Geography and History Go Hand in Hand

14 Nov

I recently had the pleasure to read an article by a writing friend of mine, Ann Carr . . . the shortened title was “A Sense Of Place, A Sense Of History,” and it was brilliant.  I don’t say that about too many articles I read, but this one deserves it . . . brilliant!

In it Ann suggests that writers stand in a place and study the surroundings. Study the geography and try to imagine how that geography shaped the history of that particular place.  It is an exercise I have done myself, here in my city of Olympia.  It is a fascinating exercise, to see things as those centuries ago saw things, and to imagine the decision-making process which shaped that area.

Read the article if you get the chance, and try the exercise where you are.

In Olympia, it is the geography which made the city, and in particular it is one small river, the Deschutes, which spearheaded the homesteading movement.  The Deschutes empties into the lower end of the Puget Sound, the inland sea here in western Washington.  In 1848 settlers arrived here, having heard stories about a swift-running river emptying into a deep waterway.  They arrived and immediately built lumber mills, and to ship that finished lumber they started a shipping line.  Other families arrived shortly after that, and Olympia became, at that time, the most influential city in what is now Washington State.

Later, that same river became the impetus for a brewing company to be formed, Olympia Beer, “It’s the Water” their logo, and that company became one of the leading employers in the area for decades.

One river, untamed, flowing with possibilities.

Go outside . . . look around at your surroundings . . . what do you see?

You just might be surprised!

Kneel down!  Scoop up a handful of dirt.  The dirt in my hand is actually rich soil, and similar soil, accompanied with a long growing season, are the reasons people flocked to the Oregon Territory starting in 1843.  The promise of a better life resides in that soil, rich alluvial soil, silt, sand, and clay, with generous amounts of organic matter, all promising abundant crops for Midwest farmers wishing for free land and an easier life . . .

Do you see it?

Do you feel it?


“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

16 Responses to “Geography and History Go Hand in Hand”

  1. Janine Huldie November 14, 2017 at 3:03 pm #

    Love this advice and now off to read Ann’s article better. Thanks for sharing with us and wishing you a wonderful Tuesday once again 😉

    • Billybuc November 14, 2017 at 3:06 pm #

      Aww, thanks Janine! Say hello to Ann for me.

  2. Audrey Howitt November 14, 2017 at 6:26 pm #

    What a great idea Bill! Thank you –off to smell the dirt for a bit and see what it tells me

    • Billybuc November 14, 2017 at 6:27 pm #

      Happy Sniffing, Audrey! 🙂 Thank you!

  3. Manatita November 14, 2017 at 6:39 pm #

    S0me say that Sherlock Holmes was very good at that. In fact, a genius!?
    I wrote one poem that way. I saw so much! Still, I pull from the ether with my style. Nice advice though.

    • Billybuc November 15, 2017 at 2:54 pm #

      Interesting, Manatita! It’s funny, but I really didn’t intend this to be advice…just thinking with my fingers on the keyboard. 🙂

  4. Sageleaf November 15, 2017 at 1:37 am #

    Sage advice from a sage Big Bro. 🙂 I have tried a variation of that. For example, where you sit outside and describe a scene from different perspectives – first person, as a nature enthusiast, if the scene were black and white. But, I really like this exercise and need to try it – thank you for sharing that. Looking forward to checking out Ann’s work. I hope you have a great week and here’s to lotsa writin’! 🙂

    • Billybuc November 15, 2017 at 2:47 pm #

      Thanks Lil Sis! We are surrounded by stories if we only take the time to look beyond ourselves. Meditation? I think it fits in well here.

      Hugs from the Rain Capitol!

  5. Michael Milec November 15, 2017 at 3:04 am #

    Quite genuine idea “studying surrounding”. Reminding me though slightly unrelated to history and geography, a practice as a young boy lying on the back, gazing into the floating clouds describing to my older brother images what they represents , then he did the same seeing completely different pictures. Three-quoters of centuries ago living on a farm the nature was best provider of choicest entertainment and remains endless source of writing marvels for every generation.

    • Billybuc November 15, 2017 at 2:45 pm #

      Yes, Michael my friend, I too studied clouds as a youngster. Many an hour was spent seeing the artwork in the skies.

  6. 1authorcygnetbrown November 17, 2017 at 2:58 pm #

    You are so right! We experience emotion through the senses and setting via history and geography where you use all those senses make the place and time come alive!

    • Billybuc November 17, 2017 at 3:04 pm #

      Thanks a bunch, Donna! I saw an interview with a best-selling author the other day, and they agreed with us. Nice to have company!

  7. suziehq November 17, 2017 at 7:48 pm #

    How interesting and what a great idea to take stock of our surroundings, i bet my new ones could tell some tales and hears to finding out ! Well done Ann!

    • Billybuc November 18, 2017 at 4:18 pm #

      Irish, I think it would be fascinating to learn about the area you now live. The history of the world has flowed through that region, and today you carry on that history. Very cool!

  8. Andrea Stephenson November 18, 2017 at 5:51 pm #

    I feel it! I feel that I always see things through layers – layers of time and history, past and future – when I walk through a landscape, and that makes it a much richer experience.

    • Billybuc November 19, 2017 at 4:21 pm #

      Andrea, it shows in your beautiful writing for sure. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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