Phone Finds: Leaving

My phone storage is full due to my incessant note-taking…although I carry a notebook on me constantly, I somehow still find bits of poetry, philosophical musings, and novel brain-showers caught beneath the screen. Here’s one from my final morning in Scotland last summer:

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Re-re-re-reading

I just finished reading Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind for the fourth(?) time, though, honestly, I’ve probably read parts of that book three times, parts of it six. I just can’t seem to stay away from it and end up rereading at least half of it every late spring/early summer. Whatever the exact number, I can say with certainty that there is deep and personal value to rereading a book with this regularity.

Reading #1: I read it mostly for the story and to escape what still was the most stressful semester of my life (though by now I have handled far worse).  Click the link below for my original reaction (minus some of the crying). I actually credit this book with inspiring me to start this blog in the first place!

https://abookishcharm.wordpress.com/2013/06/14/gone-with-the-wind/

Reading #2: Also read mostly for the story, but after my first year of college and living away from home, it felt good to return to something familiar. As soon as I moved back home for the summer, I baked muffins and had to make up some of the ingredients, so I decided I could rebrand them as “Melanie’s Muffins.” (recipe/post at link below)

https://abookishcharm.wordpress.com/2016/06/01/melanies-lemon-berry-muffins/

Reading #3: I was lazy and wrote nothing, but I folded the corners of one in every ten pages because I had a paper idea and was gathering evidence. (Please don’t berate me for abusing my book like this…sometimes an idea strikes and sticky notes are too far away to save the poor top corners.) After now two years of the honors institute at my university, I was reading on a new level and beginning to make connections I still find fascinating to ponder.

Reading #4: Very little reading was done, but I skimmed some of my favorite parts and carried the now-worn paperback around with me for a couple weeks as a shield against end-of-term stress. I did bring it to a pool party, though, where a friend borrowed it and left me to grouchily wish I had not been so generous (below).

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Reading #4.5: I actually read all of it this time. I even caved and bought a Kindle copy so I could read it on the plane to Ireland, justifying the purchase by telling myself that the O’Haras were Irish so it was only fitting. This time, I could not stop thinking of paper ideas… Grad school, I’m coming for you!

Beyond the intriguing literary ideas I unearthed through several re-readings, though, I was interested to see my growth as both a reader and a person reflected in my reading. The first time I read for fun, the second for comfort, the third for insight, the fourth(ish) for development of these ideas. Similarly, as a person I have stepped out of my comfort zone, have found the joy of investigating new ideas and places, and now have the joy of looking back and seeing the development I underwent along the way.

I do not reread many novels, though I know in my literary heart that I should. However, having this one novel to return to over and over again has been wonderful and I know this will not be my last rereading. Just as Scarlet returns to Tara to reconnect with her past and plan for her future, I have been comforted and inspired by this fourth(ish) rereading.

To those of you out there who have never read this book, GO READ IT. And to those of you who have never reread a book, either choose one or find one worth reading once and then again. (Shoot me a message and I’d be happy to help you out!)

Sit

I might just sit here for a bit.

Here, where I am at once everyone

and no one.

Where I can hear men talking,

dog-walking.

Where I can watch mothers and children- ducks, squirrels, human.

Where I can trace the birds’ antiphony from tree to tree.

Where I am just another flower

refreshed by a sweet sunlight hour.

Yes, I might just-

I might just sit here for a bit.

A Thank-You Note to Public School

Aside from social studies, mathematics, English, sciences, fine arts, physical education, and leadership development, one huge thing I learned during my years of schooling is to write thank-you notes. It doesn’t matter if it was a small favor like lending a book or a huge favor like driving me to school every day, it deserves a thank-you note.

In light of the recent teacher walk-outs in my home state, I thought I should write a few  such notes.

First of all, thank you to my parents for putting me in public school and supporting me  through 13 years (K-12) of an education I would not trade for the world. My mom was involved in every parent council there was, making sure that while I was attending larger schools than – say – our living room or a private school, she was present and aware and serving. Thank you, Mom and Dad, for providing constant support to not only me, but the teachers and administrators at my school.

Secondly, thank you to my teachers:

Thank you, kindergarten teacher; I remember you teaching me to sing “The Star Spangled Banner” and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. I like to believe that my commitment to responsible citizenship began then.

Thank you to my first and second grade teachers. My memory is a bit fuzzy for those years as I was still little, but I remember you both supporting my love for reading and seeking to challenge me when you saw that I was determined to excel even back then.

Thank you to my third grade teacher, for supporting my desire to become a writer. I still remember that year as the year I made the most progress as a young writer and reader because of your constant encouragement (and your offer of McDonald’s if I broke the reading record.)

