Sunday, April 19, 2009

Writing and hiking in the Pogonip (updated.)

The Santa Cruz Sentinel ran an article about our recent writing/hiking adventure in the spectacular Pogonip -- an open-space area where nature is asserting itself after years of mistreatment. (These days, flourishing redwoods are kicking down the same lime kilns that burned through most of the old-growth timber in the area.) It was great to hear from so many talented people who described themselves as "non-writers'' but read breathtaking descriptions of the natural world. It was even more impressive when you think about the fact that they wrote these observations right on the spot while walking through the forest and the meadow. We didn't see any banana slugs or coyotes --or mountain lions -- but we crossed streams, meandered through ferns, climbed a hill, enjoyed ocean views and had a peaceful picnic near the old building where they filmed the climactic vampire battle in "The Lost Boys.''

Also: during the talk, I asked the writers to avoid using the word "magnificent'' in their nature descriptions. "Instead, try to choose evocative and descriptive words that will make the reader see that it is magnificent.'' And then, after offering up that rule, I proceeded to use the word "magnificent'' again and again and again while describing all the things we were seeing. ("Wow. Isn't that redwood tree magnificent!!! Isn't that ocean view magnificent??") It was mortifying.


Catherine said...

Wow this sounds cool! Do you ever do exploring hikes for kids?

Catherine said...

Wow this sounds cool! Do you ever do hikes for kids?

cactuseaters said...

hi Catherine: that is a great idea.
I haven't done a writing/hiking for kids event just yet but I would love to do one at some point (especially now that I have a daughter of my own.) I think the format would work very well for very young people -- although I would have to come up with a hike that is not quite as intense as the one we did on Saturday, d

Kim said...

Another poem (like Mary Oliver's Turtle) reminding me of Dan's anthropomorpical admonitions - this from Ted Kooser's book "Winter Morning Walks"

March 5

A flock of robins bobs in the top
of a wind-tossed tree,
with every robin facing north
and the sky flying into their faces.
But this is not straightforwardness,
nor is it courage, nor an example
of purpose and direction
against insurmountable odds.
They perch like this
to keep their feathers smooth.

Anonymous said...

Good one. I like the way that Oliver (and a few others) brush up against anthropomorphism but then quickly pull away from it. (it's refreshing to read writers who don't pretend to know what animals
are thinking!) d