Thursday, August 30, 2012

Take a Jaunt into Writing


I’m happy to announce that after a week and a half off writing, enforced by a combination of summer burn-out and a need to prepare for teaching, my desire to write has returned. 

‘How’s that?’ you may ask. 

Well, it all came about because I went for a drive. 

An Idaho river - breathing fog!
Not just any drive – a drive in North Idaho.  Amazingly, when I was in college (in Texas), I would occasionally tell people that I’m from Idaho.  Not uncommonly they would literally, no-jokes-here-I-promise, not know where the state was.  Hopefully anyone who reads this blog, however, has at least a general idea that Idaho is in the Inland Northwest of the United States.  That means lots of rivers, frequent lakes, spurs of mountains originating from the Rockies, enormous pine forests and high prairies.  Very beautiful, though I may not be an impartial judge.   

Anyway, down through the state panhandle, where I live, winds interstate 95.  It sweeps through mountain passes, plateaus, hanging valleys, river valleys, farmland, until it reaches the Palouse at the city of Moscow.  I have a friend who lives there, going to college, so I recently drove the ninety miles lying between us to visit. 

Here's proof of Big-sky Idaho
It was a beautiful late summer morning when I set out.  The sky was cloudless and vast – a cool blue heralding autumn.  People talk about Big-sky Montana, but they don’t realize that Idaho shares the big skies as well.  Come up and take a drive, and I promise you that you’ll see them!

I swept through the passes in the first part of my journey, peering down at small farms tucked amid the green ranks of pines.  I like the mountainous road, but I was already anticipating my favorite part of the drive—through Benewah County’s rolling farmland. 

Imagine two long lines of mountains, and between them a narrow, miles-long valley, curving back and forth, almost like a river itself.  Hills rise and fall, marked here and there by a fence line, or a grove of evergreens standing against the wind, or far away a farmhouse with barns and farm machinery clustered around it.  In and around these islands, the fields flow in endless green and gold expanses.  At this time of year, the combines are out traveling amid the wheat or grass in a haze of dust, gathering the harvest before the middle of September when frost might strike. 

Can you tell that I love my home?  It’s adopted, since I was born in Virginia, but I’ve lived here since I was nine, so I’ve fallen in love.

And I’ve not even told you the best part, because that comes at sunset.  As I returned from visiting my friend, the sun was setting in a haze which transformed it to a giant scarlet disc.  All around it, thin layers of the same haze spread along the horizon, tinted with faint greens and pinks against the white-blue sky.  Distant curves of the landscape took on purple hues in the shadow and a rosy flush where the sinking rays caught them. 

You can’t blame me if my thoughts turned to poetry.  All the way home, even after the sun had set, and only the pale half-moon glanced over my shoulder through the car window, I thought about the scenery and how to enshrine it in words. 

Well, because I was busy, it took me a few days, but I finally wrote the poem.  I’m so happy that my inspiration is flowing again – and all thanks to the beautiful drive. 

So you can probably guess what my advice is.  I’ve written before about the benefits of long trips to destinations you hope to write about, but we can’t always afford such extravagance.  Also, if we’re not careful, traveling to too exotic a locale can actually distract us with the sheer novelty of the experience. 

When you want a little burst of inspiration, take a day trip to somewhere you know and love.  Revel in the scenery.  Try to find new aspects of the landscape to appreciate.  Take the whole experience home and write a little story, or a blog post, or a poem.  If you’re like me, I think you’ll find that the jaunt will help get your creativity flowing, not just because it’s relaxing, but because there are so many beautiful and inspiring things to see on any journey.

Welcome to the Palouse!


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