I’ve been a pirate on an island with Tom and Huck, smuggled French Aristocrats with the Scarlet Pimpernel, jousted over a river with Friar Tuck and Robin Hood.
Whenever I see little islands in the middle of rivers or lakes, I tug my dad’s sleeve like a little kid and say, “That’s just like Tom and Huck’s island!” Y’all, I even named chipmunks in my yard after Robin Hood characters (Will Scarlet was my favorite).
But those experiences are not mine; they exist in the imaginations of authors past. I think that’s why I love writing; I’m constantly looking to create experiences like those in my own mind.
Anything that reminds me of childhood or wilderness reminds me of books. I can’t look at the Mississippi River without picturing a riverboat on it. It’s like my life and the fictional lives of every character I’ve ever encountered have blended together, and I really don’t mind at all. I have so many friends, and they’re all from so many places and backgrounds.
Traveling pulls them out of me, like they’ve been hiding in a cupboard, waiting for me to hop on a train and roll across the country.
I like that the term “train travel” reminds me of countless black and white movies: Marx Brothers Go West, The Song of the Thin Man, Sherlock Holmes, etc. I like that I have those references in my mind, that I can recall these films that most other people wouldn’t have ever heard of, much less watched over and over and over throughout childhood.
I’m on a train as I type this on my phone…what would Mark Twain think of that? He might be horrified, but he might also be excited that I’m using my phone to write, and not to fling little birds at green pigs.
I saw a lot of this country in the past few days. Glacier National Park, the Mississippi River (even Twain didn’t prepare me for how enormous it is), little baby towns on the edges of lakes, and a whole stretch of brown plains. We live on a gigantic continent, and I’m pretty stoked that I got to see a bunch of it, though I only got to see bits and pieces and I didn’t truly experience most of it.
But hey, maybe these memories can help me create my own characters. Until then, and even after, I’ll be hanging out with Tom, hustling people into whitewashing my fence for me.
Please excuse the fact that this post rambled on more than usual. I’ve been motion sick for the past 36 hours and am currently in a tunnel in Wisconsin. I love you, muffins!