Last summer Writing at the Ledges member, Rosalie Sanara Petrouske, spent one week staying in a cabin in the Porcupine Mountains in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. This reflection was written for the “Pile of Pebbles” writing prompt. After a brief hiatus, we are returning to our member’s musings with a promise to be more diligent in our postings.
Along the coast of Lake Superior, there are secret coves and inlets where pebbles are stacked and polished at the shoreline, washed clean from the lake’s tides, time-worn, spit onto the sand and then washed out again not to return for centuries. This summer as I walked the beaches in the Porcupine Mountains, I spent several hours one afternoon searching for agates.
Agates are not like the gems we normally think of, banded with color, crafted by the skill of the lapidary—they are rather plain, golden brown or marked by russet hues—easily mistaken for quartz or chert, you have to know how to find them, have an eye for unseen beauty, and the ability to pick out the subtle streaks of tan, yellow or orange imbedded deep in their opaque surface. The translucency is rarely obvious unless the stone is wet.
As the waves rolled to the edges of my toes, I bent over, scanning piles of pebbles, picking some up, turning them over in my palm, tossing others aside. The sun beat down on my shoulders, even now several months gone by—I can still hear the soft rumble and splash of water, a seagull sailing overhead, calling out, smell the air filled with the green fragrance of spruce, cedar, and mosses melded and drying on driftwood—the deeper depths of the lake itself—sun drenched beach grass, and algae floating in the silt at lake’s bottom.
Finally, I found one lovely stone, an agate I am almost certain; it glows with stripes of red and burnt sienna when I hold it up, still wet, and place it in my palm. I will keep it to remember this peaceful afternoon—to remind me that not everything I see is always clear at first—some facets are hidden and take time to find—such as knowing who my true friends are, being thankful for my family, or being appreciative for the small kindnesses in my life. When I am living day-to-day, I don’t always notice a sunset, or the dragonfly that lands on the porch railing, and then waits a moment before flying off.
There is much to recommend for an afternoon sitting on a picnic table in a spot of shade, a breeze caressing my shoulders as I write these words. There is much to recommend for the simplicity of minute moments in time.
Photo Credit: “A Pyramid of Pebbles”
©2014 Rosalie Sanara Petrouske
The last meeting of the Writing at the Ledges group was small but productive. The group wrote to the prompt “A Pile of Pebbles.” The next story, by WATL member Kathleen McKee Snyder, is the result of that prompt. We will feature a few more of the responses in upcoming blogs.
A Pile of Pebbles
She walked through the woods, not seeing the trees soaring above her, the wind bending them toward the ground like soldiers before a queen. Neither did she see clouds, swirling, spiraling down on the horizon, a destructive force headed for the forest. She sensed the impending danger, but it wouldn’t distract her from her mission. Her eyes stayed glued to the ground, except to dart to the ragged paper in her hand, a paper with a crude map etched upon it that might just save her sister’s life.
The wind’s velocity increased until she was leaning almost horizontally into the maelstrom, until it took all her strength to just put one foot in front of the other. She started to lose hope that she would find the spot marked on the map when a massive gust of wind knocked her off balance, sending her flying, face first, off the trail into a pile of leaves and pine needles. She lifted herself onto her hands and knees, looked at the sky for the first time in hours. Finally, the imminent danger of the storm invaded her consciousness and fear for her own safety competed with that of her sister’s, a safety that depended on her completing her mission.
She studied that map as the wind tried to pry it from her hands, and she realized that she must be close now. She crammed the paper into her pocket and crawled back onto the trail. Hail rained down upon her, and she willed herself to ignore the sting of each marble-sized ice ball. She crept half-blind along the trail, squeezing her eyes almost shut to keep out the blowing dirt and debris. Suddenly her right hand landed on a small pile of pebbles. This was the marker she sought, the marker that brought her one step closer to her sister’s salvation.
She reached into her backpack and drew out a small trowel, the one she used to plant flowers and vegetables in her expansive garden. She pulled out a length of rope and tied herself to a nearby tree to steady herself in the gale-force wind. Then she swept aside the pebbles and began to dig. She had only cleared a few inches of dirt when her trowel hit something solid. She kept digging while the storm swirled around her.
