Cactus as Compass
I have to confess that the winter season in the desert has made my pursuit of “fun things to see” a bit challenging. This time of year the desert seems to be in slumber, with animals lulled to silence and plants painted by the stroke of the same dull, muffled brush – in withered, washed out hues.
A discovery last week, however, made me realize that there truly is something new to be seen every day, if only we open our eyes and look. Like this barrel cactus, for instance.
My discovery of something “new” in otherwise familiar and ‘drab’ surroundings made me think that our lives aren’t much different. We drive to work, run errands, tackle everyday tasks, parent, do our jobs the same way – often on autopilot and often completely unaware of our surroundings. At times, the world around us can feel mundane, boring, same-old-same-old. But is it really? In 2011, I challenge you to notice something every day. Whether you’re in the office, amid nature, on the train, on horseback … Look around. Seek new sights. Listen. Feel.
Why? Because if you’re not enjoying the journey, you’ve already lost the race.
For Writers: Believe it or not, the image of this cactus inspired several writing lessons and thoughts as I plan for 2011. Rather than pick one, I’d like to share a few.
- As writers, we need to look at the world in the same way – eyes wide open, constantly in search of ‘material’ for our novels. Whether it’s the speech patterns of the New Yorker sitting next to us on the plane, the weed growing out of the middle of the concrete against all odds, the way our neighbor’s dog cocks its head … we need to look at everything around us with fresh eyes. All of it is novel fodder.
- The barrel cactus is known as the compass barrel, due to its growth in a southwestern direction. What’s your writing compass telling you this year? Focus on freelance? Focus on novel? Focus on nonfiction? What are your goals? How will you keep your compass grounded?
- In the close-up image of the cactus, the hairy white yarns protruding from the barbs really look like thread to me. It made me think about how I’m going to thread my writing goals together – freelance and fiction – along with my personal goals. The way the threads seem to “grow” from each spine also brought to mind the question of how I am going to grow as a writer this year? How will you? Attendance at conferences? Reading more fiction? Setting daily word-count goals? Seeking critique from more writing groups and mentors? Becoming active on Twitter? Writing a blog?
- And, finally, I’m curious what your take is on the “feel” of this cactus. In some ways, it says “comfort” to me – with the hair serving as an insulated protective covering and the almost soft bird-nest-looking center. In other ways, though, it says confinement: wrapped tight, entwined like a ball of yarn. What do you see?