Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Veranderings"

This poem came out of the January 2016 [community profile] crowdfunding Creative Jam. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] shiori_makiba and [personal profile] dreamwriters. It also fills the "day at the beach" square in my 1-3-15 card for the [community profile] trope_bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by LJ user Ng_moonmoth. It belongs to the Cassandra thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.


Cassandra was cooking breakfast
on Saturday morning when Eunan
suddenly said, "Yay! The shuttlebus
is going to the North Avenue Beach today.
Would you like to come with us?"

"Shuttlebus?" Cassandra said.

"Remember what I said earlier about
how this apartment building is off
the usual mass-transit routes?"
he said. "So we have a shuttle
of our own that goes to stores
and offices during the week,
then fun places on weekends."

Cassandra looked out through
the tiny, closed window at
the beautiful day and said,
"I'd love to come along."

So they hustled through breakfast,
put the apartment in good order,
and packed the things they would
need for a trip to the beach.

Then they went downstairs
to catch the shuttlebus.

Yona was already there,
dressed in a t-shirt with
a beachball on the front
as he waddled between
his husband Troy and
his wife Bryony.

Their five children all milled
around them, of whom
Cassandra only knew
the youngest girl, Miriel.

Rachael was there too,
and Larry was driving.

Cassandra settled into
one of the window seats,
feeling a little overwhelmed
but determined to see the beach.

When they arrived, Larry parked
the shuttle in one of the big spaces
reserved for mass-transit vehicles.

"All right, everyone, synch up," he said.
"It's 12:02 now, and we're leaving at 3 PM.
Set your alarms for a ten-minute warning."

Vidwatches and phones beeped, chirped,
and chimed as people programmed them.

As soon as Cassandra finished setting
her vidwatch, she scrambled off the bus.
It felt so good just to be outside again,
in the open air, with the breeze from
the lake ruffling her long hair.

Yona's family poured past her,
headed toward the volleyball courts.

Rachael sported a bright red bag
that said Day at the Beach First Aid Kit.

Eunan stepped off the bus,
very carefully, one foot at a time,
and he kept his hand on the side
of the vehicle as he did so.

His head even tilted down,
watching every step.

"Got your spare key?"
Larry asked quietly.
"You know it's okay if
you need to break early."

"Yes," Eunan said, pulling
a key from his pocket.

"Okay then," said Larry. "Good luck."

"What was that all about?"
Cassandra asked Eunan.

"The trip is officially three hours,"
he explained. "I usually last for
an hour or two out in the open
like this, before I start to feel
overloaded and need to go
back to the shuttlebus."

Cassandra looked around them at
the big blue sky and the golden beach
and the white riffles on Lake Michigan.
Seagulls wheeled and cried overhead.

No wonder Eunan found this much open space
a challenge after an hour or two, given
his unfortunate history with Flight.

"Is there anything that helps?"
Cassandra asked, putting a hand
on his shoulder the way he liked.

A smile flickered across his face.
"Thank you so much for asking,"
said Eunan. "Yes, it helps if I have
someone to focus on and things to do
other than stare at the sky and
worry about falling up."

"Okay then," Cassandra said.
"When you're ready, we can
walk around for a while and
see what looks like fun."

Eunan took a few deep breaths
to steady himself, and Cassandra
found herself falling into the same rhythm,
one that Aidan had taught them both.

Then Eunan looked up in slow stages,
surveying the beach immediately around
them before looking out over the lake.

Finally he turned his gaze to the sky,
letting the sun play across his face.

"Let's go," he said, holding out a hand.

Cassandra laced her fingers with his,
and they strolled down the sandy beach.

It was full of people, some of them spread
on beach towels or blankets, others wading
in the low waves or building sand castles.

They passed the volleyball court where
a dense crowd watched Troy, Yona, and Bryony
taking on a dozen strangers -- because Troy
was flying, which more than made up
for Yona's lumbering stride.

Rachel had their kids on a blanket
playing some kind of game with
rocks and a stick of chalk.

Looking closer, Cassandra
realized that it was Memory,
each pair of rocks bearing
matched symbols in chalk.

Apparently making a match entitled
the winner to erase the old marks and
make new ones, keeping the game fresh.

