Stairs in the Woods

1.

In the late summer, her quest led her into the woods, to a canyon where aging oaks shielded a whispering stream from the ferocity of the midday sun. It was pleasant there, beneath the shady arms of the trees, with only the rustle the small creatures in the underbrush for company. The path wandered back and forth across the stream, over graceful bridges wrought from fallen wood and vines. She stopped to watch the cascade of water over the rocks, and to admire the delicate blossoms of yellow and purple clustered along the banks of shallow, sun-dappled pools. A spider’s web caught her eye, with its tiny Arachne weaving for its dinner.

Now and then as she wandered through that peaceful canyon, she passed a stairway leading up. Where did it go? she wondered, curious. What might I find at the top? But she never climbed the stairs, choosing instead to remain along the happy stream in the bottom of the canyon.

When she came to the end of the path, the road went on ahead, out of the canyon into the lands beyond. She paused for a moment and looked back, sorry to leave this quiet haven. Only then did she notice the crow sitting on a stump nearby.

“Did you see the stairs that led up out of the canyon?” the crow asked her.

She shifted uneasily from foot to foot.The crow’s fierce glare made her nervous. “I saw them.”

“Why did you not climb?”

“They were very steep. And I couldn’t see what was at the top. What if they didn’t go anywhere? All that effort would have been for nothing.”

With an angry rattle of its feathers, the crow burst into the air in front of her. She flung her arm up reflexively, to protect her face, but it wasn’t necessary. Without touching her, it circled her head, so close she could feel the wind of its wings on her face. Then it dropped back to the stump and glared at her again.

“If you don’t go up, you don’t know what’s there. What if it was something wonderful?”

Stairs in the Woods

2.

As the infrequent posting on this blog of late may indicate, I’ve been in something of a creative canyon lately. It’s perfectly pleasant down here, fiddling around with photography and art journaling, with the occasional foray into graphic design. I may someday soon blog about the mirror project I undertook last weekend, inspired by a dream-muse. And floating in my head are visions of creative projects that entwine photography and dolls, or photography and paper crafting, or paper crafting and writing, or … or … or … a million ideas buzz in my head.

The problem is that there’s not enough time to do all of them, not along with writing a novel, working/looking for more work, raising a family and all the other stuff that is necessary in life (like movies and websurfing, you know). At least, there’s not enough time to do all of them well. If I concentrated my efforts on one area, I would become much better at it–good enough, maybe, to make a little money even, which would be nice.

The question then becomes, which one?

I’m at the bottom of the canyon, and there all these stairways leading up…up to where the sun shines on golden grass and the view of the world is unimpeded to the horizon. But which one leads the right way? Which one leads to where I want to go? I can’t tell, from down here in the shade, which stairway is worth the effort, so I just keep wandering along with the stream.

Stairs in the Woods

3.

I haven’t blogged about writing much at all lately, mostly because it’s a little embarrassing. I’ve gone through the rush of excitement with a new novel more than a few times, spewing my excitement to my blog readers about how “this one is the the one!” only to have it dither away into nothing after a few weeks or months. I’ve been reluctant to drag everyone down that path yet again, not to mention the old saw that says, “Talking [or writing] about writing is not writing!” So even though I have been hard at work (mostly) on a novel, I’ve been trying to keep my productivity, as far as writing goes, focused on the book itself, instead of expending energy just talking about it. But I guess it can’t hurt to provide an occasional peek inside the process…

Early this summer, I finished the rough draft of the novel I started last November. And by “rough” I mean rough as an oak tree’s bark, so don’t go thinking I’m ready to start looking for agents just yet: every bit of it was handwritten, and I know that large swaths of the middle and end are going to be completely different from the original. I jumped right into rewrites this summer, but I’m afraid I haven’t gotten very far along. Some of that lack of progress can be blamed on the irregular summer schedule (kids home from school, etc.) but I admit to a lot of foot-dragging on my part. I’m having a hard time gathering any momentum (I’m working on it though!) and a harder time trying to restrain my inner editor so that I don’t feel compelled to have every word perfect before I allow myself to move on.

Not incidental to this post, the novel— which labors under the symbolically-laden working title Monarch&#8212begins in a canyon in the Santa Ana Mountains. Cascado Canyon, to be exact, which doesn’t actually exist so don’t go looking for it on a map. Cascado is the past participle of the Spanish cascar, “to crack”, and as an adjective it can also mean crazy. Both meanings are significant to the story, for it is in Cascado Canyon that the world begins to break apart, in a not-so-metaphorical sense.

I don’t want to describe the whole story for you, and only my critique group is going to get a peek at any excerpts for the time being. However, I don’t mind sharing the occasional story-related detail like the one above with you, if only because it helps me feel like I’m building a little audience anticipation, which will encourage me to be more productive. (Don’t be shy about telling me to hurry up and finish already!)

Now, it’s time to get back to work. I’ve kept Elaine down in that canyon long enough—time to build her a stairway out.

Stairs in the Woods

2 Thoughts on “In the Canyon”

  • Dear Stace,

    Your words, like your pictures, are exquisite. Hurry up and finish already 😉

    Love,
    The Ninny

    ps: I totally hear you about “this one is the one”, and I’m totally squeeing about “Monarch”, and rooting for it to be finished!

  • Just know that whether nor not this one is “the one”, or even the next one or the one after that, I think you are such a fantastic writer, and so long as you keep writing, one day you will have “the one”, and I’ll be the first one in line to buy a copy, and will be singing your praises from here to far so everyone on the planet buys a copy!

    Your creativity constantly amazes me and I feel so privileged, always, to see your photos, read an excerpt of writing, and see some doodles.

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