At Get Your Pitchfork On! readings, people ask me what I miss most about living in the country and I answer, the land. I’ve been ending my readings with the opening to the Land Section, which I describe as a sort of love letter. Sometimes I have to fight back tears (and if you know me, you know I’m not predisposed to public weeping), because this makes me think about the plant-friends Mike and I left behind: the fruit trees we planted; the orchids, ginger and Indian pipe that grew in our woodlot; the Ponderosas in our field.
For the last eight years, I have participated in a special arts event in the Columbia River Gorge—the Plein Air Writing Exhibition. Held in conjunction with a painting competition, this program is sponsored by the Columbia Center for the Arts and takes place at the end of August. For five days, artists with canvases and notebooks descend upon pre-selected locations that offer gorgeous views.
The goal: capture a moment. Plein air painting is an art form that developed before photography. You’ve seen someone out on a hill with an easel and canvas, studying the horizon? That is plein air painting. The artist is attempting to re-create a specific view as quickly as possible—before the light shifts and the clouds move across the sky.
Writers do the same thing but have all of their senses, not just sight, at their disposal. Plus, they can incorporate their thoughts. Both art forms have their charms.
I generally don’t do a lot of nature writing, but I really enjoy this annual pilgrimage out into the land to try to put words to the love I feel for it. And, apparently, so do a lot of other writers! Julie Jindal coordinated this year’s program, and she put together the anthology of participants’ work, Blue Skies Forever Open. There you will find two of my pieces, “Glider” and “Ponderosa.”
The latter piece describes my longing to live in a rural place. I eagerly await the day Mike and I can move back out of the city!