Eye of the Story

The Evergreen State College

Author: Michelle Grinstead

Michelle Grinstead Week 9 Journal: The Settling of Dust

Everyone has favorite everyday moments, or aesthetics that happen. I have been thinking a lot about the positive in each day, because I have been struggling to see it. Writing has lost it’s appeal, but so has reading and other types of creating I enjoy. Everything starts to feel like work.

 

This happens every once in awhile, but winter quarter at Evergreen definitely makes these moments more frequent. It is week nine now, and I know that the break is just around the corner. Just a few more days for me to get through, but there are moments that aren’t work.

 

This morning as I was thinking about the fact that I have to present this coming week, and that I need to write one last journal, and do one last eval, I just sat up and saw the rain beating against my window and frowned.

 

Now flash forward about two hours and I am sitting on a couch typing this and drinking coffee and there is sunshine at my back. I can feel the heat from the sun warming my tattoo, and see the dust particles floating in the air. The shadows across my arms of the tree branches behind me, and I remember this moment.

 

I remember watching speckles of shadow wave in a calm wind with bright sunlight streaming, and I feel calm. Everything I need to do stills in my mind. Even if just for a moment, my day has gotten better. I sit up and start writing again, and I know this is just for a moment, but sometimes I just need that one moment. The one spec of everyday to make each moment float like the dust in the light, like little creatures drifting in the air, peaceful.

For me this is it, writing one last sentence for one last journal, and knowing all I have to do is get through one more week of work.

And the dust settles.

Winter’s Bone Close Viewing: An Exploration of the Epic Journey of Ree. By: Michelle Grinstead

Winter’s Bone is a film directed by Debra Granik, based on the novel by Daniel Woodrell. Winter’s Bone explores the journey Ree takes to find her father so she can continue to take care of her family. The plot changes made between the adaptation of book to film with Winter’s Bone makes Ree a bit more like the capital H, Hero when it comes to an Epic Journey. The idea of the Epic Journey and Hero comes from the Ancient Greeks and is often used as a device to hold the plot of a story in both the past and modern times. The Epic Hero is admirable, protects people who can’t protect themselves, and honor provides them with the courage they need to take the next step. Ree is doing everything she can to protect her family this selfless act gives her all three of these traits.

In the book Ree wants to join the military to run away from her family and town, and in the movie Ree wants to join the military to get the money so her family can keep their house. She even wanted to take her little siblings with her to training. The line in the movie when her brother asks her if the money means she is going to leave to join the military takes on a much lighter meaning behind the question compared to the book. In the book, Ree not only wants to find her father to help her family, but because she wants to leave. The money in the book gives her a chance at freedom that nothing else could have, but with her father dead she stays out of a sense of duty. In the film her actions have an opposite effect, leaving was out of a sense of duty not a sense of freedom. This sets her apart as our Hero, but the journey of what takes place throughout the film builds the characteristics of her Epic Journey.

The first step of an epic journey is to show what the ordinary world looks like, in her ordinary world there is a view into her house, the children playing, the lack of food, everything that sets up her motivation to go on this journey. Her call to adventure is the officer asking her where her father is, and telling her that he put the house up for his bail and then went missing. There is often a refusal to the call of the adventure, like Achilles, but I don’t see one in Ree. There isn’t any way Ree really could refuse, she doesn’t have that option. When Ree goes to talk to Teardrop to ask if he knew where her father was, this could definitely stand as the talk with a mentor, but the advice was to keep her ass to the willows. This advice isn’t quite what the Hero would want to hear, but in this instance it is what Teardrop thinks she needs to hear. The crossing of the threshold was the crossing to Hawkfall to see if they knew where her father was, even if related to Ree, they were still the Other. When going to Hawkfall this is where our hero learns the rules of the journey, or the other side. There are moments of friendship and foe, she has both with Gail as the friendship and the Miltons as the foe. There are then setbacks in that no one is talking to Ree about her father, so she must go back to the Miltons after having been warned to not come back. This leads to the Ordeal which is obviously the beating by the Matriarchs of the Milton family. The Reward phase of this story is both a combination of the reward and the resurrection phase in that she gets what she needs to fix her family, but also has to  face one big final challenge to get it. She has to cut off the hands of her father’s corpse. This acts as her true final act, but she can’t do this, she needs help and receives it. Ree’s final task is finished, and she gets the proof, her father’s hands,  and turns them  into the officer to prove her father is dead. She has taken the road back, and is given money from the jail bond to help take care of her family. This is her magical elixer, her home and the means to provide.

