Where We Live: In a pile of snow

By Melanie Yarbrough

The Where We Live series is chance to travel to all the different places that writers and readers live, in a deeper sense than simply geography, but the mental and emotional space they inhabit during their creative lives. Interested in contributing your own Where We Live? Check out previous entries and send us what you got.

I awoke yesterday at 5 am to the sound of snow plows driving back and forth down Cambridge street then fell back to sleep to sad dreams about all of the snow disappearing while I slept. I woke again at 730 and smiled out my window for about a half hour, just watching it fall and understanding the incredible warmth of my bed.

The snow day ended up feeling like any other day I work from home (a capability that is double-edged sword, it turns out) except for the amazing view. This morning, with the streets plowed and the buses back on schedule, I came into the office, half-wishing I could just stay in my PJs and work from home again. But when the train surfaced halfway to Newton, I was ecstatic. Frantically editing a story that is increasingly late to my writing group, I had to keep pausing to take in the untouched white landscape of the suburbs.

I read a Robert Hass poem the other day, “The Problem of Describing Trees,”  and one line in particular struck me:

No. There are limits to saying,
In language, what the tree did.

Aha! I thought. That’s exactly how I feel about language; that is our constant assignment as writers, to push our language, ourselves and our readers. The indelibly late story I was working on deals with snowy surroundings, winter time, animals and nature. Since descriptions of setting are usually something I have to work on during the editing and revising process, those moments of breathtaking views on the train end up supplying me with more than just a nice picture to send to my dad. Can’t describe that person your main character runs into on the train? Go take the train; find them there. Have no idea what hundreds of crows sound like all together? Me neither, which would (attempt to) explain why I sat listening to a YouTube video over and over of just that.

Research doesn’t always happen in a library. Keep your eyes peeled and your pen ready and let the settings describe themselves to you.

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One thought on “Where We Live: In a pile of snow

  1. I love Robert Hass! I’m not always a huge poetry fan, but “The Apple Trees at Olema” has some solid works in it including this one excerpted on NPR: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=126017012

    That quote about the trees is curiously close to my “where I live” draft….

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