Voice of a Spanish Dancer

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VOICE OF A SPANISH DANCER – COMING TO MY SENSES

Published April 3, 2017 by rochellewisoff

COMING TO MY SENSES

        There is a scene in my second novel, FROM SILT AND ASHES, where Yussel Gitterman tells his grandchildren that the Almighty is merciful. His fifteen-year-old grandson, who has survived the violence in Eastern Europe, lashes out. “When we light candles for the dead, it will start a bonfire. How can you call that God’s mercy?”

            Yussel, who is blind, answers by pressing his hand over Lev’s eyes. He then challenges the boy to see his surroundings with his ears, nose and skin.

 “Tell me what you hear, Lev.”

“I hear Bayla and Evie’s giggles.”

“Anything else?”

For a moment Lev stood still, bit his lip and cocked his head. “Kreplakh’s (dog) snoring under the sofa. Tikvah’s (infant) bawling.”

“Good, Lev. Now what do you smell?”

“What do I smell?” Lev’s voice scaled up an octave with each word.

“You have a nose?”

“Sure.”

“And it works?”

“All right. All right. I smell…mm…sponge cake and apple pie. Coffee. Aunt Cate’s lavender perfume and Uncle Wolf’s nasty cigar.”

“You see, Lev, not all smells are pleasant. Not all sounds are sweet. But…we are alive. That, my son, is God’s mercy.”

            For the past couple of weeks, the weather in our area has been, to say the least, wet and gloomy. Although the rain is much needed, day after day of grey skies has had me digging holes in my outlook.

            Inspired by my friend, Valerie Davies’ blog https://valeriedavies.com/2017/03/26/simple-pleasures-they-may-not-be-what-you-think/           and thinking about my book’s passage, which is one of my favorites, I’ve decided to take Yussel’s challenge.

            I exercise at least five days a week—sometimes less, sometimes more. More often than not, depending on the weather, I walk to the fitness center, a little over a mile away. This way I am able to do both weight bearing and aerobic exercise.

            To some, swimming laps might seem like the penultimate boredom. Not to this Spanish Dancer. The gurgle and swish of the waves is music. I note the difference in watery tones as I vary my strokes and the way the water billows when I exhale. As I flip-turn like an Olympic swimmer to change directions, I’m weightless, buoyed by the current. Unlike an Olympic swimmer embroiled in a race, I take my time when I somersault and enjoy the patterns the ripples make. As I suspend for a few seconds I note the way the water blossoms overhead.

Spanish Dancer Human

Spanish Dancer Jellyfish

            Once showered and dressed, I’m ready for my mile trek home.

            Spring is upon us and splashes of color are everywhere—bright yellow Daffodils and Dandelions—Redbuds and Dogwoods, stunning against a Payne’s grey sky. I fill my eyes with them.

The scent of charcoal from someone’s fire the night before hangs on the breeze. Exhaust fumes and a hint of cigarette smoke taint the rain and grass scented air. I wrinkle my nose. “Not all smells are pleasant.” As I near home I breathe in the scent of hyacinths from a neighbor’s garden.

            Crossing a bridge I, listen to the voice of the water as it flows over rocks. Although I don’t know one bird’s call from another, I can tell that there are several different species singing their arias. Robins, geese, crows and owls are among the few I recognize. A lawnmower starts up in the distance. A rooster crows. Two dogs bark as I pass their turf. A chainsaw grinds and a rake scrapes the sidewalk. “Not all sounds are sweet.”

            I am happy to be alive.  

 

Voice of a Spanish Dancer – It’s Not the Destination but the Journey

Published May 11, 2015 by rochellewisoff

Copy of Mermaid

To see if my technique and form are correct, I recently watched a video on the mechanics of the flip turn. The instructor described the flip turn as the most efficient way for a swimmer, once she reaches the wall, to turn back and swim toward the other wall. Not only does it retain energy, but it’s the best way to maintain momentum.

            The flip turn is one of my favorite things to do in swimming and, according to the online swim instructor, I’m doing it correctly.

            I don’t think about mechanics while I’m in the water. For me there’s an ethereal quality.  It’s a different world beneath the surface. I tuck, turn a somersault and gaze up at a crystal ceiling. Then, pressing my feet against the pool wall, I flip over and catapult myself in the opposite direction.  

            In a few months I will retire from my day job. In my younger days I viewed retirement as the end to real life where I would sit on park benches and feed the birds or languish in front of the television in a vegetative state.

            Nowhere is either of those activities part of my plan. My first novel debuted last week. The sequel is due to be released in December. I’ve begun work on a third novel, the last part of the trilogy.     

