Winter 2017: "Your Sacred Place" Literary Gems

We received many outstanding essays for the Winter 2017 Writing Competition. Though not every participant can win the contest, we'd like to share some excerpts that caught our eye.

LaDonna Bravebull Allard at Sacred Stones camp along the banks of the Cannonball River. Photo by Kat Eng.

I hope someone can hear the secrets of the ocean and can leave the house at 3 a.m. with curiosity and courage in their wild heart and run along the shoreline celebrating solstices and finding the constellations under a beautiful and wise moon.
—Emily Smith, grade 8, Ridge and Valley Charter School, Blairstown, N.J.


I sit down at my drum set. I forget anything that happened before the present moment. A long day of relentless work and a week full of worrying wash away in a rhythmic river of stomping, swinging, and crashing... It’s the only place I can hit back.
—Carl Ward, grade 11, Mount Madonna School, Watsonville, Calif.


The David H. Koch Theater was my Holy Grail, my gold medal, my Lombardi trophy. I saw George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker there when I was 5 years old. As soon as I walked in the lobby, I was mesmerized, the marble walls and floor took my breath away. “This is beautiful,” I told my mom. Inside, the theater had four balconies and a spherical crystal chandelier in the center of the ceiling. As soon as the yellow velvet curtain went up, I moved to the front of my red seat and stayed there for the entire show. The best part about it was all of the men and boys. In my ballet school, there were two boys total. The show redefined ballet for me. I realized that night that ballet was manly and exciting. I saw the jumps and turns and noticed the joy the men had. I turned to my mom and pointed, “I want to be in that Nutcracker.”
—Micah S. Kittay, grade 7, Ethical Culture Fieldston School, Bronx, N.Y.


This world revolves around power, ripping it away from others and injecting it into their veins. As the arms of a brutally powerful man get stronger, those who are passionate about what they love rise right alongside him.
—Gabrielle Frulla, Western Connecticut State University, Danbury, Conn.


When I ride my horse, I let all my worries away in the click of my heels, I feel the wind start to whip through my hair, and I am soaring like an eagle.
—Daniel Richardson, grade 8, Crest Academy, Salida, Colo.

It seems shameful to just erase this group’s ties to this land so a pipeline can be built. I wonder what the US government would do if the same thing were proposed to happen to historic sites in Washington D.C. or historic sites of the American Revolution.
—Corinne Emanuel, grade 7, Saint Agnes Academy, Memphis, Tenn.


Now, having been there and stood where thousands of the fiercest kings have stood and having felt the presence of the faerie buried deep beneath the ground in hiding, the idea of a highway feels so wrong. I feel as though the hill itself would thrash and break free of the cement bindings.
—Tara H. Ching, grade 12, Mount Madonna School, Watsonville, Calif.

The traditional dishes of plantain and tamales with a side of beans or rice, the expectations set onto a person the second they are introduced to the world, and the intolerable heat and warm breezes of the beach are things that describe being Salvadoreño to me.
—Walter Cruz, grade 10, Capital City Public Charter School, Washington, D.C.


I can vividly picture everything backstage. Bobby pins scattered across the floor, makeup wipes all over the dressers, hazy mirrors from all the hairspray, people reciting lines, singing the songs before we go on stage, and going over last-minute choreography.
—Phoebe Olson, grade 8, Natomas Charter School, Sacramento, Calif.


This park is where I had my first kiss, where I sat under a bridge looking out at the river, and discussing what future two teens may have in this world. It’s where I asked her to be mine and where she said yes.
—Victoria Stewart, Lane Community College, Eugene, Ore.


"Floating out over the reef that lies beneath me, seeing the smooth water form into a sensational gliding mountain, feeling the misty splashes of water on my face from the wind passing by, smelling the fresh bluish green liquid dancing beneath me, tasting the salty coolness running through my mouth and gliding between my teeth---all these things are what create the magic of the ocean, the magic of surfing. Everyone needs their tunnel, and I found mine."

—Brigg Busenhart, grade 11, Mount Madonna School, Watsonville, Calif.


I encourage all that have the chance to fight for what they love because not having the chance to fight is much worse.
—Kasey Dunmire, grade 8, Columbus City Preparatory School for Girls, Columbus, Ohio


I’ve been living in a trailer park for about 11 years now and it’s been the best thing that has ever happened to me because I get to meet all the people that live in a trailer next to me and you get to be with them a lot.
—José Barrera, grade 9, Aspire College Preparatory Academy, Richmond, Calif.


At Pride, the streets are filled with people. Floats with dancing firemen throw candy to the crowd, only to be bested by a group of topless women. My old church even had a truck with tambourine players and my family, who shouted “We love you!” to the haters who shouted over loudspeakers, “Jesus hates you!” That was awful. But hope shines through any darkness: people in angel costumes stepped in front of them, blocking out the hate and spew of terrible with large wings.
Katherine Rosinski, grade 7, The Museum School of Avondale Estates, Avondale Estates, Ga.


Life for me started amidst cigarette smoke and unconditional love.
Callie Considine, grade 10, Halstead High School, Halstead, Kan.


I know the foggy mornings with sea salt hair and sandy feet. I can recognize the smell of low tide and coconut surf wax, of weed and breakfast burritos. I’ve memorized the sound of waves meeting the sand and seagulls dipping down to the water for lunch. The feeling of the frigid cold water has mapped itself in my skin.
—Izabella Thomas, grade 12, Mount Madonna School, Watsonville, Calif.


The streets are dusty, and dogs wander around, their mouths hanging wide open, scavenging for bits of food. During the summer, in the driest time of year, piles of ash and burnt branches dot the landscape, letting out puffs of black dust and a satisfying crunch when you step on them… I love every bit of that place, even the empty cans and candy wrappers in the corners, mingling with old, golden memories.
—Isabella Ramos, grade 7, Ethical Culture Fieldston School, Bronx, N.Y.

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