Digging for Purpose

By March 20, 2012 Blog 2 Comments

Tonight, as I’m writing this residency application letter, I’m trying my hardest to be eloquent and full of purpose. I want the committee to recognize how deserving I am and not realize that I am also desperate for the quiet breathing space. But instead of focusing on my writing ability and personal qualities, I’m thinking of sand crabs. I grew up in Northern California and this demographic meant weekend trips to the beach. I remember well the long drive through the valley to the coast. I would bring a stack of books and hang my feet out the window to keep cool. When we reached the bay, my parents would unload the car and my sister would race straight to the water. I would weave my way through the beach grass, letting my palms graze each blade, picking up abandoned driftwood and filling my pockets with smooth stones, and shards of broken sand dollars. Eventually, I would shed my clothes and flip-flops, grab my pail, and join my sister in the tide. While she dove under the smooth waves, I sat in the wet sand and dug for sand crabs, which both terrified and delighted me. My father taught my sister and I how to watch for tiny bubbles in the sand after the tide rolled out and how to dig furiously in search of the tiny creatures. He would hold the small crab in his hand for us to examine and laugh as we would cringe and shriek. I wanted so much to be brave. I would anticipate a shiny pail full of the crabs, a trophy of courage, but each time I would uncover the slick shell I would recoil. I couldn’t bring myself to pull it out of its shallow bed. Its delicate body and determined intent paired with my deep fear of anything bug-like kept me from plucking it from the sand, but I dug anyway. I dug until my mother pulled me to the picnic blanket for hunks of sourdough piled with salami and cheese. I dug until my father lured me into the deep waves, pulling me out to the cold and delicious dark water until I cried for my mother. I dug until the fishing boats docked and my sister called me to the car to go home, and even though I’ve moved far from the coast, I’m still digging. Now, I call it writing. Writing is my purpose, my work, but the business of my own writing is like that slick gray shell burrowing away from me into the wet sand. I am an editor, a publisher, and a friend to many brilliant writers. I watch beautiful, shining collections get snatched up and bound. I watch other poets navigate this foreign business land of poetry, and they’re not afraid to hold it in their hands and carry it home in overflowing buckets. I know I must get past this digging. I must recognize that eventually the hole I am in will get too big to climb out of. I think an acceptance to a residency could be a step closer toward this goal. I think the solidarity and space would give me the courage I’ve been seeking for years. If I close my eyes, I can see myself holding a sand crab in my cupped hands. It squirms and crawls the landscape of my salty palm. It’s actually quite delicate, and its claws are much smaller than I remember.

2 Comments

  • Angela says:

    Hi Ms. Lambert,

    I want to let you know what a brilliant writer/poet I think you are how much I love and admire your work. I have shared your work with my family and friends and each time I do, they are just as amazed at the depth of your talent as I am.

    Wishing you much success with your future projects,

    Angela C. Ragosa