This week I write to you from a different part of the globe. It is a beautiful place that has me thinking of inspiration (and relocating).
Every turn of our drive today between Georgetown, CO and the Guanella Pass Summit had us declaring that it was the most beautiful thing/place we’d ever seen. Then we’d maneuver a hairpin switchback and see something that surpassed the last. The air was cool, the sun was bright, and the place can sufficiently take your breath away both figuratively and literally. Yesterday, after living most of my life a few feet below sea level, I stood on a plateau 11,609 feet above sea level.
If we can stay awake, I’ve convinced my favorite person in the world to go back up tonight so I can see the true night sky again — for only the second time in my life. I didn’t bring a camera that can capture the image of the bit of universe that shrouds our planet, but I’ll tell you about it one day.
As writers, we need to experience these moments of outstanding beauty and awe. Do not discount majestic scenery as being just for poets. In every fictional world we create there will be glimpses of the truth that comes from our experience. Whether it is in human interaction, a piece of music, an ancient sculpture, or an Aspen tree whose gold leaves literally twinkle in a flurry of wind – these pieces of our memory share something with the reader that they may not otherwise experience. And the experience should not be limited to what we see or how emotion takes us in these moments. There is always more to it.
For example, we were warned that there were side-effects of being at this altitude. I thought they were exaggerated until I felt it for myself. It can make you dizzy on a casual walk. Attempt a small incline and your chest feels uncomfortably tight. My experience is compounded by being out of shaped and not the healthiest person in the lung department to start with (thanks Marlboro), but even the Boyfriend had trouble breathing up there. Then there is the dryness. I drank more water yesterday than the rest of 2015 combined, but I never stopped feeling dry throat thirsty. My kidneys are the only ones happy about that.
So there are physical effects, wonder, aesthetics for the eyes, nose, and fingertips…what else is there to experience that feeds the memory? How about longing? Curiosity? Guilt even. I’m grateful to be sharing the moments with my guy -I wouldn’t change that – but I felt a distinct melancholy as I thought about how much my father would have loved this vacation, and my son. There are always times when the important people we share our lives with just can’t be there, and we miss them more in that moment than a year of absences.
I mention this aspect of marking the memory because the protagonist in my current project is longing for her family and finds herself distracted by their absence as she moves forward to experience new things alone. I know how she feels. I only have to recall it to write it. Even though she’s in space, it’s my experience and memory that animate her. Since I’ve never been in space myself, she gets other pieces of me.
Do you ever find yourself wondering when reading, if a scene the author described started out as something real for them and was later translated for their character to use? I believe there are times when you can feel the authenticity coming off the page.
How does your protagonist see the world? Do they seek out beauty or go about life looking at their shoes? What kind of poem or prose would you write about that first place that took your breath away? Have you been lucky enough to experience more than one?
I have three now.
When I was a child, my mother and I went to Hawaii for my brother’s wedding. We stayed on Oahu and boarded in Diamond Head’s residential district. After the wedding, mom and I had a few days to kill so she rented a car and we drove around Oahu. On the side opposite Diamond Head and Waikiki, we came upon this little single pump gas station with a counter-only deli and gift shop. The place was little more than a hut but was surrounded by green grass and wide-leafed tropical verdancy. We took our sandwiches to a picnic table and ate our lunch there even though the wind kept trying to steal our wrappers. There was a noise emanating through the place – a rhythmic boom followed by a crash and sizzle. It happened over and over the whole time we were eating. Eventually, we followed the sound to the guard rail of a high cliff. The sound was made by waves. Not just little happy lapping waves, but tidal wave quality 30′ surf. I was seven at the time. Terrified and awed in equal measure, I wanted to run but also wanted to never stop looking at it. In the distance we could see two tiny surfers being slammed by those waves. I left Hawaii with the memory of a lifetime and a lasting interest in surfing (as an observer only).
My second dazzling moment happened a decade ago in New Mexico when I saw the true night sky for the very first time.
Yesterday I added my third.
I challenge you to think about the awe that you’ve felt and find a way to make the permanent record of it through your writing.
There’s only about a week left to write about waking up in space. I hope you are all working diligently on that. I’m at about 2k words so far, but it’s not done and editing will have to happen. Now I feel like I’m running out of time. Don’t let it happen to you 😀