Returning to a place where we have once lived or been before (a childhood home, our old school, perhaps the suburb where our grandparents used to live) allows us to see with fresh eyes. By coming back (after being away), we are often able to make sense of our relationship to a place much more clearly than we could have if we had never left in the first place.
- Read the example below by Daniel Alarcon (and our own Emily Reeves' beautiful piece here).
- Imagine returning to a familiar place after a long period away.
- Write a description that situates your reader in this particular location, utilizing specific imagery and evoking a mood through your choice of details. Alarcon's description of a "woman and her child strolling along the highway with no clear destination," for example, suggests a sense of desperation—an undercurrent of emotion without naming it directly.
Situation: A father and son drive back to their hometown after many years away.
A few hours south of the capital, the painted slums thinned, and our conversation did too, and we took in the desolate landscape with appreciative silence. Everything was dry: the silt-covered road, the dirty white sand dunes, somehow even the ocean. Every few kilometers there rose out of this moonscape a billboard for soda or beer or suntan lotion, its colors faded since the previous summer, edges unglued and flapping in the wind. This was years ago, before the beaches were transformed into private residences for the wealthy, before the ocean was fenced off and the highway pushed back, away from the land’s edge. Back then, the coast survived in a state of neglect, and one might pass the occasional fishing village, or a filling station, or a rusting pyramid of oil drums stacked by the side of the road; a hitchhiker, perhaps a laborer, or a woman and her child strolling along the highway with no clear destination. But mostly you passed nothing at all. The monotonous landscape gave you a sense of peace, all the more because it came so soon after the city had ended.