A Land of Long Shadows

The hill country of east-central Vermont, where I have lived for over a dozen years now, is famous for its fall colors.  Tourists flock to the Green Mountain State from across the nation, and the world, to catch a glimpse of the reds, oranges, and golds that light up the hillsides every October.  The blazing foliage of autumn is as synonymous with Vermont as its ski slopes, dairy farms, and Rockwellesque small towns.

 

For me, though, October in Vermont is about much more than multicolored tree leaves.  Don’t get me wrong.  I marvel at the beauty of the season as much as anyone.  There is nothing quite like a stroll along a country lane in Vermont in the fall.  But it is the subtler, less showy aspects of the season that leave the most indelible mark.  The musky scent of woodsmoke on the air.  Fallen leaves crunching underfoot.  Warm, sunny days, the humidity of high summer over and gone.  Crisp, starry nights, quiet, the chorus of crickets silenced by frost and the encroaching winter.

 

And shadows.

Just the other day, I took a walk out back, in the meadow behind the house.  The land slopes down, gently in places, steeply in others, to the meadow, which is here and there interspersed with maple trees and elm trees and birches, their bark white and clean against the copper-yellow of the autumn leaves.

 

It was late afternoon, the sun was sinking to the west, and a recent end-of-summer heat wave was in the process of retreating, moving south like a migrating bird, leaving New England to the rightful, cooler temperatures of the season.  I looked at the maple trees at the top end of the meadow, standing, side by side, like deciduous twins, their leaves mostly green still, with the occasional flash of gold.  The sun was hitting them just so, and their shadows reached out across the expanse like dark, giant fingers.  My own shadow was long, too, as I stood in the path of the westering sun.  It spread across the grass, comically elongated, as if I were a colossus, a wanderer come down from Brobdingnag.  I walked south, changed direction to the east.  My shadow followed, sometimes merging with the shadows of the maples or the birches, or the woods, which ringed the meadow on all sides.  No matter where I walked, it came with me, always there.  Always present.

 

There was no escape.

********************

There have been times when I was told that I am not always present–not fully, anyway.  “Sometimes, even when you’re here, you’re not here,” a friend told me once.  And I don’t deny it.  Ever since I was a boy, my mind has had a tendency to wander, to daydream, to roam over hills and valleys in search of the unknown and the unexplored.  Sometimes it’s playacting.  I spent more time than I like to admit growing up visualizing, in vivid detail, myself winning Wimbledon or batting in the bottom of the ninth inning in the World Series, the game on the line.  I’d pretend to hold an interview with the press afterwards, going through an elaborate question-and-answer session.  I’d think of new games to invent, new theories to drum up, new ways of looking at the tried-and-true.  Often, at night, I’d look up at the sky, count the stars, realizing that, as numerous as the visible stars were, they represented but a tiny fraction of the whole–just a slice of the firmament, a drop in a cosmic sea without end.

 

Truth be told, I still do all of these things from time to time.  Not as much as I used to, but I still do them.  On one level, it’s embarrassing.  I’m not a kid anymore, after all.  On another level, I hang onto these wonderings, these musings left over from childhood.  Without them, something essential, something life-affirming and good, would be lost.

 

More than anything, though, I get lost in my stories.  That’s to be expected while I’m hunkered down at my PC, of course, frantically pecking away at the keyboard.  (I’m old school.  I don’t have a laptop.  I still prefer the bulky old desktop.)  But it’s not only when I’m physically writing.  My stories are with me always–especially the novels.  I can be seated at my desk at work, out taking a walk along the shoulder of the road or through the woods, showering in the bathroom, even visiting friends or family–and suddenly, out of the blue, an idea will hit me.  So that’s how chapter 27 should be resolved!  Oh, so Ryan shouldn’t do that, he should do this.  I’m not sure if Joe handled that the way he really might have.  How about this . . .?  And on and on it goes.

 

Beginning with The Eye-Dancers, which I started in 2009, and continuing on through its sequel, The Singularity Wheel, still on schedule to be released in November, I have lived and breathed with the protagonists in these tales for almost a decade.  They are never far from my thoughts, always ready to intervene or interrupt, as if to say, “Hey, remember me?  You got that last scene all wrong, partner.  I would never do that!  You better go back and fix it.”  Or the story itself, like a living, breathing entity, a sentient thing, will communicate with me, vying for my attention.  If I’m not sure what to do in an upcoming chapter, it does not stay silent, tucked away in the background.  It speaks, shouts, demands to be solved.

