Monday, June 3, 2013

Going Coastal

At the end of May 2010, due to a few graced circumstances, I joined two friends for a coastal retreat.

Gunmetal gray skies hovered low as we scurried into the warmth of the large, welcoming sea-view home, high above the Pacific Ocean.  Very soon torrential rain slid down the five huge windows in liquid, sensuousness sheets, blurring our vision to the outside.

We are writers of various and varied ilks, interests and levels. We find delight in turning phrases into poetry and honing ideas, research and personal story into historical and narrative non-fiction.

Over these next two and one half days, our focus would be on three areas having to do with the singular mission of perfecting a query letter and synopsis introducing a recently competed historical novel.

The novel’s author dedicated five years to this endeavor and these next steps were crucial. Her family’s serene beach home, tucked against the hillside two hours from Portland, seemed the ideal spot to concentrate on our mission.

Two of us sat side by side in comfortable chairs, reading separate rough drafts of query letter and synopses—concentrating, parsing words and every once in a while voicing an idea for a different phrase or particular word to the other, as in: …how does this sound….? …would this work better here…? …let me read this part to you...

The author sat at a high table overlooking the ocean; her computer open to the manuscript as she continued the heavy and seemingly never-ending work of editing, of perfecting, at the same time alert to our quietly-voiced, intermittent comments a few feet away.

The soft cacophony of the crashing waves and the muted sounds of songbirds provided a soothing background for those six hours as we three wrote, read and concentrated.

The following day presented a blue sky strewn with billowy, cumulous clouds. We worked three hours on the “project” then tucked our writerly work away. 

Soon we were walking along the pristine shoreline. We strolled in communal silence, watched murres swoop the wave crests for food, felt the warming sun on our faces and reveled in the majesty before us.

It’s not unusual for my friends and me to comment on how fortunate we feel to live in this part of the Pacific Northwest. However, walking our beach on this day when it truly seemed all was right with the world, we also felt very, very distressed about the on-going Gulf of Mexico oil rig disaster which had begun five weeks previous.

The horrendous environmental damage all across southern Louisiana and down to Florida is beyond heartbreaking.  The devastation to plants and wildlife will continue for untold years.

I am once again appalled at our human avarice, at our inability to live lightly on the planet and at our egotistical audacity. Humans will surely be the shortest lived species--and by our own hand.

“Manifest Destiny” quote, ca. 1840:

It is America's right to stretch from sea to shining sea. Not only do we have a responsibility to our citizens to gain valuable natural resources we also have a responsibility to civilize this beautiful land.

What hubris! Tell me, exactly what is “civilized” about how we are defiling our planet?