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Birches


My middle-grade short story, "Birches," appeared in the Summer 2015 issue of Soundings Review from the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts.

This journal is available from Soundings Review, or read the story by clicking on the link below.

Birches (3.88 MB)

"Birches" grew out of my love for birch trees.

I like to visit the grove of eleven birch trees (with three more nearby) in Battlepoint Park on Bainbridge Island. As I stood in the grove one day, a story began to form in my mind: a girl who sees life a bit differently after visiting an artist, an artist who has her own connection to birch trees.

A writing exercise from my teacher Sharon Darrow at Vermont College of Fine Arts helped me dig deeper into the story. Sharon told us to choose an object and observe it while standing ten feet away, then one foot away, then one inch away. Finally, we were told to move away from the object and write down our random thoughts.

With notebook in hand, I observed the birch grove again. And with apologies to the trees, I picked bits of the birches (no harm done!) to paste in my notebook (shown on the left).

My notebook observations, from ten feet:

"I always thought of birch trees as white, but no, they're many colors. Here's what I see: white, gray, beige, black, and stripes that remind me of wallpaper. The trunk looks like a map--the patches are lakes and mountains and cities. A map of winter."

From one foot:

"The bark peels off in paper-like strips and curly-cues. The tan and beige colors are more like pink and yellow. Patches of lichen are like sea creatures."

From one inch:

"I see a green bug with black spots, and lots of minuscule insects scurrying along. Lines like pencil scratches. A black ant climbing up. The tree smells earthy, clean."

Random thoughts:

"Russia, winter, birch trees lining the forest roads. Old men's white beards. Fuzzy lichen, green dried-out sponges. Bugs live and die in their universe of this tree. How will Becca see the grove of birch trees? Eleven trees, and she is eleven years old."

My short story, "Birches," is all about seeing. When I walk past the birch grove now, I see it in a different way, just like Becca.