Monday, September 19, 2011

Nature and creativity

We had snow overnight in the mountains--at least higher up than where we are.  The effect is to outline the striations on the rock.  Driving to and from Canmore (where I go to a comforting little Communitea Cafe to get a people-watching fix and to check out Knit and Caboodle to see if I can't tempt myself with something), you get a more fluid sense of the mountains than you do from a townsite or a place like the Banff Centre where buildings keep getting in the way.  I find I simply can't imagine the force that led to the Rocky Mountains uplift millions of years ago.  But snow on the mountains makes something of their structure clearer to me.

Today I had to go into Banff for groceries.  It's Saturday, and people are out and about in spite of the relative cold and rain that fell from time to time.  You don't come into the mountains for the comfort, I thought to myself.  You come to be awed, to experience the sublime, and maybe you can do that even better a little cold.  While I've worked this afternoon, rain has fallen on y wooden roof, even while the sun was shining.

For some reason, as I walked through the rain this morning to my cabin, I thought of the childhood game, "rock, paper, scissors."  The clouds have veiled the mountains.  We don't think about these towering erruptions of earth that are millions of years old being erased by anything, but the clouds can do it very softly.  The woods beyond the window where I work are very still, but their colours are heightened and deepened by the rain.

I've been thinking about why we come to nature for "retreats."  Who goes to NYC for a writer's retreat?  You might well go there for inspiration and for ideas, but you go to Yaddo or Emma Lake or Banff to get the work done, to go beyond the draft you scribbled on the back of your boarding pass.

The slightest thing delights me here.  My pine marten, whose dark glossy fur moves like water over the fallen logs.  A small flock of juncos yesterday.  Sometimes the wind is even higher than the mountains, and a birch outside my window winks its yellow-tinged leaves. My friend Katherine Arbuthnott says that nature provides "soft fascination" that tickles our attention but doesn't grab it by the throat.   Woolgathering, my daughter would say.

So I'm going to hunker down with one of her very urban photographs and write another poem.

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