The Epic Journey list of events shows the steps of the journey taken in the film, but even with this as the backbone there is still so much more in the film that symbolize her journey. Ree is walking up hills and through paths and you see her skinny knees peeking through the tears in her jeans. The constant shots of Ree walking and moving forward show the journey taking place. The film supports this by showing her moving constantly trying to find the solution to her problem. Even before she knows Jessup put up the house she is seen walking with the horse, because they have no way to feed it. Ree is consistently  trying to take care of her family, she is already on a journey before the major appearance of her problem.

Of course there are certain traits of the town that set Ree up to be the Hero; her father leaving, her mother unable to care, her neighbors unable and at times unwilling to help, and the strong sense of responsibility towards one’s family that is common in small communities. Ree is in a place where she doesn’t quite know how to make things right for her family, but just that she has to. There is quote in the book that for me really sets Ree up to be the person she has to be sense it feels like no one else can. “Nobody here wants to be awful, it’s just nobody here knows all the rules yet, and that makes a rocky time.” (Pg. 37 Winter’s Bone, Daniel Woodrell.) Ree goes on her journey and puts herself in danger several times, because she doesn’t know all of the rules yet, and it seems neither does anyone else. Sometimes when things go downhill you just have to be Ree, you have to be the Hero.

Works Cited

Winter’s Bone. Dir. Debra Granik. Gryphon, 2010.

Woodrell, Daniel. Winter’s Bone: A Novel. New York: Little, Brown, 2006. Print.

 

Michelle Grinstead Week 8 Journal: My Friend Connor

Do you ever meet someone, and just know you are gonna love them? Not in some stupid romantic, Rom-Com bullshit way, but in the this person is gonna be my friend and I am gonna be excited about it way. This is how I felt when I met Connor. Connor is a good friend of mine, and a co-worker. Connor is kind of like a nice version of Regina George. His hair is a full of secrets and a lot of people wouldn’t mind if he hit them in the face. But he probably wouldn’t ever hit these people in the face, hence the nice part.

Connor kind of rambles his way into people’s lives and then when he leaves it for a day or two, people just kind of miss him and hope he returns. He isn’t afraid to throw around his opinion, but he does seem pretty bashful. I enjoy the honesty and earnest way he lives his life day to day. I have heard him compared to a golden retriever type of guy, but I watch and see something more.

Sometimes I worry about him, he is constantly trying to be and seem happy. I guess everybody just wants to be happy but the go lucky makes me feel even more grateful for the peeks into his less happy counterparts. I don’t understand how people just want to see the positivity from others and then walk away when they see the negative bits underneath. I watch and see the smile fall even if for the briefest of moments, and feel a weird sense of happiness.

I was Connor’s RA last year, and I hoped to be his friend, but it wasn’t until this year I got to see more than the happiness. More than the smiles and giggles, which I do really love to see and I know  I can always laugh along. But the more is always something I like to see even if it is just a watching moment.

It is a comfort to know he is more than the guy everyone loves.

As I am writing this he is sitting right beside me, and we talked about the first time we had met. It ended up being in some G.O. meeting or another, and I said I don’t remember exactly, but I know that we like each other. He laughed and said, “I’m glad you felt the need to tell me we didn’t hate each other’s guts the first time we met.”

Michelle Grinstead, Week 6 Journal: Heartlessly In Love

Oscar falls in love the way I pretend that I don’t. He sees someone and their life together flashes before his eyes. When he falls in love it is always head first with his heart not far behind, and his penis even closer. I have always wanted to fall in love in an equally dramatic fashion, sans the penis. It feels that sex leads Oscar’s quest for love, and my own path has always had an aversion to that.

I like to make jokes that I don’t fall in love, because I cut my own heart out. In reality I’m just uncomfortable with my judgments on the people I have tried to love in the past. I won’t give a rundown of every person who has left their hand resting for a touch longer than normal on my arm or the times I have made elongated eye contact with someone who made my heartbeat rush to fill my face with a blush. These moments don’t define my own experience with love.

