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Posted: August 27, 2010 12:30 a.m.

Writer’s block

OK, folks, it’s Wednesday evening, and I’m looking toward a Thursday deadline with no good column topic in mind. Nothing. Nada. Zip. I’m wandering in the desert seeing nothing on the horizon. Panic may set in soon. At the same time, I’m cooking supper that includes beautiful wild chanterelle mushrooms, handpicked by our friends Janet and Mark on their lovely acreage in the country. They ate them last week and didn’t die. I’m hoping for the same.

Usually, column topics arrive right on time if I’ve just been paying attention to the ebb and flow of daily life. In the course of a week — if I’m alert and not just sleepwalking through my days — there comes something to think about, something to question, something to rail about, something to decry, a current news item, a recurring question in life or one of the total incongruities of these times. I’ve got in mind a column to be titled "Joy in Unexpected Places," taken from a new BMW ad. I happen to think there’s a lot more joy to be found in places other than a BMW, but that will wait for another week.

The reason I’ve not been paying attention to what’s going on around me is because I’ve been far too busy celebrating and being celebrated for having a birthday. No, it wasn’t a milestone birthday, but one between two of them, and I’ll not tell you which two. For the purposes of a birthday, I always move my age forward in January to avoid the stark reality when the actual date comes around. So since January, I’ve been my new age. It didn’t take a day in August to make me one year older. And might I remind you that "older" does not mean "old."

The birthday weekend included dinner out with three couples whose wives all share my birth date, lunches with family and friends and the birth date itself spent with Bob at lunch and a movie. Heart-warming cards and lovely gifts arrived from dear friends.

Life is good, better than good, and I am grateful beyond words. But as a weekly columnist, I’ve spent too much time in the past week being self-absorbed rather than looking out at the world and life all around me. Some of "life," however, makes me want to turn my head away and not pay attention. For example, I cannot imagine a traffic jam in China that may not be sorted out until September. I cannot even think about the trapped Chilean miners who can’t be rescued for four months and who will be towed up a bored hole only 26 inches in diameter. And I cannot fathom the continuing number of folks losing their homes in this community, the uprooting of families and how long this county will be trying to dig its way out of such financial ruin.

However, I think that I — and we as a people — do our best work when we’re looking outward, beyond ourselves at what is all around us right where we live. For one thing, we’ll find enough humor there to get us through despair. Fiction writers have nothing over real life! We’ll find issues and incongruities enough to provoke many long evenings of good discussion and debate. We’ll find things that capture our emotions, as well as hurts, injustices and needs that demand our personal action and involvement. We’ll be jolted from everyday rituals that require little mental attention and into a vigilant awareness that puts color and contrast into our monochromatic days. And if you have to write a column, it helps to be paying attention to something besides yourself. Otherwise, you’ll risk becoming hypnotized by a flashing cursor on a blank screen. Who knows what that flashing cursor might make you do…

Barbara Morgan is a resident of Covington with a background in newspaper journalism, state government and politics. Her column appears on Fridays.

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