On Borrowing Books

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Borrowing books. It’s difficult to hand over a book you cherish to even a close friend. You want them to share in the story, but you worry about pages being bent, torn, falling in a puddle, getting lost on the bus, chewed up by the family pet, coming back to you covered in coffee stains and granola crumbs.

Those are the typical reasons, but I think there’s more to it. When I own a book I love, I make it personal. I write in the margins, I underline certain lines, I bookmark sections I want to revisit, and so on. Sometimes I forget I do these things because they’ve become so natural to me. This means that when I hand a book to someone – my dad, a friend, a classmate – I don’t always think to erase something I scribbled or take out a placeholder. It’s never a big deal and it’s never anything worth mentioning afterwards, but it’s something I think about anyway. Are they reading and agreeing with what I said? Do they think I’m crazy? Are they wondering why there’s a blue sticky note attached to the middle of page 42? Again, nothing is ever said other than “good book,” but I started to notice the same trends when borrowing books from other people.

I’m borrowing one now and as I was reading, a birthday card fell out from the middle. Nothing big, but it was kind of funny. Just a floral birthday card obviously from grandparents. I’ve been careful to remember what pages it was hidden between so that I don’t forget to slip it back in. Maybe she put it there for a reason or stuck it there so she wouldn’t lose it and forget. Either way, every time it slips out it just makes me laugh for a second.

Books are so personal and why wouldn’t they be? They’re a way to relax and get away so they eventually become storage units and notepads because we know that this is where we’ll go to at the end of the day. They slowly reflect the book owner to a point where we don’t even realize we’re using it for other tasks.

Honestly, I love it. I love the idea of a book becoming part of you and not just something to stash on the shelf after a week for people to look at when they stop by. It’s personal and only the stories that speak to us and make an impression receive that privilege.

It’s a pretty amazing thing.

 

 

Stone Henge

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The morning my group went to visit Stone Henge, it rained and stormed more than it had the entire 2 weeks we’d been there. Up until then the weather had been wonderful considering it was late December/early January. It was surprisingly sunny and always wavering from low 40’s to high 50’s. It was perfect for walking about and enjoying the sights until that morning and this was the only day we experienced terrible weather conditions.

We first visited what I refer to as the “knock-off Stone Henge.” The real name is Avebury. The history is interesting if you ever want to research it, but that day I just did not care. Maybe it was because I wanted to see the real Stone Henge or maybe because I was getting hailed on. Either way, we didn’t stay long. The place looked abandoned that morning, there was mud everywhere, and by the time we got back on the bus we were all soaking wet.

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The rain only stopped briefly at Stone Henge, but the wind was awful. Luckily there was transportation that took you up to the sight and back down to the gift shop/museum. Before we arrived, our professor was saying how we would have to make the hike up there (I still don’t know if she was joking or not) and it was at that point I debated if seeing Stone Henge was worth bearing the cold wind and mud up to my ankles.

Even if I had to hike, it was definitely worth it. I would have been so angry with myself if I didn’t see it. It’s smaller in person and not exactly this wonder I had set in my mind, but I couldn’t look away from it. Maybe all the mysteries regarding this strange circle aren’t as mystic as TV shows, films, and music videos would make you believe, but it’s still a scrap of history that’s managed to keep our culture’s attention for centuries.

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I loved the museum and seeing who these people might have been and how they might have lived. There was a video that played on a loop in the middle of the exhibit which showed Stone Henge throughout the years. It was honestly the creepiest thing I’ve ever seen given there was no music only nature sounds and it speeds by so the people appear as shadows lurking from behind the pillars. Yet I watched it loop a few times because, again, I couldn’t look away.

I think Stone Henge has stayed with us because it’s so odd and yet so simple. It’s perfect for constructing myths and legends around it and that’s why people face the rain and the wind and the hail and their own exhaustion just to catch a glimpse of it. It’s filled with stories, some true and some not. We can create our own identity for it and that makes it stand out from all the ordinary sights we’re surrounded with everyday. It’s something to think about and to be inspired by.

So is it worth a hike in the rain? Yes, I would say it is.

Just to Get There

I’ve mentioned it before, but one of my favorite lines in any Lord of the Rings film adaption is “Just to get there” said by Frodo in the animated version of The Fellowship. 

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He says this with exasperation. Every burden seems to be resting on his shoulders and, in a way, they are. He has the ring which is gradually growing heavier with each passing day. It’s draining him to the point where he questions if he can even take another step forward. In moments of silence, he’s dreaming about getting to his destination. He wants to achieve the goal he set out for himself and go home to enjoy some peace and a happy life. No wonder he wants to “just get there.”

In a way we all have our “ring.” We have these anxieties, fears, and doubt. We want to do well in our lives, to find peace. We want to carry out our dreams no matter how difficult and exhausting they may be. And the further we move towards those the goals, the heavier those anxieties become. What a relief it would be to throw them into a pit of fire and enjoy our own accomplishments, but the path is long and not always a fun little adventure filled with wonder.

