Sunday, May 20, 2012

Writing and Agates

This weekend I've found myself, again, at the beach. It's not an accident, of course. I didn't wake up in the morning, look around, and say, "Hey, where am I and how did I get here?"

No, I've rediscovered the renewal possible for me by a trip to the coast. It doesn't have to be for a long stretch and not necessarily for even a couple of days; though I'll do that when I can. Even a short afternoon brings me energy and helps me move stress through and outward.

So, here I am. At the beach. This time with my partner. And today we headed down the small hill to the beach and walked. And walked. Waded in the ocean and looked at the rocks and shells covering portions of the beach, under a partly sunny sky, with a minimal breeze. We'd picked the perfect time of day.

Then I saw the first agate. I do have a skill at spotting the colored rocks, agates, and such on the beach which others might pass by. But most of the time any more they are tiny rocks and not many of them. There have been a few nice composite rocks, but rarely agates bigger than a pencil eraser.

Until today. I found two truffle sized agates a few minutes apart. Then, on the way back to our room, a third, which appears to be a crystallized fossil of a shell fish inside a common grey slate of some type, maybe; or maybe it's not a fossil at all. I noticed a couple of others, which I left. But these three I brought with me.

I took the agates out of the plastic bag into which I'd carried them and they were slick with ocean water and shiny, just as I'd found them on the beach, at the edge of the water. I sat them on the window ledge and went to get my camera.

When I returned, the rocks had dried and, while still attractive, they no longer glowed. The potential fossil was just a charcoal grey and black rock, the caramel truffle was a blondish lump, and the warm butterscotch gem was a dull. A dip in water and their luster was restored and I took a picture before they dried, again.

Later, as I was sitting on the sofa, watching the brown pelicans ride the waves with seagulls and terns, I looked at the rocks. Sitting against the backdrop of the ocean from which they'd come. Still pretty, but less refined - or something. I knew what they could look like all cleaned up, maybe polished, but at that moment, they were nice and ordinary. Which is okay.

As my thoughts sometimes do, they wandered back to writing. From rocks to writing and that's how it goes.

I realized that writing short stories can be like walking the beach and finding agates. In the moment, the words can shine. I find gems and put them down and build the story around them. I may look at them and turn them over in my mind and I know what they look like, what I want them to look like.

But sometimes that shine doesn't hold as they sit and grow. Or a new set of eyes reading the story may be after the surface has dried and they can't quite see the gem I know is inside.

So it got me to thinking about first drafts, and even seconds and thirds, can be like those beach agates or even like the thunder eggs I remember my grandparents having in their basement. The outside may need to be opened up, shined and even polished, to reveal their inner glow. To show their power and beauty.

It's also probably not by accident that writing and revision popped up in relation to being here today. Because today was the first quick write in the Literary Kitchen and work on the first week's assignment begins tomorrow. Having a writing community is the polish and shine for my writing. The other eyes who can give feedback and help me find the fire and strength in my writing.