What My Mind Gets Up To When I’m Busy

Recently I’ve been going through a period when it seems like work and other hefty matters have been dominating my time. This used to generate a restless sense of frustrated creativity, but this time it isn’t the case. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that whilst my mind has been occupied with logical matters, my senses have continued to gather stimuli, with and without my mind’s conscious engagement.

Here are some of the ways in which my senses have been working overtime lately.

Sight

  • Marvelling at the unfolding of spring in the mountains. So many beautiful blooms to enjoy as daylight minutes start to flex and stretch with the promise of longer days to follow.

Taste

  • The crisp tang of melons, pineapple and other fruits of the warmer months beginning to appear in fresh food stores.

Hear

  • Bright and buoyant bird calls, a welcome soundtrack to morning walks and a fitting way to mark the passing of another day.

Touch

  • This time of year I find it impossible not to potter about in the garden, even if I’m mainly picking up sticks and bark that has been scattered about by the August winds. There is something so elemental about having time in the garden.

Smell

  • It is hard to go past any tree or shrub in blossom as spring approaches. A particular delight is the heady fragrance of blooming trees of a night – their scent is all the more surprising and seems somehow stronger then.

Is your mind busy absorbing the world around you, even while you are caught up with other matters?

[Photo: spring blossoms]

 

 

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Writing Prompt: A Familiar Scent

At a recent writing group gathering, we wrote to a prompt of ‘A Familiar Scent’. A few of the pieces have been posted on Writers in The Mist – you can find them here. Below is my contribution.

There was a familiar scent in the air. Annie paused, momentarily struck. It was the soft, sweet scent of freesias, a fragrance of her grandmother’s garden on a warm spring day and not something that she expected to smell in hospital in the depths of winter. She cast a look around the room but there was just one other woman resting opposite her. She was snoring softly and hadn’t woken when Annie had been wheeled into the corner.

Annie leaned forward, thinking that perhaps it was just a floral scent being worn by one of the nursing staff. But there was no-one in sight and all that she could smell now was the brazen note of antiseptic, strong enough to singe nasal hair and cover most of the bodily odours in the ward. She sighed and closed her eyes. It might have been the effect of the medication or a delayed impact of the anaesthetic but as she closed her eyes, suddenly drowsy, she could smell it again.

Annie let her mind wander back to when life was simple and relatively pain-free, when her school holidays were spent at her grandparents’ house and days passed by playing in the wonderland that was their garden.

The freesias were planted in a neat row along the driveway, forming a fragrant guard of honour along the entrance. There were several garden beds at the front and back of the property, and Annie could picture the native trees marching along one fence line, bristling with banksia men and their fierce brown faces. The front garden was encircled by camellias, their blooms both large and small providing a colourful carpet of petals as the seasons changed. A large macadamia tree stood sentry over the driveway, its barbed leaves protecting the tough nuts. Bright bottle brushes and grevilleas tempted the birds, honeyeaters dancing swiftly about when the shrubs were in bloom.

The steep back garden had been terraced in part to grow vegetables. Crisp beans grew against the back fence, sharing a space with colourful sweet peas in spring. Parsley grew in pots, and Annie had loved to pluck and lightly crush the curling herb between her fingers. Large cabbages grew in winter, their dark green and purple leaves encasing the heavy hearts of the vegetables. The cumquat tree had enchanted her; the zesty skin of the carefully harvested small fruit later transformed into jam. A gum tree towered high above the clothes line, a favourite podium for the magpies to sing their beautiful songs.

Annie walked herself around the garden again, taking slow steps to enjoy the multicoloured freesia blooms, almost too heavy for their stems. She walked over to the camellias, marvelling at the marbling of pinks and whites and reds on the petals, such a contrast to the glossy emerald leaves. She reached out and felt once more the soft and comforting warmth of her grandmother’s hands as the scent of freesias surrounded her.

Senses working overtime*

Lately I’ve been catching up on some writing related podcasts. This has included a binge-like session of the ‘Your Creative Life’ podcasts with Vanessa Carnevale. The format of this podcast has recently changed with the addition of a co-host, Kimberley Foster. This has allowed for an expansion of the format with the podcasts now starting off with a chat between Vanessa and Kim, talking about the writing process amongst other things.

Recently they compared notes on influential writing books that they’ve read. My ears pricked up, not least of all because a book I’d recently picked up but hadn’t started reading was mentioned. It is Writing from the Senses by Laura Deutsch.

The title appealed to me as it is a frequent encouragement to write where possible using all of the senses. Sight is the most obvious sense used, but a greater depth can be added to your writing by engaging all of the senses. The book is divided into sections which provide outlines and examples of how to use the various senses in your writing. The examples are a mixture of excerpts from the author’s own writing and samples from work completed by students in her writing classes. These provide a wide range of writing styles and some really interesting ways in which to include senses in your written work. The examples are vibrant and engaging, and there are exercises to try at the end of each chapter.

While I am still making my way through the book, I found myself feeling hyper-alert to all things sensory after reading it. I have been travelling lately, seeing towns and cities that were new to me, and whilst this would in itself create a heightened sense of awareness, reading Deutsch’s book has really encouraged me to take the time to write these details down, the snippets which capture the essence of what I am seeing, hearing, tasting, feeling and smelling around me. Apart from hopefully improving my writing, this has also helped me feel more engaged in the world around me.

How do you get your writing senses working overtime?

* Taken from Senses Working Overtime by XTC

[Photo: Horizon in sight from Mt Tomah Botanical Gardens]