How does a little dog eat a big lake? One bite at a time.
Lake Superior has locked Mause into an eternal game of chase-my-waves. At nine-months-old, this petite GSP is smart. She calculates the roll and trajectory of beach waves and begins her chase at the crest. The waves slant, hitting one part of the beach first and splashing further down. Mause devours water.
It’s been a hot week full of intense work after two weeks of meetings, training and deadlines. I made a water promise — to be in or on it regularly. I load Mause or the kayak into my car and we head out to escape the unseasonable warmth for a brief break.
Despite the high temperatures (today it was 90 degrees F), chasing waves and biting water chills the pup. When we get back to the car, her towel is warm. Mause shivers until I wrap her up and rub vigorously. She has gained an appreciation for a thorough toweling.
Today Mause learned to appreciate a sandy beach. It was hot enough that I wanted a dip, too.
We drove out past the blueberry farm. I saw the ghost of campfires past and imagined I smelled Dutch oven beans. I laughed, seeing that the campers in #5 set up next to my favorite pine to leave a leak. I let the good memories walk with me on the beach, my bare feet scrubbed by the quartz grains. I told Mause, “There are stars in the sand.” She tried to find them and dug.
The water created a new game — fill-in-the-holes. Waves elongated and smoothed over Mause’s star mines. This only made her dig faster. Rooster tails of golden sand shot backward three feet. Water filled the hole. Mause pawed the momentary sludge, digging water, then sand again. In the end, the beach kept its treasure. Except for the grains that ended up on Mause’s towel.
The trouble with trying to eat a big lake is that it overfills a small puppy bladder. We stopped three times on the way home so she could leave her leak outside the car. She’s so tired she didn’t whine when I watered the potager garden without her. I had herbs to cut, banana peppers to pick, and a bunny to greet. She shelters in my lavender bush. I watered beneath the watchful gaze of the elegant Lemon Queens and thought about next week.
Next week, I’ll be in my office on campus. Next week, I will meet my students and discuss success with them. Next week, I have a coffee date with my office mate, a soprano who teaches music appreciation. Next week, I get to Zoom with Sue Spitulnik’s writing group. Next week, I’m going to my first Rosza concert (outdoors) since the pandemic began — Beethoven and Banjos, a celebration of water through classical, folk and indigenous music and dance.
Next week feels like I found a star upon the beach.
Both my classes will learn about clarity in writing, after all, whether a written piece is informative or artistic, the goal is communication. In English 103, we will focus on clarity in what we read and how we form critical thought. In English 104, we will focus on forming critical thought to write clearly.
As literary artists, clarity might vary in degrees. We are practicing what to include in 99-words, and what to leave out. Did you know that the clearest sentence in the English language is the SVO construction? Subject-verb-object. As literary artists, we can vary our sentence lengths. Long sentences slow down the pace. Short ones speed it up. The SVO sentence can be punchy and well-placed after a long, ambling sentence. Or three in a row can build tension. Syntax is a writing element that impacts both clarity and style.
However, in fiction, syntax must also advance the plot and character arc. Marylee McDonald explains how to observe syntax in fiction and create your own cheat sheet of author’s sentences that you admire. Deconstruct the sentences to see the mechanics underneath. She refers to Hemingway’s SVO sentence structures as SV, but otherwise, its an excellent primer and tool on syntax.
To clarify, since we are talking clarity, syntax is a writing element. It has to do with language construction. Craft elements, on the other hand, are the mechanics of fiction. Dialog and world-building are craft elements. Syntax plays a vital role in clarifying who said what, as well as defining a new world experience. As a writer, it is your word choice and sentence construction. As a fiction writer, both craft and writing elements carry the action and emotion from a starting point to a conclusion.
Never doubt there is always something to learn, practice or master in our craft!
For now, let’s chase stories and stars.
August 19, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the phrase, “stars in the sand.” Your story can be any genre (or poem) and can use realism or fantasy. It’s a dreamy prompt. Go where the it leads!
Respond by August 24, 2021. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form. Rules & Guidelines.
White City Sand by Charli Mills
Copper miners’ families crowded the double-decker steamer. Wives and children sported tiny brass stars on collars and lapels. Solidarity for fair treatment twinkled across the open decks. An anonymous patron had provided the striking miners with an exclusive excursion to White City. Thirty-minutes east of closed mines, the summer-weary strikers and families anticipated their lucky day. Respite. The promised carousel, dance pavilion, and ham picnic came into view. Mine enforcers emerged. Hundreds. Clubs in fists. The boat docked. They say you can find stars in the sand where the working class were tricked and beaten into submission in 1909.