“The days were growing shorter and the nights were cooler. One night Jack Frost passed by, and in the morning there were bright colors here and there among the green leaves of the Big Woods. Then all the leaves stopped being green. They were yellow and scarlet and crimson and golden and brown.
“Along the rail fence the sumac held up its dark red cones of berries above bright flame-colored leaves. Acorns were falling from the oaks, and Laura and Mary made little acorn cups and saucers for the playhouses. Walnuts and hickory nuts were dropping to the ground in the Big Woods, and squirrels were scampering busily everywhere, gathering their winter’s store of nuts and hiding them away in hollow trees.” Wilder, Little House in the Big Woods, p. 215.
I am teaching a class about Laura Ingalls Wilder’s life and her books, and this past Thursday, my class discussed Wilder’s first book Little House in the Big Woods. I have discovered that Wilder has a cult following of older women. As children, they read Wilder’s stories and the books made a lasting impression on them. I did not read the Little House books as a child, and I must admit that until I studied them, I had sold them short.
Although the Little House books were published for children, they were originally written as a type of memoir for adults. The writing is simple, but it is not childish, and I have discovered that Wilder’s use of description is worthy of study. I admit that I have read more elaborate descriptive writing in other books, but there is something about Wilder’s simplicity that is touching.
Most of the United States are about to enter the season of autumn. During the next few weeks, most of the people in America will watch nature as she kaleidoscopically shifts from color to color to color. Trees that are currently bulbous and full will begin to drop their leaves and within a month, crooked and stark limbs will be scrawled across the sky.
I am a gardener, and yesterday, I did some things that I do in fall. I transplanted some roses and I repaired my rose trellis. Today, it is raining at my house. A slow and steady rain has been peppering my roof for about 24 hours. I suspect that as soon as the rain moves away, the temperatures will drop, and nature will begin to shift. Before the day is out, I am going to buy myself a notebook that will fit into my bag. I have made a commitment to carry it with me everywhere I go and to spend about ten minutes a day looking at my world. Then, in just a few, basic words, I am going to record what is before my eyes.
I may or may not elaborate on my initial few words later, but my challenge for myself is to do one thing each day: look carefully around myself for ten minutes and record what I see. Why don’t you take the daily notebook challenge, too?
The Writer’s Notebook Daily Challenge:
Go outside, look carefully for ten minutes, and in a few words, record what you see.
I have several reasons for setting time and word limits.
- All of us are busy and when our notebook exercises are short, we will be more inclined to follow through with them.
- As writers, we sometimes engage in wordplay that becomes too mental and abstract. I believe that an exercise that requires close observation and a few honest words about what we actually see, smell, hear, touch, etc., is a good way to pull us back into writing that is more immediate and concrete.
©Jacki Kellum October 9, 2016