I went to California for a few days with hubby for work. Not writing work. Survival work.
Life needs to settle down a little, but my schedule seems full for months ahead now. I wish I had more time for writing. I get frustrated about how little time I actually can spare.
On the ride I snapped a few pix of the scenery. I’m always amazed at how entire mountainsides or significant portions can appear dark according to the lighting. They have a damp look although they are actually where the sun is partially blocked. Sometimes they are shadows. They make me feel moody.
While our mountains are kind of small and unadorned–and not beautiful like the Rockies or the Blue Ridge–they are the most interesting landscape around.
When I glanced at my photos I realized that even this mundane view is fuel for my writing and that if I remain aware and observant I am always writing. When a poem seems to write itself it’s because I’ve done my homework by absorbing what’s around me and meditating on it.
For now, I’m curious: how would you describe the mood of this photo?
75 responses to “What Counts as Writing”
Luanne, you make a really good point about remaining observant and aware. I can’t quite decide on the mood. I think I was influenced by you saying the view was mundane. The view may be mundane, but I’m struck by the clouds, and the shadow (?) against the side of the mountain that looks like some ancient bird god to me. (I know there’s some ancient image I’m thinking of, but I’m not sure of what it is.) 🙂
I want to do your Rorschach test!! Ancient bird god! I love it. Merril, thank you for that!
I’m afraid of what a Rorschach test might reveal. Lack of imagination doesn’t seem to be a problem. 😉
Beautiful mountains and excellent thoughts on being open to what you see. What I see in this photo is dimensional, like an architect’s drawing. The evergreens and plants near the base of the hills are dear, just as the trees on Eastern foothills are dear.
I see the architect’s drawing, too. You could translate this to a white and black image and it would be just as interesting. What do you mean they are dear?
From a distance they look small and fluffy, like dear little plants.
I see a sunny sparse landscape very rich in muted colors!
OK, if this is a psychology test, I think you are Ms. Sunny Optimism. the sun’ll come out TOMORROW! And in a twist, Kate, you have proven to me that I am less optimistic than I previously thought. Ugh.
Now you know how I ended up with those powder room walls.
This one evokes the changing season to me – something about the density of light across the shadows. Of course, Colorado is always a study in clouds, sun and how they move across our terrain so I’m well-tuned to what your photos represent, and moods swing accordingly.
Funny you say that, Sammy, because I am always thinking of how difficult the shadows and lighting are in Arizona. So difficult for photographers unless they REALLY know what they are doing. If you want outdoor portraits and wedding shots you have to take them at precisely 3:56 PM, for example. (Not that much of an exaggeration!) I can see why it’s attracted some artists, but to me it’s an exercise in frustration.
I find the same here vis-a-vis photography. I LOVE our bright sunshine but without expensive equipment (not getting that) the sunlight is almost always too bright for decent photos from a perspective of capturing or highlighting details. They are either washed out in brightness or lost in the shadows. It’s too late this year because we now go from night to day without dawn or dusk, but next spring & summer I’ll make a point of venturing out much earlier in the day for photo purposes.
The photo evokes my curiosity – sights, sounds, smells, wildlife? I firmly believe that everything is research for writing, even when we are not conscious of what sticks.
I think you are right about research for writing. It’s all fair game, right?! You are really good at conjuring up stuff out of this pic because I can’t think of wildlife at all. I like the Delaware Water Gap and can imagine lots of wildlife there ;). But once I start thinking about wildlife all I think of are snakes and scorpions!
As a Californian myself, I have to say I never tire of the landscape. I drove up to Lake Tahoe the other day and almost had to sit down and write a novel on the spot! Something about the depth of landscapes, the motion, the colors, how they engage the senses.
That’s a gorgeous photo, by the way…
Kevin, thanks. You never know what the iPhone will do when it’s pointed out the car window! Well, Lake Tahoe! Northern Cali has the best landscapes, that is for sure. I love what you say about almost writing a novel on the spot. That is an image I can’t get out of my head.
That’s a beautiful photo, Luanne, it makes me feel lonesome.
Thanks, Jill. I think that is one emotion that I feel from the photo, too.