The breeze seemed to push them
down the beach, tugging at their clothes
and blowing Cassandra's hair in her face
as they wandered along the lake.

Soon she brought out her sketchbook
and looked around for inspiration.

A few pieces of litter caught her eye.
There weren't a great many -- indeed,
Cassandra could also see several people
picking it up for community service --
but enough for her purposes.

She chose a Snickers wrapper
crumpled into an interesting shape,
then added a bottle cap for contrast.

Unrolling her pencil kit, she set to work.

When Cassandra finished her first sketch,
she checked on Eunan, who looked a bit restless.
"Would you like to help me?" she asked.

"Sure," he said with a willing nod.
"What do you need me to do?"

"Find me some things to draw,"
said Cassandra. "Get me
several pieces of litter
in different shapes."

So Eunan rambled around her
in an increasing spiral, picking up
and discarding things as he went.

Cassandra was intrigued to see
that he did not simply grab
the first three things that came
to hand, but rather made
mindful selections.

He returned to her with wrappers from
Lifesavers, Reese's, and Kit-Kat.

Cassandra turned to a new page
in her sketchbook and drew all three
of them in a loose triangle.

She enjoyed the feel of
the soft leather cover
and the creamy paper,
her pencils dancing
over the page.

Eunan watched her draw,
his gaze following the stroke
of her pencils across the paper
and the smudge of her blending stick.

When Cassandra was done
drawing the candy wrappers,
she threw them in the garbage.

"There's a boat," Eunan said,
pointing toward the lake.

Cassandra looked up.

Sure enough, a small motorboat
rested upon the sand, even though
people weren't supposed to park
their boats on this part of the beach.

Two men waving their arms
near the boat suggested that
it had not been a planned landing,
but rather the result of an emergency,
probably some kind of equipment failure.

Cassandra pulled out her soft charcoal
and swiftly captured the swooping lines of
the boat, then smudged in the divots
of sand on the beach all around it.

Switching to a harder pencil,
she added more details to the motor.

When she finished, Eunan said,
"I don't know about you, but
I'm getting hungry for lunch."

Cassandra's stomach growled.
"Me too," she said, and put away
her pencils, rolling up the case
and securing it with the thong.

Her sketchbook, too, had
a knotted thong that matched
the tawny leather of its cover,
fastened with a big shell button.

"Do I smell fried chicken?
And maybe something spicy?"
she said, looking around.

"Yes, it seems as though
the Three Billy Goats Gruff
have managed to set up across
from Those Jamaican Jerks again,"
said Eunan. "It's a bit of a rivalry."

"Let's check it out," said Cassandra
as she headed in that direction.

She looked at the sign
with its cartoon goats and
the three black men -- one old,
one middle-aged, and one young --
bustling around the booth.

"I'd like a spicy goat kebab
and a spiral sweet potato with
the cinnamon-pecan topping,
please," said Cassandra.

"And for me, fried chicken
with a spicy sweet potato,"
Eunan said. "I'm buying."

Well, that would help
Cassandra's limited budget
stretch a little farther. She had
done enough odd jobs to earn
the money for her sketchbook
and pencil roll, but those
had depleted the supply.

The food, when it came,
was piping hot and delicious.

Cassandra burned her tongue a bit,
trying to sample everything at once --
she'd never tasted goat before and
relished the opportunity, even though
the spices burned as much as the heat.

The sweet potato peeled off its skewer
in thin slivers dripping with whipped
honey-butter, cinnamon, brown sugar,
and a slow rain of chopped pecans.
It made a marvelous contrast.

"Let's grab some sodas," Eunan said,
and led the way to someone with
an ice chest full of colorful drinks.

The Green River was billed as lime,
but to Cassandra it just tasted ... green,
as if color could be squeezed down
into a soft drink. She liked it.

Eunan let her try his Blue Lagoon,
which had a more tropical flavor.

After lunch, they put their trash
in the nearest barrel, except for
the bottles which they returned
to the vendor for recycling.

They walked along the beach again,
enjoying the warm day and soft sand.

"Look, veranderings!" Cassandra said,
pointing at the large skeletal structure
that was walking across the sand. It
seemed to be made of bamboo with
long jointed legs, and it had sails of
scarlet silk to catch the wind.

