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Working on Words

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Ernie has lived a life of words - even when they're embedded in photos

Words have always been important to me. I enjoy the sounds and rhythms; it’s a simple pleasure. 

I first learned the fun of words when I started working as an actor still in high school. While on the stage I would try to shape and color the words to strengthen or diminish their meanings. The enunciation of each word mattered, sometimes by holding a syllable or dropping all or part of one to drive an idea across the footlights. It is fun and we all do it in normal conversation too, sometimes intentionally and at other times simply for affect. 

Words are the most common and basic tool an actor has and it takes thousands of words to make a play. That can also be the difficult part. All those words need to be memorized before they can be used to tell the story. It required cloistering myself in a tiny upstairs bedroom reading, rereading, and again— until those words were imprinted on my mind, it was always tedious time. 

It was while I was memorizing one day I wondered if it would be easier if I wrote the words rather then performed them. That way I would not have to spend all this time memorizing. It sounded so easy. 

So I decided to take those same words and turn them into my work, my stories, maybe a novel. 

I found the words were easy to put on the page but there did seem to be a bit of a rub. Getting those words in the right order became a challenge. 

It can be hard work; not like brick laying, but challenging just the same.  

The real truth is, it is fun to watch a piece develop even when those darn words don’t fall into place as quickly as I think they should. 

There are times when I want to create pictures with them. It is not unusual though, for those pictures to look more like a bad exposure or maybe splotches of paint on a painter’s palette.

Being a bit of an adventurer at heart—and writing is an adventure—I still sometimes look out my window and want to be “out there” rather than in front of a computer. 

That is when I think about my time with a camera. With a camera I don’t have to worry about the words at all. In fact, a picture is worth a thousand words, right?

Consequently, when I am getting overwhelmed trying to position the words on the page appealingly, I often grab a camera and head out in search of a few thousand words via digital images. 

My father tried his best to make an accomplished hunter out of me. His efforts are not lost when, with camera in hand, I hunt for the perfect picture. Many of the skills he taught can be used. In addition to the good and safe shot, there is the challenge of making sure the light is right and the framing is an attractive representation of what I see and want to reproduce. 

While it can be challenging, one is not inhibited by the inconveniences of hunting laws and regulations. There are no seasons; I try to shoot babies in the spring from my car even across roads. I shoot near residential areas all without concern of hurting anyone or breaking any laws or buying a license. There are other advantages; I don’t have to slog through knee-deep snow with wind and ice raking my face packing a heavy, dead animal on my back. I may grouse about the weight of the camera equipment I am carrying, though.

Just in case you are wondering, yes, I do eat meat and I do my hunting at the market. But I do love to hunt for my pictures in the wild even when the weather is very dramatic. 

Nevertheless when I come home with thousands of words in the form of burned bytes on a memory card, it takes a great deal of effort to turn them into the abundance that will help pay for my camera, or for that matter, a computer.  

While I’m out in the solitude and loving the experience, I find myself organizing words to convey the story of the scene I’m in. That is when I discovered writing is not easier than memorizing and in fact it is not easier then taking pictures. Using the words from my imagination to give others the opportunity to imagine their own creation, that is my passion. It is not about easy.

So I am back at my desk looking outside watching the snow load the trees, the big flakes reminding me of a glass globe with ice skaters on a mirror, while I string together words, hoping to make an attractive chain strong enough to hold someone’s attention for a while.  The energy of my passion transforms the steep and rugged way into a rewarding passage.

When the words don’t have focus like those splotches of paint, I will call Linda, my wife, to read the words. She will look at them, ask some questions, suggest rearranging and gently nudge me to use my words to bring it into focus, turning the splotches into a rainbow. 

Aw, another picture.





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Author info

Ernie Hawks Ernie Hawks is a former theater director who has branched into the creative fields of writing and photography. He lives in a cabin in Athol with his lovely wife Linda, and feeds the birds in his spare time.

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The Hawks Nest

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