Monday, October 22, 2012

Talking like Thoreau

For the last few weeks, my ENGL222 class has been reviewing the works of Transcendentalists.

Whether you know that specific term or not, I feel confident you have heard of three major Transcendentalists - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau.

All of these authors wrote thoughtful and descriptive literature.

Thoreau, in particular, had a way of painting a picture with his words. His ever-popular Walden (or Life in the Woods) is filled with natural imagery and self-examination.

One of our assignment options this week was to write something that similarly showcased the beauty of nature.

Here is mine:

Journeying to the Mountain

We left in the early morning hours on a gray Friday in October. Our bags, bursting at their zippers, were waiting silently, if not resentfully, for their long and bumpy ride in the trunk. My breath was a cloud hanging in the chilly air, and my still-sleepy eyes stung in the cold. Even the car seemed less than eager for the journey. It sat, almost alone in the parking lot, covered with a shimmering lace of frost.

We loaded up our provisions – spices, food, drinks, blankets, boots, clothes, games – quite the load for only a long weekend! The car was almost spiteful now and attempted to refuse all of our packages. Is it possible that the back seat shrunk in rebellion? Or perhaps, we should simply have packed lighter?

Twenty frustrating minutes later, we climbed into our seats. Having not planned on such a physically-demanding exercise as loading the car proved to be, a fine sheen of sweat appeared on our faces as once perfectly-warm sweaters now became unbearable saunas. And this is how we finally departed from our tidy townhome – grumbling and grouchy…

We drove south for nearly an hour before the rains came. Deep, dark drops clattered onto the windshield at a rate far faster than the worn wipers cared to go. Huge clouds – voluminous with their moisture – formed a stern and foreboding ceiling where the sky was once at home. The streets mimicked a horizontal waterfall, if such a thing existed. Water drove down the highway as if it were just another traveler. The rain fought and eventually defeated the music we were trying to listen to. For almost five hours, the water poured down on us.

The fog followed its dreary friend. Thick, eerie masses of it surrounded us. For all we could see, we felt alone in a quiet bubble on the long stretches of road. The music, turned on again after the rain subsided, was subdued as if the musicians were still recovering from the storms or searching for their instruments and voices amongst the haze of fog.

On we drove, warm but no longer entrenched in our sweater saunas, tired but no longer yearning for the lush comfort of our bed. Our fatigue and irritation were replaced with wonder and curiosity as we drove through the hooded hills of Kentucky and Tennessee with their gleaming yellow signs proclaiming danger from fallen rocks. The sun mercilessly forced the fog’s retreat while we climbed the mountain roads.

After ten hours of driving, our reward was just above us. Hovering somewhere in the embrace of the mountaintop, a small, sloped cabin was carved for our comfort.

The car prepared for its final effort, surging forward up the steep passes. The trees, beginning to shed their green jackets in favor of their rich fall coats, loomed high above us, gazing down in solemn welcome. We rolled the windows down and let the sounds fill the space inside the car. Birds, sunnily chirping in the chill, sang out their greetings. The wind brought our old friend, fog, in again as we neared the summit where our cabin sat. The sun showed itself only in small tendrils curling through canopy clearings between the dense forest and rocky drop-offs.

Winding and climbing, winding and climbing, we finally reached our journey’s end. On top of old smoky, we finally appreciated and understood the result of our traveling effort.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The End Game


brushing up on books by Bronte,
climbing through Chaucer classics, 
examining Emerson and Euripides essays, 
playing peek-a-boo with Paine, Poe, and prose, 
studying Shakespeare's soliloquy and sonnets by Swift

... all in pursuit of an "A"!

This semester, I found myself taking two literature courses: ENGL222 {American Literature to 1865} and ENGL240 {Children's Literature}. I am also working my way through a writing class.

Somehow, next semester has shaped up to be very similar with ENGL223 {American Literature after 1865}, ENGL221 {World Literature II}, and ENGL202 {Creative Writing}.

In the last few years, my reading has been mainly education-related.

Assignments involved myriads of highlights, copious amounts of coffee, and mounds of mind-numbing textbooks. Historical reading made me sleepy and grumpy. Mathematical reading frustrated me and made feel as if I was losing IQ points. Science selections found me interested, but after-reading retention was an issue.

To be truthful, many a textbook went only scantily highlighted as a result of being barely read.

Reading for fun seemed like an immense luxury that was relegated to summertime.

As soon as Spring classes ended each May, I would rush to Amazon and catch up on all the books I'd missed. Inevitably, I'd find my Kindle crammed with mystery/suspense novels or "chic lit" musings. I would happily entrench myself in the latest James Patterson or Jennifer Weiner offerings through the summer days and, often, the summer nights too. Last summer, I read 17 books in twelve weeks. Most of them may not have been full of life-changing wisdom, but each of them was entertaining.

I was actually quite happy in my blissful, light fiction world; however, this semester has reminded me that there is something to heavier reading. Assignments don't necessarily have to lead to feelings of angst or rage!

This blog is all about me sharing the little joys I've discover by leaving the comforts of my normal reading niche.

So, get ready, put down your newspaper comics, and "read it like you mean it"!