Refilling the well

Posted: December 30th, 2008 under the writing life.
Tags: , ,

The Paksworld books are largely outdoor books–sure, there are palaces, forts, inns, taverns, shops, cottages, etc., but much of the time the characters are outdoors.   As a result, it’s necessary for me to go out for hours at a time, noticing things.  Sights.  Smells.  Sounds.   The feel of the air,  the texture of different trees’ bark, different twigs, etc.  (It would be easier on the sounds end if we weren’t quite as close to roads, but no matter…)

Today I took several  hours off for a ramble, having missed some days in a row, including pretty ones.   We had a warm spell, quite balmy, so since I’m writing winter scenes in a very different climate than this, I was mostly just absorbing outdoorness.  Aloneness.  Seeing how alert I could be, how quiet (not quiet enough–spooked one deer out of cover across the fenceline.)  Trying to be fully open to the grassland, the woods, the brush as I moved from place to place.

I spent awhile following a deer’s track.  It’s been dry for weeks, but for one small shower (that didn’t leave a measurable amount in the rain gauges.)  So I had dents in the dust to look at and decide which were coyote and which were deer–and this wasn’t nice fine dust that took a good impression, either.  The slanting winter sun helped, by edging a shadow into even the shallowest and most open prints.  Then, in the woods, the deer went off the footpath across fallen leaves.  I stopped and looked at the trace and wondered why it had veered away there, when one of their usual tangles to rest in was ahead.  Had I spooked it?  Had something else?  Was it even today’s track?  (It’s so dry, I can’t tell.)

In the leaves, the track was a series of tiny hollows–not clear hoofprints, but just dips in the leaves forming the pattern of a deer trotting.   I took a picture, then walked beside the track.    Deer often use our paths, and this one, after crossing a shallow dip (as we often do, too) continued on through the woods on one of our paths, one mostly covered in leaves–but where it wasn’t, I could see the hoofmarks more clearly, from the slightly damper soil.   It crossed the dry creek (we need rain so badly!) on our plank bridge, leaving little dusty marks, and then went on our path through the rest of the woods to the grassy meadow beyond.  Deer often use the tributary creek (also dry of course) as a highway, but not this deer–its marks going up the slope to the gap were quite clear.

Is this just the writer goofing off on a lovely afternoon?   Partly–but it’s also refilling the well from which the stories come.   I need to walk on natural ground…touch the trees, even if they aren’t the “right” trees, smell the air, feel the breeze on one cheek and the sun on the other,  notice everything, let it sink in.

There are bones on the land–the scapula of a deer here…the femur of a cow there…something’s thoracic vertebra in the middle of the trail where it wasn’t the last time I came by (most likely deer.)  A feather.  A tuft of fur.   On my last trip out, I found the skeleton of a raccoon, in the woods.   On Christmas Eve, my husband found a dead skunk (very recently dead–not stinking yet.)  Scat, of course: fox, raccoon, coyote, domestic dog, deer, rabbit, and things I don’t recognize.

When I’ve been out a few hours and my senses have opened up, I hear more and see more.   Then there’s more inside my head for imagination to work with, and more space (it feels like) for things to happen in.

I came back to the house near sundown, tired and refreshed and much  more in tune with Paks’s world than earlier.    Sometimes a specific incident makes it into a book…more often not, but the texture is built of hours of observation and experience.

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment