This is an essay I wrote for my Creative Nonfiction class... about "a place." I haven't received feedback from my prof yet, probably because I still have to submit the good copy. I'll keep you posted. I was to focus on the different senses, make it seem a bit like a movie, and make sure that there is some kind of theme. The prof showed us some movie intros and endings to give us an idea of some really great cinematic techniques:
No Country for Old Men
Lawrence of Arabia -
Shawshank Redemption (Now I REALLY need to see it, doggamnit.) Might be my favourite one. I love the way the camera goes up and down and all around and in the head of one guy and then into the heads of others without actually venturing there. You know what they're feeling. It's quite beautiful. Those ten seconds between 4:17 and 4:27 say so much, too. That's what got me the most.
There was also this amazing ending scene of an old black and white film; its name escapes me now. Five minutes were spent on this woman walking from far off in the distance towards us, towards a man (or so we think) who is leaning on his car. Five minutes, and he just stands there looking at her. She's smack in the middle of a long road. She starts off as a speck, her footsteps consistent and constant. Slowly, she appears - a young woman, no longer a speck, no longer just a figure. She looks straight ahead the entire time. She walks and she walks and she walks and finally she's right in front of the guy, but she doesn't look at him. She looks straight ahead still. She looks straight ahead and walks past the camera. The end. Frakkin' amazing. Five minutes.
Back to me now... What I've got might not be quite so dramatic.
Feedback/critiques welcome! As always.
For context, I kind of lived in Chile for two and a half years. Huh! Who knew?
Punta de Tralca
Headlights shine far ahead, illuminating the uneven path that four wheels follow. The crinkle and crackle beneath the tires echo into our ears; it’s the only sound apart from the engine that can be heard. A stray dog several metres away perks its ears up, its eyes eerily reflecting the light and watching us arrive. Doors open and slam shut, tired bodies stand and stretch, and shoes crush the small jagged rocks beneath them. My brother’s head is lifted from my shoulder, his mouth still hanging open. My eyes are sleepy and I rub them until I see stars. Chilean voices fill the ocean-scented air, and firm handshakes and warm embraces are exchanged. I stumble out of the vehicle. My dad calls me over to meet some people I can hardly see. Our bags are taken towards our cabin. As we begin to follow them, my mom gasps and covers her mouth, but lets the words, “Oh my god. Look at the sky!” escape her lips. We look up. Countless sparkling specks of gas and dust heavily sprinkle the black sky above us, in a similar way a young child might over-sprinkle a gingerbread cookie or art project. Only two hours west of Santiago’s smoggy skies and not a cloud pollutes our view here. We stand staring upwards for several minutes and I am reminded of the pictures of the Milky Way I had seen in my book about outer space. I have to bring Catalina, Melisa and Cristian here, I think to myself before a cool ocean breeze startles me back to Earth. We have to go inside, but none of us really want to.
Once in bed, I squeeze my eyes shut and make the Milky Way appear again.
Bright sunshine tries to sneak in through the windows from behind the curtains. Our cabin smells like a forest – fresh, crisp, and earthy. My family is shuffling out of bed, getting ready for the day, and lining up for the bathroom. Once we are all dressed, we pull back the curtains and unleash the sunshine into our cabin. We sit together in the kitchen booth eating breakfast and decide to explore the beach once we’re finished.
Now I can see what the place is really like. Several log cabins create a quaint and friendly complex to my right. To my left, next to multiple picnic benches sits a big red brick fireplace that invites barbecues and evening get-togethers. Straight ahead, past the open gate of the cabin complex, the ocean can be seen. We are on top of a hill where a small, splotchy, yellow dandelion infestation resides, not unlike the splotchy star infestation of the sky I saw last night. I know better than to pick any dandelions, for an unpleasant white liquid would leak out of their stems and my fingers would get sticky. We begin making our way down to the beach, passing a few stray dogs as we go. None of them are cute enough to take home. After a short but steep downhill trek, the smell of ocean water is much stronger than it was before. Almost unexpectedly, as if I’d crossed some sort of boundary, I hear waves crashing, gulls crowing and dogs barking. Within seconds, I see the creatures that match these sounds. My friends would like it here. I have to show them someday.
