Show and Tell

I saw that great quote by Anton Chekhov and had a lot of ideas for my post this week, all revolving around the famous writing refrain: Show, Don’t Tell. Instead, I got a lesson in Showing Up.

I was all set to carve out some quiet time by myself to write, while my husband dug with the kids in the sand at Stinson Beach. The dude is so happy splashing and digging at the beach. He’s like a Labrador. It makes me want to throw a tennis ball in his direction to see if he can catch it in his mouth.

My daughter wasn’t interested in any of that though. She wanted to write with me. Reluctantly, I scrapped my original plan and pulled out my favorite prompt: “Think of a photograph or imagine one and start with the sentence ‘In this one, you are . . .’ Then see where it goes.”

Mine took me to the mustard fields where we’ve been trespassing every spring since the kids were in Robeez. It’s probably an OCD thing, the way I drag them to St. Helena every February as soon as the flowers start to bloom. Last time, we hit bumper to bumper traffic and sweated together with Jack and Annie who were travelling by Magic Treehouse, when the air conditioner went out, half way through the trip.

We settled on a pitiful field with scraggly flowers, lying like old lady hair with stretches of earth peeking through, the way strips of pink scalp show up against the silver bob of the lady who Zumbas in front of me at 24 Hour Fitness. This year, in this substandard, crappy field, the Universe surprised me. Hidden among the yellow buds were sweet peas. Pink, purple, and red, the stems curled and snaked across the ground. Instantly, I was transported to my childhood on Mississippi Avenue and recalled how, for a few weeks every summer, vases of sweet peas would crowd the kitchen counters, the back of the john. Nosegays would nestle next to ashtrays and copies of my dad’s old Louis L’Amours.

Writing is weird the way it can take me back to the 70s while simultaneously plunking me firmly in the present moment. Shoulder to shoulder, bellies in the sand, I listened as my daughter read her story. I told her what was strong, what stayed with me, what stood out. I commented on the narrator’s voice and the surprising dolphin rescue, but mostly I sat in wonder.

I’m not sure how many more Saturdays we’ll have like that. Will she always be so open with her thoughts? When I ask her if the moon is shining, I hope I’ll be paying attention as she shows me the glint of light on broken glass.

Until then, I guess I’ll just keep showing up and try to catch those salty moments on the page. Why not join us this week for one of our writing classes and capture a few of your own?

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