Glowing Fields and Shimmering Seas

The boy winced at the sound of the breaking waves and glanced up at his father.  “It sounds like someone’s clapping,” he said.

“Does the ocean scare you?” his father asked.

“Yes.”

“That’s because you’ve never seen it before.”

The father and son stood side by side, two hundred feet from the crashing waves, where the white sand of the beach gave way to rolling dunes and the tall, swaying grasses that anchored them in place against the ravages of the ocean.  Each wore dirt-stained blue jeans.  The father wore a white T-shirt smudged with grease.  The boy wore a white button-up shirt with yellow sweat stains around the collar.   Father and son wore tennis shoes whose soles were cleaving off.  The boy, who rose to just below his father’s shoulder, squinted at the sun hanging overhead in the clear blue sky, then at the ocean rumbling toward the shore.

“It reminds me of home,” the boy said to his father.

“Of North Dakota?”

“Yeah.  The way the waves rise and fall, the way the wind sends shivers through the water—it’s like the wheat fields at home, how they sway back and forth and they go on forever to the edge of the earth.  The wind screams there, too.”

The boy looked toward the sky.  A seagull hovered overhead.  He looked left and right and saw all around him seagulls gliding, landing, waddling across the sand and trailing webbed footprints behind them.  Some fought over fish carcasses.  Others pecked at their grey and white feathers.  Their calls cut through the roar of the ocean.  “It sounds like they’re telling us to leave.  They’re saying, ‘Go!  Go!’” the boy said.

“You think they don’t want us here?”

“I don’t know.  Maybe they don’t care.”

The father glanced at his son and nodded toward the ocean.  His son shrugged, and together they shuffled forward through the sand.  The ocean grew louder.  The gulls grew more insistent: “Go!  Go!” they called.

Now a gust of wind heaved the salty air at the boy and his father.  The boy lost his balance and nearly toppled over.  He stumbled backward and caught himself.  The father nodded toward the ocean again, and again the two of them edged closer.

“Another hundred feet,” the father said to his son and gazed at the sea.  The sun had sunk closer to the horizon and the ocean shimmered.  It roared louder and the fine spray of the breaking waves lingered in the air.

A moment passed and the boy said, “Actually, it’s like home, but it’s also different.”

“It’s angrier than home.”

“Yeah, and the sun is different.  At home it pours out light and the wheat fields drink it in.  When the sun sets, the fields glow golden and they give back some of the light they drank in.  And the fields smell like summer.”

“And what happens here?”

“Here the sea doesn’t drink in the light.  It spits it right back up at the sky.  But some of the light pools on the water and even forms little streams.  And here it smells like dying things, but it’s a good smell.”

“The pools of light are just reflections,” the father said.

“I know.”

“You’re right.  It does smell good.”

The father stood on his left leg and took off his right shoe and sock, then stood on his right leg and took off his left shoe and sock.  The boy leaned on his father and did the same.  He dug his feet into the sand and felt its heat flow into him.  He dug in another inch and now felt a chill pass through him from the cool, moist sand beneath the surface.

His father smiled at him, winked, and took his son’s hand.  Together they dragged their bare feet through the sand, closer to where the ocean pounded the beach.  Finally they stepped into the edge of a retreating wave.  The boy jumped, then laughed.  He pulled his father onward, until the the father was wading up to his knees and the boy up to his waste in the surging waves.

They bobbed up and down, and the boy said, “It’s like it’s playing with us.  It’s not angry.”

“You’re right.  But it could break us so easily.”

The man and the boy held hands and let the waves rock them while they watched the sun sink into the ocean.  “Now I get it,” the boy said.  “The ocean swallows the sun whole every evening and frees it every morning so that it can shine down on the fields of wheat at home.”

“That sounds right.”

The boy and his father waded back to shore, and, not pausing to dry off, put on their socks and shoes and turned their backs on the darkening ocean.

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About atomsofthought
Teacher. Traveler. Writer. Reader.

15 Responses to Glowing Fields and Shimmering Seas

  1. Kat says:

    I really enjoyed reading your story. I would love to hear about what or who inspired you.

