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The end of the world from a fiction perspective.

19 Dec

I just finished reading Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver, and the basic focus of the novel, the concept of climate change, connects well with the possible end of the world on Friday, according to the Mayans. Here is the synopsis of the novel, according to GoodReads.com:

“Flight Behavior” transfixes from its opening scene, when a young woman’s narrow experience of life is thrown wide with the force of a raging fire. In the lyrical language of her native Appalachia, Barbara Kingsolver bares the rich, tarnished humanity of her novel’s inhabitants and unearths the modern complexities of rural existence. Characters and reader alike are quickly carried beyond familiar territory here, into the unsettled ground of science, faith, and everyday truces between reason and conviction.

Dellarobia Turnbow is a restless farm wife who gave up her own plans when she accidentally became pregnant at seventeen. Now, after a decade of domestic disharmony on a failing farm, she has settled for permanent disappointment but seeks momentary escape through an obsessive flirtation with a younger man. As she hikes up a mountain road behind her house to a secret tryst, she encounters a shocking sight: a silent, forested valley filled with what looks like a lake of fire. She can only understand it as a cautionary miracle, but it sparks a raft of other explanations from scientists, religious leaders, and the media. The bewildering emergency draws rural farmers into unexpected acquaintance with urbane journalists, opportunists, sightseers, and a striking biologist with his own stake in the outcome. As the community lines up to judge the woman and her miracle, Dellarobia confronts her family, her church, her town, and a larger world, in a flight toward truth that could undo all she has ever believed.

“Flight Behavior” takes on one of the most contentious subjects of our time: climate change. With a deft and versatile empathy Kingsolver dissects the motives that drive denial and belief in a precarious world.

Though Flight Behavior wasn’t one of my favorites by Kingsolver and I often felt like I was trudging through most of the novel, it did provide a fictional account of climate change as well as the possible end of the world. Personally, I do not believe the world is going to end on Friday. I know there are many people who either strongly believe the world will end on Friday, strongly don’t or are simply torn on the subject. In my personal opinion, I just don’t feel there is enough concrete evidence to support the end of the world. Yes, people have tried making connections by stretching the importance of certain events, but in my opinion, all of the sporadic events possibly connected to the prospect of the world ending on Friday just don’t add up to a solid reason.

Despite not believing the world is going to end on Friday, Flight Behavior got me thinking about what I would do if I knew the world was going to end within a matter of days, or even hours. My two necessities would be to tell my friends and family how much I love them, and then I’d spend my last few hours of existence sitting at a scenic overlook along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Though I doubt too many people would be able to fully understand the desire to be alone right before the end of existence, I love the mountains and the Blue Ridge Parkway in a way that’s truly hard to describe. I just know that when I am sitting at an overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway, I am the happiest I have ever been. The mountains have always been my favorite kind of landscape, and when I have the chance to simply sit and enjoy their beauty, nothing can beat that feeling of true contentment that I feel. In those moments, it’s as if all the troubles of the world melt away, and the only thing that matters is the natural beauty that is right in front of me. In my restorative yoga class, we talk a lot about striving to reach inner peace, which is also related to the Buddhist philosophy. Through meditation exercises in my restorative yoga class, I’ve gotten glimpses of that “inner peace.” And truthfully, if the world was going to end within a matter of days, I’d be perched at an overlook along the Parkway allowing the natural beauty of the mountains to help me find the pure happiness that I know resides somewhere within each one of us.

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Reflecting on words.

29 Nov

Have you ever come across one of your previous pieces of writing and thought: Did I seriously write that? It’s SO good! That happened to me last night when I came across a blog post I wrote on October the 20th, titled The finding place of my words. As I read my own words, I was amazed. There were certain connections I made on that brisk fall day back in October that still apply to how I feel right now. I don’t know what it is with writers wanting to write about words or the creative process. However, in my case, it provides me with perspective, which is discussed in more detail in my blog post titled, The magic of first lines in literature.