The love I have felt has often been surrounded with hesitation and too little too lates. I never want more unless they have already given me something I could rely on, something to wander off with in my mind. It has always been easier to create what ifs and could have beens in my mind, the way Oscar created heroic rescue missions. I have not wanted to put myself in a place for people to see the creature that lives inside me. It seems easier to create something that won’t ever be real, than to let myself be seen. Oscar is admirable in that way for me, he put himself into the world to be seen and sought out love, where I never could.

The last time I fell in love was with a girl who wanted to fall with me, but like me had a creature in her mind she didn’t want to define her. We built the what ifs together and circled the creatures we had shown each other, while still too afraid to let them go. To let them no longer define how we sought out affection. In the end our emotions became too much too fast. There was no too little, and it wasn’t too late. Just too soon. 

So for now, I will continue to joke about my self imposed heartlessness, and hope in secret that there will be no too little or too soon next time. 

And that there will be a next time.

Michelle Grinstead: The Midway Point

After delving into a project all about myself,and writing scholarships, I’ve grown tired of my thoughts. My metaphorical inner voice is pissing me off. Why is anything I’m saying important? With how I’m feeling, that’s a trick question it isn’t.  

This self imposed angst will eventually ear off, but since I’m here why not let it roll over me. I will fall down this grassy hill of self doubt and pick myself up. Ignoring the fresh grass and dirt stains on my jeans and the little drops of red from my shoulder on my t-shirt. Where did the blood come from? You might be wondering. Well, at some point as I was tumbling down I hit the tree of apathy and had to detangle my body from its all encompassing limbs. Eventually I escaped but it tried to cling onto me. Its claw like branches dug into my shoulder as I freed myself, leaving a wound that throbs to remind me of the false comfort I left. 

It’s time. 

It’s time to stride forward down the cobbled path I’ve created in my mind. Forcing a falsely confident swagger as the hot air of anxiety continuously tries to drag me down in a sweaty panicked hunch. Each street block worth of steps brings me to a slightly cooler patch of air. An air filling with relief. I’m continuing down this path but another hill is always looming. This one of self loathing. 

Which looks to be a much wilder ride.

The Reality House, Michelle Grinstead Week 3 Journal

The first time I really thought about what actually happens after you die was on Halloween night when I was in sixth grade. There is this church event that they do in my hometown as an alternative to Halloween, called The Reality House. I went with my Mom, my brother Paul, and his girlfriend Shelly. The Reality House is a car crash simulator, where you die and live out all of the processes of dying and going to Hell, according to Christianity.

 

You wait in line and in groups get put into a van and the seat belts are all broken, so for eleven year old me this was already pretty stressful. The driver then slams on the breaks and before my eyes I see a crushed car with three teenagers all covered with blood, and EMTs trying to revive the obviously dead teenagers that my brother went to highschool with. I begged them to let me leave, but the tour guide wouldn’t let me. As we walk past the fire truck and ambulance from the community that volunteered to be a part of The Reality House, you see a gurney with a body bag and a mirror sticking out of where the face would be and they make you stare at the mirror. The dead body is you.

 

Next you go to the freezers. They make you lay down on the metal table with wheels that you see on tv shows where the doctors perform your autopsy, and push you through the freezer to the other side to where a demon takes you to your own funeral. At this point I am full on sobbing and separated from my family because they divided our group up, and begging them to not make me do it. The second tour guide starts to take pity on me, but I am still forced to lay on the cold steel table and as the darkness of the freezer coats my body I feel like I am actually going to die. My body is shaking and I get pulled out to the other side and the lady promises me that I’m okay, but I knew I wasn’t. Now I am in the room where they have my funeral with a prostrated woman crying and begging the world for this to be a lie, and I stare into the casket and see a mirror where the face would be. I’ve stopped crying at this point, but I am so filled with hate for this place I just want to join the woman on the floor.

 

As we inevitably move on one room closer to me being able to go home, I see my neighbor Peachie who was one of the dead kids from the car accident, being tortured by Satan. They turned the heat up to 100 degrees, and I am sweating and starting to panic as the teen volunteers are screaming at the tops of their lungs, I just want my Mom. Finally we reach the end, and god comes out and tells you if you are good little boys and girls you can be here with him, in heaven. Personally I never wanted to go back there again, hell or heaven was not worth all of that. But I stayed involved with the church for quite a while after that, because of how scared I was of this forced Hell.

