One of the best ways to sink into a person's mind is via their space. Exploring landscape as both literal surrounding and also as a projection of mental experience is powerful.
The prompt for this writing was, in fact, landscape. In her response, the student brings us back fully to a place - and mental space - she waited to re-visit for many years now. A rich and raw writing, we can feel not just the sea but this particular stretch of it, and what the symbolism of space meant for the couple then - and for the re-visiting (literally and through writing) individual now.
She also addresses familiarity and home. My favorite lines include these: "The car is almost driving without me and ahead is why I’m here: the path through the cedar to the sea. Still there. The car knows where to park and my feet remember the trail." I know I am in good hands, along with someone who remembers the way even if not consciously.
Enjoy this student writing - anonymous to protect her past. Try writing yourself to a place of memory for you - landscapes are a powerful path into the past.
It’s the end of my last day in Tofino so I go to Chesterman Beach. Past the house—is that the house? Of course it looks different. Twenty-six years. Thirty years. So much time has passed. There seems to be a garage or guest house just inside the fence—but stop looking at the house! The car is almost driving without me and ahead is why I’m here: the path through the cedar to the sea. Still there. The car knows where to park and my feet remember the trail. A little mucky and still a tangle of roots and hemlock, salal along the sides. That smell of cedar and sea salt and the air is always a little wet with spray and you can hear the roar of surf from here. Surprised at the feeling of homecoming though this was never my home.
People are walking on the beach. A kid plays with a whip of kelp, swinging its giant onion bulb around. The sun puts on its show—red, pink, purple sky and the pull of tide—the way my heels feel like they’re sinking and the water shushes up and sucks back—little rocks, sand, shells wash up and pull back, shush and suck. I remember this place and who I used to be when I first came here with J----. Even writing the name J---- on a page feels dangerous. As dangerous as she was then and exciting. Am I allowed to walk on this beach? Her beach. Her house. Her history. As if her emotional drama was bigger than the sea itself. How she lives on in me, this feeling of trespass. Her name a kind of transgression on the page, my footprints on the sand a trespass. But the sea is bigger than that. The sky is older. Different people live here now. The town even has a microbrewey.
I went kayaking in the sound on a mythically sunny day. Hiked on Meares Island and touched the ancient tree that was in all the posters for saving the rainforest in the 80s. The tree is still there, as it has been since long before Shakespeare. The coppery water and the forest that eats spawning salmon. We aren’t the only ones to have ever loved and hurt each other. We aren’t the first people to think our desire could change our world. It did change our world. But desire isn’t always what we benefit by.
The sea keeps on pulling such thoughts and washes them away. From the beach you can’t see how the place has changed, aside from the big hotel. It’s still just the sand and tides and this mystery of roar and shush as the sun goes down and I make my way through the woods, still knowing the way in the dark.