Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tut, Tut

I apologize greatly for my lack of blog updates, and I will apologize in advance for any typos- my keyboard tends to skip certain letters. I also apologize that this post will not contain any though provoking topics or essays on transcendentalism (although most of you probably won't mind the absence of the latter).

What I will share is my most recent obsession with A. A. Milne, who wrote the famed Winnie-the-Pooh tales and poems. His writing is absolutely marvelous. For childrens books, the Winnie-the-Pooh books consist of some of the best literature I have ever read. Currently, I have a copy of the 'Complete Tales and Poems of Winnie-the-Pooh' sitting beside me, tempting me with its beautiful words. I am seriously considering pushing the idea of studying A. A. Milne in our AP Literature class (we are already petitioning the study of Dr Seuss, who is another one of my favorite authors). Milne's writing is so captivating that I even felt compelled to read the foreward, which I don't normally do (yes, shame on me- I apologize again to Literature teachers of the past and present) and read his short bigraphy that precedes the story.

What I quite enjoy about Milne's stories is how he can captivate four year olds as well as adults. I read one of the chapters in my book to my youngest sister today (Chapter Five, In Which Piglet Meets A Heffalump) and I was amazed at how the same story that was holding that spunky, can't-sit-still child's attention was continuing to fascinate me with the outstanding writing techniques.

My suggestion? Find a copy of the originial Winnie-the-Pooh stories (preferably an old one, they smell the best)- none of those 'Pooh's First Halloween' rip offs that they sell in the dollar stores- that is most certainly not literature- and read it. Read the whole thing. Hopefully it will awaken the inner child in you, and those faint memories of 'tut, tut, looks like rain.'

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Like the Wind

I wrote before about the loss of your imagination, but the loss of your inspiration, well, that is just tragic. Your imagination slowly dies off as you grow older; its a common occurrence. But your inspiration, it can just turn on and off like a light bulb. One minute you have the perfect idea for a story or poem, and the next minute it's gone. For me, inspiration is the thing that keeps me going- the ability to write and express myself is how I deal with things.

The loss of an author's inspiration is commonly masked as 'writers block'. This phrase is tossed around as an excuse for the loss of inspiration. No professional author wants to admit that their inspiration has left them- it could be detrimental to their career.

The great thing about inspiration is, unlike imagination, with a little searching you can normally find it again. It may not be as strong of as influential as it was before, but it is there, waiting to be used. Be careful- inspiration is temperamental and usually has an expiration date. Make sure you never ignore it, because soon you will find yourself with that annoying little disease they call writers block.

Inspiration is like the wind; it comes and goes as it pleases. You can never see it, but you can always feel its soft fingers touching your mind. And with the right tools, you can bend and twist it to make it into a work of true beauty.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Cathedrals, Cherry Blossoms, and Moldy Pudding

It was a gorgeous spring day, maybe around 70 degrees all day but kind of windy. My family and the Webb family decided to go to Washington DC to see the cherry blossom trees. We were all expecting a pleasant day, wandering around the city under a canopy of white blossoms that were showering petals from above. Sounds like heaven right? Too bad that was the exact opposite of what happened. So we decided to all fit into one van, meaning that two people would have to double buckle, and of course I was crammed in the backseat with the three youngest girls.

Our van had a built in DVD player so I assumed I would be able to have a peaceful drive. Boy, was I wrong. At first everyone was quiet and content with watching who knows what movie. Soon the youngest girls were complaining that they were hungry. It was 10 o’clock. After they were satisfied with chocolate, I entertained myself with my sister’s Nintendo DS. By the time we were actually in the city my brain was fried. Anyway, that whole time our GPS was yelling at us for not listening to its directions. We finally approached our first destination- the zoo. Too bad for us the zoo parking lot was COMPLETELY full- I didn’t even know that was possible! So forget that idea.

After about another 30 minutes of looking for a parking spot, we decided to go and see the National Cathedral. At this point we all had to go to the bathroom. Badly. So we conveniently found a spot right smack in front of the cathedral and only have to walk a few yards to the entrance, which happened to be huge glass doors that must have been cleaned very frequently because I honestly didn’t notice them until I almost ran into one of them. We all filed in, ran to the bathroom as fast as possible, and then walked into the chapel. I seriously felt like I had been taken back in time. The high, open ceilings gave the place an airy feel. Colorful stain glass windows cast multicolored shadows on the columns and floors. Hushed whispers carried through the large room, giving it an eerie feel.

Anyway, there was going to be this organ presentation where some guy was going to actually play the gigantic organ that was housed in the back of the cathedral. As we sat in comfy pews, waiting to be allows into the organ room, Maddie and I got bored and decided to explore.

We wandered into a tunnel on the side of the cathedral that had different stain glass windows depicting scenes from the bible. It was dark, except for the light shining in from the windows. We reached the end of the tunnel and turned back, only to find that our families had disappeared. Apparently they had gone into the huge worship room to see the organ presentation. Maddie and I didn’t want to walk in front of all these people to get to our families so we sat back down where we were before. The organ player was talking on and on about the history of organs and how they were played and stuff like that. Maddie and I were talking the whole time, completely unaware that guy had stopped explaining and had sat down to play.

