Eye of the Story

The Evergreen State College

Author: rachel hatfield

I'm a senior at Evergreen, with emphases in anthropology and literature. I drink a lot of coffee. I like reading, naps, sour gummy worms, and dancing. I am ambivalent about the oxford comma.

rachel hatfield – week 10 journal

From the yellowed front page

She looks at me, mouth a familiar

hard line.

Hair pinned back, I see her black news print eyes

behind the lens of eighties eyeglasses.

Across the street another emptying factory.

Out of focus skeleton trees.

My mother and her friends

stand with signs and symbolism.

No tools and engine parts, wears a blazer

over oil-stained jeans and steel toed boots.

Faded April in Ashland is always cold but they

stay, protest anyway.

What better thing to do in the afternoon with

my mother’s place on the assembly line

packed up neatly and sent to Mexico.

Today I leaf through her scrapbook,

and on the opposite page is

my mother’s pink slip.

I see her now and we talk

about American cars,

and sometimes she looks beyond me,  back

to the chassis line.

rachel hatfield – project

Here we go: my project.

Some pieces are finished, others are not. Any feedback you have, I wholeheartedly accept. I’d love to chat sometime about writing or, more accurately, not writing when you should be writing. I’ve had way too much fun with this program and I’m sorry it’s almost over!

rachel hatfield – untitled

disclaimer: i don’t write poetry

 

Sailing

The easel is my sailing mast

My canvas is the sail

My long brush is the harpoon

I’m praying for the whale

 

The Story

There are days


I wish I’d never met you,


never taste the metal of your words,


the bitter tang of your mood.

There are days


I want to cut off my hand,


knowing that I cannot let go,


yet finding no other way


to rid myself of the ache.

There are days


when words typed 
on a blank screen seem

enough 
to bridge

the massive space between us.

There are days


when it feels

like I’m 
pushing every letter

through 
the pores in my skin


to get to you.

There are days


I would give all I have


to find out how this story ends,


because this

is the one


I’m not writing.

 

amateur experiment with villanelle sonnet structure: untitled

 

a long walk home, another day gone by


my shoulders hunched and joy still far away


one more week down at Johnson Junior High



a dark form on the pavement caught my eye


her shining feathers spread in disarray


upon the burning pavement of July



a bird with broken wings looked to the sky


and gave a warbling chirp that seemed to say


she longed to spread those broken wings and fly



her breast rose and fell with each belabored sigh


and i, afraid to hurt her, kept away


tried again to walk home, but couldn’t pass her by



I sat curbside beside her, sad and shy


and finally her face did turn my way


her breathing slowed, light fading from her eye



she stilled and with a soft and final cry


she died, a common European jay


i looked again toward the sun and bright, blue sky


and heard in ringing silence her goodbye

 

The Doctor

Mother is proud

Eight years later,

a hundred thousand dollars invested in

stents and drugs and scalpels.

 

Long nights working the assembly line for her for

Long weekends at the country club for me.

 

Another mother,

face pressed hard against the glass.

Her daughter,

the operating table,

hand so small— like a

dime in my palm.

 

 

untitled

third drink, maybe fourth

twentieth cigarette I’m grinding out with

nervous fingers

thirty minutes since

you called and told me where to

meet you

second dress I tried on

five inch heels pinching my feet

keeping me aware of

reality

rachel hatfield – potato salad

she had been awake since 9AM, which, on a sunday, hadn’t happened since she had been a christian and would go to services. in bed, she read a book and sat a few others near her pillow. she checked her e-mail and cell phone. there was a curious absence in her stomach where familiar growls and pangs of hunger would have been weeks ago, but illness took away her appetite most of the time. still, she knew, laying bored on top of her sheets, that she hadn’t eaten anything since a slice of french loaf the day before and that she needed to eat.

although her appetite was gone this afternoon and she was more tired today than yesterday, she knew by the way the hairs on her arms stood up when she looked at the bread cabinet that she needed something more substantial than her recent and mononucleosis-enforced diet of toast and Halls mentholated cough drops. friday, she’d eaten an extravagant meal, and nearly all of the giant sandwich and steak fries in the red kitschy basket, with a classmate she was sweet on. the thousands of calories and sudden onslaught of substance to her now-habitually empty stomach was why, she figured, she had been sicker to her stomach and less keen on even the driest toast.

