Saturday, August 8, 2009

Wait with me on the Writing Bench ...

A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people. –Thomas Mann

I affectionately call this place the Writing Bench. Nestled deep within the largest cottonwood stand in the State of South Dakota, the Writing Bench is situated at the Adams Homestead and Nature preserve – a 1,500-acre state recreation area.

To me, the Writing Bench is an endearing spot, where I sit perched like a mother hen, waiting for stories to hatch.

Previously on the writing bench, which is constructed with four two by sixes bolted to iron legs, I have written articles about Mom, Dad, the kids and God.

I travel here by bike each spring, summer and fall; and by foot in winter. Coming here in winter takes true dedication, trodding through snow-covered trails against sometimes bitter South Dakota wind to reach this hallowed place.

It is worth the effort because this is one of the few places where I retreat and wait for sometimes soothing, other times troubling stories to whisper softly or shout loudly, commanding a presence on my page. Such is the writer’s life.

I come prepared with a piece of scratch paper and pen so as not to lose these word gifts in time and space.

Most often, any hope of being supercharged with inspiration by simply being on or near the Writing Bench is competitively disadvantaged. Warblers, cardinals, woodpeckers and squirrels all vie for attention, distracting my train of thought.

Along comes a dad, his two boys, all on bikes with the family dog running alongside.

Kids chattering; Father playfully shouting, "Hi ho, Silver," as they fly by, heading down the winding trail, west toward the river.

Quickly out of sight, their conversing voices carry in crisp indiscernible sounds from deep within the cottonwood stand. Growing fainter and fainter still, their chattering is quickly silenced by distance.

A strong northerly breeze unexpectedly washes over me, as I wonder and wait for thoughts and memories to descend.

Sitting confidently in quiet stillness, I anticipate that my sheer presence on the Writing Bench will impart words, phrases, story ideas for my next article.

I raise my eyes prayerfully to an azure sky, hoping that I myself will be a conduit – or a convenient target – for such inspiration. I beckon the heavens to rain ideas down upon me from the cloudless ceiling above.

Tweeting, chirping, squeaking – more bird calls than I am able to name continue to encircle me.

Sunlight illuminates emerald green canopies of deciduous, scrub pine and cypress trees. Grape vines, poison oak and ivy lace this place with an intricately woven cover.

I sit quietly while five, 10, 15 minutes pass. Nothing comes to mind. No new discernible thoughts; only the fruitless, uninterrupted noise of nature clouding my thoughts.

[At 2 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 8, Paula will give a prose reading from her collection "Look. Don’t Look." in the Lamont Country School, not far from where the Writing Bench is located at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve, McCook Lake, S.D. This free event is open to the public. Come!]

2009 © Copyright Paula Damon. A resident of Southeast South Dakota, Paula Damon is a national award-winning columnist. Her columns have won first-place in National Federation of Press Women, South Dakota Press Women and Iowa Press Women Communications Contests. In the 2009 South Dakota Press Women Communications Contest, Paula's columns took three first-place awards. To contact Paula, email, follow her blog at and find her on FaceBook.

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