In scenery I like flat country.
In life I don’t like too much to happen.

In personalities I like mild colorless people.
And in colors I prefer gray and brown.

My wife, a vivid girl from the mountains,
says, “Then why did you choose me?”

Mildly I lower my brown eyes —
There are so many things admirable people do not understand.

William Stafford (1914-1993)
from Stories That Could Be True (1961)

Dead Poets Tour of America (and Beyond)

“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive FOR.” — Dead Poets’ Society

I guess you could say I’ve a new hobby. (This is my euphemism for “obsession.”) Poetry has entered my life once again, this time in full force.

I’ve been a fan of and an advocate for the written word for some time. I’m that girl who taught you how to use semicolons properly (in between two independent clauses, without the need for a coordinating conjunction). I’m also the girl who proofread your essays for whichever grad school application you wanted to submit. (By the way, you still owe me lunch.) Anyway, you get the point. I love words! More specifically, I love when they are crafted in such a way that they evoke, challenge, and inspire.

I visited F. Scott Fitzgerald’s grave today (with Henry’s help a la Google Maps all the way from California when I got lost) when the weather cleared up for an hour or so. The author of The Great Gatsby wrote on behalf of the Lost Generation during the post-WWI era. In an attempt to reconcile the collective disillusion of this generation, he created a protagonist, Jay Gatsby, who would ultimately become the hero of every passive-aggressive man in the western hemisphere. And every creepy guy who has ever hit on me. (Sorry, but it’s true.) I can’t say that Fitzgerald was my favorite, but he was definitely one of the best known American authors whose work still remains relevant to this day. I paid my respects to Mr. Fitzgerald and thanked him for giving me an idea.

So I looked up where some of my favorite poets were buried. Ever since ever, I had assumed that most of them had a space or at least an epitaph reserved for them in Westminster Abbey’s Poets Corner in England. I was right, for the most part. Rudyard Kipling, T.S. Eliot, and Lord Byron are all commemorated there via statue, epitaph, or mini-monument. However, I had failed to consider the many poets that must be buried in the United States. To my surprise, I found that Edgar Allan Poe and Dorothy Parker are both buried in Baltimore (40 minutes away). Then, I found that F. Scott Fitzgerald was buried in Rockville, Maryland, one city down! Tons of other authors are buried along the eastern seaboard, and I intend to visit as many as possible. I also compiled a list of dead poets’ grave sites across the United States and abroad. Next September, when I go home, I plan to drive cross-country. Now that I have my list of Dead Poets, I have a great excuse to stop in certain locations during the long haul.

Let the Dead Poets Tour of America begin!

A little less than morbid, a little more than impulsive. But you gotta admit, it’s an endeavor worth trying.

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” -St. Augustine

Let It Snow!

I woke up this morning to what I thought was the sound of rain. My roommate told me that it was snowing outside, and before my eyes were even completely open, I stumbled over my own feet on my way to the window. My breath fogged up the glass as I pressed it against our picture window and observed for the first time Maryland’s winter wonderland.

I threw on every warm article of clothing I owned within a 10 ft. radius of me and ran outside with my camera.

It’s so beautiful to watch the trees fill up with snow. No wonder snowfall inspires so much poetry. It really is quite a sight to see! If only Robert Frost could have been standing there with me to witness such a morning! I stood there in the quiet morning and recited one of my favorite poems by him from memory:

Whose woods these are, I think I know
His house is in the village, though
He will not see me stopping here
To see his woods fill up with snow

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake
The only other sounds the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep
But I’ve got promises to keep
And miles to go before I sleep
And miles to go before I sleep

It was one of the more soulful moments of this life of mine. As much as California is still where the heart is, no matter how hard it tried, it would not be able to reproduce the same experience.

Gratitude for Platitude

I had my first bowl of pho in three whole months within half an hour of landing at John Wayne Airport. There’s no place quite like Home.

I picked guavas with my Dad; went shopping with my Mom; spent quality time with my brother; saw my little sister from another mister; read poetry aloud; had a jam session; visited Grandpa; played Rock Band; camped out for Black Friday (and got McDonald’s breakfast); had a sleepover; reorganized my bookshelf (now the American authors and European authors each have their own section); had a hyper-crazy spell; bought a microphone; karaoke’d my heart out; bought more books; saw my roomie from UCDC; slept in my own bed; visited UCI; and caught up with girl talk before I flew out. All in all, a good trip home. Two and a half weeks until I fly back again.

On this particular trip, I felt the Difference for the first time. It happened when I saw a girl wearing a scarf in the middle of 72 degree weather. Then I remembered how scarves are more fashion than function in California’s “winter.” I laughed at how I used to indulge in the same practice. I proceeded to think about how I might have changed since the last time I was Home.

Emily Dickinson once wrote,

Heavenly hurt it gives us –
We can find no scar –

But internal difference –
Where the Meanings are.

“Heavenly hurt” is the only way I can really describe what it felt like to be around familiar things but carry the knowledge that I could never fully recount my experience on the east coast to people back home unless they were there with me. How could I ever relay all that I had been through in the past three months to people back home who have never seen our office, never been to D.C., never ridden the metro? It was so easy to fall back into the Same-O Same-O, which only ratified my sense that Home is a comfort and a bubble. My “meanings,” so to speak, would only be understood by me and whomever else has shared my experiences. In some ways that’s frustrating, but at the end of the day, that’s life.

Within coming back home lay a lesson that there are some things that will never change – in the good way – and people who will always remind you of who you are. In lieu of the season, I’m thankful for both.