and then jagged and craggy toward the ends. They’re sort of like people that way. We all start out as rolly babies, squirming and soft, full of rounded angles and curves, and then we become adults. Our heads stay round but everything else becomes sharp edges, especially our personalities. I blame curiosity. If we weren’t hopelessly curious about everything from why the sky is blue to how come Brussel sprouts make your mouth squinch up to if there’s a heaven, we wouldn’t find things out and we could stay hopelessly naïve and round. In other words, not keyed in.

In so many ways, the key to how we live can be found in the keys we carry. Kevin and I have a key rack in the shape of a motorcycle mounted just outside the garage door.  It has five hooks on it, all holding single keys on appropriate key chains. There is one for the car, one for the truck, one for the motorcycle; one with the house key and one with the key to Kevin’s studio. We don’t have a lot of locked up ideals in our lives.

Single keys work to lock something up or to unlock something else. But they are really the keys to release. Keys to the city give the recipient special access to something entirely nebulous but it sure sounds important. The keys to success seemingly provide a solution to what had otherwise seemed unattainable. I think I’ve had my hands on those keys a time or two. Sometimes they’ve fit into the keyhole; sometimes not.

The keys to my heart were first given away a long time ago, when I was in high school. I was a junior and his name was Jeff Peterson. He played football; I don’t remember what position. He had been dating a friend of mine but they broke up right around the time I broke up with my boyfriend. We commiserated, spending countless afternoons after school, hanging around the lockers. Before I knew it we were dating, and I was hopelessly in love. I don’t remember when but somehow I got the keys back and locked up my heart again until Tim, my first husband. I picked him up hitchhiking, and fell stupidly in love, but I was 18. What did I know about love? By the time I took those keys back, I was in my early 30s, though if I’m being honest, I took them back much earlier than that.

Then came my favorite husband, my beloved Kevin. I gave him the keys and I don’t want them back.

Keys, like just about everything else in history, probably originated in Egypt. Clay tablets from ancient Babylonia, some 4000 years ago, depict key-like structures, probably made of wood or stone. Then the Greeks stepped in and began using keys to lock and unlock temples, with women usually carrying large, angular bronze keys on one shoulder. Homer even speaks of the key to Odysseus’s storeroom in his literary masterpiece The Odyssey. Roman keys were technically more proficient, with finesse and elegance, becoming status symbols for those who had something to protect. They also invented the finger key, worn and used by women to lock and unlock jewelry boxes. During the 6th thru 9th centuries, Merovingian keys and Carolingian keys, shaped like religious symbols were in vogue. Keys have been a symbol of power in the United States since William Penn, the English real estate entrepreneur and eventual founder of Pennsylvania, arrived in Delaware in 1682. By this time and to this day, keys were made of various forms of metal.

There are master keys, control keys, transponder keys, double-sided and four-sided keys, paracentric keys, internal cut, Abloy, Dimple, Skeleton, Tubular and Zeiss keys, DO NOT DUPLICATE keys, restricted keys, magnetic keys and Alicia Keys. There’s also the very popular keycard, the keyboard, and the Francis Scott Key key used in a West Wing episode.

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Here’s the thing about keys, they can often be used to keep people out and lock things up. But I like to think they also open doors and unlock new possibilities. Step inside and find what you may. Perhaps a treasure, perhaps just another door, and always a way forward. That’s the key to my future. What’s the key to yours?

What dreams are made of

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, July 20, 2011 8:40 PM

The question comes up quite a bit between my friends and I. What do you want to be when you grow up? It’s a question as old as time, I suspect; one we’ve all heard since we were children. It started with adults asking how old we were and what were our names, and the minute those same adults suspected we had grown enough to answer a more thought-provoking question, they asked it: What do you want to be when you grow up?

We were conditioned to think we could be anything and most especially President, boys and girls alike. And as we grew older we decided we knew exactly what we would be. A teacher, an astronaut, a meter maid. I wrote a paper in 8th grade about becoming a photographer. I don’t believe I had ever taken a picture before in my life but it seemed like a very cool thing to be, a photographer. I would travel the world, go on safari, photograph giraffes and lions on the Serengeti; I would photograph the Eiffel tower and the Coliseum and Half Dome, only mine would be better than Ansel Adams. I outgrew that fairly quickly and then decided that I was born to be on stage before transitioning, effortlessly, to film. Or maybe I’d be a rock star. Never mind that I couldn’t sing. It was the dream of it all that mattered, the possibility.

