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writing: setting

photo from canyoneeringusa.com

First of all, my apologies if this post is incoherent and rough–I only had two hours of sleep last night, which is not nearly enough for me to function properly. So, be kind.

When I was a senior in college, I took a course on Wallace Stegner from Dr. Richard Cracroft. I’ve talked about this before on the blog; how it was one of the best experiences of my life. I began reading Stegner when I was fourteen and loved him; this class was a dream come true for me.

One of my favorite Stegner quotes is: “One means of sanity is to retain a hold on the natural world, … Americans still have that chance, more than many peoples.”

The natural world brings sanity to me. I am not a city girl. I feel strange and disconnected without mountains or desert or forest; when we first moved to upstate New York I felt that I had lost the sky. I came to love that beautiful place with its vegetation and gorges and lakes; but I knew the high desert first, and that is the landscape that calls to me most of all.

The picture above is of the Subway, a very awesome hike that is near where I grew up and where I have had some very excellent experiences. It is also a bit like the landscape for CROSSED. Canyons, streams, desert, water, sky and stone.

I had no idea as a child how profoundly the experiences hiking canyons every weekend would influence my writing later, particularly this book that is very dear to me. I wanted, so much, to do the setting justice. It felt like a character to me–it was that important, it had that much impact on everything else and was so integral to what the characters were thinking, feeling, doing.

So in honor of the setting I’d like to give you another two songs from the CROSSED playlist: The Climber by Neil Finn and This Hard Land by Bruce Springsteen.

Are there any songs that make you think of the places that bring you sanity?

+ comments (6)
  • Ali
    July 12, 2011

    Southland in the Springtime by The Indigo girls. Reminds me of AZ where I grew up. Because I have been away from the US for 2 1/2 years living in Shanghai, I just have to add that America is truly beautiful. It takes my breath away to see the deep blue sky and the billowing white clouds, snow capped green mountains and the sunset on the sparkling lake. I can hardly think of the words to America the Beautiful without letting the tears flow. Great post Ally. Hope you get some sleep!

  • Jessie
    July 12, 2011

    I love the Subway too. One time I twisted my ankle on the way in and had to be semi-carried all the way out. Bummer. I cant wait to read Crossed and see what you mean about the setting.

  • Libby
    July 12, 2011

    That is a gorgeous picture. It is exactly what I imagined as I read Crossed!!

    The Subway hike brings back so many memories…and all of those memories are about our high school friends (since the two times I hiked the Subway was with all of you guys). I’ve been thinking that we should have a friend reunion and hike the Subway together again!! Hopefully Scott won’t see another owl!

  • Athena
    July 12, 2011

    I’ve wanted to go to the Subway for such a long tie now, but have never got to it. I love canyons in Utah too, and Zion is a really great place.

  • Jake Corry
    July 12, 2011

    Rocky Mountain High by Jon Denver takes me back to Deer Hunts when I was a kid up near Kolob Reservoir looking at the fingers of Kolob and Zion Canyon from above.

    Been back for 2 weeks and haven’t been to Zion yet, I’ll have to rectify that.

  • Audra
    July 26, 2011

    I don’t have a song that makes me think of a place that brings me sanity, but I do have a song that sometimes keeps me sane- “Hold on” by Wilson Philips 🙂

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