Questions. Often we think very little of them. We let them frazzle us; we refuse to answer them; we even refuse to ask them. We see them as annoying or a hindrance to our lives. But to question may just be the single handedly most important verb we can do. Questions allow the unknown to be explored. And the possibilities of the unknown are endless. We can discover parts of ourselves we didn’t know. We can think critically about the world around us. We can even learn more about others, or help them discover something new.
But if we don’t ask, then what are we doing? If things aren’t questioned, will they change? Or how will new things be discovered? Change starts with a question. So if you’re stuck, ask. If you want to discover something new, ask. Go down a road you’ve never gone before. Learn something new. Because why not?
Likewise, don’t be afraid to answer, even if that means looking deep inside yourself. Discover who you are as a person. You might just like what you find.
Our lives are a series of stories. Stories that weave and intertwine, stories that end with a flourish, stories that stopped short, stories that may never end, stories within stories. Without even realizing it, many of these stories were triggered by wants: the want for more money, a home, for love, truth, the want to reach others (to help them), the want to protect our friends and family.
What causes us to want? Is it ingrained in our human nature? I want to be a teacher; the kind of teacher who is accessible and reaches out to students, who helps them see the world. Within that one want are several stories that led me there. First is the story of the girl who loved to read. Somewhere in the midst of that story is another one: that of the girl who had teachers that taught, not only books but their power. Those two stories built up with an acclamation of other stories that made me who I am (the way I was raised, my family and friends, etc.) led me to college, where coursework, novel selections, my job in the Writing Center, and college professors who genuinely care. This is my current story: the building of my pedagogy and discovering the teacher, and ultimately the person, that I want to be. So yes, we may want a lot, but that isn’t necessarily bad. What’s behind the want?
We all have stories that led us off the path we thought we were going: friends that were bad influences, choices we made while under pressure, and maybe these are stories we wished we had never been on. But even a “bad” story has its positives. It could be the reminder we need of who we are, or the moment we remember what we dreamt of as a child. These stories may seem small, even insignificant, but they aren’t. They may be some of the most important moments of out lives.
What are your stories? Where are you going? These stories show a glimpse of your wants, your character, and what you are doing with your life. Are you the person you want to be?
I posted a piece about the river a few weeks. I needed to revise it for my class. To fracture it and allow myself to move beyond the river a little bit. I had to revise it a couple times before I felt like I got it right. The original can be found here.
In Southeastern Washington sits the tiny town of Burbank. There’s not much to look at: two gas stations and a tavern. A place so small it’s not even considered a town. Right on the outskirts of the Tri-Cities, it is nestled in the crevice created where the Snake empties into the Columbia. I’ve been enamored by this ever since my eighth grade Social Studies teacher made the point of discussing it. Though I cannot remember much else from this lesson, I can remember the importance he placed on it. The Columbia is a vast river and a pivotal piece in the history of the Northwest. This “River of the West” stretches across seven states and Canada. Creating a gateway for trading and watering agriculture. The snake is 1078 miles long. Though shorter, the fact that we are at its end is astonishing. I can see this spot perfectly when I’m home, driving over the bridge into town. Sometimes I wonder how many people travel across the water everyday without knowing.
I remember how much I loved looking out the front window of my house at the Columbia. Nothing blocked our view, save for a few trees near the waters’ edge that were taller than others. I’ve spent a lot of time wondering why it is I’m drawn to the water. Sometimes I think it’s the calmness. For the most part I am a relaxed person, but every once in a while it’s nice to have a reminder, a breath of fresh air. On some occasions I think it is simply my love for nature. The river is just another extension of that. And other times I think it’s the relationship that is created by my last name. Waters. That word has so many meanings. It is not only a substance created by two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. It is not only an element that covers a majority of the earth, falls from the sky, or something that keeps us alive. It is also the name of a wonderful family. A family that is no doubt weird but also a family that is awesome. Big hearts that allow themselves to be trampled from time to time. The ability to get along with just about anyone. The passion to help others, whether through our career choices or just because. That’s who we are.
