A Longing For Places You’ve Never Been

The Germans got it right with their word for wanderlust.

Fernweh, or farsickness, is the perfect description for the longing I’ve held within myself for as long as I can remember.

I get super swoony over the wonderment brought on by thoughts of heading off to other places. It’s where I go when I read, but even more so when I write.

Like that moment in Out of Africa (#2 on my top 5 swoony movies of all time list) when Meryl Streep says to Robert Redford, “I have been a mental traveler.”

(Pretty sure I was Karen Blixen in another life)

I recall the very moments of when this all began. As a child, I spent my days announcing to my parents that I would travel the world as a biologist or an archeologist. I would speak ten languages. I would seek out the elephants of Africa, the ruins of South America, the ghosts of Medieval France.

My father, a bit wanderlusty himself, first gifted me with a subscription to National Geographic. I pored through the pages, careful never to crumple or tear the stories within them, as I believed they would serve as my travel guide to all of the places my soul longed to take in.

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I got on my first plane when I was 8. Back in the prehistoric ages (1979), it was totally cool to put two young kids on an airplane in Denver, let them change planes in Chicago, and let their auntie pick them up in Toronto or Buffalo so they could stay the Summer with their cousins. We did that every year until I was probably 12. When people freak out about me traveling alone as an adult, I tell them that story and we never speak of such fears again.

Since then, it is an unsatisfied ache that I cannot contain.
I’ve lived and traveled all over North America (43 states, 8 provinces) on my own and with my family. We, as a family, camped our way across Canada twice, deliberately left our lives on Vancouver Island in order to spend a year in Halifax just to experience the Atlantics. As a younger adult, I moved every 18 months from the time I was 22 until I was 35.  I married a Canadian, immigrated to another country.

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Looking back as I write this, I realize how much traveling I have actually done. There’s just one hiccup in all of that – I have never left the continent. I didn’t even have a passport until I was 30.

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My tendency is to lean toward a willingness to exaggerate the rationale behind this little crimp in my fernweh in order to avoid my underlying shame. Really, though, I spent a lot of my life as a bit of a sissy.

Big dreams.
Limited action.

Well, that shit is all done.

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In three months, I wave goodbye to my family, honouring that 8-year-old little kid and the Medieval French ghost hunter inside me as I head to Paris, then deep into the Loire Valley on my own.

It’s about healing an old wound I inflicted upon myself so very long ago –  the one where I didn’t trust in my own ability to travel the world.

Yes, I’ve dressed it all up in a romantic package of researching The Woman On The Wall. However, all of the museums, countryside explorations on my bike, backroom castle tours, and cafe writing with espresso and a slab of brie serve an even higher purpose than tapping into the magical world of da Vinci.

They give a little girl back her dream, and then let her see it through.

I’ll be journaling about bits and pieces surrounding this trip for the next few months or so. Follow me to see how this all plays out.

Weekend Writing Prompt

I’ve been planning the weekend’s writing group activities for a bit—so excited to help young authors learn more about creating their own characters through fantasy short story writing.

We’l be whipping up character sketches, creating maps based on what actions characters take, and building wizarding sports teams.

First, though, they’ll be flash writing on this topic:

I’ll report back on the results. There is sure to be a story of the week out of this one. 🙂

 

 

Young Author Spotlight: My Dear Bone by Joanna Fu

Note: Today’s story is from Grade 7 student Joanna Fu. This funny tale was written during a flash writing session where young authors got fifteen minutes to write a story from the prompt “A dog was walking through a park when . . . ” 

It’s also really exciting to note that, before this story, Joanna’s writing had been really struggling and she was performing well-below her grade level.  She has been in my writer’s group for about a month, and reading this story out loud to the crew was a real achievement for her. I love it. 

My Dear Bone by Joanna Fu

A dog was walking in a park when he saw her. He’d never seen anyone so beautiful—her pearl white skin, her hard attitude, and her radiant looks.

He wanted her so bad and had never felt so eager, wanting something this way.

She was a . . . bone.

Dog must have her.

He ran toward her, grabbed her firmly in his mouth, and he ran.

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Art by Joanna Fu

He never ran faster than now.

He ran faster than a cheetah, fast than a jet.

Now, Bone was all his.

He absolutely loved her.

Suddenly, a crowd of people was yelling and chasing Dog. They were wearing black and they did not look happy.

Dog thought, “Are they taking Bone away from me? No, I must protect her!”

Dog barked, jumped, and attacked these evil people.

“Noone can take my dear Bone away from me,” he yelped.

A woman said, “Please Doggie, give back my grandma’s bones. Today is her funeral, and you just stole her bone.”

She pleaded, “Please give her bone back.”

 

Photo credit: Max Pixels

Day 30 – The Value of Keeping Scenes Simple

Day 28 and 29 got lost somewhere in the morass of trying to set the final scene of The Woman On The Wall.  Forty-eight hours of drop-off in writing output had one evil source—me, trying to overcomplicate things.

The terrible, beautiful part was all I had to do was look at tools I teach other people to realize that simplifying the pre-writing/writing process brings all kinds of clarity.

Take a peek: