this week’s daily themes have been focused on varying approaches toward developing a novel-in-progress. that has been interesting practice for me, because i’ve never actually crafted a fully-realized fictional piece, aside from the short stories i wrote as a kid. since novel development doesn’t really result in blog-sized essays, this week’s figment friday post is my response to a writing prompt from the first week in january–before i decided to share.
PROMPT: You’re on an airplane, mid-flight, when one of the overhead bins suddenly opens. Three bags fall out, spilling their contents up and down the aisle. Describe the three bags and what was in each. Through your descriptions, show us who their owners are and what those people are like. **Added challenge: Turn those bags into characters. Try using personification and other forms of figurative language to make the baggage itself have, well, baggage.
the occasional shudder of turbulence suddenly becomes a stomach-lurching dip in altitude that incites a collective gasp from the passengers. before i can fully recover, the overhead compartment across the aisle flies open, pouring it’s cargo into the cabin.
the strap of an oversized purple and orange tote snags on the latch of the overhead bin, and the tired bag hangs upside down from the hook, emptying it’s contents with a sigh onto the lap of the lady in the aisle seat. relieved to be free of the heavy load, the well-worn satchel dances an aerial jig with the bounce of the airplane.
while the startled young woman tries to decide whether to cover her head or catch the items raining down on her, the briefcase that was nestled behind the colorful carryall slides forward, launches across the aisle, and slams angrily into the headrest of the seat in front of me. the seat’s occupant, clearly oblivious to the concussion he narrowly averted, whips around to deliver a glare that says he holds me responsible for the rattling annoyance.
i immediately throw my hands up in a display of innocence, but before he can even acknowledge my gesture, an overstuffed backpack tumbles out of the open bin and catches him right across the nose. he curses and stares down at the paunchy pack, which has settled on top of what must be his own briefcase, judging by the speed with which he unbuckles so he can reach it.
but as the suit-clad man snatches the surly case up by the handle, it’s evident that the closure was damaged on it’s impact with either the seat or the floor. wounded from it’s attempted assault, the ornery attaché falls open and releases a steady stream of papers…no, pamphlets…no, comic books! “graphic novels,” i hear him mutter as he hastily gathers the fluttering pages.
meanwhile, the boy in the window seat is clamoring over the woman with a lap full of her belongings to get to his bulging knapsack. he upsets the pile of paraphernalia she had been assembling, and the magazines, lipsticks, candy, pens, half-crocheted scarf, ball of yarn, and red cloche hat spill into the aisle and roll toward first class. a flight attendant positions herself in front of the curtain in a wide-legged crouch, ready to play goalie and block any coach possessions from breaking through.
the boy crawls under a surprised passenger’s feet to retrieve his bag, and trips the businessman chasing down a runaway comic caught in the stream of an air vent over his head. both right themselves, and while the red-faced man retreats to his seat, the boy tries to refasten the canvas belt that had been cinched around the pudgy backpack.
the numerous zippers were already straining to contain the excess of stuff, so with the belt loosened, the sack exhales gratefully and lets the hoodie in the middle pocket hang out a little. the boy shoves it back in, but this only widens the gap at the top, ejecting an mp3player and tangle of headphones. the poor guy clamps his hand over the opening too late to prevent a heavy book from forcing the zipper wide open. the bright yellow volume lies on the floor just long enough for me to read “Baking for Dummies” before it disappears under his t-shirt.
the uncompliant backpack continues to refuse the property of its exasperated owner, so he finally scoops up all his things in a bulky bear hug. he awkwardly climbs back into his window seat just as an attendant announces “the captain has turned on the fasten seat belt sign…”
we all leave one, whether we plan to or not. some are inspiring, some are regrettable; some are long-lasting, while others are fleeting…but eventually all that is left of a person on this earth is the legacy they leave behind. for some this lingering impression is farther-reaching because of fame or fortune or history-changing actions. but for most of us, the influence that lasts beyond our lifetime will extend only to our circle of family, friends, and acquaintances. and that legacy is just as significant.
i firmly believe in the importance of establishing an intentional family vision that includes many generations to come. but sometimes a wonderful heritage builds itself upon an exceptional character, growing stronger with the multiplication of descendants in each successive generation.
my great gidu (grandfather), haleem saddic, left that kind of legacy. his influence was strong enough that his children’s children’s children know what kind of man he was and how he lived his life, and have a strong sense of keeping that memory alive. since my earliest memory i’ve known the heritage of my close-knit extended family…and since gidu had 10 children, there are quite alot of them.
when i wrote my honors thesis on the american character, immigration at the turn of the 20th century, and oral histories, i focused on haleem’s story. i didn’t have to dig much for artifacts of his life. his descendants readily provided treasures like family trees, photos, newspaper articles, census reports, the ship manifest from his trip to the US, homemade maps of the old neighborhood (eight pages detailed), and plentiful nostalgic anecdotes.
my titu (grandmother) and her siblings shared vivid memories, but much of the documentation came from the younger generations, who consider it an important task to keep record of our family history and preserve the saddic legacy. a legacy that has been built on more than where gidu lived or what he did, but also the values and traditions he passed down.
visiting lebanon has been a lifelong dream for me, particularly the town of kousba, where my great gidu & great titu lived. a sort of pilgrimmage for us both, my cousin colette and i set out to visit the place where our family started. we ventured north from beirut along the mediterranean coastline and then inland, up through the mount lebanon range to the small village of kousba al koura on the qadisha valley. we stayed with our gidu’s nephew (our grandmothers’ cousin) who showed us a wonderful time.
