Let me share an excerpt with you from my almost-ready-to-publish memoir. The scene takes place on a mission center, Lomalinda (pretty hill), in South America during our family's first December there.
Following up on our December 5 post about sensory details, notice the details I included. (Sensory details: What do you see, hear, taste, smell, and feel?)
Lomalinda was into the dry season with clear clean blue skies and hardly a wisp of a cloud. Daytime temperatures soared to over 100 degrees in the shade—cruel, withering. The green scent of rainy season had given way to the spicy fragrance of sun-dried grasses. Immense stretches of emerald disappeared, leaving the grasslands stiff and bleached and simmering under unrelenting equatorial sun. Leaves browned and fell. Even my favorite tree dropped its leaves—the young one with delicate fern-like leaves.
Muddy paths and single-lane tracks turned rock-hard and, with use, changed to dust. Yards and airstrips and open fields turned to dust, too.
From sunrise to sundown, a stiff wind blew across the llanos (plains), a gift from God because it offered a little relief from the heat. On the other hand, we had to use rocks and paperweights and other heavy objects to keep papers from blowing away. Dust blew through jalousied windows and into homes and offices and settled on our counters and furniture and in cracks and crannies and on our necks and in our armpits and up our noses.
… The parched wind gave us a break from the profuse sweating we endured in rainy season so, in that way, it was a friend, but it could also be a foe.
One blistering afternoon, Dr. Altig hollered through our screen door, “Call for help! We have a fire!” Across the road, flames leaped and smoke billowed….
That year, our family’s first there, we learned December traditionally was a time of wildfires in and around Lomalinda, leaving acres of black ashes. Shortly after that day’s fire, the following happened:
One day I walked a sun-cracked track and that celestial fireball cooked my skin and the smell of charred grassland swirled in the breeze. The school principal puttered up to me on her red motorbike and smiled, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!”
Pris watched me for a few seconds and then laughed—my face had betrayed my thoughts. I had to bite my tongue to keep from blurting out, This looks like Christmas? You’ve gotta be kidding!
To me, Christmas looks like frost-covered evergreens, and snowflakes, and frozen puddles. Heavy coats, scarves, mittens, boots. Runny noses. Sledding. Ice skating. Swags of cedar and pine and holly tied with red ribbons.
I learned a lesson that hot, dry day. “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” means different things to different people. To most Lomalinda-ites, especially kids, a blistering wind, sun-bleached landscape, charred fields, and a whiff of ashes signaled we’d soon celebrate Christmas. Folks enjoyed saying, “I’m dreaming of a black Christmas.”
What could I do to make this piece better?
I welcome your critique in the comments below.