Birthday Foxes and Epiphany Trees

19 Apr

Why do you write? What prompted you to take that first step – to set pen on paper, finger on key – in telling your story? Learning the why and what of a writer’s journey allows each of us to explore dimensions of will, discipline, and fortitude. Why do intelligent people sacrifice enormous amounts of time in a potentially anonymous venue to engage in an activity that bores the average human being to mindless rocking.

Trust me on this.

I hear agonized howls from adult students when they’re charged with writing a couple of pages for an assignment. And we volunteer to write – not for a grade, not for money, not for glory (though the latter two may tantalize), but cuz we must.

The writers who’ve shared their thoughts with me often capture aspects of nature that resonate – cycles, beginnings . . . closure. Nature drives us to write as much as it provides fodder for the conflict and motivation in our stories. So, let me tell you about my birthday fox and epiphany trees.

Redfish Lake, at the base of the Sawtooth Mountains, stuns visitors with its beauty. The lake defines the cliché ‘crystal clear’ and draws all manner of wildlife. I’ve been visiting this area since I could walk. Every few years, luck and haphazard planning meant that, as a child and adult, I could wake up on the morning of my birthday and walk to the lake to see the sun come up over Mount Heyburn. I shared this vista in my dragon story a few days ago.

However, five years ago, I didn’t make it to the lakefront on my birthday morning. I was knee deep in a ‘coffin countdown’ moment. You know – contemplating gray hairs, neck wattle and forehead lines, then considering the length of my ‘if only’ list. If you haven’t had one (or more) of said moments, then you can’t claim three decades. I sat, wrapped in my imaginary cloak of pity party red, on the porch of a rented cabin. Sipping at a nasty cup of coffee and trying to get bars on my cell phone – further evidence of my despair and the universe’s punishment – I waited for the horde to wake up and demand breakfast. At a slight whisper and vague movement, I looked to the right.

The fox busied itself for several minutes looking for mice, maybe scavenging for marshmallow remnants from the s’more frenzy of the previous evening. I thanked the fates that my cell phone had a camera and captured his image. I watched, shivering off and on in the damp morning air, as the fox went about its routine. What was so mundane to this charming animal was a gift rivaling anything I’ve received in life – save for the birth of my children. A reminder. Serendipity.

The birthday fox reminded me that we never know what surprise may bless us next. At that moment, I decided to knock off an ‘if only’ or two. I would jot down stories from the batch that nagged at me. Aside from the occasional assignment in an English class, this was my first step. As silly and self-indulgent as another might see it, I needed to do this. We never know what might come of a first step. We always know when we fail to try.

So, I wrote my stories for a month. Then, every few weeks. Within three years, writing was something for another time, another week, another year. I went about my mundane schedule, much like my birthday fox, only I don’t think anyone was finding inspiration in my actions. One day in late April two years ago, on my way to another meeting on something serious and forgettable, I looked up.

I watched these trees bloom for ten springs, marveling at their twin beauty every year. But I only saw the trees once a year. The remainder of the time, the trees’ cycle was rote to me. Leaves turned green, morphed to fall colors, then blew away in the first winter storm. My epiphany was so obvious and simple that I’m faintly embarrassed to share (but what the heck, here goes).

We need to grab serendipity, see it, and hold on. Tenacity and perspective. I can choose that rote existence and mark each anniversary. Or, I can see the mundane, make it new, and capture that moment in words. I can choose to remember my fox and see my epiphany every day. Now, I write for hours every day. Yes, some of that writing is heavy, researchy, and decidedly mundane. But the rest? I see romantic suspense in every scandal . . . and a paranormal, extra-dimensional ride in the most innocuous headline.

Why do you need to write? What prompted you to start?

What birthday foxes and epiphany trees keep you going?


Posted by on April 19, 2011 in Idaho, wildlife, writing motivation


Tags: , , , ,

9 responses to “Birthday Foxes and Epiphany Trees

  1. johannaharness

    April 19, 2011 at 7:24 AM

    Beautiful photos, Liz! I love the birthday fox. 🙂

  2. Janis

    April 19, 2011 at 7:29 AM

    My journey involves the community I’ve found within the writing world. When I began to write, I never dreamed I would find lifelong sisters of the heart, travel throughout my country, and be a part of such wonder.

  3. Liz

    April 19, 2011 at 8:28 AM

    Hey Johanna – That’s high praise from my favorite photographer. Thank you

    Janis – You captured it – good friends and interesting new places will always inspire us.

  4. Clarissa Southwick

    April 19, 2011 at 10:02 AM

    Beautiful photos, Liz. This is the perfect time to step outside and let nature inspire us. Excuse me while I unplug my laptop. . .

  5. Carley Ash

    April 19, 2011 at 6:25 PM

    Lovely post Liz. Very nice read.

  6. lynn mapp

    April 19, 2011 at 8:02 PM

    Liz, what a beautiful story. Sometimes it’s hard to hold onto those moments, but we can try.

  7. Liz

    April 19, 2011 at 8:05 PM

    It’s easier to hold onto those moments with the support of friends. Thanks for commenting.

  8. Meredith Conner

    April 20, 2011 at 9:42 AM

    I love the inspiration! And the writing.

  9. maryvine

    April 20, 2011 at 3:43 PM

    I call these moments of looking up and seeing something special, God’s kiss on the top of the/my head.
    I write because it is a part of me-if I don’t write I don’t feel as rounded or complete until I add it back into my routine. Good article!


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