 

So forgive me if, while we talk, I occasionally have a distant, faraway look in my eye.  The story never sleeps.  The characters can never be put to bed.  The questions and musings and machinations of the creative process are as stubbornly and persistently present as shadows.

 

And while there are times when this is taxing, draining, even downright annoying, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

***********************

Ready to come inside, I walked back up the slope, leaving the meadow behind me.  As I crested the hill, I paused to take another look at the trees and the grass and the deep, forever blue of the sky.  I stood there like that, taking in the scene, pondering its beauty and its vastness, and its truth.  Then I turned around, and headed for the house.

 

My shadow followed me every step of the way.

 

Thanks so much for reading!

–Mike

59 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. foodinbooks
    Oct 02, 2017 @ 16:19:53

    A perfect autumn post.

    Reply

  2. thespiritkeeper
    Oct 02, 2017 @ 16:59:17

    Beautiful write

    Reply

  3. The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap
    Oct 02, 2017 @ 17:03:50

    So nice to see you pop up over the cyber horizon. And on this day with so much tragedy in the air, it’s nice to see the lovely Vermont fall photos. Hugs.

    Reply

  4. patternsofsouldevelopment
    Oct 02, 2017 @ 19:55:11

    Beautiful, the write and the images! Superb nature in autumn, beautiful the soul that can gaze and grasp its profound meaning – a writer’s soul!

    Thank you, today especially we badly needed nature’s beauty, it alone can wash people’s craze and ugly deeds…

    Reply

  5. Francina
    Oct 02, 2017 @ 21:13:23

    Very beautiful, excellent write and images. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply

  6. joannerambling
    Oct 02, 2017 @ 22:28:43

    Beautiful piece of writing, damn I like the way you write

    Reply

  7. Nancy Loderick
    Oct 03, 2017 @ 16:53:41

    Thanks for posting these beautiful autumn pictures. I sure love fall in New England! It is my favorite time of year.

    Nancy

    Reply

  8. Baydreamer
    Oct 04, 2017 @ 03:05:04

    What a beautiful post, both the writing and the fall images, Mike. I also enjoyed reading about you and your relationship with your characters. Your writing is mesmerizing. 🙂

    Reply

  9. Lyn
    Oct 04, 2017 @ 10:07:41

    You took me with you on your walk. I could see all those colours, the trees with their shadows and the stars. Sadly, no meadows to walk through here, just dull boring streets lined with bog ordinary houses. You have a way of describing things, Mike, that make me wish I was there 🙂

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Oct 05, 2017 @ 01:00:02

      Thanks, Lyn.:) That’s a wonderful compliment. It’s a great time to be in Vermont right now with the leaves turning, and the weather’s been ideal. But I know the cold-weather season is just around the corner.:(

      Reply

  10. Joanna
    Oct 05, 2017 @ 21:38:01

    Well done on The Singularity and good luck with the launch! Beautiful post

    Reply

  11. Karina Pinella
    Oct 05, 2017 @ 23:10:43

    Lovely photos go well with the earnestness of your experience.

    Reply

  12. Carol Balawyder
    Oct 09, 2017 @ 20:22:09

    I find that your experience with your characters and story always being with you might well be characteristic of a passionate obsession.I love thinking about my scenes and plots and settings while walking my dog in the woods. Sometimes when I am stuck with a character I’ll ask him or her to tell me “what’s next?” I suppose writers are somewhat schizophrenic, except that we are able to control the characters in our minds.Maybe?

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Oct 10, 2017 @ 16:26:58

      I like that–a “passionate obsession.”:) That’s as apt a term as any I’ve heard about what it’s like.:) And yes–I’m not sure so we control the characters in our minds. Sometimes, it feels like it’s the other way around!

      Reply

  13. Lara/Trace
    Oct 09, 2017 @ 23:12:22

    Never lose that child in you. It makes you a great writer!

    Reply

  14. ellie894
    Oct 10, 2017 @ 01:22:07

    Absolutely lovely Mike. I may have to do grown up things but I agree with you…I’ll never stop wondering. Thank you 😊

    Reply

  15. Arlene G.
    Oct 12, 2017 @ 17:09:23

    Thank you for liking “Luna’s” and some of my other recent posts. It must be nice being able to retreat into such a beautiful place that stimulates your mind as well as your senses. Shadows are strange to think about. Why do we have to have this dark silhouette of ourselves following us around wherever we go? And how would the world look without shadows?

