In this week’s writing challenge, guest host Lorianne DiSabato invites you to turn the familiar into the exotic.
Lorianne is a writer, college instructor, dog-walker, shutter-snapper, meditator, and asker of great questions.
Lorianne has a Ph.D. in American literature and an ongoing fascination with Henry David Thoreau. She lives in Newton, Massachusetts, with her husband and a menagerie of pets. Whether exploring the Boston suburbs or elsewhere, Lorianne walks the world with a digital camera and the Buddha’s own mantra, “What is this?” Her blog, Hoarded Ordinaries, is an account of such journeys.
The stage is yours, Lorianne!
Re-seeing the familiar
When we travel, we look at the world with enchanted eyes; even mundane objects like taxicabs, mailboxes, and lamp posts catch our attention. But the familiar sights of our own environs are alien to people living elsewhere. The trick that seasoned writers have mastered is that of looking at old and familiar sights with new eyes, as if they were outsiders in their own hometown.
For this week’s challenge, take a hike.
The genre, length, or intention of your post doesn’t matter; what matters is that it sprang up close to home, in a place you might have otherwise overlooked.
More specifically, take a short walk around your own block: head out your front door, then circle the streets immediately contiguous to where you live. If you’re at work, you can take a lunchtime stroll down the street or around the office parking lot. If you’re mobility-challenged, you can sit on your back porch, front stoop, or near a window, looking out. The point is to take a moment to investigate your own neighborhood: specifically, the square block of real estate you see (and probably ignore) on a regular basis.
Once you’ve explored your own neighborhood with inquiring eyes, you are free to write whatever arises: an anthropological case-study, a murder mystery, a travel report. The genre, length, or intention of your post doesn’t matter; what matters is that it sprang up close to home, in a place you might have otherwise overlooked.
Blog your block
How can you see the familiar landscape of your own block with “explorer eyes”? Here are some ideas to consider:
- Slow down. Most of the time, we hurry from Point A to Point B. When you stroll around your own block, however, there’s no need to rush. Walk at what I call “the speed of dog”: slow enough to investigate every leaf, fire hydrant, and tree trunk.
- Look in a different direction. If you normally keep your eyes down when you walk, look up. If you normally scan the treetops, look down. Make a conscious effort to direct your gaze in a different direction: up, down, left, or right.
- Travel through time. Imagine what this particular place looked like three months, three decades, or three centuries ago. Who might have walked these same streets and sidewalks, and what signs did they leave behind? What human dramas might have transpired on this very spot?
- Give a local weather report. Right now, is it warm or wet, cold or cloudy, snowy or starry-skied? What flowers are blooming, what birds are singing, or what furry creatures are lurking? Look at your neighborhood with scientific eyes, offering a log of the natural phenomena you observe.
- Use your senses. As you walk around your block, what do you hear, see, smell, taste, or touch? Which of your neighbors plays the piano, badly? Where is the foulest-smelling trash heap? Which local restaurant offers the best Free Smells?
- Spy on the locals. What other living creatures do you see on a stroll around your neighborhood, and what are they doing? Keep count of the baby-strollers, dog-walkers, hand-holders, or idle wanderers you see. Imagine yourself in their shoes and in their stories.
So, what are you waiting for? Head outside, walk around your block, then come back and blog your experience. I guarantee your report will sound exotic to those of us from far away.