Oceans Writing Contest

Tales of Ocean Animals and Water

During the month of June, the Oceans Writing Contest gave writers of all ages the opportunity to submit an original story for a chance to be published.  The judging committee was comprised of local writers and teachers.  The winners in every age category are presented here and the first place winners are featured in the August issue of the High Country Spotlight. A small printed book will also be available to view at the libraries in August.  Thank you to everyone who participated and congratulations to the winners!

0-K First Place Winner

The Heart
By Cyrus Bowman

There is one jellyfish that is pink and another that is blue. They were in love so much that they married. The pink jellyfish’s favorite color was blue and the blue jellyfish’s favorite was pink. There was a black, mean shark. The jellyfish stung him. He got scared and swam away. Suddenly an octopus came from above. The octopus hugged them and they got stuck on his suction cups. They had to swim backwards to get off. Then the octopus’ friends came. There were a bunch of leaves had got ripped and sunk. The octopuses and the jellyfish ate them.

0-K Second Place Winner

Bigger Than Me
By Tate Todd

“Blue Water
cold and wet”
Up and down and overhead
“Biggest fish”
Are you frightened?
“No! Grandpa’s here!”

1st-3rd Grade First Place Winner

Making New Friends
By Evelyn Johnson

Once upon a time, there was a dolphin named Dely.  One morning, she saw a school of fish.  She was about to go in and get her breakfast from the school of fish, but then she saw a whale eating krill.  She saw how the krill swam away from the whale in fear and didn’t want to hurt the fish anymore.  So she went to eat some sea-grass instead.  When she went home to tell her family about her day, her parents were very disappointed to hear that she saw a school of fish and didn’t bring any home!

The next day, Dely saw the school of fish again.  One of the fish swam over to her and said, “Do you want to be my friend? My name is Facts.”

Dely excitedly squealed, “Yes!”  For the first time, Dely had made a friend that wasn’t a dolphin!  The two new friends asked questions to each other for hours! Dely almost wasn’t home on time.  When she got home, she didn’t talk to her parents about making a new friend because she had gotten in trouble the day before.

Dely was so excited to meet up with her new friend again!  On her way to find Facts she ran into the whale that she saw eating krill a few days before.  She said, “I’m sorry!  I was just going to meet up with my new friend Facts.”

The whale replied, “Oh well, don’t mind me.  I’m just going to catch some food.”

Dely was about to leave, but then she turned around and said to the whale, “Do you want to be my friend, too?”

The whale said, “Yes!  My name is Little Whale.  Can I come with you to meet your friend Facts?!”

“Of course!” said Dely.  The three friends got to know each other by asking so many questions.  They finally all went to their own homes.  It was so late.

Dely’s parents asked where she had been.  She wanted to lie, but decided to tell them the truth.  She was surprised ant their reactions that they were happy for her to have made new friends.  She learned that she didn’t need to hide who she truly was from her parents and that friends come in all different shapes and sizes!

The End

1st-3rd Grade Second Place Winner

Puffer the Puffer Fish
By Declan Burr

Puffer the Puffer fish loves swimming and LOVES surprising people. He really wants to make a friend.  He found a sea horse and he said, “do you want to be my friend?” and the seahorse said, “no… because you pop out spikes.” So, Puffer went on to find a different friend. Then he found an electric eel. Puffer asked, “do you want to be my friend?” and the electric eel went *ZAP! * (which means “no” in eel.) The puffer fish moved on. He went down and down deep in the ocean. Puffer ran into an octopus! Puffer asked, “do you want to be my friend?” The octopus just squirted a bunch of ink and swam away. Then the puffer fish ran into another puffer fish! Puffer said, “My name is Puffer, what is your name?” and the other puffer fish said, “My name is Puffy!” they both puffed up and said at the same time, “Do you want to be my friend?” Then they laughed and played together.

