“why ask why” — i don’t know

June 30, 2007 at 11:59 pm (Uncategorized)

Okay, so I have to find another book to read. I look through my bookshelf and through boxes and boxes and more boxes, and stumble across a green-looking book of Willa Cather’s The Song of the Lark. I haven’t read anything of Cather’s since the summer began, and maybe I will start it tonight. The last book of hers that I read was The Professor’s House, and I still remember the blue mountains and the curiosity and the wonder of it.                  

I read the preface, written by Cather herself, and I am struck by her words and their connection to my life and to my writing. She describes the character in her story:

“Her human life is made up of exacting engagements and dull business detail, of shifts to evade an idle, gaping world which is determined that no artist shall ever do his best. Her artistic life is the only one in which she is happy, or free, or even real” (I added the italics, of course).

Cather wrote this in 1932, but it could have easily been written today. How wonderful words are these words? I added them to my journal and smiled. I wanted to show someone, but no one would ever understand what I mean (not even my sister), so maybe you will.  

I think to myself, Why do I ask why? Why can’t I just be? I had a conversation with someone about these very questions a few days ago, and he made me see the chains that I constantly live with – why ask why, he says; though I probably will never see this guy again, I later found out that he dropped out of high school and let’s just say he wasn’t the perfect gentlemen, he made me see. How do you know so much? I wanted to say, he seemed to hold so much wisdom, though he didn’t read or even care about school. But I realize all I know, is reflected within my writing – it is the only place where I can truly be who I am. Truly free. There is no one holding me back. There are no walls, no mountains, no nothing, but empty space. There is no one making sympathetic nods or cringing in unease. I don’t want pity, that just makes things far worse – and that’s all I seem to get.

So, is Cather right? Is the only place where one can be free is in their writing? How can one’s “artistic life” be manifested within one’s everyday life? Is it possible to be free in both realms? But then I often think: what is “freedom” anyway. How do we know when we are free?  How do we know when we get there?

So, I think I will have to start the book.  

“Success is never so interesting as struggle” (Cather v). I smile as I read this words, for this is the story of my life.

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To write or not to?

June 27, 2007 at 2:13 am (Uncategorized)

I often wonder if I should just keep my writing to myself – hey, that’s why I wrote my story in the first place. I wrote it because I needed to find someway to express myself, and the more I think about it, the more I realize my story isn’t really a story at all, yes there are characters and themes and symbols, but it is feeling-driven, if that makes any sense, and critiquing it kills me, because everything in there is real – a real feeling, and maybe its just not meant to get anywhere. I don’t know. Maybe it’s just meant for me. Maybe is it’s just a very very long account of my thoughts and feelings. Maybe I should take the advice that I wrote in my novel — writing is for me, and that’s the extent of it. I don’t know where I am going with this, but this is what I feel like. I need to be realistic, and so I am trying to be.  

But then there’s the other part of me, that wants to be heard, and I want people to read my work and connect with it – if I had one wish, that would be it. Connection. Freedom. 

“Who are you?

Are you –Nobody – too?”

— Emily Dickinson

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i don’t know what to entitle this one

June 25, 2007 at 1:26 am (Uncategorized)

I just finished reading Barbara Kingsolver’s The Bean Trees, so I have only maybe five more books to read left on my “Need to Reread AGAIN From High School List.” So that’s good. But the novel was really enlightening, and I can’t think of another word besides that one to help me describe what I mean.            

 The protagonist, who renames herself as Taylor, leaves her small town in the Midwest, in order to find meaning and purpose in her life elsewhere. Sometimes I think I need to do this for myself – I need to explore and seek other realms, I need to try new things and I need to see if I can make it on my own, but I am bound to where I am in so many ways. Apart of me wants to pack my suitcase and just get in my nonexistent car and leave, but the other, weaker part of me knows that I can never do that, I can’t leave the people who gave me life and meaning behind. I just can’t. I will never be able to do that.  

