Writing Out Loud

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Adopting Nature’s Pace


A friend of mine, Shawn Poland, who lives a couple of hours north of me in Maine’s western hills area, suggested I put together a video of my writing experiences, but I had no idea how to go about that. So when he offered to do the honors, I took him up on it, and below is the wonderful result of our remote collaboration.

While viewing the video is still difficult for me on some levels, I’m thrilled that, with Shawn’s talented technical help, I was able to commit to posterity a record of the years I spent living the woods, writing about nature, and taking those experiences with me to the present time. Viewing it takes me back to a happy time, and although I no longer live in either of those idyllic places, I can say that I’ve been there and done that. Now, I can revisit those experiences any time I want simply by clicking the Play arrow.

My hope is that others also take inspiration from those experiences, and, like Ralph Waldo Emerson, whose quote I rearranged for my own title, “Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”


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Trees...the sun and I...

For all who wonder what the purpose is of writing a book, I don’t have a ready answer, as the motivation is unique to each writer. A piece of writing can be the result of sudden inspiration, a message that absolutely must be shared, or a story that just won’t go away until it’s consigned to paper or word processing screen. Some writers become wildly successful, while others enjoy a modest sense of accomplishment. Then there are those who write simply because they have something to say that they think is important enough to share, and they don’t really care if they make a dime.

I’ve come to believe that what a person chooses to write about also says a lot about his or her reason for doing it. In my case, I write primarily about Nature. That takes the literary mantra “Write about what you know” to a whole new level, as I don’t just write about something I know a lot about but because it makes more sense to me than anything else does, especially now in these very troubled times, when NOTHING “out there” makes much sense. And when something makes that much sense and leaves no room for doubt, well, the words just flow.

That’s how it is with Nature and me: I get her and she gets me. And together, we make some pretty good music. In our world, there are no loud voices or disputes, and other than birds twittering, the wind blowing in the tops of pine trees, or the rustling of chipmunks chasing each other through the dry leaves, there is no sound at all. The benefit of that? I get to hear what my thoughts sound like, and what’s more, I hear whatever it is that Nature is trying to tell me. We have secrets, she and I, and from time to time, we share a few, and that is why I wrote this book.

It was time to let others in on it…




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Second Nature




Much has been written about how important reading is to the writing process. That might seem to some like putting the cart before the horse; but in the case of writing, it makes perfect sense. Of course, it’s entirely possible to read simply for the sake of reading, to soak up the narrative in search of the moment when the mystery is solved or the infidelity discovered. This type of reading does not take much into consideration beyond the story; and that’s fine, if one reads merely for pleasure.

For writers, however, reading is different in ways that can’t be adequately explained. Yes, writers also read for pleasure. But something else happens along the way that has nothing to do with the destination and everything to do with the journey there. Writers tend to notice things, usually unintentionally, that have to do with voice, style, sentence structure, and even the more mechanical aspects of a text such as punctuation and spelling. But what came first, the writer or the reader? And is it accurate to say that, for some, the seeds of the writing craft had already been planted and it just took the fertilizer in the form of thousands of written words to feed and nourish it?

I’m not sure how many writers would agree with this, but I have decided that writing, at least in its early formative stages, is more mimicry than anything else. A budding writer remembers what he or she has read in such a subliminal manner that it works its way into whatever he or she writes. This is a totally involuntary reflex, and yes, it comes from long years of reading that involve many different authors using a multitude of writing methods in the many different literary genres. To write poetry and write it well requires long years of reading poetry before an author finally finds his or her own mode. What started out as simply copying another’s style evolves eventually into a totally new one once the author finds the courage to speak in his or her own voice. The same goes for fiction or any other type of writing, for that matter. The first tentative baby steps involve imitating someone else, while the subsequent larger more assured strides are taken through new territory but that lead directly back into the writer’s own psyche.

In my own reading and writing life, I’ve noticed that it’s also possible to take that a step further. In my case, my love of nature impacts and transcends just about all that I do. Not a day, or even a few moments, go by when I’m not focused on some aspect of nature or not being distracted by something going on outside the realm of the human experience. And now, I find myself even looking for it in my reading, and when I find it, it’s almost a reason to celebrate. At such times, I say to myself…there it is, that reference, direct or subtle, to nature or to some aspect of her personality, or how she relates to our experience or to her influence on our perceptions of life and the world around us. I think it’s safe to say that there isn’t much writing, if any at all, other than the most technical sort, that doesn’t touch upon nature at some point or at least gives her a passing nod.

Right now, I’m reading Oscar Wilde’s “De Profundis,” a long letter he penned, while serving a short prison sentence, to a friend and alleged lover in which he mentions nature many times. I would not have expected to find such references within those pages. But Wilde, as so many other classical writers, routinely inserts mentions of the natural world in the form of gardens, flowers, woodlands and birds, in nearly all their works, because they knew instinctively that there really is true division between us and nature, and that no matter what we think, where we go, or what we do, it somehow and in some way, has to do with nature.

