Mae Clair: When the Sky Had a Tail

Last week I read a great blog post by Stephanie Ingram called Aliens Have Landed.  She relayed how as children, she and her brother searched for aliens in the fields behind her house. Imaginative fun!

Stephanie pointed out that much of what we experience as kids makes its way into our writing as adults. Some of it is conscious, some not so conscious. I love the frivolity of childhood and the stories I used to invent with friends. I was always dreaming up something, or imagining a secretive place tucked under the horizon of a far-off land.

If you scroll down the sidebar of my blog you’ll see “12 Weird Facts About Me.”  Note number three. Minus any eye-rolling, please! 😉  The story is this:

It’s a warm summer night, almost dark, and I’m sitting on the front porch with my father. He didn’t realize The Spooky House was two doors down, (for some unfathomable reason he thought it was a simple office building), but I was conscious of it even then. He and I often sat together at dusk, especially if there was a thunderstorm brewing.

He must have worked a long shift, because he drifted off to sleep. Shortly afterward, a large green object trolled across the sky. I remember it as a semi-cloud, the color of algae-enriched seawater. Light spilled from the bottom, drenching the street, front lawn, and half of the porch in an eerie green glow. The light swept over me but didn’t touch my father who remained seated in the shadows.

I don’t know why I didn’t wake him. When you’re a kid you accept the unusual. The ‘cloud’ moved past, and soon people were walking up the street, jabbering excitedly. My dad woke up and I followed him down to the sidewalk where a woman stopped to chat. She’d come from the below The Spooky House, and told my father “the sky looked like it had a tail.” I remember those words clearly.

Had I seen a UFO?

Maybe not of the alien variety but, even now, with the hindsight of an adult, I can’t say what it was.

Hot air balloon?  Weather anomaly?

Given the woman confirmed something strange had happened that night, it will live forever as a goose-bump ‘what-if’ memory in my mind. At some point in the future that strange dirigible will most certainly worm its way into a story.

Are there childhood events, mysterious or common, you see yourself using in fiction?  Maybe you already have. Do tell! Inquiring minds (er…that would be me), want to know! 😉

The Magic of Betwixt

Enchantment lingers in transitional periods, those fleeting moments when time hangs suspended before hurtling forward into definitive change.  I’ve always been fascinated and inspired by those passages.  Not sure what I mean? Here are some of my favorites:

Twilight.
The first tentative rays of dawn.
The transition between seasons.
The arrival of a storm front.
The sliver of time between 11:59 and midnight.
New Year’s Eve at midnight.
The awe-inspiring cusp of a century. Remember how you felt on New Year’s Eve 1999?

As far back as childhood, betwixt moments have conjured a sense of wonder in me.  

For the most part, I’m a disciplined writer. Over the years I’ve trained myself to sit down and begin story-crafting with minimal effort. Let a transitional element wash over me, however, and the need for discipline vanishes. Creativity unfurls in its rawest form and my muse, bless her fanciful little soul, starts spinning out ideas like shooting stars. I feel connected, acutely aware of the ephemeral passage of time.  Creatively awake.

Perhaps that’s why transitional periods resonate so strongly. They transport me back to those days when technique had little to do with writing. When it was all about snagging the tail of a comet and hitching a ride to a brooding mansion, a magical forest, an underwater labyrinth, or a forgotten graveyard. To this day I feel that familiar rush at twilight, or when the weather turns warm and windy, the sky black with storm clouds. The thought of New Year’s Eve is sheer magic, and the sound of a clock striking midnight, every bit as enchanting as a fairy-tale spell.

What about you? What are the moments that inspire your creativity to blaze out of the ordinary?  I’d love to hear about them!

Weather ‘Tis Better

I’m a geeky girl about a lot of things, and weather is one of them. We’re a month away from summer which is prime thunderstorm season.  I love the change in the atmosphere right before a storm when the sky grows black, the wind blows through like an angry zephyr, and the leaves bend belly-up to the heavens.  

A few weeks ago I was visiting my mother when she mentioned how much electrical storms frighten her. Then she casually told me when I was a child, I used to sit on the front porch with my father to watch as storms rolled in.

I did?

Oh yes, she assured me.  The rest of the family would be tucked safely inside the house, but my father would take me outside until the weather grew too severe to linger.  I’d forgotten how much he loved that, and was saddened to realize it had slipped from my memory. It all came tumbling back in a rush like someone flipping a light switch. The sprawling front porch, sitting side by side, listening to the thunder, watching the lightning. How bizarre this should be a father/daughter bonding element, but he loved storms and taught me to appreciate them (with a healthy dose of respect for the danger).

Today, weather patterns have grown erratic, often becoming violent.  Tornados were a rare occurrence in my area when I was a kid. Now they spin closer each summer. I’ve even been caught on the fringe of one and don’t think I will ever forget the way the sky looked at that moment, or the unnerving blackness that followed. I know many of you have experienced tornadoes and other weather events first hand.

Do changes in the weather influence the way you write or feel?  I often find myself moved to bursts of creativity during those transition periods.

As we head into storm season, stay safe everyone!