In my story, which I have been revising and rereading, I realize that Paolo, the main character, goes on a similar journey, but more in a mental, emotional, and intellectual way. He exemplifies all that exists within me, all of my thoughts, and you can love him or hate him, but he is me….if that makes any sense at all. I have created a fictionalized character of my own self, I guess you could say that, but it sounds kind of weird, and I don’t really know where any of this is coming from, but it feels good to get it out of my system. My point is this: by reading my work, the reader will know me. You will know me, and human connection will finally be established and Paolo will finally have his wish, his void will finally be fulfilled and he will finally reach the gates of satiety. Maybe that’s what I was aiming for in the end, that all he ever wanted was for someone to know and to understand and to see him.  

So, that’s not where I was going with this at all. But it’s hard to write something as big as my story and not talk about it with anyone. So just listen for a little longer please.

I want to get back to the Bean Trees, so what did I learn? I learned that in Oklahoma, the land is flat and barren and dull, and that there are no mountains, nothing wonderful to see beyond, to see or hope for. I learned that there are ugly things in the world, but human connection can save us all. I also learned that children can save us, with their enduring resilience and courage. Turtle, the abused child that Taylor takes in, has the power to awaken her to power of love and reality and time. I also learned that wisteria plant survives through an underground system of bugs that give it nutrients. What else? St. Christopher is the guardian saint of the refugees. But, all of those thoughts are disconnected and I want to end this post with a thread of connection. So here it is. If I could sum the message of this book in one statement it would be: Love transcends all the ugly in the world and it will keep us alive forever. J   Amen.

“I know it’s been confusing, there’s been a lot of changes in the management. But from here on in I’m your Ma, an that means I love you the most. Forever. Do you understand what that means?

That beans? She looked doubtful.

You and me, we’re sticking together. You’re my Turtle” (225).  

I never imagined that any part of a round earth could be so flat. In Kentucky, you could never see too far, since there were always mountains blocking the other side of your view, and it left you the chance to think something good might be just over the next hill. But out there on that plain it was all laid out right in front of you and no matter how far you looked it didn’t get any better. Oklahoma made me feel there was nothing left to hope for” (12).

What do you think of Kingsolver’s books? Have you read this one? If not, I would recommend it.

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high school?

June 22, 2007 at 2:57 am (Uncategorized)

Yesterday I went to my cousin’s graduation ceremony at the same high school in which I graduated from almost three years ago. Nothing really had changed except for more and more construction.

As I listened to all the speeches and various spokespeople, I realized how little my high school years meant to me. High school is not a time of my life that I would ever dwell upon, and I always dread going back to that school. I was viewed as sweet, quiet girl who worked at the library and had a cute face. But, that was never who I really was, who I wanted to be. Come to think of it, I I never found of any of those things there.

I didn’t feel like I aspired to do much, there was too much competition, and not enough learning. Apart of me wants to go back there or to any high school and teach, and defeat my past, but the other, more valiant part, wants to see what else I can do. That other more courageous part of me doesn’t want to return, solely because I have distanced myself from that world, and why turn back now?

Who would have thought that I would have written a book only three years later?

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ummmm…

June 20, 2007 at 1:25 am (Uncategorized)

I was reading A Street Car Named Desire last week, and in the introduction, Tennessee Williams says something that I will never forget. Read and listen to the ring of these words and see if they strike you in the same way. 

“Security is a kind of death, I think, and it can come to you in a storm of royalty checks beside a kidney shaped pool in Beverly Hills or anywhere at all that is removed from the conditions that made you an artist, if that’s what you are or were intended to be. Ask anyone who has experienced the kind of success I am talking about – what good is it?” 

I thought to myself, wow, how wonderfully is this put? I think that all literature seems to support this very theme — don’t all characters linger between those two realms of existence —  that realm of convention of security and stability, and that distant realm of freedom, of what is unsure and intangible. I think of all the Wharton novels I have read, and cringe.          