It’s thus a serendipitous joy for someone with a great love of nature to come upon these references and allusions in her reading. I’ve gone beyond wondering now if it will happen to almost being sure that it will, which makes my travels through the writings of others all the more pleasurable.



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Nothing Else


Yesterday, I took a short drive to a place I’ve only just recently rediscovered and where I sat on a bench beneath a great old maple tree. During the late spring and summer, this tree’s leaves are a bright vibrant green. But at this time of year–late October–they’re intensely yellow almost to the point of glowing when touched by the sun. And yesterday was just such a sunny day, so that tree was literally on fire.

I looked up through its branches from where I was sitting and found there were no words…none at all…that could adequately describe how that felt…to look straight up through a startlingly intense tangle of leaf and bough that was, ironically, in its last throes before the next strong wind or storm decimates it for another year. But that’s the thing…for just another year, not forever, unless someone comes along to cut that tree down, thus ending its life for all time. But in the place where it stands, protected, well-cared-for, and revered, I doubt that will be happening any time soon.

When I first got there, I was alone. And the only sounds I could hear were the wind in those dazzling yellow leaves above me and the calls of birds. Every few seconds, the wind increased and a few more leaves fell from the tree, some doing a small pirouette as they descended, others simply floating on the breeze in a to-and-fro motion. At that point, I heard voices in the distance and noticed two women walking toward where I was sitting.

As they passed, they never stopped chattering, and that, of course, spoiled the silence and serenity for a few moments until they moved far enough away so I couldn’t hear them anymore. It occurred to me how vastly perceptions of certain places and experiences can and do vary. There I was, needing no other sound other than that of the wind and birds, while they walked along talking nonstop. While I can’t be absolutely sure, of course, I suspect that they missed the true wonder of that place, lost as it was in the sound of their own voices.

I hope that, at some point in their lives, they and others like them, DO take a moment now and then to be still and listen to what Nature has to say, because she’s got plenty to talk about in that wordless way of hers that I love so much. Trees communicate, too, and yesterday, that maple I sat beneath was singing for all the world to hear…something along the lines of…”Let your gaze linger on me and you’ll know there is nothing else you need…”





A lack of inspiration isn’t always the only reason that my writing pace slows. Sometimes–like this week–something comes at me from the outside that simply stymies me and brings me almost to a complete stop. When the phone rang a few days ago and I heard my little sister’s voice at the other end, I knew immediately that my life up till that point was about to change. She never calls me during the week, so that was my first red flag. The second was her tone of voice, followed by how cryptic her first few comments were until she finally came out with it: she’s moving away at the end of November.

While she will still be in the state, she will no longer be close enough that I’ll be able to stop by to see her whenever I feel like it. She will be a three-hour drive away, which, considering the comfort of knowing she’s always been just a few minutes away, might as well be on the other side of the earth.

Because that’s exactly what it feels like…

Not only has this brought my creativity to an almost complete halt, it has also cut into the time I usually devote to writing, as I am trying to spend as much time with her as I can during these last few weeks. She will also spend Thanksgiving with me and a few other family members before packing up a U-Haul and heading north.

My sister has often spoken about her plan to move up there to live with her oldest daughter, so some small part of me was not completely unaware of her intentions. I never thought, though, that it would happen this soon, and I am having a much harder time with it than I ever dreamed I would. We’ve gotten really close lately and have been spending almost every Sunday together. It’s hard to accept the fact that, once December rolls around, that will no longer be happening, at least not until spring.

I have resigned myself to the fact that these next few weeks will most likely not be all that productive, but I will continue to try to give it my best shot, all the while keeping a box of tissues handy to dry the many more tears that I know I will be shedding.

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Sudden Inspiration

This is a continuation of a theme I started yesterday on how I come up with writing material. All I can say is that it’s not always a deliberate undertaking. After years of crafting visible thought using nothing but words, a writer becomes more adept at knowing a story when he or she sees one. And this is how this one took shape.

Several years ago, I worked as a cook (yes, a cook) at a small assisted living facility. There, I had the privilege of getting to know one of the residents who happened to be of German origin, a tall very distinguished lady who kept to herself a lot due to a language barrier that her son claimed was all in her mind. In any case, I conversed with her as best as I could, and it was often, needless to say, an exercise in frustration to try to figure out just what it was she was trying to say.

The inspiration for the story came one afternoon when she brought a small purse to me just I was getting ready to leave for the day. It seemed that the inside pocket zipper of the purse was stuck, and she wanted to know if I could fix it. When I looked inside the purse, smelled its musty oldness, and examined its quaint detail, I was immediately transported to another time.

Where had this old purse come from, and where had it been in its long history? E. was German, in her eighties, which would have placed her as a young woman right smack-dab in the middle of the Holocaust years. Of what little I had heard, I knew that she had come to the U.S. only within the last few years, so my imagination took off.

During a chat one day with a visitor and friend of hers, I learned that E. never spoke of those war years, but I was never to learn why, as I left that job not long after that. I can still remember the sensation that washed over me the first time I looked inside that purse, and the impressions I got when I looked inside that purse have never left me and never will.

“The Purse” is available in eBook format at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00K2B16KU