Thank you to my fourth and fifth grade teachers, for pushing me to learn study habits. I had never received a B before fifth grade, but that really made me realize that I needed to up my game! I owe my proactive studying to you both.

A special thank you to my sixth grade teacher, who continues to inspire me. Thank you for challenging me, for my knowledge of world history, for amazing memories of school traditions, and for continuing to encourage and challenge me to be a good citizen, caring person, and critical thinker even now.

Thank you to my junior high school teachers. Those were crazy years for all of us and we, your former students, are truly thankful for you tolerating our adolescence. Thank you for preparing us to succeed in high school and continuing to instill a deep sense of responsibility, empowerment, and community within us.

Thank you especially to my eighth grade math teacher. Math had never been my favorite class before, but you made me not only enjoy it, but excel in it.

Thank you to my high school performing arts teachers. My music classes were my refuge in high school. I met my best friends in orchestra and choir and arrived at my college conservatory several levels ahead due to the excellence of the training I received in your classes.

Thank you to my high school English and literature teachers. College papers are a breeze because you trained me to write with precision, organization, and imagination. You renewed my passion for literary analysis and your mentorship to me as a writer and reader were invaluable.

Thank you to my high school economics teacher for training us in financial wisdom and awareness (#TANSTAAFL), to my government teacher for unveiling the mystery of American government, my algebra and geometry teachers for working with me in a subject that does not come as naturally as others, and my history professors for making me aware of the past so that I might be prepared to positively impact the future.

Thank you to the administration of my schools:

Thank you, Mr. C, my elementary school principal. You knew every single student’s name and you always were around to sing us silly songs, ask about our recess games, and make even the loneliest kid feel valued.

Thank you to my junior high principal, who was always caring and supportive, as well as a wonderful neighbor. Thank you to my high school principals who were incredibly supportive of the arts and made every student feel as if they mattered and had the potential to do great things.

Thank you to the teachers’ aides, facilities workers, counselors, bus drivers, parent volunteers, and other administrative staff. I have many memories of your commitment to students and diligence in your work; schools would not be possible without you!

A final thank you to all of my teachers. As a Christian student, I was never discouraged from sharing my views. In fact, I was even commended for my respectful manner of disagreement. Other students from different beliefs and backgrounds were also allowed to speak, for we were taught that considerate dialogue is the best way to present and understand diversity. Through this, I was sharpened in my critical thinking, strengthened in my personal beliefs, and made empathetic to the ideas of others.

It breaks my heart to see Arizona schools empty and I want nothing more than to see teachers paid in proportion to their impact. You all were and are so passionate about your work and I want to just say one more enormous “thank you.” I would not be the person that I am today had I not first been your student.

Fairy Dust

I am a firm believer in dandelion wishes. Now, I don’t mean to say that I think they always come true, but I know the joy that comes of finding the perfect, fuzzy blossom, squeezing my eyes shut tight, and whispering a little prayer as its petals dance away on my breath like pixie parasols.

My friends laugh at me when I veer off a running trail or sidewalk at the sight of a dandelion waiting to be wished upon or go out of my way to step on a crunchy leaf or examine a bright flower. As focused and busy as I may be, however, I must pause to enjoy such things, childish as they might seem.

When was the last time you stopped to listen to a creek babble as I am doing now as I write this? When was the last time you took off running just for the sheer pleasure of movement? When did you last greet a squirrel or whistle along with a bird? Or made up a story to amuse yourself or sculpt shapes in the clouds or imagine music in the wind?

I know I’m beginning to sound like a Disney princess, but I mean it. These little things are not so little; they are life-giving, small remnants of paradise left to us by a gracious Creator. They are the dustings of fairyland and more real than some of our “grown-up” concerns.

I believe in dandelion wishes and, right now, wish that more of you would join me.

Year in Review: The Arts

This year was crazy and everyone seems to be bidding 2017 good riddance. However, there are so many beautiful things that I discovered and enjoyed this year! Though Facebook tried to make my “year in review” (and somehow managed to gather all of the photos I am least inclined to post), my true year in review consists of my favorite pieces of art that, though not necessarily created in 2017, I was fortunate enough to enjoy this year.

My Artistic Year in Review

(basically a list of my favorite things)

Sculpture: Bernini’s “Apollo and Daphne”

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While I adore all of Bernini’s works, this one struck me and seeing it in person during a trip to Rome was extraordinary. The expressions on the character’s faces are so alive and the stone itself seems to move and breathe with the grace of dancers. Looking at it made me feel more alive, as if Bernini were sculpting my movements as I circled the glorious work. Gazing at it made me more aware of myself as a creation “fearfully and wonderfully made.”

