A Good Writing Hour

Registration for Winter Fishtrap is still open, though you will need to find your own lodging. Winter Fishtrap takes place February 20 through February 22 at the Wallowa Lake Lodge (pictured at left), and the theme this year is Re-imagining the Wild. Presenters will be Kathleen Dean Moore, Roderick Nash and Jack Turner.

Kathleen Dean Moore is the author of three books, including The Pine Island Paradox, which won the Sarah Winnemucca Award for Creative Nonfiction in 2005. She teaches at Oregon State University and is the founding director of The Spring Creek Project. I asked her to describe a good writing day. She replied:

A good writing day isn’t actually a day. The day has already given way to dusk, and this deep in winter, darkness is complete. A good writing day isn’t actually good. It’s raining, that kind of rain that dampens your fleece and curls your hair, even when you’re sitting under a thundering blue tarp, which I am. And this notion of a good writing day? Better to talk about a good writing hour; usually I have to pry my workaday life open with a stick, to make a space to write. So I feel lucky to be sitting in a collapsible chair under a tarp in a winter field, balancing my journal on my lap. The beam of my head-lamp wanders over fescue flattened by old snow, logs floating in the pond, the gleaming gray sky. My mind wanders too: the mysterious loss of color in the night, the lick of wind, the keening of the degraded, debt-struck future, an improbable frog trilling in four/four time.

In the very best miserable writing hour, when everything is going right, I will suddenly see a philosophical question and a rough-barked or green-skinned answer in the same light. That’s where my essay will be, in the relation between an idea and an experience, in the relation between wondering and seeing, in that conversation between our obligations to the grieving future and the invisible frog calling the dance.