I have a spirit that walks with me outdoors. This week’s mannequin takes on spirit form.

What I’m Writing

I’ve been experimenting with writing exercises and prompts this week. I am one week into a four-week program that uses prompts to kick start writing. It’s not journaling, as such. More like pulling up “raw material,” as they call it. Looking for themes to emerge over time. Anyway, here’s a prompted piece I did for the program. Enjoy. And thanks for stopping by every week.

From the Inside Out

Bob Gillen

Hey, good to see you today. Have I told you, I have a spirit that walks with me outdoors. On real walks, not the steps to the mailbox or the trash bin. She began walking with me a week ago. Oh, sorry, I should say they. She prefers the pronoun they/them. I can’t explain why. They did not elucidate.

As I said, I was walking down the street last week, set on going up into the park that overlooks our little town. Halfway down the street I became aware of someone alongside me. Keeping pace. Not hard to do. I am not an assertive walker. First I heard the footfalls. Heavy, thumpy. I looked to my side to see a woman in a long coat, a kind of steampunk outfit, oversize collar and lapels. Big boots on her feet. No cap. Hair in a long ponytail. Light brown. 

They didn’t speak. Simply kept pace. I passed several neighbors who gave me the obligatory hello, how are you? The neighbors looked only at me, apparently not seeing my companion. My new companion never offered me a name. I will refer to them as my spirit from here on.

And spirit they are. No one else can see them. Even I cannot hear them. We don’t speak. I suppose that would be awkward, me walking along talking out loud to myself. Although most would no doubt assume I was on a mobile call.

I did not know I had a spirit.

No, we communicate by thought. I found myself on that first day wondering, who is this person only I can see? And a thought came, as in a reply. I am your spirit. I wondered further, I did not know I had a spirit. The answer, ah, now you do.

I have been out walking three times since that first encounter. Each time I had my shadow with me. I am convinced they have a sense of humor. The second day they dressed as Wonder Woman. Another day they looked like Doris Day. Yesterday they resembled Katharine Hepburn in The Philadelphia Story, slacks and top in flowing white, fluid movement.

They simply make their presence known, walk alongside, share thoughts, and fade away till next time.

I have to admit, this bit of magic is encouraging me to walk more. If nothing else, that’s a benefit. 

When I reflect on what’s happening, I get an inkling of awareness. Nothing more, as yet. You see, there is presently an emptiness in my life. A vast gap, needing to be filled. I have gone from a doer, a caregiver, someone needed by another, to a person with nothing to do. Nothing. Finding time, making time for tasks, for creative work, for relaxation, was always a challenge, but always possible.

Now, with no obstacles, only a wide expanse of time, I find myself frightened by the challenge. What to do? How to fill the hours? 

And, as by a miracle, along comes this spirit. My spirit. They do not offer answers, advice, admonitions. Nor ammunition. Nothing to chew on, to think about. They are simply a presence. A presence that fills in the emptiness just a bit. Takes the edge off the anxiety. Yesterday, for example, as we walked, I passed a woman pushing a man in one of those complex wheelchairs. I thought, that woman was me, in a way. A caregiver. And my spirit simply sighed, not any more. Not any more. No longer a caregiver. I take a breath, realizing I do not now have the burden of care. The fear of not being able to do it properly. Of failing.

Now my fear has come full face. I can now fail by doing nothing. I can fail by stagnation. I can fail without moving a muscle, or having a thought.

On my walks, on our walks, thoughts drift through my mind, I suspect prompted by my spirit companion. You’re okay. Stronger than you think. You are graced. Be gracious to yourself.

If I may use a medical metaphor, I suppose this situation is similar to a deep, open wound. You can’t stitch it closed till it begins to heal from the inside out. 

From the inside out.

What I’m Reading

I’m reading a physical book this week! A hardcover I got from my library. A library I stepped into for the first time in almost 18 months. Most of what I’ve read during the pandemic lockdown has been from Libby or from Amazon. All ebooks. It feels good to hold a real book!

The book is Kissing the Gunner’s Daughter, by Ruth Rendell. A British crime novel, first published in 1992. I’m about 25% in so far. I confess, it’s a bit hard getting used to florid description. The mystery itself is intriguing, but I am not used to much background description. The crime scene is set in an old house in the middle of a wood, where we get descriptions of all the tree species and other flora. It makes me think of Elmore Leonard’s writing advice: Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. Authors write in different styles – thank goodness for that – and much of what I read is less descriptive and more action-filled.

The book comes recommended, and I am enjoying the characters and the evolving mystery. I’ll let you know more when I finish it.

And a quick note: last night I got bumped to the top of the Libby wait list on a mystery novel by a favorite author: Kathy Reichs’s The Bone Code. I love the snark of her main character Temperance Brennan. One quote: “This chick couldn’t manage to file her own nails.” I love snark!


Try my novels on Amazon.