Word by Word

Practical insights for writers from Jessica P Morrell

Instead of Counting Sheep

Written By: Jessica Morrell - Jan• 10•24

Little Red Cottage, Anna Syperek

I awoke early remembering a dream where I gazed up, awestruck  at the night sky  crammed with constellations and planets and a magical blanketing of diamonds across the heavens. Not all the constellations were familiar so I was searching for Orion, the Big Dipper, and Casseopia and found them, relieved. So now to ponder its meaning.

Last night I fell asleep to heavy winds and rains pounding against the house, but this morning the world is quieter.  Monday night high winds and rain lashed the house throughout the night. We’ve got a storm blasting in with blizzard warnings in the mountains, light snow Wednesday in higher elevations, more snow arriving over the weekend. Tree limbs are toppling and power outages are already happening though they’re not widespread and a huge swath of the country is under a wind advisory today. As in you might lose power.

I’m thrilled, but not everyone around here joins my mood. I live on a steep hill so often get snowed  or iced in during a ‘snow event.’ Doesn’t matter. I’m happy just looking out at it, stepping onto the porch to breathe in the air and check out the stars, or tramp  to the mailbox. I try to make the first footprints in my neighborhood. The walks involve pauses amid the hush and watching snow settling onto the tall Douglas firs around here, then slog to a new location and look around more,  sometimes snapping photos of the weighted boughs. Always reluctant to go back indoors.

Monday night as the rain pelted the siding and wind buffeted my small house, I was failing to sleep, no matter my position and pillow adjustments, and a heating pad warming a spasming neck muscle. Mid-adjustment, I began searching my word bank for the sounds battering my house.  And came up with hammer, drum, slash, slam, din, pound, pummel, batter, pound, wail, howl, caterwaul, rage, rattle, thrash–and I’m confident more will come to mind.

It was nearly 1 a.m. when I remembered a phrase I’d jotted down the previous day: Outside the wind howled like something wounded. Dean Koontz wrote that apt description. For some reason I felt soothed at the memory and  found a meditation podcast I turned up the volume on and drifted along with it, then tuned into another one, and fell into an uneasy sleep, waking often to the relentless storm.

Here’s a small suggestion for the coming year:  When you cannot sleep, or you’re waiting in line {I’ll be joining the gas line at Costco later}, or when your thoughts need harnessing, how about summoning synonyms? A bit of nerd fun.

Meanwhile, I’m going to find a novel that unfolds in a wintry setting.

Keep writing, keep dreaming, keep collecting words


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