The Importance of Landscape

Landscape is critically important. I don’t mean just within the context of any given story, but within the life of the writer as well. What a writer sees from his window often inspires him, or depresses him.

We recently visited the greater Denver area, and drove up into the mountains. The cool air invigorated me. The mountains inspired me. It was easy to imagine dragons flying overhead, trolls and ogres lurking in caves, and bands of scantily clad barbarians eluding squads of huffing soldiers in armor. My sinuses dried up and in the cooler air, I could think. I felt alive.

What do I see out my window back in Texas? The apartment buildings across the courtyard. The land may as well be a table painted green. The trees do their best to grow in the withering heat, but even the ancient ones are no bigger than saplings. A haze of dust from the brick factory next door shrouds everything. My pouring sinuses remind me why the Comanches called the Dallas-Fort Worth area “the land of bad air.”

I was inspired by the view in Colorado. I’m blooming depressed with the view out my window in Texas. I think I need to move my window.

Landscape is important to me. I have a vivid imagination, but it doesn’t work in the context of my own life. My stories follow the traditions of England, Celtic Britain, Scandinavia, and Germany. Those are areas of mountains and forests. Living on an arid prairie just doesn’t inspire me very much. It doesn’t connect me with the lands of my ancestors, traditions, and characters. I need to live the stories as best as I can, even if it’s just in a modern village tucked away in the mountains of 2014.

Oh, certainly, many writers rely upon their imaginations. I’ve visited Robert E. Howard’s home in Cross Plains, Texas, and for the life of me, I don’t know how he crafted the stories of Conan in a land drier and flatter than here. George R. R. Martin’s ability to see Westeros in Santa Fe is beyond mystery. I can’t do that. I want to be able to walk out my door into the forest and sit down. What do I hear? What do I feel? What do I smell? Answering those questions will help make my written landscapes real. I don’t think my stories would fit in a landscape of cactus and post oaks, unless I switch to sandal punk.

Besides, the older I get, the less I tolerate the heat. It is 100 degrees outside. The hell with that noise!

I’ve seen Ayrdland! I’ve stood upon its rocky terrain and gasped at its mountains. I’ve felt its cool breeze in my face. Keeping it in my mind while my body blisters in Texas is no longer good enough.

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