Reflections of a Fan

I recently gave a presentation on Mark Twain. I choose him because I wanted to prepare for my English diploma and he has written great classic literature that I could use for it. Additionally, I had read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn previously and had actually enjoyed it, and figured it would be best to do my writer’s seminar on someone whose work I enjoyed reading. Mark Twain is most well known for his novels The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, but he has also written short stories, plays, essays, letters, and satirical pieces. Some of the most common themes Twain writes about include race, order vs. chaos, deception, and friendship. Twain writes The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn with a youthful, colloquial style in the voice of a thirteen year old boy. There is also a lot of dramatic irony where the reader picks up on Huck Finn’s lies.

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As a writer, I learned a lot from Twain, including making sure you write in clear language that is free of unnecessary fluff.  I also learned that you must expect to rewrite a piece of work once you have finished it in order to make it better, and if you do not get steady work as a writer after three years you probably should try to do something else. I also used the opportunity of presenting on Twain to emulate a piece of his work, which is below. The piece is part of a longer post reflecting on Twain’s quotes, which can be found here:

Emulation of Twain: Now when I had mastered the language of popularity and had to come to know every important detail for being liked by one and all as familiarly as I knew the letters of the alphabet, I  made an interesting discovery.  I realized that despite all I had gained, I had lost something too. I had lost the ever important best friend in exchange for many “acquaintances.” All the secrets, the gossip, had ripped away the intimacy that only best friends can share. I still keep in mind my memories of sleepovers, giggling over yearbook photos, sharing clothes.  A plethora of people will greet me in the hallways, welcome me for lunch, ask me to be their partner. The truth is, being liked by many had made me dislike myself more then I could have ever imagined. It turns out what we want will not necessarily make us happy.

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My classmates all gave presentations on writers as well, and one presentation that really stood out to me was the one on Nicholas Sparks. I had always thought of Nicholas Sparks as just another “candy” book author who was so popular his books were made into movies, but now I feel inspired to actually read some of his books. It was interesting to hear that Sparks had flunked English in school, as it made me feel like I can succeed even if I struggle in some classes at school. I also thought his advice was wise and took it to heart, including practicing writing lots and writing for you, not for anyone else. I learned to not be afraid to write out of order, and to make sure I do my research. In the future, I would really like to read his novels Dear John and The Last Song because they both have motifs of overcoming difficulties to live your life, which I thought sounded inspiring and interesting.

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I would say studying published authors has definitely improves my writing because it has exposed me to many different style that I can explore. Additionally, published authors give lots of amazing advice, of which the most common would be to practice, practice, and practice. I now push myself to try new things that may seem strange at first in my writing, put end up sounding really cool!

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Reflections of a Student Blogger

Blogging has been a new and exciting experience for me this semester. I started out feeling utterly helpless on how to even navigate my own blog, but I am now very happy with how it looks and with the ease with which I am able to use it. I have developed the aesthetic aspect of my blog and now enjoy finding quotes to put in my pieces, as well as displaying my own photographs with pieces I write as opposed to just searching for images in Google search. I think long and hard about titles and the way in which they might lure a reader in. I am constantly adding to my sidebar to make it more detailed and reflect my personality. I hesitate before publishing something and proofread it again because I know there is going to be a spelling mistake in there somewhere and I would rather find it sooner instead of later. All in all, I think if my past self found a way to travel into the future and see my blog now, I would be very impressed with what I have done with it. It has changed a lot since the beginning, but I think the point of being able to edit my blog is that it is always growing and changing.

Just as a sunset looks different every moment you look at it, by blog is always changing into a new beautiful stage. photo credits: Heather. This photo was taken in Nagoya, Japan

Just as a sunset looks different every moment you look at it, by blog is always changing into a new beautiful stage. photo credits: Heather. This photo was taken in Nagoya, Japan

I certainly have quite an affection for this blog. I think it is absolutely awesome that I have a space on the internet that is all mine to do what I want with. I am nervous when I think that any stranger can just read my work, but I have confidence that if my work is good enough for me, it is worthy to be displayed so that everyone can see. After this semester, I know I will be very busy with other aspects of my life. But I will not leave this blog to float around, unloved and lost in cyberspace. I will continue to publish work that I do in other classes. I will flip through my journal, reliving the writing journeys I have taken, and feel inspired to breathe life into one of the unpublished stories nestled away in its pages. I will seek blogging as a comfort, a stress-reliever, and for a place where I can explore and reflect. When I am in particular need of inspiration, I will read other bloggers. I will read my teacher’s blog to push myself to the best I can be. My friends’ blogs will be read for support and smiles. I will read my fellow peers’ blogs, in both English and creative writing, to reflect on my own writing and discover new styles and ideas.

