Eye of the Story

The Evergreen State College

Author: Zoe Brook (Page 1 of 2)

This is my first year at Evergreen. I transferred from Olympic College after doing the Running Start Program.
I'm a writer, and I'm really interested in social justice topics and theater.

Project: The Sun And The Dae (Zoe Brook.)

The Sun And The Dae

So I can’t figure out how to attach or embed at PDF, and my project wasn’t super long, so hopefully this is okay.

 

 

Eye Of The Story

Sam Schrager and Caryn Cline

Final Project

Zoe Wright

The Sun and The Dae

Casey met her on a night out after being abandoned by her girlfriends in a weird little club across town. She still wasn’t sure what about the woman had drawn her attention. She was quietly sitting in the corner, looking mostly at the table, but sometimes she would look up and sort of grimace at the surroundings before taking another drink. The woman struck Casey as older than she was, maybe it was the tired lines at the edges of her eyes, the way her mouth didn’t appear to have smiled in a long time, or maybe it was that her style choices could be described as an ill fated vintage.

It was pretty early in the evening; Casey hadn’t wanted to go home yet, and wasn’t thinking clearly enough to have a way to get there. She went over to the woman and asked to join her in the corner, it was quieter than the rest of the club, secluded from the dancing and music. The woman had only shrugged. Suit yourself.

Eventually they started talking. First complaining about Casey’s friends who’d ditched her to leave with their new companions. Little by little, uninhibited Casey had told her all about the little annoyances that were happening in her life, that had happened before, and even some that she was anticipating. Her table mate didn’t expend much energy in their conversation at first, only nodding occasionally or offering small acknowledgment of Casey’s frustration. Finally Casey fell silent and stared down into her glass, tired and wishing that her night was going better than it was.

Their corner tucked away in a kind of alcove, and their silence was filled only by the muffled music coming from the rest of theclub. Finally the woman had taken a swallow of her drink, and leveled her gaze at Casey. Then she started talking.

She told Casey she’d lost her job a couple of weeks before. That she’d been searching but couldn’t find anything. No one wanted her for the job she did before. Tonight was maybe giving up, or maybe a punishment. She’d spend the day in unsuccessful interviews. She was exhausted, every fiber of herself ached or groaned under the weight of carrying herself. She was here because it was supposed to make people feel better to drink, to go out and be around people. So far it was a complete waste. She had forgotten how much she hated being around strangers, and how stressful and exhausting it was to navigate and manage the contact, even if it wasn’t direct.

Her name was Dana, she said as she wound down, looking even more exhausted than before.

Casey had smiled at her, and then they had really talked. They talked endlessly, soon they were even laughing. When they laughed together, it felt to Casey like they had woken a sort of giddy childish delight in the world in each other. Something that neither of them had felt in a while.

Casey was a fundamentally happy person, and an incredibly lucky one at that, but that didn’t mean there were stretches in her life that weren’t long and tedious and difficult to travel. And Dana, Dana was just about done in.

The rest of the night was a blur of giddy laughter and strange adventures. They had encouraged each other to go out on the dance floor and dance, forgetting about how ridiculous they might have looked, or reveling in it. They pranced down a couple streets with pretty shop windows, designing elaborate events they’d host when their lives were more exciting. They stopped in a park and swung on a swing set and laid in the grass how they do in movies and took a silly faced selfie. They had added each other on Facebook on a whim and shared phone numbers; and when the night was finally over, they had held each other up as their exhaustion and festivities made them stumble to a cab. They shared a silly phone call when they both got home, each ensuring the other was safely to their apartment, but getting distracted with the hilarity of funny noises.

When they collapsed into their beds, they felt younger, lighter, even through the exhaustion that hugged them.

Dana had woken up the next morning only to get a rather impressive dose of painkiller, a large glass of water, and to change into some soft pajamas. She was nearly back to her bed when she decided that peeing desperately needed to be added to list. After her list was complete, not neatly or efficiently complete, but done, she tumbled back into bed and closed her eyes.