It’s the time with my grandparents I miss the most. I was the youngest out of all the grandkids (16 including myself), so it is safe to assume I was a little spoiled. My childhood was spent watching John Wayne movies with grandpa during lunch after pre-school and helping my grandma do the dishes. I loved it. Lawrence Welk has a special meaning to everyone in my family has we can all (and I do mean all) start a chorus of the theme song at given moment. Now that they’re both gone I have to hold on to these memories and try to keep them from blurring. Whether it was the above memories, fishing and camping, or any other moment from my childhood, they were all important times in my life. This upcoming Christmas will be the first without my grandma, and I can’t help but think of how different it will be no matter how hard we try to keep it the same. She was part of what kept our family knit together, the centerpiece so to speak. Just as people congregate for a Sunday morning service or in the kitchen when a big feast is cooking. Part of the reason I am who I am is because of my grandma and grandpa. Because of their blood flowing like a river through my veins and passing through my heart.
In many ways aren’t we just like rivers? Throughout our lives we flow, we learn, we give ourselves to others. We also intertwine. New rivers and tributaries spring from us through our relationships and networks. We form lakes. And at some point, we join forces. We flow into another river, adding our water to it. Carrying on it that give and take manor until we eventually flow into the ocean. Reminding us that when we combine forces we become a part of something bigger. Something better. We can also learn from rivers. We can learn how important working together can be, how important keeping calm can be. Rivers are also both transparent and reflective. Many allow you to see several feet into their depths, others are muddled, and sometimes the movement of the water can clear up what is below. I have often felt this way. Confused, thinking too hard about a decision I need to make or a friendship, when suddenly something clicks and my worries have disappeared. The fact that water can be reflective is one of my favorite things about it. A quick glance at the surface will show not only the nature around it reflected upon its surface, but the sky. When the sun sets and all the colors of the sky create a beautiful image atop the water, I am reminded that together we can create something worth remembering.
The sun set calms me. I am enamored by it. I can think of several in particular that I can still picture vividly in my head. The fading light of the sky finding a place on the Columbia, the only thing visible in the mostly dark world around me aside from the lights on all around town and mingled in with the island sitting on the river. It’s a small island, but it holds a couple restaurants and a hotel. This made the reflective image even more interesting than normal as a portion of it was cut out by the island. But it was absolutely beautiful. However, these images never last, and in the blink of an eye, the sun can disappear completely behind a hill in the distance. We will never get these moments back, and that is so true about any moment in our life. After it ends, it’s gone forever. We can’t have a redo, we can’t change it, or alter the outcome. That’s it. But we can change future moments. When we invert our perceptions, we can notice new things.
I remember the first time I saw my house from the water. It was as if I was the river looking at everything that surrounds it. Over the tops of the trees I could see my house, the water tower, and some of the houses around ours. I could even see the willow tree in our front yard and the walnut tree in the dog run. But everything looked miniscule. Tiny compared to how it usually appeared and much smaller than the water around me. I could not see the details of our house, or tell if anyone was home. That’s when I realized how truly small we are. Rivers are by no means the largest bodies of water. Their width and depth can vary; their length can vary greatly. However, the world around them is large. And people flock to rivers. Using them for their own good. Some might say that rivers even bring people together. Rivers are strong, but they are not strong enough to overcome the life we have given them on their own. They need to be taken care of. Just like we do. We can think that we don’t need help and that we can do everything by ourselves. And while that may be true some of the time, it is not true all the time. I’ve reluctantly asked for help and bettered myself because of it. I now let that happen more frequently.
I hope that the river continues to be an important part of who I am. If I ever lose sight of their importance, of the importance of water, I fear I may lose sight of a part of who I am. I have lost sight of that before, and though it’s not that I didn’t like the person I had become, I felt like I wasn’t being true to myself. We cannot change for other people; they need to accept us for who we are, and if they don’t, we probably don’t need them. The river (any river really) is a constant reminder of who I am. I feel that if I can keep that in mind, all will be okay. We all need something like that in our lives, and I hope that everyone can find that thing in their life, and keep it close.