in the refrigerator, there was a deli carton of potato salad. picnic salads, she learned at a young age, were notoriously bland, decidedly not delicious and generally unsatisfying, which is why she grabbed it and peered into it. it smelled overwhelmingly of mayonnaise and, despite its claim that it was a mustard potato salad, could not possibly have been that yellow naturally. she speared a cold piece of potato and tasted it. she took a few forkfuls upstairs with her in a little cup and retired back to bed.

the potato salad did have mustard in it. she felt it in the way her mouth watered at the saltiness, and the slight sourness that lingered on the sides of her tongue. her most recent ex-boyfriend, the one who attended a school for culinary arts, made a potato salad that was deceptively similar but ultimately superior. the potatoes he boiled were softer and the dressing much lighter, and he served it with a garnish of raw onions for her because she liked the bitterness. they used to eat it, she remembered, half-dressed and exhausted on nights where they had been too busy or delusional during the daylight hours to eat or drink anything beyond a hair of the dog that bit you. he served it still warm.

she closed her eyes after each bite and chewed very slowly. this potato salad had a pickled taste she recognized as sweet pickle relish, and red bits that, in their mayonnaise logged state, may have been either carrots or bell peppers. the potatoes did have a strange, grainy texture that made her appreciate and miss her boyfriend’s. they were peeled, like his were, but the crispness was awkward in her mouth.

the last time she asked him to fix her a potato salad, cross-legged on the couch in her favorite mens’ shirt, she’d asked him to leave the peels on. (they were, for one reason or another, her favorite part of the vegetable.) but he had smiled knowingly (and to her sensitive and perpetually indignant mind, perhaps condescendingly) at her and told her that he couldn’t make potato salad that way because it was silly, that the peels slipped off and made it messier and less presentable and tasted dirtier. she didn’t really mind. she only managed a few mouthfuls that night, anyway, before she had to go to bed and get ready for a real-world morning.

she hadn’t brought much with her but already her stomach felt heavy and her mouth tired. even eating exhausted her, made her feel more physically and mentally out of shape that she’d imagined. she licked around the inside of her mouth and flushed the mustard and relish taste from it with a swallow of tepid water. she put the cup of salad on the bedside table and laid down again.

rachel hatfield – Journal Week 5

Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia (representing 50%-70% of all dementia cases) often first manifests as hippocampal disruption. The hippocampus, a limbic structure in the brain, is responsible for the formation of new memories as well as some spatial functions. The hippocampal decay in Alzheimer’s prevents the formation and recollection of short-term memories (interfering with autobiographical memory) and also leads to problems with coordination and navigation, though the hippocampus isn’t directly responsible for some types of memory. Implicit memory, like procedural memories and skillsets that are unconsciously recalled, does not appear to depend on the hippocampus, instead originating from other structures in the temporal lobe. The hippocampal damage doesn’t affect these memories, like how to hold a paintbrush or play the clarinet, and new skills can even be learned.

Art therapies encourage dementia patients to remain cognitively active. Most patients are already familiar with handling art supplies or playing music or dancing, and class-like settings are low-pressure situations that stimulate learning and minimize frustration. Other brain functions are slower to degrade in Alzheimer’s, and these patients can strengthen their neuronal connections and even forge new ones by keeping their brains engaged as often as possible. But one of the most important aspects of Alzheimer’s care is psychosocial.

Alzheimer’s disease is incurable, and no pharmaceutical drug can really belay or halt the progression of the dementia. Therefore, heavy emphasis is often placed in symptom management and eventually complete caregiving, with many in long-term care facilities or nursing homes. Unfortunately, in many cases, strong sedatives and hypnotics are used to control the patient and lessen the caretaker’s burden, which can be detrimental because of myriad negative physical and emotional side effects. In I Remember Better When I Paint, a part-memoir, part-textbook about the incorporation and use of painting therapies in Alzheimer’s care, the editor Berna Huebner describes her mother’s decline from a self-sufficient painter to effectively an invalid, suffering from memory loss and agitation but also depression and listlessness in the nursing home she was moved to, feeling isolated and unstimulated. Huebner notes that these symptoms were alleviated dramatically after specific instances where her mother was allowed to paint in her room, or to teach other patients how to paint. This is firmly in line with the most important aspect of care for dementia patients, that of maintaining a high quality of life. Art therapies have been proven to help stimulate patients by introducing changes in their routine, allowing for physical exercise and movement (even just the act of lifting a brush and stroking paint onto a surface counts), socialization, and emotional release. The low pressure environment of an art therapy workshop discourages some of the frustration and agitation that can arise with other forms of cognitive or behavioral therapies, making it ideal for caretakers as well as for the patients themselves.

