For my first English 1A assignment in college, inspired by Thoreau’s dense, poetic prose in Walden Pond, I made my first creative writing attempt, entitled “Seasons”:
“Two summers ago, I went back to Minnesota, and one morning I walked up Doswell Street to see my old home. The house had aged—the ivy vines had been ripped from the stucco walls, showing them cracked and discolored. Last winter’s leaves were brown and decaying where they lay tangled among the stems of the lilac bushes. I pushed aside the brush and looked where there had been lilies-of-the-valley when I was a child, but I didn’t see them now. A little girl came to stare at me over a hedge, and, feeling uncomfortable, I strolled around to the back of the house.
“I followed the dirt alley that sloped down to Scudder Street between rows of blackened wire incinerators. It reminded me of spring. When I was young, spring was brought by robins. Brisk and billowy clouds were reflected everywhere in a world of sidewalk puddles. In knee-high boots, we scampered from one to the next, and, gazing down, each splashing leap seemed to shatter the sky. We sought out the last muddy patches of snow that shrank against the shadowed corners of the houses, and, letting our mittens dangle from clips at our cuffs, we crunched the snow into hard little balls that dripped water when you squeezed them tightly. We crumbled them down each other’s necks or filled our pockets with them and forgot. And when the glacier melted off the back alley, we went out in corduroy pants that got soaked at the knees to comb the alley for the agates that sprang up each year with the first aggressive weeds. Sometimes, just as miraculously, there were marbles, coins, or a gumball machine toy. There was suppressed joy in all the twittering and sprouting—joy in the trickling of a melted winter, along the gutters of the city.
“Then quite suddenly, as though the sewers had swallowed up with the water the freshness of the world, it grew hot. Children lived on cherry popsicles until mid-July, when the banana-flavored ones arrived at the corner market. The night breathed mosquitoes, and sleepers threw off their damp sheets in drowsy anguish. Summers were slow, made of sweat, bug-repellent, and torpor. Down at the end of the alley was the Triangle, a block-long wilderness of bugs, nettles, and ragweed. My brother and I went there every day to thrash among the waist-high weeds with our butterfly nets. On the way down, it gave us great satisfaction to level all the ant hills between the cracks in the sidewalk, a ravaging army of two, just because it was so annoying to have to rouse yourself in the heat and go to catch an insect supper for your lizards.
“At last, the fall. Wolfy’s maple was scarlet glory with green spinners that twirled everywhere when squirrels scrambled through the topmost branches. Behind Alvin’s house was a shack, where Kilroy had been. From its roof we used to jump into mountains of crackling oak leaves that danced when we plunged into them, the crushed fragments tickling and scratching as they caught in our collars, our pants legs, and even our socks. From the top of the shack you could see the Cow Pasture fence and a row of poplars with yellow-lacquered leaves that twinkled in the breeze. After sneaking some sweet, wormy apples from the Old Troll’s yard, we escaped down the block, cheeks full of apple, across Knapp Street, to take refuge in the pasture. Then we were off to explore the marsh, or, armed with plump, brown cattail spears, to hunt each other in a forest of brittle cattail stalks until the air was thick with their down. Autumn was flannel-lined jackets, morning frost ferns on the windowpanes, and the incessant dry whisper of leaf-swept streets.
“Then one night, winter would come, soundlessly. By noon the next morning the white yards along Raymond Avenue were tablets of snow angels. In front of many homes, watchmen were erected with carrot noses and brooms to sweep away trespassers. Saturdays the whole community of children lumbered, fur-lined and waterproofed, through the streets to College Park, sleds trailing behind. The ropes jerked with every step, and the sleds leapt forward on the icy walks and bumped us about the legs. Then winter’s mood darkened. Chapped hands cracked and bled, and foreheads ached where woolen scarves didn’t cover. Nights were made of frozen silence. In the dim yellow light of old street lamps, the snow shimmered relentlessly through a season so long, it seemed eternal.
“Now I stopped, for I had reached the end of the alley. Before me, where there had been the brambles of the Triangle, there was a fresh lawn with spiraling water sprinklers and a light brick building. I waited for the red light to change at Como Avenue, on my way back to Dad’s apartment. ‘Eternal,’ I thought, ‘until April.’”