The Loan Beach Walker. (13.7.9)

The night is still, silent as motion can be. A silver moon hangs low across the water, casting it’s light over the rippling waves. They crest at the beach and break over the dark sand. Rocks and seaweed are light against the black sand beach. A sea wall up the beach a way, now the end of the beach, stacks logs against it and things live there. Things besides the children of the day in their imaginations as they play.

Things that you’ve never seen, things you couldn’t see even if you tried.

The beach is full of people in the day, practically swarming with them. They’re alright. They live behind the sea wall only a road and a sidewalk away, where the beach used to end. They put the concrete down and built the wall. They hold the sea at bay yet wish they had more contact with the natural. With something they haven’t touched. Only when they wade in the water and the kelp brushes their legs do they think about this, and then it’s only I wish I could see more, or holy shit, what’s touching my leg?!

Tonight the water is alone, the people are gone. The colors fade between blue, blue green, silver, gray, and black. The picture is layered, water, waves, crashing surf, layers of beach, logs, sea wall, and a jagged reaching of buildings and people’s creations behind it. The fence and gate keeping the sea from the people and the people from the sea are locked. No one should be here.

The beach is alone, nothing shares with it the space beyond the fence at this time. The consequences of such an action are severe, and no one should tempt the harsh government of the time.

The tall figure of a man walks along the beach near the surf’s edge seems to fade into the shades of the beach. He walks here alone every night, watching the sea and the surf. He knows this beach, every contour. He knows what the people bring to it, and he knows what they take away. He watches as it changes, and he feels a calmness the sea brings out in him.

As he walks, occasionally he stoops, plucking a piece of plastic or bit of fabric from the sand. With each thing he picks up and stows away in his bag, the line of his jaw tightens. A spark of fire lights in his eyes, and burns his soul to see the rubbish left here. This is his place to be himself, alone, with his thoughts and himself. Everything he sees is a personal insult, an affront to the sea.

He’s been a boy when the wall was constructed, he had been watching the men always moving things around, building, creating, destroying. Yet through everything, even when the beach looked its worst, it had been his. More than anyone else, it was his.

And no matter what the people did to it, the sea seemed to like them. To care about them, help them. And the beach was his, friend. He would help its task, and he would keep it safe, as much as he could. He and the beach, the man who walked along the monochrome layers of sand and salt and waves, and the water that rose and fell to his step, they were a team.

This piece was originally written for the Seattle Acquarium’s Creativity Inspiring Conservation creative writing course, and was displayed during their 2013 student art reception.

The statement written for the program:

I feel like there’s a deep connection between people and the environment, I think it communicates with us, and I hope it will get easier to find people who are willing to try and listen.

When She Looks At Me. (18.2.25)

The woman – perhaps?

The woman in the mirror.

When she looks at me.

.

A passing glance,

or a laugh.

Forced or true.

.

Mocking wet eyes,

angry crystallized sadness.

.

If

the image is distorted

When she looks at me

despaired.

Then

When she looks at me

soaring,

Is it too?

.

.

It’s not a mirror in my mind I see,

when I think of me.

Something more of an ideal,

mix past and future, maybe,

and pure, force of will

applied to sense of self

.

The woman in the mirror,

when she looks at me,

it’s not that me I see.

.

.

The image of me I see

I wonder

if anyone other sees

.

perhaps if it is not

the distortion is not my mind

but yours.

Potential Accumulated. (19.2.23)

Imagine, a city in gray monotone. Noir aesthetic, perhaps with the odd pop of color only occasionally. It’s raining there, striking an odd balance between warmth and chill. The motion of the city blending together into a stillness.

A few people in this city feel balanced within themselves. But most are lonely, brave enough to stay the same, yet lacking the strength that a sincerely offered ear lends. Without quite the bravery to be the first ear in the domino line of change; listless islands they.

Stories are experiences, ideas, woven with magic.

When the metaphorical ink of potential accumulated, would-be written stories, becomes physical force unseen within.

Does it bring hope or sorrow?

Yes. Exactly.

The Woman Dipped In Ink. (19.2.12)

Red dress. Black dress. White dress.

White dress, black flowers, red petal tips.

She drifts through the world. Rain pelts the glass in fat, running droplets as she watches. Their streams distort light, views through the window. Inside, and out.

Her fingertips trail down the pane. Longing, loneliness in her eyes.

Ink seeps from her. Constant, viscous, pooling. From her fingertips, heels, hair, tear ducts, it seeps and runs from her, pooling in places, sticking in others. Reflecting slick highlights.

