A very strange phenomenon occurred yesterday.
I walk the dog every morning; first thing. She isn’t a puppy anymore, so she doesn’t wake me at the crack of dawn. Enjoying a lie-in, she waits for me to get her up. I stretch for a few minutes, roll out, and throw on my walking clothes. I find my glasses because it is too early to try and deal with contacts, and we head out. We take three walks a day, and the first walk is the longest. The park is only a block away, and we head there first. We take the path around the outer edge; it is a small park so it doesn’t take too long to walk its circumference, so we take our time. If there is no dew on the grass, we run a zig-zag across the middle for fun. She has to stay on her lead, because otherwise a squirrel would distract her and I might never see her again.
Once we are in the park, my mind can drift. I enter the land of the story I am writing.
The story I am working on right now is partially set in an urban area. A large city urban area, so you can picture it. That is also where I live (in real life). It occurred to me that while I was comfortable living in my story’s urban place, it wasn’t as interesting, as excitingly different and new, as living in Iceland.
In this past week’s Write on Wednesday, Becca asked, “How does place figure in your writing?” Place figures big, and I was missing Iceland. I was also missing Timbuktu. Although I have never physically been to either one of these places, I have spent a great deal of time there in my manuscripts. That means I have looked at many pictures and watched videos, I have talked with people who live there or have visited there, I have read extensively about the current place, and I have also studied its history.
The strange phenomenon I mentioned was that I had this thought early Saturday morning on my walk, before I went to Alterra Café and read Becca’s prompt. (With a new job, a bit overwhelming, I am rather late with my fun writing.)
On my walk around the park, with wide-open space dotted with trees, I don’t have to worry about crossing streets, oncoming traffic, and other city considerations. I can easily drop into my story-place. So I walked around my park with the city surrounding the fringes, and in my story world, I didn’t go anywhere new. It occurred to me how lucky I am to have an imagination. How lucky I am to be able to allow my mind to live in a fantasy world when I choose, and I don’t even have to drink any laudanum to go there!
When my hard drive crashed, I lost the computer copy of “Iceland.” Fortunately, I have a copy in print that I can just retype when I get time. I also lost the computer copy of “Timbuktu” and there is no printed copy. It is gone. I could spend a large amount of money to have a super-geek retrieve it for me, but I haven’t quite justified that for myself, with all of the other monetary needs in the life of my family.
Certainly, I could read another’s story about Timbuktu, but it wouldn’t be “my place.” In Bridges of Sighs, Richard Russo said, “The loss of a place isn’t really so different from the loss of a person. Both disappear without permission, leaving the self diminished, in need of testimony and evidence.” I understood; I have that hollow, empty spot I drop into when I think about that place, that Timbuktu. My Timbuktu. The saving grace is that I can rebuild it…. when I have time.
For now I will make do with the place of my current work in progress. And I will also be thinking about where the next story should take place. Bali might be a nice place to visit….