Category: Writing

The Hard Road to Eden: A story about a girl, her dad and nature

by dawning on / Nature and Outdoor Adventures, Writing

The Hard Road to Eden

A fairly true story (as true as memory serves) by Dawning McGinnis

            “Sit next to the door and be ready to jump if we start to go over” my dad yelled as we barreled down the rough, dusty road. I sat on the step in front of the passenger sliding door to our more than twenty year old 1968 GMC laundry van and watched the rocks and plants that lived in the embankment on the safe side of the road go by so fast that they became smears of colors. I was not scared, I was ready. I would be Dad’s only chance of surviving if the road got lazy and dropped our van down hundreds of feet of jagged minerals, rocks, and trees.

            We had been in the wooded mountains, of a later well debated place in Oregon, for weeks. We carved out new tire tracks on the logging roads throughout the area and had been gaining altitude our entire trip. Slowly, as we traveled higher, the shelter of the forest faded to reveal the bare earth all around us. The gravel way was hard to distinguish from the rest of the rocky boulders. The road kept climbing, taking us with it. Soon our reliable companion, the road, became old and neglected. Things then quickly got worse for the once-secure stretch; rains had washed out the outer ledge and created ominous caverns and pockets waiting to trick passersby into their graves.

Before dad had hollered for my vigilance, I had already gone back through the heavy steel door that was decorated with perforated hardboard painted traffic yellow. The door was always open if we were awake, so I did not have to struggle my eighty pounds of body weight against it to slide it open. Beyond that thick steel was my home. The homemade wooden storage boxes by the door could be turned into a guest bed, but were used mainly to hold my dad’s giant jugs of bathtub whiskey and extra water. The cabinets had locks on them to keep our food from spilling out as we drove down the uneven road. We had a small TV that we ran off of car batteries, which was used primarily to watch the only movie I owned, The Little Mermaid. Under the TV hung an ugly busy floral print piece of fabric that concealed our cooler filled with milk, eggs and jelly. Our step style bunk beds took up the rest of the living area in our van. The highest bed, my bed, concealed our work gear, which could be accessed from the back doors outside. Our mobile castle was topped off by a moon roof window that we were able to climb out of to get a better view and a keg of water on the tailgate. The only light was coming through that two foot square tinted hole in the ceiling, and my eyes took a moment to adjust to the darkness. I grabbed my electric orange and pink bag and started filling it with all of our money, over eighty dollars between the two of us, peanuts, and almonds. I would need my strength if I was going to find help. I thought about how long it had been since we saw another person and it seemed like weeks to me in that moment. All I knew was that I would be walking for a good long while.  

After several tenuously slow miles, the road eventually widened again and we were safe. There was no time to let relief wash over us; our attention was quickly drawn toward glints and glimmers coming from the rocks all around. Dad said excitedly, “We struck gold!” We came to a stop and jumped out of our trusty big blue whale of a van. To our surprise we were surrounded by small monoliths made of minerals. White, clear and rosy pink quartz had made this place its breeding ground. The sun was high and its light played reflective games with the crystals that were stretching up to embrace the warmth. My dad and I both looked crazed with glee as we ran and started exploring the magical place we had found.

            Even though there was an abandoned logging road stretching through this jungle of minerals, I felt like we were the first to discover it. We were the first people ever to lay eyes on this special place. Searching at ground level through the towering crystals, we both found one that resonated with our individual vibrations and spoke with us through these wavelengths. I sat by running water and let the world slip away while I watched the flow, holding nature’s geometric masterpiece in my hand. My mind joined with the water, enjoying the ride. My eyes found my brain again to convey that the water had made a slide on top of rocks that were colored a deep celadon. I got onto the slide and felt the cold mountain stream seep into my clothes, while realizing that the stone below me was slippery. It was like the mountain made this slide in hopes that a little girl would one day find it, taking as much pleasure out of riding it as the mountain took in making it. I called my dad over and he got on the slide behind me. Dad’s heaviness slowed us as we let the water carry us around hairpin bends. Our line of sight was filled with evergreens and our skinny slide unraveling in front of us as we went. We rounded a corner and the world opened. We only glimpsed our surroundings before we were dropped off a small waterfall into a perfectly round, deep and clear pool. We splashed in the first water we had felt on our bodies for over two weeks. We explored our new luxury and tried to swim to the bottom to no avail. The trees towered over us, letting in a ring of light which beamed down to warm the cool water.

