Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Where is your favourite place to read/write in summer?

by Rick Blechta

The weather here in Toronto is slowly turning nice. We’ve had/endured/enjoyed what I have been calling a “slow spring” in Ontario this year. The end of our winter was well above seasonal norms, but then at the end of March, the cold, wet weather decided it wanted another go-round. It’s been lovely for all the spring bulbs and flowering trees, but I was beginning to feel like “Come on! Let’s get things moving here.”

Anyway, when the weather turns fine and temperatures finally warm up, I begin thinking of reading and writing al fresco. For me that’s a lovely thing to do.

Beethoven sketching while walking with Heiligenstadt
in the background (and yes, it did look like this at the time).
Beethoven’s bucolic Symphony No. 6 in F Major (The Pastoral) was composed over a summer holiday in the countryside near Vienna, Heiligenstadt to be particular. (To show how things have changed since Beethoven, the city of Vienna swallowed up Heiligenstadt many years ago, although the area surrounding it still has a rural feel.

Having visited Heiligenstadt while in Vienna researching Cemetery of the Nameless back in the ’90s, I could easily see why the Symphony No. 6 turned out the way it did. The great composer would head out in the morning with his sketch book, walk through the woods and eventually find a lovely spot to sit and contemplate nature while laying out his melodic and harmonic ideas. It was only natural that his surroundings would leak into the music he envisioned. If you haven’t listened to it lately, it’s worth a replay.

We have a lovely, though small backyard with two small trees which are pruned to provide shade for our patio. When I can’t go out to my own personal Heiligenstadt to write or read, you’ll find me in a comfortable chair with my laptop or current book, enjoying the breeze, the garden flowers, the birdsong and the sound of the waterfall in our small water garden (which helps to distract one from the car noises and far-from-occasional sirens of a nearby thoroughfare.) It’s a small slice of heaven.

But my favourite places to indulge in al fresco reading and writing is somewhere out in the country. We have a very generous friend who owns an 1830s log house in the eastern part of Ontario (which I used as a location for the opening of The Fallen One). I have written goodly parts of several novels while sitting on the screened porch or living room of this lovely old building with the windows opened wide. (The birdsong is spectacular.)

I don’t know what it is, but the words just flow for me in surroundings like that. When I tire of writing, or just need to step away and let an idea “mature”, I pull out whatever book I have on the go and enjoy myself that way. (I should also confess that I find it a great place to practise for a few hours. Since that usually means trumpet, I’m sure the birds, not to mention any neighbours within hearing don’t appreciate my presence!)

So, your turn to confess, where is your favourite place to read or write (or both!) in the warmer weather?


Sybil Johnson said...

Since I live in a climate that's fairly warm all year round, I probably stay indoors more in summer because it can get too hot for me at times. I do like sitting out on our deck when it's breezy. Also, since the Great Construction Period is not yet at an end on our street, it can get too noisy for me outside when they're really going at it.

Donis Casey said...

Where I live, the seasons are basically reversed, comfort-wise. I like to sit on my shady south-facing back porch during the Arizona winter, when the temps are in the 70s F. during the day. May is usually the beginning of the end of outdoor activities, though this May has been pretty mild with temperatures in the 80's and low 90's. But when June comes and every day sees a temperature of 110 or over (43 - 44º C.), I only go outside when I have to. Writing takes place in a room where the air conditioner blows right on me.

Rick Blechta said...

Sybil and Donis, you both need to live in The Great White North, where men are men, women are women and the seasons are proper seasons!

Charlotte Hinger said...

What warmer weather? They are predicting a heavy snow tonight.

Rick Blechta said...

Come to Canada where the snow is lighter and whiter.

But you're serious, Charlotte? I feel really sorry for you. That's something that would make me want to cry.

Donis Casey said...

Rick, in Arizona, men are men and women are women and everyone has skin like an old saddle.