It’s a Hoodoo
I’m becoming a bit obsessed. With rocks. I admit I haven’t started licking them, like many geologists do (seriously… they do! It makes them easier to identify, and you can determine hardness by biting them).
At any rate, I confess that I am no geologist, though I am thoroughly enjoying my “for-fun” geology class. I’m also amassing a great pile of rocks along the way: granitic gneiss, schist with garnets in it, some diorite with Granny Smith-Apple-green epidote crystals on it. What fun! (Um, my husband doesn’t share in the enthusiasm as we run out of window ledges.)
And, on a grander scale, I was able to finally put a name to one of the great rock formations I’ve seen in the Santa Catalina Mountains in Tucson. To my delight, it also plays to my love of words. It’s a hoodoo! Try rolling that around on your tongue. Hoodo. Hoodo. I have fun just saying it.
The hoodoo is formed by erosion and is described as having a totem pole-shaped body. This guy couldn’t fit the description better. Though, when I look at it, I see an entire body with a face, belly, hands. What do you see?
Does it fascinate you that these hoodoos are millions of years old? That the area around them was formed from intense heat and pressure as plates from the Earth’s crust crashed into one another? Just wait until you see my photos of crenulated folds! Muhaaahahaha (that was supposed to be my evil laugh).
For Writers: I have to admit that this geology class has heightened my sensory acuity. Try describing a rock to someone so that they can understand how it differs from the ‘other’ rock. Saying things like “gray with black dots” or “brown, rounded” isn’t really helpful. It’s not easy at all … but when you really dig deep, and look closely at what’s in front of you, analyze it, study it, apply certain identification principles to it, you actually see so much more.
I’m not saying every writer should take a geology class. But if you’re looking to enhance your sensory description, you can try a few exercises on your own. Pick an object in your office, at your home, in your garden. Grab the laptop and describe it.
Look at texture, smell, shape, size. What other everyday objects does this ‘thing’ remind you of? If it could make noises, what would it sound like? What human characteristics does it have? How heavy is it? It might be a fun exercise (Your office mates or spouse may find it slightly disturbing that you’re role-playing and speaking with an inanimate object. But when you explain, I’m sure they’ll understand).
One other helpful “sensory starter” is reading the novels of authors who have nailed their descriptions, creating unforgettable sensory worlds that transport the reader. You can analyze their words in the same way the geologist analyzes rocks.
Some of my favorites for sensory description:
- CE Morgan’s All the Living
- David Wroblewski’s The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
- Brady Udall’s The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint
- Jeffrey Eugenide’s Middlesex