It’s hard to even write this much about The Reality House, it truly haunted me for years. I remember it so vividly, but even trying to write about it I block some of it out so I don’t sink into the panic that rested with me for so many years. Just because of some horrid Christian scare tactic.

Michelle Grinstead Mrs. Dalloway: Love as Life and Death

Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, is a unique look into the complex world surrounding the title character and the several other characters entangled in the many facets of her life. These characters go from minor interactions, loves from the past, acquaintances, and acquaintances of acquaintances. The stream of consciousness Woolf uses in Mrs. Dalloway, can feel incredibly disconcerting when reading, because as soon as you catch up with one of the streams it branches off again, and then will eventually rejoin the river of thoughts swirling about Clarissa. One of the more constant streams outside of the thoughts of life and death, are Peter and Richard. One of Clarissa’s first loves and her husband.Of the two men, Peter is opinionated and selfish as well as compassionate and strong willed, he would have stifled Clarissa in life leading to her metaphorical death. Richard is seen as dependable and traditional, as well as boring and trapped by the facet of masculinity that won’t let him fully open up his heart or mind to Clarissa. Richard lets Clarissa have a freedom that Peter would have been unable to provide even if that freedom comes to Clarissa devoid of a passion that she feels. Richard does truly love Clarissa, Peter as he often says in the book does as well. Of all of the relationships that she thinks about in the narrative of Mrs. Dalloway the most freeing and passionate love is between Clarissa and Sally. Though, once again fear leads her away from both Sally and Peter, into the arms of Richard.

These loves in Clarissa’s life are all examples of what Clarissa’s life could have been like, and that is what it seems she is contemplating on this day documented by Woolf. Clarissa is not  only contemplating the love she has felt, but what they each symbolize; a passionate and quickly snuffed life, a safe but boring life, and a whisper of passion and a constant question of what could be or happen next life. Clarissa is contemplating life for most of the novel, but Septimus’s death and own contemplation of death has brought on Clarissa’s introspection of death. Clarissa has this fear of death which is not only symbolized by her choice to not be with Peter who would have eventually smothered her, but also her distaste when she thinks of death. Towards the end of the novel, when Sir William comes to the party she starts to panic and let herself suffocate in her fear when Sir William mentions the suicide of Septimus.

“Then (she had felt it only this morning) there was the terror; the overwhelming incapacity, one’s parents giving it into one’s hands, this life, to be lived to the end, to be walked with serenely; there was in the depths of her heart an awful fear.” (Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. Pg. 180) Clarissa’s swirling of thoughts is brought to a peak upon the discovery of the suicide of a young man she did not know. Clarissa comes to this realization that her fear of death led to a fascination, and almost a want of it. Upon this realization she also realizes how overwhelming life is and how the choices she makes are what make life bearable or unbearable. Immediately after this quote Clarissa thinks to herself that if it were not for the constantness of Richard, she would have surely perished. (Woolf. Pg. 180) She thinks on the happiness of life she has had due to Richard, as well as her pull to a window, much the way Septimus was pulled to the window, in her youth and now. Clarissa now at the window, in the way that Septimus was, looks up and sees the sky while Septimus had looked down and seen relief. His death helped Clarissa realize the beauty in her own life, and she was grateful for it.

Clarissa chose life, a long life that she knew would help her to be safe. She chose life as a young woman when choosing to marry Richard, and chose life again when she went to the window and looked to the sky. In her youth, Richard is the long life she chose, and Richard is also what helps realize why she chose it.Several times Richard comes through the novel as a comfort, towards the end of the book when thinking about her dislike for Sir William, Clarissa notes that Richard is the only one who agrees with her. For me, this agreeance shows that he thinks of her feelings and tries incredibly hard to show it. Even in his own stifled world. When Clarissa is thinking about Richard there is not much mention of fear, his flaw is that he is reserved and unable to open up to Clarissa about love. Richard really truly loves her in a more honest way than Peter, in that he respects Clarissa’s decisions and is selfless in a way Peter never could be. Clarissa spends a lot of time wondering what life could have been like with Peter, but comes to a place of recognition that her life has been good, and without Richard she would have succumbed to her fears. Sally also loves Clarissa, and always will, but because of society neither believed that their love could have been more than a whisper. Richard’s unspoken love is what empowers Clarissa to love and live, for Sally and Peter had a selfish love of Clarissa, towards the end of the book all they do is judge her decisions that she had made for her life, and her choices. Clarissa’s choices are what have allowed her to live, not the people who have chosen to love her, but the person she has chosen to let herself love.

