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What Floatillas, Japanese Bullet Trains, Mishegoss, and Star Trek Have to Do With Writing a Memoir?:

Updated: Sep 25, 2023

All week, I’ve been writing on the porch of one of the houses at the Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. This is my happy place where I come regularly to immerse myself in writing up one wall and down another, or more aptly, since I spend most of my writing time outside on the porch, up one tree and down a chigger-filled mountain.

This time, I was revising The Magic Eye, a memoir about my eye cancer and the land where we live (and which we’ve been trying to save for 35 years), all wrapped around the pandemic. There’s a lot of ingredients to keep tossing together as well as a bunch of tangents to toss out in between being dive-bombed by hummingbirds. Luckily, my fellow sisters and brothers of the hollow, other writers staying here, wander by occasionally, and we get to reconvene at dinner each evening to celebrate another day working in fields of words.

Sometimes when dwelling in Revisionland, a place outside time and in rapid need of a dictionary, strong black tea, and a looser-than-usual grip on reality, I bow before the interwebs to seek answers. In between quarreling with sentences, wondering how I’ll make one swath of paragraphs actually connect with another, and fretting over how many times I use the word “scared” in the memoir, I refresh myself and the writing through on-the-hoof research. Since going down the Google wormhole can break the writing flow, I tend to save all my questions for when I’m here, aided by a small fan brought out to the porch, some chocolate, and sometimes, while curious fawns or bored squirrels stare at me.

Here’s some of the questions I asked Mr., Ms., Mrs., and Mx. Google this week:

  1. Do butterflies feel pain when they fight their way out of the chrysalis? Supposedly no but what do we know?

  2. What do limestone crinoid fossils have to do with the inland ocean that once inhabited Kansas and thereabouts? They’re remnants of marine life up to 490 million years ago.

  3. What are the giant walking attacking machines in Star Wars called? AT-AT — All Terrain Armored Transports.

  4. How do you spell joystick? One word.

  5. What’s the hookiest song George Jones ever recorded? How about “If Drinkin’ Don’t Kill Me”?

  6. Where does the phrase scare the bejesus come from? A mild curse coming from Ireland of course.

  7. How do you spell aneurysm? Like this.

  8. Was it a teleporter or transporter the Star Trek crew used?

  9. Who first said the only way out is through? Robert Frost said it in one of his poems, but poets are great at stealing good lines.

  10. What is the history of hijabs? It was a sign of social status long before Muhammed and showed a woman didn’t need to work in the fields and could afford to stay veiled and indoors.

  11. What date was George Floyd’s murder? May 25, 2020.

  12. What’s that great quote from The Little Prince about seeing? “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

  13. Why are Ritz crackers so good? You don’t want to know.

  14. How fast do Japanese bullet trains go? 190 mph and some even faster.

  15. Is it mishegoss or mishegosh? Mishegoss although mishegosh kind of fits the meaning more.

  16. Just how many kinds of cicadas are in Kansas? I lost count.

  17. What is the altitude of South Park in Colorado? Close to 10,000 feet.

  18. What exactly is a phoropter? That big mosaic of dials and lenses you look through at the eye doctor’s office.

  19. Is the Pad in Pad Thai capitalized? Yup.

  20. How do you undo a Gordian knot? With a miracle more or less.

  21. What are the lyrics of Mary Chapin Carpenter’s “Jericho.” Long answer, but part of the song included this line: “Seeing takes a long, long time.”

  22. Can you have too much Pema Chodron in your life? Nope.

  23. How fast are the winds in an F4 tornado? 207-260 mph, fellow Lawrencians who were here in 2019.

  24. Is duct tape commonly used to seal a lead pad to a face that received radiation? Yes, and also a lot of Scotch tape.

  25. What are people who want to be alone called? Solitudinarians

  26. What is the best way to describe the half moon yoga pose? This is really a situation where a picture is worth 10,000 words.

  27. Why do tiny moths sometimes fly into my ear? No one seems to know.

  28. What exactly is a flotilla? A boat parade.

  29. How long did the month of March, 2020 actually last? 1,251 days (but that’s an answer from my own inner Google).

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