The aptly-named “memory care” program at the Brookdale Senior Living compound in Olympia offers art and music therapy sessions there to four times a week, depending; after each two-hour block of “Art with Linda!” or “Music with Bob!” there is a marked change in the residents who participate. I ask one of the nurses there if she sees positive effects she thinks could be contributed to the art therapies, and she answers that she does. “That’s why the afternoon socials and exercise classes are always after the art,” she says. “They seem so much happier and more engaged after those workshops. A lot of our friends here were great musicians or artists when they were younger.” Before the dementia. “We’ve been talking about adding more painting and music to the schedule if we can get our hands on more volunteers.”

It seems to really help with residents’ confidence, I offer.

She laughs and writes something on her clipboard. “Yeah, well, it would probably do all of us some good, then.”

 

close viewing – rachel hatfield – Gently Down the Stream by Su Friedrich

My primary motivation in choosing this film for a close viewing was my feeling, immediately after watching, that I didn’t “get” it. It would be presumptuous and frankly incorrect to say I “get” it now, but I feel considerably more familiar with it.

The title of Friedrich’s film Gently Down the Stream immediately evokes, at least in my mind, the last line in that song, “life is but a dream.” In class and on Friedrich’s website it’s plainly stated that the filmmaker drew extensively on her dreams to construct this piece. Because of that, my urge to find and braid any potential narrative threads together into some kind of linear “story” would be misguided, so I tried to resist.

The silence was an aspect of the film that initially unnerved me; I guess I rely on the score of a film to cue my emotional engagement more often than not. The silence meant that, after a few viewings and as I became more comfortable letting my mind wander away from the poetry on the screen, I became hyper aware of the sounds in my environment as I watched. Compared to the stillness of the film, I was a mess of human noise, and I remember feeling that same self-consciousness when we watched the film in class. I feel this contributed to the viewing experience.

I’m not overly confident in my role as analyst so I approached this film in part like a collection of poems; I really wanted to have the words in front of me while I watched the film again and while wrote this essay, but the way Friedrich presents her words visually is at least as important as their content. I feel like scratching the words into the emulsion by hand is already a dramatic and poetic presentation, but the words often alternate from vibrating animation to still frames, drawing the viewer’s attention to the contrast and to particular words or clauses. For example: around 4:30, the line “the woman on the bed shivers” is literally shivering, but freezes when Friedrich’s dreamer “wake(s) her” and “she is angry;” this little vignette ends with the word NO flashing and moving again, creating the illusion of depth and movement.

There are also two short contrasting parts of the film in negative (I think), with the contrast of the bright white background to the film’s mostly dark aesthetic again reengaging the viewer. Dreams are notoriously abstract and personal, and Friedrich would be aware that the viewer might not necessarily relate directly to the words or visual motifs, so the visual interest of the film itself is a way for her audience to interact with and react to her work.

Incidentally, I found myself relating strongly to some of the motifs repeated in this film. The flickering images of Mary and her clasped hands during the first vignette, during which the text is still while the images flash, leads into the next dream about a church, where the text begins shaking and the images steady. This is the first of a few references to sexuality, and the guilt and questions that can surround sexual identity, especially in relation to religion. In one dream, she raises the question of whether an animal, locked in a cage in the church, ripped its own arm off to attempt an escape. Is the animal a guilty Catholic lesbian and the cage the church itself? Another of these dreams finds the dreamer creating another vagina next to her “first one,” possibly creating another sexual identity for herself, but she forgets which is the “original,” the question “which one” flashing on the screen two times. Which of those constructs is her original self? A shift to negative after one image collage of women swimming and an idyllic seascape through a window screams “IT’S LIKE BEING IN LOVE WITH A STRAIGHT WOMAN” in tall, capital letters. Is this sentence related to the dream before it? Is it its own encapsulated dream memory? Does it relate to the next dream, the dreamer giving birth to “herself” but having one of her fetus-selves crumble in her hands?

