Sometimes I feel like studying journalism has sucked out a lot of my creativity, always focusing on the who, what, where, when and why and leaving out the flair and pizzazz saved for descriptive writing. This piece was not only a blast from the past that brought me back to a place that I absolutely loved, but it was also a reminder that I do have the ability to write in different forms and I definitely want to start exploring that side again...
The Island, our extraordinary refuge, appeared in our lives just when the storm was becoming almost too much to handle. In the awkward girl-to-woman transition, the too-young-to-drive-so-you-bike- everywhere, braces-wearing and pimple-popping summer between middle school and high school, I never thought I would find inner serenity in such an odd place.
On the days that our parents wouldn't take us to the beach or drive us to the mall no matter how hard we begged, my best friend and I would jump on our trusty mountain bikes and hit the open sidewalk. Trips around the lake and to our favorite picnic destinations were frequent pastimes, but after we found The Island, it became the only place our little legs would pedal to.
"Just get out!" her mom screamed as I watched my usually collected and strong best friend break down before my eyes. I knew that we needed to get out of there--quick. Before I could change my mind, I hastily grabbed her and marched out of the house. Climbing on top of our bikes, we started to speed away. Without looking back, we burned holes in the pavement with our psychotically swift, cycling legs, and made the cars look like snails in comparison to our increasing momentum. We didn't know where we were going, but wherever it was, we wanted to get there fast.
Arriving at our regularly traveled bike trail, we decided to give our exhausted limbs a rest. We plummeted down the monstrous hill leading through a woodsy path with nothing but the sun on our faces and the brisk air blowing our hair in the breeze. When we reached the bottom of the seemingly endless drop-off, we plopped down on the wildly-growing grass and she wiped away the last tear escaping down her pink, wind-blown cheek. After observing the area that we had grown so familiar with, we noticed a stomped-down pathway of grass through the trees and plants. My friend's once painfully sad eyes sparkled up at me, as if we were French explorers discovering uncharted land. With our curiosity and adventurous minds going to work, we embarked on a journey deep into the woods to find where the unknown path would lead us.
Abruptly, Rice Creek came into view, and the rampant water whooshed by at an incalculable rate. My eyes were drawn to a colossal tree that had fallen across the creek and managed to wedge itself between trees on the opposite side of the rapids. Creating a natural bridge to an adjacent sand dune, the tree seemed purposefully placed to create a secluded island in the middle of the woods. The rich green leaves of the broken tree and the clear, raging stream formed the most beautiful disaster I had ever seen.
From that day on, we visited The Island as often as we could. This special spot enabled us to be anything that we wanted to be--researchers doing experiments in the wild, washed up boat passengers stranded on a desert island, or just huge-hearted fifteen year-old girls who needed a place to call their very own. No matter how bad the family situation, or how much it hurt to watch a gangly crush clumsily tongue another girl, The Island remained an escape from the harsh realities that we were forced to deal with day after day. For that entire summer, I had a sanctuary to share that could put me at peace with anything, but especially with myself.
After high school began, the friendship I once knew slowly became a distant memory of days wasted away splashing around in the creek, lying on the sand and talking about our big dreams. I went back to The Island the following summer with a new group of girlfriends, only to find that the sturdy bridge was now nothing but a log being shoved out with the current as if it had never been there at all. A traitor to its own land, the water that provided not only beauty but also endless hours of entertainment and recklessness seemed to have swallowed The Island whole. This left the sand bar as nothing but a thin line of dirt and shells with carlessly thrown trash and beer bottles polluting the once immaculate earth that had served as a prime spot for laying out and working on my summer glow.
To this day, I still believe the loss of that friendship caused a tiny piece of The Island to die, and without that piece, it could never be the same again. Although The Island's reassuring environment and peaceful nature could only be enjoyed for that sole summer, I will never forget the tranquility it brought me, or the friendship that died by its side.
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