In this exercise, try a "generating technique" that is a simple list of
things. Often this is a very good way to come up with something to
write about and it is easy. Anyone can make a list. In this list
include shapes that you see in the landscape--shapes that are unique to
your particular landscape, or just any old shape--the shapes of trees,
of ponds, of rocks, mountain ranges, flowers, shapes in the sky and in
the soil. This kind of thing can add a lot of texture and interest to
your writing. Below is my list from some places I've visited in
Analysis:In this list I tried to write about some of the
different kinds of shapes in this landscape. I tried to write about the
sharp, square, right-angled shapes, and also the smooth shapes that
contrasted with them. My list is more narrative. Your list can be a
list of single words, or just a few words. The important thing is to
include as much as you can in your list.
Writing Sample:Round bubbles of air trapped in the ice at the
pond at Black Island. They are juxtaposed so starkly with the cracks in
the ice, cracks that run deep and small, at all angles, crossing and
recrossing each other and running out to the edges of the pond. Some of
the bubbles look like small, white, perfectly round planets under the
green/blue ice. Others look like comets, with long streamers of smaller
bubbles behind them, shooting up toward the surface from deep below.
polygons in the cracked sand in the Wright Valley, near Lake Vanda in
Antarctica's Dry Valleys. From the air they seem drawn there,
perfectly, by someone with a ruler. They are in squares, five-sided
shapes, even six-sided odd configurations. They look like dark brown
honeycombs. They are caused by freezing and drying soil, which expands
and contracts and they spread themselves out here on the valley floor.
The cracks between them fill up with snow, so the shapes are dark brown
outlined in white.
Beside the polygons, with their sharp sides and right angles, run the
ephemeral braids of the dry Onyx River, the longest river in Antarctica
at about 11 miles. It is a shallow winding river even at its deepest
and strongest when Lake Vanda melts at the edges and the water begins
to flow. Now, in the dry season, we can see only its dry trace from the
air, the curves of it that meet one another, snake away in another
direction, swing back, curve across each other, twining and untwining.
The tall square icebergs at Cape Roberts, with snow on top of them,
some standing straight up, looming huge against the sky; some tilted
slightly or cracked, the deep blue inside them shining out.
The curves and smooth hummocks of the hills around Marble Point,
softened by wind and ice. Between the hills glaciers come sloping down
in the same smooth way, as if they had been poured out of a big pitcher
of ice and snow.
fissured face of the Canada Glacier that I see from my tent each
morning and evening as I come and go at the camp at Lake Hoare in the
Dry Valleys. The chief scientist at the camp jokes that those cracks,
those deep blue holes, are where the glacier owls and glacier elves
live. The deep blue broken cracks contrast with the great smooth, solid
bulk of snow and ice that hunkers above them at the top of the glacier.
The feathery turns in the snow caused by the wind. The wind turns and
shapes the snow as easily as wind does sand in another other dry windy
place. Here I see a curled lip, so delicate it seems only a few
snowflakes thick, hanging every so lightly at the end of a long arm of
snow. It looks to me like the unfurling head of a fern.
The horizon in Antarctica, when you are out on the ice, is a series of
thin colored lines, stretching forever. Thin and long and gray or
white, or black or blue. A series of lines, piled on top of one
another. A version of a terrestrial rainbow.
In the Dry Valleys the rolling hills of sand, some of which swoop down
to the edges of the frozen lakes and make flat beaches, contrast with
peaks so craggy and dark you imagine you could cut yourself if you ran
you finger along the tops of them.
Top Illustration is a visual representation of shapes in
the landscape: ice cracks and bubbles. Lower illustration is "Cracked
Earth and Braided River in the Dry Valleys."