Repetition features in both image and text. Rowing machines and the women using them figure in prominently, both in wide shots and in close ups of shoulders, the folds in clothing, feet being strapped into the stirrups. The rowing machines also fit in well with the water imagery and reference in the text to water and the woman in the wetsuit, and of course the whole Gently Down the Stream title tie-in. Multiple shots of women wading into and out of pools of water evoke the weird immersive aspect of an artist inviting an outsider into their dreams. Maybe this is also a reference to the fluidity of sexuality or, as one critic said, a nod to the film’s tendency to slip through the viewer’s fingers like water. The picture in picture technique is used throughout the film, as well—the text is often scratched in the bottom-left of the frame, with another frame in the upper right playing a collage of images or sometimes (like in the case of the woman in the wetsuit) a blank white rectangle. When Friedrich gives us text without accompanying, concurrent images, she’s asking that we fill in the blanks.

Concluding an essay is my kryptonite. I’ll finish by saying this piece, despite my being put off by its avant garde execution and my brain’s subsequent quest for that evasive linear narrative and neatly answered questions, resonated strongly with me. Sociocultural pressures shape us and our ways of seeing and reacting to the world, and it’s refreshing to see familiar struggles through another artist’s eyes.

rachel hatfield – Journal Week 3

  • Lipton black tea, no sugar, no milk.
  • The Pretenders.
  • Long, thick, wavy black hair.
  • British accents.
  • Smartfood white cheddar popcorn.
  • Chanel Rouge Coco lipstick no. 434, Mademoiselle.
  • The Home Shopping Network playing for hours in the background.
  • Onion bagels and Neufchatel cream cheese.
  • Thomas English muffins, burned.
  • Adding milk to scrambled eggs.
  • Randy Newman.
  • Gin and ginger ale.
  • The sound of someone walking upstairs, the creak and moan of the floor. How my heart starts to beat more anxiously even though I live alone now.
  • Dark glasses. No one even notices your lazy eye.
  • Pen and ink on fiberglass paper.
  • Whispering in the dark at 10PM. Listening to the screaming in the room next door. If you know we’re awake you’ll want to yell at us, too.
  • Lipton noodle soup powder. Always the stovetop, never the microwave.
  • Maxfield Parrish.
  • The Cider House Rules. Madame Bovary. Taking these books away from me so I wouldn’t ask questions about the material. Taking them back and hiding them under my mattress.
  • Floral button-down shirts from the Salvation Army.
  • Skeletal thinness. Feeling the bones of your shoulders through the blouse.
  • Love’s Baby Soft.
  • Embroidered handkerchiefs. Silk scarves. I have a box in my closet with some of yours. I want to see how long they’ll smell like you.

rachel hatfield – She Must Assemble: The Inner Life in Mrs. Dalloway

(Close reading of the passage between pages 184-186, “What business had the Bradshaws to talk of death at her party? . . . She must assemble. She must find Sally and Peter. And she came in from the little room.”)

In Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf explores themes like mortality, repression, and the richness and importance of the inner life. The brilliance of the novel is not the rise and fall of the action in the story, but the way Woolf uses a modern, descriptive internal narrative structure as a way to build insight into the motivations of each character, rather than relying on purely on character interaction and exposition. Since the characters tell the story to us through their internal monologue, and since each character has their own agenda, the reader is allowed the time to slowly build and change their perception of each player in the story. Nothing is objectively stated. The narration follows a cast of interconnected characters, hour by hour, over the course of a single day in post-World War I Britain, centering on the titular Mrs. Dalloway, an aging society wife, as she makes last-minute preparations for a party.

The climax of the novel, as I see it, takes place as the party finally comes together. Sometime after midnight, Clarissa overhears some of her guests discussing the tragic suicide of a young veteran earlier that afternoon, and she is incensed to have the specter of death descend on her meticulously planned party. She retreats to another part of the apartment to think, away from her guests. The fear of mortality has been troubling Clarissa for a while, having recently recovered from a bout of ill health. During the course of the story, the constant tolling of Big Ben follows Clarissa and other characters as they go about their day, representing the constant flow of time and often inspiring reflection. Her daughter is nearly grown and the relics of her past at Bourton are just memories—Sally is now the picture of a wife and mother, Peter is in town purely to arrange his girlfriend’s divorce, and her relationship with Richard is seemingly successful but notably distant. Though she tries to deny it, Clarissa is a woman with regrets. Her internal monologues are extensive and she clearly has an active mind, a fact of which she is aware, and her self-consciousness about aging and the passing of time is amplified by it. She is a woman defined by her passions and her subsequent attempts to suppress them, and she finds it hard to believe all that activity will end at her death. Early in the novel, she allays her fear of death with the thought that a piece of her would go on living in her home, the streets she walked, in her relationships with her friends and family. But Clarissa is also aware that every day, something in her becomes more “obscured” in her efforts to conform to society life—she “lets drop” the thing that most matters, her own self.

