Finding words to express the inexpressible

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining;
show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

Anton Chekhov

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Were you moon watching last night, or the night before? Judging by Twitter and Facebook comments, many people were checking the full moon’s size, having heard it would be the closest and largest full moon of 2013 — a super moon.

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Astronomers (or would that be astrologers?) have said the moon won’t be this close to earth again until August 2014.

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Full moon rising, June 22, 2013

I took photos of the super moon when it occurred in May 2012. This year’s photos don’t look much different, and yet just like other times, I was drawn to stand in the late night darkness and try to capture something of the wonder of the sight.

Astronauts marvel at the view of earth from their exceptional space perspective, and I suspect something akin to their awe is what I feel every time I consider a full moon. Another separate planet, distant, and yet not beyond reach.

Super Moon, June 22, 2013

Super Moon, June 22, 2013

I watch, fascinated, as the globe rises, hovers in velvet blackness over the horizon. The shutter clicks several times as I try for the clearest possible shot. But the results are always a disappointment. The images never produce the sense of wonder that I experience while watching the real thing.
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The same thing happens while fingers hover on the keyboard, waiting for my mind to produce exactly the right words of description. They don’t come.
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Fantasy isn’t my genre of choice to write, but I admire the author’s ability to manufacture strange new worlds and convey them with words that allow me to visualize them. How frustrating that I cannot describe something clearly seen, while they do such a magnificent job of describing something that doesn’t exist! Is it because I lack imagination or vocabulary?
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What draws you to your genre of choice? Do you write in that genre because it’s what you prefer to read, or possibly because the tools needed — the words — are plumbed from a familiar depth?
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“The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”

Psalm 19:1

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“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?”

Psalm 8:3-4

~  ~  ~

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10 thoughts on “Finding words to express the inexpressible

  1. Judith Robl says:

    Words are always inferior to emotion. The trick is to pull words with nuance that can evoke the emotion in others. I know what it is – just not how to do it.

  2. I saw the supermoon last night over Wellington, NZ – the first clear night in five. I saw it again this morning when I got up before sunrise. It hung luminescent yellow in the low horizon. Could I write about the emotIions and mood? Perhaps. I’ve spent over 40 years learning about writing and doing it. And from this I know that words are simply imperfect vehicles with which we try, as writers, to express the perfection of the thoughts we imagine. All too often I find I have the idea in my mind – and cannot convey that into the page to my satisfaction, still less that of any reader that may come by. The real skill of writing, I think, is the aspiration towards that goal – for none of us, I think, will ever achieve it.

    • Carol says:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Matthew. One of my uncles was an artist and he used to say that the true artist is never totally satisfied with what is created. The striving leads to improvement, but not perfection.

  3. Sue Harrison says:

    The light from that super moon woke me at about midnight. Thank you for letting us know why it was SO bright! For me, with my genre, “The words are plumbed from a familiar depth.” What a beautiful way to put it, Carol!

    • Carol says:

      We were still up and visiting when the moon rose here and with the lights on I almost forgot about it. We only noticed it when we put the dogs out. It was nice to see. The next night was cloudy.

  4. I think you did a great job with the pictures. I missed the actual event.

    I write Christian Speculative Fiction. While no aliens or strange creatures inhabit my landscape, the people live in a vastly different America.

    After The Moses Conspiracy was written, it was much easier to write the second book. The story world became familiar and less of a stretch for my imagination.

    • Carol says:

      Super moons happen every year so it’s not a single not-to-be-missed celestial event, but it’s impressive.

      When I’m creating settings for my stories, although they’re generally familiar places, I like to create collages of items, rooms, people, etc., that I can have near me as I write. Although I haven’t tackled a sequel, if I were going to I think, like your first book, the collage would provide familiar material to carry into the next one.

  5. Katt says:

    Carol,
    I saw the Super moon on Saturday night, but Sunday night it was cloud covered. As I stood gazing at that amazing creation I was reminded of another time when my son was in Korea. He called and was close to tears because he was so homesick. I had just seen the moon…minutes before I talked with him. It inspired me to write a poem about “the same moon I see”. All of God’s creations take my breath away. It’s not like describing a cake someone baked…. it’s the moon, or a palm tree, or a tulip.
    This post was thought provoking! Thanks—you did it again.
    Hugs and blessings,
    Katt

    • Carol says:

      It’s one of those mind-boggling things… that the moon I see is the same one that others around the world also see when they lift their eyes. And I’m always reminded of the words of your poem, “From Into the Night”… that it’s God who has put the heavenly wonders there for me to see.

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