In college, I temporarily lost focus and my dreams clouded. I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up. I started out as an art major and I was, at best, mediocre. I also didn’t have the passion for it. I had always excelled in English and in writing and I found myself leaning in the direction of Shakespeare and Faulkner, of Eudora Welty and Maya Angelou and Mark Twain, of DH Lawrence and Henry James. My major shifted to English, with a concentration in Creative Writing. I had no idea what I would do with such a degree when I graduated from college but like the great heroine of the quintessential Civil War-era, Southern novel Gone with the Wind famously posed: I would simply think about that tomorrow.

But what happens when tomorrow comes and then the next day?

Each one of us has dreams, some we’ve acted on, some we haven’t. I know I still do. I dream of writing a beautiful novel, of spending my days creating a reality that exists only in my head and transferring it perfectly, exquisitely to paper (metaphorically and literally). I dream and I refuse to stop.

I know so many people who are doing things to change their lives, to change the world. I’m writing several books for the man who started an important and non-profit health organization. His name is Bob Knutzen and he started the Pituitary Network Association to help spread the word about the incredible prevalence of pituitary disease. He’s passionate about it.

A woman I worked with years ago at Sebastian, Adrianna Reo, was laid off after 19 years and took a good portion of her severance to start The Reo Bakpak Company to provide homeless kids with good, strong, and even cool backpacks so that they feel more empowered when they go to school.

There’s a dog rescue in Washington State called Second Chance Dogs, a group of women who have dedicated their time and energy to rescuing, rehabilitating and re-homing abandoned, abused, and neglected dogs.

My friend Bobbi is a perfect example of someone who understands the importance of dreams and not just because she’s a therapist. She never went to college, but in her 30s, decided that she was going to become a psychologist. She went through an undergrad program, and then got her master’s degree, and then had to complete 3000 hours of interning in order to take the test to become licensed. She did all of this while also working full time as a graphic designer. She’s also started, with other therapists, a group called The Conversation Group. I don’t think she realizes how inspirational she is.

Or her husband Roy, a fine artist who made a living for years as a creative director and an art director. Now in his 60s, he’s returning to his first love: art. And creating with a passion I’ve rarely witnessed.

There’s a man named Charlie Annenberg, a vet (I believe) who founded a non-profit organization, with his golden retriever Lucky, to provide therapy dogs to soldiers suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It’s called Dog Bless You.

And my buddy Tucker, a therapy dog who, along with his mom Dr. Wendi Hirsch, works to help kids fighting the debilitating effects of cancer and its treatment to feel a little bit better because of a snuggle and a kiss from a beautiful blonde, furry boy.

I have a client who is committed to raising funds for cancer research through one of her products, Cure. Her mother died of breast cancer; her sister has successfully beaten it back twice.  And my friend Pam in Maryland, whose salon, Mason and Friends, participates in Cuts for Cancer each year, a local fund-raising event. She’s a cancer survivor, too, and a former dancer. One day, perhaps, she’ll dance again if for no other reason than because she can, and because she dreams.

My husband ditched his corporate career some ten or so years ago to go into web development, web design and Internet marketing. He also builds furniture and dreams of making wine.

Even while doing all of these things, each of these people – and so many, many more – myself included, continues to dream of what we’ll accomplish, what we can do, how we can change the world, what we will be when we grow up. That’s why today, I’m celebrating all the dreamers, because they are the biggest believers in the possible.

As the great writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez once wrote: “It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old; they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams.”

What is your dream? What is it made of?  I would be willing to bet that it’s made of hope.

 

 

In which I celebrate the sheer joy of the bookstore

by Lorin Michel Sunday, July 17, 2011 10:49 PM

For a writer, a bookstore is like crack cocaine to a drug addict. You walk in the door, feel the cool rush of air conditioning and breathe in the intoxicating scent of paper and ink mingling with the blood, sweat and tears of the writers whose names grace each jacket, each cover. In new bookstores, the shelves that greet you are long and welcoming. Tables stretch ahead, adorned with signs touting “new releases,” “great new writers,” “new in paperback,” and “discoveries.” In used bookstores, the fragrance is almost overwhelming. It’s slightly musty, obviously old, like walking into an antique store, but that fragrance is rich in history, and the pages of those books, those pre-owned books, bear the mark, feel and scent of those who turned the pages before.

In the book of Jeremiah, the prophet dictates to Baruch the scribe the mode in which his book was written. Scribes are considered the earliest booksellers, supplying copies of the books they heard dictated to those who asked. Aristotle is said to have possessed an extensive library; Plato is said to have paid quite a bit of money, one hundred minae, for three small books by Philolaus the Pythagorean. One of the first libraries, the Alexandrian in Greece, was founded in 300 BC, with various people procuring books to showcase for the masses.

