I have a tumblr blog that I mostly use to collect pretty pictures. While a good (overwhelming) proportion of those pictures are gorgeous men (usually without their shirt), I am also partial to beautiful landscapes and photography. I collect pictures of mountains, in particular. And flowers and forests. Colour and composition usually capture my eye first, but sometimes the subject, itself, is the picture.

A series of photographs to recently catch my attention all feature pathways. I like paths. I like being out in the forest or the mountains, rambling through nature, but it’s instinct—and just sensible—to find a path through all that glorious chaos. Paths beckon the eye, the feet and the imagination. When following a trail, one might wonder what the view will be like from the crest of the next rise. Likely as not, you’ll be looking at the slope of the neighbouring hill and it’s longer and steeper than the climb you already made. Sometimes, it’s an unexpected and beautiful vista, and that’s why you keep going, even though your thighs are burning.

There are also twists and turns. A path might feel like it’s folding back on itself and then, instead, spit you out in wonderland. A hidden pond and you’re there just in time to see the lilies in bloom. Or a steep drop off where your new boots do an admirable job of turning you into a mountain goat.

Pathways beg to be explored, and to get all philosophical, not all paths are the ones we see. They don’t all twist through forests, rise over hills or step over ponds, parting the duck weed on the other side. Sometimes a path is a choice and sometimes more than instinct is required to take that first step.

Beautiful photographs after the cut.

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Ramble: The Alien Forest

Writers draw inspiration from everywhere; pictures, songs, other books, a snippet of conversation, a single lyric, a poem. A friend of mind likes reading articles about scientific advances. We’ve planned to incorporate more than one idea in the future setting we’d like to write in (after we finish editing book one of the fantasy setting we’ve been writing in). New ideas are always exciting, however, and they often take precedence, even if for a minute or two until a note has been jotted down.

One of my more obscure points of inspiration is Clump Road. It’s a road crossing the turnpike in North Eastern Pennsylvania. I don’t know where it goes, or even why it’s named. The minute I saw the sign I felt a presence, though; a voice started whispering. Something happened on Clump Road. One day, when I write the story, I’ll find out what.

Landscape photography often sparks my imagination. I have a thing for mountains, particularly peaks shrouded in clouds and mist. I wonder what’s happening up there, out of view. I long to venture into the clouds and would do so with the anticipation of stepping into another world. Beyond the Veil. Sometimes I want to know what’s just off to the side, or down that dark hole (something horrifying, probably). Sometimes the scene is simply otherworldly, ethereal, and I’m instantly transported to another world.

The most recent landscape enticing me to visit is not a mountain. It’s a forest. I call it The Alien Forest. The ground is red with an oxidized mud. Or, perhaps more gruesomely, the ground up corpses of… Let’s stick with the mud. Weaving along the banks of the creek are the veins of the tree people. The feed on the mud (corpses?) and absorb the memories. Okay, we’re going corpses. I’ll kill them humanely, I promise. Touching the green roots forms a connection with the trees and a glimpse of those memories. Maybe that’s how the tree people communicate. The roots grow together or simply brush past one another as they wander through that rich, red soil.

Now I need a story that includes my weird planet with its forest of tree-like aliens.

The forest depicted in these pictures does exist in our world. It’s the Oztarreta Forest in Spain as photographed by Javier de la Torre García. I wonder what he saw through the lens of his camera?

Ramble: The Weed

I try to spend at least an hour a day in the garden. It’s good for my daughter and it’s good for me.  I’m sure it’s good for the garden too.  As soon as the spring sun peeps from behind the last winter cloud, I don my sturdy boots and stiff new gloves and set to work pulling out all those weeds I was able to ignore when snow or leaves covered the ground.

When I lived in Texas, I battled with more than weeds. The previous year’s vegetable patch often continued to enjoy success in the form of tomato and cucumber seedlings popping up in the most unexpected places—usually the middle of the lawn. Often, I mused that if we went away for a month, we would return to find a tangle of cucumber vines covering the lawn, robust tomato plants poking up between. Sometimes, instead of plucking them out, I just mowed them down, curious to see if they would shoot back up by the end of the week.  They did.

One year, I transplanted the tomatoes to the new vegetable bed and put a line of cucumbers along the back fence.  Later that year I wondered why on earth I thought we needed four cucumber plants. Two would have sufficed. It was always hard to kill the baby cucumber plants, though. They represented possibilities (and I have always hated to waste food).

Instead of growing up the fence, the cucumbers grew along it, giving the plant (and the fence) a rather messy look. One sturdy tendril took off along the grass, perhaps to establish a new colony (one I could tame!) then inexplicably curled around behind the rest of the vines.  The cucumber grew itself into a corner.  I could have gone in there and cut it back. I didn’t; the tangle appealed, in a way.

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Ramble: Landscapes of an Imaginary World

As a reader (and a writer), I enjoy an active imagination. Words on a page inspire flights of fantasy, and though my vision may not match that of the author, if I have gone somewhere, they have been successful.

When I am describing a scene, I have a picture of it in my head, which I assume most writers do. Some, however, might use a reference. I know I have seen places that should be written about–a building, an alleyway, a copse or cliff. A line of mountains. I tuck these away in a notebook and save pictures when I can. There are a lot of places that, taken out of context (excised from Earth), appear otherworldly. In the case of architecture, I like to believe this is often on purpose. In nature, however, almost anything seems possible.

Leafing through the May 2012 National Geographic this morning, I stumbled across a picture that fired my imagination.

This is Litlanesfoss, Iceland. The columns were formed by an ancient lava flow. Though not regular, the hexagonal shape of the columns immediately inspired thoughts of video games—and jumping puzzles. Rather than a photo, I saw concept art…and I loved it. I wanted to write about this place, I want to describe it in words and turn it into the landscape of an imaginary world.

Iceland features a lot of such places, as a quick browse of available images will show, but there are inspiring landscapes in my own backyard as well.  I drive past a reservoir on my way into town. Many mornings, particularly in the spring and autumn, the water is obscured by mist. I wonder if there is an island in there, a secret one that only appears when the mist settles across the water. One day, I’ll look for it.