When I studied abroad in Scotland, our professor took our class on a hike near campus. He stopped us to write three times.
1. On the first stop, we had to use our senses and describe our setting.
2. The next stop we had to connect something we saw or heard or touched, etc. to a memory (essentially a flashback)
3. The only instructions were to finish the story.
It's a very simple exercise but it is easy to do and takes little time (and gets you some exercise) so it's fun to try. Feel free to
I stand upon a long flat stone and suck the thick Scottish air into my lungs. Water drips down from a leaf above my head. I touch my wet hair and look up. I can’t see the sky here. Ahead, the path winds upwards to the south. Or is it the southeast? I guess it doesn’t matter. The trail must lead somewhere. I continue up the hill and my calves return to a state of dull burning. Some oystercatchers call shrilly to one another. Two girls are laughing somewhere further on. I’m not sure if it’s the murky weather or dislocation from my home, but I feel tears looming behind my eyes. I want to shout out to the giggling girls just so I’m not so alone. I don’t. Instead, I breathe in deeply again and then let it out slowly. The path drops downward and I watch each step carefully. I see movement in the corner of my eye. I jerk my head to the right but whatever it was is gone. Probably a squirrel. Maybe a bunny.
I had a bunny once. Well, she wasn’t technically mine. I first saw her a few summers back. I was reading a book outside under the tin carport to stay in the shade. She was small and grey and could have sat comfortably in the palm of my hand though I didn’t dare touch her. She must have lived in a hole next to our shed. My Jack Russell terrier was always sniffing around that area. That day my dog was sleeping burrowed in the cool gravel and didn’t notice our guest. The bunny didn’t notice her either. She was pretty oblivious of everything except patch of tiger lilies, which she danced around with staccato hops. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if the bunny was a boy or a girl but I named her anyway. She was Rue and she became my reading companion that summer, often to the detriment of my dog, who was left in the house.
I have reached a clearing in the trees now. I can see the city far below. A bus hurtles down the street. Cows and sheep speckle the landscape. There is less protection in the clearing so I am getting drenched. It’s actually very refreshing after a long walk. I decide to sit down and stretch my legs out in front of me. I hear steps coming up along the path and decide to wait for the walker to pass before I continue. The steps stop abruptly behind me. I am afraid to turn around. My breathing seems so loud now. What am I so afraid of? I pull myself up and wipe the dirt from my pants. It is a tall girl with long blonde hair swept to one side. She wears a pink backpack. I say hello and try to give a friendly smile. She shifts uncomfortably and mumbles “hi” in reply. She averts her eyes as I stand there in anticipation. After a few silent moments, I continue along the path, heading east.