W101 – Day 2 – Where a Writer Starts
Though behind I’m going to catch up starting with W101 – Day 2 – Where a Writer Starts for my Writing 101 course. I’ve got several to send out, some I’ll bundle in a single post otherwise follow the links to the next post! Click here for Day 1.
Day 2: Today’s Prompt: If you could zoom through space in the speed of light, what place would you go right now?
Today’s Twist: organize your post around the description of a setting.
There are a dozen or so places I can think to go: Namibia, Ecuador, San Francisco, Costa Rica, Italy, the Brookfield Zoo, something like my dreamhouse and a dream greenhouse, the list goes on. I close my eyes, switch one crossed leg for the other and shift my position. I shift entirely from my desktop to my laptop. I stop all together and submit some poetry, mess around on my phone or inspect my orchids for signs of new growth or spikes. I make lists for supplies, tasks, chores, needs, goals, and dreams.
Back at my computer I stare down the task at hand: where will I go? But every answer asks the question: why would you go? Each case is different and the same; be more present, make different choices, end with a different outcome, just love it all over again. Then I also want to share in my vision of what a dream would look like… it would be built onto my house, heated and made of polycarbonate panels with protective cloth on the ceiling that I could automate to a schedule should I choose to let in direct sunlight. There would be shelves running the length of the building on either side. Fabricated mounts and orchid “trees” run down the center. No plant would be so crowded it hinders its neighbor, space would be used effectively though it would all be used. Everything possible would be automated, my entrances and exits would have alarms, and I could control it all from my phone or computer, from the house or miles away, everything on camera.
The humidity would be around 80% and higher some days, I’d let it fluctuate some but keep it high. The front room would lead into a cooler sitting room where cooler growing orchids would live and thrive. A glass table with four chairs would sit in the center. Nearby would be various parrot paraphenelia: cages, stands, toys, treats, etc. They – my boys – would always be welcome in the greenhouse. Blooming plants would be moved and located better to appreciate their splendor while in bloom, the fragrant ones nearest the seating areas. But wait, no, the table wouldn’t be here, it would be in the first room off the house. The middle room, this second room, would be for work: writing, re-potting, seedlings, and the like. It would be my sanctuary of sorts. I would get, no I would create something like a wooden table I saw that had a fountain on one end delivering water to the stream that ran down the center of the table with a host of live plants on either side. This would be an excellent place for miniature and micro-mini orchids…Or what about the space of a dream that would be my own parrot rescue, dogs too because once you get started down that path there’s no saying no to dogs in need…
However, I’m drawn to – and reject for its simplicity – a memory of a place where my imagination began. Where my imagination played and created, where trees talked, the birds and animals all knew me, and I was something of a princess defender…
There was a large Chestnut tree, it was huge (at least I thought so in my youth). The ground was adorned with hundreds of nuts encased in spiky capsules. I’ve never stopped being fascinated by them. The lowest branches hung over me like a canopy, one stop along my walk through the kingdom. Maybe 50 yards or so to the right of the Chestnut, just before the last building off the driveway, I can see the path tucked into little slopes on either side leading me down to a glorious place filled with wonder and an incredible odor of sorts. 😉 My passage through this space transforms me in time and I come to the end of the downward sloping path to the edge of a stagnant slime covered…body of water? Something tugs at my sleeve as I look around at this little puddle, surprised it’s not yet dried up; she pulls me back into my youthful spirit where it is not just any place.
This is the Frog Pond. My toes curl in my shoes and through memory I can fell the squish of a foot and a half of muck pushing up through them towards my knees. I squirm a little and giggle inside at the adventure. My heart races about my only fear: the presence of Snapping turtles. Lest I take the long way around though that is the fastest way across – through it – where I can see the elusive Bullfrog. I do not overlook the dozens of smaller frogs floating on the surface as if on some invisible floaty devices, or the bulbous eyes popping up here and there, relocating to get a better understanding of threat assessment of me. I smile. Others sit still scattered all along the water’s edge on both sides. To my right I can see a few resting on the concrete damn about 10 feet away. I hope they don’t jump down the couple of feet to the drainage pipe (the sewer we called it ) where I would have to crawl down and rescue them as there would be no way for them to get back out. And yet, still ahead of me where the land slopes up again – the pond is a natural depression which receives run off and flood waters from the much larger true pond at the other end – I can see the Bullfrog. It’s watching me no doubt.
The surface is covered with green algae. The “shore” is composed of muck and slick clay, you will slip if you are not careful. I reach down and pull one shoe off and then my sock. I balance my weight – which is so much greater than I remember – on my barefoot and feel the cool earth below me. Already my toes curl impulsively into the thick, moist ground. Trying to balance I almost slip as I reach for my other sock but catch myself just in time. My foot smashes to the ground where I leave an impression. Should the world freeze over now and thaw out for the next race some thousands of years into the future, assuming they too will employ anthropological spirits, they would find my tracks. They would assume from the evidence, or artifacts, of water frog and turtle bones that I came here to hunt. They would think they know a thing about a thing or two, but they don’t; I was just a girl who fancied frogs.