She finally liberated a small wooden box from its grave and opened it. At the same time the storm seemed to slow a little. Maybe this was a good omen. She opened the box and found a small velvet bag. She tipped out its contents on her hand, and she caught her breath as much from what she saw as from the storm.
“Hang in there, Sarah,” she breathed as she looked at the glittering jewels in her hand. “I’m coming, and now I have something to bargain with.”
©2013 Kathleen McKee Snyder
Katherine Gilberg, a storyteller in Ionia, Michigan, submitted this poem to us recently and we thought our readers would enjoy it. A former center with the Tex-as Cowgirls, a world-famous touring female basketball team akin to the Harlem Globetrotters. Katherine worked for 25 years as a 911 dispatcher before retiring in 2000. Now she writes, walks her two dogs twice a day, and listens to Pete Fountain and Josh Groban in her spare time.
Perhaps God stirs the air, as He strides across the sky.
The ocean gives birth to a tiny current,
its innocence a lie.
Soon they name the whirling wind
we’re baptized with its curse
and hopeful prayers cry out,
to be heard above the din.
Peaceful eye watching,
the winds black tantrum,
the sky’s electric blue
Then, perhaps He says “enough”
and the monster turns old and frail,
the exhausted ocean sleeps,
dying winds no longer leave their trail.
Katherine Gilberg 2013
Here’s the third installment of our Wading Through Water responses, this time by WATL member Kate Marsh.
Wading Through Water
by K. L. Marsh
The very thought of Duncan Bay brought back memories of wading through hip deep water from my parents’ house all the way down to the state park beach. Telling stories about our dates with Billy and Sam, Mary and I liked to expand our vision of the future by wondering if we would marry them or move on to other boys once we started college. Mary didn’t want to be like her mom and would marry the first person that she dated. I wasn’t so sure that Billy was for me or I him as he had a bit of a wandering eye.
We continued to wonder and plan and expect what we would do next. I dreamed of Paris and New York, listening to jazz in smoky clubs and shopping at Bergdorf’s. Reading the New York Times at our small library had given me yards of ideas to consider. The more I thought about my future, the more I thought I would wait to marry as there were so many things I wanted to do before I settled down. As I look back, little did I realize then I would indeed wander. but I would always come home to traipse again down the beach to the park, reviewing as I walked people I had met, places I had been, and ideas that had not panned out. Like a mirror, the Bay reflected my life back to me.
A few days ago we posted the first Wading Through Water story by Ashtyn Rapp. Today we offer another one written in response to that prompt, by WATL member Shelby Pontius. Shelby has had the distinction of being the youngest member of our group, since she joined while still in high school. Now she can be found walking the campus of Michigan State University where she studies fisheries and wildlife.
Wading Through Water
By Shelby Pontius
“Tyler!” I shouted as the beach ball sailed right over my head, landing with a wet smack in the lake far behind me. I glared at him as I turned to see where the ball had landed and of course the waves were large and crashing onto the beach as well as carrying the ball out further. They were probably cold waves too as lake Huron was apt to be. I turned back and surveyed my circle of cousins hoping for a friendly volunteer, but being family there was of course not one.
“Fine!” I said, stomping out into the water and trying not to flinch when the cool water hit my knees, then my waist. I had almost waded out far enough to grab it when a rogue gust of wind blew it out a little further.
“Of course.” I muttered, I could just picture all of my cousins laughing behind me.
I stared down the ball determined that this time I would grab it. I bent my knees, waited for a wave to pass and leapt straight for the ball, landing face first into the water. I should’ve known. I sat at the bottom with my face in the sand for a minute, cursing my ill luck before popping my head back up and smacking it right into the ball. I stared at it shocked it was right there before reaching and grabbing ahold, but instead of grabbing onto the rough plastic, I grabbed onto a hand. I let go immediately to look up at who was stealing my ball after I had tried so hard to catch it.
“Hey,” came a deep voice.
I looked up into the face of an angel, okay, maybe that was exaggerating, but he was cute.
“H-h-hi.” I managed to squeak out.
He smiled and I melted a little inside, “Can I play?”
“Uh, yea, sure.” I smiled to myself, yup, sure was a good thing I went to get that ball.