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As not only a blogger but a student, I have discovered many things through my journey of learning. A big “aha” moment for me would be when I was performing my spoken word poetry a couple of days ago. In the middle of performing, I noticed that several of my peers looked stunned and amazed at what was coming out of my mouth. I was amazed that my words could have that much of an impact on them. Furthermore, I have not been able to stop thinking about a couple of the spoken word poems that were performed. Keep in mind that this has been a highly stressful week with many exams to worry about, yet that has not stopped my mind from reflecting on the message those poems had. The fact that my words and my peers’ words are able to have such an intense affect on myself is proof of the power we hold in our fingertips. Those poems were made with only our own brains. Knowing that we can do something that profound with our own writing is both heartwarming and scary. Most of all, it is a great confidence booster as I enter a period of time in my life of great uncertainty – what I will be doing next year and how that will determine the rest of my life. This semester in creative writing I have truly grasped the power words contain.

quote by Albus Dumbledore from Harry Potter. photo credits:

quote by Albus Dumbledore from Harry Potter. photo credits:

This semester I have accomplished putting a large quantity of high-quality books under my belt for my English diploma. I am very proud that I kept up with the rigorous reading schedule we had in AP English, and managed to squeeze in a few “candy” books on the side. Some of my favourites this semester would include The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver and A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith. My plan is now to take a bit of a break from the classic literature I have pursued to start the pile of books I was given for Christmas, starting with Me, Who Dove Into The Heart Of The World by Sabina Berman. It only takes a quick glance at my blog to understand how I have progressed as a writer. I would say I have accomplished understanding how to write a variety of styles this year, including slam poetry, non-fiction, and one act plays. Moreover, I have honed my skill as a writer and understood the preciseness and clarity with which I must write. My plan for writing next is to jot down ideas whenever they come to me in my journal, and to take some time out of my busy schedule to develop those ideas and put them on my blog. I also want to use pictures more to inspire my writing.

All in all, I would offer to others debating starting up their own blogs that while they are a lot of work, blogs ca be a beautiful place to express yourself and develop as a student and writer.

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Reflections of my Work

What follows is the journey of four pieces of writing I have published on my blog.

1). Respect:

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The significance of the title Respect  is that it summarizes in one word the main motif in my poem – respect. I make it no secret what I am talking about because I want people to know what I am describing in the poem instead of trying to figure it out and not getting the whole affect of the words. A 17 word summary would be:  Society has decided that respect is no longer a necessary trait, yet it is key for happiness. My purpose in writing this piece was to encourage others to take a look at their lives and what they are doing that could be disrespectful, hopefully taking more respectful actions in the future and finding more meaning with those choices.  My audience was basically society in general, as I think anyone who reads my poem can find meaning it, especially because it is never to late to make a change. One of the spoken word poets we watched in class was Warsan Shire, and her spoken word For Women Who Are Difficult to Love is what really got me thinking about respect and deciding I had enough passion to write about it. One of the style decisions I made was to ask rhetorical questions in my poem to encourage reflection on my audience’s part. An example of this would be “Who taught you that it was okay to beat your wife, to lie to your parents, to interrupt others instead of listening?” Another style decision was to put certain words such as “effort” “stop” and “respect” on a line of their own to emphasize their importance and create a pause between reading the previous line and the word. In writing this piece, there was a lot of crossing ideas out and rewriting certain sections. Usually when I write things I do it all in one go and then when I go back to edit and revise I change very little. That wasn’t the case for this poem as I found it was really difficult to write something that would sound good when I performed it.