I slip one foot into the cold dark water, it’s far too dirty to see into. It really looks much deeper than it is, the water itself that is, it’s mostly a thick layer of muck along the bottom covered by oh I don’t know, a foot give or take of water. The minute I break the water’s surface, sending ripples out like couriers, all nearby frogs dive into the darkness, most pop their heads back up a couple of feet away. The Bullfrog shuffles his feet underneath him to face the water, and me. My feet sink deeper and deeper until I’m certain I will fall into the earth, but the young me tells me not to be afraid. (It’s gross I think, but am too proud to say it.) It feels just like what I’m sure it is squishing between my toes: rotting leaves and plant matter, muck, algae, muck, slime, and a whole lot of mush. Were I a frog writing this I would still travel through space to this same place for my winter vacation/hibernation, four-star facilities. From one shore to the other it’s maybe 10-12 feet, long enough when you’re small, barely anything when you’re all grown up until you feel over a foot of mushy squishy stuff in, under, and on your toes.
“Do you remember you have to check for leeches when we get out?” she asks me. Great.
Every year we all swam in the big pond with little concern. The beach made up a small cove of water that dropped off about 15 feet out. Fish always dug nests in this shallow water and laid their eggs no matter how often we or the dogs disturbed them. Maybe 20-30 yards out from there was an island, completely overgrown with weeds and grasses, even some saplings. Even there the Geese nested no matter our presence, although they didn’t like it one bit. The swim to it felt like a world away and given my fear of what may lurk under the water in the deep zone it felt like even more of a treacherous journey. But oh gosh can I remember the awesome achievement of making it to the island and carefully crawling ashore (hopefully without stepping in too much goose poo). It probably wasn’t more than 20-25 feet wide itself, yet it was still exotic to wave back to mom with young sis back at shore. Dad of course swims around in goggles it seemed without a care in the world. His love of swimming through the seaweed with his goggles on, “underwater jungle swimming” he called it was a feat I admired but never envied nor cared to try. I couldn’t stand the feel of seaweed even touching me. It still reminds me of that scene in “The Little Mermaid” with Ursula and her “poor unfortunate souls!”
Seems strange maybe, that I hate seaweed though picking leeches from between my toes afterwards was almost cool, although back at the frog pond I’m wondering if I’ll still feel this way once I get out. Wading through the muck is slow but as soon as I’m about to reach the other shore my target, the Bullfrog, leaps an incredible distance into the water to my left and disappears only to pop his large head up several feet away. Little Me wants to go after it, Big Me says let’s go.
Once I’m back on almost dry land I’m excited, I feel adventurous. I take my shoes and socks back up the path where the grass reclaims the land near the top. I step up and out of this tiny valley and pick a decent spot to sit and check my toes. Of course there are a few leeches but after I get over seeing them and having them on me again after all these years I find the whole ordeal fascinating, especially how when I pull on them they stretch their dark wormy bodies thinning out as they refuse to release their grip on the skin between my big toe and its neighbor. I laugh at how gross this is.
After I pick off the leeches and dry my feet with my socks I think for a minute or two about even putting them back on. The muck was strangely nice, calming even once I lied to myself that of course I would scare all Snapping turtles away and none would think my toes were delicious little fishes. However, seeing as I plan to walk to the big pond where the waterfall is I’ll have to pass the Chestnut again and those spiky capsules are extremely unpleasant to step on. I think I’ll save my feet the trouble and put my shoes on…
Here in the lush land of summer I’m surrounded by green. To my left passed the Chestnut tree is a steep hill atop which resides a small orchard of sorts, apple trees planted long before I ever lived. The apples are okay but mostly they’re riddled by worm holes. Worse yet was the number of bees who owned that territory. Ahead of me through the trees I can just make out the pond and a small wooden bridge. The waterfall roars out like a beast claiming its land. Here, the pond is clear, seaweed-less as a result of the moving water. My heart skips, rises, and flies as I draw nearer. The relative humidity increases. I am a princess again coming to this place of wonder where just across the bridge in the small clearing before the hill drops down the side of this man-made, concrete though majestic waterfall is a small stand of naturally occurring – mysterious to us – bamboo. To the right I look down the length of the frog pond, frog heaven really, to the place I once was.
Everything falls away here. I’m in my own story, a place of magical realism, or realistic magic if you prefer, a child’s bliss where the imagination blooms like the little Muscari I so loved or the Lilac stand or all the raspberries and blackberries I feasted on. Never mind the field of Sunflowers in front of the house, or the paths through the deep woods where I reigned in my kingdom. Or the dirt roads around the fields and the one that led to my great-grandmother’s house that we traveled by way of four-wheeler. Never mind the tree with the branch that stuck straight out, I climbed and lounged on it like the leopard I thought I was and ate leaves like leopards don’t. This, this place is the beginning of my imagination, my foundation I guess you could say.
But why, why would I go there? Because it’s effortless. The place where the story starts before the writer even gets there. 😉