    I agree with you that stories seem to have a life of their own, but I also think that creating them is like trying to solve a puzzle. The stories we create are like worlds that emerge from our thoughts, and then we use words to rearrange and transform the various elements of these worlds until they “fit” together.

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Oct 12, 2017 @ 18:27:25

      Hi Arlene! That is a great point. For months now, I’ve been in the editing phase of The Singularity Wheel–the sequel to The Eye-Dancers. And it definitely feels like fitting pieces in a jigsaw puzzle! The only question is–am I fitting the right pieces in the right places? The creative process never really stops . . .

      Reply

      • Arlene G.
        Oct 14, 2017 @ 06:22:03

        Thank you, Mike. I have faced that question too. I tend to rely on an inner signal that I have fit the pieces together “correctly,” but the way of knowing when you have found the right combination of words and ideas probably varies from person to person. Until that moment of knowing arrives, the puzzle remains unsolved . . . 😀

      • The Eye-Dancers
        Oct 14, 2017 @ 11:56:23

        Very true! It’s almost like love, or anything else that is undefinable.:) It’s the kind of thing you can’t always describe in a dictionary definition, but you know it when you feel it . . .

      • Arlene G.
        Oct 16, 2017 @ 09:35:54

        Yes, I agree. It makes me laugh to think how hard it is to find the words to describe an aspect of a creative process that involves words . . . . 😀

        Good luck with finishing up your latest novel. 🙂

      • The Eye-Dancers
        Oct 16, 2017 @ 15:55:03

        Thank you! I am almost there.:)

      • Arlene G.
        Oct 16, 2017 @ 17:22:08

        You are welcome. 🙂

  16. evelyneholingue
    Oct 13, 2017 @ 17:41:21

    Fall being my favorite season of all, you imagine my delight, Mike, as I read your descriptions filled with sensory details and emotions. Late fall (November) has always seems to me a very unique and sometimes tough month. In comparison to September and October, still warm and so colorful, November is bare and brings us closer to winter. Which is even colder and more bare but nevertheless can be our most creative season since we are inside exploring what we’ve lived in the spring, summer and fall months. Good luck to you as you are getting closer to bring your fall baby to the world.

    Reply

  17. Sue Dreamwalker
    Oct 18, 2017 @ 11:37:28

    Wonderful to read.. and may you and your shadow never part company.. 🙂

    Reply

  18. MelHopkinsdotcom
    Oct 19, 2017 @ 19:36:24

    Every time I read one of your posts, I’m transported back to my childhood – this time it was this line

    “The musky scent of woodsmoke on the air. Fallen leaves crunching underfoot. Warm, sunny days, the humidity of high summer…”|

    I worked as a camp counselor at a sleep-away camp… and this was my world during the summer months. Yep, it was summer but dense forests resemble autumn year-round.

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Oct 19, 2017 @ 19:51:29

      I’m glad my posts have that effect for you.:) And you are definitely right about dense forests resembling autumn, even in summer! Great hearing from you and really glad you enjoyed this!

      Reply

  19. Ileana
    Oct 20, 2017 @ 14:12:09

    Ganduri bune, o cafea tarzie si un buna ziua! Sa aveti parte de clipe cat mai placute, dragilor!


    Reply

  20. Jennie
    Oct 28, 2017 @ 00:11:18

    Mike, this is a wonderful post. Your writing about fall in Vermont and all the glories, yet knowing that the real glories are in the littlest of things, was just perfect. I enjoyed every word. Thank goodness you are a wanderer in your mind. It really means you are a ‘noticer’, and depicts how much that has meant to your readers.

    Reply

  21. natuurfreak
    Nov 06, 2017 @ 13:46:27

    wat heb je je waarnemingen en gevoelens mooi neergzschreven

    Reply

  22. reocochran
    Nov 29, 2017 @ 04:47:59

    Mike, I was happy to see you another my “likes” and will come back soon to read and catch up.
    Hope you have had a beautiful Fall, nearing the cooler temps and changes of Winter. . . The photos were lovely and I just need to head off to sleep. Take care, Robin 🌈

    Reply

  23. AlexisChateauPR
    Dec 14, 2017 @ 21:16:39

    We’re one of those who had to see the New England fall! Too bad we missed you! Can’t wait for The Singularity Wheel to be released! 🙂

    Reply

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