Here is the link to Warsan Shire’s spoken word:


2). Reflections by the River:

photo credits: Heather

photo credits: Heather

I chose this title because I have found myself doing a lot of reflecting in my writing, and there are few more perfect spots to reflect than by the river on a beautiful sunny afternoon. A 17 word summary would be: Change is always inevitable, but in the grand scheme of the universe worrying about it is unnecessary. The purpose of this piece was to remind myself and my peers that despite the scariness of grade twelve, there is no need for unnecessary stress and sometimes it is best to take some time to just breathe. My audience for this piece was solely myself, but I think it is a good reminder for anyone who is going through a stressful situation. My influence for Reflections by the River is, surprise surprise, the river! But it’s deeper than that – my inspiration is the calming afternoons where we would take a leisurely walk to the river and just observe our surroundings. For style, I decided to start by describing the minute details all around me, then blow it up in terms of the whole universe. The piece contains large sections of description, followed by reflections on those descriptions. For example, the description “Flourishing trees sway and whisper to each other on the river bank as a slight breeze prances through the air, and the sky is a brilliant blue, ”  is followed by the reflection later on in the piece, “Sitting by the river, watching the forces of nature all about me that will continue to mold the river valley for years to come, despite my mark on my upcoming chemistry test, is surprisingly soothing.” My process for writing this included making sure I sat down on the river bank and actually wrote down not only my observations, but what I was feeling at that moment. This piece is actually a combination of two pieces I wrote by the river. I noticed there was a similar feeling and tone in both and decided to combine them and then summarize how what I was seeing affected what I was feeling.

3). The Trees Whisper Our Secrets:

photo credits: Heather

photo credits: Heather

The title of this piece was inspired by the first line of this story. It was a six word story we did in class and I liked it so much I not only wrote my non-fiction piece on it, but I decided to shorten it and use it for my title. A 17 word summary would be: Sometimes our adventures have deeper purposes than we realize, and only upon reflection can we discover this. The purpose of writing this piece was to reflect upon past events and debate whether to return to them for another summer. The audience was no one other than myself, but now that I have written it I am tempted to send it to my scout leaders in appreciation of their pushing and encouragement to complete the program. The influence for The Trees Whisper Our Secrets is this past summer, specifically a week I spent in Cypress Hills, Saskatchewan, backpacking.  I have lots of fun memories, and some not so fun, from that time and so often when I have nothing else to write about my mind drifts back to it. The style choices I made included personifying some aspects of mother nature, such as “… the leaves twirl and dance to distract us,” “the Aspen trees whisper my secrets. They are watching us, those trees,” and “Hopefully the ghost of their decomposed shells will not come back to haunt us..” Additionally, I employed rhetorical questioning , for example ” But do we know how to work together? How to encourage one another when it is late in the afternoon and the sweat is poring down our faces?” to attempt to connect to the reader and make them think about past experiences as well. To be honest, I did not even think about the lessons I had learned in this experience until I started writing about it, and so you could say the entire ending was an epiphany on my part. I started out just thinking I would describe my experience, and ended up coming to the conclusion, through the journey of writing, that the experiences I was describing had made me into who I was today.

4). To Be or Not To Be:

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The title for this piece was chosen because it was a persona piece for Hamlet and the most famous line from it, and probably from all of Shakespeare’s works, is Hamlet’s line, “to be or not to be.” It also worked perfectly because in the piece Gertrude is debating whether or not to commit suicide. A 17 word summary would be: After a loved one’s death, we may be pushed to act in a way we later regret. The purpose of this piece was to identify why a person might act in a certain way, enforcing the idea that we all make mistakes. My audience for this piece was anyone who enjoyed Hamlet and wanted to explore the characters of Hamlet in depth by reading a piece on what could have been their perspective.  I used To Be or Not To Be to enforce the idea that no one is what they first may seem like, and that we should do our best to move on from our past mistakes, no matter how bleak the future may seem. My main influence was William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. I had to go back into the play and reread Gertrude’s parts in an attempt to understand how she might have been feeling after what she had done. Style decisions included pulling a quote from Hamlet, which was,  “O Hamlet! Thou has cleft my heart in twain.(III.iv.156.)” I incorporated it into my piece to make it seem more realistic in terms of the play. I also decided to include the symbol of a ring into the story and used Gertrude’s action of throwing the ring over the balcony as symbolism that she has moved on after Hamlet’s death and will no longer be controlled by Claudius, as stated in the line, “I rip the beautiful ring off my finger, and throw it over the balcony before I can have second thoughts.” It took me a little while to figure out how to write from the perspective of a well-known character in Hamlet and to figure out how exactly Gertrude would find the courage to move on, and it turned out the ring would be the perfect thing.  That way she could throw something over the balcony without having to jump herself, and she now had a purpose for living.