As soon as he struck the first, and extremely LOUD, chord, we both practically jumped out of our skin!! It sounded like something out of a horror movie! Maddie leaned over and said ‘it’s a good thing we weren’t in the tunnel when he started playing or else I would have screamed and run for my life.’

So after that, since it was around 1 o’clock, we went across the street to the Bishop’s Garden, which had to be the most beautiful place I have ever been in my whole entire life. It was like a combination of Narnia and the Secret Garden. If the cathedral was a different world, this was like being inside a book or something.

We walked in through an old fashioned wooden gate and down a narrow cobblestone path. There was a little rose arbor which must have been gorgeous if the roses were blooming. Maddie and I ate our lunch on a little bench beneath an old and twisted tree branch. Later, we determined that the gate we walked through was the entrance to Narnia.

The moms decided they wanted to go to the very top of the cathedral, which, by the way, can only be achieved if you ride this rickety old elevator up seven floors and it’s going like, faster than I can run, up and down. I thought I might die. Oh, and it doesn’t help that there’s a window in the door so you can see whenever you pass a floor. It was very frightening.

The hallway was very narrow and claustrophobic, but the view was great. Although I was ready to walk down 7 flights of stairs (which were emergency only) rather than ride that death trap back down at 100 mph plummeting to my death…….

We finally went to the zoo, which was overly crowded, smelled like sweaty guys, and had three dollar soda and ice cream bars. The only animals we saw were sleeping lions and overgrown chipmunks… I mean, prairie dogs…

So then we wanted to drive to the cherry blossom trees and take some pictures. We never even got out of the car. I think we spent about two hours driving just to see some trees. About halfway thru the car ride I finished my soda and then really had to go to the bathroom. Like the I’m-gonna-explode-if-we-don’t-find-a-bathroom-in-the-next-5-minutes. But apparently we were nowhere near a bathroom. Oh, joy. The following half hour was quite unpleasant. Everyone was screaming, my mom was losing her mind having to drive through that traffic and on top of on the verge of exploding, I had a massive headache. Not. Fun. At. All.

Finally, we found a parking garage and guess what? No bathrooms. We had to walk down the block (well more like sprint for me) to the nearest bathroom and then the security dude (because it was a bank- I think….) had to show us where they were. I just about died.

Our next adventure was our search for food, which involved dry sandwiches and moldy pudding. I ate crackers for dinner. After we ate our so called ‘dinner’, we walked back to our parking garage, only to find that the entrance we had come out of was locked. And heaven forbid we walk down the ramp else we get hit by all the cars that were just zooming in and out of there. For a minute we thought we had the wrong garage. Thankfully, we found our van thanks to a friendly (or, not so friendly) parking garage guy who pointed us in the right direction. A number of times. So we all climb in and after about 15 minutes of the little girls’ incessant chatter, I was seriously willing to walk home. Or ride a bus or hitchhike or anything to get me out of that van. Yes, it was that bad. Thankfully after a while they settled down and I could think clearly again.
All-in-all it was a pretty good trip, minus the traffic, getting scared out of our pants by an organ, moldy food, and screaming children. I do know for sure that we will not be going back anytime soon.

This was written a while ago (actually, it appeared as a less structured and more grammatically incorrect post on my previous blog), but I remade it for a Rhetoric assignment. I hope this made you laugh.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Battle is Not Ours

Now, I know that I have said that I will never write poetry, because I cannot rhyme. At all. I'll tell you a secret- I wrote the poem 'Liberty' with the help of a rhyming dictionary. But I wanted to try something different last night. After I got back from youth group, I wrote this:

We are all soldiers,
willing to fight for a cause.
Together we make an army.
We all have our position and
no one is left behind.
Each individual is a playing piece
in the greater puzzle of life.
We can stand alone,
but together the picture becomes clear.
We are soldiers.
We thirst for the battle,
eager to fight for our cause.
We want to defend our cause.
We need to protect our cause,
but we are the cause.
We are the reason this battle is being fought.
We try to help, but are helpless.
We are forced to sit and watch;
to sit and ache inside.
We are burning inside.
We watch this battle being fought for us,
and we see him die.
We see him die a heroic death,
die for the cause.
But we are alive.
We grieve for the lost,
we feel the sorrow but pity ourselves.
We cannot see the greater picture.
That heroic death is why we live,
and the way he lives on.
He fights the battle for us,
sacrifices for us.
We want to help, but are helpless.
Each of us wants to deliver the final blow,
but we cannot.
This battle does not belong to us.
We watch, helpless, from the sideline
wshing we were fighting, too.
The final blow.
The enemy falls.
We have won,
and the soldiers live on.

