The Center of the Universe

my piece of sky

Song From A Secret Garden by Secret Garden

On the other side of that window was a desk and that is where some of my most important thoughts — which to me were enormous life events — happened. Now the house stands abandoned, paint chipping away, having exhaled all the life it once held many years ago.

I watched a documentary about abandoned places once. A builder walked through the halls of a college somewhere in the northeast. There was no longer any funding from the state to keep the school opened, so they closed it, sold off all that could be salvaged, and left it a shell. He walked through, trying to determine whether or not something could be done with the building or if it would have to be demolished.

He said something that has stayed with me, about how when human life leaves a place, when there are no more people in a house or a store or an institution, something happens. It doesn’t take long for the place to start to fall down. I don’t know whether it will be by nature or by man’s intervention, but I don’t think it will be long before the house I grew up in falls to the ground.

The first time I shared this photo was in March of 2008. I called it “My Piece of Sky” in reference to the song from Yentl. The view from the other side of that window is limited. In the summer, leafy trees block much of the view, but in the winter when all the leaves are gone, you can look past their dark skeletons and see a tiny group of hills that lie to the north.

That room was my favorite place to be. If I wasn’t outdoors with my brothers, I could be found there, reading. Almost always reading. Or listening to music or writing. Sometimes a combination.

The room changed over the years. Coats of paint, new curtains, a different configuration of furniture. But there was always that vanity table turned desk sitting right there in front of that north facing window.

First it was those marbled composition notebooks. Filled to the brim with poems and stories and words I would never share with another soul. How many novels did I start in those things? Somewhere there is a Kool-Aid stained manuscript that I was awfully proud of at the time. Then a computer and floppy disks. And finally…the Internet. It was the first week of May 2000 and I was getting over pneumonia.

In The Time Traveler’s Wife, there is this theme of returning to one place. Henry (the time traveler) circles around through time landing in the field near Clare’s house in different years. You get a sense of why he shows up in certain places over the years, but it’s almost the end before you understand why this one place is so important. I wouldn’t dream of spoiling the ending of this for you, so I will leave you with my impression of the whole thing.

For some people, there is a center of the universe — the axis upon which their world turns — the place where some of the most important moments happened. I think mine is that room, that desk, that chair. I know not everyone has the luxury of knowing a place like this. This room only saw my Act I. I don’t know where the next place is.

Here is an exercise for you — think of the one place in the world where you could stand and get the best view of your life. Where is it? Why is this the place? What are the things you can witness from this vantage point?

Elizabeth’s Big Adventure

“Who are you buying for?” she asked, swiping a clay mud mask across the scanner.


“That’s what I like to hear!” She continued to scan and bag my items, the makings of a spa weekend or something like that. “So, what are you doing?”

And with that I told the plans of my upcoming adventure to the cashier at Target — a stranger.

“Let me know how it goes. It sounds exciting!”

My business cards were still in my wallet from my weekend at Allume. I pulled one out and handed it to her.

“Here. You can find out what happens to me here.”

Mom and I walked from the cash register over to the Starbucks. She ordered her regular vanilla latte, but I felt thirsty. Instead of my typical vat of dark roast I ordered another favorite — Passion tea.

Iced and unsweetened. Hibiscus, lemongrass, and rose hips. It has a slightly tart zing to it that might make you pucker. I love it. As we walked out to the car I reveled in the cool fall breeze zipping through town. The sun shone bright overhead and caught the color of my tea, making it shine like a jewel.

So, what am I doing?

I’ve kept this secret from all but a handful of people until very recently. Only the people who really needed to know had any idea what was coming up. I knew it was a hectic time to plan it. This time of year is always busy for us. I knew it meant I would get home from Allume and have 2 days to wash clothes and repack my suitcase before heading out again. It meant lists and preparations, staying up late looking at Google Maps and Streetviews so I didn’t feel so anxious about going to a place I’d never been before.

Wednesday morning I am getting on a plane and going somewhere for a week. I am staying in a tiny house near the mountains, surrounded by lots of sweeping vistas, enjoying the time alone and making the most of it. My own little writing retreat. There may be some shopping along the way, a lot of photos will be taken for sure, but mostly it will be me in this little house with two fireplaces (living room and bedroom — eee!) writing, reading, listening to music, and (in all likelihood) wearing yoga pants the entire time.

There are a lot of really big leaps I’m taking on this trip. Maybe they aren’t big for everyone, but a lot of them are firsts for me. So…it’s sort of a big deal.

