Micro and Macro Moments

I tend to go through phases where a thought or idea settles upon me like a fine mist; light yet with a perceptible weight. A recent thought has been about the small moments or phrases in writing that can represent much more than a handful of words otherwise might.It is the challenge of reflecting something much bigger in a concise manner.

The example I had in mind came from a short story that I wrote a few years back. It is the story of a man who is down on his luck due to either behaving badly, or spinning enough of a yarn to give the impression that something inappropriate had happened. A line towards the end reads: ‘He could smell her skin, the coarse soap scent of her.’ Reading this line years after writing it, I can still conjure up the image of a woman on an isolated property, surrounded by too much space and sheep and loneliness until the swarm of shearers arrive.

In all likelihood this line has resonance only for me, but it comes at a time when I am interested in detail. Today I went along to a photography exhibit at the Blue Mountains Heritage Centre at Blackheath. It was called Moments in Nature (from the Macro to the Majestic) and it featured the work of three local photographers: Jenny Gill, Sue Wildman and Shelley Oliver. The photos included a wide array of exquisite, close-up shots of insects, plants and a stunning spider web after a storm, as well as magnificent sunsets and sunrises, locally and further afield. Highlights included ‘Taking a Break’ featuring five zebra finches on a branch by Sue Wildman and ‘Held Safe’ by Shelley Oliver, which captured the image of a stone Buddha’s head entwined within the roots of a tree. Jenny Gill’s macro images of star fish fungi and the cavity of a sea urchin provided a different perspective.

It reminded me that there are benefits in both approaches; the broad, overarching perspective as well as the very small, detailed viewpoint. To rebalance myself I headed to the end of the road and lost myself for a while in the wonder of the Govett’s Leap lookout.

Govett's Leap, Blackheath

Govett’s Leap, Blackheath

What do you do to regain a sense of perspective in your creative life?

[Photo: insect up close, spotted in Sydney]

A Meditative Year in the Mountains

Recently I notched up 365 continuous days of meditation. I had meditated before, usually over shorter bursts of time when there was something going on in my life that required me to step aside and find a small pocket of time to help create a calm space for my mind. But in the past year I have managed to incorporate meditation as a part of my daily routine.

Mornings are usually the best time of day for me to meditate, before the demands, noises and challenges of the day are too clearly defined. It wouldn’t be true to say it is a time of complete tranquility as the mind is always at work on something. In my experience it is better to accept that thoughts will come along, invited or otherwise, and that it is easier to note or acknowledge them before returning the focus to the breath. Meditation is a small part of the day’s entirety and thoughts will reappear later if required.

As a creature of habit I tend to meditate in a couple of regular locations. When the weather permits, there is a seat under a leafy tree in my garden that is a favourite spot. There is something wonderful about opening my eyes after meditating and looking at up the sky through a green canopy that enhances the experience.

In times of upheaval, it has been helpful to meditate just before sleep, to slow down the busy mind and to bring focus back to the simplicity of breathing in, breathing out.

The benefits are many, both large and small. Knowing that a simple exercise can help to recalibrate my mind, creating a sense of clam regardless of chaos, is a comfort beyond words.

Do you have meditative moments in your day?

[Photo: lavender in bloom]

Scratchings from a writing notebook

I have managed to fill one of my writing notebooks. Well, all except for a few spare lines here and there. I have another book ready to go, but I’m still a bit reluctant to leave this one behind. It has travelled with me for the best part of a year, ready to capture stray thoughts and story ideas and the random bits that have been gathered along the way.

As I flick through the pages, I can see my initial thoughts around starting a blog and snippets stuck in from articles in the local paper that caught my eye. This includes a small poem published in an attempt to reconnect with a fleeting encounter:

The Station Bar across the space, a Sunday night’s caprice of fate, a laugh a dance a kiss would seal, my blighted sleep the feelings real. Explorers falls your lift to home, my spirits sag no name no phone, Monday morning Mudgee calls, my perfidy its just reward. If status quo be mine to keep, your eyes your smile your touch of cheek, forever lost and never found, the universe its secret sound.

Did they ever reconnect? Did he/she read the poem tucked into the personal notices and reply? I’d really like to know.

There are notes from books and articles that I’ve read whilst writing blogs with historical elements. There are random titles for story or blog ideas, some ticked off as I’ve written them. Others remain, ready to prompt me in the future. The pages are dotted with words that I have come across and need to look up, as well as questions to myself such as ‘what is pig iron?’  It’s the crude iron formed from a smelting furnace, shaped into rectangle blocks. Old photos of the Blasting Furnace at Lithgow had scores of the blocks.

Song titles feature quite a bit, as do snippets of lyrics. One favourite is ‘I started out with nothin’, I’ve still got most of it left’ by Seasick Steve. It made me laugh out loud when I heard it one night on the local radio station segment called Random Groove.

Instructions are also littered throughout, reminding me to take care of certain writing matters. There are prompts that I’ve read in different places, as well as snippets of conversation that I’ve heard whilst eavesdropping. This may not seem like much but these glimmers often reemerge in short stories or longer pieces. There are also pages when I’ve written an idea out, sketching the rough format for a piece with imagery that is vivid at the time, but may be lost if not recorded somewhere.

Short stories are there, in their entirety or sometimes just the beginning, or some other part if I’m wrestling with wording and need to slow the writing process down. There are sticky notes and dot points. Lots of dot points.

I was thinking of moving the unfinished or incomplete bits over to my new book but I think it would be best to leave it as is, and return to the old book for inspiration when I need it.

How do you keep track of ideas that you gather along the way?

[Photo of one of the many wonderful miniature paintings in the Secret Lane in Lithgow]

Taking Note

Lately I’ve been thinking about ways to keep track of the tendrils of thoughts and ideas that come to the surface when I’m trying to do something else. These snippets seem to arise alongside, despite of and as a consequence of what I am writing, reading and listening to at the time.

Not all of these are recorded and rightly so. They are tenuous at best when I look over them at a later date, and sometimes I wonder what I was thinking when the need to record the essence of whatever it was took hold. These days we are subject to an increasing tide of information and stimulation. It can sometimes feel like grabbing handfuls of sand whilst being tossed on a thundering incoming wave. Recording snippets helps me to feel a modicum of control, as well as providing prompts and ideas for future writing.

I wish I could write that I have perfected the art of keeping track of these moments, but that would be a fib. I scribble bits and pieces in an A5 lined notebook. The pages include motley collections of lists including things I want to do when I have time (optimist!), musicians that I’ve heard and want to explore further, the name of a subject matter expert that a friend mentioned, a word that I hadn’t come across before (senescence, if you must know) and other miscellany.

Other pages contain prose relating to a short story where I was working on an ending, and some paragraphs where I was playing with a character’s viewpoint. There are to-do items along with song titles or lyric lines that have captured my attention for future use as writing prompts or just because I like them. There are a myriad of apps that also help with capturing the flotsam and jetsam. I like to use Evernote because I can group thoughts and images and links into journals, but I’m sure there are lots of other options out there.

This consideration of the compulsion to take notes was inspired by an article written by Joan Didion called ‘On Keeping a Notebook’. I’m quite sure this was referred to by Annabel Crabb or Leigh Sales in one of the early Chat 10, Looks 3 podcasts. There is a link to the article here. I found it encouraging to read that someone else feels the need capture these moments, such as they are. Didion writes about the necessity to record things, the mix of truth and fiction, the snatches of conversation, the need to capture how something felt.

How do you keep track of the flotsam and jetsam in your life?

[Photo: View from Mt Tomah Botanical Gardens]