I’m like you, Luanne. Those shadows arouse a deep melancholy in me. When clouds rush over a landscape–even if the blue skies appear–there’s something that reminds me of passing time and fleeting life. I almost can’t look up on days like that (especially if it’s between 3 and 5 o’clock).
I haven’t been able to write much lately either and while I try to keep in mind that absorbing and living in the real world is necessary sometimes I get frustrated too. 🙂
Well, at least you know why you feel that way from landscapes like this! In Arizona the light is always racing over the landscape making changes and I find it very disturbing. I need to write back to you. Did you send me something?
Yes, I did. Did you receive it?
Serene, but lonely. Funny how they parallel each other, huh?
That’s pretty thought-provoking. In order to have serenity we have to be alone?
I’d describe it as ‘hopeful.’ The sun lighting up one of the mountains shows us there’s more to come. 🙂
That is the most optimistic thing I’ve ever heard, I believe. Hopeful! I feel as if I’m left dangling, not knowing how bad it will get LOL!
To me the mood of the photo is ‘subdued and thoughtful.’
Jean, that is also pretty optimistic. Subdued, yes. Thoughtful is a positive take on it. I suppose so, though–see Jennifer below with “pensive.”
I see it as positive, be it thoughtful or pensive. Both can be peaceful and I see calm in it.
Yes, it is pretty peaceful. I will try to focus on that!
Pensive. But maybe that’s my mood right now, not the photo’s. 😉
Me too–great word for the landscape. What are those hills thinking about?
Somehow I find that even scarier than just the melancholy!
And how do we know when the mood is coming from us and when it’s coming from the environment???
I just love your train of thought here. Yes, always writing. Thinking in words, defining, comparing. Wonderful.
This image makes me sad, because it’s not a landscape I admire. It’s a beautiful shot, but my own preference makes me want over the mountain to be wooded, completely verdant, grassy and cool.
Sad is pretty basic. I can see that. I also like what you like. I am thinking that I can’t ever really get used to these landscapes.
It’s unfortunate that you don’t love your landscapes. I hated southeastern Georgia’s landscapes, too. Any chance you’ll move?
If sad is too basic, desperation will do.
I can see that amazing bird-shadow as well, Luanne. The photo makes me feel like I want to wander, so I guess for me the feeling would be ‘intrigue’ 😉
I am so curious where you and Merril are seeing this bird! It makes me want to wander, too–away from the desert!! haha
It’s on the light coloured mountain and it’s huge. It looks like wings and the head is turned sideways (or maybe I’m just nuts) lol 😀
So true. Far too many people pass through life without having noticed much about their surroundings.
Oh, that is so so true–and so unfortunate. I am appalled by the things that people don’t notice. And I never really considered myself a good observer. As I get older I am either getting better or I am noticing how bad so many are at observations.
We’re trying to cram in as much of the good parts of life as we can in the time we have left. At least we’ve started. Some never do.
What a beautiful photo. It makes me wonder what’s hiding in the shadows!
Mary Ann, uh oh! Would that be snakes? Spiders? Scorpions? hah! I hope it’s something more magical than those!
I’d call it “Seeking Sunshine” – my eye saw the shadow first and instinctively moved up to the light. A life metaphor!
Good capture of your process, Shel! The title cracks me up, but I think how you noted exactly how you put your spin on it is really fabulous. Yes, a life metaphor!!
That’s a good one!
I like to apply Hemingway’s observation about the tendency of confusing movement with action to writing … Taking a day off can be good for one’s writing
“Never confuse movement with action.” Enrique, thanks for reminding me of this quote. It can be applied to writing and to life in general. Good one!
Very zen-like and almost hypnotic…it reminds me of staring out at the ocean.
Zen-like yes because it almost looks like a zen garden! I wonder why hypnotic. Is it the way your gaze gets pulled back through layers to the sky? Or something else?
I think it’s because the hills look like waves in the ocean…
And the raked sand in a zen garden!
I love this photograph, Luanne. And yes, I do believe the mundane and ordinary is also source for our writing. The requirement? That we actively pay attention.
I’d describe what you captured as meditative.