I don’t want to say that I’m fascinated by its immensity or by the many colors that weave in and out at different times of the day. But I am. During the summer, I’m up before the sun. Often driving to work as it starts to peak over the mountains to the east. The quietness of the morning is made more beautiful by the pinks, purples, and oranges found in the sky. The clouds, stretched thin, begin to mix with the pale blue of the sky.
Many find it hard to see the clouds move. I don’t. I remember the first time I noticed a big, puffy cloud moving quickly across a pale blue sky. This moment was unexpected—something I had never thought of before. How long before someone else sees the same cloud? Out the window ever-darkening clouds loom over the hills. Morphing from gray to the deepest shades of blue. I watch them form. Watched them appear. A process that in itself is both slow and fast. I look away only to look back again and see the gap is closing. Steadily. I think they’re racing. Trying to see which one can reach the exact spot in the sky above me first. Sure, they’re just clouds. But weren’t we taught when we were little to look for shapes in the clouds? A dinosaur here, a car there. Not the darkness steadily overtaking us.
It’s easy to lose oneself in something that is so much greater than we are. I often find in the sky what I need at that moment. Maybe that explains my fascination. Maybe not. The sky is there to calm me. To help me see new things. The sky is consistent. It’s always there. Even the minimal light put off by the moon and the stars is enough to help me find my way. To reflect. A night with no stars and no moons, though completely dark, is still navigable.
Sunsets are my favorite part of the day. My friends make fun of me because I’m always taking pictures. But no two sunsets are the same. Even in the seconds between when my finger hits the button, the sun can descend completely below the horizon. Seemingly lost in space and time. Leaving behind a trail of clouds similar to those of the morning, fading into the blue backdrop. These fleeting moments take with them bits good and bad moments. Moments that may define us. Moments that may define the sunset.
There are scientific explanations about why clouds move, why the sun rises and sets each day, about what the atmosphere is for. Is the sky really blue? Or is it just a reflection? While these questions can be answered, they matter very little to me. What does matter is how I perceive the sky, and that I continue to look to it for hope, reassurance, and whatever it is that I may need in that moment.
There’s nothing quite the same as picking up a good book, losing yourself in it, and letting take you to a new world. I have learned to open my mind to books. That first page, the first few words even, are imperative in enthralling mind. I can normally tell whether or not I will like a book in that moment.
I remember always loving to read. But the first thing I remember having an impact on me is Harry Potter. I was instantly consumed by these books though I was hesitant to read them first. Eventually, after some persuasion from my friends, I picked the first one up. While I remember very little of what I read before (granted I was 10 when I read books 1-4), I remember a vast majority of what I have read since. This moment, I think, was pivotal in shaping who I am as a reader.
I love getting in lost in books. Each time I read I discover something new. I have found that it’s possible to relate in some way to even the tiniest part of a character. Whether it is a choice they make, an inner struggle, or some characteristic, there is something that draws me to them. I have learned so much from reading and identifying with characters because it helps me learn both about myself and the world around me. I can think about things in a new way, even see things in a new way.
I recently finished reading George Orwell’s 1984 for the first time. I loved it. There were several instances throughout where I noticed Winston was beginning to doubt himself. Those around him, even people he thought were the same as him, pushed their ideas onto him. He began to doubt himself, to think he was crazy. This happens all the time. We begin to transition our ideas to those around us even if that is not what is best for us.
Why do we do this?
Because we want to fit in?
Because we don’t want to feel alone?
This idea of doubt isn’t new to me. However, I had never thought about it in this manner before. If we are not thinking for ourselves, we are not being true to ourselves. We should never lose sight of who we are.
I love to read, and I will continue to read because it opens doors, expands our minds. Reading has helped define me and shape me into the person I am today.
