Hemingway believed the best way to write about a place is to have distance from it. "Never write about a place until you are far away from it," he said, "because this is what gives you perspective." Perhaps this was part of his "Iceberg Theory" writing-style (Theory of Ommission), or maybe because inspiration didn't hit for him until he had exited a scene or environment. It is true that sometimes when immersed in a situation, particularly conducive to creating, you are really feeling and taking in all the things that are going on and you don't want to step outside yourself or take a minute to reflect, because then you could possibly miss out on that one isolated incident or rare exchange that unlocks everything else.
This method doesn't work for everyone. There are authors that want and need to be flung into the middle of an experience, so that all their senses are piqued and their minds are stimulated and responsive to whatever is taking place around them. I suppose the opposite of ommission theorists, would be the adventure writing breed. Not to continuously go back to my love and fixation with National Geographic magazine as a kid (that I would actually steal from the homes of family friends or dentist offices, because my mother told me the subscription was too expensive), one of my first experiences with adventure writing was reading articles accompanied by the images of Galen Rowell, a photographer and mountaineer who heavily focused on the Sierra Nevadas, Denali National Park, the John Muir Wildernesss, and Tibet. I fell hard for the energy and liveliness that penetrated deep crevases of being, enlightened at those high peaks, and transported me to places unlike any I have known before. And it never went away, wanting to absorb everything I can, even if it is simply just capturing three, simple characters: the storyteller in the cowboy hat and bolo tie, the retired one wearing a mesh "Elk's Club" ball cap, and the pensive one sporting 70s pornstar glasses; three friends sitting outside an antique store among the dinged up dressers and side tables they hawk from the sidewalk, never leaving their aluminum chairs (today's observation).
Last year I took a workshop with Craig Childs, on being able to write anywhere, and when I say anywhere: it isn't uncommon to find him working in places either on the cusp of mortal danger, taboo to the yokels, or perfectly obscure. A spectacle and specimen in a genus of his own, his frantic yet disciplined writing on location, reminds me of the same drive of a young, idiot savant who hears music wherever they go and must in turn, orchestrate and harmonize. The lessons I took away from this master of spontaneous word, was if I wanted to truly know "what its like", then to seek out what its like; to become entranced by it, feel it on my skin and smell it in my nose, see it with my own dilated pupils and feel it with the adrenaline of a pounding heart.
At 4:30 this morning, I needed to know the quiet hour of dawn; just before the eastern horizon becomes possessed by light, and the wild things begin to stir. Working on a character who wakes to catch the deer awake, I just had to find out what this meant to a person and how I could make it even more believable. Here is what I found:
For the birds, I mean.
They begin at the hour of blue:
little ones first, chirping like crickets,
then the hollow echo, the night guardian,
the coo of morning doves.
The trees come alive,
with silhouettes in their leaves,
like light-box cameos,
from early school years.
Tubes of color: ambrosia & peach,
spackled and smeared
They will come for the seeds,
scattered across this porch,
and amongst my begonias.
If I keep the quilts wrapped close,
maybe they won't notice me here.