Thursday, July 17, 2008

Hurricane & Poetry

Just about my all-time favorite camping spot for our Casita trailer was a place called Hurricane Campground in southwestern Virginia. This is the part of Virginia where its very highest mountains are located, several of which exceed 5,000 feet in elevation. Carole and I so liked this campground not just because of the local scenery, but also because it's relatively isolated and heavily forested, and nestled between a pair of mountain streams. On a scale of one to ten for pure beauty, it's way up the scale.

Often, when I go camping, I go with the intention of getting some work done on one or more of my writing projects. However, I've found that, save for a few exceptions, I rarely write when I'm in the mountains or on the coast. The plain fact of the matter is that I generally stay busier on these vacations than I do when I'm at home.

Hurricane Campground had one of the most important qualities for us. It was quiet. Quiet to the point of almost total silence. Only the nearby brook, the wind in the leaves, the occasional call of birds, or the trill of insects broke the quiet. In fact, these sounds were part of the silence and were soothing rather than distracting. We were about as happy as a couple can possibly be while in this place. The weather was largely overcast and it did rain, but not so much that it kept us from being comfortable. In addition, we were completely prepared for everything. We had every tool that we needed, every comfort that we wish for on these trips; and precious solitude.

As the years go by, about the only real writing I do on my sojourns into the wild places is poetry. In the days before I sold the movie rights to THE FLOCK, I always carried a couple of notebooks with me in which I would jot down idea and passages that occurred to me as I sat and mused. When I got the "found" money from the movie rights, I bought a nice laptop computer. But still I write rarely on these trips. More often than not these ideas or string of words that I do produce would form into poetry. I suppose I'm not a very good poet. I've never sold a poem and only became interested in the form very late in life. But I do write them, and for whatever reason, poems are about the only type of art I create when I'm in a campground or pausing to rest along a trail.

Another great thing about Hurricane Campground was that it was so close to so many other ares of unique beauty. On that trip we drove dozens of miles of soggy Forest Service roads and found little trails that took us to rocky peaks, isolated lakes, hidden waterfalls, spectacular colors painted by Nature throughout the wilderness. Carole and I found the time to sit together and talk without interruption and to be in love without the bother of the things that so often nag at us when work tugs at our lives. We built fires, and shared the cooking, and hiked the forests, and stood on lake shores, and found parks, and watched clouds drifting across high peaks, and discovered color and silence and peace.

I just don't write all that much when I go to the wild places my wife and I adore. However, the things we discover travel home with us. And these things find their ways into my work. A line of poetry, a chapter in a book, a page of script. Hurricane Campground perhaps did not coax this material out of me at the time, but it served as a fertile base for a later day.

Hurricane Campground; silence, solitude, beauty.

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