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Sunday, January 22, 2017

This I Believe essay #2

Please post your essay here before class on Tuesday. Don't forget to bring a printed copy of your essay to class as well. Practice a bit so you are prepared to read it aloud.

21 comments:

  1. Even in the womb, I have always loved music.

    Or so my mother tells me. When she was pregnant with me, she would often wind up the wooden jewelry box my father gave her for their first anniversary and hold it to her swollen belly. She swears she could feel my joy whenever I heard the music. I don’t remember whether or not that is true, of course, but I do remember that when my sister was born, nearly four years later, how I would crawl underneath one of her toys - a toy keyboard that a baby could reach while laying on the ground - and press the buttons over and over just to listen to a snippet of Beethoven’s Für Elise (I’ve always preferred pieces in minor keys).

    I begged my parents to let me take piano lessons, and they finally did, once they had purchased a Roland keyboard shortly after our family moved back to Kentucky. Directly after my first lesson, I eagerly practiced that week’s assignment for an hour, even though the rest of my family were enjoying themselves outside, and even though my very first assignment was to learn how to play the black keys. I was seven years old.

    Not even a year later, I was teaching myself by ear how to play that Beethoven piece I had fallen in love with, though my teacher would insist that I wait until I could read and play that skill level of music. I didn’t let her slow me down one bit. I would listen to a recording of the piece over and over again until I could play the melody in the right hand, then play the harmony in the left, and finally play them both simultaneously. It didn’t matter that I only had the skill level to play the first few measures. Nothing could slow me down.

    Years passed before I became able to play the full original piece, and no one else would understand the significance;

    before I played in a mixed instrument ensemble for the first time ever, which ignited in me a burning desire for more;

    before I joined the high school band, struggling each day to overcome my shyness and prove myself to no one else but myself;

    before I picked up an oboe for the first time, fully aware of the difficulty I would face in attempting to master it and sticking to it nonetheless;

    before I conducted the marching band every weekend in the fall, for two years, encouraged and inspired daily by my new friends;

    before I worked and worked and worked and finally was awarded a music scholarship to the school I always dreamed of attending;

    before I picked up a clarinet for the first time, reliving that thrill of learning something new;

    before I discovered the similar thrill I got at the prospect of creating something original, something delightful that came from my imagination;

    before I finally realized that music is in my blood - and there is no stopping that.

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  2. I hear the sound of cars passing on a wet road when the sun is only peeking from behind the clouds. I have my mug of coffee by my side that’s getting colder while I’m lost in the pages of a good book. Absently I occasionally sip while the sound of the wet roads grows more and more distant to my ears. My feet are cold but the large flowered blanket keeps my lap warm while I read of places far away and people I’ll never get to meet and yet who seem so familiar. I love lazy mornings like this. I love being able to sit and read, to ignore the demanding bright screen of my phone and the pressures of deadlines and towering expectations if only for a moment. I take pleasure in the silly image of a whale on my mug and the world I escape to in my book. It may not seem like anything all that exciting or challenging but these moments are more and more difficult to come by. And so, I love them all the more. Occasionally a roommate coming home from class or leaving for the same reason interrupts me, but these interruptions are welcome ones and typically brief. When I am alone again it forces me to reenter that place of serenity, which only enhances my love for every detail. The sound of cars passing is brought to the forefront of my mind, making me wonder at why the rhythm of the cars crossing the wet pavement is relaxing. Makes me think about the taste of the coffee I’m drinking and the image on my mug. It takes me a minute to dive into the world of my book and so I’m forced to appreciate the world I’m in for just a moment. To marvel at the simple joys in life that I often take for granted on a rainy morning. I believe in the beauty of a rainy slow morning.

