Friday, March 1, 2019

Searching for Just the Right Words


Our guest blogger this week is Van Temple from Abita Springs. Van is retired after 40+ years in community development, city government and social justice work. He was born and raised in Ruston, LA graduated from Louisiana Tech in 1974, lived and worked in Arkansas, Texas, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Delaware, Indiana, and a four-year gig in New Orleans. He enjoys writing creative non-fiction, short stories, and is now finishing Whisperwood, a historical fiction book based on his great grandfather’s experiences in the Civil War. He is also “restarting” work on a collection of a dozen short stories that he intends to publish in 2020. His writing style is Southern Story-telling.
Please be sure to leave a comment after reading Van’s post and feel free to share the link for our blog with your writer (reading) friends.

Happy Reading,

-Lisa

Searching for Just the Right Words

By Van Temple

I’m Van and I’m new to BWC, three meetings in, but you’ve welcomed me so well I already feel like part of the club. Thanks for enlarging your circle for a new Louisiana writer!

******

Uncle Judge swam two miles each morning before heading to the hospital - summer, fall, winter and spring. He was the only physician in Bunkie, so he had to be there every day. He wobbled from his car to the clinic and from room to room on arm crutches. His narrow hips and withered legs dragged along like an afterthought, belying his sly smile and pleasant demeanor.  

My uncle was crippled long before I was born. He was on his way to class at medical school when a car ran a red-light. His Harley motorcycle landed on top of him and both legs were ruined, but he lived. He finished medical school and went on to deliver babies, perform surgeries, set broken bones and treat children and adults into his 70's.

When my father was in his late 80's, I took him to visit Uncle Judge, his younger brother. Both had hearing loss and memories that had lost a notch or two, but there was magic in the way they looked at each other. I saw memories swimming in their dark brown eyes … the love of brothers who played baseball, climbed trees, and got into mischief together. Once, they decided on their own that they’d clear an overgrown lot to make their own baseball field. Arm load after arm load, they carried off woody shrubs after hacking them down with machetes. That evening they both broke out in red, itchy blisters … arms, faces, everywhere. Turned out they’d cleared a half-acre of poison sumac. 

My father’s eyes sparkled as he listened to his brother talk. I don’t think either understood much of what the other said, but that didn’t seem to bother them because they were together again after years apart. They shared a common origin, childhood, and the love and struggle of long lives fully lived.

The day was an intimate reunion of souls in their waning years, when words didn’t matter as much as they had before.

*****

When I write and especially when I edit, I search for just the right words. I relive the moment and examine the sentences to see if I’ve conveyed the truth accurately. Sometimes the perfect word or phrase is illusive. Over the last two years I’ve written a long historical fiction book and edited it from beginning to end eight times. Through this process I’ve come to see editing not as a necessary nuisance, but more like the fine strokes of an artist painting in oil, bringing the features into just the right light and perspective so the viewer is absorbed into the scene.

·         How is it that words have the power to transport one to another place and time?
·         How do words make us feel lonely, excited, crazy or peaceful?
·         Is it the writer who makes the magic potion or is it the reader?

In the beginning was the word …


6 comments:

  1. Love this story and love your writing voice, Van! Thanks for sharing.

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  2. Very heartwarming! One thing I love about writing is how it can paint the most vivid pictures from words alone. Well done, Van!

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  3. Beautifully written! Thank you for sharing.

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  4. Hello to a fellow writer. Enjoyed your story. Personally I subscribe to the theory that all the words have been written but all the stories haven't been told.

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  5. Thank you Van, that was a beautiful story.

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  6. Thanks to you all. It's so wonderful to have found BWC shortly after returning to S. Louisiana. There is such amazing power in the everyday encouragements and reflections that we give each other.

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