Waves, Sand & Sea Spray

 

I love the ocean in the wintertime. I’m transfixed by white foaming rolls of water that slam into the rocks with a deafening roar. But my childhood memories take me back to Huntington Beach, in May during the 1950’s.

In Southern California May meant warm sunshine and an annual beach field trip. With swim suits worn beneath our clothes, and with our drawstring bags filled with towels, lunches and dry underwear, we would scamper aboard the big yellow school buses anticipating our day of carefree play.

At the beach the buses would park in nearly empty parking lots, the doors remaining closed until the teachers and chaperones finished giving us last minute instructions. Then we would hear a low squeak as the driver slowly pulled on the lever that opened the door. We would all be on our feet by then, anxious to race off of the bus. But Mrs. Gallagher would stand in the aisle and move slowly toward the back, forcing us to stay in our seats until the kids in front had cleared the way.

As soon as our feet hit the blacktop we would bolt for the beach; shedding our shoes as soon as our feet left the pavement. We would settle on the sand in groups of three or four—the girls over here and the boys over there—all of us distancing ourselves from the teachers and chaperones.

This beach trip was a big deal to my sister and me because our family never picnicked on the beach. So it didn’t matter to us, that while the other kids spread out big bright colorful beach towels, we had brought along the oldest bath towels Mother could find in the hall closet.

Sometimes, when we arrived, a damp fog still made the water look opaque and our shoulders feel cold.  We would wrap our towels around our shoulders and tiptoe to the water’s edge.  We would stand there letting the icy water wash sand between our toes. Close to shore the waves would create little mounds of foam that tumbled over each other like tiny puppies at play. We would hold hands with each other while we jumped over the swells that made their way to shore.

As the day warmed up we would shed our towels and venture farther out. Inch by inch we’d go until the water seemed warmer than the marine air. We would laugh and play with our backs to the waves until—Blam! A large wave would roll in and slam us forward into the swirling tide. Legs and arms would flail in all directions. We would choke as the salty brine entered our mouths and noses. Sometimes when we weren’t nimble enough we’d tumble forward, pushed by the tide, until we ended up at the water’s edge with our faces planted in the sand.

As soon as we had caught our breath and our eyes quit burning, we would find our way back into the ocean for another go-round.

It makes me a little melancholy when I remember that my mother was afraid of the water and never shared that adventure with us.

 

 

Three word Wednesday:  opaque, nimble melancholy

 

 

 

What is a Friend?

If you are lucky, your friends come in a variety of shapes, sizes and temperaments. If a person is truly your friend, he or she is honest with you, but never abrasive. To my way of thinking a true friend keeps in touch when they know you are feeling tearful or unsteady. But what makes a friend someone you call or contact when you are at your lowest?

I’ve lost several people who were really important to me during the past couple of months. And because the people I thought I was closest to were suffering their own losses I did not feel free to reach out to them. And one of my friends who suffered a tragic loss during this time hasn’t returned my calls. I have called her to share my concern for her loss, but always get her answering machine. Prior to this I thought we were close friends. I have reached out to her by email, and she has sent short responses to that, but in the last three months I have not actually seen or spoken with her. My emails have been that I was thinking about her, not questions about her loss. I wonder when it is best to quit contacting someone who has suffered a loss and wait for them to get in touch. I am wondering if some people disassociate with their closest friends after suffering a loss because they feel they have to talk about that loss and they don’t want to.

I have other good friends that I have been able to share with. It is not that I am feeling all alone at this time. It is just a time of searching for the real meaning of friendship, and realizing how fragile a friendship can be.

Three Word Wednesday:  abrasive; tearful; unsteady

Gratitude–

I got up this morning

In a warm and cozy house

While the breeze outside

Still chilled the morning air

I had a warm shower,

And took time to wash my hair

Day-to-day I take things for granted,

And it probably seems that I don’t care.

But I haven’t forgotten, that,

Although I am here,

You are there.

You serve somewhere for our country

Or you served there in the past.

And though you give so freely

I know you wish

Each war would be our last.

Today I am reminded

That peace is not at hand

And that at some point

You sacrificed

For this, our precious land.

You have my thanks and gratitude

Please let me shake your hand.

I’ll pray for peace and healing

Peace! Now wouldn’t that be grand!