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  3. rosemary mint and newly fresh blisters
    i am learning what it means to be gentle.
    teddy teaches me when she cups my head
    as she catches my ear with the razor guard
    (it is not the first time)
    she cries out louder than i do.
    i smile at her in the mirror.

    moving stairs and a tiny sign
    maura waits and i
    am always expecting to be surprised.
    i stare at myself in each window i pass,
    thirteen balloons in hand,
    the wind wrapping the strings around my wrist.
    it is all mozzarella toast and tiny tomatoes
    until i am laying on the floor
    she is standing over me
    shrouded in a dark purple towel
    listing all the ways i had failed her.
    each city wide and half finished radish.
    we watch the videos together,
    sent via facebook chat.
    we watch her toddler self stumble over beach rocks and a man say first,
    "maura don't go too far!"
    and then, when she ignores this,
    "good god."
    she tells me about realizing
    she was hearing her father’s voice.
    i believe in trying to be more tender.
    i stroke her bangs until she falls asleep.

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    Replies
    1. The almost hyper-descript yet non-contextual nature of your poetic style is so very you and always moves me. Thank you for your words.

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  4. Exasperated, I sit at my desk and look at the four (FOUR!) Christmas cards that have yet to be written. It is mid-January. Nobody cares about these cards anymore. But I bought them because I wanted to send my closest friends well wishes. And, although the occasion has passed, my intent remains.

    Why am I so bad at giving gifts? Specifically the easiest of gifts (theoretically): cards. Perhaps it is because I don’t share in the hysteria of a commercialized Christmas season, which began to tarnish my most magical memories of the holiday when I noticed the phenomenon around the age of 11 or 12.

    Perhaps I grow weary and sad of watching my mom crumble into nervous tears as she stresses over all the gifts she has to get, making multiple sleepy 2.5 hour trips to the nearest city malls, and falling asleep while wrapping gifts on Christmas Eve. She should be saving her well-earned (and underwhelming) paychecks. I don’t need anything.

    Perhaps a part of me feels insincere in buying pre-messaged Hallmark cards, even though I adorn them with plenty of my own thoughts. Is what I’m saying enough? Am I being too cordial...too vulnerable...too robotic...too dramatic…?

    Perhaps I have a lingering resentment of Christmas, for my 16th celebration of the holiday turned into the same day my parents were confronted with my homosexuality. Not the best gift to bring home to socially-conservative parents.

    But when I receive a card in the mail in which a friend or lover conveys to me what they couldn’t over text or phone or in person---when that friend or lover reaches into the depths of my being with the ink on their page and fills my soul to the brim with love and joy---I know it is worth it. Even if one month late, even if my words glisten off a simple, corny, commercialized card, they are my words. They are the remnants of my physical touch to the page. They speak my desire to pour my love into a tight, clean envelope and ship it to those near and far that I want to have a piece of my heart.

    I believe in overdue, handwritten notes.

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  5. On Saturday we stood together as one. A group of people of different background, different origins, different circumstances to fight together against oppressors and a man who said he would unify our country by taking away the rights of the people. Many called us sore losers; others rioters, many told us to get over ourselves and we didn’t. This was the largest gathering of a peaceful march being between 3.5 and 5 million in just America alone with a record of 0 arrests.
    Saturday I saw how amazing this community is and how it protects those within and around it, because of this I was able to see how we could make a difference in this country, but only by standing together. If we stand apart we aid an oppressor.
    Throughout many peoples life they think they are fighting this battle alone. Many want to be brave and face it all by themselves not wanting help from others. But without help they stand-alone and when something becomes overwhelming they have no foundation that others have helped build and it all becomes too much.
    The man that is now our president said he wanted to “Make America Great Again” but instead he divided the country further than it has ever been and yet this man has done something few others have. He has unified us; made us stronger than before. Because of this man we have seen ourselves and others grow and rise to face the challenges that lie ahead of us because we know that we are not alone in this battle. Because of this man we have all realized we cannot fight this battle alone. United we stand divided we fall. I believe in unity.

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  6. I read because my grandfather taught me to read—in a different century and on a different continent, at a time when Bulgarian kids spent our kid time playing makeshift games or reading. We had no board games, I had a doll my mother had purchased in Moscow on New Year’s Day, 1980, and we made do without knowing we were making do. That was before the bread lines happened.

