My Nature Writing professor, Murphy, had us write 4 paragraphs in class on Friday (a place, a place within that place, a person you associate with that place, and a living creature you associate with that place), and here's the revised version. One of you even co-stars with a hermit crab in it!
When you pull over to go to Third Beach, you may question why you’re stopping there. There is no beach in sight, only trees. But you get out anyway and start walking; surely it’s just over this next hill. It isn’t. By the second hill, though, you can’t hear the highway. You may have even forgotten that it’s there. You look around and find that the trees have been doing nimble backbends over your head, trying to whisper in your ear the whole time. They’re sneaky, those trees. As you look up at them, you breathe in their message, and you find that it’s a faintly piney one. You learn to do your tromping carefully because you wouldn’t want to misstep and somehow fall from this place. You walk on, and the trees’ whispers take on the churning rhythm of gossip. Their breath is salty now. You remember why when the sea appears from around a corner. Perhaps you’re tempted to throw the trees a wink as you clamber over the driftwood and onto the beach. Do it.
You may sit for a little while once you reach the sand. Start a fire. Talk to your friends. Dare the cold, white surf to catch you. Let it. Then go exploring. If you travel up the beach, you’ll find a small chapel hewn from the rock. You can’t miss it. It’s always filled with the most faithful locals – hundreds of steadfast limpets, snails, barnacles, and chitons who adhere resolutely to the holy rock, though the waves of the world may batter them and try to convince them to falter. As you stoop further into that dark and eternally damp sanctuary, you, too, will want to join the fold. Casting your eyes up to the heavens, you’ll see the tiny apostles stacked high into the darkness, stretching to the point that you cannot tell where the creatures end and the crevice begins. You’ll know then that you envy what the stone around you has; you want to touch every clinging creature so intimately as these walls do. Press your hands to the rock – let them become as clammy as the rock. Fit yourself into the tightest space in the darkest corner. Maybe you’ll want to talk to the small snail by your thumb. Chat away.
When you emerge from your cave, you’ll find your friend Christine sitting on the beach. Watch her a little while. See the way her dark curls drift on the wind? The way she closes her eyes? She more than merely knows Third Beach. She feels it. Go ahead and approach her; she doesn’t mind. She only abstractedly realizes that you are there, and when you sit down beside her she’ll look a little surprised, like a librarian discovering one last patron in the stacks after closing time. At once she is both beside you and light-years from you. You know her to be a serene, spiritual woman, yet somehow you know that this time it’s different. She’s a poet, but she won’t need any words to describe her thoughts about the beach. Just look in her brown eyes. It’s all there: the hazy gray sky, the colorless sand. The waves. The sand. The sea. Third Beach.
Because you are not Christine, you get distracted. Tide pools! Tiny animals! Plunge your fingers in. Ignore the cold. Find a discarded snail shell for your collection. Don’t put it in your pocket, though. See the claws, the spider-like legs? It’s a hermit crab. You set the shell on your palm and hold your breath. Your legs get tired and your eyes strain as you wait for the crab to surface. He doesn’t, the little brat. You’ll show him. Put him back in the tidal pool and watch, sitting on your heels. Touch the green, sticky anemones next to him just to watch them pull all their tendrils in. You did it, didn’t you? Bully. The hermit crab’s still not come out. You turn and look back at Christine for a moment. You turn back and look at the hermit crab’s shell. It’s gone!
Maybe you haven’t quite figured out Third Beach, you think. You haven’t.