Migraines and the Kaiser

imagesThe peculiarities of migraines are constantly amazing. There I was this morning at the reference desk of the Knoxville Public Library, asking where I could find an illustrated history of Prussia, since a couple chapters of my next novel will be set there. And suddenly — oh no — the librarian’s face becomes a smear of sparkles and waves. I managed to hold on for the magic slip of paper with call number, got to the stacks and with some difficulty actually found the call number for the book in a swimming swirl of sparkles.

Fellow travelers in migraine land know the sequence: the sparkles, waves, speech difficulty, pain. While waiting to be rescued by my heroic husband, the sparkles subsided and I was able to read a bit about the tortured history of that land, moving the book to an unaffected quadrant of my vision field. Photographs of Napoleon’s headquarters, various generals, oppression of Poles, here’s the Kaiser in his funny pointed hat. So I was coherent.

Then the cognitive wall. A sentence began “By far the most . . . ” and on to some point about the League of Nations which, strangely, I did understand. The stopping point was “By far.” Particularly the word f-a-r. What could that possibly mean? I wondered if it was perchance German. Or a typo. And for that matter, what was B-y? And together, “By far”? Were there English words with only two or three letters? Was that allowed? So strange how the mind works, to be thinking these thought which seemed coherent enough but not understanding the word “far.” Not getting stuck on “the.” And to be actually puzzling it out calmly without getting that the fault was not on the page but in my brain. But not to worry, I’ve figured it out. I know what “by far” means and can go on with finding out about Prussia.

I can’t be the only one with strange migraine stories. What are yours?

Pamela Schoenewaldt, historical novels of immigration and the search for self in new worlds: WHEN WE WERE STRANGERS, SWIMMING IN THE MOON, and UNDER THE SAME BLUE SKY (all HarperCollins).

Posted in WWWS

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Workshop on Point of View for the Knoxville Writers Guild, Sat. Feb. 18, 2017, 10am to noon

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“Absorbing and layered with rich historical details, in Under the Same Blue Sky, Schoenewaldt weaves a tender and at times, heartbreaking story about German-Americans during World War I. With remarkable compassion, the author skillfully portrays conflicted loyalties, the search for belonging, the cruelty of war, and the resilience of the human spirit.”—Ann Weisgarber, author of The Promise and The Personal History of Rachel Dupree

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