When Dana woke up the second time, it was it afternoon. She still felt slightly sick, but mostly only when she thought about what she needed to do that day. She needed to keep on the job search, or something. That need wasn’t really enough to motivate her to get out of bed though, and she just rolled over and grabbed her phone off the edge of the dresser next to her bed. When she clicked open Facebook she saw the open, smiling face of Casey in a new profile picture from the day before. She had forgotten that they had added each other.

She clicked her name and skimmed through her profile, feeling strange for wanting to know more about a woman who was basically a stranger. It felt like an invasion of privacy, but Casey had demanded that they add each other. That they should keep in touch.

Dana grimaced and swept her finger down. She shouldn’t stay friends with this woman, shouldn’t take advantage. She didn’t really use her Facebook that much, only had a few coworkers, some distant relatives and some cousins she didn’t really know. She’d have to weed out the numbers soon anyway, now that she had lost her job. Might as well start now, with Casey. Save herself the embarrassment later. The other woman felt bright and shiny, filled with life and vitality. She was like a sun, a ball of energy that would burn her badly if she touched it.

Her finger hovers over the button for a few seconds. She sighs and tosses the phone down on the pillow beside her, rolling over to stare at the ceiling. She couldn’t bring herself to press it. It’s silly, really, to keep her on my Facebook. But when Dana remembers Casey’s infectious laugh last night and her insistence that they add each other, she can’t bring herself to undo it.

Casey might be the a sun, but Dana desperately wanted to keep a small part of that light, especially since her world seemed so thoroughly dark.

I’ll leave it be for a little while, she thought. I don’t want to seem rude. A little while. To satisfy myself for curiosity’s sake. I don’t want her to think I didn’t like her, I don’t want to be conspicuous.

She hit the key to move away from Facebook to check her email, an ever depressing task now that there wasn’t really any pressing reasons to check it. Most of what she had done with it had been related to her job, and with that gone, there wasn’t going to be much left. It wasn’t more than a few seconds into her scrolling into her email when her phone vibrated cheerfully and told her she had a message.

You have a message from Casey Holdt.

She clicked on it. And felt again like the sun of a beautiful human was shining on her when she saw the bright greeting, the typing icon, and then another message. How are you today?

Dana grinned, an odd sensation given the last few weeks, and rolled onto her stomach with a sense of giddy delight as she responded, glad she hadn’t hit the button.

Thursday,

I started keeping this journal to keep track of my progress with the production when I got the role. Now it seems like it’s more of a Casey record keeper. There are a lot of little moments at the theatre that make me feel good feelings, positive ones, but so many of them revolve around Casey. It had surprised me so much to see her there after our week of chatting online. It had been so strange to see her again in person after so many days of talking online.

Strange that it was a real person after all, strange that she kept talking to me online for no reason. Strange even more that she had seemed to want to talk to me in person when we met again. That she seemed happy to see me.

I must say something like that in every entry I write. It seems to come up everytime I think of my happier days.

Today’s moment is particularly special, I think. Because in today’s moment, Casey gave me a nickname.

We were back stage, in the dressing rooms. It was just before the sun went down, and there was sun streaming in through the windows. Madison said something about how much she loved theatre, and how much it clashed with her love of sunshine. Casey had nodded. “There are some times when I go outside in the daylight and I feel like I’m stepping into an alien world.”

Madison had laughed.

I had just finished putting on the last part of my costume for the last part of the show. I hadn’t spent much time in it, and when I went into the other room I stepped into the sunlight to see how the light and lively dressed actually looked.

And Casey had looked over at me and nodded, looking almost proud. “Well damn you’re beautiful. Maddy, even when the sun goes down, we’ll have our own Dae.” she looked straight at me and grinned.

For that moment, absolutely everything was amazing. The rest of the rehearsal went well, and throughout the whole thing, Casey kept calling me Dae.