In Ancient Rome, it became a fashion statement to have a library as part of a household and Roman booksellers flourished. Their shops were called taberna librarii. So great was the desire for books that a law was passed granting scribes the ownership of the material written.

During the Abbasid Caliphate in the east and Caliphate of Cordoba in the west, medieval Islam also encouraged the development of bookshops and dealers. And the great demand of copies of Christian gospels and the bible increased demand for books by scribes and new stationers even more.

Bookselling took on even greater significance in 1470 when Antony Koburger introduced the art of printing. Henry VIII and Edward VI on England tried to meet the demand for books but were stopped by the monarchs of the Tudor dynasty. Regardless, the first patent for a king’s printer was granted to Thomas Berthelet by Henry VIII in 1529 and book printing and thus bookselling progressed from there.  Unfortunately, the great fire of London in 1666 destroyed many of the books of the time because they had been stored in the vaults of St. Paul’s Churchyard. Pity, that.

Which brings me to Barnes & Noble, the bookseller founded by Charles Barnes in 1873. The first actual bookstore was opened in 1917 in New York City by William Barnes, Charles’ son, and G. Clifford Noble, at 31 West 15th Street. In 1932, it moved to its flagship location at 18th Street and Fifth Avenue. I thought of this store today, a store I visited when I was in high school and traveled to New York with my mother for the weekend. I remember walking Fifth Ave, popping into Tiffany’s and other stores, but the one I remember most was Barnes & Noble, the premier bookstore of New York, of the world. The front of the store was sidewalk to ceiling glass, stocked with books, of course, and the inside was pure drug-fueled magic to this budding writer. Today there are 717 stores and some 637 college bookstores. Most now provide a place to curl up with a good book, along with a coffee café because a cup of coffee and an entrancing tome go hand in hand.

Walk into a bookstore and breathe in history, romance, war, magic, mysticism, drama, comedy, literature, art, film, poetry, reference and more. I did earlier today when I entered the Barnes & Noble in Westlake Village. It was Sunday morning, and this bookstore on this day was my cathedral, my place of worship.

I worshipped to the tune of nearly $150, and I thank god that such a place exists for addicts like me to get a fix.

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It's all about the story

by Lorin Michel Monday, June 27, 2011 10:22 PM

Did you hear? Tell me what happened. It was about a year ago. Just last week. Once upon a time. It was a dark and stormy night. As creatures of this planet, our lives revolve around a story. We are, ourselves, each a story. As Dickens’ David Copperfield begins so astutely: “To begin my life at the beginning of my life, I record that I was born.” And his story develops from there. We are born into a circumstance, we grow up with family, we fight with siblings, we go to college or out into the work force, and a new story begins, our adult story. Sometimes along the way, there are dramatic plot twists. Someone gets sick, a parent dies, a first love cheats and breaks your heart. Each one of us is a non-fiction story that is at times interesting, occasionally heightened and most often painfully ordinary. That’s why fiction exists.

There are many kinds of stories and story telling and they are all part of the rich, textured, quilted and fraying fabric we call life.

Ever since there were humans, we have been telling each other tales. The caves of ancient dwellers remain illustrated with their stories, of how they hunted and slew their prey; of how they migrated to new caves, men dragging their women by the hair. Native Americans are famous for the stories they told verbally, a tradition that would be passed from generation to generation, nothing ever being written down but rather enhanced by memory and time, becoming ever more colorful, warriors described as increasingly brave.

The ancient Egyptians told stories in the great pyramids using hieroglyphics. The Greeks created gods and goddesses, as did the Romans. When Jesus of Nazareth walked the earth, his followers began the stories that would become legend, many of them ending up in the number-one selling short story book of all time: The bible.

“In the beginning…”

Once man (and woman) began to actually write things down, more stories began to emerge in forms that people could keep for themselves. Plays were created, along with poetry and sonnets, and exquisite letters penned by nobility. Novels were written and great literature was born. Journalists and anarchists alike wrote stories of what was happening in the world, often painting a picture of a place readers would never see except in their minds. That’s what the greatest stories did and still do: transport the reader to another place, often another time, into a different world other than the world in which they currently reside. David Carr, a media columnist for the New York Times describes journalism as the space that exists between people.

Songwriters are phenomenal storytellers. They are poets with guitars, pianos and a good beat. Some of the best are still telling stories today. Bruce Springsteen and John Mayer come to mind. Is it possible to listen to a song and not get wrapped up in its particular story?

