The Dawn of A New Day by Olivia Lamont
The air here didn’t just smell cleaner, it smelled new and full of life. Like the brightest apple or the clearest window. The frost creeping up on its edges adding a chill and longing for warmth. The air in Ucluelet, Canada was somehow a smell that brought back memories of my childhood in the Wisconsin snow but was altogether something inexplicably new. The boat docked on Vancouver Island where I have made my way to the quaint peninsula I will be calling my home for the next year. The sun rises above the rocks as I approach the exit. I am so excited that I stumble with my long legs off the boat, my brown, wispy hair skewing my view of this magnificent land. Its rocky shores and bountiful forests are truly a sight for the imagination.
It’s autumn now and I am here to study the massive Bald Eagle. Oh how they fly and swoop over the water. They must know of their significance because they carry themselves with an elegance unlike any other bird I have studied. Something about the mighty flap of their wings is so exciting. As one can tell, I am a bird enthusiast. I just recently graduated from Oregon State to become an ornithologist but my friends just call me the bird lady.
How fitting isn’t it? My parents often questioned how a bright, young mind like myself could have chosen birds as a career path and moved away without a second thought of a life I could have had there. No, I didn’t want that. I yearn for answers to the questions I have been asking myself since I was a young girl. While many people I know don’t find the idea of studying the Bald Eagle species for a year thrilling, I know I am where I’m meant to be.
As soon as I am there I am moving through the city of Ucluelet. An invisible string pulling me every which way. I’m looking up towards the rooftops of the rustic storefronts while my feet take me beyond and on to a new sight. The beige overcoat, sweater, and jeans I am wearing provide just too little warmth so I focus my gaze on a new task: finding a cafe.
“Grab a table and I’ll be right with you,” mumbles a lady from behind the counter of the Wild Bean Cafe. The bell above the door dings as it closes behind me. It is practically empty in here. That’s alright though, as much as I love the sights and sounds of a new place, I could use the quiet. I choose a cozy booth tucked in the corner. A small vase with some pink wildflowers sit idly in the center. I’m sure on any other day the flowers would be enjoying the light provided by the window but today’s a hazy day. It puts me in a pensive mood as I sit there poring over my options. I’m pretty sure I just want a hot chocolate but it’s fun to look at the choices regardless.
“Hi, my name is Jane and I will be your server, what can I get for you today? Or are you wanting to wait a second. If you’re still looking that’s fine. I can come back…”
“Can I get a hot chocolate please?” I interject with a polite smile on my face.
“Of course, sorry, we had a pretty busy day earlier. Are you new in town?” Jane asks inquisitively. “I know just about everyone within a ten mile radius.”
“Oh yes, I just got here actually. My name is Amelia, nice to meet you!” I smile towards her. “I am going to be studying Bald Eagles here for a little while.”
She looks at me with curiosity in her eyes. She tells me that for all of the people that come in and out of the cafe, she has never met anyone studying eagles.
Jane exclaims, “I didn’t know how abundant Bald Eagles are in Ucluelet. Well in all honesty, I don’t get out to the coast much. I’m busy working at the cafe most days.”
Her last comment sparks the nerdy scientist in me and as I am about to tell her more about eagles, another customer walks in and she is whisked away to her job. There I sit, in my booth. Yeah that sounds nice, my booth. I take in the spices and sweet scents coming from the kitchen. My first hours on the island have me envisioning a life truly all my own. From the moment I inhaled that crisp, biting air to this moment right now, in this cozy booth, I can only think that this year is going to be an adventure.
My project demonstrates my applied understanding of many skills I learned in class up to this point. Throughout my short story, I develop a character, describe her with imagery, and set scenes with smell, hearing, and touch. I also stick to a first person participant point of view throughout the text. I make sure that what the reader is experiencing is from the main character’s perspective. I added specific descriptors about her physical looks like long legs and wispy hair so that the reader has a vision in their minds to imagine this taking place. I also mention the clothes she is wearing which aid in her appearance. In terms of authorial distance, I keep a good, moderate distance between the reader and the story. The main character doesn’t share too many of her opinions but the reader feels just close enough that they know her perspective on her journey. They can sense the excitement her arrival at this new place brings. I do a decent job of conveying a light voice from the main character. The whole idea of her tone being optimistic and cheery is this notion of a new start. She is getting to experience something she loves and I wrote in a way that expresses that idea. I cannot say she is a dynamic character because there really isn’t a struggle that she is overcoming. I would say the change is constantly occurring since she is entering this new life in this new place and experiencing all of the sights for the first time. We as the readers are taken on that journey with her.
The challenges I faced start from the very beginning of writing this short story. I knew I wanted to write in first person but I had no idea what about. As I sat at my desk thinking of all of the ways I could start a story, I went back and looked at some texts we read in class. I liked the POV that “Varsity” by Kingsley was written in so I read the beginning more closely. I looked at how he introduced the story and noticed the amount of imagery in the first paragraph that evokes the senses. With this in mind, I had a bit of a lightbulb moment. One of my favorite things to describe is cool, crisp air. It also sets up any number of possible stories. After describing the smell and feel of the air, I knew I would write about a colder place, maybe a small town. I let my creative mind do the work after that. I did want to make the story somewhat realistic so I looked up places with the cleanest air. Vancouver was on that list and since Canada was fitting for my story, I researched small towns around it and came upon Ucluelet. It fit the small town in August vibe I was writing about. From there, I’m not really sure how I came up with studying birds but I went with it. I also looked up common wildlife in this area and found the Bald Eagle. With all of these setting and plot details decided, I could continue my story. Sometimes the hardest part is just coming up with the concept.
Another challenge I faced was incorporating dialogue into my work. I wanted to demonstrate the skills I have learned but I think I could have gone without it. I really didn’t want to sound forced when approaching the dialogue and wasn’t sure how to transition into it. Looking back at “So Much Water” by Carver and “Hills Like White Elephants” by Hemingway helped guide my approach as I looked at what I wanted my character to be saying and with who. I thought the best transition would be using the cold as a reason to do something. I had my character, Amelia, go looking for hot chocolate. This is where the dialogue begins. She is inside the Cafe and the employee calls over to her, beginning their conversation. Similarly to the two stories I mentioned above, I liked the way the dialogue just started. It was casual and ordinary but didn’t feel out of place.
I have learned throughout writing this short story that being descriptive is extremely important to the reader. Just because I can see the setting and story playing out in my mind doesn’t mean the reader can. You must give them enough details so that they can understand the journey and setting taking place. I also learned more about the importance of dialogue. It is difficult to make dialogue in writing feel natural and not forced so that was definitely a point in which I learned a lot. I would say it in my mind and then type it to make sure it sounds natural. Overall, this piece helped me learn more about developing characters and writing in the first person perspective as well as creating a flowing story line that is easy to follow.