Thursday, August 20, 2015

Inspiration Everywhere

Sometimes, after sitting at my desk for weeks, my ideas dry up. This year, with the World Science Fiction Convention being in Spokane WA, we decided this was the time to take an Alaskan cruise. I wanted to see a glacier calve off some icebergs (before they retreat so far they can’t be seen doing that anymore).

Not only did I see that sight, I had lots of experiences and thoughts to tuck away in my mind’s corners to possibly be used in future stories. And the same happened to John; he almost daily stated he could use a particular experience in one of his short stories that he now hoped to turn into a novel.

For instance, our first excursion was ziplining through the tree canopy of the forest surrounding Juneau. Having an on-again/off-again fear of heights, it took grim determination to try this. Thankfully, once I started zipping along each line, the gear kept me from looking down, so I only had to ‘face my fear’ on the platforms in the trees, for the most part. Now I have a little bit of a feel for what it’s like to don a harness and ride along a cable; how the wind feels, how easy it is to get ‘off-balance’ and start rotating instead of facing forward. Not to mention how wet one’s clothes can get, how slippery one’s shoes can get, or how poorly one can see the rapidly-approaching platform one is aimed for when it’s raining.

The day started misty but calm, and it was a gentle rain by the time we finished. From that, I might be able to extrapolate what the experience would be like in a heavier rain or even snow.

The tallest point we reached was 185 feet above the ground. (“I did not need to hear that,” I told our guides.) I don’t think the platforms were any more than half-way up a tree, and for the most part, there were tree limbs around us. But the course came down the side of a steep hill, and the ‘training’ line started at a platform about 1 foot off the ground and ended at one about 10 feet off the ground. The 2nd line (the bunny slope) took us even further into the air. With some imagination, I could possibly figure out what it would be like to use a zipline between buildlings like a cat burgler, or across chasms, or from stony outcrop to stony outcrop on a mountain.

I’ve considered intelligent creatures traveling in this way, but only 10-20 feet off the ground. If they were on a steep piece of terrain, they would have to use ‘switchback’ lines or ‘tack’ their way down. I’m still working on how they would get up a hill. That might involve tree-climbing.

It was hard for me to get started with this adventure. By the time we finished, my knees were shaky and I was completely worn out. The other adventurers asked how I felt about ziplining now, did I enjoy it? I replied I wasn’t sure ‘enjoy’ was the word I would use; I would have to do it again to see if it was fun. And then, during the obligatory visit to the gift shop, I found THE t-shirt I HAD to have! It said,

I survived ziplining!

Well, I’ve spent this entire blog talking about ziplining. I thought I would quickly run through a catalog of our ‘new experiences’ from this cruise, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen that way. Yeah, I tend to ‘run off at the keyboard’.

So stay tuned for my further adventures! They’ll get written up and posted, mixed in with all the other stuff I find to write about here.