Reflections from the Swamp
Coming up with writing topics isn’t always easy. Sometimes the blank page looks like a snow-covered field.
Going for walks in the snow is a welcome change from sitting in front of a computer. There is something about the snow, the fresh air, and the absence of responsibilities that is conducive to random thoughts and the flow of ideas. When I don’t try to think of ideas, my mind floats like snow, randomly catching whatever naturally emerges.
Most of my thoughts while walking in the snow don’t seem worth writing. Some of the ideas develop progressively and form stories. The trick is remembering the writable streams of thoughts when I get home. Often, I return home basking in visions of pure genius, only to forget what these pearls of wisdom were.
Most of us continually write subconsciously in our thoughts and dreams.
Here are a few of my thoughts that occurred during a walk during a recent snowstorm.
Walking by the culvert reminded me of the constant battles with the beavers who are fanatically determined to plug my driveway. Usually, we take a reprieve in late November when the pond freezes over, we wave goodbye to each other, retire to our warm homes, and wait until July or August to resume our “Battle of the Sticks.” Due to global warming, the pond didn’t freeze until December 12th this year. This delayed freezing meant I had to drag my arthritic body into the ice-cold water to pull out the sticks and grass plugging up the culvert well into December. I’m getting too old for this perennial battle. Now I’ll have to dig the debris I’ve collected from the pipes out of the snowbank before I hit the branches with the snowplow.
While following the results from various climate conferences, I have never heard about the effects of global warming on the length of time culvert owners have to devote to maintaining water flow in streams. Should I let Gretta Ginsburg know about this? Should I get a tax deduction for saving costs on road maintenance due to flooding? Should I change my nature-loving philosophy and start shooting the damn beavers? Yes, there may be a story in this somewhere. Due to short-term memory loss, I brought a beaver stick home to remind myself about developing this into a story. I saw the twig on the deck this morning and wondered why it was there.
While walking out in the snow, I thought about all the swearing I heard outside a high school while waiting to pick up a kid. While in conversation, three boys managed to use the “F” word in almost every sentence. The boys used the “F” word to describe how “F’ing” big something was, how “F’ing” good something was, and how “F’ing” stupid something was. Back in the day, we’d use the “F” word very occasionally when we banged the wrong nail with a hammer or dropped a rock on our foot. It makes me wonder what these boys would say if they dropped a stone on their feet. They would have to develop a word more powerful than the “F” word. At a fictional swearword world conference, I would introduce some of the Dutch words my mother taught me during times of crisis. Clearly, the “F” word doesn’t have the clout it used to have.
Still walking in the snow, I thought of my mother and her sparse use of swear words. She didn’t use the Lord’s name in vain. She had a comprehensive collection of words that sounded like swear words but were spelled differently or used as harmless substitutes.
Instead of saying “Good God”(Goed God), my mother would say “Good People”(Goed Mensen). Instead of saying ”God Dam” (Godverdamme), she’d say Pot verdamme, which means a dammed pot. If she got mad, she’d say Pot verdickama dory, which I think is crazy pot. It also might be a specialized boat used for fishing in Newfoundland.
I pictured myself inviting the three boys I saw standing outside the high school to the world council for new and sparsely used swear words for dire situations only. I would monitor their schoolyard conversations listening for the “Goed Mensen” and Pot verdammes adjectives used in general speech. Then I’d drop a heavy rock on their toes and wait for the appropriate and sparing use of the “F” word. Pot verdickama dory! This expression has all the gravitas of a solemnly used swear word but is acceptable in polite company. A few people would never use the “F” word.
Going for walks in the snow may be the most creative part of your day. Many of you have dogs which require exercise, as we all do. Dogs wander around smelling everything and are full of thoughts we can only imagine. Some suggest that dogs cans see lines of colour representing trails left by other animals. Who knows? Some dog owners might know their pets so well that they could write a piece from a dog’s perspective about going for a walk in a scented world.
The next time you go for a walk and think of something brilliant to write about, jot it down, or put a snowball in your pocket to remind you to write about it later. It’s genuinely fantastic what our minds see when we walk in the snow. The snow on the blank pages of your walk is waiting for your footprints to compose your story.