Yes, its poetry- I take back what I said. But it doesn't rhyme, so in my book its not fully poetry. Its free verse. And that's not so bad.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Song of the Grass

Lately in AP Literature, we’ve been studying poetry, specifically poets who were the founders of Transcendentalism; those poets being Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman. We were assigned as a class to read Whitman’s poem ‘Song of Myself’, which is precisely fifty-two stanzas long. It was a tough read, but very good. I would only recommend this to people who are serious about reading and have the ability to focus entirely on the poem without having to lock themselves in a closet.

Then we were each assigned a stanza to analyze and give a presentation for the next day. My stanza, number six, reads as follows:

A child said What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands; How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is any more than he.

I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green stuff woven.

Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord, A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropt, Bearing the owner's name someway in the corners, that we may see and remark, and say Whose?

Or I guess the grass is itself a child, the produced babe of the vegetation.

Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic, And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow zones, Growing among black folks as among white, Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the same, I receive them the same.

And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.

Tenderly will I use you curling grass, It may be you transpire from the breasts of young men, It may be if I had known them I would have loved them, It may be you are from old people, or from offspring taken soon out of their mothers' laps, And here you are the mothers' laps.

This grass is very dark to be from the white heads of old mothers, Darker than the colorless beards of old men, Dark to come from under the faint red roofs of mouths.

O I perceive after all so many uttering tongues, And I perceive they do not come from the roofs of mouths for nothing.

I wish I could translate the hints about the dead young men and women, And the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring taken soon out of their laps.

What do you think has become of the young and old men? And what do you think has become of the women and children?

They are alive and well somewhere, The smallest sprout shows there is really no death, And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait at the end to arrest it, And ceas'd the moment life appear'd.

All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses, And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.

In this stanza, Whitman shows us the thoughts that ran through his mind when presented with the question ‘what is grass?”. At first, Whitman feels incapable of answering the child’s question, but ponders over the idea and comes up with multiple ideas the grass could be. The grass grows everywhere, and under everyone. This shows Whitman’s philosophy that everyone is equal.

The main theme for this stanza is one of the key themes for the whole poem ‘Song of Myself’. Stanza six expresses the theme of reveling in the beauty of nature and feeling the connection to it. This theme reoccurs frequently throughout the poem, as it being one of the major themes of transcendentalism.

Whitman gives us several ‘definitions’ of what he thinks grass represents. In line three, he calls it the ‘flag of my disposition.’ I think he is saying that the grass reflects his personality. He also calls it the ‘handkerchief of the Lord, a scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropped.’ A remembrance is a souvenir, or a memento- something to remember God by. Whitman is saying that the grass is from God, and reminds us of God. Another of his ‘definitions’ is a ‘uniform hieroglyphic’, which means an ‘unvarying symbol that is hard to understand.’ Whitman is literally saying that he actually doesn’t know what the grass is; he can’t figure it out. He is saying it could be a multitude of things. And then there is the ‘uncut hair of graves’… This gives us a definite image in our head, but the meaning and symbol behind this phrase is quite interesting. Whitman uses this phrase to imply that the grass grows off and comes from the dead and buried bodies of men. It acts as a ‘sanctuary’ for the deceased.

I want to point out a few lines that really sum the meaning of this stanza up:

What do you think has become of the young and old men? And what do you think has become of the women and children?
They are alive and well somewhere, The smallest sprout shows there is really no death, And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait at the end to arrest it, And ceas'd the moment life appear'd.

All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses, And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.

In these lines, many different views can be applied while interpreting. For example, you could interpret that those lines are implying that whenever a blade of grass sprouts out of a grave, that dead person just gave it new life. From the transcendental view, there could be the implied idea of reincarnation. The very last line- ‘and to die is different from what anyone supposed, and luckier’ reiterates the reincarnation belief. Or, from a Christian standpoint, we could conclude that it is talking of going to heaven. But since we know that Whitman was a transcendentalist, we also know that the idea of reincarnation is the most probable interpretation of these lines. Also, in one line, Whitman uses the word perceive, which literally means to become aware through the senses. Transcendentalism is all about experiencing nature through the senses, so I don’t think there could have been a clearer portrayal of transcendentalism.

Like the majority of Whitman’s poems, stanza six portrays the connection between man and nature. In this specific stanza, it conveys the transcendental worldview in a more efficient way than some of Whitman’s other poems. It is clearly speaking of grass, which is obviously part of nature. It also has an implied idea of reincarnation, which is another belief of transcendentalists.

What is reincarnation exactly? It is the belief that the soul, upon the death of the body, comes back to earth in another body or form. Technically, transcendentalists believe in the oversoul pool concept. This is their interpretation of life after death. The model of the oversoul pool is a fountain where souls mix at the bottom and are born again at the top. They believe that a piece of soul will conjoin with all the other pieces of soul to form a new soul. This isn’t exactly reincarnation, but it is closely similar.

Stanza six gives us a decent view into Whitman’s mind- it shows us some of his thoughts and opinions, and it also gives us a good view on his transcendental ideas, all portrayed uniquely in his song of the grass.

And I know that this is my writing blog, but as another part of the assignment we had to bring in an artistic representation of our stanza, so I drew this:

Its a bit hard to see, but its a gravestone in a field of grass.