I have nothing against photographs. They enrich our memories, our knowledge of nature and the world of people, they can make us laugh or weep or take action or be silent in appreciation. One photograph can tell a story whole. Walls in our home are more filled with photographs than paintings, although there are plenty of both.
But when I go hiking in Glacier National Park, I leave the camera at home. I am a writer. I started leaving the camera behind and carrying a small notebook and pen in my pack to force myself to stretch to convey in words accurate pictures of natural scenes peaceful as a doe in a meadow nursing her spotted fawn, powerful as spring waterfalls, or grand as mountain vistas.
Tennyson’s poem, The Eagle: A Fragment, started me on this. When I was young, the poet brought me up short with the eagle watching “from his mountain walls” as “The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls.” I saw the ocean exactly and at once as the raptor did. So I search for the right metaphor, simile, or descriptive phrase. I take it home and try to fit it like a jigsaw piece in the perfect empty space in my writing to complete something that includes shape and shading, like a memorable photograph, but in words. I dream of giving my readers the rare and magical gift of eagle sight.