I hope it sticks. When I hear her say it, it makes me want to smile, even when I should be crying for the scene. And when our director picked it up later during notes, it still made me want to smile.

I hope it sticks.

On Wednesdays I go out for lunch. Sometimes I go out on other days, but I always go out on Wednesdays. It keeps me sane while I’m working in the inside office world of my current assignment. When I step out into the sun, I blink, feeling the unpleasant sting of eyes unused to bright sunny days.

I start walking, blinking away the sun, and nearly run into her.

She laughs and catches me, smiling and silhouetted by the sun. “Careful,” she says.

I grin back. “Watch where I’m going, Dae.”

She snorts and takes my arm. “I thought maybe you’d like to go to the park for lunch. If you don’t have plans.” she sneaks me a look out of the corner of her eyes and a lump catches in my throat. That vulnerable look didn’t come back so often anymore, but every time it does it hits me hard.

I lean into her side and tip my head onto her shoulder. “It sounds wonderful.”

Her eyes light up and I let her lead me a few blocks over to a little park filled with trees and rather large rocks. She looks so much younger today than when I first saw her. Her face smiles when she’s not thinking and her steps swing as if she’s moving to music that only she hear.

Today in the first few strands of spring, while breeze in the air is cool and the sun is shining brightly, she’s wearing a pair of light colored jeans and a red sleeveless turtlenecked sweater shirt, her hair swinging around her face freely.

She led me to a place that was half surrounded with rocks, half with trees, where there was a sun beam scattered across the a patch of thick grass. She dropped the canvas tote bag she carried everywhere and pulled a blanket from around one of it’s handles, spreading it on the ground in front of us.

“You should sit. I suggest taking off your shoes. It’s lovely to feel the air.” she says.

“It’s beautiful today.” I look up at the sun streaked trees, each new leaf was a little different color. “This was a great idea, Dae.”

She grins at me, holds out a hand while I try and take off my short heels without tipping over into the grass. A few seconds later the shoes fall off and I give into the giddy urge to tip over into the soft grass around me. Dae laughs down at me, and the sounds makes a bubble of happiness float up inside me.

It doesn’t take her long to set up the food she’d stowed in her bag, and open a bottle of sparkling cider. “Fettucine Alfredo, bean salad, and apple crisp.” she says, pointing to each glass container in turn. “Perhaps not terribly well presented, but I’m sure it’ll be just as delicious.”

She drops down beside me and I pull her into a hug. “It’s wonderful. Thank you.”

We scoot over to the blanket and she serves us our food on silly colored picnic plates, and pours the cider into collapsible canvas cups. When I take mine, I hold it up into a part of the sunbeam that seems to sparkle gold with suspended dust. “Dae, who is awesome and to the day, which is gorgeous and perfect for a lunch at the park.”

Dae runs a hand through her freshly cut hair and smiles. “Thanks.” She says softly. We drink.

The food had been fantastic, and it was great to spend time outside in the sun. I didn’t feel bad at all for lying to boss, telling him I needed to take the afternoon off. Take care of family matters. I grin to myself. Not exactly a lie. It was family. And it was certainly more important than the crap I had left at that office. I can’t wait for this assignment to be over. And today was one less afternoon spent suffocating there.

I turn my head over on Dae’s leg and look up at her, to find her looking down at me. She smiles a little wider when she sees me. “What’s up?” she asks quietly as she brushes a lock of hair off my forehead.

I shrug, shifting a little to watch her better. “Just wondering something. Are we totally weird?”

“For which thing? There are a lot of things that could make us weird, you know.”

“True. I was thinking about how most people have a specific thing they call each other. Is it totally weird that we don’t?”

Dae looks up across the park for a moment. “I don’t think so. I think if it works for us, it’s all the better. Does it still work for you?”

I nod, smiling up at her as she looks down at me with a serious look in her eyes. “Of course it does. One of my coworkers just told the office today that he and his girlfriend were going to get married, that they were fiances now. It just struck me, that a lot of people rely on labels. Especially teen romance movies.”

