I remember sitting in a grade school classroom. The windows were cranked open. Yes, these were the days before permanently sealed windows and air conditioned schools. As the teacher droned on, I became aware of another droning sound.
The noise became louder and nearer. The school custodian had fired up the lawnmower. As he made passes across the grass, the sound of the mower faded, then grew louder, then faded again.
The smell hit me. Cut grass. Summer, and freedom, were not far away.
Since that day, I find the smell of freshly mowed grass absolutely intoxicating. At the first whiff, my head swims with anticipation. Being an adult with a full time job and responsibilities (sigh), the anticipation is no longer of three months of unstructured time. No, it runs more along the lines of freedom from cold weather.
Freedom to go barefoot. Freedom from artificial light as the days stretch long. Sitting outdoors in the evening. Freedom from anemic grocery store produce (if my garden is thriving).
Fresh mowed grass. Flowering bushes. Suntan lotion. Backyard grills.The tarry smell of asphalt so hot it's nearly liquid. Heavily chlorinated outdoor swimming pools. Resiny pine trees aromatic in the summer heat. Trail dust and a sweating horse.
Perhaps because of the heat, summer seems to release a greater variety of odors that are normally encapsulated by cold. Smell is one of the most powerful senses, imprinting indelibly upon our memory. Authors are wise to use descriptions of odors in their work. Have you noticed any particularly great uses of smell in fiction?
“Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.” – Ray Bradbury
I am discovering the true pleasure of travel is not getting to a destination. It's not ticking off a series of tasks or tourist sights. Travel refreshes in a way difficult to explain. The anticipation and planning, being in a strange new place, then the return, and grateful collapse into your own bed. The entire process seems to hit a reset button in my brain.
My husband and I traveled to California over the weekend. We spent a day and a half in Malibu, and one day in Pasadena. The palm trees were exotic to folks used to pine, aspen, and cottonwood. Seeing and hearing the ocean is always a treat. Exposure to new foods and smells, the color of the sky, the feel of the air on my skin, were all different from Colorado.
By then end of our brief visit, we decided we need to plan an actual vacation. Travel for the sake of travel is something we both crave.
Below is a slideshow with scenes you won't see in Colorado.
Think of what? That's up to you and your imagination. I took the three photographs, so I know the context. Maybe your imagination will come up with a creative explanation for:
1) Stop sign for a cattle drive on a city street.
2) Cloud in the shape of an angel.
3) Unfortunate man?
Writers call these story prompts. I'll let you in on the secret way an author's mind works. First we brainstorm possibilities. The stories could be in any genre, and take on any tone. Funny or dark? Romantic or mystery?
Second, we follow one of those thoughts as far as it will take us. Maybe the idea travels a few lines before we get lost in a wilderness of "uh uh, this isn't gonna work." Or, the idea blooms into a short story. Maybe even a novel.
Here's one of my thoughts - an old man sees the skeleton "waitin' on a woman" in front of the gift shop, and wishes he'd been more patient with his recently deceased wife's penchant for frivolous shopping.
Seriously, this works. One fall, I had an idea pop into my head when we were on a multi-family camping trip. The kids found an abandoned hunting blind covered with a tattered blue tarp. The image percolated in my head for quite a while until it became part of a critical scene in my novel Stone Cold Case.
Give it a try! I'd love to hear what you come up with. This exercise might not inspire you to write the next War and Peace, but it could cause you to look at the world just a little differently.
I enjoyed a very traditional Independence Day holiday. My husband and I went fishing with his father and our younger daughter. On the way there, we saw herds of antelope. Then we camped two nights with our other daughter's family. My husband caught the only fish the next morning, a Kokanee salmon. We had some rain and cool temps, but enough clear sky to make for an enjoyable trip.
On the way home, we dropped by our mountain property. A deer was visiting. Everyone was delighted to see the progress. We now have a driveway making entry onto the land possible for passenger cars and RVs, not just four wheel drive trucks.
Then July 4th, we went to our neighborhood park for an informal, impromptu, and totally unprofessional fireworks display. Many city ordinances were violated. Miraculously, no one was hurt. We much prefer a small celebration to the huge crowds at city sponsored fireworks displays.
Seeing antelope and deer made me think of the song Home on the Range. This was a uniquely Western American weekend. I think the only thing we were missing was watermelon!
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