            For me the flip turn is not only an enjoyable part of swimming but also a metaphor for my life. I’ve come to one end of the pool. With renewed vitality, I tuck into a ball, press my feet against the wall, flip and catapult myself into life’s flow.

Author and her Novel

Available from W & B Publishers

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And for those of you who want to know what a flip turn looks like:

VOICE OF A SPANISH DANCER – WRITING THE WAVES

Published February 9, 2015 by rochellewisoff

purple swimmer

WRITING THE WAVES

            A few years ago I made a terrible mistake that ultimately affected my health. I allowed my passion to write to replace exercise, including swimming.  

            One day I went for a routine checkup. My doctor, who had taken care of me through years of anorexia, told me I needed to lose weight.

            “Pre-diabetes and hypertension,” she said, “Rochelle, I know you love to write but get off the chair once in a while.”

            Diabetes runs rampant on both sides of my family. My father died from congestive heart failure as a result and another relative went blind. Neither prospect appealed to me.

            Averse to taking medication I opted, with my doctor’s agreement, to control my sugar with diet and exercise. My elliptical trainer came out of moth balls. I found a pool and religiously counted carbs. My numbers, weight and blood sugar, went down.

            Exercise in no way takes away from my writing time. In fact, the pool is my think tank where more than a few story lines have emerged. There are still sedentary days when I neither swim nor write as I fight my tendency to “awfulize” and tread the waters of self-pity rather than meeting the challenges head on.

            This morning, in the lap lane next to mine, a young swimmer battles the water. I feel a bit winded myself as I watch her. Arms flailing, she works hard to keep her head above water. I wish I could tell her how much easier it would be if she kicked less and let the water carry her.  

            Perhaps one day, I’ll take my own advice.  Copy of Mermaid

Voice of a Spanish Dancer – Refracted Bliss

Published January 10, 2015 by rochellewisoff

Copy of Mermaid

REFRACTED BLISS

Sub-zero-degree temperatures and frigid winds for the past week have kept me indoors. Whenever I’ve thought about making the less-than-a-mile trek to the fitness center I’ve talked myself out of it. Although my vacation plans included swimming to my heart’s content, stinging cold has made it easy to curl up with a hot cup of coffee instead.

            This morning the walls close in on me and I’m drowning in a sea of despair. I know what I need to do. No matter how cold, wet or icy, I’ll let nothing stand between me and the lap pool.

            I pack my gym bag and layer two sweaters, jeans and a heavy coat over my swimsuit. My car’s thermostat reads 16º.

            In the locker room I hurriedly peel off the layers and head for the pool. It’s uninhabited and the water’s a clear sheet. All mine.

            I slip in and submerge fully then propel myself through the cool water that rushes over and carries me to another place.  

            Sunlight shining through the long windows paints ribbons across the pool’s blue floor.

            Smoother than silk, water is a lover’s gentle caress that massages my bare skin and whispers peaceful words of reassurance in my ear. “You are alive. You are changing. You are safe.”

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It was so worth it!

It was so worth it!

Voice of a Spanish Dancer – You’re Never Too…Anything

Published September 30, 2013 by rochellewisoff

Copy of Mermaid

YOU’RE NEVER TOO…ANYTHING

 

            Between 17 August and 1 September, two events touched my life as few others have. The first was watching 17-year-old Leahi Camacho become the youngest swimmer to swim the 26 mile Moloka’i channel from Moloka’i to Oahu. The second was Diana Nyad’s triumph in her 103 mile swim from Cuba to Key West.

            Through a mutual friend of her father I was able to access a tracking map to follow Leahi’s progress. Although she’s unaware of it, when I swam my laps that day I went a mile with her.

            While she had a lot of support, I wonder how many well-meaning friends or relatives told her she was nuts. Long swim for someone so young. Think about it in a few years, when you’re older. Stronger. More mature.

            If this was the case, I’m happy she didn’t listen. She knew the risks involved and dove in headfirst to follow her heart.

            On the flip side, when are you too old to dream? Is it when you turn 60? Or maybe when you’ve blown out the candles on your 65th birthday cake and are eligible for Medicare?

            It’s my personal belief when you’re too old to dream and learn you might as well plan the funeral. You’re already dead.  

            On that note, I turn to a new role model in my life. Diana Nyad. Four times she tried and failed to swim from Cuba to Florida. Did she give up? Not a chance. At the tender age of 64 she achieved her goal.

            Does this mean I’m going to attempt a long distance swim, like my two heroes? I don’t think so, but the thought is in the realm of possibility. But, for the time being, I’m happy to swim laps in a much smaller body of water.

            The pool is my think tank. Unfettered by gravity, my mind is free to tell me stories. With each stroke I’m closer to reaching my goals. To dream. To write.

             “It’s never too late to be who you might have been.” T.S. Eliot.

 

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