The Big Bag of an Author

I always carry a great hulking bag with me. To the grocery
stores, the library, around campuses, I’m always lugging my great big bag. And
today I’m reminded again why I bother to take the effort. My bag is large so it
can fit Allen, my laptop. And I always want to drag Allen around with me
because I’m incessantly working on something, either editing or writing a book.
And you never know when you will find yourself with twenty minutes of free time
and a secluded corner. Today I ended up at the El Paso Zoo after dropping
someone off at the airport, and found my twenty minutes of free time being
spent in the zoo’s aviary.
The bench is old, and not very comfortable. In fact the whole enclosure is a little outdated. But the atmosphere…
There is a strange bush in flower just in front of me, large enough the birds
can roost in it, and the perfume from the red flowers is exquisitely unlike the
smells one expects to find in an aviary. The bird song is incessant, and
strange. The tunes are different to my ear and not what I normally hear
wandering around my hometown. The Scarlet Ibis roosting in the trees add a
shock of color, and I do mean a shock. 
When you look up and see a large, brilliantly
pink bird roosting in a tree, you suddenly don’t feel like you are in the Southwest
desert anymore. And when you glance over your shoulder and glimpse an Asian
elephant’s back through the leaves, the sense of being transported somewhere
strange is definitely heightened. There is a very swift roadrunner
darting about the place, the feathers on its head rising and dropping as it
finds things of interest around its home. 
But I think my favorites are the
whiskered old men of birds. There are Inca Terns flying about my head, excited
over the colder weather and the deliciously cool breeze blowing through the
place. Their deep grey feathers keep combining into a strange mass in my vision
as they fly over each other, and then breaking off again into two separate birds,
as they circle each other, playing in the wind. One is sitting right across
from me on a log. The little black beasty has been watching me for ages,
wondering why I am clacking away on my keyboard. I wonder what his conclusions
The way he is yawning makes me think I am not very interesting. But I find
him fascinating. One of his fellows just dropped a stick nearly on top his
head, and his feathers’ ruffled in deep annoyance at it. Such a delightful
place to type, and one well calculated to draw my mind to strange places and
make me think of scenes I have never actually seen.

I am working on the first Dreaded King again at the moment. For
probably the twentieth time since I originally sat down to a blank
page and pounded the words out. The book has changed dramatically, but it can
still become a monotonous chore when you are reading the same words over and
over, trying to think of the best method to convey them to a reader. Which is
why it’s like a wash of clear air over the brain matter to take Allen with me
into places like the El Paso Zoo’s aviary. Suddenly
the Terns look like the Renpoll Mail Birds flitting about Ǽselthŵeś[1],
bringing the mail in their happy way, and the words become alive again in my mind. You see things differently when you are in a different place. And when the words are alive you can make them move, shove them around and make them fit better, make them more real, more natural, and hopefully make them able to come alive in a reader’s mind. Next time you pick up a book, think of all the authors out there lugging their big bags around in the hopes of making just one more sentence come alive, and do your part of the bargain. Let the words strike into you and bring the author’s vision into your own home. But be careful, words that are alive have a special ability to stay with you. Only let the good ones in.  
[1] Renpoll – A
type of bird, rarely found in the wild, but found in abundance in every city as
mail birds. The renpoll mail birds (RMB) pick up whatever mail is dropped into
their roost, read the address (yes, read it, and correctly too), and
immediately lift off to deliver it, happy for the challenge. If there is a
great amount of mail headed to one place, the RMB shove the letters into a
special carrier, and as many as ten renpolls lift it together, and use perfect
teamwork to get the mail where it is needed. There are human RMB workers,
feeding the birds, seeing to their medical care, and what-not. But the birds
train each other, and voluntarily do their work and return to their roosts
(even somehow working it out among themselves so the birds are properly spaced
throughout the kingdom) and are a truly remarkable species. By all accounts, a
dedicated RMB can carry a letter from one end of Ǽselthŵeś to directly the opposite
end in a single twenty hour day.