I’m constantly thinking about getting there. I’m a daydreamer so I often think about my future home, city, career, where I’ll spend my summers. All I want is “just to get there” because this “adventure” feels incredibly long and sadly I’m still within the first book within the first half. How can this ring feel so heavy already?

For me, it’s most likely because I expect a lot out of myself and I can’t always live up to those expectations. I’m always assuming that I should be further along in my life when honestly I’m doing just fine. I’m exactly where I need to be at this point. Yes, I want to throw away the anxiety, complete my task, and spend the rest of my time peacefully hanging out in my own “Shire” enjoying the life I’ve built for myself, but, that would be a boring story.

Sometimes I look back on the accomplishments I have made and they all seem so easy in retrospect. All I had to do was go here and do this and get that and convince myself of this and walk over here and be here and exactly this time and so forth. It all seems so simple, but at the time I only want to skip ahead to the good/exciting parts.

The sad thing is, I know that eventually I will get there and I’ll look back and laugh at how foolish I was. How stressed I made myself over the stupidest things.

Maybe instead of worrying about “getting there” I should take the ring off every now and then. Set down the burdens and the doubt and the anxiety and find contentment in what’s happening in the present because “there” will always be around. I might not make it there today or tomorrow or even a year from now, but it won’t ever leave. Everyday I get closer to those goals so why not enjoy those days instead of rushing through out of impatience?

 

St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, England

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St. Paul’s Cathedral in London is absolutely gorgeous and with so much to explore inside. Also see that tower on the right? You can climb all the way to the top and believe it or not the girl who’s terrified of heights took a deep breath and went for it.

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The view was amazing, but it wasn’t enough. Visitors can climb up even higher if they so wish. It felt long, the staircase is winding and filled with a great deal of waiting time. The top is so narrow that only a few people can be up at a time and you must keep moving in the circle so the rest can take in the sights before night falls.

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This was easily one of the most terrifying, bravest, and brilliant decision I’ve ever made. The view was breathtaking with the sun just beginning to set behind London. I could see the Eye just off in the distance perfectly still as the city lights began to flicker to life. Just faintly I could see the outline of the Eiffel Tower from miles and miles off. For a moment I forgot that my knees should be shaking together. I wanted to stay up there until the sun set, but of course I had to keep moving. Still, it was one of the moments I can hardly capture in words, let alone in a blog post.

If you’re ever in London and the sun is setting, please take this climb. The serenity and just awe you feel is well worth the hike.

5 Best Opening Lines in Literature

5.) “It was a pleasure to burn.” Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

-Simple is the best word I can think to describe this. My favorite part about this quote is that it’s a paragraph all on it’s own. One simple sentence that says a thousand words about the protagonist. For him, it’s an enjoyment to be destructive. And this one line will play an intricate and pivotal role in the story.

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4.) “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” – J.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

– This line tells you that you’re in for a classic fairytale, but with a twist. It’s something original, but still familiar. A typical “once upon a time” opening, but not the one you’re expecting.

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3.) “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” _ George Orwell, 1984

– The mention of a thirteenth hour makes this line stand out. Also, for some reason I can picture a bright cold day in April so well. There is something so ominous about this picture. It made me want to dive further into the story’s world in a matter of seconds.

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2.) “One summer afternoon Mrs. Oedipa Maas came home from a Tupperware party whose hostess had put perhaps too much kirsch in the fondue to find that she, Oedipa, had been named executor, or she supposed executrix, of the estate of one Pierce Inverarity, a California real estate mogul who had once lost two million dollars in his spare time but still had assets numerous and tangled enough to make the job of sorting it all out more than honorary.”

– Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49

I love this quote because it tells you so much and yet nothing at all. It gives the reader a good sample of Pynchon’s writing style and a quick slice of Oedipa’s life. I remember reading this for the first time and thinking, “okay, this is going to be fun.”

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1.) “When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home.” – S.E. Hinton, The Outsiders

– As you may have guessed, this is my absolute favorite opening line. I first read this book when I was in 7th grade and I still quote it. It’s hard to explain exactly why I love this one line the most. I guess it always felt real to me. I believed this character. He seemed like a person I would/have met. And the wording is specific enough to stand out without being overly artistic or striving to say something. It simply is. I adore it.

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Use of Color in Film

I can’t be the only one who has noticed that films in the past decade have grown increasingly darker and drained. I don’t mean the content (although that could be saved for another topic), I mean the cinematography.

The Wizard of Oz took every advantage it could of color when it first debuted in 1939. Every scene popped because the crew wanted it to be bright and fresh. The use of sepia tone at the beginning can be used to demonstrate the jump from something a little bland to an eye catching, fantastical world. A world of color with the change from black and white. This movie was just the beginning of presenting a different style and trend in entertainment.

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Although, today it seems that our directors want to  return to that lack of vibrancy.

