It’s funny, the word rocks is much harsher to me than the word stones. I don’t know why I seeded my prompt box with rocks when I prefer stones. Rocks are jagged and rough, while stones are smooth and round. Is that true or is that just the way I see them?

When I think of rocks I see dsuty gravel, grey granite shards with glints of quartz or mica, the rocks themselves planed and angular, bumpy with unclean breaks. Triangles protrude from a pile looking jagged and dangerous. Unwelcoming.

Jetties are rocks. Rocks are young. They haven’t been exposed long enough to be worn smooth by weather or water.

Stones, though. Stones are smooth and rounded. Domes of shiny grey on a Maine beach. They are welcoming. They fit in the palm of your hand and are comforting in their age and smoothness. They are old. They have clinked together on the shore for thousands of years. Each time a wave washes over them, then sucks back out to sea, they chink together as they roll with the surf, rubbing bits of each other off, grain by grain, until there are no rough edges left. Despite their hardness, despite their heaviness, they are soft to the touch — soft on the surface like fabric, like velvet or suede when you rub your thumb across their faces. Except they aren’t really soft. They are hard. Sturdy and grounding.

We have stones from Maine scattered around our house. Our daughter uses one as a doorstop. Others lay atop a book shelf in the basement. They comfort me. Pieces of earth. Unglamorous. They aren’t gemstones. They aren’t crystals. They are basic granite stones that have been worn smooth by the passage of time. By existence. Yet in their age and smoothness they are still solid. Still strong.


My favorite part of France was the pastries. Not just that they were so good — the best pastries I’ve ever eaten — but that they were important. That they were such a part of daily life. Walking around Marseille or Aix en Provence, every other doorway was a patisserie or boulangerie. Pastry, bread, and coffee. What could be better? These people know how to live.

It was the same in Barcelona. We walked the streets and in every other window were cases of flaky pastry. I couldn’t get enough of them: bunuelos, pestiños, ensaimadas, plain croissants, chocolate croissants, croissants filled with raspberry, sandwiches on croissants. All of them light and buttery and airy on the tongue, but with just the right bite, just the right amount of succulent chew that satisfied your teeth and your jaw and your palate.

My favorite part, though, was that since pastry shops were ubiquitous, there was always one within a few steps of where you were standing. We stayed with friends in Marseille, and each morning, instead of making an elaborate breakfast, Joaquim descended the stairs of his 200 year old apartment building, pushed open the door, walked a few steps to the boulangerie, and returned to us with an armful of croissants. He and his wife gathered the jam, the butter, the Nutella, and filled coffee cups; my husband and I spread the table cloth. We breakfasted with the July windows open, our knives clinking the crockery after we spread spreads on our pastry. One morning I spread raspberry jam on my croissant. One morning, Nutella. One morning I ate mine plain, and the next I was back to jam.

When we finished, and we cleared the table, exhausted from trying to speak Spanish with our hosts, we carried dishes to the tiny kitchen and began washing up, glassware clinking, while Joaquim bundled the table cloth, held it out the open window, and shook crumbs onto the sidewalk below.

Photo credit: Croissant by Zdenko Zivkovic

For the month of April, I will be publishing a 10-minute free write each day, initiated by a prompt from my prompt box. Minimal editing. No story. Just thoughts spilling onto the page.


Blue grey. Cloud soufflés. Thundering rumble. Neon grass against blackening sky. We wore minimal clothing because of the heat. I leaned against my boyfriend in a bed in Key Largo, and it was dark outside, and the windows were open. Palm fronds crackled in wind. We stroked each other’s skin while thunder shattered the air and lightning lit the room. Hard rain clacked against glass.

A wall of clouds moving onshore from the ocean, blue black jellyfish in the sky, rain trailing like tentacles.

I remember being in the skiff with Dad near Williamson Island. The Olympics were over and the Day Marina was littered with pallets of Coke and Powerade. We looted, Dad and I. The place was abandoned. We saw a storm coming and hurried. There wasn’t another human for miles, and we floated in the mouth of a river on a marina, surrounded by water, no shelter.

We were in the river behind Williamson when the squall caught us. The boat was small and open; I could hold both sides from the middle of the mid bench. Lightning struck the water and the nearby island, and thunder cracked in our ears at the same time we saw the lightning flash. Wind whipped the green-brown river to a froth, my hair whipped me in the eyes, in the mouth, got caught in my teeth. Rain stung my skin. Rain puckered the river. It smacked the water, slapped my skin, rattled the floor of the aluminum boat. It made a racket like ball bearings clattering on a metal floor. The sound was deafening.

Lightning bolted, thunder boomed, and Dad and I hunched forward in the boat so our backs would take the needling rain instead of our faces. I shivered with cold. I thought about being struck by lightning. About the boat capsizing. About how Mom would worry if she knew.

I felt electric.

Dad and I grinned at each other and prayed we wouldn’t die.

For the month of April, I will be publishing a 10-minute free write each day, initiated by a prompt from my prompt box. Minimal editing. No story. Just thoughts spilling onto the page.