Changes in Latitude…

JT Ellison


I’m away from home this week, visiting family in Colorado. I’m trying to work. I’m sitting on the deck, trying desperately to hit that magic 1,000 word a day vacation goal. I’m pecking away at the keyboard of my laptop, and I can’t concentrate.

It is just so beautiful here.


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This is my home, where I spent my formative years. All of my firsts happened in this area. I learned to golf, and swim, and play tennis, and ski here. I learned to drive, had my first kiss, lost a close friend to suicide. I spent all of my time out of doors, leaving the house first thing in the morning and not returning until the gloaming. There were three of us in kindergarten, and it wasn’t until second grade that they decided to bus in some kids from neighboring areas, so we weren’t alone.

I learned to drive, to dream, to work. I fell in and out of love with my brother’s friends. I snuck off into the red rocks with a couple of friends to smoke cigarettes; we discovered dinosaur tracks in the rocks. I was isolated by geography, yet lived the fullest possible life that a child could lead.


These are often melancholy memories, for I left this area under extreme duress when I was a teenager. My parents moved us to Washington, D.C., someplace I had absolutely no interest in going to. I cried for a year. I left every part of me behind. For many unfortunate years, I believed I left the best parts of me behind.

This area is so fraught with emotion, with memories, that I can’t seem to work on the new book. From an objective sense, the beauty of the area overwhelms me. But what’s really happening is everywhere I look, I see the ghost of a smaller me, sniffing the bark of the pine trees trying to decide if the scent is chocolate, strawberry or vanilla. (Don’t believe me? Try it.)

I am so inextricably linked to these woods, these rocks, the greens, blues, blacks and browns, the deer and bear, that I can’t seem to keep Nashville and Taylor Jackson, my protagonist, foremost in my mind.

I’ve settled for writing some short stories. The tenor is completely different from some of my earlier work. It’s moody, and atmospheric, and I’m finding new expressions to illustrate my surroundings. I think once I’m back home, in my office, staring at the river birch outside my window, I’ll be able to refocus on Nashville, and killers, and homicide lieutenants.

This does not bode well for the lifelong dream – the house in Tuscany half the year to write, write, write.


In the meantime, I want to watch the black storm clouds lurk over the jade and stone mountains. I want to smell the sparkling air, tinged with the scent of wet asphalt, moldy leaves and the barest hint of skunk. I want to laugh at the antics of the towhees, scratching for dinner in the scrub oak.

I want to watch the golfers stream in off the course, shouting admirations to one another as they come in to the 19th hole for a post-round drink.

I want to watch the deer wander through the backyard, stopping at the birdbath for a quenching draught of water. They all seem to have had twins this year, so Bambi keeps interrupting my thoughts. (As does Jetta the Wonderdog.) They’re all adorable.


Each time I return, I realize that I didn’t leave the best parts of me behind, but stamped my imprint on the area in such a palpable yet subtle way that I will always feel like I’ve come home.

It’s okay that I can’t work on the book. There are other avenues to explore, other stories to put on paper. I hope to take it home with me, this texture and depth. For today though, this setting is just one spark that I will use to write something… different.

Wine of the Week — L de Lyeth Merlot



13 thoughts on “Changes in Latitude…

  1. Sandra Ruttan

    JT, it reminds me of how important those formative years are. One of the things I appreciate in fiction is when the character has that same tie to the place they grew up in, a link that can’t quite be put into words or ever truly severed. Sometimes, I think in our hearts we’re always trying to go home again, while at the same time, we don’t want to, if that makes any sense at all.

    But this is definitely one of the reasons I love Rebus.

  2. Pari

    J.T.,You really should stop by NM on the way home.

    Actually, I think it’s important to replenish our creativity, to stop every once in a while in order to nurture that subtle side of our psyche from which unique ideas emerge.

    You’re doing the right thing . . . right now.


  3. Ron Estrada

    I was a Navy Brat, so I left places I loved often. At least you still find it beautiful. I have recurring nightmares that I’ve returned to Washington State and they’ve built condos over my little league fields and tall buildings block the mountains. I’m afraid if I return it will be true!

  4. Naomi

    Hey, my Wednesday post will touch upon places and nostalgia, too! Must be the summer air.

    This change of pace may energize you to make some breakthroughs on the novel. When I’m down to my last days of my deadlines, I’m a machine as well with my 1,000-2,000 word quotas. But novelists aren’t machines. It’s hard to reconcile the two sometimes.

    And I have to agree with Byron–you didn’t need the photos. (With all the trouble it took to include them, I know that you’re gnashing your teeth at me right now.)

  5. guyot

    Some thoughts…

    I have a similar place that, while not as beautiful, does the same thing to me.

    Didn’t someone say no writer worth his/her salt ever had a happy childhood? Or teenhood?

    I want to play Castle Pines.

    There’s a big rat on the balcony in that one picture.

    So much for the question – “What’s the best Murderati post of 2006?”

  6. Iden Ford

    Hey JT. Looks awesome there. I can merge the three photos into one landscape for you if you want. Let me know where to email it if you don’t know how. It’s a photoshop trick. Cheers, Iden

  7. Elizabeth Krecker

    I understand some of the feelings you must be experiencing back in your home state. We moved a lot when I was a child, and I’ve moved a lot since. I feel like I’m from New Jersey, Connecticut, California, New York, Wyoming, Maine, Arizona, Michigan and, yes, Colorado, too. Visiting any of these places and reliving the memories of times long past always brings on the strangest moods…anchored and disoriented, joyful and sad, nostalgic and distant. And I love that your swirling emotions are inspiring a whole new viewpoint in your writing. Can’t wait to read your short stories from this time!


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