Inspiration is a wonderful gift, often inspired by the most unlikely adventures. I so happened on one of those adventures yesterday morning as I drove to work. A hot air balloon had taken residence on the horizon, not an uncommon occurrence during my morning drive. It was further to the south than it had been recently, and I seemed to drive right towards it. As I watched it meander over town, I also took in the super-moon, still glowing behind the morning haze and was struck with a photo idea (I am also a photographer, if you didn’t know). How cool would it be to be able to capture the moon behind the hot air balloon? The moon is hard to photograph because it often lacks perspective. Throw a hot air balloon into the mix and bam! Perspective.
As I was driving down Main Street in an area where I couldn’t really pull over, I turned off and began chasing the hot air balloon, hoping for an angle from a side street where I could capture both balloon and moon. The path I followed led me steadily closer to work, and as I tried to calculate where the balloon might be heading, I parked at a park off of a side street. I couldn’t see the moon, but one would serve nicely as a new banner on Facebook.
Not entirely satisfied with the pictures, I kept driving, calculating, and driving. A few blocks away I knew of an entrance to a walking trail that weaves through the old residential part of town. I wouldn’t have to go far down the trail to come to a clearing where I might be able to see the balloon and moon without obstruction.
I had found the trail a year or so ago and have been fascinated with the location ever since. It makes me think of some hidden grove I might find next to a castle in Europe: old, twisting trees that reach out to shelter the trail, a babbling creek, aspen grove, tall grass and even golden field (minus the utilities plant it butts up against, of course).
I have been down the trail a few times and while always in awe over its beauty, nothing ever popped into my head that was story related. For some reason, yesterday as I chased down a hot air balloon, it happened.
After I determined that the chase had been futile – the sun and moon had almost lined up and the moon was mostly lost behind the clouds and sun-fire – I took my time walking back to the car, taking in the trees around me.
Almost immediately I remembered a scene I wrote a couple months ago in Better to Pretend: Cory leads Jenna down a shaded path to a clearing – a hidden oasis in the horrible town that is Elbin.
I couldn’t tell how long we walked. It felt like forever, but it always does when you are going somewhere new and exciting. I just about asked him how much further when the trees broke, revealing a shimmering pond ringed by cattails and tall water grass. On the far side was a gigantic tree with sweeping limbs and dangling branches that dusted the ground with the slight breeze. It looked like something out of a fantasy novel, the whole place almost glowing in the moonlight.
“You should see it in the winter,” Cory said, and I could tell he was watching me.
“The big tree over there looks like the Womping Willow with all its leaves gone, like in the scene where Harry and Ron crash the car. I assume you’ve seen the movies, anyway.”
As I took in the trees around me, I realized I had stepped into my own little oasis, and while the trees don’t look exactly like the womping willow, they certainly serve the purpose of illustrating what I see in my head. I could picture where the rope swing would hang, where the bench might sit… I was almost like walking into a scene from my novel. Can’t get better than that.
And who wouldn’t want to take a walk down this trail?
All I had was my phone, so I don’t feel like the pictures really do the place justice. But, I will definitely be going back, next time with notebook in hand. Somehow writing about characters in a place where I could see them hanging out feels like an important thing to do.