My grandma has lived in the same house for as long as I can remember. A distance of 1,500 miles is no easy thing to traverse and sometimes, the time between trips is much longer than I’d like. But then I’m there again—darting up the back steps toward the kitchen, the pacific coast breeze playing over the garden, the scent of fresh-baked banana bread teasing my nose. Every knickknack and plate in its own familiar place. Jesus still leads his lambs. The clock chirps the hour. And suddenly a year feels like a few moments, a mere exhale. My grandma sings out a hearty hello and scoops me up in the biggest hug. I’m so glad you came for breakfast this morning!
Of a past
Or perhaps a future
Yet to be…
Swirl and dance
Muffle the ground
Like piled snow
Grab your sled
Hurry up, come on
There’s something there
Something not yet begun
Can you taste the colors and the sounds
Everywhere… they cover the ground
Too many for just one
Bent and broken soul
Too many for two as well
S o r e l e a s e . . .
Let them drift
Let them fly
Let them billow
Fill the sky
Memories bring joy
Memories bring pain
But in the end
There is wisdom to gain
So catch the snowflakes
Before they turn to rain
Three months… far too long. But I’m back from my summer hiatus! To say this summer has been zany would be the understatement of the century. I graduated from Tarrant County College and transferred to the University of Texas at Arlington. Did lots of drafting, outlining, and character sketches for my book. Took a trip down to Corpus Christi. And got engaged to my best friend. It’s been a lovely whirlwind of a summer.
Now that the spring semester has concluded, I’m excited to share some of my writing excerpts from Creative Writing with you! This particular one was doodled in my favorite stairwell nook on the TCC SE campus. And as always, thanks for taking the time to read. It’s so lovely to be back again!
When walking, there are really only three kind of people: those who gaze at the ground beneath their feet, those who keep their eyes fixed straight ahead, and those whose glance flickers from side to side.
Those of the first category are usually fewer in number—they drag about from one place to the next, only noting the gray pavement beneath their feet and the shoes they happen to be wearing that day. Stoop shouldered, hands thrust deep in their pockets, the weight and cares of all the world bearing down on their bowed heads.
The second group is driven, even impatient—no time to turn aside. What is to be done must be done and not a second later than it ought to be done. They couldn’t tell you how many seats are at each table, nor describe the muddied stains spread out before the door, or even the state of the garden next to the walkway.
But the third… ah, the third. Many walk briskly, but their eyes are not fixed ahead. Their gaze sweeps to and fro, taking it all in, and noticing each tiny detail. They could tell you tales about the muddy footprints caking the walk, spin yarns about swirling leaves and scraggly branches. They could relate the history of the rust stains beneath the old metal window frames. They could tell you about the table shades; about each creak and wobble in the wind, and how they sway like so many top-heavy mushrooms. Ask them about the people crossing the walkway… because it is they who notice those around them.
Monthly Musings! By way of introduction… we discussed imagery in Creative Writing last week. My professor brought up an interesting point: ours is a very visual society, and as such, we writers tend to rely heavily on visual descriptions whilst underwriting the other senses. An interesting idea for sure, and it demanded a little more digging.
. . . . .
A sensory exploration, for those overly burdened by sight.
“Gorgeous… absolutely beautiful. Everything is so green!” My cousin gushed in excitement.
I turned my head at the sound of her voice. “What does it look like? The color green?”
Silence. I waited. Then footsteps. Crackle-snap; the crunch of pebbles and broken twigs. My cousin climbed up beside me on the rock. “Well… I suppose it looks the way it smells. Here.” She thrust something leafy in my hands.”
It was sharp, minty, and fresh. I breathed deep, but could still feel my brow furrowing in frustration. “How else does green look?”
My cousin took my hand. With slow and careful movements, she slid down the rock, and I followed. We walked a little ways, until the ground grew soft beneath our feet. “Here… touch this. Green looks the way it feels.”
I knelt down beside her on the grass, running my fingers through the lush carpet. “Does green only feel like this?”
“No.” She laughed. “It also feels like this.”
A fresh, new leaf—there was still a trace of sap on the stem. I smiled a little smile, at last understanding. “Alright… but what does the color green sound like?”
“We’re in the perfect place. Just listen.”
We sat. A gentle breeze, as if hearing our beckon, whispered through the little valley. It shivered through the treetops, tossing and rustling the leaves. It played through the grass, caressing each blade, and set the whole meadow murmuring.
