The allure of secrets.
Keep something secret, and suddenly everyone wants to know what it is. I’m thinking now of John Wayne, an actor who became famous for his portrayal of the strong, silent type of cowboy.
Watching his movies, I always assumed that beneath his reticent surface there were secrets we would never know. And that seemed like a good thing. The cowboy had hidden depths.
This August, we visited Lake Louise in Alberta, Canada, and if ever a beautiful spot benefited from the allure of its hidden depths, it was Lake Louise. Canoeing on it, my daughter and I couldn’t see a thing below the surface. The very phenomenon that makes it beautiful keeps its secrets hidden.
The lake’s water is one giant suspension of rock flour. The glacier melt that feeds it is filled with silt-sized bits of rock made so small by the grinding of glaciers on bedrock that they form a suspension in the cold lake water. That suspension of glacial flour absorbs all the colors of the spectrum except blue and green. Hence the lake’s beautiful color.
Though some of us were content to paddle on the surface of the lake, my friend, Perry, told me he caught a big trout deeper down.
When the water pulls back.
Following my theme of “Secrets and Revelations,” I’ll jump ahead from our trip to Banff and Lake Louise to the photos I took a couple days later near my home. We’d walked on the ferry to Kingston with the intention of skipping one ferry so my grandson could play on the beach before we sailed back for a big breakfast at Claires.
So while my grandson and son-in-law built an elaborate sand castle, my daughter and I walked down the beach to see what we could see.
The little beach by the ferry isn’t a clam digging beach or a white sand beach. But at low tide, every beach has something to reveal.
A stranded jellyfish …
bits of seaweed …
shells picked clean. Nothing special. But they looked pretty to me. Maybe it was the light … or maybe the fact that they’d been hidden until the tide went out.
I’m writing a novel now, so questions of secrets and revelation come up all the time. A character with secrets is more interesting. But what kinds of secrets? How much should I reveal and when?
My writer friends may be interested in this article by Heather Jackson: The Key to Writing 3-Dimensional Characters. The key to 3-dimensional characters, she says, is secrets.
Low tide probably isn’t the best metaphor for revealing secrets in novels. The tide goes out, and everything is revealed all at once. Heather Jackson uses the metaphor of an onion instead. You peel back the layers one at a time.
It’s like life. We say we want people to be open and transparent. And yes, in some circumstances we do. Most of the time, though, we enjoy getting to know people bit by bit. Layer by layer. We drop in a line and hope to catch a fish. We wait for the tide to go out and see what there is to see.
The interplay of secrets and revelations.