On feldspar and setting

Leaves in Costa Rica, www.carolineallen.com

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, my friend Lisa and I camped in Maine recently. The campsite happened to be next to a feldspar quarry. Neither of us really knew this and we did not consciously choose the site because of it.

We hiked separately up the small mountain that held the feldspar quarry. Lisa came back with a chunk of the grey and black shimmering stone to send to her mother. I hiked the next day and came back with six or seven chunks, knowing I wanted one, and Lisa would need one to replace the one she was mailing, and I wanted to give pieces to several artists and friends. At the time, I didn’t know why. I had no idea what feldspar represented.

When we got back to “civilization”, I googled feldspar for its mystical qualities. Several different sites offered this information:

Feldspar is a mineral that promotes creativity. It assists in unconventional and exciting ways to reach our goals. It promotes self-awareness and self-love, and assists in finding misplaced items. Finally, it aids in the treatment of muscular structure disorders.

I looked up from my computer awestruck. Everything that Lisa and I had discussed while camping fit into these categories. The very EARTH had dictated our three-day conversation. We’d talked about our work in the arts and different ideas for reaching our goals. We did a night-time fire ritual on the the subjects of creativity and goals, and healing around self-love. I burned a copy of my novel Earth, invoking the gods for help in its publication.

We both felt profoundly centered, walking around the campsite, seeing the blue black pitch of the night sky and the depth of the stars. That centeredness brought us so much self-awareness. And we even discussed physical muscular/structural problems and how important it was to energetically flow in the body.

What does this have to do with writing? I cannot stop pondering how much the earth dictates our subject matter. How subconscious this process is, but how deep. As we continue to send the earth over the edge environmentally, how will fiction change? How has it already changed? I sense too that many people are losing their minds as the earth passes its tipping point. It will not be simply a question of what we’ll all physically do after the earth is flooded, the skies blackened, etc etc, it’s how will we maintain our sanity? How will we handle others as they lose their minds? We are so deeply connected to this earth. As we drive the earth insane, we too will lose our centers.

Author Cormac McCarthy in an interview with Oprah explained why we often get messages in dreams that we cannot seem to get in waking life. “The subconscious is older than language,” he explained. (Click on Cormac’s name above to be taken to Oprah’s dynamic dialogue with the author).

When we dream, we’re given deep messages via symbols because language cannot capture it . But as writers, we must take that subconscious information and turn it into language, bring it up from the depths of the soil, through our bodies and turn it into song.

When we’re writing, we’re influenced by the earth we’re near on a subconscious level, a level so deep it is pre-verbal. Setting is about the physical description of place in our writing, but it’s much more. It’s about the cadence of the land, the beat of the prose. We must translate the heartbeat of the earth upon which we stand. We do this translation in the length of the sentences we write. It is the language we use. Lyrical or stark. Simple or ornate. Dusty or muddy. Bejeweled or barren.

Eckhart Tolle said he had to move to the West Coast of the US to write A New Earth. I know that I had to be in deepest nature on Vancouver Island to write the rough draft of my novel Earth, but I needed to be in London to revise it. The land that is London turns my brainpower up seven times its normal capacity. I don’t understand why, but it has always been true.

How is your current setting affecting your writing? Can you feel it? Besides just writing about the visual description of the setting in your novel, how might your language capture it? How might your sentence length give the reader a feel for the pace of the land? How might your choice of verbs and your descriptions give language to the earth? In Earth, I have Pearl and her family so close to the earth that the map that resides in the psyches of the characters is made up of hills and trees. It is only in Air, when Pearl leaves the earth and travels the world, that she even understands what a paper map really is.

We are here to give earth its voice, to sing its clay clumps, its ant hills, its underbrush. To rub our palms over chunks of feldspar…

By the way, I googled the practical uses of feldspar and for those who don’t know, this is paraphrased from Wise Geek:

Feldspar makes up about 60% of the earth’s crust. If you look around you right now, chances are you’ll see something with feldspar in it. Humans use feldspar in pottery and glassmaking, and it is also added to scouring powders and used as a filler in a wide range of products.


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