Here is my first attempt at a lyrical essay (assignment for one of my classes):
My home town is nestled on the outskirts of the Tri-Cities, located right where the Snake runs into the Columbia. I used to think this was cool. In 8th grade they made a point to teach us this. Teachers made it seem really cool and important. In many ways it is. The Columbia is a vast river and important piece in the history of the Northwest. The Snake is 1078 miles long. And we sit at its end. I was always astonished at this thought. I still am. Whenever we drove over the bridge into town, I could see clearly where these two rivers joined. It is something much greater than us. Yet so simple. And something that can easily be overlooked as important.
I remember when I was little how much I loved looking out the window at the Columbia. Nothing blocked our view of it, save for the fields of sagebrush on the other side of the road that grow downhill, over the railroad tracks, and push up against the swamps, surrounded by cattails and a variety of trees. Because my house faces the west, I often enjoy watching the sunset. Even now, when I go home, I look forward to this. The beauty of nature. The calmness of a family watching the river, year after year.
In many ways, aren’t we (people) just like rivers? Throughout our lives we flow, we learn, we give ourselves to other people. We are used for fun, transportation, food. We also intertwine. New rivers and tributaries spring from us through our relationships and networks with others. We can form lakes. A place where recreation happens and people typically come together as families. And at some point, we join forces. We flow into another river, adding our water to it. And carrying on in that manner until we eventually flow into the ocean. When we combine forces, we become a part of something bigger. Something better.
I’d like to pause for a moment on lakes. Several great memories from my childhood happened at a lake. When I was little, my family would go camping with grandparents. There is a portion of the Blue Mountains in South Eastern Washington referred to as the Tucannon. The Tucannon River flows through this valley. It empties into several lakes, both man made and natural. I loved our family camping trips. My grandpa used to let me tend the fire, which I thought was awesome because I was around eight at the time. Each day we were there, we would fish in the morning and the evening. It was a great experience and I learned a lot from them. Not only about fishing, but also about life. These are memories that I will never forget.
The river, as you can see, is still important to me. Anyone who looks at my phone will see several images I have taken from the end of my driveway of the sunset. Sometimes it disappears quickly; in a split second, even taking two pictures in a row, the sun can go from being over halfway visible to just a glow emitting from the top of the hills on the horizon. To me, there is nothing better to look at. It’s home. This summer I went fishing with my cousin on his boat. Although I had been on the Snake before, and even other parts of the Columbia, this was the first time I had been on the portion of the Columbia directly in front of my house. It was a surreal moment. It was as if I was the river looking at a vast amount of land that ran along my edges. I could see my house, the trees in our front yard, the town’s water tower. And that’s when I realized how small we all are. Rivers are not the largest bodies of water. Their width and depth can vary. Where they end can vary. Just like we can. But the world around them is so vast, so large. We, as people, have the capabilities to do whatever we want.
So for my Creative Writing class I had to write a 1.5-3 page short story about a crappy job. It could only have 1-2 characters. I trashed what I had before and wrote this. What do you guys think?
When I decided to open this business, I thought it would be a great idea. My extensive military training, business degree, and generally observable nature made it seem like a great idea. It was ultimately the concept of working whenever I wanted that led to my decision. Unlocking the door, I paused, briefly, on my name:
I was taken back to when I had first opened my door ten years ago. Business had boomed right from the get-go. My clients began referring my business to their friends and so on. The job had been dirty, but I loved it, and I was good at it. I pulled myself from that thought. Sighing quietly to myself as I turned the worn brass knob on the door and pushed it open. There was no need to think about the past when there was so much to figure out in the present.