I don’t want to say a whole lot here, because I think that this quote speaks for itself. But as I continue to read I am constantly inspired and enlightened by what others have to say about the world we live in. It always gives me the courage to do better, and strive for the things I really want. And the strange part is that I know what that thing is, but I tell no one, because I don’t think anyone will believe me.  

What is security anyway? And why do we cling to it so?

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a happy teacher

June 18, 2007 at 1:31 am (Uncategorized)

            As you have seen, I have been gearing my posts to my own life, instead of the books I am reading, and I think that this is a good thing. What do you think? I find that when I write about my days or a horrible disastrous interview or a simple day at the library — I feel so much better – relieved almost. You probably don’t want to hear consecutive analyses (though they are stellar, right?) pertaining to every book I read, right? I agree with you. Besides that is too much like class, and I want to be as far from that as possible here. Though I just began reading The Bean Trees, which I read freshman year, but I remembered liking it so I am reading it again. I also picked up Kingsolver’s other book — Poisonwood Diaries or something like that? Have you read either?           

Anyway, today, I ended my tutoring sessions, which I was a little sad about. I had been tutoring a senior in high school named Justin since early March, and I am really going to miss him and our talks and our sessions J How do I find these odd jobs, you are probably asking yourself? Well, I put my name in the Tutor Box at the high school in my town, and a few months later, I got a call. I still remember the day that his mother called, in a cry of desperation.                

 “Can you help my son? He’s failing English and he needs to graduate.” Wow! I thought… I am not a miracleworker, lady… But…           

 “Yes. Yes, I think I can,” I said unsure of myself but determined to try.                          

 I don’t understand how this works – I really don’t. Justin is your typical jock, the type of kid that wears a football jacket and Polos and khakis to school. At first, I was kind of intimated by him, since I never, ever fit into that type of crowd when I was in high school, and I don’t ever see myself as fitting in. But, as we sat at the kitchen table near the wonderful bay window, and began to talk, the barriers slowly melted away. I thought, I can do this, maybe I can teach high school, maybe I can…I just feel like too much like one them, I don’t feel old enough to be telling them what to do…Most of the time the tutoring sessions were the highlight of my Sunday’s. Justin was such a good kid and he became my friend.

We ended up having a lot of fun, and he always seemed to open up to me. I imagined myself in my teacher’s office talking and talking and talking in much the same manner and smiled. He always laughed at my stupid jokes, and he would go on and on about this teacher or that teacher. I loved it! Loved it! I was finally the teacher – I usually don’t like to make that distinction, but I will for the sake of this post. I was his teacher and his friend, and I was happy and glad. He looked up to me, he asked me questions about things, and I always glowed and smiled, I could never contain my excitement.                                                           

What a bright kid though. I couldn’t really understand why he was failing, he spoke well, he wrote fairly well – what was the problem here? I think the problem was understanding between teacher and student– this boy didn’t need my help, he was brilliant on his own. But still I was there as the healer almost, he needed someone to listen to him, and to help him get started, and I was that person.Listen to him! I continually shouted internally, listen to him!Why won’t anyone listen? What is wrong with the world?  I have learned that when someone is struggling in the classroom, then it is the teacher’s responsibility to help that student, help him or her – I promised myself that I would never fail anyone— each person has a soul, a mind and a heart, you just have to reach that shining place, and try to make them “see.”         

   In case your wondering, he is graduating on Wednesday! J I will never forget the way he thanked me and the way his eyes lit up in joy, his freckles seemed to dance and jump upon his cheeks—“Thank you, Angela. Thank you.” And it made my heart warm and I wanted to hug him, but I didn’t know if teachers were supposed to do that.            

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whats wrong with her anyway?

June 16, 2007 at 3:17 am (Uncategorized)

So, I was taking my daily walk — I usually try to walk about three and half miles everyday, but today I felt as though I could go on forever. It was my thoughts and my music that pressed me along and filled me with joy. I thought about where my book was headed. How much more of this solitude can I take? I thought.

