Today I am celebrating the writing of my 100th post! 100 posts! Dang…and to think I worried about not having enough to write about!
The idea for this post transpired this past week, as I shared with my students the importance of writing for themselves. In other words, I didn’t want them to write for a grade and I didn’t want them to write to please me. (Or anyone else for that matter.) I’ve been imploring them to take pride in their writing, and worry only about pleasing themselves. It is important to me that they feel good about what they have written.
After all, writing can be so subjective. And just because someone doesn’t like your writing doesn’t mean that it isn’t good.
Did you know
- Chicken Soup for the Soul was rejected 33 times?
- Carrie by Steven King was rejected 30 times?
- Gone with the Wind was rejected by 38 publishers?
- A Wrinkle in Time was rejected 26 times?
- The Diary of Anne Frank was rejected 16 times?
You get the picture!
So now, I am taking my own advice. I’m sharing a piece that I wrote for myself. Be warned: no recipes, no valuable nutrition information, no pictures of food. Just a chance for me to write, and to share my writing with others.
Rock Canyon (A Childhood Memory)
The journey is long.
The destination? Rock Canyon— a location unbeknownst to those who brush their teeth without being told.
On a sultry, summer day, the journey requires a half hour of navigating through woods and field. (Longer if you’re trying to lose a little brother or sister along the way.)
We gather—Jenny, Kelly, Scott, Bob, Dan, and I, in my backyard.
The woods behind my house are dark and uninviting; the sun is obscured by a thick canopy of oak and hickory leaves.
“Do we have everything?” questions Scott, our self proclaimed leader, and at eleven, three years my senior.
“I brought the Kool-Aid!” I eagerly reply, anxious to please.
The rest of the group glances around, with quizzical “what else could we possibly need” looks on their faces. Backpacks are empty (except for mine, as I am the official Kool-Aid carrier), but are ready to hold any newfound treasures gathered along the way.
The journey begins.
We enter the woods, scrambling under half fallen trees, precariously resting against stronger, sturdier trees, and clambering over fuzzy, moss covered rocks. Tree roots hinder our progress, tripping each of us at seemingly scheduled intervals. Occasionally, an utterance of “ouch” or “dang” permeates the silence, as knees and hands come in contact with rock and ground.
The air is stifling.
“Wait up, you guys,” Dan pants, only moments into the journey. He is promptly ignored, although I notice that Jenny catches his eye and smiles sympathetically.
The journey continues.
The pungent smell of decaying leaves assaults my nose, and the buzz of swarming mosquitoes sends a shiver down my spine, despite the heat of the day. I begin to feel itchy. Occasionally, we pause to swat the mischievous insects.
“Go faster!” Scott demands, waving his arms around his head in desperation. “Who was in charge of the mosquito repellant?”
A long silence…followed by the sound of a hand making contact with skin. And then, a muffled childlike obscenity.
“Not me,” Dan meekly replies. (Making me think it actually was him.)
Soon we arrive at an old, abandoned dump site, hidden deep in the woods. We imagine its origination.
“Maybe a robber stole all of this and dumped it here,” Dan suggests.
“Or maybe it’s from a pioneer family that use to live in the woods,” Jenny fantasizes. “You know, like Laura Ingalls!”
I like Jenny’s idea better than Dan’s, and daydream about the family who lived in the woods and surmise the reason they left. Visions of hostile Indians (politically correct in the mid 70’s) fill my mind, much like a recent episode of Little House on the Prairie I had recently watched.
The dump site is small, covering a space no larger than a child’s swimming pool. We carefully scour through the leaves and dirt with sticks. Jagged edges of rusty beer cans protrude from the ground. Dirt covered mason jars, and chipped pieces of “china” are plucked from the pile. We carefully stow our treasures in the backpacks we carry.
We trudge on, the added weight in our backpacks taking their toll. Soon we come to a dried up creek bed. Despite the fact that there isn’t any water in sight, we use the bridge created from sticks and rocks to cross.
“Remember when we built this?” I ask.
“Yeah! That was so much fun! Jenny enthusiastically replies.
“Well, it wasn’t so fun the second time I fell in,” I reply, remembering returning home for the second time within one afternoon to change out of muddy, wet clothes.“My mom wasn’t happy with me at all.” The memory fills me with shame.
As we near the edge of the woods, the roar of a nearby tractor interrupts my thoughts. Instantly, we drop to the ground and wait for it to pass. We’ve been through this before. We cannot be seen. The farmer does not want us trespassing on his land. This knowledge makes the journey that much more exciting.
Once the danger has passed, we stumble out of the relative coolness of the woods, and into the blazing summer sun. Shading our eyes with our hands, we squint into the brightness of the day, inadvertently leaving traces of dirt on our faces. We watch as in the distance, the tractor disappears around a bend in the road.
