I have letters written by my Uncle Norman during the war. He was a navigator with one brother a pilot (my Dad) one in the navy and the other I'm not too sure about. The point is there were four brothers and they were all overseas fighting a war.
didn’t come back though. The other three did – my Dad being the youngest and now the only one left. But Norman – we didn’t know who he was. We knew my Dad and his family and friends called him Baldy because he had a lot of hair. My Dad and his brothers all had the Lyle Lovett thing going on – big puffy mounds of black hair on their heads – pomaded to beat the band. The point here is not my family’s hair issues though – it is that the only way I get to meet the mind of my uncle is to travel back in time via his words through his letters. I’ll read you excerpts from one – sit back. Norman
My Dear Mother & Dad;
I am sorry I haven’t written although I know I should have but the time seems to get by so quickly and really we have been kept very busy up here. It sure is a long time since I heard from you Mother but up until 1 week ago there had been no mail from Canada but in the past week I have had 1 parcel from Dot, 1 from Grace, and cigarettes from Mrs. Bryan, 4 letters from Dot and 2 from Marnie so I can’t complain. Harold Boles is here on the same station as well as Bob Samson so we do OK. I have been getting in a bit of flying but we have been mainly on ground instruction.
Dad you will be busy now with spring coming. I hope you aren’t rushed too much. I haven’t been out much as we are a long ways from town and we are busy the time so we don’t bother about going out much. I don’t care for the English girls so don’t bother about them. You only need to take them out twice or tell them you own a ranch in
and they start naming the date. I get a kick out of them but I can’t stand their talking. Canada
Well I must run along now so goodnite and God bless you. Write soon.
Your loving Son, Norm.
And there you were – I hope – back in
– an air-base probably in the North – a young man who is dutiful but doesn’t have a lot to say to his mum and dad. Making sure he doesn’t get caught by the war-time machinations of the local girls. Who is chaffing at the bit of all the instruction and wants to get into the battle, the air, and the action. I look at the outside of this flimsy light blue paper and see that it was postmarked the next day and sent from Pershore R.A.F. Station. England
When we decide we are going to write something we have a responsibility. If people are going to travel in time we need to make the story worth the trip. If I were to travel to
this year – which I not-so-secretly long to do – I would be bereft if upon getting there I wasn’t able to use all my senses. I want to smell the baguettes, the perfumed air, even the dog shit. I want to see the Paris Left Bank, the women’s fashions, the . I want to hear people chattering away in cafes, the accordion player on the corner, and even the small fussy dogs. I want to feel the soft air, the piles of silk scarves at the market, and the stone wall that Hemingway may have touched on his way by. I want to taste Coq Au Vin, the sharp liquorice of absinthe, my lover’s skin in a Parisian hotel (yes, it will taste different there). Eiffel Tower
And so, if I am wanting people to travel to some part of the continuum that I have designed I want them to be seeing, touching, smelling, sensing, hearing the world I’ve created.
On my monitor I have a sticky note – it says smell, touch, taste, hear, feel, see. And I move it around some so I continue to notice it – or I copy it onto another garishly coloured sticky note from time to time. I have one more I added yesterday from an Elizabeth Spann Craig post. It says ‘telling detail’ though I think she called it precise nouns.
Yesterday when Ron and I were on an errand in the city he noticed a sign outside a
rather seedy run-down motel. It said ‘Colored TV’. My we laughed. If I was describing the motel I would only need that detail to have you see the sort of motel it was.
When we write we want to bring our readers the full deal. That is the magic of writing – we are creating time-travel ships, magic vessels that transcend the laws of nature, ships that the readers get lost in taking them to places they may have been before or don’t even exist but they are seeing it now through our eyes, our tongues, our fingers, noses and nervous systems. Guess it is telepathy too.