As our stomachs started rumbling, we made our way to the gravel shore. There we found a very large cleared area surrounded by trees, seemingly for privacy from the road. Walking back to the van, we collected minerals that spoke to us so that we could decorate our new home, and then we drove our blue whale to the clearing. We sat in front of the water and talked about our new living arrangement, our water feature, garden of crystals and our towering fence of dark green trees. The water was so clear that the minerals at its depths reflected light green throughout the pool. I dipped my hands into the water and cupped some to my face, noticing that the water really was completely clear.

We spent our days swimming and exploring the limestone slides that ran through our new home. I thought of it as heaven, surreal, and the place I wanted to stay forever. This oasis made itself known to us, like a gift meant only for our eyes. After our food ran out and foraging was not working any longer, we promised the land that we would return and continue our friendship.

Once we got back down the mountain our Eden was lost to us. We have speculated where to find it again since then, but those are speculations and the roads we used to get there were not safe over twenty years ago. Although the place is lost to me, I feel it inside still. It echoes the love, pleasure, and joy I have felt through my life. That clear, perfect water holds my best memories with my best friend. The minerals scattered through that place hold a picture of the most grateful people that have had the chance to behold their geometric lacing. 

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Meet the Snoozle Womps: A children’s story I’ve been working on

by dawning on / Art, Writing

Meet the Snoozle Womps

by Dawning McGinnis


On a planet named Crystalline,

there is a mountain that has stood the test of time.

The mountain is covered with crystals,

and everyone on the planet can see them like signals.

Down the mountain a creek flows,

and Quartz is the name that the villager’s know.

Quartz Creek has a steady stream,

making the village of Mineralia extremely pristine.

In their small village the Snoozle Womps delight

in finding new ways to use the crystal’s light.

Mineralia has many unique amenities

from all of the Snoozle Womps’ different specialties.

The Snoozle Womps have discovered crystals that have the ability

to do anything from cook their food to create tranquility.

Mineralia runs smoothly

because the Snoozle Womps know their callings resolutely.

For the first time in who knows how long,

a Snoozle Womp who didn’t know his purpose has come along.

Abelard Snoozle attempted to find his true calling

by trying out everybody else’s jobs, as if he was trawling.

None of these jobs made Abelard happy,

so he went to ask advice from his Uncle Mapsy.

Mapsy lives high up the mountain as a cartographer,

and every time Abelard goes to his house the trip gets rougher.

Abelard doesn’t have to explain the reason for his visit,

the turmoil he has been going through is implicit.

Mapsy had no advice for Abelard so instead he told him what he sees

when he watches Abelard from high above Mineralia’s idiosyncrasies.

“I see you try all kinds of things that bring you nothing but havoc,

although, I can easily say the thing you enjoy the most is your stomach.”

“I do love to look at my stomach” Abelard exclaimed,

“I feel like if I look hard enough the secrets of our world will be explained.”

Abelard went back home with new pride

knowing that his true calling had been identified.

Abelard now spent his time staring at his stomach and performing experiments

which led him to an amazing discovery and his utter merriment.

The news of Abelard’s breakthrough traveled fast

But soon all of the Snoozle Womps’ expectations would be surpassed

Abelard prepared a presentation that made him feel sublime,

and chose to share his findings at dinnertime.

The Snoozle Womps gathered together for a feast,

and as they waited for Abelard their anticipation increased.

The smell of the feast was more than tempting

though nobody was eating due to the presenting.

Finally Abelard declared with certainty

that he knows the reason for the Snoozle Womps’ internal luminosity.

A demonstration had everyone convinced

there must be a reason the Snoozle Womps and the crystals coexist.

