After we missed our flight this weekend (just don’t ask, okay?), hubby and I went for a walk in another new state park. When you’ve been somewhere for just three months, new places to walk abound, and during this unseasonably chilly spring, any day as nice as Sunday deserved to be gloried in. Thus, the walk.
We followed the “orange” trail. Note here that signage in this state seems to be somewhat lacking, and information scattered and difficult to access. Thus it was that we set out (on what we much later learned was a 16+ mile loop) for a “quick hike” before dinner. After about an hour, we decided we’d better just turn around and follow the trail back to the car, since we weren’t sure how much further we had to go (and yes, I’ll admit here that hubby suggested this, and that I thought he was a wimp at the time. To quote him back at himself, “Sometimes even a blind squirrel gets a nut.” :-P)
Along the way, we’d seen tall wild rhododendrons (which still shock me, since they die en masse back in Ohio!), and blueberry bushes just flowering, and even wintergreen plants with their huge red berries. Nice, all very nice. Since I’m still not used to the acid soil here, these are cool to see in the wild. And then, we rounded the curve.
A wild lady slipper orchid, right there, alongside the path. I froze. I stared. I couldn’t find words. Endangered. Rare. So beautiful. And right in front of me! With shaking hands, reached for my phone to snap a photo. Of course, it was turned completely off, and I had to wait an eternity (a whole minute?) for it to turn on before I could access the camera and record this image.
I hadn’t been looking for this plant. Heck, we’d even passed it on the way in, and hadn’t seen it! But this beauty just reached out and bit me, forced me to notice it. And I felt lucky to see it.
Sometimes, that’s the way it is with writing — for me, at least. I chase an idea, coming closer to its meaning, drawing nearer to the beauty. I want so badly to capture that precise nuance there in my mind’s eye! Sometimes, though, I miss it. I’m so focussed on other things, I don’t see the beautiful thing I just blew right on by.
Coming back to those stories later, I can sometimes squint and see what I may have missed. Editing may help me then. Or maybe not. Maybe the old story is just too flawed, the beauty too small and obscured to benefit from unearthing. But I’ve learned from this, too. What? That my craft is improving. My craft wasn’t good enough to let me find that particular bit, but if I can look back and see that, it means I’m seeing what I missed before. Which means I’m growing, learning, improving.
Critiques and crit groups, if well-run and respectful, can help this process. So does an open mind on the writer’s part. But mostly (again, in my case, at least), the biggest aide to letting the beauty unfurl in your own work is realizing that it is a process, that it will take time, and practice. Don’t let yourself become so discouraged that you quit in disgust. You might be just a story away from some personal “eureka” moment of your own. So dig yourself in deep, keep your butt in the chair, and just keep writing. The beauty will follow, even if at its own pace.
2 thoughts on “Finding Beauty”
Great article, Mary. Time and practice really are the keys to becoming successful at nearly any craft. It’s good to remind ourselves of that when we’re just ‘not feeling it’.
Especially when we’re “not feeling it,” so that doesn’t become our new reality, and the habit of choice!
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