Rockets and Leaf-Mould

09 May

Two months ago, I was watching Youtube videos of rocket launches as research for a short story.  My kids, fascinated by the giant column of fire and smoke, joined me.  We chatted about rockets — what they are, what they’re used for, and where they go.

Today, the kiddos are still using blankets and bits of toys to build rocket ships, which they then ride to the moon.  It’s all highly imaginative.  But before they could imagine rockets, they needed that spark of information, that image of a column of fire blasting a cylinder of metal skyward.

Watching them reminds me of something J.R.R. Tolkien wrote about The Lord of the Rings:

 “One writes such a story not out of the leaves of trees still to be observed, nor by means of botany and soil-science; but it grows like a seed in the dark out of the leaf-mould of mind: out of all that has been seen or thought or read, that has long ago been forgotten, descending into the deeps. No doubt there is much selection, as with a gardener: what one throws on one’s personal compost-heap; and my mould is evidently made largely of linguistic matter.”*

My children’s cobbled together rocket has been a marvelous reminder that simple every day adventure — like watching a Youtube clip — can grow into a journey of epic proportions.

*Carpenter, Humphrey.  J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography.  New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2000.  p. 131.


Posted by on May 9, 2013 in Family, imagination, inspiration, research


11 responses to “Rockets and Leaf-Mould

  1. Janis McCurry

    May 9, 2013 at 7:05 AM

    “…and my mould is evidently made largely of linguistic matter.”*

    This is priceless. Thank you so much.

  2. marsharwest

    May 9, 2013 at 8:08 AM

    Great title, MK. Totally caught my attention. Heresy, I know, I’m not a Tolkien fan, but this is a great quote and so right on about how we drege stuff up from our subconscious to form those words that appear on our computer screens. Very cool!

  3. Jennifer

    May 9, 2013 at 8:22 AM

    It’s amazing how little morsels of life can come together to create a whole new world in a writers mind.

  4. Judith Keim

    May 9, 2013 at 8:40 AM

    Love this, MK! I write children’s fantasy and people sometimes ask me, “Where in the world do you come up with some of this stuff?” Now I can say from Leaf Mould…LOL Seriously, great thoughts on creativity and love that your kids are making rockets!

  5. Corina Mallory

    May 9, 2013 at 10:17 AM

    So true, and so lovely. I love the image of ideas growing out of leaf-mold. It perfectly captures the sense that all of our experiences, the things we see and do and hear, are the foundation for what we write. But that those experiences need to be processed and digested before they can give life to something new.

  6. maryvine

    May 9, 2013 at 10:44 AM


  7. stephanieberget

    May 9, 2013 at 10:44 AM

    What a great quote, MK. Growing stories out of the compost of the mind.

    • Lynn Mapp

      May 9, 2013 at 6:59 PM

      I like the thought of an epic journey.

  8. Suzie Quint

    May 9, 2013 at 9:01 PM

    What did we ever do before youtube? Such a great resource.

    • MK Hutchins (@mkhutchins)

      May 10, 2013 at 11:54 AM

      Youtube is one of my favorite research tools ever. I can actually watch everything from people practicing archery grips to, well, rocket launches.

  9. Peggy Staggs

    May 14, 2013 at 10:16 AM

    Inspiration is everywhere. I got a little idea for a new series this morning from a radio commercial.


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