The Folklore of Nettles
Tunes for a Monday Morning

Painting with language

Conversations with Barry Lopez

Pink cranesbill

From Conversations with Barry Lopez by William E. Tydeman:

"Artists and writers are constantly changing the sense of orthodoxy in perceived relations," says Lopez, "visual, accoustical, spacial, emotional relationships. All this work stimulates thinking. So, we know we are horizontally oriented, it just makes me more curious about the vertical dimension. As a writer, I always want to stimulate a sense of awareness. I want to create and intensify patterns. When I listen to music, I always hear patterns. When I'm walking in the woods, I sense patterns. Walking in the woods with somebody, I might identify a plant, but the naming of the plant comes out of a pattern of movement, the conjunction of the time of year with that particular space. For example, knowing that I'm coming off a ridge and down onto a south-facing slope in May, I'm going to be looking for certain plants that I'm not going to find on the north side.

"So I'm always looking for these patterns when I'm writing, though I'm not necessarily thinking about a pattern -- it's like I've caught it in a sidelong glance and, like a painter, I'm trying to render it. I'm making a pattern in language that stands in the place of a pattern I've seen or felt.


Woodland border

Tilly at the woodland's edge

"But this kind of intelligence can also get in the way of a story," he adds. "I have to remind myself sometimes when I'm writing fiction that it's a good thing not to be thinking, because then I might be trying to make a point. Writing a short story to make a point seems vaguely contradictory to me. In fiction I don't want to make a point, I want to report a pattern I'm aware of, make it work in a dramatic narrative, and leave it at that, and trust that the reader encountering this pattern will be compelled to think about life differently."

Tilly at the woodland's edge

Words: The passage quoted above is from Conversations with Barry Lopez: Walking the Path of Imagination by William E. Tydeman (University of Oklahoma Press, 2013). Please note that Lopez is talking about writing fiction here, as opposed to the different mindset one needs when writing nonfiction. The poem in the picture captions is from Heaven: Collected Poems 1956-1990 by Al Young (Creative Arts, 1992). All rights reserved.

Pictures: These photographs were taken earlier this week. Tilly had a small medical procedure yesterday and is now home and resting quietly. She'll be up and back into her beloved woods soon.


Hi Teri

I really enjoyed this essay by Barry Lopez on patterns and how they fit into the scheme of our writing and thought -- whether consciously or unconsciously, But I want to take this one step further and deviate a bit. Sometimes it is the pattern of our routine, our habits and common rhythms that prohibit us from being more original or creative. When we are molded by time, schedule and pressure into a certain way of doing things, we forget to look up or come out from under that stone as Al Young warns in his poem. We forget about randomness and caprice, of letting the stimuli around us evoke our spontaneity, our ability to accept the risk of whim.

Sometimes, when I am entrenched in writing a poem that will not launch beyond the mere idea of it, I become too concerned and writer's block sets in. I don't even entertain the possibility of something else that may have been stimulated in the foreground. I don't allow myself to move outside the borders of my usual writing pattern ( theme, motif, tone etc.) and fail to leave my comfort zone. However, there are times when I do loosen up and let the randomness of the moment and my immediate environs step in. And often, it is something quirky, odd even joyful that provokes another train of thought, and a new, unique direction.


A strange bird rests on the corner
of my roof. His shadow angled
at the five minute

between something after
and something before.

This is my time out
from worrying about the house
and partnered issues.

The small force
of energy
I've forgotten to free,

The wind knows the bird
( a winged harlequin)

and what I'm talking about -
as it shakes a few twigs
in its palm

tossing them like jacks
across the sidewalk.

They spill randomly
and wait to be picked up
with other whims

before the sun bounces
this day downward;
and the sky carries dusk
heavy on its shoulders.
Again, thank you for this wondrous post and those pictures are just gorgeous. Love Seeing Tilly there as our virtual guide through the wonders of your woods and field.

Take care

About patterns - oh yes. You danced on with it. Forgetting to be free....and all the patterns you supply us with, to see ...jacks, winged harlequin ....I can see it all but each time, a little differently.

Patterns Shifting

Outside, the wind, the small things
Flying in the air, silver candy wrappers,
Last day's newspaper, falling into
Puzzles of color and words. and one

Hi Phyllis

Thanks so much for perceiving this poem as you do and with such wonderful insight! I deeply appreciate your kind words and perspective!

Take care

Hi Phyllis

Yes, it happen like that with randomness and patterns and the wid.
There is something ghostly, almost magical about it. And you capture this scene so well! love that "one hat", a really nice touch.

Take care

Sorry Phyllis
my previous, above reply has typos and here's the correction. Early morning and haven't had a full cup of coffee yet -- that could account for the errors.

Yes, it happens like that with randomness and patterns and the wind.
There is something ghostly, almost magical about it. And you capture this scene so well! love that "one hat", a really nice touch.

Thank you, Wendy I was surprised by this poem because It said all it needed to say.

I remember in Ursula LeGuin's The Earthsea Trilogy that one of the magicians was referred to as a pattern maker. I so related. Seems a part of the same thread that Lopez is talking about. And as a painter of the forest, I am so keenly aware of the pattern of trees. I know when I've got the spacing and proportions between the trees wrong.

I was intrigued by your being a painter of the forest so I looked at your blog. I can see the pattern of trees. When I was between ten and twelve I lived in a Central Oregon forest,
on our 40 acres with a meadow and a farm. I often went into the woods and was amazed of the sounds which I thought of a musical. They were large pines and junipers. It was like a trip to the past seeing your paintings.

Oh, I'm glad to have given you a trip to the past, Phyllis. :)

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