Painting: “The Woman in Red” by Giovanni Boldini

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I stumbled upon this painting on Pinterest and immediately knew I needed use it for my junior piano recital poster and more than a few people asked me how I managed to get a painting of myself… It was humorous having to explain that no, the woman in the painting is not me as I was 1) never a model and 2) was not alive during the Impressionist era. Still, this made the work more personal and I am thankful to now have a reproduction of it hanging above my piano at home.

Architecture: Glasgow Cathedral – Glasgow, Scotland

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I was disappointed to find that the choir was on sabbatical and would not be doing evensong during my stay in Glasgow. However, both the inside and out of this building are stunning. I felt an incredible sense of awe as I entered and spent more than a few minutes just sitting in the pews praying with my eyes open to the splendor of the Beautiful that lends itself to objects of beauty (couldn’t help the Plato reference there). Also, just outside the Cathedral is the Necropolis, a Victorian cemetery that is filled with crumbling old tombstones, wildflowers, and stories waiting to be unearthed. A hike up the hill of this graveyard gives the most spectacular panoramic view of the Cathedral and Glasgow as a whole.

Theatrical Production: Hamlet starring Andrew Scott

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I love the West End and, when I had a free night in London, was so ridiculously excited to find cheap tickets to see Andrew Scott (aka Moriarty from BBC’s Sherlock) star in a version of my favorite Shakespeare play. Not only was Scott terrific, but the production put a Cold War era twist on the story that worked perfectly. (Pro tip: purchase “obstructed view” seats for last minute tickets; they are cheaper and often the view is still quite good.)

Musical: Jane Eyre by Paul Gordon and John Caird 

Of the books written by the Bronte sisters, Wuthering Heights is so far my favorite. However, the Jane Eyre musical redeemed a novel that I formerly considered “too tidy and stiff.” The music is beautiful, the lyrics are brilliant, and the story is made infinitely more human and powerful. Only one other person I know has ever heard this soundtrack, but I highly recommend it to any literature or music lover as it is excellent in every possible way.

Instrument: Bagpipes

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While I regret my expense of 100 pounds on a set of bagpipes I cannot play to save my life, I fell in love with their music. It turns out, the astringent sound of bagpipes has a calming effect on my overactive mind since it drives out all other thoughts than “I am a Scottish warrior princess and I can do anything.” Plus, I fell in love with Scotland and now bagpipes sound like home to me. (Oh, and I use the terrible video of my first attempt at playing them as a conversation starter or ender, depending on who I’m talking to.)

Piano Piece: The Dante Sonata by Franz Liszt

Learning this piece made me cry. A lot. And bleed. And sweat. You think I’m kidding? No. It’s literally a piece about the Inferno. But the wonderful ties between music and literature (my two loves) are what got me through and I am so happy with my final performance of this piece! (Check out the link above!)

Symphonic Work: Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony 

Not only is this great running music (see post “The Eroica 10k”), but it is just incredible for any occasion. Nothing is more empowering than listening to this symphony. Not even bagpipe music. From a more analytical standpoint, it also has the key features of Beethoven’s style: fighting against strict measures, dynamic contrasts of volume and mood, powerful instrumentation, and- best of all- the underlying idea of an anthem to a single great soul.

Album: Notos by the Oh Hellos

http://music.theohhellos.com/album/notos

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I love everything by the Oh Hellos, so I was delighted to find that they recently released a new album! It is marvelous and made a long drive across the desert so much better. (Obviously I listened through it more than once.)

Poetry (large scale): The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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This was mentioned in a lecture I heard at Cambridge by Malcolm Guite. As soon as I returned home, I purchased a copy and read it with awe. It was so beautiful and mysterious and I still have yet to decide my exact thoughts on it, which makes me love it even more. Highly recommend, but especially if read aloud with great expression. It inspired my performance of the Beethoven’s “Tempest” Sonata and Liszt’s “Dante” Sonata with its storms and spirituality.

Poetry (smaller works): The Singing Bowl by Malcolm Guite

https://malcolmguite.wordpress.com/2013/05/10/the-singing-bowl-a-poem-and-a-new-book/

I listened to these read aloud by the poet on a drive from California to Arizona whilst watching a sunrise. It was a lovely hour of poetry, theology, and natural beauty. Although I’d loved his lecture at Cambridge, hearing his original poetry read aloud made it so much more powerful. It is inspiring to know there is a modern poet who sings in the tune of the greats yet maintains his own clear voice.

Novel: Moby Dick by Herman Melville

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I expected this book to be as dry as dust, which- since it is about the ocean- is ironic. However, I came to appreciate the great depths of this narrative (pun intended, as always). There is a great deal of philosophy hidden throughout and, as with Coleridge, I have not yet determined my exact ideas regarding this book. I have many theories, though, and am itching to write a thesis on it… Oh, and there are tons of whale facts, so that’s interesting! Others might argue they distract from the plot, but I naturally have a theory on why they are, in fact, essential to the overarching themes. Do your brain a favor and dive into this book!