120 km/hr

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My pa has told me, more times then I can remember, to never go near the train tracks that run through the field on the other side of our fence. But Sarah was teasing me again after school today, and I wanted to get away from her. The house was hot and stuffy and smelt of vinegar from mom’s pickling, and besides, I had spotted him sitting on the level-crossing gate on my walk home and I was curious as to what he was doing. I could hear Mama saying in my head that curiosity hasn’t killed no cat, but sure will kill you, but I ignored her echo and climbed the fence in five seconds flat, something I’ve been practicing. As I picked my way through the field, getting scratches on my legs from the sharp blades of weeds along the way, I watched the man for any sign of movement.

When I got close enough, I started whistling so as not to startle him. I know all too well what it’s like to be startled, thanks to two older brothers. I approached him from the side, and when I figured I had gotten close enough to talk at loud voices but not close enough for him to do anything crazy, I yelled,

“Hey mister! Watcha doing?” He turned his head to look at me slowly, then returned his gaze to the multitude of fields spread out before us on the other side of the tracks.

“You know, mister, my pa says the trains that blast by on these tracks go 120 km/hr. That’s awful fast! You might wanna be careful, sittin’ up there on that gate.” For some reason, I appear to have struck a nerve. He turns around to glare at me so fast I think he’ll get a kink in his neck, and yells,

“What if I don’t want to be careful? Who the hell do you think you are to be able to tell me what I can and can’t do? You’re just a little boy!” Surprised by his harsh words, I take a step back, stumbling on a rock behind me. “Aw, Jesus, are you okay? I’m sorry I yelled at you, I’m just not in the mood to talk, kid.” Well lucky for him, I am in the mood to talk, and as my mama says, nothing can stop my tongue from waggin’ once it gets started.

“I’m fine, mister. Is something wrong? I know when I am angry I throw baseballs at the side of the house, and it helps me plenty. Do you want me to go get some baseballs? We could throw them at the side of the house together?” I turn hopefully back to the house.

“Naw, kid, but thanks for the offer. It’s just … I’ve got a lot on my mind. You wouldn’t understand.”

“Maybe not, but my mama always says the best solution to a problem is to talk it out, and I’m real good at listening.” The man seems to contemplate this, then gives a shrug.

“Why the hell not. I guess it all started when I decided to go to a party yesterday. I didn’t realize my old man was tinkering in the garage when I started the car and backed up right over his foot, breaking the bone in five different places. Now my parents think I’m crazy because apparently my old man was yelling the whole time I was backing up but I never heard him, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to drive again, and now my fiancee wants to talk to me, probably to end the wedding after finding out her husband to be is an idiot.” The situation actually seems kinda funny to me, and I try to keep a straight face as I ask,

“Is your old man gonna be okay?”

“Ya, I guess.”

“And he knows it was an accident?”

“Well, hell yes, I sure hope so!”

“Did you apologize to him?”

This question seems to stump the man, and he shrugs at the ground, muttering, “Not exactly, but he knows I didn’t mean him no harm, and I don’t think I really wanna face him again.”

I sigh, as the solution is so obvious to me. “Mama always says, life is all about the problems. And you? You gotta be all about the solutions. The solution here is you apologize to your old man, he forgives you, eventually, and life goes back to normal, except for the occasional mention about your poor driving skills.”

The man sits up a little straighter and asks quietly, almost to himself, “Are you sure it’s that simple?”

I can hear my mom calling in the distance, and I know if I don’t show up on the doorstep soon there will be no supper for me, so as I start walking backwards I say, “Of course it will! Stop worrying so much!” I turn around and break into a run, but not before hearing the man mutter behind me,

“And to think, I was gonna jump in front of the next train!”

The Spinster


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“Wait for me daddy”

It’s a line that haunts me even today, and that shaped the life I now live.

No, I’m not a soldier, gone off to war, and in doing so sentencing myself to an almost inevitable death. I’m not a desolate mother and wife, haunted by the ghosts of what ifs and the desperate hope her husband will somehow return.

I’m simply me, a young (or so I would like to think), proud maiden passing the years by, an efficient secretary by day, and independent woman by night.

Some would call me an old spinster, or a lonely hermit, and they would indeed be right, although I would like to think of their judgement as harsh, and unnecessary.

For I have good reason to be a spinster. Reason that all started about two, no three days,  before hearing those fateful words.

I was a beautiful girl at the time of the war, not quite a woman yet, with high hopes and many admirers. I was one of the few who absolutely hated the war. I am afraid my reasons are rather selfish too, for I was losing to the war my highschool sweetheart, a brave man that had enlisted almost immediately after the war had started, and I was completely inconsolable. I cried for days and days when he told me, before shaping up and deciding that on his day of departure I would be strong, and collected, and would not succumb to the fits of hysterics that usually ailed me whenever I thought of his handsome face leaving me, with no more solid embraces, no more tender kisses, no more sweet love notes.

So with those dutiful resolutions, I had powdered my face one last time, straightened my hat in the front hallway mirror, and set out to Main Street, where all of our boys would march down the street and across the valley to the nearby town’s train station, and where I would say one last goodbye to what I was sure at the time to be my only happiness.

I remember it was so crowded on Main Street, and horribly dusty. Occasional sobs swelled up through the crowd, and I tried to avoid listening to the last-minute promises, kisses, and seeing the long embraces as loved ones tried desperately to engrave in their mind every last detail, in case the unspoken happened, and it was their son, brother, husband, that never came home.

There was one family that somehow managed to catch my eye. They looked pretty much the same as everyone else, with that sorrow and fear hidden behind the enlisted and his wife’s face, and a state of confusion settling quickly on their little son’s, yet for some reason I felt compelled to watch them, if it was only for a minute.

I was called back to reality a moment later when I heard the sharp, cutting voice of  the general yelling out, “MARCH!” and the loud “Dum. Dum. Dum.” of many legs moving together as the troops started off rhythmically, steadily, with proud faces and stiff, swinging arms, down Main Street. I turned and scanned faces desperately, trying to catch a glimpse of my boyfriend.The mass kept marching, faster now, all the while I was getting more frantic by the second. I hitched up my skirt and started running alongside the troops, searching the young faces full of smiles in anticipation of their grand “adventure” when I heard a small voice behind me cut through the din and plea,

“Daddy, wait for me!”

Then louder, more anxious,

“Wait for me daddy!”

Distracted, I turned around to see who the voice belonged to, and rested my eyes on the same little boy I had noticed just two minutes ago.

He was a short distance behind me, trying to run on his stubby little legs and keep up with the marching soldiers, his one chubby hand stretched out as far as it could in a desperate hope to reach and never let go of his daddy, his hero, his protector.

In that instant, I forgot all about the handsome boyfriend I was there for, my selfish hopes that he would survive above all else so that he could come home and make me happy, and stopped rather abruptly to watch the little boy. His eyes were filled with tears, unhappy at the confusing scene around him, and the huge, marching monster that was taking his daddy away. His mother ran up beside him, trying to grab him unsuccessfully. Her face was set, as if she was absolutely determined not to make any show of emotion that would upset her little boy anymore, but I could see the cracks of fear, so ever-consuming, start to take over.

His father seemed not to care for such self-restraint and reached out, pulled his son in with one sudden swoop, and engulfed him in a huge hug, burying his face in his son’s shoulder. The marching continued, men stepping around him in all directions before straightening out into the same orderly line that would continue going to death.

After a moment one single breath away from forever, just a little too short for himself or his son, the man pulled away, patted his son’s head one last time, saluted his wife, and joined the marching once again, this time instantly swallowed up by the everlasting ranks.

I saw that man once again, on the picture of a newspaper obituary some 5 weeks later. He had been killed instantly by a landmine.