The floorboards creaked as I took heavy steps across the dusty floor to my desk. Tossing my beat up leather shoulder bag onto the ground, I plopped heavily into the swivel chair, causing it to roll back a couple inches, and throwing my black bowler hat on the far left side of my desk. Normally, this is when I would begin to look through my case files for the day. But there weren’t any. I stared blankly at my desk. Lately I had begun to notice the imperfections in its worn wood top. The walnut finish was worn in a circle to my left where I placed my coffee cup each morning. Scratches covered the portion where I had typically placed papers as I wrote on them. Damn cheap paper. The corner where I often sat to stare at the white board that was frequently covered in case notes was worn down, faded. I stared at the phone, a black, rotary dial that I had been so proud of. It gave a certain air to the business. Day after day I sat here, hoping that it would ring. Knowing that the chances of that were next to none.
My gaze shifted to the stack of papers occupying the far right corner. I slid them to the center of the desk. Right on top was the newspaper clipping I had memorized word for word. The headline read:
SEATTLE PI GOES DOWN
I read through each clipping, each case file, I looked at each photo, like I had every day for the past years, trying desperately to figure out where I had gone wrong. How this had happened to me. Searching for a way to reverse it. Thinking each day that maybe today would be the day I noticed something new.
I looked out the window that gave a beautiful view of street outside just in time to see the first drops of spring rain hit the glass. If I had had any hope of a decent day, it disappeared with the rain like it did so many other days here in Seattle. I had thought several times about moving, but I just couldn’t. I couldn’t leave without resolving this. I stood up stiffly, and walked to the small kitchen that inhabited the far back corner of the office. I opened the lone cabinet. Mugs occupied the bottom shelf, while my dwindling supply of coffee was on the top. I stretched my right arm up to grab the Folgers’s can. There was a tightening in my shoulder, a sharp twinge of pain that me yelp as my face construed and beads of sweat formed at my hairline. My left hand automatically came to rest on the place where the bullet had entered my shoulder. It will still in there. The doctors had deemed it too big a risk to remove. Maybe I should have taken the risk. Maybe I should have been more cautious with my cases and suspects.
I decided against the coffee. The sick feeling I got in the pit of my stomach that was caused by pain and depression told me that it just wasn’t a good idea. I sat back down in my chair, placed my feet on the desk, and stared out the window at the rain that was now coming down in hard, fast drops. Bouncing off the glass, the cement sidewalks. I could smell its scent mixed with that of spring through the thinly insulated walls. I sat like that for the rest of the day. Occasionally a woman would walk by in a black coat, protected from the rain with an oversized black umbrella, or a man in a cap, rolled up newspaper in his hand glancing quickly behind him would seem to slow at the door, but they never stopped. Never even glanced in. They kept their eyes down and kept walking.
At precisely 5 o’clock I stood up, picked my shoulder bag up off the floor, pushed the chair in, placed my stack of papers back in their place at the far right corner of the desk, grabbed my hat, placing it back on my head, and proceeded out the door, locking it before heading down the street.
I decided to try out the Weekly Writing Challenge.
“I tried to catch her, but I didn’t make it,” I told Steven in sharp, haggard breaths.
“Damnit, Cheryl, you said you’d be able to. What am I going to do?” He turned from me, hands on his head. I could tell he was upset. Who could blame him?
His apartment in the Bronx was damp and cold in the frigid winter. As he walked over to the small, bar lined window, I noticed how the gray sky was no different than his face: sad, solemn, lonely. Couldn’t this have happened on a better day?
“Do you know where she went?” head down, staring at the white sidewalk below, his voice cracked. I wanted desperately to fix this for him. But I couldn’t. Or could I?
I walked over to him, not sure what I would do next. My small hand decided on his back. Gently.
“I don’t, Steven. I’m sorry, there were too many people for me to see where she went. I’m really sorry.”
As his face turned toward me, I saw something I’d never seen in my friend before. Steven was 6’3″, muscular, a tough guy. But I saw a tear fall from his misty eyes.
I reached up with my free hand and gently brushed the tear away from his face. My hand stopped on the side of his face: my fingers reaching up by his ears, my palm along his jawbone.
Our eyes met, and his normally bright blue eyes looked icy. The warmth that normally radiated out of them gone.
“What am I going to do?” he mumbled.