Monday, July 6, 2009
For the past week I've been on the road, away on vacation. I had a great time. We hiked a bunch, including along the rim of the Grand Canyon, looked through the telescopes at the Lowell Observatory, picked up 800 year old potsherds in an Anasazi ruin (and put them back!) and spent a night in an Indian boarding school on the Navajo reservation. We also got a speeding ticket and I came home totally addicted to sugar again, but every vacation has a few bumps.
I always keep a diary on vacation. When I was younger I tried very hard to record the things I saw in a very exact way. It made no difference that the buildings of Rome had been described by thousands of others (and probably better) -- I was going to fix exactly what I saw in my own words. Now, I have to say, I've slacked off regarding descriptions. For one thing, I began to notice that some of the most memorable bits of the vacation didn't make it into the diary. You know the kind of thing -- finding a motel, eating a quick lunch, making a long drive somewhere, getting lost and finding your way again. Stuff that's not "important" enough to write up next to the Parthenon or the Grand Canyon. And yet, human memory being what it is, sometimes you recall those "unimportant" things along with all the grand views and great sights. They all come together to make a whole. So writing up the day in my diary and leaving out all the little things came to feel false to me. I was recording only part of what I'd seen.
This is a feeling I've struggled with in writing as well. Of course you have to get the important stuff -- but you need a feeling for unimportant stuff, too. Otherwise your writing will never feel real. But how real is too real? Where to draw the line?
Wow. I'm tired and this is day 3 of a migraine, so this is as far as I'll go. But let me just remember a few of the odd scraps of my trip that didn't make it into my diary:
-Riding down the main street of Tuba City, Arizona, watching Navajo kids skateboard.
-Walking on a cloudy, cool, evening around a park in Flagstaff
-Listening to disco classics as we climbed the Kaibab Plateau towards the Grand Canyon.