Thursday, June 10, 2010

Writing Outside the Story: Guilt or Pleasure?


I have no pages or word count on the story to report. Nope, I haven't been writing...on The Story. But that's not to say I haven't been writing. Boy, have I ever been writing; journals and papers, an occasional blog and all that stuff that doesn't count. Or does it?

I go back and forth on this question quite a bit. Currently, I'm thinking yes, it does count if it exercises your creative muscles. I found that to be so when I wrote my journal entries for an Environmental Perspective class, which I thoroughly enjoyed, by the way. Some entries were more like news reports, but on others, my imagination took flight. Like, for instance, while on a field trip to a forest where we simply had to sit in solitude for thirty minutes. Yes, really. And, the things that came to mind, without computer and familiar surroundings, surprised me.

Here's my journal entry starting from when I went off on my "assigned solitude." Yes, I was a bit cynical about being set loose into a forest to reflect on nature...

I probably started out with too high expectations. I wanted a perfect spot, and I chose to look for a nice location by the water. But, the path seemed too rough and the “best” spots were taken by other students.

After wandering further along a trail—and being aware of the time—I decided I better find a place. Any place would do, preferably with a spot to sit.

I see a patch of raised moss at the base of a couple of trees that looks comfy—but wet. I decide to use my vinyl notebook binder as a moisture barrier and take out some paper and have a seat.

Not bad. Now what? I try to use my senses individually and form the “big picture” first. What do I hear? I hear traffic in the distance. I find that a bit distracting and narrow the focus.

What do I see? I’m within a circle of about eight trees all spaced about the same distance apart, as a group of campers might surround a camp fire.

These trees are not the towering pines or majestic oaks that seem to get our first thoughts. I don’t know what they are. I should—being the logger’s daughter that I am–but I don't. And, for that matter, maybe there is a bit of ingrained disdain for these “lesser” trees; not grown enough to cut and not really very healthy looking. They look rather scraggly, with dead branches hanging on like useless appendages. A moss– no, I guess it’s a fungi covers their trunks in colors like Martha Stewart green and that yellow-green color called chartreuse. Also some turquoise and browns. And each color group is in a texture of layered edges that painters try to create.

I have to touch it and I feel the dampness, which doesn’t bother me so much anymore. I feel like it’s okay to touch. Maybe that’s where the term “tree hugger” comes from; the trees might not hug back, but their approachability is their way of saying to do everything at your own pace.

I lean back against the backrest of the trees behind me and study the circle of trees. It seems like they are a Council made up of mostly the same, older members. A young member of a different species, poplar or birch, has joined the circle also and may replace one of the scraggly members.

Am I part of the circle? Is the moss chair here for me? Maybe I am supposed to ask questions and they tumble around in my mind; how old are you? Are you healthy? Is your life-span short? Is the fungi killing you or helping? Is it supposed to? Are you meant to be transient?

I received no answers, but it didn’t matter. It was simply nice to feel free to ask the questions. I felt like I could “talk” to this Council for a long time, but 30 minutes is not enough and I almost wanted to apologize when it came time to leave. I would also add that I was sorry they’d been my second choice when looking for my perfect spot.

As I made my way back to meet the others I thought about attempting to find a landmark so that I could find this exact spot again. I’d like to think I would recognize it, even though I think there are going to be changes. Maybe the circle will be made up of more young birch (or poplar)? Or maybe the scraggly trees are hardier than they look?

I wonder if anyone else had sat in that same spot– a comfy moss upholstered chair– and seen what I had seen. Wouldn’t it be amazing if there is another person, or even a handful or a dozen people who thought so and wanted to come back? Maybe they had been for a very long time.
*** *** ***
In a very short time, I became less cynical. I relaxed, and I tried to show that transition in writing. I also used first person - - it was me afterall - - and I think this gives me experience for first person writing in my story.

So, no, I don't really feel all that guilty. :)

What's your vote? Does writing outside the story count?


4 comments:

  1. I love this -- I could see that forest, and the moss chair, and the Council of trees. I also love how you felt distraught at initially considering them second best. :)

    I believe your "writing outside the story" has been very inspiring. I could see why you would want to return there. And I'm really glad you shared this experience. It's wonderful!

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  2. Thank you, Donna. I think what I liked best about this writing was managing to stay in the moment. It felt good - - both the writing and appreciating nature. :) I think this journal writing has been a good experience for completing lots of short pieces. That's just a good feeling when sometimes, when on that long road of a novel, the joy of completing a simple thought gets tied up into plot. I'm glad you liked it and thanks for letting me know. :)

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  3. It all counts.

    And trees hug back. And damn, they are good listeners!

    Maureen

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  4. Yes, they are excellent listeners, Maureen! :)

    Hope your writing is going well!

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