I replied to an email from a reader. “Hi, Debra …”
She returned my email, “Hi Mike! Common error, but my name is Dedra, not Debra.”
I read that and saw a common mistake: we read what we want to read or what we think we wrote. If Dedra hadn’t told me, I would never have noticed that it was a D and not a B.
We read what we think we see and not what is there. Even writers have the problem. I make simple mistakes, reread my writing, and gloss right over the errors. I look at the words but hear the story in my head. This is why they tell writers to put their work away for a few days or a week and then reread it.
I do this with my stories. I try to write a new story every week and post an older one at midweek. When I redo the older story, I find so many mistakes it makes me cringe.Errors I didn’t see at first, stand out like thorns on a rose.
To take this thought in a different direction …
The other day, Ginny and I took a drive. She drove. I sat in the passenger seat and viewed the surroundings. “I never noticed that house before.” I commented. “It’s huge.”
Ginny sighed. “Michael, you’ve driven this route to work for months now. How could you miss it?”
“I don’t know! Good question.” I looked to my right. “Hey! When did they put horses in that pasture?”
“Michael! Are you kidding me?” Ginny laughed. “The horses have been in that field for months? I worry about you sometimes.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Well, if you didn’t see the house or the horses, how are you driving safely?”
“I’m focused on the road, Hun.” I paused to build my argument. “If I’m driving, I need to focus on the road. I can’t watch the surroundings. If I did, I’d probably have an accident.”
Ginny smiled. “Now you’re getting it!”
“Michael, God says to us, ‘Put your troubles in my hands. Let me take care of them.’”
“Okay! And your point?”
“Michael, if we try to handle too much on our own, we’re going to miss so much. Pray, Michael! Pray! Put your worries in his hands.”
“I talk to you and feel better, Gin.”
“You do, and I am glad to be there for you, but I do believe God has more power than I do.
“Mike, look at the marriages that break up. Look at the destroyed families. Most didn’t break up because they fell out of love. They ended because one of the spouses was so focused on driving to the destination, they forgot to look at the surroundings. They ignored the scenery.
“Michael, you and I are special.”
“I know that.” I sighed. “Very special.”
“Hush and listen to me!”
“My point is, we take the time to enjoy the scenery in our relationship and in our lives. I know you are going through a lot right now with your employment situation. You have been out of work for almost four weeks, but it doesn’t seem to affect your relationship with me. You are focused on finding a new job, but you still take the time to see the surroundings.”
“Michael, do I have to slap you?”
I leaned away from her. “No, dear.”
“Good!” She laughed the laugh I love. “Michael, as you drive toward your next job, you also take the time to look at me. You take the time to talk and play with your grandchildren.” She started laughing harder. “Mike, I know this is hard for you, but what happened the other night? What were you laughing about when I came home the other day. It was something Elizabeth said.”
“Oh right!” I started to laugh too. “She was too funny. For a three-year old, she sure has an imagination. I was on the deck reading. She came out, grabbed her tricycle, and drove around collecting the acorns that fell off the tree.”
“That’s it! What did she say again?”
“She told me she was recycling the nuts. Where she learned about recycling I don’t know, we don’t have recycling in this neighborhood, but that is what she said.”
“Oh! And then she picked up one of her brother’s plastic swords and said, ‘Arrr! I’m a pirate!’ She swung it around, then turned to me and handed me the sword. ‘Poppa! Here, take this. Trim the sails!’ ”
“Where she learned that phrase is beyond me? She’s lived in Idaho all her life. Other than television, she’s never seen a sailboat. Anyway, I took the sword and waved it in the air and said I’m trimming the sails.”
“She said, ‘Poppa, you have to sing it.’ So I made up a song, ‘I’m trimming! I’m trimming! I’m trimming the sails! Hi! Ho! Hi! Ho! I’m trimming the sails.’ or something like that.”
Ginny looked at me, “Hi! Ho! I’m trimming the sails? Really? That was the best you could come up with?”
I blushed. “Well, I was on the spot! I had to think quick!”
“I know.” Ginny said. “My point is, if you were totally focused on your next job, which you need to be doing, but not totally, you would miss out on the surroundings. You would miss my smiles and the grandchildren’s laughter. You’ve done the right thing, Michael!”
“You prayed! You put your troubles in God’s hands. Let him drive. He’ll get you to your next assignment. He expects you to do your part. He’ll do the rest. He’s on the journey with you. Let him drive! You’ll enjoy the scenery.”
“Yes, dear” I said. “I guess I am mixing up my Bs and Ds again.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Nothing.” I pointed out the window. “Hey! I never saw that place before!”
Michael T. Smith