    I read because books transported me and were easy to transport. When I was in elementary school, I read thick Russian novels about brothers with existential problems. I read among the thick branches of walnut trees, under the bright greenery of spindly cherry trees, and in the shadow of a quince tree, an oddity in our East European climate by all accounts.

    I read because as a child I was encouraged to read: short stories about beautiful Bulgarian maidens who became the love object of the richest Turkish men in town; parables about a Russian boy, Timur, and the brigades he organized in order to help others; novels about revolutionaries fighting to overthrow an oppressive regime and bring about the reign of workers.

    I read because years later I had to unlearn some of the lessons my childhood reading had taught me. I had to unlearn prejudice towards all Turks, all Muslims, all Arabs: the villains chasing Bulgarian maidens through the entire Bulgarian folklore. I had to relearn community values after arriving in a country whose main myth boasts an impossibility: pulling oneself up by one’s own bootstraps.

    I read because short stories and novels revealed lives that were invisible to my immigrant eyes. On her biannual visits from Bulgaria, my mother refuses to see poverty and disease: things that corrode the American dream. She prefers Hollywood movies.

    There are no bread lines in my American life. No quince tress either. But scary Muslims chase after beautiful maidens in one narrative after another. I continue to do my unlearning.

    I believe in reading.

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  7. Gordon, Zig, Shelly, Mike, Todd, Tracy, and I held one another, wrist to wrist, in a long string of scarf-wrapped, winter hat-wearing bodies at the top of a hill freshly covered in snow. Gordon, the oldest and tallest of us, ran as fast as he could down the hill, weaving back and forth but never letting go of Zig’s wrist. Zig held just as tight to Shelly. Shelly held Mike’s wrist and though he wailed non-stop, Mike held Todd who held Tracy who held me. At the very end of the line, I became the whip and snapped back and forth to release energy built up and shot through the string of tightly-held- cousin-arms.

    Gordon, Zig, Shelly, Mike, Todd, Tracey, and I swung from the rope tied to the bottom of a steel-framed, wooden-deck bridge and fell into the cold dark water of Cherry Valley Creek behind the Clancy house. Some of us climbed to the very top of the bridge, jumped further out, and found ourselves stuck knee-deep in the silt-bottom stream until the need to breathe brought strength and brought our bodies bobbing back to the top.

    Gordon, Zig, Shelly, Mike, Todd, Tracy, and I walked with synchronized choreography over uneven ground holding bars at both sides of my Uncle Dick’s coffin. We lowered it onto planks covered with astroturf, spanning a hole cut in the ground feet from where our grandfather was buried when we were too young to remember. To the other side, a still-fresh pile of dirt covered my Uncle Kim’s coffin, interred 12 days earlier.

    A month ago, my father had two brothers and today, I believe in my cousins.

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  8. My favorite mornings when I lived on the fourth floor of Forrer were when it snowed. I’d swing my legs out of bed, the cold tiles waking up my toes, and the sun’s glow from the window was soft, curving the edges of my body. My roommate’s bed was directly under our shared window, and she’d let me plop over to raise the blinds because we both still knew the magic feeling of public school snow days. Most of the accumulation throughout winter was an inch or two, the thin layer taking the shape on all that it lands on. Things like metal poles and gutters were suddenly pleasing and evergreens were given a new meaning. North Broadway glistened and the academic buildings appeared calm. The old brick was made for this weather; the barren trees nestled next to them, the cardinal’s perch nodding against the wall with Old Man Winter weighing on the wooden belly. I could see all these little things from our window, and for that, sometimes I’d decide to stay to enjoy the view, but it was always hard to hold back from the craving of clean crunchiness underneath my feet.
    My love affair for snow, other than it’s beauty, comes from my desire of the stillness it brings. Snow can make a busy town sleepy and the pink blush nights place us in a wonderland type-state. When snow comes it can sound like a prayer, shalom aleichem, peace be upon you, and neighbors are greeted with avidity. Snow comes with a cup of hot tea because what is better than feeling warmness fill you up as the Earth remains lazy. Snow comes and my twenty-two year old tongue sticks out; one snowflake’s landing is always enough. I am happy with a little bit and I am happy with a lot of it. Snow carries patience, in all its shapes, in all its sizes.
    The past few weeks have only given us rain. January wet and uncomfortable rain. January is not meant for rain. January is meant to be the month we are sure to have snow in case it decided to skip December. I feel sorry for the kids who had not gotten a chance to drag their sled up the hill, for the tired teachers without a secret celebration of a snow day, and for the student who just wanted to sleep. I imagine what a snow day would do for me right now, make me slow down in worries and not take the day for granted. I would walk through Gratz Park and turn around every so often to see the footprints I’ve left behind. I would see my breathe and give thanks to my lungs capacity as my friend and I trade back and forth making winter fog. I would not let anything ruin my day, a mindset I struggle to have. For all of this, I believe in snow: nature can be science and religion; it heals you as it heals you.

