Notes of Spring in the Air

IMG_0184This morning I woke from a restless dream but once I inhaled the fresh and dewy air and heard the birdsong, I felt renewed. Memories of the dream evaporated on the wind. It’s no wonder I push my writing students to incorporate sensory detail into their stories and memoir—it is something I notice in my everyday life. Scent and sound are especially important to me and these are two of the little used senses in prose. Too often writing focuses on the visual. Sure, it paints a picture, but to give a sense of a situation, the reader needs more—and sound, scent, or taste can provide it.

I especially love spring mornings. This is the time of year in Florida when the greens are varied shades and vibrant from morning dew. The air is fresh and clean, and the winds are gentle, warm, and dry. A nest of squirrels live in the pine tree near my lanai screen and as they scurry from the branches to the trunk, the bark crackles.

IMG_0183This morning, though, the scent is less pleasant than usual. We had heavy rain showers most of the day yesterday and so my first few breaths smelled like worms. This is not entirely bad; it reminds me of where I grew up in Michigan. The wormy scent soon subsided but a lingering fishy odor wafted up from the huge pond along the golf course. Thankfully, after only a short time, the wind replaced this with the scent of rich loam, wet earth, which again reminds me of home.

Somewhere nearby, a spring-break visitor is either playing music or has his or her cellphone on speaker. The sound is faint, like murmuring, but I know it’s not a neighbor’s TV because it wavers as if this person is walking (likely around the pond).

IMG_0277I’ve lived here long enough to tell when the clink of a golf club from the 3rd tee is a solid stroke. If not, I’ll hear a clunk, thwup, or ping. If the palms and pine trees didn’t hide the tee, I might be able to connect those sounds with where the club struck the ball.

But these observations, noted as I drink a cup of dark French roast, do not merely help me wake. They prime the creative pumps. Whether I record these sounds and scents in my journal or not, they WILL make their way into my stories and personal experience pieces. Because they provide more than just the visual, they will enrich the scene. Sound and scent and taste (when that can be woven in) add depth to a scene and sometimes clues and hints about a character’s personality.

So listen to the world around you and note the details. Inhale deeply and note the scents and odors. Now draw on these details when you’re writing. Your readers will thank you.

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Summer Buzz

Yesterday was summer solstice–the longest day of the year. It was also the hottest day we’ve had. My AC ran continually and I actually adjusted the shades to limit the sunshine. (Anyone who knows me well knows I thrive in my bright, sunlit home.) The plants wilted and so did my attitude as I began calculating what was left of summer and the poor plans I’ve made to rest and recharge. It didn’t help in learning before I left campus that all the meetings and planning for fall will begin in just a few weeks. I felt as if time were running out!

So my brooding built and escalated with the heat of the day. The summer solstice concluded with heat lightning and severe thunderstorms. Again, it matched my mood until, like the denouement in a story, I took action to better balance my “life wheel” and make a few plans for R&R. That emotional storm changed the “heat” I’d been feeling.

Today is a fresh day, cleansed by the rain. Today I’m tending thirsty plants on the lanai and listening to the buzz of insects. I love this part of summer. I love the sounds, which change during midday because it becomes too hot for the squirrels to chase each other through the trees. Too hot for the usual sounds of dogs or people. Even the splashing from the pool next to my building ceases for several hours.

But I’m tuned into the sound of the summer buzz. The whir of the insects intensifies and grows slightly louder with the heat. (One of these days my curiosity will draw me into investigating exactly what/how that sound is made and by which insects. For now, though, I focus on fiction over nonfiction.) With each cycle of the whirring insects, I am transported to the scenes from my W-I-P. What sounds does my character hear now? What does she smell?

Later I’ll also visit the created worlds of two clients and ask the same questions about sensory details. Today I am focused more on sounds than on other senses because the insects have guided me to notice sounds.

All that matters now is that it’s summer, I love the heat, and story ideas are buzzing through my thoughts. This is happiness. This is one way I want to spend my time. This makes summer wonderful.