Monday, March 1, 2010

Seeing is Believing

Last night the full moon appeared like a flamboyant floodlight. It seemed to echo, “Is anyone alive down there…down there…down there? It is I, floodlight moon.” It appeared close but was actually 238,857 miles away! Our eyes do play tricks on us.

Even so, they are rich visual collectors. Two blue, brown, hazel or green mini artists, taking in life portraits, freeze framing them into memory the way paint adheres to canvas. A scoop of bangs across a forehead, inky black like a raven’s wing, dead leaves twirling on bare sun drenched branches or snow swelled on the ground like thick, whirled whipped cream.

I remember seeing my newborn daughter’s eyes for the first time. Like soul windows, new, but ancient and full of penetrating light. When they lay each in my arms, of course in different years, their haunting eyes explored mine, speaking without sound. Why hello dear mama, they seemed to say. I’ve felt your heartbeat and heard your cries and laughter a thousand times. Here you are now. I see you. They knew me and I them. Any mother can tell you how poignant this is. It is something we never forget, this lavish visual communication without words. I promise not to mention babies anymore, but I do love them.

Eyes alone speak of innocence, pain, sadness, joy, confusion, wildness and sometimes evil, all without saying a word.

If we have been blessed with our vision intact, our brain does the work of preserving previous sights into memory. I can still see the metallic shimmer of dollar sunfish, greasing through an Arkansas River, sun catching the star-burst of yellow bellies. And creamy vanilla colored jack-in-the-pulpits, glazing up an Illinois spring forest we wandered through as children. And red-winged black bird eggs, pale blue-green and freckled, cuddled tight in marshy nests.

It’s exciting to use this visionary sense in our writing. Here’s an example from my WIP, The Passion Diary.

Driving through Millview, men with wilted faces sat outside Hunters Gas Mart. On splintered wooden benches some whispered and whittled while others stood, eclipsed by smoke clouds wafting from lit points of cigarettes. The locals referred to the spot as Limber Dick Corner. God help me, I didn’t want to grow old.

Turning down Main Street, earth rose behind ancient buildings, disguised in fresh paint. Brambly blackberry vines clamored up a long row of fence, berries dangling and not yet flushed purple. Trees, heavy with green foliage, clung to hillsides and I wondered what was blending and dashing through not visible to the naked eye.

This is pure visual description and why I wanted to use it as an example. I could go back and add smell-the soil, cigarette smoke, etc... I could also throw in taste-of the eventual ripened berries, but for these paragraphs I probably won’t.

Hopefully, if I’ve done my job well, visual description alone tells you this is a small town with old secrets.

So, my writing buddies, please enjoy every visual treat this week. Remember, seeing is believing…sometimes.


  1. The description of the baby meeting the mother is expressed so well. As mothers, most of us can remember and relate.
    Your WIP is quite captivating too. :)

  2. Thanks, Anita. I hoped another mother or two would relate to that.

  3. I like it how you call our eyes: "visual collectors", "soul windows". Indeed they are the windows to our soul through which light and pictures of the world around us penetrate.

    There's a little poem for kids on the Web that tells the kids that the eye can see the world outside and also what is inside one's soul.

    ' Eye can see buterflies/ Eye can see clouds
    Eye can see Tv/ Eye can see crowds
    Eye can see truth/ Eye can see lies
    Eye can see feelings/In other people's eyes

  4. DUTA: That is a fantastic kids poem! Yes, Dorraine, I don't need anything but your visual descriptors to tell me about this town, this scene...this moment in time. In this instance, scent, taste or any other mention of senses is almost overwhelming.

  5. I LOVE the video on your side bar. Is this the one you made with your daughter? So enticing. And the music, Angel Blues, is so fitting and haunting!

  6. Duta, I do love that poem. It is true-we can see feelings in other people's eyes. Thanks for sharing that.

  7. Hi Ronda! Yeah, sometimes less is more. It all depends on the scene.

    Yep, that's the one, re: book trailer. Thanks and glad you liked it. It took me a week to find just the song to fit the piece. I was elated to finally find one.

  8. Hi Try. Thanks for your visit.

  9. Dorraine, you are a master of lush visual details. I truly enjoy getting a sneak peek into the latest book!

  10. Hope you're feeling better, Stacy. Thanks so much for your sweetness.

  11. I f we could make a complete inventory of our visual memories, now that would be fabulously interesting - as was your post.

  12. You paint marvelous pictures, with your words. I hope you know how lucky you are, to be able to do that. A Gift... It is a Gift.

    And you share it, with us.

    Thank you...


  13. Yes, that would amazing, Dave. And it's weird too how people remember the same events differently. Thanks much.

    Hi, Amelia. Now that was just the sweetest thing to say. Thanks for your kindness. I am grateful to be able to use what I've been given and share it with others. Sharing is the best part.:-)

  14. Love the visuals I'm getting here :)

    And finally got a copy of "Jack Rabbit Moon"! And an almost free reading week-end...

    Enjoy yours, Dorriane...

  15. Seeing really is believing. That picture was stunning! Did you take it yourself?

    I find describing visuals one of the hardest things to do in my writing which is why I work extra hard on it. You give some great examples of the art in this post.


  16. A great weekend to you as well, Subby. Love those reading weekends. I need one of those very soon. Thanks so much for ordering the book. I do hope it keeps you well entertained. Please let me know how you like it!

    If you saw my cheap little camera Jai, you would chuckle and know that wasn't my photo. I am getting a new one, so I'll be snapping away. Photobucket is a treasure trove of pretty pictures. I find cool stuff there.

    You could have fooled me re: working hard on visuals. Your book is full of beautiful examples. But I know what you mean-to make things pop takes some effort. Thanks for the vote of confidence.

  17. great playing with the visuals in my pieces, adding indirect textures as well so it surrounds the reader....

  18. You're very good at it too, Brian. Keep writing!