Friday, March 28, 2008

Writing and the nature of nature

I love the meetings of our writer's group. It's a diverse group of people of all ages and genre and every time we get together there is at least one new person to meet. We share leads and tips via email and warn each other about potential pratfalls when we get together. Thanks, guys.

At our meeting last night I was talking with Jean Foley Doyle, who is researching the followup to her wildly successful "Life in Newburyport 1900-1950," which she self-published last year.

As I'm sure a lot of people know, the issues that are "hot" today have been so episodically for a century, at least. She told me about the putting in of parking meters and the taking out of parking meters,hotels, Plum Island being breached at the location of the (now former) church, etc.

I'm certain that someday, something will happen out here on this island that is of a dramatic, if not catastrophic, nature. It's a barrier island, and from what I understand barrier islands were formed by nature to bear the brunt of a storm for the mainland. At least that's the theory; it's rather complex and involves the salt marsh as part of the ecosystem of the barrier island.

All I know is, this business of messing with nature started back in the 1600s when colonists began the slow process of disturbing the delicate balance by farming and grazing animals on the island and the marsh. So, no, it's not a recent problem - although I think building huge houses that block the wind does not help the dune structure any. Those colonists did not have access to the information that we of today have - although they could have taken a cue from the natives.

This all reminds me of that old movie, "Elephant Walk." A woman (Elizabeth Taylor) comes to live with her husband (Peter Finch) at his family's tea plantation in Ceylon. The patriarch of the family had previously decided to build his house over the ancient way the elephants walked on their migration, because he wanted the view or something like that. Maybe just because he owned the property and felt he had the right; I don't recall why. But he sure dissed the poor elephants.

His servants regularly chased the beasts away from their ancient right of passage. This worked for years, until the elephants decided they'd had enough of the bullshit, stormed the house, wrecked it, and took a few people out in the process.

There was some romantic plot in there, too, but all I remember well is the stuff about the elephants and how they took particular vengeance on the old man as he faced them in the end.

Those were just a bunch of pissed off elephants in a movie - this is the ocean.


Ari said...

What sort of folks attend this writing group? Do people read stories and receive constructive feedback, or is it more about socializing over coffee while discussing the latest Babar book?

Gillian Swart said...

Ari, More of the former and less of the latter (although discussing the latest Babar book might be a good time). The last 3 times, one member each meeting read from their recently published/accepted for publication work. Last night Holly Robinson Cookson read from her “Memoir of a Gerbil Farmer’s Daughter," due to be released May 09. We don't critique stuff though; we just enjoy one another, eat, drink and laugh. You should join us!

Ari said...

Sure, when and where?