Gathering our bearings, we start heading down the dusty, dirt road. Within minutes, small streams of sweat begin to trickle down my neck, before being absorbed by my t-shirt.
“I’m hot,” Dan whines.
“We all are,” Bob counters.
“We’re almost there,” Jenny encourages. Jenny is always nice. Even to whiners.
“All right. Let’s take a break,” suggests Kelly, as she brushes a wisp of hair out of her eyes, and tucks it behind her ear. She is truly Scott’s equal—not only in age, but in authority as well.
“Okay,” I eagerly agree.
“Hey! Guys! Over here,” Dan shouts.
He has located a shady spot in the tall grass along the side of the road. Ceremoniously, he plops himself down, pulls a blade of wheat from the ground, and promptly places the pale, tender end in his mouth. We quickly join him.
Kneeling down I clasp my hands behind my back, shrug my shoulders and my backpack slides to the ground. I am feeling quite important as the big kids surround me. As I am trying to get the Kook-Aid out of my backpack, a string gets caught in the zipper. Sweat runs into my eyes as I struggle to unzip it. Giving the zipper a huge tug, it finally budges. I pull the thermos out of my pack.
“Hurry up,” Scott says impatiently.
He grabs the thermos out of my hands. Everyone laughs as he struggles to remove the top. At least everyone but me.
“Relax,” Kelly says as she authoritatively snatches the thermos away from him.
Placing the thermos between her knees, she grips the handle of the outer cup, and is surprised when it gives. We laugh some more. This time I join in.
“I loosened it,” Scott mopes.
As Kelly unscrews the inner cap, the sugary sweet smell of grape Kool-Aid rushes out. We pass the thermos from person to person— oldest first, youngest last. I am the youngest—only by a few short months, but the youngest nonetheless.
After guzzling our sugary drink, and wiping our mouths with the back of our hands, we survey the cornfield that lies between us and the rocky, tree covered fence line fondly named Rock Canyon.
I place the empty thermos back in my pack. Everyone is eager to continue. Even Dan.
Scampering through rows of sweet corn, leaves and tassels reach out and tickle our dust covered legs and arms. I could easily get lost, as the corn is taller than I am, so I stick close to Bob who is directly ahead of me. Jenny and Dan bring up the rear. I can hear them talking about Dan’s dog, Mitzi.
The hum of traffic, from a not so distant highway, provides background noise. As we reach the edge of the field, the sweet flowery smell of clover entices us. We scramble to find the purplest flowers, and pluck the tendrils. Then, we suck the warm sweet nectar out. Revitalized, we continue.
We are almost there.
Finally, we reach the entrance to our secret fortress. Green ivy winds its way around rock and tree. Off come the shoes and socks, and our hot, sweaty feet are welcomed by the cool, damp earth floor.
We enter and appraise our surroundings. Everything looks just as it did when we left the previous afternoon.
We hop (me), skip (Jenny), and jump (Dan) down the flat, sparkly gray rocks that serve as a majestic staircase leading down to the main living quarters. The older kids follow behind. Walking.
The trunk of a decaying elm tree is our couch, and several flat, gray stones provide additional seating. Piles of rock and trunks of trees provide an exterior barrier, and a canopy of sumac leaves serves as our roof.
To the right of the living area is the kitchen. Kelly, Jenny and I wander in. Water from a previous rain fills a deep impression in a gigantic, gray rock. This is our sink. Tiny insects scurry across the water leaving a small wake. Spider webs glisten with dew and we shiver as the wispy strings entangle us. Several neat piles of wilted dandelions and sweet clover cover our rock table.
“Let’s get the plates and glasses!” Jenny says excitedly.
We remove the china and glassware from our packs, carefully placing them on the table next to the “silverware”, meticulously crafted out of branches.
“We need to go hunting,” Dan says.
Bob, typically quiet, finally speaks. “I’ll get the bow and arrows!”
He locates the curved branch with a piece of string tied between the two ends, and Scott grabs the “arrows”, pointy sticks made from rubbing one of the ends against a rock.
The boys leave the confines of our fort to hunt for “food”. We putter around the kitchen while they are gone, making a leafy salad, and a dirt cake. When they return, we prepare the food, by cooking it over our fireless firepit. Soon we are all sitting around the table for our meal. Afterwards, we clean up the dishes and head to the living room.
As we get comfortable in our chairs, we gaze through the tree branches searching for uninvited younger siblings. Nothing. Occasionally, a warm breeze blows through, rustling the leaves overhead.
In the distance we see an old white washed barn. Beside it, a tall stone silo. It is weather beaten and crumbling to the ground. We discuss the possibility of making a fort out of it, but quickly decide against it.
We could never leave Rock Canyon. After all, it is our home.