Last Spring, as I was walking across the quad of my college campus to get to class, I had to stop and take in the scene that was unfolding before me. As I looked around, I saw tons of college students sitting on the quad reading. However, as is customary for Asheville, they were all different. Each student’s reading experience was unique. One guy was lying in a hammock he had strung up between two nearby trees, and his book rested lightly against his bent knees. I also saw a girl who was lying on her stomach on a flowery blanket with her bare feet casually in the air. She was holding a book out in front of her, careful to block the sun from her eyes. The third student I spotted was my personal favorite though. She was sitting in the grass with her back up against the trunk of a tree. Her long, dark hair covered the sides of her face, making it possible to only focus on her eyes, which were moving so fast across the pages of her book that I could tell she was a very focused reader. I think the image of the third student stuck with me the most because I could see so much of myself in her. As a reader, especially when it involves a book I am reading for pleasure, it takes a lot to break my focus. Often times, I get so absorbed in the words that I lose the ability to fully comprehend what is going on around me, outside of the world of words that I so often call home.

Though I don’t know whether the students that I observed were reading for their own pleasure or for a class assignment, I like to believe either they were reading something for pleasure or were at least reading something they were interested in. I enjoy sticking to this belief simply because it is very closely related to how I imagine myself when I am reading. In so many ways, words have always been my refuge, but they have also been the place I have returned to again and again if I need to re-evaluate something or find my sense of balance.

“All my life I’ve looked at words as though I were seeing them for the first time.” – Ernest Hemingway

Not all words provide us with the strength to change or the reassurance that we are moving in the right direction in our lives. However, if a series of words can come together into a sentence that causes us to stop and read the sentence again and again, it’s almost like magic. Whether they fill us with a sense of happiness, loss, sadness, anger, loneliness, or hope…words matter. They have the ability to reach a place inside us that not many people can even describe. It’s almost as if the most precious of sentences we have ever read reside in a place so deep within us and so personal that it takes a certain kind of experience for the words to resurface.

“To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it’s about, but the inner music the words make.” – Truman Capote

“One must be drenched in words, literally soaked in them, to have the right ones form themselves into the proper pattern at the right moment.” – Hart Crane

Words matter. They are precious stones that have been washed by the countless waves of the sea, and they lie in the sand, waiting for us to uncover them. But the most precious words, the ones that are the rare deep blue stones, they are not so easy to find. They reside in the crevices of rocks, thrown to those places by the most violent of waves. But they have triumphed. They have overcome the turbulent waves of the sea, taking refuge until we are able to bring them out into the light. So don’t wait. Start searching.

I’ll meet you there.

4 Sep

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.” 

-Rumi

Shooting off in all directions.

30 Aug

I wanted change and excitement and to shoot off in all directions myself, like the colored arrows from a Fourth of July rocket.-Sylvia Plath

Let’s talk about the weather.

14 Aug

When I was in Ireland for my summer study abroad program earlier this summer, I took an Irish language class that met twice a week. I was hoping to learn some Irish phrases so that I could come back to the States and impress my friends and family with some Irish, or maybe an accent. Unfortunately, I came back with neither. However, I did learn one interesting thing: The Irish love to talk about the weather. One of my language professors said that in Ireland it’s typical to spend about 15 or 20 minutes every day just talking about the weather, as if it is as important as something that happened at work or an interesting conversation you overhead while standing in line at the grocery store. I found the importance of the weather as a conversation piece very interesting mainly because that’s not how the topic of weather is viewed in the States.

Here if someone brings up the weather as a conversation topic, they’ve done it for 2 reasons: 1. The conversation is so boring or awkward that they’ve settled for discussing the weather or 2. Something big is happening in terms of the weather (i.e there’s a severe storm coming their way or it’s been unseasonably hot). Normally, I think that if the weather is brought up as something to genuinely discuss, the conversation has already been shot to hell. However, imagine how things would change if we put the same emphasis on the topic of the weather as the Irish do. Though we normally view the topic of the weather as a mundane discussion, taking the time to actually sit down and comment on the weather could help us slow down a little bit. It could give us a break, even a small one, to discuss something that seems as simple as brushing our teeth in the morning. When I was in Ireland, I noticed the slow and overall relaxed nature of the Irish. They don’t rush. If the bus is 15 minutes late, it’s not a big deal. The earliest classes begin at 9am rather than 8am. However, forbid them to go into their favorite pub as soon as they get off work at 5pm, and you’ve got trouble.