"I love those things," Eunan said as he
watched the Chinese-American inventor
trot alongside the beautiful device.
It really looked quite alive.

Nearby, a troop of Activity Scouts
sat in a loose circle, most of them
carefully using their pocketknives
on an assortment of plastic bottles.

One older girl had a folding saw
with which she industriously reduced
a broken chair into useful pieces of wood.

Another boy used the scissors on his knife
to cut stiff paper into parts, which
his partner then assembled.

Several tiny windwalkers already
tottered inside the circle.

From time to time, the scouts
looked up at the larger version
strolling down the beach, and
then used that as inspiration
to adjust their own models.

The inventor folded the sails
on his windwalker and came over
to the Activity Scouts, causing
a flurry of "Mr. Wèi, Mr. Wèi,
look at what I built!"

He dutifully examined the models
in progress, offered a few suggestions,
and admired the ones toddling
along the uneven sand.

Then he returned to his own creation,
unfurled the sails, and let it go.

Cassandra unrolled her pencil case
and opened her sketchbook. She did
a quick sketch of the large verandering,
followed by a page of thumbnails
showing the smaller ones.

When she checked on Eunan,
she saw that he had settled himself
on a beach towel so that he could
watch a row of ants marching
along a piece of driftwood.

"How are you doing?"
she asked her friend.

"Okay," he said. "The ants are
interesting to observe. I think they
found someone's lunch leftovers."

So Cassandra sketched the driftwood and
the tufts of beach plants all around it
and the little black dots of ants.

She loved nature's artwork --
the swirls of the water-smoothed wood,
the curl of green leaves against golden sand,
the team of ants doggedly dragging
a French fry toward their hill.

Soon she finished the picture,
and they wandered back the way
they had come, letting the breeze
carry them along like the windwalker
still striding beside the lake.

Eunan pointed out colorful rocks
and the occasional mussel shell.

Cassandra sketched his hand
holding one of the shells,
using a pen for variety.

A seagull landed on a post
and flipped its wings close to
its gray-and-white body.

Cassandra stopped to sketch it,
tracing out the smooth curves of
its head and breast, little feet
clutching the top of the perch.

Eunan laid out his towel on dry sand
and sat down to watch the bird.

Suddenly the alarm sounded,
a rising bing-bing-BING! from
Cassandra's vidwatch.

"That's the ten-minute warning,"
she said as the seagull flew away.
She looked down at her half-finished sketch.
"Huh, I guess I'll have to finish this one
after we get back to the apartment."

Eunan was grinning at her
like he'd just won a marathon.
"I made it the whole three hours!"

Then he hugged her.

Cassandra hugged him back,
but after a moment he let go and said,
"Sorry, that was probably presumptuous."

"It's okay," she assured him.
"You did something really great,
and I know that even though you're
a lot better with open spaces now
than you used to be, that still doesn't
make it easy. It's worth celebrating."

They quickened their pace as they
headed back toward the shuttlebus.

Along the way they saw Rachael
putting a coat of bright blue gel
over somebody's sunburn.

Then they fell in with Yona's family,
dusting sand off themselves and
clutching a wide yellow ribbon.

"Wow, you lasted until the callback
this time," Yona said to Eunan.
"That's quite an accomplishment."

Eunan grinned at the back-patting
and hand-shaking that ensued.
He was looking tired, though, so
Cassandra herded him onward
to the shuttlebus and rest.

"How did your day go?"
Yona asked Cassandra as
they settled into their seats.

"I got a lot of sketching done,"
she replied. "Eunan helped me
find all kinds of things to draw."

She untied her sketchbook
to show the new images.

"Pretty pictures!" Miriel piped.

"Those really are beautiful,"
said Bryony. "You might consider
offering some of them for sale
in Reach for the Sky later."

"I didn't think of that,"
Cassandra said, recalling
the shop that sold things made
by Skylark residents. "I don't
want to cut up my sketchbook,
but I don't mind selling my artwork,
and I could certainly use the money."