That picture merely served to reinforce the decision I had made the instant I had heard those words, “Wait for me daddy.”  I didn’t want to ever have to put anyone through that agony; the torture of having to lose a loved one to war. I didn’t want to have children, who at some point in their lives would lose someone important to them. I didn’t want to love someone, know someone better than they knew their own self, only to have to go through losing them.

And so I decided I would never allow anyone to grow that close to me. Close enough that if something happened to one of us, the other one would be hurt.

That is why I am a spinster. Why I get up every morning alone, go to work, then go to bed alone. Why I put up with the neighborhood boys throwing rocks at my window and chanting “loner, loner, who`s the ugly loner!”  Why I never even wrote my boyfriend after that.

Why when I do die, I will die alone, so that I will never be the cause of more pain in this world.




Reflections of a Writer

A summary of my writing identity in three sentences:

In the beginning, an elementary school girl loving story books and writing in her journal on the bus ride home.

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In the middle, an awkward tween who hated math but loved to write short stories where her dreams took flight.

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In the end, a high school senior who has found freedom and solace in doing something she loves.

photo credits:*docstoccdn*com%7Cthumb%7Corig%7C2573670*png/

photo credits:*docstoccdn*com%7Cthumb%7Corig%7C2573670*png/

While summarizing this integral part of my life in three sentences, I can also say there is no way my writing identity would ever fit in three sentences. My writing flows with the breeze and travels to all corners of the world. It can not be saddled down to one identifying moment, yet it captures certain beautiful moments so perfectly, like a butterfly just spreading its wings. In my journeys of today I have already typed thousands of words, yet my writing is endless. It flows out of my fingertips along with the memories – slow and difficult at times, yet on fire at others. It is descriptive and polished. It bubbles with observations and reflections.

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photo credits:

Let’s rewind the tape a bit – not to those elementary school days, but just to the beginning of what was to be the last year of my life as I knew it – grade 12. I went into grade 12 with an open mind ready to spend every day curled up in a corner of the classroom writing my every desire. It turned out to be a little different than that – and I realized quickly I had a lot to learn. My brain appeared to have turned to mush that summer, with golden nuggets of stories hidden away under layers of my  foggy abilities to write a paragraph. Slowly, over time, I gained confidence in what was I doing. I began to be happy with what I was writing simply because it was creative. It didn’t have to meet every criteria to the T – it just had to spill out of me in a passionate way. My mind became a sharp, honed tool and all my tricks and tips culminated with the writing of my English Diploma.  I’m not stressed out about this exam, however, because I know I did my best and that is all I ever ask of myself in my writing.

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You could read this piece to future creative writers for advice, but I would argue it would be better to not. It is better to embark on this journey of grade 12 without knowing. I would tell them, you need to figure it out yourself. Because lessons have a whole lot more impact if you learn them yourself instead of being taught. My advice would be to keep an open mind and listen to your heart, because the sooner you do that, the better. I don’t care if you have the best marks in the world, but it will mean nothing if you do not learn how to write with an open heart and an open mind.

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The Trees Whisper Our Secrets

The Aspen trees whisper our secrets. They are watching us, those trees. Every move we make is noted, plotted, calculated. The wind drifts through their clumpings, passing information on as the leaves twirl and dance to distract us. Despite the knowledge we have of the manner in which they guard our secrets, a sense of peace falls upon us. The way nature sets its own beat – thump THUMP thump THUMP – naturally syncs itself  with our heartbeats.

photo credits:

photo credits: Heather

We eat our lunches and watch the birds circle above the trees as we talk and laugh. Just as birds swoop, glide, and dive, our conversation flows from topic to topic. Somehow, it seems possible that six teenagers sitting in the middle of a field in Saskatchewan could solve of all the world’s problems in our leisurely lunch break.

We finish up our lunch and throw our apple cores into the forest. Hopefully the ghost of their decomposed shells will not come back to haunt us, but I would not be surprised if it did. The time has come for us to continue. We heft our packs onto our backs. Those packs are too heavy for the lengthy time we will be hiking with them, yet they are all too light considering they contain all our worldly possessions for the next week.