As she drifts, the ink runs like tears around her. It fills her footsteps, dissipating in rain and evaporating into black stains in the sun. It’s left dark and unseen on anyone she touches, without her knowing. It bubbles up through the skin at her throat, sliding down her chest through her dress’s weave without leaving trace, but marking the whole world around her.

The rain is a mild, warm background noise in a cold city, accompanying her tapping footfalls as she walks through the alley slow, barely feeling the rain. The edges of petals on her soaked, summery dress the only spots of color in the scene.

Soaked in experiences turned potential, is this

Her beginning or her end?

She walks, a lifetime of untold stories no longer contained, flowing away from her in fine rivulets.

The Legends of Yore. (17.4.25)

The ornately decorated tome is ages old. Only the finest artists across the lands have been allowed to add their wisdom, their art, a little bit of their essence.

The workbench placed in the middle of the wide, vaulted room, is sturdy and heavy. It might’ve been made to hold the book itself on its creation. The room is cased in the finest marble, polished carefully each day. The windows in the walls have been carefully placed to light the tomb, but not touch it. Every tiny piece of the room, the building even, was formulated to take the most care in preserving, protecting, and displaying the tomb.

The workbench it’s placed on is solid, wide, and built to sustain always. It’s surface is stained deeply with the years of ink, blood, and tears that the artists who created the tomb shed onto its course grain. There are scratches in some places, some look almost like doodles, or finely done practices of the cuts or marks left on the tome itself.

The stain of the wood sets a contrast against the clean, careful, shining marble. The rough grains seem unruly against the smooth surfaces in the room, but it demands its space and the respect of the walls, of the light that casts itself so delicately around the tomb and the table. When the light touches the bench it seems to diffuse, as if it’s not worthy of touching the most precious tome of the people. The bench demands respect and deference. The light obliges carefully.

Those who enter the room are struck silent at the deep contrasts and textures so carefully engineered around them.

The cover of the tome is finely tooled leather. It’s soft and supple, but its toughness has withstood countless years and additions. The marks it bears are the signatures of hundreds and thousands of artists determined the most skillful, respected, talented, and cherished of their time. Each twist, sharp stop, and point is purposeful, intentional, and exquisitely planned.

The slightly worn layer of leather placed over the cover that makes up its title is crooked, and scholars have wondered upon their careers and lives why it was chosen to be placed ever so slightly crooked.

The words that roll across the most important book in the world’s cover tell you it is the Legends of Yore.

If you were to turn through the pages, you would find the most exquisite sketches, paintings, writings, and philosophical historic moments captured forever within the crisp thin pages within the tome.

The fantastic beasts of other worlds have been scrolled in precious inks. Forests and flowers and birds and creatures of the sky, land, and sea, have been cataloged here. Music notes have been etched into the corners of poetry and plays that were scripted in exquisite calligraphy. The most important leaders and humanitarians have been frozen in paint that has been finely cracked and faded over the years, only adding to the special scarcity and ethereal beauty.

The Legends of Yore have only been allowed to the unique, perfectly talented, and most precious artists, historians, philosophers, and writers. Only those deemed most worthy have been given the gift of being able to lay their hands on the tome. To lay their hands on the tome and create of art from themselves within its pages, to sign the cover and kiss the spine. It would be their most treasured, most beautiful work of art, their masterpiece, and it would be kept for as long as time would allow.

And if you look very closely on back corner, you can see the notes of artists. Deemed respected, cherished, talented, and precious to the people.

Allowed the gift of adding work to the beautiful tome, to the legends and the history of the best of the best of all.

A few hundred years after this artist’s contribution, a historian will find this note in a barely recognizable, faintly intact piece of a journal in an abandoned city, covers bound in rough leather and scrawled in cheap ink a note from one apparently chosen artist:

I don’t know how they decided on me. Thousands of years they chose only those who deserved it, and they knew who deserved by who cherished the opportunity, neigh the gift. So I don’t know why they chose me. I am ornery and my only wish left in this world is to be left alone with my art. And yet I am burdened now with this responsibility. I have only one recourse, as the frustrated and somehow accidentally revered curmudgeon.

The historian, confused, searched for years, as the journal gave no further clues what was meant by the artist’s words, or what had been contributed. Through the histories of the time, the studies of other’s, the studies of the language and culture, and of all the art held within the book.

Finally, the historian noticed a very tiny mark near the top right corner of the last word of the tomb’s title, etched carefully in the worn leather. After research, it was found to be an asterisk, and thus the historian is credited with finding the single most astounding moment of art in the entire tomb. For inscribed in tiny, perfect letters in the corner of the back cover, amongst the signatures of past artists, is the contribution of the frustrated and somehow accidentally revered curmudgeon, marked by a tiny, matching, asterisk.

The Legends of Yore*

 

*Dick.