"Well, they're sketches," Eunan said.
"Those are usually meant to capture
an idea quickly, not to make finished art.
Just copy your favorites to fresh paper and
redo them. It should be easier when you
have your whole set of charcoals and
art pencils, not just the travel kit.
You could make some in color."

"Oh, that's a good idea!"
Cassandra said. "I think I'll
give it a try this afternoon."

"It's good to try new things,"
Yona said. "I'm confident that
you'll make something lovely."

“Art washes away from the soul
the dust of everyday life,” Cassandra said.
"That's one of the things I like about it."

"Pablo Picasso," said Troy,
naming the source of the quote,
and Cassandra nodded.

The last few stragglers
trickled into the shuttlebus
a few minutes before 3 PM,
ending with Rachael and
her somewhat emptier kit.
"Quite a day," she said,
flopping into her seat.

"Yes," Eunan said, leaning
against Cassandra in a way
that made her suspect he was
going to fall asleep on her soon.
"But it was worth it."

Cassandra thought about
the pretty day at the beach,
the goat kebab, the veranderings,
and all the sketches that she had
to choose from for further projects,
whether or not Reach for the Sky
turned into a viable option.

"It really was," she agreed.

* * *


Rachael Banigan -- She has pinkish-fair skin, blue eyes, and shoulder-length blonde hair. She is married with two young sons. She and her family are Jewish; her appearance sometimes makes people doubt her ethnicity. They live in the Skylark Apartment Building in Onion City. Rachael often volunteers at the building's first aid station.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Nurse, Good (+2) Citizen Responder, Good (+2) Confidence, Good (+2) Pianist
Poor (-2) I Am TOO a Real Jew!

Larry Rierden -- He has fair skin, golden-brown eyes, and dark hair starting to go gray. He is tall and sturdy. Larry works as a handyman at the Skylark Apartment Building in Onion City, where Groundhog lives.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Handyman, Good (+2) Pleasant, Good (+2) Tall, Good (+2) Teacher
Poor (-2) Cook

Cheng Wèi -- He has tawny-fair skin, sherry-brown eyes, and straight black hair. He is Chinese-American and lives in Onion City. Cheng enjoys building things. He often competes in robot competitions, and he likes to take veranderings for a walk on the beach.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Gizmologist, Good (+2) Extrovert, Good (+2) Beach Fun, Good (+2) Dexterity, Good (+2) Logical-Mathematical Intelligence
Poor (-2) Nearsighted

* * *

The Skylark Apartment Building looks similar to this.

A shuttlebus is typically a nonstop vehicle that goes straight from where a bunch of people are to a specific destination. In this case the apartment residents share one for visiting different destinations on different days.

See the exterior and floor plan of the Skylark shuttlebus.
(347L - 24 to 28 Passenger Floor Plan Shown. Also available: 343L - 16 to 20 Passenger / 346L - 18 to 24 Passenger)
Skylark has the 16-20 model. The front section is the same. The rear has two split rows of four seats and one solid bench across the back that customarily seats five people, so there are 13 seats in the back. The front has three stationary seats to the left of the door, and two pairs of flip seats which can fold up to accommodate two wheelchairs, so there are either 7 seats in front or 3 seats and 2 wheelchairs. The shuttle-bus accommodates 20 people with all the seats down, 18 with 1 wheelchair, or 16 with 2 wheelchairs. The wheelchair docks can also be used to support large packages if someone is moving furniture. There is a front-mounted bike rack. There is limited overhead storage space and a moderate rear luggage compartment accessable from outside.

See Yona's beachball T-shirt.

Lake Michigan provides many Chicago beaches. North Avenue Beach is open Memorial Day to Labor Day including weekends.

Rachael carries a beach first aid kit in a bag labeled to distinguish its theme.

Breathing exercises help maintain calm.

Walking on the beach has many benefits.

Beach volleyball is also popular. Here is a basic introduction to the game.

There are many games and activities you can play with ordinary rocks. Memory is a fun matching game with straightforward rules.

In L-America, litter is ubiquitous in public places. T-America puts more effort into keeping public spaces tidy. Fewer people litter, and more people pick up, so most of what's lying around is due to random factors like the wind catching trash before it can be thrown away properly.

Sketching is an easy art form for everyday life, rather than just studio work. Learn how to sketch.