My mother always stares at me in disbelief, my brother and sisters think I’m insane, and my little sister won’t even look at me. What’s wrong with her, they all ask, and I say nothing and continue to type and think and type. I continue to sit at head of my disastrous dining room table, as I have done for the past 20 years, with my computer and head phones in each ear.

Today is the second day that I have begun revising my piece and I find that time passes so quickly when one is caught within their words! I get so lost and engulfed in the story, and most of the time, I find myself not wanting to return to reality. Is this a bad thing? “Angela!!! Get ready for work!” Yet my mother’s shrill scream is barely audible in comparison to the music blasting in my ears. Work is always fun, but today I was forced to shelve one too many children’s books —ahhhh! As I shelved the large mountains of picture books in metal carts, there is unfortunately too much time to think and contemplate things. One needs to think or else one can go insane in there. Am I too sealed off from the world? I think again and again. My writing and my music have consumed my life, and I don’t know where I am going with this. The problem with me, and Hobgoblin, my teacher, who hears my constant complaining, can second this I think, is that I always, I always doubt myself, and distance myself from whatever it is that strive to achieve. Why do I do this you ask? Well, I feel as though the answer is something that is somewhat indecipherable, I can’t write it, nor can I speak of it, it just needs to be felt and I will leave it at that.

I guess all I know is have to finish my book and while I was walking along my usual route, I was stung by a reality shock — I thought, If not now, then when? When will I finish and complete it? If I don’t write this, then when will I? As time progresses and I get older and feel the grey hair ready to attack, I realize how little time I have in the world — I only have a small, allotted amount of time here, and I guess I want to do something to mark my place. But, what can I do? How can I help the world?  I think about these things as I walk along the sidewalk and stare at the sky, the sky that always opens its warm arms to me and waits for me to do something – do anything! Angels sing when you least expect it, you know. There are so many angels in my life and I barely take the time to thank them, but “thank you” never seems like enough. I want to give them hundreds and hundreds of novels, I want them to read and then understand what I can’t seem to articulate through speech.  

Here’s another excerpt:

“Paul missed the time he spent there. He solely missed the wonderful ambience and the silver haired librarian who always stood behind the desk with an expectant smile. All those books. All that life. All that unread misery. The unspoken utterance of the world. All he needed to do and all that he was existed within those walls. Something spoke of light and freedom and refuge there. He didn’t necessarily know how or why, but he felt its presence and its spirit nonetheless. He wanted to be on the shelf too. He too longed to attain the powers of immortality. But how would he ever get there?

As a child, he would wander through aisles of books; he used to think that libraries were intricate labyrinths, but he never searched for an escape, he only wanted to stay there forever. He loved the dusty smell of old books and the scent of freshly stamped library cards. He loved the green newspaper reading room. He loved the endless coat rack and the popcorn machine in the children’s room. He loved the golden star in the right-corner on his green and white library card….” (my story).

What do you think of this passage? Do you like libraries as much as I do?

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“to have a child…”

June 14, 2007 at 12:44 am (Uncategorized)

At the end of my edition of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, there are a few excerpts from Betty Smith’s essays and in one she cites, Emile Zola who once said, “To have a child, to plant a tree, to write a book” that he said was a full life.’

When I read this quote I smiled and underlined, highlighted, and starred it many times. When I read these words, I reread them, and then I read them again and again. They made me so happy and I couldn’t really grasp the complete reason at first, but now I think I do. In my life, I think I have planted a tree, metaphorically anyway in the minds of others, and today I can also say that I completed my first book! I do not have any children yet, even though I always imagine myself in the hospital bed holding my newborn baby girl, holding her tiny, perfect little hand in mine, so does that count?

Anyway, today I put a close to the story I had been working on since late February and honestly I am a little sad, yet relieved at the same time. What do I do now? I thought to myself. Where can I turn to hide? This story as I said before is more of therapy for me than anything else. It helps me cope with life; whenever I feel alone or empty inside, it is my story that always gives me comfort and security. It listens when no one else does. Do you know what I mean?            

