Friday, April 15, 2011

Writing "en plein air"

Recently I attended an event called "A 'Plein Air' Painting Event," in which close to forty painters were scattered throughout the many acres of the Jacksonville Arboretum & Gardens painting en plein air. I had never seen painters working in the open air before, and was eager to see how they do it. I've always been a lover of art, but not a collector, as I could never afford to buy the art pieces that I liked. I've been interested in the craft of painting, although I've never painted. I've attempted drawing, decided I have no real skill at it, and quit without getting into actually painting with oil or acrylic. So, my understanding of the craft is very poor. But I definitely love a beautiful painting.

My closest foray into art is photography, which I consider myself an amateur, maybe an advanced amateur, because I've never mastered the more advanced techniques of photography. But I take a fair picture. I in no way think photography is a more difficult art to master than painting. But the results of photography can be no less artistic in its own way than a painting.

What has all of this to do with writing. Over the years I have written en plein air. In fact, it's my preferred way of writing. Sitting outside under the open sky and writing is more satisfying than sitting inside and writing. There's something special about writing en plein air. It brings writing to a whole new level. Writing becomes a multi-dimensional experience: the activity of writing combined with the enjoyment of your surroundings.

I have enjoyed writing in many different locations. When I was working, I used to sit outside my office, which had a deck running along a lake. On my lunch hour, I would sit under the sun and write, either in my journal, in which the environment becomes, sometimes, the subject of my entry, or on a novel or short story or poem. It was the best part of my day.

At home, my favorite place to write is on the patio, sitting next to my swimming pool. There's something about water that inspires me. I feel as if I'm accomplishing more than just writing. I'm living at a higher level. The sun rising in front of me, the birds chirping, the squirrels running through the trees, the cooler morning air, all play on my senses. Writing is living. Writing en plein air is living beautifully.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

My Hemingway Years (5)

"St Martin Vesubie"

Scenes in novels and short stories by Ernest Hemingway of men fishing--especially trout fishing in Spain--appealed to me. It was something I wanted to do if I ever had the chance, although I'd never been fly fishing in my life. But the setting of cold streams in the mountains and men catching fish held a strong allure for me. Unfortunately, I never got the chance to go fly fishing in the mountains. But I did get to go to the mountains.

My ship, the USS Cromwell, anchored near Nice, and I joined some friends on a weekend excursion to St Martin Vesubie in the French Alps.The trip was one of the highlights of my time in Europe. My buddies and I shared a room in a chateau. Just outside our room, a clear stream flowed past, careening over rocks and boulders strewn in the riverbed. I could look out the window of our room and see the stream ten or fifteen feet down rushing by, and I could hear its melodic rumbling all night long.

It was the quaintness and beauty of the old town and the countryside--the steep hills and flower-covered plateaus--that captured my imagination--my Hemingwayesque imagination.

The French Alps

My friends and I--Butler, Price, and Matolyak--bought wine, bread, and cheese, and wandered the town and the hills. We were all photography buffs, and taking pictures was our stubstitue for fly-fishing in the cold steams.
Butler, Price, Matolyak

In one way, it was a dissappointing trip. At the chateau, I was shocked by the fact that in the dining hall was a television blarring away. I had thought the French were better than us Americans--more cultured. But that weekend undid my false belief that the French were above the commonness of television--the trivial game shows and gossip programs.They'd succumbed to the same trivialites as Americans. It was the weekend I woke up to the fact that the French are the same as us.
Central street St Martin Vesubie 1970