This week I have a story fragment for you:
Miguel felt the gentle movement of the ship’s deck and heard the crash of the anchor as it hit the water. In the distance he saw a sandy beach with lazy waves washing seaweed and bits of wood ashore. The wind brought the smells of the shore. Above the masts, seagulls flew in lazy circles eyeing the ship. Miguel saw the Captain looking at the shore through his glass and soon he heard the well known orders of the explorer.
“Corporal, take five men, muskets, powder, shot and stand by to board the long-boat. You’ll lead the hunting party. The Captain wants a deer this time. No more rabbits,” said Mr. Sandoval, the ship’s first officer.
“Yes, Sir. If there are deer, the Captain shall have two,” replied Miguel.
“Corporal, watch yourself. You take too many liberties with your tongue. The Captain, he saw two wolves just above the beach on that point of land. Where there are the wolves, can the deer be not far? Tend to your men and your orders.”
Miguel stood at attention as Sandoval turned to give orders to the boson and boat crews. Miguel looked at his men – poor seasick soldiers. He didn’t need to give them orders to go ashore, they were always ready to put dry land under their feet and were already gathering the weapons and supplies for the hunting party.
“Corporal, how long will we stay ashore this time? I do not like these coastal waters of this California. Someday the waves are going to smash the ship against those cliffs,” said Juan as he handed Miguel his musket and power horn.
“Only God and the Captain know, Juan. Just find me a deer this time or we will find ourselves rowing the boats.” Said Miguel as he watched the deck crew pull the ropes lifting the long-boat from the deck. With shouted orders the crew swung the boat over the water and lowered it to the sea. Then the boson threw a rope ladder over the side.
“Corporal, we are ready,” said the boson as he threw his body over the side and barely touching the ropes managed to land feet first in the bow of the little craft.
“Monkeys, Juan. To be a sailor you need to be part monkey. Perhaps I should pray for a tail.” Miguel said quietly to Juan.
“Or perhaps you should pray for fins Corporal. Then you could just jump in the water and swim to shore,” said the priest who had just come on deck.
“No need my son, we all need a bit of a jest from time to time to lighten our burdens. Tell me Miguel, why did you join this expedition? You seem to have no love of the sea.”
“It was for the love of King, Padre. I decided I loved his ships more than his prisons.” Said Miguel as he took hold of the ladder and carefully put one foot over the side.
Last Sunday Heather and I went to one of our favorite places, Point Lobos. This point of land sticks out in the Pacific Ocean just below the city of Carmel by the Sea. We love to walk by the ragged coast and watch the waves crashing over the rocks. It was a beautiful day at the Point, clear, warm and just a hint of a breeze.
A perfect day to “breath in” and fill one’s soul with the sights and sounds of nature. I find that this is an important part of writing. Often I read about writers not being inspired to write or having to wait until they are inspired before they can write. That kind of talk and thinking bothers me. I think a writer needs to put one’s self in the path of inspiration.
For me the sea has always been inspiring and always when I leave it, I feel the need to write. The above story fragment is part of what could be a larger historical novel about the Spanish exploration of the California coast line. From the 16th to the 18th centuries, Spanish explorers mapped the coast, started settlements (the missions) and made contact with the indigenous people who were already there.
It’s a heck of a story, filled with all the best and worst of humanity.
So what inspired me to write this story?
It goes like this:
I was wondering where the name “Lobos” came from. In the western US a “lobo” is a timber wolf and the name is Spanish in origin. In fact a lot of names here in California are Spanish. Next, we walked past a number of little hidden beaches that one can just imagine pirates or smugglers using. You see where a long boat or a jolly boat could land on a secluded spot. Then further out to sea you can where a Spanish Galleon could drop anchor and launch a small boat with a crew to search for water, wood or to hunt fresh meat. Then I wondered if it was some Spanish captain who looking through his glass spied a wolf on the shore and noted on his map, “punta de lobos.”
Then I wondered what a man in that shore party might be thinking just before he set out for shore.
Then this story happened in my head.
and that’s how I write sometimes.
Till next week,