Solitary Walks

One of my favorite activities to do is taking a solitary walk. Especially on beautiful days like today, where the wind is blowing, the sun is shining, and everything seems more alive than usual.

I like to walk by myself because it gives me a lot of privacy and time to think. While I usually do my best thinking in writing, there is something about talking aloud to oneself that cannot be replicated on paper or on a computer screen. I usually come back from those walks with a much clearer idea about what I think or what I need to do.

I am blessed to live in the beautiful Texas hill country, where I sometimes see wild animals on my walks. Around this time of year, I’ve seen quite a few deer, sometimes a squirrel or two. I can never get too close to these animals, of course, because they’re afraid of humans, but just being able to see wild animals like that is something, in my opinion.

If you ever get a chance, try to take a solitary walk through nature. That may be the park, if you live in a city or town, or the countryside if you live in a rural area. A walk might be just what you need to help clear your mind, figure out how to solve a vexing problem, or enjoy nature, all of which are good things to get from a walk.

-Tim

The Night Sky

I don’t like staying up late at night. When you get up as early in the morning as I do, you learn to go to bed early in order to get some sleep. Besides, it’s been rather cold recently, which gives me another convenient excuse not to go outside at night. Why go outside when I can curl up inside my warm bed instead?

As understandable as my desire to get to bed early is, I realize I’ve been missing out. Not on the party scene or the night life. My town doesn’t have much of either due to its small size and I’m not particularly interested in that stuff anyway, fun though it may be for some people.

You see, we’ve been having clear nights recently, with not a cloud in the sky to obscure the blanket of stars and constellations that show up every night out here. Because I don’t live in a big city, light pollution is rarely a problem. If I want, I could go outside every night and get a full view of the night sky, which I realize is not something everyone is privy to.

When I look at the night sky, I only think about how vast it is. I feel that way sometimes about the sky during the day, but that feeling is multiplied at night. I’m not sure why. Maybe its because the night sky has more things in it than the day sky. During the day, the sun is usually only thing in the sky, unless it happens to be a cloudy day or someone is flying a plane or helicopter.

At night, however, I can see hundreds of stars and the moon (and there are much, much, much more I can’t even see, if Wikipedia is correct about the number of stars in the Milky Way Galaxy). It’s like the sky we see during the day is merely a cover hiding the true sky. I wish I knew more about astronomy so I could identify the various stars and constellations I see. Even without knowing their names, however, I am still awed by what I see whenever I look up into the night sky.

And it’s that sense of awe that I realize I am missing out on when I go to bed early. This awe is what keeps me humble, helps me look at the world differently. It reminds me of the immensity of the universe and not to get too caught up in my own problems, worries, and fears. Considering I am a huge worrywart, this is probably something I need to do more often.

Maybe I could get a book on astronomy and spend some nights out there identifying stars and constellations. It could be a good first step toward making a habit of appreciating the night sky more often. Anyone know any good astronomy books, preferably ones with clear pictures or drawings to help me identify the stars and constellations?

-Tim

Describing the Indescribable

As a writer, I have the unenviable task of describing the indescribable.

It’s funny, really. I use words all the time. I am more careful about my word usage than most people. When I want to write about something, I usually make sure to use the correct words. I take seriously what Mark Twain once said: “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”

Yet here I am, admitting that sometimes there are things that I as a writer can never capture perfectly, no matter how careful my word usage is.

To illustrate my point, let me tell you a story about a night a year or two ago that left a profound impression on me and how I view the world and, more importantly, how I view writing:

I was at my pastor’s house, in his backyard, along with several other people. I don’t remember what we were all there for exactly, but I do remember the way my pastor chose to illustrate the message he was trying to deliver to us: He set a large pile of dead, dried wood on fire.

This was no small campfire, meant to roast hotdogs or melt s’mores over. This was a blazing flame, made all the more impressive by the wind billowing it around, causing it to reach out like a hungry monster. It was thankfully controlled, but while everyone else stood around talking about other things, I stood apart from the group, staring into the flames, forgetting about the Styrofoam cup full of sweet tea in my hand. And, while it was a cold night, I had to keep my distance lest I get burned.

Even as I soaked in the experience, I thought, How could I ever hope to capture this mighty flame in mere words? How could anyone hope to describe this thing in a way that does justice to its majesty?

Remember, this fire was manmade. My pastor made it using a bunch of dead wood and plants in his backyard. Had this fire been something that occurred naturally within nature, I imagine it would have been even more majestic and thus, even more indescribable.

That night taught me that the written word, as powerful and formidable as it is, is limited. There is a difference, in other words, between someone telling you about a great fire and actually witnessing the fire itself.

What do you think about this? Are there some things that are better experienced than described? If you’re an artist, have you ever had trouble conveying ideas to your audience through whatever medium you use?

-Tim