Keep My Memories. (17.9.17)

The worn journal in my lap is fat with memories of my first life. Every up and down, every death and pure joy. I’ve carried it since Evan and I rode out in our new cement truck, starting our business.

We open our doors simultaneously and swing into the cab. My grin is huge as I laid my hands on the wheel. “This anticipation is killing me slowly. Ray is spinning me in every direction, making sure things are ready for the baby.”

Evan playfully punches my shoulder. “I’m glad you’re so happy. Don’t forget who gets to be the work uncle.”

I laugh at his phrasing, at the delight of starting the engine. “I’ll never forget, dude. Always the work uncle. Don’t worry, baby’s gonna love you.”

The next months were a blur of baby and Evan constantly pulling my weight in the truck. The first time I was back, Evan wasn’t even annoyed.

I collapse into the passenger seat, knocking the mud and snow off my heavy boots. Evan immediately hands me a cup of coffee. “Good to see ya. Been a while.” his face is so concerned my heart swells. “How are you doing?”

I wrap my hands around the coffee, absorbing its warmth and taking a deep breath to stave off the happy exhausted tears. “My wardrobe has been updated with the new looks of spit up, smushed breakfast, and stealth poo.”

He gives me a look. It felt like the light off the bright snow highlighted every flaw. “Only stealth poo? That’s it?”

His raised eyebrow tone makes me snort, but part of me feels deflated. “It’s been really hard. Ray is needing a lot of support. It’s early to come back, but I can’t afford not to. Ray’s sisters and coworkers are amazing. The baby’s amazing.” I rest my head. “But sweet Jesus it’s hard. It’s exhausting.”

I’m here if you need someone, Al.”

The warmth in his voice joins the heat from the coffee and the blasting heater, melting my exhaustion away. “You’re a great friend, Ray said to tell you that. Ash loves the octopus you got her.”

Evan didn’t know I heard him, but as I fell asleep he was humming the same lullaby he taught my baby Ash the next weekend.

I trace the notes I’d taken, meant to remind myself it was always getting a little better, going a little smoother.

The first day everything came together perfectly I was dancing haphazardly beside our truck to the music in my head. When I saw Evan approaching, I put a little extra flop in my dance to make him laugh. He laughs out loud, and tells me I look carefree and light, that even the gray in my short hair sparkles.

I tell him to stop being a dull lump and grab his arm to dance him around in a skipping circle. “Look at this sunshine! Look at the way it lights up our new especially lime green logo!”

He bounces, beaming. “On top of the world, are we?”

Of course we are! We got the contract, my wife is publishing her research, my baby is the most excellent smartest baby in the world, and just for a moment the world glides!”

Evan snorts. “My baby is going to be the smartest and most excellent. I’m sorry but my work niece can only come a close second.”

They will be perfectly evenly matched. And that’s my final offer. And that’s another thing! You’re having a baby. I’m going to be an aunt. It’s going to be awesome!”

Obviously.”

This journal is moments of my Ash’s firsts, the funny things I needed to tell Ray or Evan, notes about the business. It is the tradition of doodles that started when I brought little Ash for her first ride with me, when she drew a fanciful world across several pages. It is more than the simple pages themselves.

My tears soaked its pages when Ray was diagnosed, it held our joy during the year we had left to explore the world and adventure together. It watched over me as Ash grew, when our families were crushed by Evan’s murder and the trial that sentenced his killer. It held the postcards from his wife and daughter when they moved back to her home across the Atlantic.

I’d written down my pride and love for each of Ash’s achievements, when she graduated and traveled. It had comforted me when she was sick in my arms for so many weeks, and it had seen her overcome and succeed.

The last pages were my scrambled, smudged ramblings the counselor suggested I write about my loss. My daughter’s death. But it wasn’t a loss, it was the moment my world ended. Everything now is the closing credits on this life. The day her killer didn’t get arrested, was his end. The day I discovered a note from Ash on the last page, must’ve been while we were traveling with Ray, telling me that she loved me and that we’d been the best moms in the world and she was proud of us, I made my decision. My calm arrived.

I kiss the journal with tear chapped lips and tuck it into its hidden pocket. I grab the pack of rat poison from the floor and swing out of my truck.

***

I’m surprised this calm doesn’t scare me. My life is ending today, and the only thing I want to take with me is my journal. I drive away in my tattered cement truck, the empty rat poison beside me. I don’t care if I’m arrested or not. It doesn’t matter if they know I killed the man who killed my daughter. I will meet whatever life comes, no matter the consequences. My certainty is a strange faith that my humanity and actions are balanced on the scales of time, or insignificant.

I pull my journal into my lap as I drive, promising I’ll keep my memories.