Sample Writing

“Northwestward Bound”

It came to me during a Chicago traffic jam, trapped in a metal oven, a popsicle gooeyed onto my sweaty thigh, the guy in the next car cussing through his cigar. I gazed through steaming sunglasses at this muscular city buried in concrete, its veins plugged with cars, and felt my life constrict like a capillary

Now I love this city with its fashion parade of architecture, the gruff but generous. people, Lake Michigan with her necklace of public beaches. Yet every spring migrating birds confuse reflections of clouds and trees with real nature and collide against skyscraper glass. I imagined flocks of warblers, sparrows, thrushes struggling through the pollution above my windshield, disoriented, smashing against panes – stunned or dead. In my mind’s eye I was a migrating bird—swerving across the freeway’s metallic seascape amid plumes of smog trying to discern truth from illusion.

There were warning signs even then about greenhouse gases and climate change. Higher temperatures shrink ice caps, increasing water surfaces that absorb more heat, producing higher temperatures that raise sea levels in an accelerating cycle. I thought about all the people living on coastlines, holding their breath. About the planet poised in this crisis like a glass of water about to tip. While surrounding me at just this one moment on just one day in just one of hundreds of cities on earth, thousands of vehicles were spewing toxins into the air like grey cotton candy. 

As if a call to action, my fellow drivers began a crescendo of honking not unlike a cricket chorus or the alarms cries of small birds when a hawk circles. What is the ethical response to knowing that my lifestyle threatens the health of our planet and our species’ survival? Could living simpler make a difference to the future? To my sanity? In an age of dwindling resources maybe we’ll all have to downsize anyway, so it could be empowering to try it voluntarily.

At that moment I began a journey against the consumptive current—to seek my own refuge from which to ponder this dilemma, to heal some of my longing for wildness. I would find a place where cougars roam and a few clean rivers still carve their own channels.

Wasn’t Oregon at the heart of the sustainability movement? Organic food. Green culture. Big trees. Mountains. Loud honks and “Whatya waitin’ for, lady? The Cubs to win the pennant?” broke my reverie but I began, in my mind, packing to go West.

(Excerpt from Siesta Lane)

© Amy 2012