A New Day – 16 – Ominous Inspiration
The other day I was looking at a post from another blogger I follow, Bella Remy Photography (follow this link to see the following pictures). She posted some beautiful pictures of Horned Larks she and some friends had gone on a mission to find (and were obviously successful). But they were more than successful in finding these interesting looking birds with tufts of feathers that look like horns. They also found a very large flock of Snow Geese – of which she also took pictures – that having taken to the air look to me like giant snow flakes reversing their traverse to the ground! They decided to make one more stop to the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center where they found some Yellow Rump Warblers. She writes about how she’d heard rumors of a Screech Owl taking up residence in nest box outside the center. To her great pleasure, and to us visitors and followers of her site, she happened to catch it basking in the sunlight with just its head popped out of the nest box hole.
At the end of this entry she writes, “Here’s to those small treasures that are in our world. Hope you have a great weekend planned! Bella”
Seeing her page and her daily posts and images has got me thinking about how I really do want to do some birding this year and up my photography game. After all, it was a conversation about the same ambition of mine that spurred my little brother to go in with my father on getting me my current Canon Eos Rebel T2. (Thanks!!) Naturally, I started wondering myself where to go around the areas I frequent to do some good birding; so I made note to self: Figure this out. In the meantime, I thought, I’ve got other things to do although I do need a shot for the day. Eh, I’ll worry about that later.
Later came, quickly, and while my 365 entry was on my mind I still had things to do. For one the driveway needed to be shoveled and among other things my dog needed to go for a walk. The shoveling got done (it was rather warm, so warm while shoveling I was able to remove my hat and the outer layer of my coat) and then it was time for the walk. My dog and I started out on our usual route, came to an intersection and thought left, right or straight? Left.
Having replaced my hat with a warm headband of sorts I remained with the inner coat, bad idea after having worked up a sweat shoveling because that made for a colder than necessary walk. Ill-prepared as I was I was leaning towards cutting this walk short. But then again, it is fairly warm out (didn’t have my camera btw), I thought, it would be a shame not to take full advantage of this. So I pushed on, got used to the chill except for the numbing sensation in my feet. :-/
A couple of blocks farther down I first heard the loud roar of an engine in the distance and then I saw it: the beastly form of a plow truck two streets over, followed by a second one. They roared through the intersection throwing a cloud of snow higher onto the already large snow bank. I stood there for a moment recognizing just how…ominous they seemed to be. Then, honestly, I had a moment of concern; what if they come roaring by us while we’re walking? How high is the snow thrown? Could it be the equivalent of a car/truck/bus sloshing through a puddle and drenching you as they pass? Then I thought about the cross streets that don’t have sidewalks, I’d have to get across them quickly and take cover in someone’s driveway if a truck were to come upon us.
For the sake of imagination, and eery fun because I know they’d slow down if they saw us, I decided to go along with the idea of them as ominous beasts! I was two streets over, then one, and I timed them when I heard and then saw them between the houses on the block over. I couldn’t be caught in their midst, we couldn’t take that risk. Ten minutes and they were on to the next street after two passes.
Now let me explain, when I made the decision to play this little game with myself my mind became an avalanche of ideas no less than the plows thrust snow upon the banks, my mind was a snow bank builder higher with ideas. First, I needed to get back to the house to get my camera and be in place when the trucks came by. I had to make my first attempts at capturing this motion, the actions of these ominous beasts! In addition to this I was inspired to write a short-short story (under 1,500 words) or a flash fiction piece (under 1,000). But my brain didn’t stop there – the giddy excitement I translated into nervous anxiety that we might be caught by the trucks, so I made sure to stop and listen for them in the distance) – I thought up more story ideas, moments in stories, how to translate feeling especially this grave fear, and most especially I remembered the awesome power of the acting imagination.
When I was a kid we lived next to a cemetery, and…we had ninja suits, and…we took Karate classes. There was a one-way bridge that passed over a stream that separated the cemetery from our property. On one side of the bridge there was also a large chain-link fence on the other side of the guard rails that seemed to float over the stream. Now, it wasn’t a very big bridge but as kids it was big enough. So we created this rule, my siblings and I, that since it was a one-way road (mind you we were out in the country so traffic was minimal, if we were lucky) we absolutely had to cross it quickly, no questions, no walking, just run, OR we’d scale the fence. (Ninja shoes with their separation between the toes made for great fence-climbing shoes!) We just simply could not get caught on the bridge if a car came! Let me tell you, we believed this for real, for real and we felt it. I remembered this tonight listening for the plow trucks and watching them pass through the intersections like they were straight out of a scary movie.
As a writer, this ability to pass over into the life and experiences of your characters is essential, no less than an actor/actress. The more you can feel, and see, smell and even hear what is happening to your character the better you are to translate that onto the page, and most importantly, to your reader. I recognized this as a strategy for writing when you feel stumped or can’t quite find the way to explain what’s happening. Go imagine it in action! Say you’re writing about a recluse, close all the window dressings, peek through the blinds, sneak out your door in the middle of the night when you think no one is watching so you can get your mail. Then if you’re writing from the perspective of the curious girl across the street, watch the action outside without being seen. Imagine yourself as this amateur sleuth; you notice their driveway hasn’t any fresh tire tracks, there’s never any other people there, they don’t talk to anyone. What are you clues? What do they lead you to believe?
DISCLAIMER! I am absolutely not telling you to spy on your neighbors or anyone else, or anything of that nature. I’m simply saying imagine.
Just as I talked about appreciating the ordinary in previous posts, this one relates in that plow trucks are really a common sight in winter, especially this winter. And it’s certainly not unusual for them to do their work at night. But if you open your mind to the possibilities that live within your imagination you will find that as Bella spoke of, there are small and ordinary treasures around us all the time that just might inspire you.
So here’s to my ominous inspiration as I readied my camera and waited for the plow trucks. I tucked myself away into a driveway on the side of the street they were plowing. I wasn’t sure how far the throw is actually thrown so I backed up a more than safe distance.
After the first pass – they didn’t go nearly as fast as I expected, after all there had been some cars parked on this street – I went over a block and waited for them to come back down. I made sure to pick a block that had no cars on it so they would, hopefully, zoom by. And they did! With the experience behind me I have some better ideas for the next time in terms of technique and positioning but I am pretty excited about this night’s project and its ominous inspirations! (When my story is complete I plan to submit it to publications! 😉 )