Writing Your Beach Metaphor
Suzy Lee’s Wave is a beautiful blue, white, and black wordless story that shows the wonders and treasures found on the oceanfront on a summer day. When I taught 8th grade, I used Wave as a way to study and play with metaphor. As my almost-freshmen made their way through their last days of grammar school, I held the picture book up and said, “Story time,” and they grinned nostalgically. (Let’s continue to have story time in middle and high school, don’t you agree?)
They enjoyed the delightful story, giggling and sighing at the little girl whose mother introduces her to the vastness of the beach and the ocean and then takes a few steps back, out of the scene, so it is just the girl and the ocean. “How is this like what will happen on the first day of high school?” I asked, and the room got quiet, and a seriousness fell like a kite that couldn’t find any wind to fly. “You’re not totally on your own,” I told them, “and neither is the little girl. The mama’s still there, but she’s letting the girl experience this new world for herself.”
And so they watched, as I took them, carefully, through the story, asking questions about the sea and the beach and the seashells. What could they all represent in regard to this next phase of their lives as students?
I handed out blue card stock, cotton balls, glue, and black Sharpies and asked my students to make a metaphor and then write about it (this was English class, after all). That exercise is also this week’s prompt.
What’s a Metaphor?
A metaphor is a figure of speech that compares two things that aren’t the same but do have something in common. Metaphor differs from simile, where two things are compared directly using like or as, because it’s indirect and simply states that one thing is another thing.
From one of my former students: “The clam takes a rock and pushes down on it for years. As hard it can, it pushes on an ugly, single, worthless rock. The clam itself is ugly too, but once the clam feels the rock is ready, it opens the rock up to the world. It reveals a beautiful, coveted pearl that the world would love to have. That’s what high school is. It matures the smallest rock by putting tons of pressure on it so it becomes so beautiful it’s ready for the world to see.”
From another former student: “High school is like the waves. It might smack us down. It might overwhelm us. But it will leave us with treasure if we care to look.”
First, how about some art work? Make a beach metaphor with art supplies you have on hand. Blue crayons, computer paper, and pencils, or maybe you have some glitter that your children don’t know about. Then write your metaphor. This can be a poem or a fictional or non-fictional scene.
Maybe we’re not heading off to high school, but maybe we are starting a new phase of life. I’m two years into my forties, and so far they feel like I’m in a second adolescence. I’m trying on the word “author” for the first time and seeing how it fits (and what other names I’ve given myself that feel too restrictive or small now). My husband and I are a few months away from celebrating twenty years of marriage. There are lots of beach metaphors I could create.
Or perhaps you want to go back to high school. I’m sure there are a lot of treasures to be found, even if you have to wade into deeper water. Like I’ve told my students: Don’t be afraid. Have a good time digging around in the sand, figuring out how to body surf the waves and turning over seashells in your hand. We can’t wait to see what you will find.
Thanks to everyone who participated in our recent poetry prompt. Here’s one from Rick Maxson we enjoyed:
in the deep country
where fireflies dance
with the stars
over black water
let them open the book
of silence for you
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