I have kept this story a secret because I was afraid I wouldn’t finish it, and I didn’t want to get any hopes up, including those of myself. And I still don’t like to tell anyone about it, except for a small select few, because I feel as though it will taint the one thing I have created in my life. Does that make any sense at all? I almost want to keep my story, my own, and leave it hidden and at that. But, that is the selfish part of my ego talking, not the part of me that wants to be heard and recognized and understood.  

If my story never gets anywhere, then it doesn’t matter, because it is my own work of art, something that exemplifies who I am as a human person, something that encapsulates an ordinary boy named Paul, and his struggle for life and humanity and love and purpose.  Do you like the name “Paul”? For some reason I want to change the name and I don’t know why…Do you think it works? Yes, he is an ordinary boy, but in so many ways he defies the codes of what is conventional, and soars beyond to that white mountain in the distance.  

I will leave you with an excerpt from my story (I had a hard time choosing one, which is a good sign):  

“He could never think about Molly without thinking about the Lake or the mountains. She reminded him of the whisper of the westerly gales, the sun’s confident, yet modest gaze, and the beautiful, symphonic song from the birds that swooped and twirled through the trees and sky. Molly was one of them. She was free. Free. Free. Free. Free” (Hepizah).  

And here’s another, I couldn’t resist putting this one in: 

“Come to think of it, he never had enough choices, never any that he clung and devoted himself to. Instead, he was always hanging onto bare threads, to weak pieces of yarn that would never be strong enough to withstand the wind. He hung, a mere expressionless marionette, in the midst of a vast and intricate jungle. The contentious spark lit his soul and he could no more stop the light from emerging than he could stop himself from looking into those eyes” (hepizah).  What do you think? 

p.s. it nice to cite myself for the first time ever!

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thanks hobgoblin…

June 12, 2007 at 8:22 pm (Uncategorized)

Today I met with a few friends from school and we met to discuss our novels or stories at  a quaint Borders nearby. It was so nice to see Hobgoblin – one of the most brilliant professors ever – and an older man named man Vinni — a nice bald headed Italian man who always has something historically-related to say — because I already miss school (I know I have only been out for a few weeks, but still… I miss the discussion and all that stuff that other students usually dread) and this brought me back to the classroom in many ways. I missed the conversation and the “air of ideas” which for me takes root, at the foot of the classroom. Unfortunately, we didn’t make Hobgoblin cry, so that was good. His piece was a complete thriller and from what I read, I’d give it an A+… 

Our conversation today veered from the Salem witch trials to the library at Fordham University to different Italian dialects, and how canoli is the plural of canola (hey I learned something new!) I also made the note that I used to word “bread” about 50 times in my paper, and laughed.  

Anyways, meeting with Hobgoblin and Vinni and Annie who came later, was the highlight of my week, and through meeting with my friends, I have a newfound conviction to keep writing my novel. When school ended, I completely detached myself from my writing, and I can’t really say why. But I attribute it to that weak spot at the core of my heart, that spot that always lurks in the shadows and creeps out when I least expect it, but I will not let it defeat me anymore. I had written 180 pages in maybe 8 weeks and then I seemed to give up (these past 4 weeks I’ve only written about 15-20 pages or so…). But today, I broke my record and wrote 5 pages…so I am almost done and by the next time I see Hobgoblin it will be done. You see, the powers inside of me have always been latent, I see and feel their force, but I don’t always exert it. And when you meet people like Hobgoblin or Vinni, you see that things can happen, if you give yourself the chance, and if put yourself out there. Thank you Hobgoblin for all of your help…My story is there I think, I just need to work with the mechanics of it, and getting the details right. So, I am promising to finish it by this week….I will not read any more until I finish this. I promise 

By the way, would you or Dorthothy want a book of Emerson’s essays? It is a really nice edition and I got it for free…so let me know…

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“can you be my teacher, Miss S?”

