Friday, June 6, 2014

Time Traveling

It’s been quite a week for me. I discovered a portal had opened up and given me the opportunity to travel back in time—sort of.

I’ve set the action in my Bishop Hill novel to take place during a weeklong stretch in 2008. To be precise, from Friday, May 30th, to Sunday, June 8th. As I prepared to take a drive back to the village in order to soak up some atmosphere, it dawned on me that May 30, 2014 was also a Friday. Not an earthshaking event by any means, but a serendipitous opportunity to spend the whole next week pretending the events in my novel were unfolding in real time.

At the end of May last year, I took a similar drive back to Bishop Hill. I specifically wanted to look at the fields along Highway 34 and check out how the planting was going. I used my observations to improve the description of my protagonist’s drive from Galesburg to the village.

This year, I chose to drive out later in the day. I had found some historical information about the different levels of twilight in 2008 and wanted to experience it first hand. To get a better feel for the levels of darkness as night descended.

I had no idea that there could be so much more to sunset. The website for Weather Underground listed four categories of evening light that depended on the sun’s position at and below the horizon: Actual sunset, Civil twilight, Nautical twilight, and Astronomical twilight. Before finding these facts, it was just all fading light to me. Now I have names for the changes and a time table. The internet—what a great tool.

While driving around, I began to notice all the little changes to quiet Bishop Hill and the surrounding area. There were quite a few more than I would have expected. Most of the older parts of the village try to remain true to the colony era, but you can’t freeze time and prevent change. As structures age, they need repairing, repainting, and, eventually, replacing.

I never thought of my novel as a tool that might preserve a portion of Bishop Hill’s past life. I just wanted it to tell an interesting story, to be a “good read.” My novel, in its own small way, may become something of a capsule to be opened up by the reader who wants to do a little time traveling. 

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