Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Noticing the hush of the world

Town Hall courtyard.
Notice everything.
That was one of the first lessons bestowed upon students at last week’s Rosemary Beach Conference for Writers. It’s a tall order, and it’s less about eavesdropping (although that’s part of it) and more about being in the moment. It’s simple enough to practice; even I can do it.

I ducked under an awning in the sprinkling rain one afternoon and found myself talking with a clerk outside Moonpize, a women’s boutique that was marking its fifth birthday. An older gentleman with sunburned feet joined us for shelter and posed questions about the conference. A former newspaper man, he had learned to fly airplanes at age 68. He joined us in class the next day and shared a story about a New York copy boy’s meeting with Ernest Hemingway.

Edward's bar
In the courtyard of Edward’s, a new eatery on South Main, I stood under a wine-colored patio umbrella beside a table as strangers gathered to break the ice in the courtyard. Some of them carried their own umbrellas and made remarks about the comparative size. The rain passed, the sun returned and equality was re-established. We gathered around the fountain and at cafe tables to talk about everything and nothing, as writers will do.

Another afternoon, I slowly savored a tender hamburger at Wild Olives — the first time I’ve been prompted to take a photo of something I’m eating, if that means anything. It was also good to catch up with an acquaintance who works there.

I ate there on recommendation of Hidden Lantern Gallery curator and artist Lauren Carvalho, who led me through her latest exhibit, “Polished Landscapes: Venetian Plaster Reimagined” by James P. Garrett. On display until June 9, the show features intriguing textured canvases; even those seeming flat hold some illusion of depth, and I knew there was a lesson there, too.

Friday evening, as the conference came to an end, I enjoyed coffee and an “itty bar” of chocolate at Amavida Coffee; the barista, Rachel, told me about upcoming open mic events for writers and readers. (Check our calendar in June for details.)

But there was more.

It’s a cliché to describe water as “clear as crystal,” but the private gulf beach area at the foot of South Main was just so. Clear and cool, with a surface as smooth as a pond, it could have been one of Garrett’s works.

Stand-up paddle boards skimmed above pale sandbars. People lounged on redwood chairs under deep green umbrellas, reading paperback novels. Small children played in the calm fringe of the surf. Fishing boats dotted the horizon like irregular staples joining the emerald sea to the cobalt sky.

After a walk ankle deep along the shoreline, I swam for a bit, then floated on my back, closed my eyes and listened to the hush of the world.

Now, for your next writing lesson, close your eyes and write about the first image that pops into your head when I say this word:


(This is my Undercurrents column for The News Herald for May 17.)
Post a Comment