In the last session of my creative writing class at The Lighthouse Writers Workshop, we were encouraged to focus on imagery, to delve into the poetic realm of creating lush, vivid scenes, to share the experience with our readers. I’ve been thinking a lot about that this week, and it’s made me consider the important sensory details and the unacknowledged, small truths in situations … like, if I were to write about this moment, how would I describe it? It especially struck me, for some reason, when I was watching a GoPro YouTube video today, which was a startlingly beautiful short film that explored the potential of living our dreams and venturing to take risks. (In case you’re interested, you can watch it here.)
At the end of the video, I just thought to myself, I need to live greatly more often. I’m not experiencing my life to its fullest potential. And I tried to think about what that really means, what I truly feel called to experience in order to live my fullest life. So I thought about the last time I felt in awe and inspired by the present moment. It wasn’t so long ago—just a few weeks ago, really.
My boyfriend and I had taken a road trip through Oregon and had dipped into Northern California to camp in the redwood forest. There was a period of time that I knew, even then, that I wanted to linger on as long as possible. It reminds me of the David Benioff quote: “There are a few moments in your life when you are truly and completely happy, and you remember to give thanks. Even as it happens you are nostalgic for the moment, you are tucking it away in your scrapbook.” But how do we tuck away those moments? We try to take pictures, to steal and preserve that moment for future reference, though it’s a bit like canning the last of summer fruit. In the starkness of winter, you puncture the tin can and flip open the jagged lid, only to find something that feels dead, once reminiscent of life, rather than the ripe fruit with sweet, juicy flesh you were hoping to save for later. And I feel that’s often how writing is. It’s this infuriating attempt to capture and relive and share something ephemeral, only to come up with something half-alive.
When words aren’t enough, how do you describe the smell of the redwood forest, the musky scent of damp earth, of plush moss tangled across thick platelets of bark, of decomposing leaves turning to mulch beneath fallen logs—logs as thick as a person is tall? And how do you describe the quiet? The quiet in the redwood forest is something beyond the absence of sound. It’s encompassing, like a thicket of fog that muffles any evidence of the world you came from. Facebook and the Internet and your job seem like another lifetime altogether when you’re in the forest. Even as fellow hikers walk along the groomed pathways curving beneath staggered, towering behemoths, they speak in awestruck whispers. The air is so cool and moist and dense that somehow it feels as if it’s made of all those whispers, hundreds of years worth, suspended and dispersed all around us.
I don’t know how to capture moments. I try. I attempt with pictures and words and stories, just like everyone else. Perhaps the only solution is simply to live more of them, until each incredible, fulfilling memory bleeds into the next adventure.