A little bit of validation every once in a while is a glorious thing, isn’t it? Even a small thing can just put you over the moon when it recognises your creative work. While I certainly believe we should all create just for the joy of it and not for outside approval, it’s still a gorgeous thing when it arrives.
This is what I experienced recently when I received an email from the Wild Atlantic Writers Creative Non-Fiction Contest. I was a finalist! Wow! I’ve never submitted anything to a contest like this and I was a finalist! Holy crap. I didn’t win the top spot, but even being a finalist felt so enormous to me.
Here is my 500-word limit, creative non-fiction personal essay, “Frost on a Fence Post,” that had to be written on the theme of Nature. I hope you enjoy and check out the link to the story on their page, as well as their other contests, writing retreats, and finalists.
Title: Frost on a Fence Post
The voices in my head are at it again.
“If only people paid attention,” the arrogant and adventurous 12-year-old spouts.
“No one understands anything,” the sad, rebellious 16-year-old rages.
“Life is so unfair and not going how I planned,” wallows the disillusioned 20-something.
And then the wise old one who has no age, just a mischievous smile, sparkling eyes, and great style, sits quietly or chuckles at the others.
There are many others. They rarely agree on anything, not even to disagree. It gets noisy in here. That is why I began to walk.
I live in a small city that butts up against the foothills of the Pyrenees. It is a simple place to live, earthy and elegant, intellectual but unpretentious. Living in the old centre atop the hill, I need only follow the wall down to the river and I find myself under the canopy of trees. There is a hush, a calm, as the city’s sounds fade with the cover of leaves.
It is at this exact moment when the voices assert themselves.
Their chatter is a mixture of the metaphysical and the mundane, great depth and a shockingly shallow concern for others’ opinions. They bandy words with what I coulda, shoulda, woulda said in infinite fantasy scenarios they conjure up.
As I consciously put one foot in front of the other, lifting my posture to its full height, a space begins to emerge. The regal crane, perched on its favourite stone, flutters its wings as if saluting. I nod in return and walk on, concentrating to avoid tripping over the rambunctious roots that criss-cross my way. I absorb the individual steps and moments, time utterly forgotten, and suddenly find that I’ve walked miles in real silence. The voices are as equally enraptured with the moment as I am and have not just fallen silent, but have retreated into a deep and cradling void, successfully soothed.
I round a turn in front of me and come upon a small farm. A somewhat dilapidated fence runs its length. But I don’t really notice its sad state, for today, it has been transformed. The watery morning sun is striking this fence post such that it appears to be pure gold. I stop and stand in awe. The voices awake and all simultaneously gasp.
“That fence can’t really be made of gold,” insists the know-it-all 12-year-old voice.
I take a few steps forward. She is right. It is the reflection off of the frost on the fence post. A startling revelation appears as my eyes begin to liberate my overflow of joy: I may feel as beaten up as this fence looks, but given the right light, the real silence from within, I too might shine.
“Now you’re getting it, dear,” chuckles the wise old voice as she winks a sparkling eye. That is why I walk with the trees, so that her voice may win.