Friday, January 29, 2016

Making Tracks

Author’s Note: The writing inspiration has been as muted as the snowless southern Vermont winter. It reminds me of the common entry in 1950s autograph books: 

"Can’ think
Born dumb
Inspiration won’t come
Rotten ink
Rotten pen
Yours forever

I am heartened by the fact that a few loyal friends have asked if I have done any more writing.

I first wrote this little piece back in November but deemed it not good enough to post.

But I think I will because it is so true. And also because I re-visited a writing book that reminded me that writing begets writing. Not writing begets not writing.

Enough said.

The flame of October is past and the muted tones of November and early December are upon the hills … subtle sage frost-kissed greens and rusty oak vie with a dozen shades of grey on the forested Vermont landscape.
The conversation too has changed. The early morning coffee club at the old country store no longer talks solely about the roads and politics, but now about the winter predictors; wooly bear caterpillars, the Old Farmer’s Almanac and the height of the hornets’ nests. And it has turned to hunting -- turkey, bear and white tail deer.

“Eight-pointer feeding under the apple tree up Chunk’s Brook … hope he still hangs out there by the time I’m legal to shoot him.”

“Flock of turkeys … must be 30 of ‘em crossing Camden Valley by the pond every morning. Looks like a couple of big toms sharing that harem.”

“Surprised they’ve survived. Lots of fox tracks by that same pond”

“Gathering apples in my high orchard found a big deer yard. They gotta be well fed on all the drops.”

“Put up my tree stand and, man, did I see some big scrapings on the beech trees.”

“Bear scat near old Doc’s deserted cabin up West … been diggin’ up ground bees, too.”

Linn listened and wondered at the ability of the hunters to find the often elusive prey, to track them by their habits. How they watched for signs and soft footprints in the barely frost touched ground, distinguishing the coyote from the bobcat, the group from the individual as wild predators vied with the hunters. She marveled at the lore and the study that allowed a hunter to get to the heart of the life of these wild entities that they hunted, revered and consumed.

She heard the stories of the hunt from the grizzled old hunters as they impressed the neophytes, brandishing their orange pasteboard hunter safety cards as they stood in line at the old country store to buy their licenses, their permission to join the fraternity of hunters. Linn was a writer and she itched to record the stories told and the subtle passing of the torch from generation to generation. Her fertile imagination concocted the conversations that must have passed as the skill of tracking, observing, getting to heart of the hunt ... understanding, was shared. Yet, she knew that such understanding was beyond her. This was not her territory, her tracks to decipher or her skill to embrace.

In addition to being a writer, Linn was a reader. How ironic that she should, just as the mystery and excitement of the hunt was upon the community, chance across this quote:

“Animals, as they pass through the landscape, leave their tracks behind. Stories are the tracks we leave” -- Salman Rushdie

Linn came from a long line of storytellers. She kept snippets of her favorite stories folded in her wallet. She revisited favorite books, following the trail to a joy of words, wisdom and mystery presented and, sometimes, resolved, and to information. She hunted for the escape into a slightly alternative world just as the hunter escaped his work-a-day world for the brief respite of the hallowed woods in November.

“Ah,” she thought. “I better ‘make tracks’ and get on with writing my stories. No one has the same stories, the same track or the same scent.”  “Keep writing,” she shouted to her writer friends and to herself. 

Linn did not want them -- Eric, Paige, Phil, Mallory, Adair, Rachel, Sue, John, Ed and all the rest -- to disappear. She wanted a long adventure as she followed their tracks into the personal forests of their stories; the plots, the ideas, the interests, the intelligence, the emotion.

Nor did she want to vanish without trace.

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