June 12, 2007 at 2:09 am (Uncategorized)

I will keep this post short, so please bear with me for one more library post. Today, I worked at the check-out desk for most of the time, and I met and saw many people that I knew before I went to college– neighbors, schoolteachers, old friends, and people that you knew of, but didn’t truly know from school. A young woman with her three children came up and stacked their gigantic, unsympathetic mass of books in front of me. Oh, great…I thought. They are actually my neighbors with the lovely picket fence house across the street, but I secretly despise them. My sister and I always make fun of their family “the Moo-moo’s” we like to call them, for foolish reasons, but who wakes up at 8:00 on a Saturday morning to ride bikes and those annoying cars around the cul-dac-sac? I probably sound really mean and cruel, but I usually sleep with the window open, and I don’t like waking up to their screaming, shrieking voices. “Mama!!! Mammmmaaaa!!” I would awaken to their calls and I only wanted to throw a something out of the window. My sister and I always come up with different plots and schemes to keep them from coming out…I tried to push this thought out of my mind as they approached and forced a smile.

“Hi! How are you today, Ma’am?” I wasn’t sure if she recognized me, so I waited to see what she would say. I peered down at her three bright and beautiful children; the smallest child wore a cute pink beach hat that covered her eyes, and the son tried to climb up the counter.

“What a lovely hat you have there!” I smiled and the girl ran to her mother and hugged her leg. So, much for taking the attention off me….

“That’s my littlest sister, my littlest sister, you know Miss,” the tallest one said, with a perky smirk. She wore a cute jean dress and a blue ribbon was tied in her sandy brown hair that could have been mistaken for blonde.

 “Margo, this is Kimberly’s sister….Your name was…it is…” Her mother stuttered, at loss for words. “Angela…” I said and bit my lip. “Oh, yes, Margo this isAngelaKimberly’s sister. Kimberly is such a lovely girl, so sweet.” Yes, sure, I thought, the sweetest of the bunch. I imagined my youngest sister pulling my hair out on Christmas morning, as we scrambled for the last piece of Mema’s Italian cake…she seemed satisfied and content as she handed me her lonely library card with the gold star. She had youthful blue eyes and her freckles seemed to form an intricate, golden design on her cheeks.Then the usual question came.

“So what year are you in school?”

“I am going to be a senior next semester.”

“A senior in high school?” The tall one with the perky grin said.

“No, in college…I am getting very old…” I may not be old, I know, but you see, I feel old. We spoke of the usual things that strangers speak about. Where did I go to school? What was I doing in school? How did I like it? What did I want to do with my degree? All in the matter of 3 minutes. I hate when people ask me these questions!!! Go away, and leave me alone. I don’t know what I want to do or where I am going in my life, so leave me alone please. All I know is that I am here, right now. Why so many questions, why can’t we talk about the weather, or something that doesn’t involve me…Leave me alone, I don’t want to tell my entire life’s story to people who wake me up every Saturday morning….

Then she asked me the dreaded, “What do you want to do with your life?”

“Teach high school…” I usually say this because it is the easiest thing to say to get them off your back. “High school.” Okay, now leave me alone, please. Then the mother went on and on about how she would only teach the “little ones” – she was “afraid” of the highschoolers. Don’t you hate when people say things like that? How can you be afraid of high school students? Aren’t they people, human beings like you?  We are all human beings, we are all the species, what is there to be afraid of?

Then the young girl with the blue bow said in a wistful and sad and sweet voice, “I want you to be my teacher Angela… I want you to be my teacher. Mama, can she be my teacher…Can she be my English teacher?”

And my heart cringed and ached. I didn’t know what to do or say, so I smiled. I felt ashamed and sad. What was I doing here, with my life? Why do I have such hard time figuring out what I want? Oh, Lord what should I do?  Do you know what I am trying to say? I just felt as though I should devote my time to things that I love, and if teaching is that thing, why should I wait to teach….why prolong the inevitable?

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