Tuesday, August 2, 2011


Different kinds of writing feed into each other. On our recent trip to Alaska, our naturalist leaders suggested we use a “word of the day” to help collect our impressions. These words and phrases were supplemented with photos and sketches. I found this helpful, especially since the scenery was so stunning that I was initially at a loss for words. I enjoyed using words such as “frozen water,” “trail,” and the seemingly contradictory “wild quiet.” Some examples:

"Turrets, crenelations, spy holes, a castle of frozen water. Listen: she looses her chains (crack!  Pop!) and lowers her drawbridge" (Hubbard glacier calving).

After whale-watching, during which I wore every layer I had against the rain and cold: "Tired tourists trail back to the Great Mother, who sucks them in through her great maw, filters them through her baleen, and spits on their hands."  As anyone who has been on a cruise ship since 9-11 knows, filtering is the belt-removing, metal object-dumping security getting onto the cruise ship, spitting on the hands is the required hand sanitation.

A hike in Denali national park yielded few wild animal sightings but nice wildflowers until we came upon a chewed up aspen tree (moose tooth marks at about 8 feet above the round, surrounded by moose-trimmed bushes and a steaming pile of scat. After I got over my racing heart at the idea of being that close to an immense moose, I wrote: "Poor aspen, pale flesh exposed by a moose's love-bites. She shivers in the wild quiet."

I haven’t found words yet for the excursion we took flying over glaciers, mountains, and rounded foothills in a small plane.

Another unusual tip Susan gave us is paint chip poetry: you go into your favorite hardware store, wander over to the paint department as if you were choosing paint colors, and look at the labels on those little free cards you can take home. What great names to use in writing: “harvest brown,” “moon-glow silver, ” “southwest orange,” or perhaps “glacier blue.” A good place to go when you have writer’s block on some descriptive scene.

I feel a need to visit a hardware store…

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