Quiet and chaos.
These unlikely twins are the source of my writing inspiration. Once a month, my husband and I pack up the travel trailer and go camping for the weekend. Load after load of clothes, food, bikes, firewood, and water are stuffed into every cabinet and cupboard until we practically take the whole house with us. Away we ride into the hair-raising Friday afternoon traffic. Drivers merge onto the freeway engrossed in their phone conversations, unaware that a 45 feet long combination of truck and trailer is right next to them. Suddenly they look to their left and gasp as they realize the lane ahead of them is ending,and they have nowhere to go. We find it amusing to watch them speed up or hit their brakes as they figure out how to get into our lane.
Just when our nerves have worn thin, our exit appears like the sight of land from the crow’s nest, and we arrive at the seaside campground. After checking in at the kiosk, we find our spot, a tiny space in a massive jigsaw puzzle of trailers, RVs and tents. After a few tense moments of backing in the trailer, made more difficult by the men in the spaces around us watching us as if we were a college football game, we fit our trailer into the narrow slot. We communicate by cell phone, my husband driving the truck and me standing in the space directing him. Often he reminds me that “Oh! Oh! Ooooh!” is not a direction.
My husband drops the trailer, wedges the truck into the space, and it’s time to set up. Out comes the woven rug, trash can, and welcome mat. We hurriedly munch on leftovers, as there’s not enough time to grill the first night. A rhythmic roar urges us to make haste. Quickly we throw on jackets that were unneeded back in the desert, and head for the stairs.
The stairs. Three flights of wind-blasted, splintered boards that serpentine down the jagged cliff to the sand. My life with all its twists and painful experiences. We descend slowly, carefully as the boards creak beneath our feet.
But at the end, there is cool sand. My toes sink gratefully into it as I kick off my flip flops, Hand in hand, we walk along the high tide line, stepping carefully over shells and branches of seaweed. The waves murmur encouragement as they coat my feet in salty foam.
Here I see words in the fading pinks and oranges on the horizon. Stories call to me in the gulls streaking across the sky.
Quiet speaks writing to me, but I also hear its voice in the chaos.
My life as an elementary school teacher is full of noise. Hundreds of questions, complaints, unrelated comments barrage me daily. One student’s elaborated crafted excuse about their missing homework inspires me with an idea for a character. Analyzing their writing forces me to justify what simply jumps out of my head, breaking it down into its smaller parts. I try to infuse my students with my love of reading. “Can you believe what that character just did?” I ask, drawing them into discussion.
In the chatter of my classroom, I find joy, frustration, perseverance, revelation. These speak to the story in my heart as clearly as the hush of the seashore.
As my fingers push the keys, the quiet and the chaos tell their stories. .