Yet our truly worldly possessions will never fit in our backpacks, most of all because we do not possess them yet. But we will. Time will ensure that. The tolerance, respect, integrity, and friendship we will develop over this time will make it all so valuable.

The best part of this is the fact that we will not realize it until it is over. We will be too busy griping over tired feet, laughing at jokes, playing card games, reading maps, and getting lost. The truth is, the checkpoints we hike to everyday have no meaning. They keep us busy hiking from hill to forest to plain, but that is never the true objective. We have done this summer after summer, ever since we were big enough to hoist a bag on our backs. We know how to cross a stream without getting our shoes wet, how to follow a trail, how to avoid getting blisters. But do we know how to work together? How to encourage one another when it is late in the afternoon and the sweat is poring down our faces? How to do the right thing even when there are no adults watching?

We do, and it is a good thing too. Because they are watching. The trees shift and a face is revealed among the branches. They track the GPS attatched to our backpacks. But it is unnecessary, because our integrity is truer than we give ourselves credit for. And as we walk down a well-used cattle path and the sound of our laughter echoes in the hilltops, it becomes obvious – we learn more in those five days than in a whole year.

photo credits: Heather

photo credits: Heather

To Be Or Not To Be

Persona writing from the perspective of Gertrude in Hamlet

 It would be so easy just to jump. To climb up on that balcony railing and let myself fall effortlessly through the air into the welcoming arms of death. All my troubles would be gone. The allure of death, and of mind-numbing peace peace, is strong. Yet I can not bring myself to do it. The queen in me is warning that it would be the biggest mistake yet. And after all the stupid, cheap decisions I have already made, that is really saying something.

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I pace the floor, impatient with myself once again. Hamlet and Claudius have both left me after another discouraging conversation in which we tried to convince Hamlet to cheer up. He continues to be moody and morose, even though everyone else has chosen to act like they have moved on, myself included. It seemed easier to pretend nothing had ever happened than face reality. Well, I am tired of avoiding the truth. And truth be told, I hate myself, and that balcony railing is looking better every second.

The room is watching me silently. There is too much space, too much loneliness. The world continues to go on around me as I count the days in my prison. Most of all I miss my son. We used to walk together, in the gardens, every morning. We would discuss everything from politics to fashion to his latest love. I thought we would resume the routine after Hamlet’s funeral, but now I count myself lucky if I catch so much as a glimpse of my son.

I cry out desperately, “O Hamlet! Thou has cleft my heart in twain.(III.iv.156.)” The room does not respond, but my sob echoes in the high-vaulted ceiling. I should have expected as much. Nothing good ever comes of hoping someone will respond. I now know hope is the enemy, and will be my undoing if I am not careful.

I walk once more to the balcony, avoiding looking in the mirror as I pass by. I can not bear to look myself in the face. Nobody else can either. My subjects used to adore me, and come in droves whenever there was a royal ceremony, but at the wedding ceremony the only ones who came booed me when I walked up the aisle and had to be removed by guards. I lean over the railing and peer down at the floor, three stories below me. I watch the hustle and bustle of the castle activities wistfully. I used to practically live down there, giving orders to the servants, welcoming guests. Now Claudius orders me to stay in my room as I tend to upset the servants with my mere presence.

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I turn away from the balcony slowly, and stare at the wedding band on my finger. I can’t believe Claudius suggested I use the same wedding band for our marriage as the one King Hamlet used. That ring was a symbol of our love, as Hamlet had travelled many a land to find a ring beautiful enough to capture the essence of our love. Now it burns my finger to wear it, and I only put it on when I am in Claudius’ presence. I should have known Claudius was a horrible man from the moment he insisted I use the same ring. Yet I was swept up in grief so strong, I did not realize what I was allowing Claudius to do until it was too late. Those short days of courtship are a complete blur, with the exception of Hamlet’s funeral. But it is too late now. Too many mistakes have been made, and my fate has been decided for me, by a conniving, evil man.

Fury rises up in my stomach as I picture Claudius’ scheming face. One day, he will be sorry for what he has done to me and my son! I rip the beautiful ring off my finger, and throw it over the balcony before I can have second thoughts. King Hamlet is gone. There is nothing I can do about that. But I can get my son back. Claudius will want Hamlet to hate me as much as possible, to be driven away from this kingdom by his disgust of me. But I will find a way to get close to him. I will listen to him, and try to make him understand where I am coming from. I will not lose him.