Dae laughs. “Especially those.” she pauses. “I guess it would be weird to a lot of people. But that doesn’t bother me. Not anymore at least.”

“Good. It doesn’t bother me either. Just keep talking to me, and I’m happy with whatever we are, no matter what it’s called.”

Dae smiles and leans down to kiss me in the sun streaked moment.

Rising Star Project. (Zoe Brook. 2/22/16)

Tomorrow marks the first day of my fourth and final year doing the Rising Star Project, an all-student production of How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying put on by the 5th Avenue Theatre on the 5th Avenue Theatre’s stage. The program is tuition free and anyone aged 14-19 can apply. The entire cast, crew, orchestra, administrative, development, and producing teams are staffed by students with individual mentors.
Tomorrow we go into Tech week, and my part of the task begins. I’m part of the stage crew, an automation carpenter. That means I sit in the basement, watch the stage on tiny monitors that this year are actually HD, and push buttons to make automated things move onstage. This is my second year in this position.
The first year I did RSP, I was Automations Carpenter for Music Man. The second year, I was Flyman for Spamalot. The third, Sound Tech for Carousel. Now Automations Carpenter for How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying.
I’ve met a lot of wonderful people in RSP, both mentors and other students. Some of them know my name. The mentors treat me like an adult, like I am competent and like I can learn a lot very quickly. This isn’t something a lot of programs for teens and high schoolers do. It’s an odd feeling, to be one of the older participants, and suddenly a lot of the other students are fourteen and fifteen. Only a couple people in the crew, and a few in the cast, have done the project with me in previous years. When I helped out at the Cabaret this year, the first time I was able to attend, the mentors treated me as if I knew what I was doing, as if I actually knew everything I was doing. It was great. I felt like I might be able to adult, that I might be able to have a job eventually and be competent at it.
The last four years I’ve turned my family’s schedule upside down to do RSP. My mom helps me get there. Especially this year when I have to commute between Olympia and Seattle nearly every day so I can still go to class. I’ve planned a year in advance, applied and interviewed and learned and been exhausted and let the hygiene of my room to go to shambles trying to get my homework done while getting enough sleep.
Learning everything I can in two weeks backstage with a mentor.
The next two weeks will be insane. Every moment will be spent in at the theater, commuting to the theatre, in class, or sleeping. And it’ll definitely be worth it!

My America Or Honk If You Love Buddha: Journeys of Self. (Zoe Brook.)

Eye Of The Story
Sam Schrager
Close Viewing
Zoe Wright
2/22/16
My America Or Honk If You Love Buddha:
Journeys of Self

There are a lot of stories about people finding themselves, coming of age, or searching out answers to questions of their ancestry, history, or parentage. There’s a lot of uncertainty in people, especially young people I suppose, about who they are and what their place in the world might be.
Many of these stories involve some kind of journey, a lot of awareness, and no small amount of introspection. And it seems these stories, no matter what form their journey takes, rely in some part on the world and people around that journeying person.
Of course these things may seem too obvious to point out. We all have read coming of age stories, we have all had our own, and maybe some of us are still on one of those numerous self finding journeys. But as I think about My America I felt like it was an important reminder.
When you’re searching for a place in the world, for the kind of person you want to be in the world, you are exploring the way your relate to that world around you. I’ve listened to conversations and videos on the subject of identity, and I’ve myself defended the need for people to recognize labels, because labels and pieces of identity contribute to how you interact with the world. A label that speaks to your race, gender, culture, or fandom doesn’t reduce you to simply being that one or two word phrase, it signifies a way in which you relate to the world that may be the same, slightly different, or vastly different than those around you.
It may sound like I’m rambling, but I assure you, I do have a point.
To deny a label that a person has adopted for themselves is to say that I don’t think you count in that way or that the ways your experiences is different are meaningless.
Over your life, the way you think of yourself changes. You’re a kid and a girl or a son or a sibling. Then suddenly somehow you’re not a kid anymore. You’ve had life experience, even though it might not seem like much, and you’ve learned a lot about the way you’re supposed to interact with the world based on those experiences, but you probably don’t know how you need to interact with the world. I know I’m just beginning to find my way.
Finding the way you relate to the world takes a lot of effort and exploration. You have to find what you like, what you don’t like, what things you want to be part of yourself. Sometimes it involves finding out about your family’s past, or traveling across the country visiting important places. Maybe you need to meet a lot of different people to understand who you are yourself. Sometimes in these stories of journeys of self a stranger says something seemingly insignificant that changes the entire perspective of the trip.
In My America, she is searching for, or trying to find out if it exists, an Asian America. Or what it means to live a truly Asian American experience. She talks to a lot of different people as she travels across the country in her van.
She visits important places and talks about her own history.
She incorporates local music styles into the movie – the story of her journey.
She looks at the way traditions are carried out in different places, and how they’re mixed with modern ideals and difficulties.
She is on a journey of self, one that she documented. To tell the story because maybe it would mean something to someone else, maybe it would contribute to someone else’s journey.
Of course those reasons may not have been present, or intentional, but as I write this that’s what I imagine them to have been.