george gave us a complete (very knowledgeable!) tour of the town, seemingly familiar with everyone we passed. with both my great grandfather and great grandmother’s families originating in kousba, a high percentage of the population is a distant relative in some way. george continually introduced the two mystery girls accompanying him as his uncle’s kids’ kids’ kids, often saying, “meet your cousins!”
we saw an amazing monastery built into the side of the cliff called hamatoura. the long, zig zag foot path is the only access. (the photo to the left was taken from across the valley, not from above. that is a steep walk. click on the pic to get a larger view if you can’t see the church)
my favorite part was visiting the olive oil factory just down the street from gidu’s old house. it still employs the old method of pressing the oil, and is quite possibly the very same factory that processed the olives from my great-grandfather’s orchard. the workers were so gracious to tolerate our paparazzi-like invasion of their workspace, most likely stunned by our enthusiasm to document the (to them) mundane process. the video below captures it pretty well.
this trip to lebanon has been life-changing for many reasons, but the visit to kousba in particular has got me thinking about the legacy i want to leave with the generations that follow me. i don’t have kids yet (or any impending) so it would be natural to think that lee and i have a little time to prepare ourselves. but much of what my family cherishes about my great gidu’s life, values, culture, and traditions were things that occurred long before he had children of his own.
what kind of legacy do you want to leave for your children’s children’s children? perhaps it’s a continuation of what was passed down to you. what can you do to be intentional about the impression that you leave?
“not all those who wander are lost.” – j.r.r. tolkien
once again i have learned that there is a name for a syndrome that i bear. this one was actually hiding in the german language, and was delivered straight to my inbox via the dictionary.com word of the day. (a reminder that, yes, i am a total word geek.) this term describes my affliction precisely:
wanderlust – n – a strong, innate desire to rove or travel about; an irresistible impulse to travel.
1902, from German Wanderlust, literally “desire for wandering”
[German : wandern, to wander + Lust, desire (from Old High German; see las- in Indo-European roots).]
WordNet® 3.0, © 2006 by Princeton University
i first came down with the “travel bug” when i studied abroad in the netherlands in my junior year of college. i got it bad. interacting closely with people of so many cultures and visiting virtually every country in western europe inflamed a viral outbreak of must-see-the-world that developed rapidly.
my condition progressed as i continued to participate in the international community at my university back home, and was exposed to more and more unfamiliar customs, traditions, and lifestyles. the symptoms were unmistakable: my usual daydreams were replaced by visions of faraway lands, my life goals were modified, my job search took a new direction, and my activities and interests had a shifted focus.
i became more deeply affected after i took a job organizing mission trips and found myself traveling several times a month, immersed in the culture of mostly latin america, africa, and china. an additional visit to scandinavia and an extended stay in south america proved that my infection is chronic – i have wanderlust.
the urge to wander, through the colorful cultures across our united states and abroad, is always present in me. the fact that the world is now shrinking so swiftly through the growth of the internet, and also the movement of people, is both a blessing and a curse for me. in a sense, having the world at my doorstep (189 nationalities are represented in oklahoma) and at my fingertips (instant news, stunning photos, and descriptive articles online) temporarily satisfies my demanding hunger, but ultimately just whets my appetite for more, for real immersion.
i believe my affinity for traveling is driven by my impulse to try new things. having a curious nature and an obsession with experiencing things first-hand means anything unknown is something i would be intrigued to explore. it may not become a favorite or even hold my attention for much longer, but i feel compelled to know for myself.
robert louis stevenson said it well when he pointed out that “there are no foreign lands, it is the traveler only who is foreign.” oh, how i love to be foreign. if you like to travel, share your favorite destination below.
right now i am 7867 feet closer to heaven. that is, if heaven were actually elevated high above our heads as we tend to refer to it.
this week i am visiting my brother in the rocky range of colorado, and for me being surrounded by this magnificent beauty is about as close to heaven on earth as it gets.
as i’ve shared, i may have been born in the plains, but my heart is at home in the mountains. in fact, this is so much a part of me that my husband chose a picturesque peak to propose, knowing it would make the moment perfect for me. so, enjoying a week with one of my best friends playing on the snowy slopes is my kind of vacation.
i’ve always been a skier, and quite unwilling to surrender any of my precious ski days to try a new downhill sport, namely, snowboarding. i’ve been quite content to hone my carving technique and improve my mogul skills on two boards. which is not unreasonable for someone who lives 750 miles from the hill.
however, last season i was inspired to swap equipment with one of bry’s fellow boarding instructors, who happened to have a few free hours one afternoon and the same size feet as i do. she helped me get the hang of it fairly quickly, so this season i headed out there determined to give snowboarding a fair shot.
little did i know that a super-storm would blow in the day i arrived, bringing with it more than a foot of fresh powder and making it almost impossible to tear the skis from my feet. what a dream! floating on a pristine white blanket is the most peaceful experience. (until your quads start burning )
but my resolve to board again was strong, and thankfully i had the same opportunity to switch gear and ride, this time for a full day. i’m happy to say that i may now be an ambi-rider, a bi-slider, a dual…not sure what the customary term is here, but i definitely want to continue riding as well as skiing.
i never thought i’d want to sacrifice any of my thrilling ski time for the slow process of starting from square one. but there’s something about learning a new skill that i just love. the challenge, the gratification of each small success, the stimulation of your brain and body…it’s a high i’ll go for anytime.