Septimus Smith, however, sees death in another way. Very much a parallel character to Clarissa, his shell-shock and inability to communicate with those around him fuels his isolation. He sees death as the ultimate act of self-determination, especially when faced with Doctor Holmes’ and Bradshaw’s plans for his treatment. Clarissa also sees the autonomy in his suicide; she compares it to her own most defiant moment—throwing a shilling into a lake (184). While Clarissa is so scared of death that she would continue living in a society where her identity is stunted daily, Septimus chooses death rather than life in this “wicked” place. Clarissa feels ashamed; she sees much of the same corruption and wickedness as Septimus, but she chooses to continue her life of comfort rather than dying on principle.

As Clarissa leaves her party guests to think in solitude, the metaphor of the room comes to prominence. In Mrs. Dalloway, the “room” is representative of the inner self. Throughout the novel, Clarissa’s drive to properly socialize is often at odds with a desire for solitude and quiet, and the points when she is alone in a room are points at which her internal monologues become even more personal, like when she retreats to the attic room she stayed in during her sickness. Other characters, like Mrs. Kilman, also emphasize the “room” as a personal, introspective space. Sir Bradshaw invokes the room metaphor when confronted with Septimus’ madness; he is offended by Septimus’ disregard for order and distrust of doctors. Bradshaw twice mentions that action must be taken when someone “comes into your room” (99) and challenges your beliefs. Septimus, feeling trapped by the expectations of a society he doesn’t respect, throws himself from a window to escape the room, representing his freedom from the frustration he feels at his surroundings. He states he didn’t want to die; it was other humans, not life itself, which troubled him.

Clarissa looks out the window across the way and is startled to finally see her neighbor looking back at her. For a minute, Clarissa watches this other old woman in her own bedroom go about her nightly routine. There’s a loud party going on outside in Clarissa’s apartment, but this other individual is quietly going to sleep. Clarissa feels more at ease and she notes the beauty of the late sky, like she had always done at Bourton and Manchester. The clock strikes three and for the first time Clarissa is unconcerned with what time it is, instead refocusing on her earlier conclusion that she lives her life because she enjoys the act of living, regardless of her regrets. She refuses to pity Septimus as she still sees the merit in his act, but Clarissa makes a different choice. She leaves her little room to return to her party.

rachel hatfield – Journal Week 2

Journaling is hard.

I have a few issues keeping up a journaling habit, attested to by the dozens of blank notebooks and diaries I collect during my more ambitious moments. I’ve tried a few times but it’s not a routine I keep up for long.

I’m a perfectionist, I guess. Which in my case is less about producing only polished and edited writing and more about being too paralyzed with self conscious indecision to get any actual writing done.

I also get a little too cerebral about how to go about journaling. Do I go the itinerary route and record my day’s schedule matter-of-factly? Go for a more stream of consciousness strategem? Ask and answer a question in each entry? I can almost guarantee this crisis has been manufactured by my lizard brain in a desperate effort to prolong the procrastination. 

Sam said the difference between a diary and a journal is that a diary is private–a journal is meant to have an eventual audience. Well, thought I, that is a perfectly reasonable yet horrifying distinction. It makes a lot of sense. Historically, keeping a journal was very often like keeping a simple record for posterity. Governor Bradford of the Plimoth colony wrote a detailed if extraordinarily mundane record of literally every day with that intention. It was published not long after the colony began to flourish as a kind of subtle endorsement of the Great Migration. Like, look how boring and English everything is in America! On the other hand, we have Samuel Pepys, whose private diary was full of ten years worth of London society gossip, slander, and fart jokes. Both have been surprisingly significant, historically, sociologically, anthropologically, whatever.

I am including in my project proposal the goal of at least one journal entry per day. This is both sensible and feasible, and I am already dreading it. I’m a chronic oversharer but also offputtingly shy and private, which is a super fun and not at all infuriating set of personality traits to cram haphazardly into a person. This will be interesting.

© 2022 Eye of the Story
The Evergreen State College
Olympia, Washington

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