YA Novel: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

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This was the brain candy that I needed after a semester of heavy study. However, it was far from mindless! It was clever, endearing, and exciting all at once. I raced through it in a matter of a couple of hours and am glad to find another YA author that writes passion about mythology, relationships, family, and hardship in a believable way, incorporating wit and suspense with brilliance. (Basically, I was glad to find a YA novel that I could read in public without feeling ashamed. This one was far from an embarrassing teen romance and I was proud to read it at my favorite coffee shop for all to see!)

Short Story: “The Scythe” by Ray Bradbury

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Every story in Bradbury’s The October Country inspired both love and fear in my literary soul. I am admittedly a Bradbury fanatic and accredit him with inspiring me to try my hand at short stories, but I believe my admiration is merited. “The Scythe” is a short story with the emotional depth and character development of a novel. It is mysterious and beautiful and tragic all at once and I will happily force any one of my friends to borrow my copy and read it, as well as all of its sibling stories.

Library: Tynsdale House-  Cambridge, England

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I could have stayed in that creaking, musty library for days. It was colorful with the spines of diverse books and alive with the buzzing thoughts of its scholars busy at work. I found an empty desk that I swear had my  name on it… A brilliant and intimate literary/theological destination that I look forward to visiting again.

Movie: Dunkirk 

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Many have complained about this movie, but I found it to be remarkable. It was simultaneously heart-wrenching and heart-warming and, overall, one of the most powerful cinematic experiences I have ever had. Kenneth Branagh is a magical human being, but the entire cast was terrific. The storytelling, comprised of three different amounts of time and three different locations (land, air, and sea), was captivating and fit together with the intricacy of a well-crafted, multi-narrator novel. The soundtrack, minimalism with effects such as the “shepard tone” to enhance the intensity, effectively kept me on the edge of my seat and my senses as alert as if I were one of the characters in the midst of war. The acting, visuals, story, and music were all phenomenal and, combined, made for a film that, like Dunkirk itself, will not soon be forgotten.

Bonus…

Dessert: Stroopwafel

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Is it a waffle? Is it a cookie? Who knows and who cares! Just put it on top of your cup of cocoa and enjoy its melty, delicious caramel goodness!

Coffee: Cappuccino from Costa Coffee

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To my dismay, the U.S. is not advanced enough to have Costa Coffee shops on every corner…Sorry, Starbucks. However, I enjoyed enough of their cappuccinos during my month in the U.K. to hold me until my next visit. (Yes, coffee is an art. I mean, look at that palm tree!)

Writing: Expectations vs. Reality

  1. Expectation: Showing off your stellar vocabulary. Reality: Spending ten minutes trying to remember how to spell “potpourri” because you’re too proud to look it up.
  2. Expectation: Writing elegant rhymes to express your emotion. Reality: Sounding like an angsty Dr. Seuss.
  3. Expectation: Writing free verse poetry that seems authentic and avant garde. Reality: Sounding like an angsty and, now, drugged Dr. Seuss.
  4. Expectation: Scribbling thoughts on random scraps of paper because inspiration strikes at unexpected moments. Reality: Looking like a conspiracy theorist at best or a serial killer at worst as you frantically try to assemble your notes.
  5. Expectation: Making keen, discrete observations of your surroundings for later use. Reality: Looking like a creep when you make eye contact with a potential character and being mistaken for a critic as you analyze your favorite cafe.
  6. Expectation: Having movies and theme parks made after your bestselling novels. Reality: Writing silly blog posts late at night. (Unless you are J.K. Rowling, in which case the reality is still “having movies and theme parks made after your bestselling novels.”)
  7. Expectation: Carefully crafting characters that perfectly follow the planned plot. Reality: Controlling your characters is like herding winged cats. Not only are they cats, but now they can fly.
  8. Expectation: Planning a time to write and doing so in an orderly fashion. Reality: “THE VOICES IN MY HEAD SAID I MUST WRITE NOW!” (usually “now” is in the middle of another project, late at night, or somewhere without any form of writing material whatsoever)
  9. Expectation: People reading your silly blog posts all the way through and gaining an internet following. Reality: Your fan club continuing to consist mainly of your grandma, your best friend, and the fake cat lady blog your mom made to spam you.
  10. Expectation: Having many writing woes to blog about. Reality: Only being able to come up with nine and realizing that is also a problem you can add to the list.

I had fun jotting this down and think this might turn into another #WriterProblem series! Do you have any writing expectations vs. realities? Share them in the comments!