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In Search of the Extraordinary

August 10, 2012

I usually cringe when I catch sight of myself in the mirrors at Macys .  I think I’m looking pretty good, and then wham. The truth stares back as I walk past the mirrors at the cosmetic counters and the truth should have taken the time to blow out her hair and have worn a solid color.  But I’m vain about one part of my anatomy. Complete strangers have come up to me in public and commented. Twice. Once at Barnes and Noble and once in line at Starbucks. The guy at Barnes and Noble who commented, looked wistful. True, he was standing in the “Relationships and Self- Help” section but then so was I.  Before he walked away he asked, “Are you married?”

He was unbelievably handsome. And smiling.  I said, ‘yes,’ but I admit it came out like someone was squeezing my wrist. I might as well have said, “Um, sort of,” or “a little bit.”  Fortunately, he laughed and went away.

The object of my vanity comes in a pair and every woman has them.  Mine are shapelier than most and I don’t even have to work at it. Genetics. They are not surgically enhanced either. You’re thinking “eyes,” right?

Nope. I’m talking arms.  And it’s a good thing I’ve got decent arms because so many of the more traditional signs of beauty are wanting.  But it got me thinking about loveliness and the unexpected places we find it.  My daughter Emily has the most beautiful nape of the neck I’ve ever seen. When she wears her thick, dark hair up, little curls and tendrils grace the small soft  valley below her hairline. And I briefly hired a babysitter who was deeply strange but had a gorgeous speaking voice. Such subtle gifts. My friend Linda, in graduate school, had absolutely mesmerizing, pale, elegant hands. They rose and fell like swallows in flight when she spoke. Everyone in our critique group was silently enthralled.

Take someone you are writing about, who is ostensibly quite ordinary, and give them one exceptional and subtle gift. Maybe your harried young mother has the driving skills of a professional body guard and no one knows until an attempted carjacking caught on a security camera. Maybe your aging grandfather is uncannily gifted at finding lost things, maybe the little girl in your story has a laugh so beautiful it heals at a distance. Find the quality you have overlooked in someone you know or make one up.  What is it? How does it get them in trouble? Save them from harm?


  1. Beth Schmelzer permalink

    You are an inspiration! How did you know I was thinking of writing today and wanted to check to see if you have any classes offered currently. I call this post serendipity, one of my favorite words and the name we gave our first boat.

  2. Carolyn Sullivan permalink

    It made me look further! Funny as usual and poignant. Poignant at least to somewhere who swears she can hear the collagen jumping off her body to go and party somewhere else!

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