“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”
– C. S. Lewis
The air is thick, sticky, and hovering. The sky is a grey-blue haze overhead and a dark lapis blue to the east where a tempest is raging: lightning flashes, thunder rolls, birds are still. It’s coming this way.
A rumpled linen duvet smothers my legs, lily white mounds near the edge of the bed. I’m writing, wondering at the impossibility of never having to put down the pen, finish the coffee, close the notebook. Days like this beckon for the slightest of physical movement and the utmost mental activity. Days like this require daydreaming.
Daydreaming is supposed to occur under sunny skies with cotton clouds and twittering birds; set near wild grasses, wheat fields, or mirror-like ponds; in the utter calm of nature’s beauty.
And yet, the best words fall like fat, inverted balloons during a storm and stick in deep puddles long after it’s passed.
-M. Ray Hall
Grains of Sand
:: an excerpt from my previous work, set in 1924 ::
August arrived in an unseasonably cool rush, an ocean wave shattering on scorching sand. It swelled through the homes along the Sound, opening windows and scattering inhabitants into their yards. The frequent gusts stirred Margaret from her scotch-induced nightmares and persuaded her to walk the gardens.
She put one foot in front of the other, left heel to right toe, heel to toe, heel to toe, until she reached the end of the stone path. She fingered the white rose petals with her right hand, swinging the bottle in her left as if it were a pendulum that only came to rest when it struck her lips. Margaret pulled a petal from each rose, going back to the beginning in a grid until every stem showed a barren bulb. The cupped petals floated, suspended in the air for the faintest breath and gathered in a mound at her feet. She peered at the pile, too crisp and unadulterated, too white.
Fervor washed over Margaret, an ordinary thought under guise of a striking revelation. It flitted about, restless, evading her grasp and shedding particles of dust for her to collect and reassemble. She collapsed on the stone wall, a three-foot-high barrier that kept the greenery from invading the walk. She watched Chauncey load Hazel’s belongings into the car, a few pieces of luggage, a few boxes, but no furniture. Margaret closed her eyes and allowed the clean, wet air to infiltrate her memories and glue her thoughts together. She smelled the sweet jasmine floating on the soft hum of voices, Hazel’s low and thick, as they drifted into the garden. Margaret’s mind lurched, remembering: (more…)
:: an essay written three years ago during my travels in Hong Kong and Guangzhou, China ::
Cinderella’s castle illuminated the otherwise grey skies as I peered outside the dirt-covered taxi’s window en route to the hotel. If it weren’t for the putrid stench, some hybrid of rotting crustaceans and fuel exhaust, the scene could have existed even if I hadn’t just flown sixteen hours from LAX to Hong Kong International Airport. The red and white cab continued through Victoria Harbour, one of the busiest and largest ports in the world, which fueled the economic development of not only Hong Kong, but also remained the primary gateway for mainland China. Here, many Western ideas docked and seemingly never left.
“Put up your window,” directed the driver in broken English. “You don’t want to breathe this air.” He yanked the white surgeon’s mask from around his neck and up over his mouth. The white mask would become a prominent fixture during my stay in China. (more…)