“The screen door slams, Mary’s dress waves; Like a vision she dances across the porch As the radio plays; Roy Orbison singing for the lonely; Hey that’s me and I want you only; Don’t turn me home again I just can’t face myself alone again.”

Photographers tell a story on film as do filmmakers. These stories, told visually, are the new version of cave paintings and hieroglyphics.

In the old days, people sat around a fire, telling stories, spinning tales. Sometimes they did this because they couldn’t read or write and the stories only existed in their minds. It’s how children tell stories today. They may not have command of the language yet, in terms of writing something down, but they have exquisite command of their imaginations. Listen to a child as they create a universe that you’ve never visited, where the colors are vibrant, the people are all short and the sky is purple with six moons, where the land is populated by puppies and bears and their job is to save those puppies. Where the bear caves are dark, scary. Where the roars are loud, ear shattering and teeth clattering. These are the stories of children.

They’re about creating a world for them to exist, even temporarily, where they are heroes and heroines, where they can conquer all and save the puppy. Funny how it’s never the kid sister or the parents.

The stories we tell ourselves are similar. We create worlds we want to live in, where we’re stronger than we actually are, capable of dealing with any situation with grace and wit, where we always know the right thing to say and do. I love the idea of the story, the poetry of it, the imagination of each one. I think the space that exists all around us and flows in and out and through us is where our stories reside.

Mine is a work in progress. What’s yours?

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What words can do

by Lorin Michel Sunday, March 20, 2011 9:44 PM

I like to think that words can enlighten and confound, create and obscure, twist together to form stories, papers, letters, articles, emails, texts, poetry, sonnets, plays, song. We speak words; we scream them. We sing them. We embrace them, become them, memorize and recite them. They define our personalities, the way we speak, the way we communicate, the way we emote and feel. Words define each culture, cleverly disguised as language. Each and every one, no matter how small or how elaborate, tells a tale of romance, redemption, infidelity, joy, drama, tragedy, comedy, reality and truth. Beauty.

Most of us never even think of the words we use, but I think of them everyday, imagine how to use them and somehow find a way to put a string of them together to make a sentence or two, a paragraph or three.

In my world, words become art.

On this rainy Sunday, I give you this: Portrait of a woman of words.

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The Power of Words

by Lorin Michel Friday, February 25, 2011 11:50 PM

As a writer, I am naturally enamored with words, all of them. The ones I know and even the ones I don’t. One word can alter the course of a conversation, even change the course of a relationship. The right word can bring both smiles and tears, sometimes simultaneously. The wrong word can bring anger, fear and loathing.

I use words to make my living. Each day I stare at numerous blank Word documents, the little angry cursor blinking at me incessantly, waiting for me to put a word, a string of words, a sentence of words that become a paragraph that become an entire article or story, down and to hit save. Years ago we didn’t need to worry about that; today we have to save our words.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the recognized authority on all things word-related, there are some 600,000 words in the English language though not all are in current use. Its second edition contains entries for 171,476 words that we use every day and 47,156 words that have become obsolete. There are also 9,500 derivative words, something formed from something else. Electricity from electric. There are also slang words. When you total them all up, there are over 250,000 words in use every day.

Shakespeare, one of the premier wordsmiths ever, used some 884, 647 words in his plays and sonnets, but his vocabulary was between 18,000 and 25,000. The average 16 year old has a vocabulary of 10,000 to 12,000 words. A college graduate uses 60,000 active words and 75,000 passive ones.

Half of the words we use are nouns, a quarter are adjectives and a seventh are verbs. The rest are exclamations, conjunctions, prepositions, suffixes and more.

As a writer, I hope I use all parts of all words. I yell! I write and I read. I have books on a shelf. I have walked through a bookstore. I’m in love.

See what I did there? I used an exclamation, a conjunction, a preposition, and a suffix. I did not use more. Well, maybe I just did.

Words can wound or bring joy, they can dance or fall flat. They can describe a murderous plot with detail (in the corner of the dark room, a sliver of light oozed through the crack in the blinds, illuminating a tiny man; the shadow of an ax glowed eerily on the white wall), or declare undying love (I’ve been waiting for you all my life and suddenly, you walked in, ordered a beer and winked at me. And I was powerless to stop my heart).

In my arsenal of 60,000 active words I like ones like archaic, discombobulated, nebulous, nefarious, puppy. Is there a better word than puppy? Maybe puddle.

And of course one of my favorites from when I was in 5th grade and we had a contest to see who could make the most words from another word. The word was antidisestablishmentarianism. To this day I’m not sure what it means. But I know I won the contest.

That’s the power of words.

Oh, and there are 523 fabulous words in this blog post. 

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