This is Cassandra's sketchbook. You can make your own sketchbook. Here is her pencil roll open and closed. Read about making a simple or fancy pencil roll yourself.

Here are some basic art exercises. Candy wrappers are good due to their interesting colors and texture. See Cassandra's sketch of Snickers, then Lifesavers, Reese's, and Kit-Kat.

Sketching outdoors is a good way to learn about drawing landscapes such as beaches. Here is Cassandra's boat sketch.

T-America has a thriving street food culture. Three Billy Goats Gruff is a food booth in Onion City that usually sets up in one of the lakeshore parks. It is run by a black grandfather, father, and son. The menu includes a variety of soul food and African dishes. They have spicy goat kebabs, mild shaved goat sandwiches, fried chicken, fried catfish, fried clams, fried okra, beans and rice, spiralized yams (sweet, savory, or spicy), pumpkin stew in bowls of tough chewy bread, njera, zucchini bread, and traditional red velvet cake. There's rather a rivalry going with Those Jamaican Jerks -- who serve jerk chicken, pork, and goat -- if the two happen to set up at the same beach.

Trying new things is good for health and life experience.

Green River is from Chicago. Other regional sodas in Terramagne include Cherry Win and Mint Soda (North and South Carolina), Chutzpah (similar to Moxie, from Eastbord), Vernors ginger ale (Motor City), and Golden Cola (a citrus cola, similar to Sun Drop, from River City). Blue Lagoon is similar to Baja Blast, but without the caffeine. Purple Haze is predominantly grape but with berry flavors added.

Verandering -- a mechanical locomotion device customarily driven by a renewable energy source. The Dutch plural is veranderingen, but it's usually Anglicized to veranderings. It means transformation, or a thing which changes, because of the way they move. Self-mobile toys are popular. The air-powered stepping models are called windwalkers, or windloper, akin to a strandbeest. Fliers are windriders, or hemelbeests. The solar-powered ones are sunscrawlers, or in Dutch, zonbeests. The water-powered ones are lakeswimmers, or meerbeests. Model kits are available which consist of a guidebook and loose parts that can be combined to make various devices. This is a popular way of introducing children not only to mechanical concepts and renewable energy, but also the basic ethics of gizmology as they learn how their constructs interact with other people.
A related category is bliksembeests powered by electricity, preferably gathered from ambient sources instead of batteries although of course the latter also exist. The original bliksembeest by Windmolen was a windwalker with a thirty-foot metal antenna to attract lighting strikes. It wandered around a field until it ran out of power, then sat there waiting for a recharge. Another rare model is the earthminer, or aardebeest, which harvests geothermal energy. The original of this type consisted of various metals which heated and cooled at different rates, charging itself from heat stored in the ground and using that to move as the energy dispersed through the different metal parts. Currently in development is a class called the Tiergänger, Anglicized to tierganger, or beast traveler, which is German rather than Dutch. It runs on animal power, but not from a harnessed domestic animal. It's designed to entice the assistance of random animals in the wild, similar to how plants use flowers and fruit to obtain help with pollination and seed dispersal.

Here, Theo Jansen makes strandbeests. These have evolved over time into various forms. You can make your own from a kit, or from scratch with paper or wood. Here is Cassandra's verandering sketch.

Activity Scouts have a similar process as Boy Scouts for teaching safety with sharp tools, which includes the Whittling Chip (pocketknife) and Totin' Chip (axe and saw). Woodcraft tools such as this kit are useful in many contexts. Know how to select them. A folding saw is easier to transport than a fixed saw. The Schrade Oldtimer 106OT Grandad's Pocket Knife is a good choice for people who want just a little more than simple blades, adding scissors, although the most popular styles of pocket knife have either one or two blades and nothing else.

Driftwood on Lake Michigan and other places helps build landscapes. Cassandra's driftwood sketch looks similar to this.

Lake Michigan has many freshwater mussels. Sometimes you can find the shells, such as Cassandra sketches.

There are also flocks of seagulls. Sketching live birds takes practice but produces lovely results. See Cassandra's seagull sketch.

Here's a peek at the candy wrappers in color.
Tags: art, community, cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, nature, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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