Sunday, May 3, 2009

Member Week: P.B. Stevens

All this week--and a little of next--we'll be featuring Writer's Center members on First Person Plural. They are going to tell us their stories. Today's featured member is Pamela “P.B.” Stevens. She is a writer, consultant, and mom, living in Arnold, MD. She is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts honors English program and has taken workshops at the Center. She is currently writing a memoir and various other personal essays and has been published in Connecticut’s County Kids magazine.

Saturdays and Snowstorms

I sit in my living room in my fluffy robe and tattered slippers. I sip steaming coffee while gazing at fat snowflakes falling on the already thickly covered ground. It is in this moment that I recall a friend’s recent, incredulous question: “What exactly makes winter your favorite season?” I could not answer her specifically until, curled up in my living room chair in the midst of the raging snowstorm that encased Annapolis, I remembered a recent Saturday outing to the beach at Sandy Point State Park.

Sandy Point can only be described as a unique beach. The hallmark terracotta-colored sand stretches out to the Chesapeake Bay and the imposing Bay Bridge, a reminder that progress often trumps beauty. I always avoid this part of the beach. The whir of minivans and roar of eighteen wheelers creates a clenching in my chest that even the softly rippled water cannot soothe.

Instead, I turn left and head to the area marked for boat launches. There is a path along this part of the beach that bends around to the left and takes one away from the disquieting scene. Soon, on this bright and cold winter day, I am amongst tall reeds that sway and scrape. I am amidst bleached beach grasses that splay their long, lustrous fronds out onto the sand, reminiscent of a girl’s summer tresses.

I make my way to a jetty, where two lone benches sit upon a knoll of grayed grass. The water laps at the shore. Like the patch of ice on the craggy boulders that jut out into the bay, the tightness in my chest and the crease in my brow begin to slowly melt, drip by drip.

And then I hear it. A cacophony of noise erupts upon the quiet as a large group of school-aged children races past me, stirring up great clouds of orange sand. They chase each other around the base of a nearby playscape, machine gun trills falling off their tongues. I sit on a bench facing a lighthouse and a cove carved out of tall sea grasses. Time passes. I wait for the children to look up, to see water rippled by the wind, to smell the sweet, pungent sea air. But they cannot engage the quiet. Their bawls and bellows puncture the air and send sea birds scurrying.

It is like this for some time. I yearn for the quelling of their voices. But they continue to purge their frenzy upon the land, their parents talking amongst themselves, aloof and detached. I wait some more. I hear more machine gun trills and decide I can wait no longer for the quiet to return. I start to make my way back around the bend. The sounds of the children begin to blend into the rush of Route 50.

This is the day that returns to me on this snow-covered day in my cozy, fire-lit living room. It is in this moment that I realize my love of winter resides in this hush that comes over the land, undisturbed by man or beast, a blankness into which you can step and hear your own gentle breath exhaling into the great white expanse.

It is not just this hush placed over the natural world, but especially the unnatural world. The snow lay atop car roofs, strip mall rooftops and along the long, busy highways, uttering a soft, slow “shhhhh,” like a mother who lays her child’s head in her lap and gently strokes his hair. And I wonder, I hope, that the children will notice.

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