The End

4th-6th Grade First Place Winner

The Great Mer-Hunt
By Ian Morris

One day on Drache, the mer-people of Saltsrire found that they had little food to spare, so the king, Duncan, decided to have a great hunt.
“Ready all the hunters in the city, and bring them to me,” he told his assistant.
“Yes, my lord,” the assistant responded, and he hurried off to do as the king asked.
After many days of swimming aimlessly through the sea, they finally found the looming den of a sea serpent.
“You, Mithrar Cunningplot, take some men around and see if there are other entrances to the cave,” said King Duncan, “And you, Watasha the Quiet, bring some stealthy people to distract the serpent and draw it out into the open.”  In response Mithrar and Watasha nodded and chose several people from the group.  They then went off to undertake their respective tasks, leaving the rest of the men to check their bowstrings and sharpen their tridents.
Later that day, Mithrar returned with news of another entrance.
Because of this, the king said, “Half of you stay here and wait for Watasha.  The rest, come with me.”  They did so, with Duncan leading them after Mithrar.  Coming to the other entrance, the king told his men to draw their swords and tridents.
After a long swim through narrow passages, they came to the dark main cavern of the serpent’s den.  They continued along it until they sighted a massive sea serpent.
“Tridents at the ready,” Duncan commanded, “and follow the snake.”
Back at the main entrance, one of the sentries spotted Watasha and her party rushing out of the cave, followed by the serpent.  “Twang!” “Twang!” “Twang!”  Arrows were loosed, some finding their mark, many clattering against the monster’s scales.
“Charge!” yelled Sam Airswimmer, the commander of the mer-people who stayed behind.  A group of mers lowered their tridents and swam straight towards the serpent.  The serpent lashed out and died, pierced by the tridents of the soldiers.
At that moment Sam said, “Sheath your swords, the snake is dead.”  Then, seeing the king he called, “How shall we carry the meat back to the city?”
“We will cut it into smaller chunks and carry it back,” Duncan told him, and speaking louder said, “Draw your skinning knives.”
All of the army drew their knives and began skinning the beast.
“We will finally have enough food to thrive,” King Duncan shouted victoriously.

4th-6th Grade Second Place Winner

Luca’s Adventure
By Robert Miller

Once upon a time there was a sailfish named Lucas. He lived in the Pacific Ocean and fed on tiny fish including plankton, bluetange, flounder and much more. He really wanted to explore the Arctic Ocean and find his Grandpa. One day he woke up and decided today was the day. He packed some stuff and headed for the Arctic Ocean. On Lucas’s journey he found a shipwreck so he went to explore. When he was at the bottom of the ship, he found a chest and decided to open it. Inside he found an octopus holding gold coins and diamonds. The octopus told Lucas that if he wanted the treasure he had to solve a riddle. The riddle was: what English word has three consecutive double letters? Lucas answered, “a bookkeeper” and the octopus said ‘‘you are correct!’’ Lucas swam around in excitement then he came back to receive the treasure.  Once he got the treasure he said “thank you” and left.

It was a long trip but Lucas made it to the Arctic Ocean. When he got there he met another sailfish named Ellie. They both talked about the adventures they had faced to get there when they noticed a mighty Mosasaurus swimming their way. They both swam to a dark cave to take cover. They were both very scared. Once the Mosasaurus left they swam out into the open and finished their conversation. Ellie mentioned that “the Mosasaurus never comes through the Arctic Ocean and it’s cold blooded, so that does not make any sense!” Something must be going on! Just then, they both saw a shark! It didn’t try to eat them. Lucas and Ellie found out a little later that the fish were coming because there was a huge hole spraying magma into the water, making the water warm. Sea animals can’t live in warm places so Lucas and Ellie swam to the hole and filled it with rocks and sea weeds. When they got back to camp all the fish were throwing a party especially for Lucas and Ellie. That’s when Lucas remembered that the only reason he came here was to see his Grandpa. He searched for hours then finally found him! They both gave each other big big hugs then Lucas, Grandpa and Ellie swam away to find his Grandma in the California Coast.

The End

7th-12th Grade First Place Winner

A Night on the Lake
By David Martinez

The hazy lights of a not-so-distant city bounce off the surface of the water. The humidity hangs in the air, blanketing the shore. The chirping of the crickets is the only noise to pierce the silence. The moon looms over the sky, providing a luminous tint to the lake. The trees sway ever so slightly under the breeze, and the scent of lake water fills the air. A stillness seeps into the air. Time ceases to exist.

Two fishermen occupy this moment. What began as a night full of ambition, and caffeinated beverages, stumbled into a space of true serenity. Fearful of another wasted night, they packed their gear, hopped in the truck and set off for the lake. They had one thing on their mind. Landing monster catfish out of this little, lackluster, barely-a-lake lake. They set up their rods, baited their hooks, selected their spots, and cast their lines with great enthusiasm. After the initial buzz of the night had worn off, they grew frustrated as massive fish had not landed in their hands yet. They were certain that in those conditions, with the bait they had made, they were guaranteed fish. No bites, no fish, and worse, nothing to post on their Instagram pages.

