Descriptive Writing Assignment

What place is important to you? Can you describe it to another person in English?

All the Places to Love

by Patricia MacLachlan.

On the day I was born,
My grandmother wrapped me in a blanket
made from the wool of her sheep.

She held me up in the open window
So that what I heard first was the wind;
What I saw first were all the places to love:
The valley,
The river falling down over rocks.
The hilltop where the blueberries grew.

My grandfather was painting the barn
And when he saw me, he cried.
He carved my name – ELI –
On a rafter beside his name
And Grandmother’s name
And the names of my papa and mama.

Mama carried me on her shoulders before I could walk,
Through the meadows and hay fields.
The cows watched us and the sheep scattered
The dogs ran ahead looking back with sly smiles.
When the grass was high,
Only their tails showed.

When I was older, Papa and I plowed the fields
“Where else is the soil so sweet,” he said.
Once Papa and I lay down in the field holding hands
And the birds surrounded us,
Raucous black grackles, redwings,
Crows in the dirt that swaggered like pirates.
When we left, Papa put a handful of dirt in his pocket.
I did too.

My grandmother loved the river best
of all the places to love.
“That sound like a whisper,” she said.
Gathering in pools
Where the trout flashed like jewels in the sunlight,
Grandmother sailed little bark boats downriver to me
With messages
“I love you, Eli,” one said.

We jumped from rock to rock to rock
Across the river to where the woods began.
Where bunchberry grew under the pine-needle path.
And trillium bloomed.
Under the beech tree was a soft rounded bed where a deer had slept.
The bed was warm when I touched it.

When spring rains came and the meadow turned to marsh,
Cattails stood like guards, and killdeers called.
Ducks rested by marsh marigolds,
And the old turtle—his shell all worn—
No matter how slow,
Still surprised me.

Sometimes we climbed to the place Mama loved best,
With our blueberry buckets and a chair for my grandmother:
To the blueberry barren where no trees grew—
The sky an arm’s length away;
Where march hawks skimmed over the land,
And bears came to eat fruit.
And wild turkeys left footprints for us to find.
Like messages.
“Where else,” said my mama, “can I see the sun rise on one side
And set on the other?”

My grandfather’s barn is sweet-smelling and dark and cool;
Leather harnesses hang like paintings agains old wood;
And hay dust floats like gold in the air.
Grandfather once lived in the city,
And once he lived by the sea;
But the barn is the place he loves most.
“Where else,” he says, “can the soft sound of cows chewing
Make all the difference in the world?”

Today we wait, him sitting on a wooden-slat chair
And me on the hay.
Until, much later, my grandmother holds up a small bundle in the open window,
Wrapped in a blanket made from the wool of her sheep.
And my grandfather cries.

Together
We carve the name – SYLVIE – in the rafter
Beside the names of Grandfather and Grandmother
And my mama and papa,
And me.

My sister is born.

Someday I might live in the city,
Someday I might live by the sea.
But soon I will carry Sylvie on my shoulders through the fields.
I will send her messages downriver in small boats;
And I will watch her at the top of the hill.
Trying to touch the sky.
I will show her my favorite place, the marsh,
Where ducklings follow their mother
Like tiny tumbles of leaves.

All the places to love are here, I’ll tell her
no matter where you may live.
“Where else,” I will say, “does an old turtle crossing the path
Make all the difference in the world?”

A Descriptive Essay

Write about  250 words about a place that is important to you. Focus on details and meaning. The goal is to help the reader experience the place as real. The key is in sensory details.

In most “Academic Writing,” the style is formal and non-personal. But in this kind of writing, it is natural and acceptable to use the “familiar voice,” in other words, you may use “I.”

Due next week. Bring 2 printed copies. Email file to me at: davey.leslie@gmail.com

Step one: Visualization

Step two: Note taking

  • List things that you see:
  • List things that you hear:
  • List things that you feel:
  • List things that you smell:
  • List things that you taste:

Step three: Organize your notes into a beginning, middle and end. Make sure you include the reasons why this place is important or loved by you.

Resources

Teaching Descriptive Writing through Visualization and the Five Senses Katherine Carter

They Have to See It to Write It: Visualization and the Reading-Writing Connection Elizabeth Dinkins