I stalk away from the balcony and head towards the door. Now is not the time to end my life. Later perhaps, but for now I have a purpose. Hamlet will not have died in vain, for his son will continue his legacy. I will make it happen or die trying.

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Here is a link to a performance of my Spoken word poem:

When I was little,

and my innocent world was the only one I knew,

I went to kindergarten

to learn how to play nice.

Respect each other, they would say,

Don’t hit, kick, or steal.

Yet today I watch

as we hit each other’s self-esteem with computer screens,

kick our accomplishments until they are covered in bruises,

hide beneath masks to steal each other’s confidence.


Who taught you

that it was okay

to beat your wife,

to lie to your parents,

to interrupt others instead of listening?

When did you start flailing your arms,

drowning in that ocean of despair and pity,



for a life preserver

held just out of your reach?

You could have climbed onto the raft behind you

if you had only

turned your head

to notice it.

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Everyone you talk to has a problem,

but no one is willing to listen.

No one has the time

between reading the newspaper,

watching youtube clips,

retweeting, blogging, and liking

the “bigger” problems.

Respect has disappeared,

swallowed up by the gum-ridden sidewalk cracks,

stomped on by those rushing by,

hurry, hurry, there’s no time for anything but

connecting, frowning, and buying.


and take a moment to remember

those kindergarten days again

when you were taught r-e-s-p-e-c-t,

were praised for doing the right thing,

and burst into tears when you forgot your lunch.

Now, sometimes,

even though you won’t admit it,

you forget your lunch on purpose,

laugh at a rude joke,

order just one more drink,

and forget to say thank you to the cashier because

it’s just too much


Do you ever take the time

out of your terribly important day

to think about others?

Or do you just shove them to the back of your mind

along with that annoying little voice

that won’t shut up?

Is it easy to ignore the silent pleas,

the whispered apologies,

the lone tear

falling gracefully into a pool of shame?

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Despite the everlasting conquest for it,

the sacrifices of others you willingly make,

happiness is attainable,

and can be found everywhere. .

It is in taking care of yourself because you realize that

while your body may not fit like a glove

life doesn’t give you another one.

It is in making an effort for someone else.

It is in building up instead of tearing down.

It is in acknowledging

that we are all creatures of the same biological build

that we share everything from DNA to emotions

and that we all deserve


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Shakespeare Emulation

This blog post is a collection of two pieces I have done that are emulations of Shakespeare. The first one is from a monologue by Iago in Othello, Act 2, Scene 3.


And what’s he then that says I play the nice one?

When the clock ticks and I sit restless,

Probal to worrying and studying the way

to win his heart again? For ’tis most easy

the other fool to flirt with, and woo

in any dishonest suit; he’s labelled as easy

as his desperate friends. And now for me

to get back at him – make him pay for the pain,

for his sin seared into my skin,

my soul blackened at the cost of his love,

so that he may take what is only mine to lose;

his appetite for pain has wreaked havoc

with my attempt to function. How am I then a villain

to counsel him to this parallel course,

so that he knows my pain? Never!

When devils grow their horns,

they do first adorn their halos,

as I do now: for while this monster

cries teardrops that fall upon his mask,

hoping and pleading that I will take him back,

I’ll stab him in the back instead of slapping

him in the face to repeal his lust;

and every moment he suffers will do me good;

his sorrow will undo his credit with his friends.

So I will turn his twisted virtue into dust,

and out of his own malice make the net

that shall enmesh him to the end.


This second piece is a more indirect emulation to act 4, scene 5 in Hamlet. Ophelia has gone crazy and is giving flowers to the people she knows to represent their relationships, and arguably sees these relationships more clearly now that she is insane. If I were to give flowers to different people in my life, these are the flowers I would give and why.

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A Forget-Me-Not to my mom because I will never forget the lessons she has taught me or to come back home and visit.

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An apple blossom to my dad for all the afternoons spent in the backyard, playing.

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An ivy flower for my best friend to represent friendship and continuity.

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A lilac for my brother to remind him of the joys of our youth together.