The Snoozle Womps have lived in Mineralia for how long, nobody knows.

But, the light that is in the crystals makes the Snoozle Womps’ bellies glow.

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Sandcastle Christmas Tree: A Short Story About A Girl and Her Dad

by dawning on / Writing

Sandcastle Christmas Tree

by Dawning McGinnis


I woke up early, not because I was used to the three-hour time difference, but because it was starting to get warm in our van and the beach was calling to me. In my short thirteen years of life I had never spent Christmas morning on a Florida beach. I was born in a small Oregon coastal town, so spending a memorable holiday on the opposite coast was special to me. I quietly crawled out of my bunk bed in the back of our van and slid over my dad who was still asleep in his bed that stepped up to mine. I tried to open the steel door that separated our sleeping area from the cab of our old 1968 Chevy Step Van as quietly as possible, but the noise and the light from outside still woke Dad up. In his groggiest voice he croaked, “Who’s going where?” and flung his arm over his head while letting his fingers dangle in his eyes. His mustache was a sight, styled after Fu Manchu and messy from sleeping. I told him I was going to the beach and he woke up more, so I waited for him.

I sat in the captain’s chair driver’s seat, the only seat in the van, and looked out the two giant four foot square pieces of glass that were the windshield. We had camped under the bright green leaves of a rare, over-logged, West Indian Mahogany tree, where we could see the calm waters of the Atlantic wash up on Long Key’s beach. The sand looked intensely white, while the water was an effulgent turquoise where it was shallow, shifting to a slightly darker viridian about one hundred feet from the shore where the water finally got deep. There were Black Mangrove trees that looked like they were floating in the middle of the ocean, but the water was so shallow that their home, fifty feet from the sandy beach, would only have been ankle deep. There were no clouds, and the ocean faded into the sky nearly seamlessly.

Dad was up and out of the van. He went back to the shiny chrome keg filled with fresh water we had on our tailgate to splash his face and to swish his mouth out. I took that opportunity to duck back into the camper part of our van and grab the couple of gifts we had gotten for each other during our trip that started in Orlando and brought us the long way, through Tampa, to the Keys. Nothing was wrapped, but we didn’t care about things like that. After gathering the gifts I went down to the beach.

The warm sand was welcoming and I plopped down on my knees, put the gifts to the side and started to gather sand together in a pile. The sand was dry, not at all the right kind of sand to build a sandcastle Christmas tree with, but I had no bucket to get water to wet the sand and I never thought of even doing that anyway. I just pushed sand together and watched it sift through my fingers and fall off of the pile that I was making. I knew my tree was going to be more of a crumbling pyramid, but I kept piling the sand and digging it away from the base to give the effect of a tree. Dad found me as I was finishing and sat down beside me with a thud that pushed the dry loose sand up between us. He put his darkly tanned bare arm around me and squeezed me close. I could feel the cold water that had not dried from his face against my forehead and it felt good. It wasn’t hot out, but it was seventy degrees with Florida humidity and only a little after nine in the morning.

We held each other and enjoyed the view. Talking about the waves that we caught in Miami made us decide to get up and take a stroll in the shallow clear water that gently swayed in front of us. There were no waves here, as if the ocean found a quiet place to take a break. For several minutes we walked away from the shore and from the van we called home, our gifts left on the beach in a small moat around my attempt at a sandcastle Christmas tree. We splashed each other, and Dad talked about being a teenager in Florida. He loved to talk about how he was a greaser from Portland who moved to Florida and became a surfer, but eventually the conversation would turn to his female classmates and their tight mohair sweaters that he appreciated, maybe too much. My long-winded dad could talk for hours about pretty girls, waves, and his exploits with his long since deceased cousin. After a while of walking we realized that we were at least a football field away from the shore so we decided to go back to our gifts and where our ingredients for breakfast lived. The water had only gotten as high as our calves, so on our walk back to shore we laughed and talked about how we could maybe walk the entire 215 miles to the Bahamas without the water going over our heads. This would be far from possible, but it was always fun to talk about the impossible with my dad.

