Monday, October 31, 2011

Autumn at Achensee

I wasn't in the mood for an excursion this weekend. I was just getting over a bad cold, and I have something called a Schleimbeutel Enzündung in my left shoulder, which simply means inflammation of the bag of mucus that serves as a cushion between the bones in my shoulder and my left arm bone. It hurts. The doctor said I needed to keep it cold and keep my arm hanging down. Actually a walk around Achensee--Achen Lake in Austria--was probably not a bad idea.

Walking is a lost art for many people who live in cities where you can't walk anywhere. In Nashville, where I'm from, there aren't even sidewalks in many parts of the city. A good friend of mine, Julie Spain, still finds a way to walk several miles a day. She inspires me. I'm sure she knows how walking frees the mind. I have some of my less awful ideas while walking.

On sunny autumn days, the mountain lakes in Bavaria and Austria are overrun with families and couples and elderly hardcore walkers trying to get their last walk in before winter. Many of these people will then strap on their cross-country skis and do essentially the same thing...just a bit more quickly. This weekend was an exceptionally beautiful one, so the trails were packed with loud kids.

For a few minutes we walked behind a boy and his father playing with their shadows. The boy--six or seven?--was really getting a kick out of stomping on his father, the long dark apparition of his father on the ground of course. The father would trot ahead of the boy, making it more and more difficult for his son to catch him. At one point it was an all-out race, but the boy finally won--and stomped all over his dad. I don't take pictures of people I don't know, so the only picture of this I have is in my words.

I think--no I know--that writers need down time when we aren't trying so hard to come up with the perfect phrase or an original plot. I know that when I start walking I'm giving my mind permission to wander. I feel the same about cooking. Not long into the wandering, my mind will work out a problem in my writing, and I'll think, "Man, why didn't I think of that?" Hmmmm.

Strangely and counter-productively, my camera often inhibits the freeing of my mind. You know the adage If you want to find something, you should stop looking for it? Is that an adage? Or did I just make it up? Well. Always looking for a perfect photo motif is like always looking for that great idea. You could drive yourself crazy looking. Fortunately this weekend, since most of the fall foliage was already a brown sludge on the ground, I had lots of time to let my mind relax.

I've been thinking a lot the last few days about what inspires me and why I write. I remember last fall how reflective I was. Maybe fall is my time to re-evaluate myself as a writer. What inspires you? What frees your mind?

I must be off,