“This was a waste!” thought one of the anglers. As the moon climbed up the night sky, and the stars began to appear it seemed apparent that all of the fish had gone on vacation. Or simply did not exist. Perhaps all of the fish they had seen on social media were doctored, and fish were simply a hoax. As the possession of the humid air slipped from one late night to the next early morning, our young late night adventurers were struck with a realization.

This was the most peace either of them had felt in weeks, maybe even months. The chaotic cyclical process of life had worn down, and desensitized them. Never getting a chance to breathe between exams, games, projects, and jobs had lulled them into a state of mental frenzy that they had accepted as the natural state of living.

This space of pure tranquility had lifted that. All the stress, anxiety and tension flowed out of their bodies and into the morning air. Their hooks sat in the water, untouched by any fish, much less record breaking lake beasts, but that didn’t matter. The crisp morning air, and the air inside their lungs became the same.

As they packed their headlamps, snacks, and gathered any trash they left behind. They took one last look out onto the water. While the lingering hope of an earth shattering catfish leaping out of the water into the back of their pick up making them world famous anglers stayed in the back of their minds, they got in the truck and drove home with a new appreciation for a night fishing trip.

7th-12th Grade Second Place Winner

Secret
By Andraya Simler

The waves lap against the shore in a gentle motion putting me at ease. The sun softly lowers itself behind the horizon, casting eerie yet soothing shadows down the beach. At the same time, the setting sun’s brilliant light reflects off the ocean’s shimmering surface and the glittering sand that I am sitting on. I dig my bare feet into the soft sand as my eyes droop, the wind whistling a lullaby in my ears.
As my eyes shut completely, my mind explodes in color. Shades of blue, gray and white swirl through my mind before settling into an image of the deepest parts of the ocean.
I float in the midnight blue water; a woman of water appears in front of me. Her hair swirls like underwater currents and whirlpools; her eyes sparkle like the light dancing on the surface of the ocean. Her clothes are made of seafoam with swirls like the crest of a wave. Around her dance the creatures of the sea, her loyal subjects.
She speaks and everything else melts away. Her voice booms as that of a blue whale and is more quiet than a seahorse. She speaks with more power than I have ever heard and has the gentlest tone. It is like listening to everything and nothing all at once.
Her smile and tone  is the kindest that I have ever seen or heard as she says one word, “Thanks.”
I smile in confusion with a simple “You’re welcome?”
She laughs a pure and simple laugh as she replies. “Most don’t care for the sea, but you do. You come every day to swim in my waters and watch as the light dances on the surface.”
“I’m not the only one to do that,” I responded.
“No,” she agrees, “You do so much more. You listen to my song and hear the magic in the waves. Not many can hear my melodies. And above all, you care. Every chance you have you are cleaning the beaches and my domain. So thank you for seeing the beauty in my waves that rise and fall with the tide. Thank you for dancing with light that shines on the surface. Thank you for listening to the songs I sing and raising your head to smell the sea breeze. Above all, thank you for rising to the challenge of making my waters beautiful again.”
With every word she spoke my smile grew and my chest swelled.
“Thank You,” I said, “For being a constant in my life that calms me in my darkest days.”
She smiled shyly before saying, “This is a gift for you and you alone. The life of the ocean is a secret for few to know and cherish, the few that can feel my magic. This is a secret for you alone.”
I awoke with a start wondering if it had been nothing but a dream, only to smile gently at the water as a quiet “thank you,” floated on the breeze.

