I often write to prompts from various books that encourage daily writing. (Love Natalie G.) I usually scribble them in a book but it occurs to me that this blog was created for writing and so if I do not ever put my writing here… well. So here I responded to a prompt that asked me to jot down words describing the landscape around me. My word list:
sparse, scrubby, bold, pre-historic, morphing, rusty, reaching (for color, for heaven, for permanence, for a solid grip on Earth’s crust), gray, solitary, punctuated, lacy, transient, changeable, dusky, quiet, secret, broken, rigid, bound, crackling, cold, crystalline, sage, brilliant, cycle, wise
The prompt was to use this quickly generated list (whatever comes to mind and fast) to then generate a sense of place and, thence, into a story. My first piece… Later, I will try for a story.
Before I came to this place the mountains were one image to me – dull pewter silhouettes piercing the horizon. Peaks stacked in a backdrop, marching against murky gray sky canopies or brilliantly bright expanses of blue. Caps of white scattered over a multitude of monoliths proceeding as far as my view reached, marking the permanent backbone of a continent. That image is visible from as far as the Kansas border. Over there. Mountains – over there.
Now I sleep each night in the arms of those mountains. I walk in the rusty bowels of them. I gaze on sage slopes and pry into their secret spaces. Every day, every hour, the land morphs. Colors are bold and broken, soft and subtle. Aspen limbs glitter with crystals of snow or summer light. Their leaves are iced lime, dripping with melted ice-lace, turning to deeper greens, and then to honey. Their limbs shed color to fade into the same colorless taupe of the hills, waiting for snow. Vast expanses of belly-high grasses lay down beneath blinding white that grows blue and glossy in the spring, like whipped meringue spread broadly across hills and valleys. A week of spring sunshine bares the land. Grass explodes from every pore as if this might be Ireland. It makes me wonder at the capacity of life to linger under ice. Grass, fish, rabbits and beetles. Everywhere birds. Winter puts a hold on visible life but every living thing unfolds and rises as the grip of cold releases it.
These mountains that seem so solid, so permanent, are really alive, moving, morphing in an eternal cycle. Every moment a spruce is gaining a fraction of an inch. Every granite scarp is losing a layer of its face and every peak, a minute measure of its height. The ice on our lake dissolves into ripples of steel blue. Dragonflies appear from nowhere. I am constantly aware of the moments of my life, draining away. Yet the grand scale of the mountains seems to expand the girth of my wisdom. The fabric of my love patterns itself after the mountains – an endless cycle of loss and rebirth, change and predictable permanence.