“And what does green taste like?” I asked, as the breezed died down.
“Hmmm…” My cousin rummaged in her pack. Her metal water bottle thumped against a book, and there was a soft ping as her pen struck the bottle’s side. “Green, green… ah!” Triumph. “Here… this is the way green tastes.”
Hard, smooth, round. I sniffed it. An apple. I took a bite, savoring the burst of flavor. Not just any apple, a Granny Smith. It was crisp and tart.
“What did you say?”
“I said, ‘this is the way green tastes’.” She replied, puzzled.
“No, no. Before that… back there, at the rock.” I pointed.
“Oh. I said ‘everything is so green’.”
The breeze picked up again—full and fresh. I breathed deeply, and thought about leaves, grass, and apples. I imagined whole hillsides laden with their scents, sounds, textures, and tastes. “Yes, you’re right.”
Even though I couldn’t see it, I knew there was a smile on my cousin’s face.
“Everything is so very, very green.” I continued. “And it is beautiful.”
We sat in silence for a time, just enjoying green. “Do you know… you have green eyes.”
I smiled wide, for the first time in a long time. “Thank you.”
The ancient air-conditioning unit hiccupped and wheezed, puffing in pitiful futility. There was dust everywhere—clinging to the cracked dashboard, clouding the windshield, and coating both driver and passenger alike. Zara shoved her scarf up further across her nose and squinted at the hazy horizon. It was dusty, like everything else. The road was dusty, the mountains were dusty, even the sky had a sullen and dusty tint. There was dust in her hair, dust in her mouth, and dust under her fingernails. An exceptionally large pothole and Zara was airborne for a fraction of an instant, despite her death grip on the bench beneath her. The jeep rattled in perfect time with her teeth.
It was an odd sort of jeep, really, and had quite a lot of personality to it. It was the kind of vehicle that could be kept together relatively easily, given a little tender and loving care. In the jeep’s case, this came in the form of baling wire and prayers. Zara liked to reimagine inanimate objects as people—the jeep was an ancient, grizzled man clad in tattered clothes and armed with a pair of piercing eyes behind a massive (and rather dusty) beard.
The road had had enough of potholes, and decided to try a few hidden rocks instead. Zara almost hit the windshield. “Have you ever considered installing seatbelts?” She hollered.
Janus turned his head for a slivered second, and she caught the gleam of smile-crinkled eyes between scarf and cap. “And spoil all the fun? There’s a roll of baling wire behind,” he jerked his thumb toward the bed of the jeep, “if it gets too horrible, you can always strap yourself down.”
Zara couldn’t decide whether he was joking or serious.
“But really,” Janus continued, “do you know how much work it would be to install seatbelts? Because once I’d got the benches out, I’d be obliged to fix the floor too. And since if the flooring were up, I might as well repaint the whole interior. And if the interior were being repainted, why not detail the outside as well? Nope, adding belts would be too much trouble.”
He yanked the wheel over without warning, and the jeep dove off the main road. Zara dug her booted toes into the warped flooring and gritted her teeth as the world bounced and danced through the windshield. After a time, it regained a state of moderate balance—from what little of it could be seen through the haze. The road began to drop steeply, and high rocky walls rose up on either side. The canyon wasn’t visible from the main road, yet it grew larger and deeper the further they drove. The air was cooler too, and there was something on the breeze… something she remembered but couldn’t quite name. Water. The air was damp. The deeper they went, the more the air smelt of water and green, growing things. The shapes of scraggly plants traced the walls on either side of the road, and they drew closer together and deeper in hue the further down they drove. Janus reached up with one hand and unwound his scarf, releasing a cloud of dust as he did so. The skin beneath was pale by comparison. After another moment or two, Zara did the same.
The light was playing tricks on the road ahead—it glinted and shone, moving in rippling lines. They bumped over a rickety wood bridge, and Zara stared in stupefied wonder at the trickle of water beneath. It bubbled out of the ground on one side of the road, passed under it, and then ran parallel, growing in strength the further it went. Long ago, it must have run where the road did now—some cataclysmic event had sent it spurting out of the lower rock instead.
“Don’t they have water back at Home?” Janus asked, cocking an amused eyebrow at her bulging eyes that were now fixed solely on the stream.
