Motion & Trustworthiness

A Writer Observes More Intensely than the Average Person

feet walking

So here’s a post about an observant writer questioning the world around her.

Are you a P or a J in the Myers-Briggs system? I’m on the fence, but I know I tend toward Judgmental. As a writer, and an observer of life, I was recently jolted into considering how we perceive (and judge) people in motion versus those standing still.

Of course there are many situations in life when we resort to shortcuts in making judgements:

Purple mohawk? countercultural misfit

French manicure? wealthy suburbanite

Gold chain cross on a guy? Jersey Shore homey

I’ve written about one way these can be harmful, but today I was considering another example more in-depth: how accurate it is, and why we have it.

Motion vs. Stillness

Many times in a week I will be walking somewhere in Portland and pass people who are standing. Some are hapless tourists, some of are smokers, some are merely waiting for stoplights. The ones who don’t easily fall into one of these categories, though, I feel a sort of indifference about.

It has to do with the environment. If I were to come upon these people wearing spandex on a yoga mat, I would know they were meditating. Or trying. But on a sidewalk? In broad daylight? With a backpack and vacant expression? Or no bag, biting her nails? It makes me question their purpose, which got me thinking about the shortcuts we make–the assumptions–about motion and purpose.

I twinge as I say it, but an animal part of my brain also questions their trustworthiness.

A person striding confidently down the street, whether dressed up or in baggy pants and tank top could be construed as purposeful, intentional, having a goal, and therefore trustworthy. Trust that they will not comment on your appearance or jump out at you for fun, at least.


A stationary person, conversely, might be considered untrustworthy, since what are they waiting for? There’s no bus stop, no shop in which a significant other might be passing the time. Perhaps another part of the brain registers a fear: “Perhaps they are waiting for me.”

DSC01253A person striding by, in addition to appearing to have a purpose, avoids the pain of being looked at (at least closely), whereas a bystander offers the walker the chance to observe fully the mode of dress, the stance, the gaze…and pass judgement on them as well!

Of course, the bystander also gets to look at the walker just as lazily, if they wish.

I thought of this first when I was walking, but in reflecting on it, what about when I am the bystander? I like to sit and observe the world, and have ample opportunities to do so. “People-watching,” it’s called, and vaguely tolerated in cafe-goers who pay for a prime seat. When I am sitting on a rock at a crossroads in Northwest Portland, decompressing from work, or stretching before I attack my big effing hill, I sometimes watch people walk by, but usually they don’t make eye contact.

Perhaps this is my purposelessness, making them nervous.

How accurate is this instinct? I think it’s defensive, but pretty useful in a city that has such a high homeless population, and liberal marijuana usage. Those things can make people desperate, and more willing to break through the bonds of a social agreement such as being polite to strangers.

Why do we make this shortcut? Because there are too many stimuli in our environment to actually consider each one as an individual event, and so our brains try to establish patterns, and assumptions, that will keep us safe.

So is it harmful?

What do you think?


Images are property of Margaret Pinard

New Finds & Old Favorites

I thought you might enjoy a few of my favorite things. And to keep it interesting, I’ve mixed up Old with New. Tell me if you find yourself nodding, or quirking a brow in utter confusion! 😉

New Find

Author: Gail Carriger

I just read Carriger’s first book, Soulless, on the vociferous recommendation of bookseller Lisa Reid at Lucy’s Books. It is a hoot! And I can’t wait to devour the next in the Parasol Protectorate series. Luckily, she’s got five in that series, plus two more series in slightly different eras with spectacularly different wardrobe difficulties…

Old Favorite

Tea: Lemon Basil Oolong by Capital Teas

I am down to my very last serving of this tea, and may be ordering more soon, as the fragrance is so balancing, cleansing… it blows all the cobwebs out of my brain like a kid with a dandelion head, ya know?

New Find

Equipment for the Field: Exped waterproof backpack

Going to the Hebrides in May, I knew I was in for some rain. And living in Portland, I also had ample need of a backpack that wouldn’t get my papers soaked during daily walks. So I did my research and decided on this one, based a lot on the video detailing its versatility. I’ve used it some to get used to the side clips, and know it’ll definitely stand up to the wet!