I don’t usually write  poetry, but this is what was going through my head this morning, so I hope you’ll accept this for its sentiment.  There are many veterans and servicemen in our family and I am so proud to be related to each one of them that I decided to post it to express my gratitude to them as well as to all the servicemen that protect us.

 

 

 

The Writing Workshop Notebook (with corrected link)

I’ve been writing and sharing memoir with a small group of friends for several years.  Although we normally have a topic to write about, we have reached a point where the diversity of our groups makes it more difficult to find a topic that everyone is comfortable with.  Our group includes members of various ages  and often the older members will say, write about where you were on the day Pearl Harbor was bombed, or something specific from that era.  I wasn’t even born then.

The exercises in Alan Zielger’s book The Writing Workshop Note Book, have given me an idea to not only come up with new ideas, but also to organize some of my stories.  He suggests dividing your age into segments.  For example birth to 5 years of age. Six to ten, etc.

As I started segmenting my life into 5 year segments I was amazed at the ideas that appeared on my list.

From birth to five I remembered a picture of me with my mother in Wenden, AZ.  We were moving to California from the Midwest. I was just an infant.  I must call my older brother and see what he remembers from that trip.

During that first five years I also listed, first day of school.  When I looked into my photo album and saw the picture of my kindergarten teacher I listed her name as well as the name of my best friend.

Under each five-year segment I started listing all of the important as well as the unimportant things that came to mind.  Even silly little memories about  how your mother made you wear your hair might be the starting point of a poignant memory.

These may not all pan out as complete stories, but at least they give me something to think about.  If this helps you generate new stories about your life, please let me know.

 

Sentence Structure, Observation and Detail

The concrete highway was edged with a mat of tangled, broken, dry grass and the grass heads were heavy with oat beards to catch on a dog’s coat, and foxtail to tangle in a horse’s fetlocks…..

From the Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck

 

Lately I find that I analyze what I read in a different way than I used to.  I think that might be because I am doing more writing than I have in the past.  As I read a novel, I find that I am consciously looking for techniques and patterns that will improve my own writings.

A few weeks ago I reread the works of some well-known authors of the past, The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck and The Great Gatsby by Francis Scott Fitzgerald.  Both of these books forced me to think about sentence structure.  The authors both use complex and compound sentences extensively.    Using a combination of complex and compound sentences mixed with shorter simpler sentences gives each of these pieces a sense of rhythm.    This observation has forced me to look at the sentence structure and the rhythm of my own writings.

In both of these novels, compound and complex sentences are an effective means of providing the reader with descriptive detail.  To write this kind of detail, obviously requires the writer to be acutely aware of his environment and experiences.    It requires accurate observation as well as intimate memory of the details.

As I journal daily I am trying to be more aware of the intimate details of what I see, hear, smell and touch, as well as how the daily experiences make me feel.  I hope that by this increased awareness and attempting to write these experiences in better compound and complex sentences I will improve my writing.

A Side Note:  I was surprised to realize that these stories, (not the piece itself, but the basic story line) especially The Grapes of Wrath, could be applicable in todays economic climate.

My quote for today:

               Man, unlike any other thing organic or inorganic in the universe, grows beyond his work, walks up the stairs of his concepts, emerges ahead of his accomplishments.

–John Steinbeck

 

 

 

Please Critique Me

Please critique me,

I don’t mind.

Please be honest,

but be kind.

I  have just finished reading Alan Ziegler’s, The Writing Workshop Note Book.  This book is one that I will add to my desk top. It is more than just a guide for you if you are attending a  writing workshop. It introduces you to the mechanics of a writing workshop and it provides tips for reading, writing, critiquing and teaching the craft.

Ziegler acknowledges that writers’ have different approaches to writing by sharing examples of students he has taught, writers he has known, as well as what he knows about historical writers of the past.  He encourages you as a writer to find your own style and voice.

Interlude 1 is a collection of writing exercises that provide inspiration for all writers, no matter what you write.  One suggestion has already helped me create a long list of new pieces for my memoir collection.

The section called Prepping for the Workshop, is an approach to revisions.  It provides guidelines for critiquing the work of others, but you will also go back to it frequently  to revise your own work.

The closing section has advice to help you accept the critiquing process and to get the most out of it.  Zielger shares several short antidotes about his own experiences that will amuse you and remind you that everyone can benefit from thoughtful critiquing.