“Yes… but we don’t have rivers.” Zara whispered in hushed awe.
Janus glanced at the sunken creek bed. “Evidently not.”
“Where does it all go?” She inquired.
“To the lake. Must flow underground on the far side though. The lake never stagnates, and there’s always a slight current.”
“You mean it just… sits there? Just a bunch of water all piled up in the same place?”
“You’ve never seen a lake before?”
“Is it really so bad back at Home, Zara?” He inquired.
“There are stories, old wives’ tales really, about such things as lakes.” She sidestepped.
She turned with wide eyes, wild and haunted. “There is no water, Janus. There has been no water for over a hundred years.”
This is the second time in as many weeks that Monday’s writing snippets have been delayed till Tuesday. So much for a blogging schedule. I offer no weak excuses, and instead (as penance) promise a full length article to be posted next Monday, on the subject of idealized heros. To be titled: “Why the Princess Bride is Still a Classic.” Or perhaps “Kings and Captains: Why We Will Always Love Aragorn.” Something like that. But in the meantime, I offer you a short contemplation on the subject of words…
Have you paused recently, to marvel at the wonder of words? Now, I understand that’s an odd sort of question, but if you’ll bear with me, I’ll try to explain. What are words, after all? They are merely combinations of symbols. Every word in the English language is composed from a supply of only twenty-six symbols. And what is a symbol, beyond simple strokes on a page? Squiggles. Lines. Curves. Nonsense. Only twenty-six little opportunities—but they open an almost unlimited supply of possibility.
What are words, if not just descriptions? When you read the word symbol in the first paragraph, what did you think of? Did anything pop into your head? A single letter perhaps. Maybe you pictured the entire alphabet. Whatever the case, by a simple description—even a description only one word long—you saw it. Words are magical. Still not entirely convinced? Let’s try something a little more complex. Just for fun. Elephant. There is an enormous gray elephant stomping through the jungle, trumpeting, wreaking havoc with each thunderous step. But he finds the coffee shop at last, ceases to panic, removes his sunglasses, orders a large cappuccino, and slurps it contentedly by use of his trunk. Here is a scene you have never witnessed before in the whole course your life and will (most likely) never have the unique opportunity to ever see. But, through the magic of words, the scene comes alive before your mind’s eye.
And yet, words can do more than just create mental images in your imagination. Words can generate feelings—of awe, joy, despair, contentedness, or restlessness. Words can be beautiful, weaving their way into intricate and marvelous patterns—each one a golden thread in the final design of the sentence. Words can make you draw back in disgust by the way they ooze and fester; revolting little globs strung together with loose and cracking joints between. Words can conjure up a close sense of peace and tranquility—forming a smooth surface, unrippled and untouched by the chaos without. Words can elicit a sense of horror as they reach out with clammy, bony fingers and send an icy chill shuddering up your spine. Words can create an environment of complete and utter silence—full, unbroken, restful, and sweet. Words can deafen you with their loud and obnoxious din, by the way they clang and rattle inside your brain and threaten headaches.
But above all, words can make you pause. Words can make you wonder at the vast realm of possibility that resides in the simple combination of only twenty-six symbols. What are words if not just arrangements of symbols? And what are symbols but mere scratches and squiggles of ink? They’re just strokes on a page after all. Just spidery lines on the page.
Ever onward, the road hums beneath rubber tires, an asphalt ribbon winding its long way over wide plains and through wide valleys twist red rock bluffs. Some might call this wilderness desolate, but it teems with life. Not the moist, gushing, and lush greens that remain more familiar to the traveler’s eye perhaps, but there is life nonetheless. It is life of a hardier sort, life capable of subsisting on minimal water, able to endure scorching heat. Bleached grass clings stubbornly to rocky soil, and specimens of the larger and shrubbier kind spread pale green leaves to the wide sky. But there are trees, and their dark green leaves speak of live giving water deep in the soil, while battered bark bears testimony to the bite of swirling sand kicked up and tossed about by the dry and gusting wind. This is the land of ravens, dear traveler, and if you look closely, you might catch the glossy flash of blue-black feathers among the broken rocks. And in turn, the tumbled, broken rocks give way to hills. They ripple the landscape, like ocean waves of living stone frozen at their cresting. As if some mighty hand drew its fingers cross the surface of the world, piling earth on earth with no more effort than if it had been a child’s blanket.