Tuesday, March 17, 2015

HMS honors Natalie Bourassa, National Gold Medal winner

Students across America submitted 255,000 original works during the 2014 program year. We had fourteen state prize winners. Natalie was one of ten students from Maine to achieve national distinction, and one only five gold medalists from our state. Natalie was the only middle schooler from Maine to garner national recognition. Her personal narrative, Deeper, was born in Mr. Simonton's class and crafted with great clarity and beauty. Please enjoy Natalie's piece below.
Natalie Bourassa


A rock, a slimy, filthy stone covered in algae, retrieved from the shallows of the lake rests in my hands. It’s heavy, but I don’t have any trouble holding it as I stare off the edge of my grandparents large motor-boat into the murky depths below. I turn to look at Sam, his blond hair is shimmering as the summer-sun dances upon it. In his hand is a rock much like mine, with mustard algae of its own. He looks at me and smiles, “You ready?” and all I can do is nod.
Sam and I have been going on crazy adventures for as long as I can remember. We’ve done things that most people would think are insane or even idiotic, like walking around a foreign country in the middle of the night without anyone knowing where we were or what we were doing, hiking barefoot through a forest that was infested with poison ivy simply because shoes were too restricting, or tying one another up in long ropes and throwing the other into a lake to see if they could act like Houdini and untie himself. We have never been just cousins, we are the best of friends and with the experiences we have had together, I am ashamed to admit that I am afraid of what we are about to attempt.
We’ve tried to touch the bottom of the lake before, but have never made it all the way to the muddy floor, thirty feet below. There has always been something intimidating about what is unseen, the feeling that something is watching you in the shadows, and lurking from right beyond where your sight ends. So when Sam came up with a way to reach the bottom of the lake I was excited, but I was also secretly very nervous.
Sam takes deep breaths and I follow his lead, starting to hyperventilate. While holding the rock with my right hand, I hold up three fingers on my left to signal our countdown. 
    Three fingers.
    Two fingers.
    Deep breath.
 I am submerged in the caramel colored water; I can feel it seeping through my suit, grabbing my toes, and wrapping itself around every hair on my head. I shift myself to look at Sam. Without goggles there is a haze around his body that makes him look almost two-dimensional, his red boy shorts ballooning around, his hair flowing like a jelly fish around his head. It’s like the water has transformed him into some strange creature from far beyond; in some ways this transformation is more beautiful than ever imagined, as if he has become one with the water. 
Air bubbles that surrounded us after we jumped have now drifted to the surface only to disappear altogether. The weight of the large stones that rests in our hands makes us start to sink more and more quickly. Suddenly the silence  hits me, like a hammer to a nail. It’s as if we are the only things that exist down here, as if we’re the only things that have ever existed. I find almost a comfort in this, like nothing could ever harm me or my good friend that is drifting next to me.    
 Millions of thoughts are going through my head all at once, and as I sift through them, a sense of calm floats over me. My senses become more clear, my thoughts become lighter, and I feel as though I am at more peace than I’ve been in a long time. My eyes start to adjust to the darkness, descending over us and they sting a little from the water surrounding me. I notice that Sam’s blurry head is now turned towards me and I can tell by the white in the general area of his mouth that he is smiling; this makes my heart beat faster, and I smile back while keeping the air that I’m saving inside. This action makes me feel jittery, maybe it’s just from the little oxygen entering my brain, as a result of holding my breath for nearly forty seconds, but I feel like I could do flips if we weren't trying to sink deeper. Then I stick out my tongue and I hear a strange, drowned-out laugh and see his body spasm and shake. I laugh too, letting some precious air escape my lungs.
 I’m smiling hysterically and suddenly, my feet are cold and freezing, the chill is creeping up my body as I sink. I’ve stopped smiling and I can tell Sam has too, by the absence of white on his face. The layer of arctic water is consuming me inch by inch and soon my whole body is consumed. Then, I am standing up to my ankles in a slimy, gooey substance that feels almost indistinguishable from the liquid that covers the rest of my body. Sam is standing in the same liquefied mud and I’m astonished to see him crouch down and sit in it. 
I make a gargled, “waa?” to show my confusion. The muddy bottom is so strange and disgusting, but when he pats the mud next to him I can’t help myself from bending my knees and letting the rock in my grip pull me down those last few inches. Because even though my lungs are burning, even though my ears are bursting, and even though I know that if I let go of this rock right now and swim to the surface I will be greeted by the warmth of the sun, I still sit in this liquid-mud with my best friend and the honest truth is that there is no place I'd rather be.  

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