    • I wanted to talk about experiencing something awesome for the first time, through a child’s eyes. I don’t know if I pulled it off, but that was my goal. I also wanted to experiment with a dialogue-driven narrative. These days the admonition is to ditch description in favor of dialogue. At least that’s what creative writing teachers have told me, not that there’s one answer or that they were saying there was. It’s hard because I love the classics, and the classics are full of thick, poetic description of scenery and thought, with authorial interjections here and there. These habits have fallen out of favor over time. Thank you, Kat!

  2. Joss says:

    “now I get it”. powerful, emotive. It is all connected, we are all connected.
    walk in beauty.

    • Thank you, Joss! I hope it worked. I fixed it up after I published it. Nothing’s ever done, right? Every time you tell me to “walk in beauty,” I smile. 🙂

  3. Patti Ross says:

    Beautiful! Thanks for sharing!

  4. What an amazing picture, and lovely words to accompany. I’ll never forget the time that I drove my boys through the Smokey mountains. I was so glad to get back to the Midwest. I felt claustrophobic in the mountains, like they were trying to swallow me whole. Give me amber waves of grain over purple mountains majesty any time…

    • I know what you mean. It’s amazing how home tugs at you, even when you’re in the midst of undeniable beauty elsewhere. When I worked in Yosemite National Park, I remember feeling trapped by the towering cliffs and the thick pines. I had seen all kinds of forests and mountains by then, but I had never felt STUCK in them. The feeling lasted a few days, then went away, fortunately. The midwest is gorgeous. North Dakota is now one of my favorite states. I looove the farmland there. It’s just about in the middle of the whole continent and it feels that way. It feels like the beating heart of North America–not racing, just beating calmly. On the other hand, all of that flooding they’re enduring up there is a tragedy.

      I have Midwest roots. My parents are from Michigan. Thank you for reading and commenting!

  5. pattisj says:

    What a nicely-told story, and the continuum that is life. I liked your description of the boy burying his feet in the sand, first warm, then cold…a very real experience.

  6. Like! I meant to ask you a long time ago if you ever do any fiction.

    Interesting about the focus on dialogue (you were talking about above). I like to experiment with forms, which is part of what I like about poetry. It’s fun to see what you can do, how far you can manipulate the medium and still get the results you want.

    Just some feedback…I was interested by my strong response to this: “The father stood on his left leg and took off his right shoe and sock, then stood on his right leg and took off his left shoe and sock.”

    That sentence stood out for me, a silent moment and the purposefulness of the action. Amid all the dialogue, to go into detailed description was effective. It stopped me dead in my tracks. Maybe it was the longer sentence and comparatively simplistic language slowing down the moment. Then the son mimics – short sentence and the action speeds back up again. They had been standing there and watching, now the son was digging his feet in, interacting.

    For me that one sentence is the pivot point, that simple, mundane act of removing his socks and shoes. He consciously made the transition from observation and appreciation; he chose to be a part of it, to join with the infinite. (Yeah, I said that. Sometimes I just can’t help myself.)

    • Thanks, Michelle! You’re going to tell me to shut up, but I was afraid to post this one. I have written stories often and on. I have others that I’ve considered posting. Some of them are kind of tragic though (not bloody or violent, mind you!).

      I really appreciate the specific feedback. You’re one of the most perceptive people I’ve ever met. I remember posting something that was several years old, and you said, “Something seems different about this one.” Well, you were right. I wrote it when I was younger and when I expressed myself differently. The pivot you pointed out was a pivot in my mind too. Now that I’ve re-read that part, I realize I should have used the word “balanced” instead of “stood.” The more specific the better (I’ll go fix that now.).

      I’m so glad it had the effect I was after, at least for you. It’s a big departure from the kinds of things I usually post, so I was wary… I don’t want to bore people!

  7. skippingstones says:

    I don’t know, I like stood. Try it out, but something about balanced feels too long to me, maybe too many syllables.

    Of, course it’s your piece 🙂 ! I’d like to see some more fiction from you.

  8. skippingstones says:

    Yeah, solid – that’s it. a rock

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