Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Soapstone - 5 JAN 2010

Each morning that I've been here, at Soapstone, I've begun the day with making coffee, building a fire, and doing an exercise from Ursula K. LeGuin's "Steering the Craft." Her book is a good, solid look at some of the fundamental building blocks of writing, filled with examples from classic literature. It's a nice way to start my days here.

It's doubly and tripley nice because Ms. LeGuin is an Oregon writer (currently living in Portland), and was the founding president of Soapstone. She is one of the wonderful foremothers I have to thank for this lovely two weeks in the woods, writing.

Today's exercise was entitled "Short & Long" -- and it was about using sentences both short and long in your work, and the effect of each, and how sometimes rambling is the very best thing (with optional detours on what she hates about Hemingway and likes about Jane Austen). Here are my exercises. The first paragraph uses only sentences seven words long or less. The second paragraph is one long sentence.
I saw the deer again this morning. She was feeding by the river. She was in the same spot. Is she a fawn? She is small. She has narrow, graceful limbs. I can't help but look for her. She has my attention now. She is the river to me. She is this place in the woods.

The deer was back again this morning; I saw her when I was starting up the fire, grazing by the river in that same spot she was in yesterday, in the underbrush, near the low path, and I almost forgot about the fire, I almost let the fire go out again for looking, even though my feet were growing cold; it's cold in the morning, here, and I remember when I was small, lying in bed and listening to my father get up half an hour before the rest of us to start a fire in the stove; I'd lie there under the covers, huddled, cuddled under the covers, my nose under the covers, listening to him move about the house, up and rising at the bell, down the stairs, open the vent, out to the garage for kindling and small wood, then back, and the hollow metal sound of that small door opening, the shuffle of paper and wood going in, the crackle of a morning fire, light and heat aborning, and I didn't have to get up yet, not just yet...

I wrote through most of the afternoon; at three, A. and I went for another walk in the woods. We were back on the logging trail again, though we took another route today, right instead of left. It was flatter, so I puffed less, and there weren't the views. But we saw plenty. We saw little brown newts with soft, orange bellies (Taricha torosa torosa -- the coast range newt), and let them crawl on our hands. We saw Thing 1 and Thing 2, dilapidated and decorated with suggestive beer bottles, marking human trails up through the underbrush. We saw a holly tree, and a particularly dark bit of forest, and two ponds. It was a very wet walk -- raining a little when we left, and a lot by the time we got back. But we are hardy women. We didn't let a little rain stop us.

I did some more writing when we returned, then made supper. Now I'm sitting by the fire, drinking a beer and listening to Bruce Springsteen sing softly to me from my laptop. Another good day.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i find thing 1 disturbing.