Old Favorite

Oldest Item of Clothing I Own: grey sweater, bought new in 1996

photo Yes, it’s old and lost its shape quite a bit, but it’s just as soft and heathery as ever. And it reminds me of that one time, when I was sixteen…

New Find

Splurge Experience: 1st class cabin on the Caledonian Sleeper

I thought about this one for a good while, trying to find a different way of seeing everyone and everything I wanted to on this trip, but in the end, felt good about the decision to splurge on this once-in-a-lifetime (unless I win the lottery) experience. I am particularly looking forward to watching the sunrise, enjoying the Scottish food offered, and having my own little space on a quietly speeding train. (spoiler alert: disappointment! more to come in my travel post)

Old Favorite

Scotland Ahoy! And more coming soon on this theme…

scotland glen and clouds

Remnants of the Past, Clinging

***Oh, I met so many LOVELY people during my trip to the UK the past two weeks! Here’s a shout-out to Pat from Perthshire, Jeremy & Karen from Sussex, Bruce & Jo from near Yackandandah, Lynn of Fuaran B&B, James Darby of Inverness, Ian, Steve, & Artur from the Tobermory Bakery Cafe, Doreen of Hillside B&B, Lawrence & Kath from Yorkshire, Ian and Archie the kind bus drivers of Barra, Chrissy of Leth Meadhanach B&B, lovely Isobel of Orasay Inn, Mary-Margaret the friendliest bus driver on South Uist, ‘Audi’-related to half of the island, John & Linda of Warrington, Catriona and Katie at the Tourist Info (I’m loving Manran!), Cathy & Chris, Heather & Graham at Cuan Mor (excellent!) and Morven at Hawthornebank Guesthouse—a social trip when you go solo!

Today’s the day for any UK readers to get an ebook copy of Dulci’s Legacy for just 99p! So jump over here so you don’t miss the ‘Countdown Deal***

keep calm and rewrite

I hope everyone was able to take advantage of the Kindle Countdown deal. For a very different type of reading, I’m revealing an excerpt of my work in progress (WIP), Remnants.

(By the way, this is a working title, which means it’s not final, so don’t shoot me if it’s different in the finished product. Also, BY ALL MEANS tell me what you think! Seriously, by carrier pigeon works, as long as your pigeon survives the gauntlet of crows surrounding my lair.)

The WIP may very well get a different title as the story develops too, but this at least captures the feeling of leaving a piece of yourself behind, as the MacDonald family does when they are forced to emigrate from their native island home.

Check out this excerpt from Remnants (forthcoming, 2016):

It was dark inside, after the bright sun, but they stepped in cautiously. When their eyes adjusted, they stared in shock.

Not a scrap of furniture was left. It had all been taken away. All that was left as evidence that the small house had been lived in were the rocks of the firepit and the cupboard for the bed, attached to the wall as it was. Everything else, which Neil knew included linens, crockery, their loom, more than a case of books, their larder, which had always been well-stocked, and a framed family portrait on the wall next to the door—it was all gone.

Muirne looked in shock around her, her eyes going to where those things had been. She teared up, though whether it was for her friend Ellen, her hopes for Willy, or the greater danger of this proof of the Laird’s cruelty, Neil could not tell. His eye caught on the rocks in the center of the room. He advanced and saw that a paper had been pinned down among them.

He eased it out carefully, but it hadn’t been in a fire, it was left on purpose to be found this way. He read it mutely then handed it to his sister. Muirne glanced over it, the few lines of script communicating far more of fear than Kitty’s stories had. It was here. Now.

Muirne’s hand cupped over her mouth in fear.

“Wait,” said Neil, as he took it back from her, looking at the back as she did so. “They’ve written on the back of the notice: ‘Gone to Glasgow, South Side, Hurley Crescent, The MacPhersons.’ So at least they had somewhere to go…”

He debated whether they should take the paper with them. Who knew what would happen to these cottages now? Perhaps it would be best if they held their new address for others who might ask. Yes. He put it in his pocket, and opened his arms to his sister. She put her arms round him and they stood, comforting each other, looking down from this precipice of their young lives.


Soooo…. whaddya think??


Image via Keep Calm-o-Matic

Special Sale Details

So you’ve been very patient, dear readers, and today’s the day!

…for those of you who buy from

But never fear! The same sale will be run for next week!

…prolonging the excitement and extending the benefits to our friends across the pond (with whom I am gallivanting at this very moment).

woman looking out to green valley

This is a different woman, gazing off into the Australian distance, but I imagine that I would be gazing out onto a very similar scene while you read this.

So, get thee to Amazon to give the gift of Dulci for just 99¢, for a limited time…(check Amazon for the countdown clock!)


Image via GlobalGallivanting