Today I found myself on an island with two hours to kill before picking up my son from summer camp. I didn’t really want to hang out at the farmer’s market, didn’t know where to find–of even if there was–a coffee shop. So, when I saw the sign pointing down a road marked “Central Island Forest,” I though, cool!
It’s insanely hot for the Puget Sound region right now, hovering around 90 degrees, so the idea of finding some nice shade to wait in was welcome. I found myself in a lovely woodland with ten miles of trails and some nice ponds to hike to. Two horse trailers were in the parking lot and about five cars. Looked good to me.
It’s been quite some time since I’ve gone walking in the woods by myself. Honestly, it’s been quite some time since I’ve been walking in the woods at all, but being alone makes it a much different experience than chatting with friends. I was looking forward to the solitude and the quiet.
It didn’t take me long to realize that I was seriously mistaken.
I was overwhelmed by the variety of sounds around me. Buzzing insects, a perpetual symphony of songbirds, crows making their loud, guttural cawing. I heard a bird that almost sounded like a human shouting. Birds and small mammals rustling in the underbrush. Somewhere on an island in a pond a creature–I’m guessing a frog–giving loud, low noises that reminded me of a resonant drum, A large bird, I think an owl, swooped out of the trees making no noise at all, which was all the more startling given the clamor of the rest of the world.
I love experiences like this. I can’t wait to write an urban character’s first experience with this sort of a place, and playing with his or her expectations compared with the reality.
Also, I was reminded that there’s something to be said for a surprise now and then. I was sitting on a rock and reading a book in the shade when I heard animals clop-clopping up the path. Having seen the horse trailers, I was fully prepared for horses to come around the bend. When what emerged instead were two people leading three laden llamas, it was completely startling–and memorable! Which demonstrated to me that tossing something unexpected (but believable!) at my readers now and again can be a good thing.
For the Clarion West Write-a-Thon, I fell below my six hour goal this week, only clocking in at about three hours. I am attending the Cascade Writers Workshop this coming week, and some of my usual writing time went toward completing the critiques I need to have done before the event. This will be my fourth year attending, and I’m looking forward to lots of learning and lots of energizing time spent in the company of other writers.