I thought I might post some, you know, actual Writing on the blog in celebration of getting something published. But most of the things that are fantasy-esque are being shopped right now and I can’t put them up. I remembered, though, that I had written a few practice essays in my black Moleskine, and that some of them were pretty good. So I typed one up for you. This was from a Steering The Craft exercise that was supposed to be full of lavish description. When I think purple prose, I always think of the beach.
It’s a little bit maudlin, but I’m posting it anyway because I think it’s evocative. And I’m sure you can forgive me for being self-indulgent for an entry. The happenings are true, but I don’t feel that dramatic about it in every day life (I’m really mostly a pragmatic person and would probably have made the same decision to sell. I get it). I’m the kid on the left, and that’s the cottage in the back.
Here it is.
There is a place in the east where the world is both gray and vibrant, the verdant forest rooting into brown fingers of granite which, in turn, grab hold of the blue, blue sea. In between the tall fronds of marsh grass and the slap of ocean on the soft, gray sand is a brown road and a row of houses. Two of them are red; one small and one large.
Round the corner in your car, past the black and white boulder and the green cottage it hides. Slip from the shade of the trees, your tires crunching on the gravel as you press the car forward, and it’s laid out before you: the flat grasses, the pools of brackish water, the line of round trees in the distance where the forest coalesces again, the white heron standing alone, bright on the muddy landscape, the row of houses opposite.
Only the two red ones belong you; one big, one small. The houses, the land they stand on, is your birthright.
The big house is the Juanita, says the black and gold sign. Named for the whitest of great grandmothers, the most puritan on these puritanical shores. The small house is nameless, and under the wooden floor in the tresses are too many nails where your uncle hammered them in distraction while Grampy built the house and raised the walls around them both.
There used to be a mansion on the headlands, out there where the silver beach ends and the granite grips the sea. There used to be a mansion where the waves rush, unthinking, onto the rocks and their spray splashes at the sky. See? Says your mother as you walk on the point just before the sun sets. See? That house has borrowed the old foundation. That is where the mansion existed, though it doesn’t anymore. Consumed.
What happened to it? It burned in a fire that swept along the shore and took the cottages with it. The Juanita was saved because Juanita saved it, watering the roof with a garden hose and brushing burning embers onto the grass with a kitchen broom until she had to leave, before the forest started burning too and there was no way to get through the slim forest road. The little cottage with no name hadn’t been built yet.
Juanita saved it for you. She saved it so you could put your finger through the rusted bolt on the domed granite tent rising from the sand like an island and try to imagine a toe-headed boy named Bobby tying his boat here. But it’s impossible to imagine white haired, red cheeked Grampy as anything but a grandfather.
She saved it so you could slip on the rocks, tearing up your shin on the barnacles, your red blood mingling with the waving seaweed. The small green crab comes to investigate and you move your toes away from his pinchers. The salt water stings.
She saved it for you so you could jump from tall Elephant Rock, squealing as the air rushed around you and your heart leapt to your throat, your ankles shuddering on the wet gray sand below. You egg your cousins on, daring them to take the higher ledge, afraid to take it yourself.
She saved it so you could all visit the mudflats in your pristine matching bathing suits on picture day. You find the mud under the slim layer of sand in the shallow water, like overbaked brownies but slick. You slip, and your arm is half slime, your bathing suit brown. You scrub in the salty water, but the mud stays as though it knows you belong to it. Your transgression is immortalized when you grin, crouched next to your cousins on Bobby’s Tent while grownups flash away, the mud a stripe barely visible as you cheat sideways to hide it.
She saved it so you could rush around the house in the gathering storm in your pajamas, closing the windows on the driving rain, the wind wuthering around the corners of the house. You pull the plush chairs, stuffing mounting an escape, up to the wide windows and cuddle beneath the ancient crocheted blankets with your mother and sister. You watch the lightning strike over the sea and count for the thunder. You think of the black divot in the rock, the size of a kitchen mixing bowl, where a lightning bolt burned the granite ages ago. That happened when I was a girl, says your mother. Did you see it happen? You ask her, dreaming of a great burning flash, sparks flying, a smoking, steaming hole left behind. No, she says. I wasn’t at the beach that night. You fall asleep in the chair to the sound of the rain.
And yet, a hose, a broom, and determination have only done so much to save this place. The ages pass and the flame of taxes in tourist country rise, sweeping the old cottages off the beach one by one. The Juanita falls this time, razed for a new gray mansion that matches the others new millionaires have built on the shore. The small cottage still stands, disguised by gray paint and manicured hedges that screen it from you. Consumed.
Your birthright didn’t last.
The puritans passed away from the gray but vibrant shore and left only the sand and the rocks for you to remember them by. But sometimes you think that maybe this is enough. After all, you do remember.