One thing about a writer’s imagination: It propels your mind into a different sphere where even the ordinary and mundane becomes intriguing, even magical. Take trees, for instance. Growing up in southern Idaho’s high desert, I viewed them as little more than windbreaks shielding farms from the howling gales so prevalent in our area. While I loved the roar of wind in lofty branches and even climbed a tree or two (in my much younger years), the arboreal realm held little fascination for me.
Then in the spring of 2007 I bought my first digital camera. Roaming about my brother’s yard one afternoon desperately seeking photo ops, I aimed the lens skyward through the branches of a quaking aspen, clicked the shutter, then opened the viewer to see what wonders I had wrought. An exquisite pattern of emerald lace against the clear blue sky, more beautiful than I could ever have imagined, filled the tiny screen. Captivated, I took more shots and now noticed the twists and turns in trunks and limbs and the configurations of the leaves. I had to visit a real forest, I thought.
A writers’ conference in Canby, Oregon the following year brought me to my Enchanted Forest. Between seminars and workshops I wandered well-worn paths through seventy acres of pristine woodland, gazing in awe at ancient trees robed in moss and ivy. Some huddled together as though whispering among themselves. Filmy veils cascaded from branches and floated on the fragrant breeze. Sunlight filtered through the branches, bathing a nearby glen in ethereal light.
The warm, piney aroma I smelled upon first entering the woods turned sweet/sour as I passed a rotting log and then into a very pleasant fragrance I could not identify as I rounded a corner. Indeed, the fragrance changed with every step and I thanked God for the senses He had given me to enjoy this scene. The timing for this walk could not have been more perfect; I was writing the section of my novel, Warrior Queen of Ha-Ran-Fel, where the heroes hunted the Dark Lord’s beast in the deep forest of San-Leyon. This quiet little wood became a wilderness kingdom inhabited by rugged woodsmen and the Little People. Magical creatures in the trees and shrubbery emerged and retreated in the scattered sunlight and shadow.
One trunk resembled a serpentine, leaf-wrapped tornado, and as I rounded another bend–wow, could that be Treebeard strolling by? (For anyone unfamiliar with Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Treebeard was an Ent, or tree creature.)
Rounding still another bend, my vivid imagination spotted a spidery form peering through the gloom.
Another Ent? Or perhaps a forest troll or woodland sprite.
Not far beyond that, I encountered what first appeared to be giant talons, but as I looked closer I thought I saw the head of a miniature pony and its tiny form sprawled atop the gnarl. It’s rather hard to see in the shadow, but the way the moss drapes off the closest “claw” reminds me of a horse’s mane.
At any rate, I took dozens of photos, far more than this post can accommodate. And what’s really neat (I think) is that, when I look at them again, each photo reveals something I hadn’t noticed before. Each one became a building block in constructing my story.
I will always cherish this excursion. I felt as though, in this picturesque little wood, I had visited the fictional world of my book. And I didn’t have to travel far to find it.