18 February 2010
A Different, But Still FANTASTIC Essay by Mishon Wooldridge
Butter clams were the first food I ever took directly from the earth. Goo and grit and salt. Those were easy. My brother and I six and five years old, we carried the bucket between us. My dad in his late 30’s, hauled two shovels and told us where to go. Puget Sound replicating the ocean. Puffy gulls over water. Clouds over sky. Blue on white on gray. Speculation of another clam, a deep digger, a challenge—geoduck. Up to my waist in sand, digging with both hands. A pool forms in the hole where we seek the shelled beast, but it can’t hide from the fingers of six hands cupping, reaching, grabbing.
I must remember how to take cold water. For one whole summer I practice daily in the lake: past my knees, around my thighs, my hips—goose bumps racing over arms, neck, and head. Out. In. Lake gently cups my breasts, armpits. Cold drapes over my shoulders, chin, lips…the ducks are watching me. Iridescent and camouflaged. Back stroking, I am a fleck on the surface of a giant drink, like the gleefully drunk fruit flies I sometimes flick out of my wine. When I am filled with the rumble-splash sounds of pulling and kicking, filled with sun-stung eyes, filled with my relative size in this ceramic-mountain surrounded park, I turn upright again. Search for clustered trees and flickering vehicles to measure distance to shore. Number the ducks that have followed me.
Nothing is substantial. Around him the grass wavers, knots, and curls. Trees bend as if jointed. And he is talking to me. They are talking, circling me. Mouths opening and closing. Accusations galloping toward me. After me. Him. Arms crashing down. Crushed against his chest. This is a dream. Arms closing, mouths opening. My dream. Water flows, fountains from under my feet. His arms are a goblet filling with river. My body is scaly and silver, gliding whip-like against his metal confines. The shimmerings of trees, cars, houses twinkle out. He is a lost possession among the river rocks.
The sink water is orphaned from Lake Whatcom. Redeemed of any germs or native spirits. Chemically altered and pumped into every home until it resembles very little of its origins. A river in my hand when I wash dishes. Rain when I cut onions. Neptune’s horses plowing me down. From my apartment window, I keep mistaking Bellingham Bay for Puget Sound. Tsunami or under-tow. When I think of Puget Sound, Atlantis-like islands gloaming offshore, I am also wishing for the Pacific Ocean, the jagged north coast of skinned shins and gleaming agates. Any ocean could recycle me. I’ll comb your tangled locks, Sedna, kiss your fingerless hands. How many gods can drink of these waters?
There is a photo of me standing thigh deep in the Sound, catching the tiny clearish jellyfish that ride the lolling tops of waves. I love sliding my hand just under the surface of the water so that when the wave peaks, then dips—suddenly a jellyfish on my palm. A momentary shock for us both. Like holding a piece of a ghost. I throw the creature in a high arc and hear it plunge back into the water behind me. I do this for hours. My hand opening and closing. Waves rising and falling. Everything familiar and strange, measured by the way it fits into the cup of my hand.
Mishon A. Wooldridge primarily writes poetry and memoir. She is currently poetry editor at 5x5 literary magazine. In 2008, she received her B.A in Creative Writing from Western Washington, and has been published in Earth's Daughters, Third Wednesday, Labyrinth, Jeopardy Magazine, Licton Springs Review, Arcturus. Find more of her work at http://www.wordprogressions.blogspot.com/