It’s been a warm and beautiful summer this summer. One of the best summers I can remember. Plenty of sunshine and beautiful pleasantly warm summer days. A summer just perfect for outdoor activities.
Two of my favorite outdoor activities are walking and reading. Most people think of reading as an indoor activity and do more reading on cold, dark, blustery days of winter. But to me, there’s nothing better than sitting in the shade of a big tree and reading a good book.
The more books I read, the more I find myself drawn to books written by writers who paint pictures with words. Certain writers have a way of painting with words in such a way as to enchant the mind of the reader. To me, it is much better than watching a movie. Movies are always about how someone else sees the scenes and the characters that the writer painted.
My mind, for whatever reason, never sees scenes the way a movie director does. Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve often heard people say that a movie is “not as good as the book”. It seems to me that the reason why is that everyone who reads a book sees the scenes the author paints in so many different ways.
I like books. I read a lot of them. I like books that take me places I’ll never have the chance to visit. I like books that show me things I’ve never seen or allow me to do things I’ve never done. Books that let me do things I know I’ll never do. I like books that let me do things I am not capable of doing.
I like books with dreamy scenes of surreal sunsets on mysterious islands on aqua oceans miles from wherever I am. I like books about exotic continents filled with strange people doing exotic and exciting things… while I sit in the shade of a rustling red maple tree, on a magnificent summer day. Just me, under the tree, in my boring, obscure, unexciting little town, reading and letting a writer paint pictures in my mind.
The best writers are painters. They paint with words. And the pictures they paint can be just as beautiful and creative as any canvas by Monet, Van Gogh, Picasso, or Rembrandt. Maybe, it is because the words of a word painter flow through our minds, letting our minds paint unique pictures. In a sense, our minds become canvases for the great writers. And some of the paintings they create are more beautiful than any painting our eyes will ever see.
I just looked at the thermometer. It is 86 degrees. With a humidity to match. But the word painting in my mind at this moment is one of a snowy, winter evening in New England. My mind has traveled back across the years to a time more than one hundred years ago.
I see a horse stopping beside a woods on a lonely, country road. Snow is falling. Great big fluffy flakes. The owner of the horse stops to contemplate the beauty of this deceptively simple winter landscape. Even though the painter of these words is no longer in this world, his words live on, beyond time and space; he left a beautiful painting behind. And no painting on canvas could be lovelier that the one Robert Frost just painted in my mind.
I recall every passage of the poem by Robert Frost from memory. It is my favorite word painting. And it is my favorite poem.
Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening
Whose woods these are I think I know
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the pond and frozen lake,
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
The beauty of Robert Frost’s words flow from their simplicity. His poem is a word-painting of such beauty it brings winter to a hot, summer day. But the chills that run through me as I read it are not chills of the cold snowy evening he so wonderfully describes, but because his word-painting touches something inside me.
I committed this poem, this word-painting ,to memory when I was in high school. That was a long time ago. And I committed it to memory not because of a teacher required it for class, but because it touched me then as much as it touches me now.
Writers who paint pictures with words are the ones I love to read the most. I remember reading Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles in high school. My friends (and I’m sure many other students) found it boring and out-of-touch with our “modern times”. But I found it a fascinating word painting. I lived with the characters in the story – in their time and in their place. I was sad when the novel ended. I felt as if I were leaving friends behind. I was leaving a time and place I had grown to love. I should read it again now. Decades have passed since I read it. I wonder how much of it I would remember.
My favorite writers are Robert Frost, A.E. Housman, Dylan Thomas, T. S. Eliot, Edgar Allan Poe, Thomas Hardy, Ernest Hemingway, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Nelson DeMille, David Baldacci, and John Grisham.
Each has or had a place in my life. Each was my favorite at a different time in my life. While each of these writers has a different style, they all have one thing in common. They all paint beautifully with words.
I am in awe of those who can paint pictures with words. Someday I’d like to paint with words too. To lay upon a canvas of paper such simple yet powerful words that the reader will see . Maybe someday I will find the words to touch a reader’s heart. Or bring a tear to the reader’s eye or make the reader laugh.
Maybe someday I can take the reader with me as I walk along the path of my life and touch their hearts with my words. Perhaps someday, I will have the skill to paint a word painting. Perhaps a word-painting of some quiet autumn afternoon. A painting filled with gold and red and orange leaves falling gently down upon some forgotten wooded trail. Autumn-colored leaves floating on a gentle cool autumn breeze and softly land upon the ground.
But more than painting an autumn day, I’d love to paint with words a lovely picture – not of what I see, but of the wonder that fills my heart as I walk along the path of life, and see the beauty that still surrounds us all.
The summer day is hot and humid. The red maple rustles in the warm summer wind. Dean Koontz is painting a bizarre picture in my mind – he’s taking me to a place I’ve never been and he’s showing me things I’ve never seen.
I’d love to be a painter with words.