Facing the south part of the beach, I see an enormous rock (Piedra del Trueno) glaring fiercely at the sea. Its walls are frequent targets for ambitious waves and tourists; it seems we will be targeting it today as well. I am concerned that it might rain since it is overcast, and I am not thrilled with the fact that the wind will certainly make painful knots in my long brown hair. Everything is grey like a boring black and white photograph and I am not very excited about this trip to see a rock. I can see the rock from here; do I have to touch it too? Why can’t we just stay at the cabin until the sun comes out? Despite the cold, I take off my shoes and socks, deciding that there is little point in wearing them if sand is going to get inside anyway. The sand is fine, light and beige, except where the water has managed to reach it and there it is thick, heavy and dark. A few twigs poke out and I must be careful not to step on them. As we walk further along, the grains of sand become larger and larger. By the time we reach Piedra del Trueno, the sand between my cold red toes is no longer micro-granules of stones, but tiny, round, multi-coloured pebbles. I let a wave wipe them from my feet, yet some cling desperately to my skin. I wonder if the three of us would play our favourite games here and then carry sand on our feet back to the cabin. My brother begins to race me up the path to the top of the hill and I can’t let him win. He almost does.
I put my shoes back on and we make our way to the rock. There are more people here than I thought there would be. There are serious rock-climbers equipped with water bottles and fanny packs, and they are dressed much more appropriately for this kind of activity than I am. At least my jeans are 3% spandex. The way we are going is not as tricky as the way the professionals go, but I am still worried that my mom might slip. I am worried that my dad will twist his ankle on uneven bit of stone. I am worried that my brother’s feet will not move as fast as the rest of him and that he will fall. At the same time, I must be careful too and I follow my mom’s steps, although for every one step of hers I must take two. I spend more time looking down at the rock beneath my feet than at anything else around me. I look back to see my brother and father are a bit behind but my dad’s bald head appears just past another rock; it’s my signal to carry on. Finally, we reach a high peak of the rock. I stop and look up at my surroundings. From here, I can see the entire beach we had walked along and beyond, plus what seems like the entire South Pacific Ocean. The sky had cleared up since we left and it is now a bright blue with the occasional white fluffy cloud: a perfect sky. The sea reflects it, making it no longer seem like the dreary background of a white and black photograph but like the kind of sea in which mermaids tempt sailors and pirates fight alongside crocodiles. They would love it here. I will bring them and show them.
On the way back, with tangled hair and my shoes thrown over my shoulder, I scan the sand for smooth or pretty rocks. I pick some up, and they either go into my pocket or get tossed back into the sea. Sometimes I wonder if the ocean gets mad when I pick rocks from its beaches and I hope that when I throw the ones I don’t like back in, it forgives me. However, if I find a really flat rock, even if it’s smooth and pretty, it must be skipped. I try to make these rocks skip as many times as possible. When I bring Meli, Cata and Cristian here, we’ll skip rocks together.
We sit on the fine sand and I dig my feet into it. After removing the bottom half of his pant legs thanks to a zipper that converts pants to shorts in seconds, my brother digs his entire legs into the sand. I ask him if he wants me to bury him. He giggles and accepts. Soon, I can no longer see his legs, and instead I see two big grey sand-mountains that make him look like he has huge muscular legs that are attached to his tiny torso. He thinks it’s hilarious and he tells our parents to come see what happened to him. A dog prances by and my brother gets scared, but I assure him that he’s not going to bother us since he’s probably just looking for his girlfriend. He wiggles his big toe and some sand falls, exposing his skin. When I notice, he laughs and wiggles it more. I dump a heap of sand to cover it up. He wiggles his other big toe and it appears out of the sand. I dump on more sand. He shakes his legs beneath the sand and the mountains crack. I pretend I’m angry and he laughs at me again. I extend my hands out to him, he grabs on to them tightly, and I pull him out. Sand falls off his scrawny body. He complains that it’s cold now. When I come here with my friends, we’ll bury each other in the sand too.
At the end of the day, I promise myself that I will bring my best friends to this place, to Punta de Tralca. I imagine all the activities we will do together. I think about how we will bring a soccer ball and play on the beach, and how we will bring cards and stay up late in our cabin playing Guerra (War). I want them to see the funny-looking mutts that wander the beaches. I want them to see the big waves that crash on the shore when it’s windy. I want them to be surprised like I was when I show them the view from Piedra del Trueno. I want them to see everything, and with them I want to explore the rest. I want to share this place and create new memories with my friends. I want to stay up late with them just to stare at the stars – stars like they’ve never seen before.
I never got a chance to do that. They didn’t get to go on a trip with me for a couple of days in Punta de Tralca. I didn’t get to show or share or experience all the things I wanted to with them. They still don’t know how beautiful the ocean is there, how cozy the cabins are, or how calm and quiet the salty air is. Eight years separate that day from now, and over 10,000 kilometres separate me from those friends. A lot of things were left undone due to what I consider a premature departure from Chile back to Canada, despite the original one-way tickets, and a lot of good relationships had to stay behind as well. It might not be soon, it might take a lot of hard work, but I have no intention of giving up on the promise I made to myself so many years ago – the promise that one day I will bring my best friends to see my favourite place in the world.