Meditative is a good one. It almost requires meditation!
If we can’t observe and appreciate the mundane and everyday then how can we possibly handle the beautiful?
I would describe it as silent power. I find this very inspiring: When a poem seems to write itself it’s because I’ve done my homework by absorbing what’s around me and meditating on it.
Carol, I love that you found that inspiring. Do you think that’s true with prose, too? I’m not yet sure. But it might be. After all, don’t some writers work a lot out in their minds before they start to put it on paper?
I’m sure it’s also true of prose and when I said it was inspiring for me I thought of applying it to my own prose writing. 🙂
I see the landscape as slumbering – its dreams to be revealed in time.
What a poetic “reading” of the photo, Viv. Beautiful!
Solitude and pure wilderness my happy place Luanne.
Kath, you are a true devotee of solitude. As Jill above says, this is kind of a lonely view, but for someone who truly understands solitude I guess it would be your happy place. This to me isn’t wilderness because I always feel too close to the sun without all the trees of a woods, but i think you have a lot of company in your view.
The photo says home to me — I grew up near hills like these. The moving colors beneath the clouds are beautiful. Thanks for posting.
I do think this photo turned out pretty well considering it was an iPhone aimed out the window. I like the layers of color and textures and how they are all angled the same way and then topped off with the beautiful sky and clouds. I’m not sure I’m ever going to get used to this type of landscape though. I’ve lived around it for 25 years now and it still doesn’t feel like home. Funny how some of us respond to landscapes we grew up with!
A little melancholy, but with a change coming! Writing is in the head as well as on the page, so you’re always writing!
I hope I’m not just telling myself that and that you’re just agreeing to make me feel good ;). It does make sense to me though.
I see the bird shadow on the sunny hill, wings out spread. I like that several people mention contrast between light and shadows, Luanne. If we don’t have the gray and dismal days how can we appreciate that hill full of light and gorgeous blue skies. When I think of the sparse green grass, I picture the Native Americans figuring out how to grow something from seeds. Their using the fruit of the cacti and the sifting dirt as ways to create pottery, mixing and using the sun to bake them. Hmmm. . . Are there any real birds other than the cloud which must cast the bird shadow onto the ground? 🙂 Hope you and your husband enjoyed your time away and also found somewhere to relax and unwind, Luanne.♡
Robin, we go to California to work, so no relaxing going on, unfortunately, I love how you starting thinking about all this stuff just from the photo! You have a wonderful and also practical imagination, if that makes any sense. There are real birds, but what casts a shadow would mainly be birds of prey–and we have a lot of those!!! Near our house we have songbirds, even cardinals and finchs. And roadrunners.
This is the kind of view that fills my heart with a reminder of the longing for home, of a homesickness that coloured my everyday when I lived in California, even though, having lived there for so long and raised my children there, I had a different kind of home there and one which pulls at my heartstrings there too. Fascinating what you write about observing and absorbing all that is around you and how that feeds your poetry. Time likes these lend themselves to perfectly to that deeper expression. I find that writing ‘to’ the photograph so often enables the poem to write itself as it brings those senses into sharp focus. Beautiful photo. I hope your time in California was a good one and you get some writing time inbetween survival work xoxo
No writing time lately, so I’m glad I took the time for the 30/30 poetry last month! Wonderful point about writing to the photograph. That is a good way to imagine the process. When you are homesick for California do you envision this kind of landscape or a beach landscape? Or pumpkins LOL?
You did so great with your poems Luanne, I ‘followed’ your progress over on FB as much as could when I saw your posts. I’m amazed at how you did it and I knew you would. Hmmm…now that’s a good question about CA. I would have to say all three…and more…and yes, also the Christmas Tree lots, but no reindeer LOL 😀
Strange isn’t it? At first glance I thought … pretty uninteresting landscape. But then the bird was mentioned. I went back for a look and it’s there, clear as day! And it transforms the mood to something far more hopeful 🙂
I still can’t find it!! Maybe if I could just see it I wouldn’t feel so unsettled in this landscape. The sky is pretty, though, so there is that!
It’s hang gliding there with it’s wings spread over the mountain. 🙂