When I’m between stories, or struggling within one, I usually come here to write up another blog post, play on Facebook, browse Google images for pictures that fit my characters or their surroundings or… I write something new. Something short. Something completely different than what I happen to be working on – or, should I say, ‘stalled’ on. It frees the muse and lets that moody little creature, with whom I have a love-hate relationship, play.
During one of our play dates, we created a lonely enigma of a character for a short piece I call, HUSH.
by Debora Dale
A specific incident never sent me to that spot on the rocks. It was more a feeling, a need, not an event. I’d seek it out. Walk down to the beach and climb high on the boulders that separated the freedom of the ocean from the rigid cookie-cutter homes along the lane.
Dogs barked on the street behind me. Kids, young ones, screamed and played, and old ladies yelled at them for having fun and making noise.
Me? I sat there listening to the smash of waves against the shore. I closed my eyes and concentrated. Heard none of the nonsense, just the strength of nature. I imagined being swept away, taken into the cool comfort of the surf, passed along from wave to wave as if from hand to hand until I was floating in the middle of it all, looking up at the sky with no houses, no kids, no old ladies. Just me. And if I went under, it wouldn’t matter. It would be peaceful. All encompassing. Like an embrace.
Sometimes, I’d bring a recorder and capture the sounds of crashing waves, crying gulls. If it rained, I’d stay home, lie on my bed with eyes closed and listen to my recordings. Pretending I was there.
It wasn’t the same. I didn’t feel the spray or sun on my face. I didn’t feel the breeze or boundless freedom. And when I’d open my eyes, I’d feel trapped. Same as I had been before I’d closed them.
I suppose, looking back on it now, it all sounds so depressing. It wasn’t. It was an escape. A refuge. A moment with me – without me. A moment when I felt comfortable in my own skin, when I could imagine myself out of my skin. Drifting. Being carried away without effort or resistance.
Just a soul free to float and be happy.
There were times when I avoided the beach. Those times were few, but they had cause. The annual Independence Day celebration was one. My quiet space, the soothing roll and fold of the waves, the gulls excitedly calling overhead… all disappeared that day. The rocks I’d climb were hijacked from early on by people vying for the best view of the water where, hours later, colors would explode in the sky before raining back down upon them.
I always feared that part. The colors raining down. Still hot and streaking, lighting up the sky as they fell to earth. What if a breeze stole one before it faded? What if it landed on someone and set them ablaze? I knew the fear was foolish. But it was pervasive. Consistent. Nagging. I didn’t know these people crowding my space, but I worried for them just the same.
One year, through sheer determination and curiosity, I ventured out. By dawn that day, I was there, on my rock. I waited. Watched as people arrived, politely chatted with some then merely observed others as I nonchalantly pulled away to blend into the background. Then night fell.
The irregular pounding of explosions clashed with the quick and heavy thud of my fright-driven pulse. I tried. I wanted to be part of the festivities but couldn’t. And so I left. I ran. Afraid at any moment those white hot trails of light would sear my flesh, melt my clothes.
Locked in my room, I put on my recorder, listened to the sounds I loved so much. Heard the hammer of fireworks way off in the distance. I closed my eyes and pictured their beauty, because only from that safe place was I able to fully appreciate it. And only from that safe place was I able to appreciate all the people there.
Perhaps that was the most interesting thing. Hearing sounds of celebration reminded me that people were out there, together, all joined for one cause. One cause far out of reach for me. I ached to be among them, and yet I was happy for the distance. The awareness of life, of living… well… it filled me with a sense of belonging to something much bigger than myself. I was nothing. That was everything.
And so, the ocean called. The surf was a lullaby for my soul. It beckoned me to return and I have arrived. Ready for the end. For a new beginning. What it all meant, all these years, I have no idea. What I know is that I was happy then, but no longer.
A hush falls over me. There are no children laughing. No dogs barking. Only waves and breezes and screaming gulls.
Yet, I am home. Content. Eager to float forever above and beneath the waves.