Look at films like the Dark Knight Trilogy (or anything of Christopher Nolan’s), Man of Steel, Harry Potter, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Hunger Games, and almost any action movie. Even the latest Avengers movie was toned down incredibly in terms of color.

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There’s also the orange/teal discussion to bring into this. For a while now films have used teal in the background and orange on the actor’s faces (think Michael Bay). The idea is that this is supposed to create a complimentary contrast that’s aesthetically pleasing. The problem is, more and more film crews have decided to use the technique to the point where they become lazy with it. It’s become more of a fliter with the promise of looking good than taking the film’s appearance into consideration and seeking out the most ideal costumes, backgrounds, and lighting. Not to mention since we’ve been overexposed to the style, it doesn’t hold as much appeal.

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Personally, I love color. That’s one of the reasons I adore Wes Anderson because of his attention to pigments and what compliments what. I want to see more films with scenes in the middle of a sunny afternoon that aren’t romantic comedies. I want films to start steering away from this dimness and heading toward something a little brighter.

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I’m not saying these films need to go into a full on bubblegum atmosphere. I just want a little more light. I want some of these colors to pop. I also understand that some films need the darker tones to fit into the overall mood, but I’d also like to see a movie not rely on a gritty color scheme to be taken seriously. Twin Peaks, for example, uses copper tones to create this older look for the series. It allows itself a darker appearance, but it does it in a way that remains pleasing and original. It works best for Lynch’s view of the show without draining itself of any color. It also allows for some natural light to come in and present an autumnal appearance.

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The idea also brings to mind the British TV series Broadchurch. This is a drama series about discovering the murderer of a young boy in a small town. You would assume the colors would be dim to showcase the sorrow of the family who lost this child or the anxiety felt by the detectives trying to achieve justice. Instead the series is vibrant with a great deal of scenes taken place during the day (sunny days!). It’s beautifully shot in general, but the brightness in these scenes never takes away from the plot. When there’s a confrontation in front of a blue sky and green grass, I still feel every bit of emotion and anticipation. It’s one of the reasons I got hooked on the show.

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With the recent trailers for Mad Max it seems that the use of vibrancy hasn’t been completely lost. This film looks awfully sunny with plenty of daytime scenes along with the orange and red tones of the desert. Then again, there are also trailers like for Dawn of Justice which stands by the pitch black of previous DC films.

Maybe I’m the only one who finds dim tones unappealing, but I would be ecstatic to see more movies/series follow in the steps of Broadchurch or anything else that still hangs onto a unique use of color.

The Home of William Shakespeare

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I found that when I go into a place of history, it never hits me just where I  am. I mean I know where I’m standing. The signs are telling me I’m in the home of one of the most famous and influential playwrights. The tour guide is telling me this. The itinerary is telling me this. The people on the trip with me are telling me this.

And still it just doesn’t seem believable.

How these scraps of past centuries have survived so long is beyond me. People haven’t turned a simple house into dust. Storms haven’t shattered it beyond repair. It’s standing and it’s strong.

There’s another home of his in London which hasn’t been as lucky, but the crippled walls are still growing from the grass. Amongst the busy streets and towering buildings, there is still this shred of history happily resting in the middle of it all.

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It’s amazing how society will find something that speaks to them – something they deem crucial – and care for it generation after generation. If a simple playwright’s words didn’t affect or inspire or make some us laugh then this place would be nothing more than dust. I would have walked over a patch of grass where pieces of a man’s home who loved to write continued to decay under the dirt until it was entirely forgotten.

I feel lucky to have stepped into this place and to witness something so important to the arts. The same feeling emerges when I was standing in the same room where Jane Austen wrote Pride and Prejudiced or walking up the stairs of Charles Dicken’s home.

It feels unbelievable, but I’m incredibly grateful that these places are alive and still inspiring us.

 

Writing Hours

The Writing Hours. Those moments where the muse is alive and creativity flows like a bubbling spring. For some these times rarely appear. For others there’s no such thing as a specific hour in the day. For me, it’s the late hours of night and on into the early morning.

Something about the clarity of a mind after waking up or getting that second wind long after the day has passed. It’s no longer boggled down by concerns or checklists. This is the time dreams remain fresh or small details begin to come back all at once to offer inspiration. Maybe it’s just the simple tranquility that comes with the soft sky and silent streets. There’s little pressure to be anywhere or to be anyone.

To do anything.

The world is still sleeping, waiting for the sun to beckon it into another busy day.

This is the time my muse decides to show and I have to say, it’s incredibly inconvenient. And yet…at the same time, it becomes one of the most serene experiences for me. This is the only time that I can write and truly enter the world that this story takes place. I care less about making the perfect sentence. I don’t quit after a few lines because I’ve written myself into a corner.

I just write.

I don’t always produce the work I want to. In fact, it’s rare I’m ever fully pleased with what’s in front of me, but writing during those hours somehow makes the process fun again. I get into the characters. I come up with about 10 different pathways to choose from. I let myself write. No over thinking. No frustrated sighs.

Just the story and myself.

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