We got back to our gifts; the sandcastle tree that I built looked much more like a hole with gifts leaning up against a mound in the middle than it had before our walk. Nothing had changed, but my creation looked much less like what I had envisioned it to be after leaving it for a while. My dad only saw beauty though, so I chose to as well. I handed Dad a gift; a cheap plastic fishnet Christmas stocking-shaped bag of candy. It wasn’t filled with what I would have called good candy, but it was full of the candies that my dad liked: black licorice and hard butter scotch; it was perfect for him. He was so cute when he held up the stocking from its cardboard top that was stapled onto the plastic fishnet. My dad’s long hair, with a 1950’s pomade slick in the front and long hair to his shoulders in the back, lit up with the sun and he gave me a goofy grin just in time for a picture. His hair cut, just like his facial hair, had a style all to its own and both stood out and somehow fit into the culture of the 1990s. Above all it reflected my dad’s quirky personality. I hold that picture while I write this and smile back at the immortalized version of my favorite man, feeling the warmth and love that we shared that day.

Next I opened a small brown paper bag that had a piece of tape on the rolled top holding it closed. Prying the tape off and un-crinkling the paper I remembered what was inside. When we were traveling out of Orlando heading for Tampa, it got late and we were passing through a town called Kissimmee. The town was electrified with lights and people; a giant marquee sign with at least a thousand light bulbs that said “Old Town” in front of a Ferris wheel beckoned us toward it. The decorative street lamps were a convincing re-creation of the old gas lamps with tungsten filaments from the early 1900s, and they gave off a similar warm glow which made the damp cobblestones reflect an even warmer orange light. The shops were all busy with patrons, and we had caught a glimpse of an arcade area which was exactly what we needed to unwind.

This arcade was different than any I had ever seen before; I had never seen games like these. I went up to a game that said it was a fortune telling machine. It had two copper plates shaped like a left and a right hand; I put seventy-five cents in the machine and placed my hands on the plates. The copper was cold and kind of greasy, but I held my hands steady wanting to know my future. Slowly a printer in the machine started to make noises like a Dot Matrix printer, and eventually a slot about a foot under the right copper plate spit out a thick blue card with holes punched in it. I grabbed the card anxiously to read the fortune for my right hand, and to my dismay I read what sex noises I make in bed (a sonic boom), and what animal I make love like (a snake). I was embarrassed and amused at the same time. I did not wait for the slow and loud printer to finish my left hand; it was time to find my dad. We left the strangest arcade I had been to and went to see what the shops had to offer.

The streets that the shops were on seemed like something out of Venice; small alleys with cobblestone that came to a slight v-shape in the middle for rain drainage, brightly colored flags at shop doors, and warm light pouring from the stores out into the night. The patrons had started clearing out and some shops were closing. We strolled a bit and eventually ducked into one shop that had some handsome natural stones in the window. This shop was also getting ready to close so we took a quick look around the small closet sized room, but I got fixated on a case of rings. My dad came over and asked which one I liked and I pointed at a large oval abalone set on top of a silver band. Dad then scooted me outside and came following a minute later.  I thought he had gotten the ring for me, but I wasn’t sure. As I sat in the sand and opened the small paper bag, I knew he had gotten it. Overjoyed, I slid the ring onto my thumb and gave my dad a big hug.

Florida Xmas 1994 - 1Florida Xmas 1994 - 2


“The Florida Keys Are Made of Limestone.” What Are the Florida Keys Made Of? Web. 03 Nov. 2014. <>.

“Lighting A Revolution: 19th Century Competition.” Lighting A Revolution: 19th Century Competition. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Nov. 2014. <>.

“Native Trees & Shrubs of Florida.” Trees & Shrubs of Florida. Florida’s Nature. Web. 03 Nov. 2014. <>.

“Native Trees and Shrubs of Florida.” Trees and Shrubs of Florida. Florida’s Nature. Web. 2 Nov. 2014.>.

“Orlando International Airport to Key West, FL – Google Maps.” Orlando International Airport to Key West, FL – Google Maps. Google. Web. 05 Nov. 2014.


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