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?
the bird flies
high above the ground
each person a tiny speck in a swirl of colors
swinging through the clouds
lofting above them
and diving swiftly below
its vision of the ground below zooming quickly into focus
as it perches itself atop the noble pine
a child jumps on an old rope swing
rocking back and forth the branches of the tired tree creak and groan
the bird flutters
leaps to a different branch
sits completely unaffected
watching for another of its kind
but taking joy in the life that surrounds it
the bird can be anything
the ugly duckling we read about as children
for it is not the kind of bird that matters
but where it perches itself
and how it holds itself in the world that surrounds it
uneven snowflakes float
from the ashen sky
filling every curve crack & crevice
resting on the frozen ground
each one stacks perfectly atop the one that preceded it
painting the rolling hills and scattered rooftops
light bursts of smoke mixing into the sky
the purest of whites
to some this scene may seem desolate
like they are clawing at the walls of a completely white room
they don’t see the beauty
the purity that lay at their feet
endless opportunity awaits
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.
This is a revised version of a poem also! The original can be found here.
the nouns of my life no longer make sense
I trip and stumble
unable to find my way
through the piles of ruble
that were once beautifully ornate buildings
made out of rustic brick
and beautifully carved granite
the blue of the sky has gone
replaced by a colorless block of gray
a roof that impedes the light of the sun
if such a thing even exists anymore
I do not know
dust begins to swirl
trapping not only me but my memories
any remnants of a life before have disappeared
I continue my trek over the endless piles of debris
unsure of what to look for
but hoping to find something familiar
Revised one of the poems I used for my creative writing class. The original can be found here.
awakened by the growling bark of a dog
as it snaps at the heels of the shoes
plodding quickly down the street
the cascading wails of a siren replace the bark
several blocks to the east
quickly reaching the intersection down the street
at the building next to mine
the siren so loud it ricochets in my head
bouncing off the surface of my brain
hitting my eardrum with the most force
heavy footsteps and breathing come from the shabby stairwell that leads to my door
I reach for the smooth cold piece of metal between the mattresses
just as the door slams open
hitting the wall with a bang
the rolling hills of the pavement
the surface appears flat
but the flying splash
as spheres of water collide into the ground
lets me know the holes are still there
the water is not enough to create a surface that will hold
as I cross the street
made even drearier from the clouds in the sky
the old brick of the buildings that surround me
darker than normal
with no sun to radiate the multiple shades
of red and orange
that are normally bright
my feet create waves in the road
water shooting off in 360 degrees
the water and I become the same
as it runs down me
from head to toe
and splashes under my feet
do we not try to fill the gaps in our own lives
with substances that will not hold the weight
of our current situations
substances that can give under pressure
why else can rain affect our mood
making us feel as dreary as the sky
and long for the sun to shine through the sky
bring light to our lives
maybe the rain is helping us grow
much as it does nature
reminding us of what we should do differently
maybe this is why I like the rain
and welcome it