Sea Glass

I visited family on the Oregon coast over the holidays. For those of you who’ve never been there, it’s a rugged, beautiful place. In the winter, storms hammer the beaches, uprooting seaweeds, ripping buoys from their moorings and crushing it all against the rocks.

I went for a walk early one morning. There was no one on the beach; the water had retreated from the cliffs and laid bare a long stretch of sand. December is not the time to go beachcombing for sand dollars or scallop shells, so you’ll understand my amazement when I found a light bulb as big as a basketball lying like a beached jellyfish in the sand.

Where had it come from? Did it fall from the cabin of a passing trawler? Or from a bayside cannery warehouse? Wreckage from the tsunami in Japan has been washing up on Oregon beaches for months—but a light bulb? How could such a delicate thing separate from its fittings, travel across the great expanse of the Pacific, and somehow dodge the watery minefield of coastal rocks to perch safely in the sand?

Because I knew the tide was on its way back in, I picked up the light bulb and tucked it behind a tuft of beach grass, thinking that I’d finish my walk, then take it up off the beach. If it had made it all this way, the least I could do was keep it safe from the incoming tide. But by the time I finished my walk, it was gone. Someone else must have found it, and, struck by the absurdity of a giant light bulb in a patch of beach grass, carried it away.

It was just trash, really. Flotsam. But it was beautiful, too, in a sad sort of way. Of course, writers see metaphor in everything, but I like to think there was a message for me in that glass bulb finding its way onto the sand. I’m writing a novel in verse right now. Poems are fragile, particular things, while novels are unruly and unpredictable. It isn’t easy getting the two to work together.

I’m wondering what things you’ve seen, what images have shaped and formed your writing, or given you that little nudge of encouragement when you needed it. Please do share in the comments—I’d love to hear it!




Filed under Anxiety, craft~writing, Writing and Life

13 responses to “Sea Glass

  1. Melanie, have you ever read the essay in Susan Wooldridge’s book Poemcrazy called “Snowflakes and Secrets”? Your telling us about your flotsam reminds me of it.


  2. Mary

    I was walking by a park close to home when a particular tree that had been cut down caught my attention. I walked past it for several days, but thought I really needed my camera. Several days later, on my morning walk, I visited the tree, walked around it trying to make sense out of the shape. To my amazement, it was shaped like a dragon. I took pictures. I had lost a close relative a month or so prior to the incident, and the symbology did not escape me. I wrote a series of poems (The Dragon in the Park) based on this special tree. It lasted about a week before the city removed it.


  3. Trains influenced me most recently. The Amtrak now comes to my town and the dependable 6:40 am whistle inspired this poem which I posted last Friday.


  4. Birch trees in the winter woods. Very still, ghostly, and beautiful.


  5. Pat Zietlow Miller

    Lovely post! Thanks for sharing it. Now I’m wondering how the light bulb made its journey to the shore.


  6. Joshua McCune

    This post makes me miss the Oregon coast so much. One of the most spectacular places in North America, IMO. Plus, you know, Goonies, and everything.



  7. Mike Jung

    I’m one of those Philistines who gets WAY more inspired by artificial things than by nature. So I notice stuff like the guy in the random Batman suit out in front of a car dealership, waving at people to attract business but also displaying really sad body language; the teenage girl with the bright orange tutu, puffy, bedazzled vest, and scuffed-up combat boots waiting for the bus outside a convenience store; or the derisive way the owner of the hat store in Berkeley treats here college student employees. What’s that Batman thinking? Does that girl dress like that every day? Why did that woman berate her employee as she was selling me a paisley top hat, right there in front of them?


  8. Pingback: It’s All True | EMU's Debuts

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