On the way back from my writing retreat over the weekend, I had thirty minutes of driving time (in the dark, in the middle of Nebraska) to contemplate my sense of place.
The town where we held our writing retreat is very small - 1700 people. Of course, I grew up on a farm near a town of 1600 people. I'm used to small towns. But I felt a sense of isolation in this particular town that I don't feel back home. But maybe that's just because it IS my hometown.
I'm beginning to realize just how important place is to me. I remember one summer during junior high that I was severely depressed. We lived ten miles outside of town on a farm and the days were lonely and isolating for me. Whenever we went to town, I instantly felt better. I think it was the bustle of the people and the cars driving by.
I've found that I thrive in the city - the energy and vitality keeps me going, makes me feel alive.
But there are those moments when I go back home and sit on my dad's front porch, looking out over the vast stretch of prairie, and I feel peace. But only for a few days - then I have to get back to my lifeline - the city.
Strange, considering that I was born and raised on a farm. I never lived in town until I went to college. But I find that I can't quite go back to that small town mentality.
Thus, place is a very big component of my life. Some people can live anywhere and be just fine. Not me.
This has naturally crept into my novels. Setting is always supposed to be an important aspect of any story, but for me, it's more about how the character feels towards the setting. My hero's home is a place of refuge and peace, almost a character in itself.
Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights also focused on place - the Moors figured heavily into the novel. I actually walked those wind-swept Moors and could feel the loneliness and isolation. But there was also a subtle power about them that compelled you to stand in one spot and just close your eyes to listen to everything around you.
I'd like to explore this topic further, but darn if I didn't get a good night's sleep last night. Hubby's snoring and all. ;-)
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