I've been enjoying a slower pace this summer working on revisions to book three of my Pevana cycle: Path of the Poet-king. When Kim asked me if I wanted the fifth Monday in July, I replied absolutely. Then I went for a week's vacation with my wife's extended family and had a blast. I also took a spill off a jet ski and now sport a very sore left wrist, so typing is a bit difficult.
I do have a topic of sorts, but if I ramble I'm going to blame it on the pain pills.
We have discussed in the past about where some of us find our inspiration. My editor writes in her loft and reads in her sky chair. I spend minutes to hours sipping coffee and enjoying a fifty mile view of the ridges to the south of my hill top home. Others have chimed in with their stories.
My question today is how much of what we watch, see, the places we go, people we know--how much of all that makes its way into our stories? I think this is particularly interesting given that many of us place our characters in made up worlds that often have only a superficial tie to our real world experiences.
Peter Jackson uses the vistas of New Zealand to give us Middle Earth, and even if you detest the films, the visuals remain. Karin Gastreich has written about the influence of the Costa Rican terrain on her novel Eolyn. The hills and mountains of my own home state of Washington figure hugely in the geography of my novels, and it is the dusty, rocky versions of the eastern part of the state not the tree woven, wet, cloudy heights on the west side of the Cascades.
What are some of the actual sources of some of the places you write?
As I mentioned above, I just got back from a week on a lake in the northest part of my state. I've been taking my family there for the last 10 years. Great fun. Always. But these last three years I have used my time there a little differently. I would carve out some of the quiet hours before the crowd woke up to write. I would take the computer and the guitar out on to the porch and either strum or write, most often a little of both, enjoying the quiet and the amazing view.
This last week I realized I have a thing for Lake Roosevelt rock formations. The "lake" is actually the waters of the Columbia river backed up by the Grand Coulee Dam. The dam flooded the river gorge for a hundred twenty-five miles all the way up to Canada. It is one of the great recreation areas in the northwest. But for me, the most impressive thing about the place are the cliffs and terraces that line the lake. Great basaltic columns plunge into the waters. Before the dam they were hundreds of feet high. Even now, they provide opportunities for the brave or foolhardy to cop a thrill with leaps of up to sixty feet into the water.
I've mostly outgrown the desire for jumping. My last thirty foot jump left a reminder in my back, but as I treaded water afterwards, marveling that I did not hurt worse, I realized the rock I spent the last decade leaping from possessed amazing colors, cracks and striations. I spent the next hour cheering on my younger relatives and scrutinizing the topography of the surrounding area. Reds, ochers, sandstone grey and tan, pine needle green, blue sky (absolutely no clouds. Hey, it's EASTERN Washington), and a major portion of my limited knowledge of the region's color palette revealed itself to me.
I realized all of it has shown up repeatedly in every page I have ever written about Pevana. Her red tiled roofs, the color of the stones used in Renia's temples, the shape and color of Devyn Ambrose's saved altar bowl, even the beams cadged together by the Maze poor for their homes--all of it exists as part of a hillside on the opposite side of the nearly mile wide section of the lake where my relatives own a house. Words come every time I go there, but what I find most reassuring is that many more come afterwards. Always. I think I live in one of the great physically inspiring places on the planet.
What about you?
This year, in addition to the insight mentioned above, other words came. My daughter brought her New York boyfriend with her. One of the enduring images for me of that last jump day was looking up from the boat as he climbed to the top of the rock and sat there taking in the immensity of what he had come 3000 miles to see. I think we passed all of his tests, and he passed all of ours. What you see below came from that image and some chords he strummed on my guitar later.
Took a walk up to the top of a rockTo have a word with God and stop my clock
That ticking told me I had to run
Or lose the race before I’d well begun.
But in the silence of the sky aboveI read signs that all spoke of love
And in the mysteries of trees
Growing in cracks in front of meI found clues to unlock the truth
And in the end, I found you.
Spent an hour with a lizard on my rockAs he explored something special in my sock;
Both of us just happy to be thereAnd in the moment both without a care,
Except to figure out what makes us whole
‘Cos in the world ignorance takes its toll
But in the mysteries of those trees
Growing from cracks in front of me
I found clues to unlock the truth
And in the end, I found you.
Slow downBreath Deep
Just like Frost
You have promises
You must keep.
Open your eyes
See it all
Just like heaven
Hints of perfection
Before the fall.
Took a walk up to the top of a rockRan through some riddles I had to unlock
Whispers of wisdom I’d missed as a child
On the low side of young and still wild
With potential my only saving grace
To keep from totally losing face
With the mysteries of those trees
Standing tall in front of me
That helped me find my truth
‘Cos in the end, I found you.
Slow downBreath deep
Love is the promise
I intend to keep.
So glad I took a walk to the top of my rock…