I know that if I took a few minutes every day to talk about (or at least observe) the weather, it would be a daily reminder to slow down. Though I know that it is a common saying to “Stop and smell the roses,” how many of us really stop and take the time to notice the little things? Maybe today each one of us could try to connect to our Irish roots (that we may or may not have) so that we can be reminded to take things just a little bit slower.

Walking down the empty streets.

13 Aug

“There is a certain unique and strange delight about walking down an empty street alone. There is an off-focus light cast by the moon, and the streetlights are part of the spotlight apparatus on a bare stage set up for you to walk through. You get a feeling of being listened to, so you talk aloud, softly, to see how it sounds.” – from The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

I don’t know what it is about this quote that resonates with me, but I love it. I think it has something to do with the certain level of contentment that can be achieved through merely being alone. So many people have said that writing is a lonely business to go into. However, what about for those people who enjoy time to themselves to mull over their thoughts? Is it as lonely? Or does it provide a sense of delight that allows you not only to mull over your own thoughts, but to hear how they sound when they’re spoken aloud?

My favorite author, Jodi Picoult, has said that writing is an acceptable form of schizophrenia, and I believe that’s true in certain ways. However, as writers, we don’t view it as a negative thing. All we’re doing is trying to get on the same level as the words we’re writing in order to make sure that we are being as true and honest and authentic as possible. And what’s so crazy about that?

An Emotional Whirlwind.

30 Jul

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.” -Henri J.M. Nouwen

I feel like I’ve been through an emotional whirlwind recently. I had a tough travel day on Thursday (even though I did finally make it home), I came home to find out that one of my dog’s has a tumor, Delta lost my luggage and I didn’t receive it until today, and a limb went through the windshield of my car and it has to be replaced (but thankfully I wasn’t in my car when the limb went through my windshield). For the past few days, it’s felt like nothing has gone my way. It’s almost as if anything that could possibly knock me over has slammed into me with full force.

However, the one thing that I am holding on to is the fact that I get to see my best friend Skidmore on Friday. I’m holding on to that one simple thing with every fiber of my being because if I know that if I give myself even a small chance to stop and think, I’ll just fall apart. Though I know that once I see Skidmore I’ll most likely finally break down, I’m trying to hold it together to some extent until then. Not because I don’t want to appear weak. Far from that, actually. I just know that if I give in to what I’m feeling right now, I’ll just start crying and I won’t be able to stop.

Maybe it’s stress. Maybe it’s the fact that I haven’t seen my friends in what seems like forever. Either way, this feels like the eerie calm before the storm. But waiting to break down until I get to Skidmore’s is exactly what I need. Though the waiting wouldn’t really change much, it would change everything all at the same time. Skidmore is the easiest person in the world for me to talk to, and I know that if I was talking to her through body-heaving sobs, she wouldn’t even say anything. She’d just hug me and wait until I was able to get out what I was feeling. I need that kind of patience, that kind of willingness to listen. For so long, Skidmore has been the one person that I’ve turned to for everything, and even though it’s never a good time to feel like your world has been flipped upside down, I feel like it couldn’t have come at a better time since I’m going up to see Skidmore this weekend anyway for her 21st birthday.

Either way, all of this is hard to grasp right now….especially the weight hanging on the fact that my dog, Roxy, has a tumor. My family put our oldest dog, Max, to sleep at the beginning of this summer, and the fact that Roxy may not be far behind is the most heartbreaking thing I can even imagine right now. I want to cry….and scream…and run…and throw things….and hold on to Roxy for as long as I possibly can. None of this is fair. I understand that losing a pet never is. However, it’s just as if all of this stress has hit me like a bulldozer, and I don’t even know what to feel. So I’m just hanging on for a few more days…hanging on until I can fall apart in the company of my best friend.