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  9. I look down at the tiny red spots that cover the tips of my index finger and thumb on my right hand. Pushing the blunt needle through the too-thick cloth has left my finger pads sore and my nails scratched on the underside. The hoop takes forever to fill up, as months of work barely offer a skeleton of the finished product. But each time my eyes start to cross from too many hours of focus without a break, I think back to why I started.

    Just by taking a glance around my home, you can see evidence of my mother’s past skills. She learned how to cross stitch from her mother when she was in middle school, just as I learned from mine. My mom spent weeks dedicating herself to finding the beautiful waterfalls, cottage scenes, and scripted friends’ names armed with countless bundles of thread. As a baby, the walls surrounding my crib were adorned with creations that took hours to assemble, stitch by stitch. She jokes now that my brother and I killed her creative spirit as we grew into jealous toddlers. “Every time I’d pull out my hoop, you’d want to take its place in my lap.” Now, other tasks occupy her time at home. How odd it is that such a domestic art was disrupted by domesticity?

    I stitch to feel closer to my mother, partly to make up for what I unwittingly distracted her from and partly to have one more thread pulling us together. The rhythmic motions of the stitch, up left, down right, up left, down right, allow me to develop a dual focus, not a split one. I become zeroed in on my movements while also letting my mind work somewhere else. Sometimes I simply focus on my breathing, reflect on the day, or try to count back the generations of women in my family who have done the exact same motions millions of times. I believe in tiny Xs made of string.

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    1. I love how cross-stitching also becomes an extended metaphor in this reflection!

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  10. I went home this weekend to visit my parents and my boyfriend. In the course of four hours the hot water tank at my parent’s house blew and a fitting on the hot water line at my boyfriend’s house started leaking. Two houses, no hot water. I consider myself to be a pretty tough person. I once dropped a dryer on my foot and didn’t shed a tear. I’ve fallen on climbs, scraping my knees and palms and just kept on going. I’ve lived without air conditioning for months in the summer and I’ve gone camping in November. I can deal with a lot of things but being wet and cold at the same time is where I draw the line. When I take a shower or wash my hands or do the dishes or really use any water for anything besides drinking I want it to be as hot as possible. When I was in high school my mom used to open the bathroom door once I’d gotten in the shower so the bathroom wouldn’t get so incredibly steamy. If I took a shower with no hot water it would take me hours to recover. If I had been born in an earlier time I’m sure I would get over it but I wasn’t so I won’t. I’m not a princess about many things but hot water is one thing I simply can’t do without. My boyfriend learned how to solder today because I became a whiny mess every time I had to wash my hands. Normally I would feel bad about making constant complaints about something largely beyond the control of whoever I was nagging but this was an exception. I believe in hot water.