Adult First Place Winner

An Unexpected Journey
By Sarrah Weaver

Consciousness began. At first there was only blackness. It was cold- no, it was getting warmer. A comforting warmth that swaddled her like a blanket. Vague, unexplainable figures began to become visible. The figures flowed and twisted, bulged and recessed in graceful fluidity. She realized she was the same. Water. The images sharpened. All around her she saw thousands of water droplets, her brothers and sisters, drops of water who had just been born.
Up above a vast, endless expanse of blue stretched indefinitely, only interrupted by a few white wisps of cotton candy-like clouds. Green carpet covered the ground on either side. She and all the other drops were being pulled rapidly by one another, tumbling and tossing through a long, shallow chasm in the earth.
“A river,” she recognized, “My siblings and I are part of a river.”
But just as soon as the little water droplet had met her family, a fork in the fluvial group approached all too swiftly. Before she knew it the looming mound of mud and roots split her from her family as a knife drives through soft butter.
Then gravity did its work as the droplet was flung downward with surprising force. Suddenly light fled and a cold steel, cylindrical prison replaced the dirt and grass that had once been at her sides. The drop was pushed, tossed, and slammed against the metal as she was spewed further into its dreary depths.
As instantly as it had come, the steel confines disappeared and she collided with something round and fuzzy, a peach. She clung to it for dear life. A creature towered above the water drop looking down into the white, rectangular structure she seemed to be ensnared in, and a giant extremity nearly knocked her off as it swiped across the fruit.
Then came the slicer. A deadly, shiny silver blade that dissected the fruit. All she could do was pray it didn’t come near her. When the cutting stopped, the water drop and fruit pieces were gripped by the creature and hurled into yet another prison, this one of plastic.
Then into a chilled, dark, dead place. Time ticked away. Nothing moved here. The water drop too, became so cold that she lost all fluidity and became paralyzed, not only in form but in fear.
Then, light! Light at last! It poured into the cold corner in which the frozen drop lay. The enormous creature clamored towards her and gripped the drop’s plastic cage. It dumped her and the peach slices into a new metal pit. The instant the water hit the bottom she heard an ear-screeching sizzle and felt a shocking bolt of heat that within seconds returned her mobility.
Before long it became so hot that a strange transformation occurred and she suddenly was floating in the air. She could fly! Although it seemed as if she wasn’t a drop anymore, but a wisp of hot, ghost-like fog. A wind caused by rotating blades high above pushed her through a window where a greater wind propelled her high, high into the sky, up into the clouds.
It was colder up here. She was becoming heavier by the minute. The land below her fled by quickly. Then she saw it. A river. Her river, her family! She tried to break free of the cloud, but was still too light. The river was almost behind her.
“No!” She shouted. Finally, shaking with all her might, the drop broke free! Down to her river she fell, ready to be reunited with her brothers and sisters of the river once again.

Adult Second Place Winner

Without Regret
By Nina Clouse

I stood at the edge of the Pacific, in not a particularly picturesque place: a harbor about a two hour walk from the airport in San Diego. I was already abandoning items I had thought would be important to take with me, like extra changes of clothes or jewelry… Just like I had officially abandoned my life this morning—a “plan” I had developed over the month. I had donated all my worldly possessions, rehomed my animals, quit my job and bought a backpack and a sleeping bag, not knowing the steps I would take after getting off the plane. Not knowing this was a calling of the Dharma Bums. I just left. But I was aimless in this untethered freedom.
Contemplating the motivation to leave the world as I knew it, I walked, one foot in front of the other. Walking is just the repeated action of allowing ourselves to fall and then raising ourselves back up again, one foot at a time, to move ourselves forward.
I had spent the years since graduating high school going through the motions I thought we’re supposed to go through: relationship, jobs, college, applying for mortgages, life insurance. I was at odds with the daily grind of meeting the American Dream. I felt empty surrounded by the dull comfort of unfulfilling security. I often looked out from my apartment balcony and longed to jump from it and run away. This life was not meant for me. I knew that.
I had the strong draw to the ocean, to simplifying my life and finding out what is important in the world. Why was I here in this body and place and time? I had no answers. I was seeking.
I got off the plane and was greeted by the soft touch of sunshine which is characteristic of the lower elevations. I smiled into the humid warmth of the southern coast.
And I had nowhere to be.
So, I walked, heading to water, searching for a beach. Here, I experienced the nonduality of change. I was elated by novelty and anxious of how this could all unfold poorly. I wanted freedom and was overwhelmed by choice. A part of me wanted to turn around and board the plane back to the life I couldn’t stand. The fear of change and risk was creeping into my limbs… which brought me to the edge of the ocean.
This wasn’t a beach, but I had been walking for hours and needed to stop and think about what it was I was actually trying to accomplish here. The water was clean enough—unlike the Jersey shore I had visited as a child. I watched the waves inhale and exhale against the harbor. I listened to the chatter of humans, all living in their own worlds and facing their own conflicts of domesticity versus wildness (or maybe they didn’t have that).
I considered the risks of this chosen step away from the conventional. In the worst case, I could find out there is nothing fulfilling or meaningful, I am built for the mundane, and life is just something to get through. Then I would return back to the ordinary, head hung, and surrender to repeating my life from before.
But in the best case, there are glorious oceans of nonlinear possibilities.
I threw my backpack to the ground and took some large steps backwards. Taking a deep breath in, I ran forward at full speed. I jumped, raising my body from the ground and falling, plunging, without regret, into the cold, salty water of my new existence.