My Favorite Place by Marice George

My favorite place to savor a cup of warm coffee in the morning, to sip on a cold glass of wine while watching the yellow, orange and red sun set in the evening, or to read a book anytime is on a cement platform on the beach at Lalamilo, Hawaii.   The sunset reminds me that this place is magical and that memories are still being created each time I visit.

These memories began when the plantation doctor, Richard Treadwell, (known as R.T.) and his family lived next door to us in Hawi. The youngest child, Florence, was my age and a good friend. Dr. Treadwell bought a strip of beach front property along the Kohala Coast. On one end of the beach he had a house built. I was lucky to be invited there several times. There were no roads to the beach so we came by boat from the port of Kawaihae, about five miles away.

The house had three small bedrooms, a big living/dining room with a kitchen in the corner and lots of windows facing the beach. The “bathroom” was a halelii (Hawaiian for little house) up a slope from the house. The path was overhung with kiawe trees which dropped kukus (thorns) that would stick into our bare feet. In the halelii were two adult size holes and one lower, smaller child size hole. Once Florence dropped her flashlight into one hole. It was not retrieved! The shower was in a room under the house and accessible from the beach. We were told to be sure to pick up our bathing suits off the floor or a scorpion might hide underneath them. The only modern convenience was the telephone in case the doctor needed to be contacted.

Florence and I collected hermit crabs with a variety of colorful shells. We kept them as pets in a big tub with a little water and sand in the bottom. When it was time to go home we set them free. I wonder if children are still catching hermit crabs. I have not seen any.

Right on the beach, down about 10 steps from the house, was a round cement platform about 12 feet across with a table and chairs and lounges. I loved to sit there and read my “Big, Little Books”, so called because they were about 3” by 3” and 2” inches thick. I knew even then, at 8 years old, that this was a very special place for me.

I have rented the house from Florence’s agent (I get the “family and friends discount”) twice as an adult and it is just as wonderful as I remembered. Now it has all the modern conveniences, even a flush toilet at house level. The first time I rented it was with my old friend, Ellen McGillivray Luhrs and two other friends. The most recent time was August of 2014. I love to sit on that platform listening to the waves rolling in, feeling the warm breeze on my skin, and remembering the evenings long ago when we dug in the warm sand, following the holes searching for the crab that dug them. In the twilight we would watch for the first star so that we could recite, “Star light, star bright, first star seen tonight. I wish I may, I wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight.” I wish now more than anything to get back to that platform on the beach of Hawi.

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Imagery and Sensation

This past week in Document Your Life Story (DYLS) we discussed scene and summary as well as the importance of imagery in evoking emotions and giving us a sense of tone and mood. We read Mark Salzman’s short essay “The Kiss,” taking note of the small actions, language and setting that Salzman uses to take the reader from a laid-back dinner party to a boisterous discussion to an embarrassed round of throat clearing, only to end on a tender and delicate moment of intimacy.

We also looked at Sandra Cisneros very short piece “Bread,” using it as a point of entry into the topic of sensory images. Identifying the sensory images in the work of other writers (Cisneros’ use of the overwhelming smell of bread, for example), helps us to identify those images in our own writing. Those images and the sensation they evoke–hunger, in this instance–help us to find the heart of a piece, the “about-ness” of it.

Our assignment leaving class was to pay attention to the images we use as we work on our essays and memoirs. Personally, I’m about to sit down and write about a tender moment I shared with my dog many years back. I’m hoping the soft sweet scent of his freshly-washed fur and the click-clack of his toenails against the hardwood floors of my childhood home are enough to get the memory going.

A Season for Beginnings

Fall is here in Lafayette and this semester of Document Your Life Story (DYLS) is well underway. It is an immense privilege to be working with these wonderful students and to hear the beautiful, painful, wonderful stories they have to share. Our first three classes have been back to back to back, including two excellent craft talks hosted on Saint Mary’s campus and a surprise celebration for my September 24th birthday.

In addition to some discussion on scene versus summary and the elusive nature of the narrative arc, we have been talking about beginnings. Where do you start when it comes to telling the story of a life? How do we open a narrative? What is that moment from which the future is born? We’ve shared stories of early birthdays, of first memories and historic events, of the point from which the trajectory of a story was set. The students have been great, their stories rich and deep, with first lines ranging from “I was meant to fly” to stories that open with a little girl playing in the grass of a monkey tree to the cold and premature birth of an isolated infant.

 

I have been honored to read the writing of Marcia Thomas, John A., Janet Clark, Joan Wahl, Marice George, Treva Perkins and Marilyn Harrison already this term and look forward to seeing what they have to share with you.

Lafayette Seniors Writing Workshop Anthology (Spring 2014)

It was an absolute honor to be working with the senior citizens in Lafayette, CA from February until May 2014. I had the opportunity to not just impart the little knowledge I had in memoir writing, but also to learn about life itself from reading and listening to the stories that the participants shared.

Here’s an anecdote from the class.

I had prepared two readings, they were both experimental collage essays. One was “Considering the Lilies” by Rebecca McLanahan, and the other was Brenda Miller’s “Brief History of Sex”. Due to the essays’ similarities and time constraint, we had to choose one.

So I asked, “Which one would you guys like to read? Fashion or sex?”

And these senior citizens, without any hesitation whatsoever, said, “Sex!”

Senior Services Memoir Workshop Spring 2014 02

(Left to right: Nahide Craig, Joan Wahl Countryman, Yuska Lutfi Tuanakotta, Janet Clark, and Treva Perkins)

You’ve enjoyed short pieces by these writers on this blog, now you can read their longer work. Click here for the anthology.