Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Gigantic Statement

The other day I was dusting bookshelves when I came to the shelf filled with photo albums and . . . well, I’m sure you can guess what happened. Who can resist a photo album? Especially the ones that record family vacations. Especially when you’re supposed to be doing something as boring as dusting. But I digress. Back to the point–and I do have one. There were dozens of shots of the Grand Canyon-for obvious reasons. It’s a sight that overwhelms, nature’s handiwork on a scale that defies comprehension. The canyon is at some points over eighteen miles wide and a mile deep. It is, in the words of Naturalist John Muir, “. . .a gigantic statement for even nature to make.” It’s hard to believe that it was created by the ordinary interaction between sand and water. Grain by grain. Drop by drop. Wind, too, played its part. And time. Lots and lots of time.

I thought of a little poem my grandmother taught me (the first I ever learned by heart):

Tiny drops of water,
Little grains of sand,
Make the mighty ocean,
And form this pleasant land.

(That may not be exactly right; it was, after all, a long time ago.) I’ve always liked that little verse. When I was small, I liked the sound of it, though I’m sure, back then, I had no understanding of what it meant. As an adult, I read a lot into it. It tells me to be persistent, to just keep chipping away at my “to do” list, ticking off the items one by one. As a writer, it tells me not to listen to the niggling little voice that asks, “Do you really think you can do this? Writing a book, a whole book, is a huge task.” I have to ignore the voice. Stop worrying about the whole book. Just write the next word. Trust that another will flow from that. That’s how stories are made. Even great stories, the ones we call classics. Even those gigantic statements are made one word at a time. A word. A sentence. A paragraph. Those are the sand and the water that shape our stories. And time. Sometimes lots and lots of time.


Jane Myers Perrine said...

Wonderful thought, Sandy. I had a friend who was paralyzed by the thought of writing more than 3 chapters because that's where it got hard--doesn't it for all of us? But word by word, sentence by sentence is a great mantra for writers.


Sandy Cody said...

I used to belong to a critique group that had a constant influx of new members who we (the core group) thought were great writers on the basis of their first chapter - and soon learned that's all they had. Persistence is the key. Of course, genius would be nice but, since we don't get to pick that card, I'll settle for persistence.

Elisabeth Rose said...

Boy did that photo bring back memories! We were there just over a year ago and we too have lots of pics but it's absolutely impossible to capture the vastness and the magnificence of that place.

Great analogy, Sandy.

Sandy Cody said...

Thanks, Lis. It's funny how, when we took the pics, they all seemed different - different light, different colors, different ...everything, but when we look at them, they almost look identical. Sometimes you really do "have to be there".

Beate Boeker said...

I enjoyed your post so much, Sandy! Thank you for sharing it - and I really have to see the Grand Canyon one day - I dream of going there on horse back - will probably fall off after the first day from sheer exhaustion, but oh, the romance!

Sandy Cody said...

Beate, you can ride a mule down into the canyon - not quite as romantic as a horse, but they're smart, sturdy little beasts. Hope you do get to see the canyon. Thanks for taking time to comment.

Christine Bush said...

Inch by inch..
Life's a cinch..

Thanks Sandy, for the reminder that the pages pile up.. one page at a time. Great post, thanks!