Photographic memories are not necessary. A small pad of paper will do. I mean for those times when you feel a bit overwhelmed by the moment and can’t put it into words — yet.
For the time being, just make a note of the camping site: the rock walls and mountain ridges and forests. The stars. The camp-fire. The kids asleep in their sleeping bags.
After that, ode-like, you can sing the lovely rock’s praises. When all is said and done, it might be good enough to make your readers think they experienced it, too. Now that’s good!
Oh, Lovely Rock
We stayed the night in the pathless gorge of Ventana Creek, up
the east fork.
The rock walls and the mountain ridges hung forest on forest
above our heads, maple and redwood,
Laurel, oak, madrone, up to the high and slender Santa Lucian
firs that stare up the cataracts
Of slide—rock to the star—color precipices.
We lay on gravel and kept a little camp—fire
Past midnight only two or three coals glowed red in the cooling
darkness; I laid a clutch of dead bay—leaves
On the ember ends and felted dry sticks across them and lay
down again. The revived flame
Lighted my sleeping son’s face and his companion’s, and the
vertical face of the great gorge-wall
Across the stream. Light leaves overhead danced in the fire’s
breath, tree-trunks were seen: it was the rock wall
That fascinated my eyes and mind. Nothing strange: light—gray
diorite with two or three slanting seams in it,
Smooth—polished by the endless attrition of slides and floods; no
fern nor lichen, pure naked rock… as if I were
Seeing rock for the first time. As if I were seeing through the
flame-lit surface into the real and bodily
And living rock. Nothing strange… I cannot
Tell you how strange: the silent passion, the deep nobility and
childlike loveliness: this fate going on
Outside our fates. It is here in the mountain like a grave
smiling child. I shall die, and my boys
Will live and die, our world will go on through its rapid
agonies of change and discovery; this age will die,
And wolves have howled in the snow around a new Bethlehem:
this rock will be here, grave, earnest, not passive: the energies
That are its atoms will still be bearing the whole mountain
above: and I, many packed centuries ago,
Felt its intense reality with love and wonder, this lonely rock.