FUNNY HOW THINGS WORK
I’ve talked a lot about inspiration. It can come from the most mundane places. I call it my “Polka-dot sewer.” One day, I’ll repeat that story for the newbies to my site, but for now, let’s just move on.
WHERE DOES IT COME FROM?
Sights, sounds, smells, an incident, those little things around us that most people take for granted, anything can be an inspiration. As writer’s, we’re observers. We absorb things around us and file them away in our mental file cabinet. Okay, some of us use actual file cards, cabinets or voice recorders, but you get the point. We take these nuggets of inspiration and save them for future use.
WHAT DO WE DO WITH THEM?
This is the key to any nugget of inspiration, any Polka-dot sewer you run across. You file away hundreds, maybe thousands of these cool little nuggets of information, but what do you do with them?
- Base an entire story on them.
- Use them as a plot device.
- Use them as a minor detail within a story, for color.
EXAMPLE – THE TAMARISK TREE
I just spent the weekend at the Las Vegas Astronomical Society “Night Under The Stars” at Furnace Creek in Death Valley. There’s a distinct feature found at Furnace Creek, and that’s the humongous trees that dot the landscape within the property. I’m not talking about the usual palm trees, seen at every desert location, stereotypical of anyplace dry. These are massive evergreen, almost mossy looking trees that bear a purplish fine (meaning tiny) flower in the spring. These threes grow wild throughout the Southwest.
The Tamarisk, also known as the Salt Cedar is an invasive tree, or weed that was brought from the Middle East in the late 1800’s to help stave off erosion in the watersheds of the desert. Unfortunately, with no knowledge of invasive species, what those early pioneers did was create the “kudzu” of the Southwest.
The Tamarisk loves the salty, alkaline soil, it has deep roots, and sucks up massive amounts of water, starving out the native bushes and desert plants. It grows along stream beds, roads and anywhere there may (or may not) be water. They start as bushes, but if left to their own devices, grow to massive sizes with trunk boles twenty feet in diameter.
They spread like Kudzu, just not in vine form. When they bloom, they release millions, if not billions of seeds that spread in the wind. I had a volunteer sprout in my back yard. It was kind of pretty and we let it grow for a while, but realized since it was so close to the brick fence, that in a few years, it would collapse the wall. When I tried to dig it up, that “little” shrub root went down six feet before I gave up and twisted it off (I had no room in the deep, narrow hole for a saw or even shears). Today, I still worry something will re-sprout in that spot!
I originally got interested in them for woodworking. I regularly visit a web site for exotic woods. When I went to the page on Tamarisk, the entry said it was only a shrub and the samples shown were small and mainly from the Middle East. I had to write the guy and tell him, ahem… Wrong answer!
The guv’mint has tried cutting, burning, herbicides and other methods to kill off the Tamarisk, all to no good. It’s destroying a lot of Southwest wetlands. All they can do is manage it and hope for the best.
This weekend, I was looking out our hotel patio window onto the golf course. Lining the fairway and hole next to the building were several massive Tamarisks. The boles were at least ten feet across. I thought of an icky bug novel where Tamarisk trees go crazy. The seeds infect people and mutate them into icky bugs (monsters).
#1 from the uses above: The plot for a major icky bug to file away for the future.
It was all because I knew the history of those (at the moment), stately and gorgeous trees with a “shady” history, and happened to look out the window.
ALL IT TAKES…
All it takes is the right situation, a little imagination, and you have yourself a plot, a plot device, or a detail to add to your story.
You just have to look, listen, observe.
Here’s a photo of my grandson sitting on a fallen Tamarisk trunk. The live tree is still growing behind him.