View from a Park Bench

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Whether we choose to stroll or run through life, a park bench is the ultimate stopping place. Sometimes we need to sit and breathe and watch as life continues to scuttle on by.

On this day, a tiny dog trotted by while wearing a backpack. Other dogs on leashes dragged their owners along as they chased squirrels up trees. Girls in frilly dresses joined in on the fun and chased more squirrels up trees. I started to feel sorry for the squirrels but in a flash they were back to find food among the fallen leaves. Off in the background of it all, the trees gave out a last gasp of color and glowed with all the stored up energy of summer.

Boston Public Garden

Boston Public Garden fall leaves

squirrel photographer

“Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.” – John Muir

On an unrelated goat note, thank you to Britt Skrabanek for this post and thank you to the Goat Club for making me laugh. Anyone can join as long as you like goats and really, who doesn’t?

Boston Marathon Sadness

Johnny Kelley finishing the 1940 B.A.A. Marathon

Johnny Kelley finishing the 1940 B.A.A. Marathon (Photo credit: Boston Public Library)

The Boston Marathon has always been known for bringing out the best in people. It’s known for runners and participants in wheelchairs struggling against Heartbreak Hill and conquering it. It’s known for Johnny Kelley, who competed in a record 61 Boston Marathons and ran his last full marathon at the age of 84.

It always felt like such a small town event even though it was in the city. People spent the day cheering each other on. Strangers smiled at each other.

It’s very sad that now it will be known for something else, something horrific. People around here say it will never be the same. Maybe that’s true, but I hope it’s not. I hope the spirit of the event and the people will rise above this. I hope strangers will continue to smile at each other.

“Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.” – Kurt Vonnegut

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s  words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many  helpers – so many caring people in this world.” – Mister Rogers

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How Does Where You Live Affect Your Writing?

Chatham, Cape Cod

Our surroundings are constantly affecting us. But how much does where we live affect our writing?

Southern writers like Robert Penn Warren are known for a certain cadence, a more languid or lingering tone. His writing feels like sitting out on a front porch on a humid night with cicadas buzzing in the background. Irish writers also bring a sing-song lyrical feeling into their writing.

A certain tone is hard to pinpoint and I don’t know if my writing has anything like that because of where I live. It’s probably more because of what I read and the rhythms found there. But Cape Cod definitely contributes to the overall feeling of my writing, either through descriptions or something more mysterious.

Descriptions of the ocean and sky are always sneaking into my stories. The changing seasons find their way in because I can’t help but be affected by them. If I lived in the tropics, I’d probably keep looking for new ways to describe the heat.

Hancock tower, BostonI used to live in a Boston apartment. Boston is full of edges and angles, like this photo. I loved the energy of the city and being able to walk everywhere, but my writing ended up sounding depressing because I’d describe things I happened to encounter like gum splattered all over a sidewalk or the smell of an alley. I remember trying to describe that particular subway smell: a strange mixture of sweat, popcorn, greased metal, and feet. I could never really fully describe it. Maybe the fact that it can’t be described makes it sound even scarier.

Of course, the fun of writing is in using our imaginations. But our imaginations build off of our surroundings. While living in Boston, I’d be more likely to describe the way the light hit a certain building to make it glow or the sound of different accents and languages mingled together on the city streets. Now that I think about it, I miss Boston. Even that strange subway smell.

Boston street

How does where you live affect your writing? Have you ever tried to describe an indescribable smell?