Things I’ve Never Done (that will be Things I Have Done one week from now)

  1. Fly alone
  2. Rent a car
  3. Drive 3 hours by myself to a place I’ve never been
  4. Stay somewhere by myself for one week
  5. Wander around a town I’ve never visited before
  6. Have one week of solitude

I’m taking this trip to write. Plenty of people have said (and are probably thinking) that I can do this at home. That’s true, but this is a very big chance for me to get out on my own, do some thinking, and enjoy the quiet in a different place. I think it is going to be a very good thing.

My mom’s response upon hearing of my plans, “Writers are weird.” That really goes without saying.

My final destination is not something I’m revealing until I get back home. You can follow my instagram photos to get a general idea and keep up with whatever I may be taking pictures of while I’m out there. No promises on frequency because the cell service can be spotty. I will have wifi in the place that I’m staying though.

A few weeks ago, the timing of the trip felt weird. I began to feel more anxious as the weekend of Allume approached, worrying that I was planning the two things too close together. Jolene had mentioned a few months back that it might be a good way to come down from the conference and that it could give me some time to think about the things I had learned. I hoped that would be the case, but wasn’t sure as I packed my bag for the trip last weekend. However, on the flight back and in the day since I have felt very good about what I’m doing. This upcoming trip is an opportunity, one that was too good to pass up when it arose, and I am looking at it as a gift from God. A time for quiet and reflection. An opportunity to focus.

Finally, I am tempted to write up a list of goals that I hope to accomplish by the end of the trip, but I am afraid that if I do that and end up not producing the fruit that I plan on I will feel like a failure. Instead, I am going into this trip open — open to what it becomes and what becomes of my writing while I’m on it.

P.S., Thanks to all of you who have supported me as I’ve planned this. Extra special thanks to my husband who thought it would be a good idea in the first place.

Come back throughout the next week for guest posts from some of my friends. And maybe the occasional update from me.

Elizabeth Michelle + Help me pick a design!

You probably noticed a change or two around here. If you’re still clicking on a link to or typing that in yourself, look up just a little and you’ll see that you’re being forwarded to my new address —

I’d been thinking about a change for a while. It’s been a long time since anyone (other than blog readers) called me “Miss Wisabus” and I have been out of that particular line of work for a while. The mispronunciation can be difficult to pronounce itself and I think it confused some people who didn’t already know my name. That name will always be a part of my identity — who knows, I may have small children in my life again someday who find “Elizabeth” too difficult to get out. In the interest of being more professional and being true to who I am now, I thought it was a good idea to look into a new name.

Deciding on a this new moniker took me a while. I wanted something that was truly me, but I knew that using my first and last name (either maiden or married surname) was not the direction I wanted to go in. My maiden name is far too common and my married name doesn’t have the kind of flow that I would prefer. I’ve tossed around names in my head for a while as far as what nom de plume I would like to grace the cover of any books I may have published in the future. Finally it dawned on me that the answer had been in front of me all along.

My middle name.

I’ve never been partial to it and certainly never had much connection to it as my name all these years. I don’t even think my parents had a huge affinity for it when they gave me the name. In some ways I associate it more with something my mom would say whenever I was in trouble (“Elizabeth Michelle Johnson, you get in here right now!”) than anything else. But it’s a beautiful name, no matter what kind of connections I have with it and it has the sort of sound I’m going for. Plus, I love anything that contains “elle”. It flows right off the pen.

So that is how I came around to the change in my domain name. The Twitter username wasn’t as easy to come by and I had to settle for a sort of abbreviation (@ElizabethMelle), but I’m happy with it. Now people will know my name is Elizabeth 🙂

With all that done, I knew I could finally get the business cards that I am going to review for I’m really excited to be getting a stack of these lovely things because I needed some updated ones to carry with me to Allume at the end of October, but there are so many to choose from that I’m having a very difficult time narrowing it down to my favorite one. There are a couple that I’m leaning toward, but I’m going to keep those to myself so as not to sway the vote one way or another.

Would you mind taking a look and telling me which design you like best? You can vote in the poll at the end and feel free to leave any additional comments you may have. Many of the designs are available in different colors, but I picked the ones that I liked best. (Any weird outlines you may see on the cards are the result of my poor cropping skills and will not be on the final product.)

(Images courtesy of Minted. Review of these business cards coming soon!)
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