Michelle Grinstead Journal #2: The End of an Orbit

The definition of Arch Nemesis is someone who was once a friend and is similar to you, but has chosen an ideology opposite of yours. It can also be considered as your main enemy, in your story you view yourself as the protagonist and they are your antagonist. The final push towards your own journey in your story arch. A constant meeting as you revolve yourselves and your stories around one another.

Recently a close friend called one of my friends who I had lost touch with my arch nemesis. We lost touch due to, honestly, the both of us being angry at the idea of being abandoned by the other. I chose the often more traveled path and drifted away; discontent with the way things were ending up but feeling like I couldn’t do anything to change them due to several extenuating circumstances…

Our friendship was a relationship that when it was good we thrived to the point of constantly being by each other’s side. We would fall asleep at the other’s place, and do literally everything together, even registering for the same class. But when it got bad all I saw was her flaws and none of mine. She was crass or negative or judgemental, none of the issues were owned by me. And that is how the friendship seemed to end.

Then something happened.

I reached out and apologized I wanted my best friend back, and I didn’t care how that happened just so long as we could try and go back to the way things were. She seemed receptive and we made plans, and then we both backed out. I felt this nervousness in my ribs, a sharp pain hitting my lungs with every breath. What would happen if when we finally spent time together instead of bright aqua joy there was a grey muddled color; filled with so many reds and greens from everything we never said to each other, and it was too late.

Was it too late? Is it too late? Does aqua not exist for us anymore?

I don’t know. But I do know there were ugly words said about me and to me, and I covered pain with a laugh and a “like I care” roll of the eyes. But at night… At night there were tears and anger. Laying in my stuffy warm bed under too many blankets there was hot angry tears, but in the morning when I woke up with the sheets and blankets thrown off of me and the bed, I was cold. I was cold from a bitterness that I have found hard to rid myself of.

Is she really my arch nemesis, do I feel a great battle brewing?

No, I am no superhero, not even in my own story. I am the observer of bright energies I feel myself pulled towards, and sometimes those lights stay and make up my sky. But there are the supernovas too big for my world and too bright for me to look at. An arch nemesis if I ever had one would be down with me on earth, attracting the stars and moons to orbit it. An arch nemesis would feel my gravitational pull and stay constantly colliding into the world around me. But my gravitational pull was never strong enough for her, and I think that is why I feel so bitter; our battle never happened, just the war and our orbit ended.

Sea of Suit Pants By: Michelle Grinstead Week 1 Journal Entry

I don’t have very many memories from when I was little, mainly because I’m horrible at recollecting them. Most of the time I can barely recall if I ate dinner the night before, let alone what it was.

There are a few things that stand out through the fog; I see an opaque murky white mist and what feels like thousands of legs wearing suit paints with knee caps at eye level. Its the first image that comes into focus, and then suddenly all at once a wall of voices slams into my eardrums. My heartbeat is a light pitter patter, but it feels as if my whole body shakes with each beat. In hindsight, this is probably because I was four years old and so small you could see my shoulder blades sticking out from the back of my dress.  The dress was black velvet, and the material felt awful against my sweaty palm. My brother who was not much older or taller than me was holding onto my other hand as hard as he could. His knuckles white from trying to not let me get swept away by the rush of suit pants; and his face was flushed in splotches of pink from trying not to cry. It was time to leave the viewing and go to the actual service. My brother and I didn’t go to the viewing, instead we were told to stay in the room with food until some pair of suit pants came to get us. 

I don’t remember much after the rushing wave of suit pants, but when I asked my Mom in a hushed whisper late one night when I was around twelve, if I knew what it meant when Dad died. She told me, “I don’t think you understood, but you started crying, and asked why your Daddy wouldn’t wake up?” Personally, I think I knew he was gone. I just didn’t understand where or why is body didn’t still contain him.

 

 

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The Evergreen State College
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