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  11. It was the Summer of 2015 and I woke up to call from my mother. I asked her what she was doing and was annoyed to hear that she was in my room matching my socks, a privilege I would soon learn would be lost for some time. Of course, I asked her why she was in my room doing what she was doing and to surprise she replied with “I’m packing all of your clothes into suitcases because your dad is kicking you out of the house”. As sad as it sounds, and as sad as it was I’m not here to write about my pain regarding that situation, but the love I received from others in the moments that followed. Immediately after the phone call I walked to my car and began the drive to my parents house to retrieve my things. While driving to my, now not home, it was not my relationship with my dad, my family, my mom, or thoughts of where I would be staying that night that came to me, but an instinct that I had to call my friends. These were not just anyone of my friends, but they were the three that I had known since childhood. The three that when combined new and loved every part of me down to the smallest of molecules. When I arrived at my parents house I wasn’t afraid, and I didn’t feel like I was alone because the three had already beaten me there. In the moment where one would think that I was made to feel the most weak, I felt the most strong I ever had. With arms full of luggage and items from my childhood we packed my car full of any remnants of Blake that remained in the house. As I drove away with one of my friends in the car I remembered that I had a 90s throwback CD given to me by my high school French Teacher. Without a question as to why I turned it on, the two of us with laughter in our voices, began to sing What’s Going On by The Four Non Blondes. When reflecting on what was and what could’ve kept being a traumatic incident for me I learned to not become the anger that pushed me away, but to become the love that brought me closer with the warmth of a hug and a unspoken understanding that I had a home within the hearts of those around me. This is why I believe in friendship and the Four Non Blondes.

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    1. PS. My mom is super great and my dad's action had nothing to do with her. I say this because people always ask me what my mom did in response to hearing the story.

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  12. I can't remember the exact moment I fell in love with photography. In fact, I'm fairly certain there was never a time when I wasn't.
    But what I do remember is the hundreds of times I've pulled out a camera of some sort to snap a photo—or ten—so I could document a moment.
    What I do remember is my eighth birthday, running around a picnic table, holding my mother's flip phone in the humid air of early June, attempting to capture my family members' faces.
    My mother wanted more pictures of me. It was my birthday.
    What I do remember is catching a photo of my grandfather smiling—a feat accomplished by none before me. My mother said it was the best picture anyone had ever taken of him, and I smiled at the compliment.
    What I do remember is peering through the tiny lenses of disposable cameras on elementary school field trips, long before I would have access to a real camera.
    What I do remember is, at fourteen, going on a high school trip to New York City and taking pictures til my phone died, even though Google Images probably contains the same photos hundreds of times over.
    What I do remember is the multitude of times my friends have pointed out, smiling, that I am, yet again, taking a picture. Sometimes of things that don't particularly make sense, like the diagonal lines of a ceiling, or tiny windows. They like the photos anyway.
    What I do remember is all of this.
    I remember that I've always believed in taking pictures.

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    1. Love the spirit of this reflection. Consider sharing it with your mom and, if possible, with your grandfather, too.

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  13. The cold air begins to freeze the metal stick in my hands and soon my hands are nearly the same temperature as the stick. Weather like this makes me question my motives for continuing to participate every day. I find my body temperature lowering as I cease all movement and hope we will begin running more drills soon to compensate for the lack of activity we are currently doing. I look around and find that the welcoming team I wandered into last semester is still as encouraging as I have always known them to be.
    We may be single bodies but the word together continues to ring through my ears. Some of my earliest memories are of that of a team, and now that I am looking back I do not believe I have ever gone without being a part of one. Although I have been a part of some very loose teams, I can say that the one I am looking at now is not one of them. As the only freshman walk-on, I have the shortest amount of time with the team, yet I care so deeply for all of these girls already. They are teachers, teammates, leaders, followers, fans, but most importantly friends.
    I was very cautious of the decision I made earlier in the fall when deciding to officially join the lacrosse team and whether or not I was good enough. Although the question of whether or not I am good enough may be answered to my liking now I know that that does not mean I can say the same later. Athleticism is not always something that can just be handed to you, it takes effort and dedication. As the Conditioning coach says to our team so often “Greatness is not stumbled upon.” My team and I work hard for ourselves and for each other, that is why I believe in the word: team.

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  14. So glad you didn't question yourself to the point of not joining the team! So glad you believe in it!

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  15. So glad you didn't question yourself to the point of not joining the team! So glad you believe in it!

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