Stories Created From My Travels?
Some people have asked how I could travel to far away exotic locations and not sightsee more. The easy answer is I plan to return with my husband and will behave more like a tourist at that time. I could also cite time constrictions and the involvement in dog activities, since I generally travel to exotic locations to evaluate Salukis in the show ring. The real answer goes deeper and speaks to my life as a writer even when I’m not writing.
Unless my characters fall into their stories from a group tour or from their long planned vacation that’s about to become disarranged, they’re not going to be spending much time in museums or at well known locales. Far more likely they will be driving along the winding back roads scared spitless but not ready to give up yet. Or they’ll be running for their lives along the walking paths cut through fields all over the country. Hope they don’t trip over the many old dogs waddling along those paths and not likely to step aside.
Thatch roofs cost 20,000 pounds to maintain and have to be redone every so many years, which really reduces any desire to have this sort of roof. Each locale has a particular style of thatching, and it’s a very lucrative profession. Maybe you can find that kind of information on the Internet but did you realize old thatched roofs look like packed moldy straw with chicken wire on the top. Not quite as appealing as the pictures I’ve seen of cottages with bright straw thatching.
In New Zealand, now known as the country where Peter Jackson filmed Lord of the Rings, the opportunities off the beaten path are even more fascinating. In Wellington, there’s a bridge which looks like it was thrown up overnight during a drunken contest. Every section slants a slightly different direction. In fact it is magnificently engineered to look like the set of a Disney cartoon. Crossing to the bridge from the waterfront, I found a large concrete sculpture mounted in the ground, quoting Pat Lawlor, Wellington writer: “And now, as I grow in years, I feel at times like an old violin played on by a master hand. You, dear city, are the maestro drawing the bow over the sensibilities of my mind, echoing the music of my days.”
On the bridge itself I read another plaque: “It’s true you can’t live here by chance, you have to do and be, not simply watch or even describe, this city of action, the world headquarters of the verb.” Someone had sprayed letters across this message, I suppose in their own statement of action. Later I learned this is a part of Wellington’s Writer’s walk – now I need to go back and take the rest of the walk!
My host felt New Zealanders were dour and often depressed, unlike Americans who always seem positive and upbeat, or even Australians who seem sometimes aggressively cheerful. I had to disagree. How can any people who intentionally build a bridge looking like it was thrown together in the dark, and erect buildings in the shape of sheep and sheepdogs be depressed? Much less people who feel their writers are important enough to have concrete plaques installed. Subtle, perhaps so much so they fool themselves. My host reminded me much of New Zealand was settled by Scots, who tend toward a dour attitude. When I thought about this it made perfect sense. Both peoples live in a country with immense natural beauty and so many creative minds but so far away from most of the world.
More fascinating was the attitude of the current residents, depending on their ancestry and for that matter if they were born in New Zealand or emigrated later. Those who came over as bond servants and made their way in the new world by interacting with the Maori, who preceded them by about 1,000 years, told me about the losses for the Maori when New Zealand was “discovered” by Europeans. Those whose ancestors served as officers in the British army showed me paintings of the forts commanded by their great great grandfather, erected to defend the British against the Natives. Perception really is everything.
© 2011 by Mona Karel