I’ve heard many fiction writers talk about the importance of taking note of life’s moments, from the banal to the quirky, writing them down so your observations become tidbits you can draw on as you weave your tales.
I have always taken notice of the world around me, but now, I am also apt to jot the more interesting or wacky moments down so I don’t forget them.
About a month ago, on the way to a meeting with a client in Hadley at 10 a.m., I saw such a sight on Route 5 in Northampton.
An older woman, I’d guess in her 70s, was in her side-yard in a garden bed. She was ablaze with color in a purple, fluffy bathrobe, and she was also bearing a crackling torch of flame, which she was using to set a large pile of yard waste on fire.
It was an odd outfit to pair with the task, for sure, and for some reason, the scene cracked me up.
Why the robe? No clean blue jeans? I wondered. Why now? Why this morning? There was so much I wanted to know, yet I was not a newspaper reporter on assignment to learn about her. I was just a passerby, and I would never know why she hadn’t waited to don street clothes to light a bonfire on a Tuesday morning.
So I catalogued the Purple Fire Lady and went on with my day.
Just a few days ago, I saw another character I still keep wondering about, as in, is he in jail? Rehab? A new neck brace due to injuries sustained in a car accident?
I saw this guy while I was stopped at a red light, turning from Union Street to Cottage in Easthampton. A fellow, say 60-ish, in the sedan to my right was chugging from a nip as he waited. In a nanosecond, I saw all the brown liquid flow out of the tiny, plastic bottle, which he then tossed on the passenger-side floor.
His actions were incredibly nonchalant, like he was drinking tea, like me, or a soda.
He didn’t peer in his rear view to see if a cop was watching. He didn’t turn my way to see if I was.
“Whoa,” I said. “I think that’s illegal buddy.” And I laughed and carried on as the light turned green, wondering how come I get nervous about parking illegally and others think nothing of blatant acts.
Another incident I’ve had in my mind’s storage for years now occurred when I was a young girl, in a Laundromat in New Hampshire with my mother.
I was minding my own business, reading a book, when my mother tiptoed over to me, tapped my shoulder and motioned for me to follow her. “Ssssh,” she said.
We came to a window, through which you could see the customers on the other side doing their laundry. There was only one customer in there, and he was bare from the waist up and wrapped in a towel down below.
“I think he’s doing all his laundry,” my mom said, stifling her laughter.
Hard to say if these stories will remain just good conversation pieces or if they will find their way into Seeking the Sun or a subsequent book, but I sure do enjoy taking note – and taking notes so I don’t forget!