Some people may call it spying, but it’s a longstanding routine of mine. People-watching. I keep the vertical blinds in my ground-level Florida condo slightly open, slit just enough to observe the street without revealing my spying self. The blinds are protective cover. I don’t want my neighbors to know they are possible subjects (sometimes even inspirations) for manuscripts I may be working on.
Almost any day, you can look through the slits, see the comings and goings of people in this 55+ community, mostly white people with grey hair, bald, or hair dyed very black; some wearing hairpieces (mostly men), or dyed red (mostly women), walking dogs.
Ah there goes that lady with her dog in a baby stroller, pushing the little buggy at a fast clip. Every day, late afternoon, unless it is pouring rain, she goes by in her color-coordinated outfit. Then there’s the fellow who always wears black—black t-shirt, black shorts, black socks, black shoes; he has a love affair with his automobile, which he stores in his carport and polishes almost daily as if it were some holy object. Another regular is pedaling by on her three-wheeler, a basket heaped with who knows what.
Other beings besides humans sometimes wander or fly by my window: a pair of stately, long-legged Sandhill cranes, wild turkeys, waddling flock of ducks, a great swarm of Snowy Egrets that suddenly soar off from the yard in a great mass.
Enough of these observations. It’s not the raison d’être for this missive.
For me people/nature watching is a way to keep myself occupied, keep from going bonkers while waiting for a writing assignment or acceptance of a book proposal. I used to grumble aloud when my late husband was around to listen to my complaints at cocktail time (poor guy just sipped his martini and nibbled on his snacks, and mumbled “mmhm,” a dozen times). He’s been dead now five years. My son, who had been keeping a box of his dad’s ashes to scatter in an appropriate place, gave me the remains to pour around a blossoming bush that was beginning to come to life again after the winter.
So back to writing and publishing. More than one hundred twenty (yes, 120) of my nonfiction books, primarily for teens, have been published. You’d think I’d have a good chance of selling my work. However, I have to admit my subjects at this time may not garner much interest. In fact, a rejection notice via email is becoming a new normal: “Unfortunately, your submission does not currently fit into our publishing program, and we must decline.”
Fair enough. My views and subject matter in 2018 often focus on the separation of government and religion. That’s not an easy read because it involves the U.S. Constitution and the First Amendment which was adopted in 1791. It says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of people to peacefully assemble and to petition the Government for redress of grievances.” This means that unlike some other countries that support a state or national religion, the U.S. government cannot sanction or favor one religion over another. The amendment protects not only religious liberty but also people’s right to express themselves without being intimidated by the government. As President Thomas Jefferson put it in 1802: “I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.”
Okay. So teens get it. But they are more likely to read science fiction, steamy romances, horror stories, war heroics, or coming-of age books. I’m not blaming teens for their preferences, but my interest is based on personal experiences with religion mixing in government and vice versa. I began my life in an evangelical community—Zion City, Illinois—and ended up more than eight decades later in a conservative part of Florida where “Fake News” appears to be gospel to many people. It’s rather like the fake doctrines of the early Zion leaders. All of that is for another blog.