At some point in the middle or end of the movie, I believe, there’s a line that says something like this: “I was searching for Asian America, and I found America. I found my America.”
This idea, this line, this moment, is what stuck with me most from the movie. I think it spoke volumes.
Her experience was different. It was unique, individual. Because that’s what human experiences are. But also, in some way, it was part of something greater. It was part of an America that was, at least for that moment, not just Asian, not just not Asian, but hers.
That America could be something personal, and mean something different to every person is a really fascinating idea to me. Because that’s what it’s supposed to be. It’s supposed to be a place where anyone can fit in and be a part of the experience. It’s not what happens a lot of the time, so many people are pushed down and away and told they’re not Americans, that they don’t belong and they’re not welcome, or that they’re only welcome if they change all aspects of themselves first. But if more people learn that America can have a lot of different aspects at the same time, if more people can find that America that’s theirs, I think it would be a much more beautiful place to be than it is before that happens.
When you interact with the world, you change it. When you make art, you make a part of the world your own. When you go on a journey of self, you’re lucky if you find a part of the world that you can make your own.
This filmmaker found a world that she could be part of, and through the story she told with her art, she made that world her own.
And while those people she interviewed had their own worlds, they influenced the world she found and chose, and they became part of it along with her.
There is definitely a lot more to this movie than the aspect I’ve covered here, but you don’t need me to show you all the little details of the world this movie shows. You wanted the details that I saw in the film, or the interpretation that my experiences in life allows me to make. And at this moment in time, I wanted to explore how a filmmaker mixes a story about a journey of discovery with her own life’s story, and how you can interact with the world through art and through that explorative discovery make it your own.
To me, the way this film brings up these ideas in my mind, whether they were intended by the artist or not, is really cool. And I look forward to things it brings up in other’s minds.

Draft Material, from Week 7 Seminar. (Zoe Brook.)

This is a rough draft of material to use for an article thinking about art that I want to write from this base. I’m going to change some things, and put some insight and new ideas I’ve gotten from some videos, the book Art&Fear and some other sources and notes eventually. But a work in progress that started with Thursday’s discussion.

 

Both my parents are artists, but very different kinds. My father is a writer, a photographer, a filmmaker, and he’s told me that he considers video advertisements a form of high art. You have thirty seconds to make someone do something that they otherwise wouldn’t have before they saw that advertisement. It’s very difficult to do, and it definitely requires meaning to be made from it. My mother draws, she’s a painter, and most of her work is abstract. I was taught from a very young age, not to put meaning in her work where there wasn’t any. Don’t try to make it into something when it isn’t suppose to be anything. Just appreciate its beauty, absorb it, and feel what it makes you feel when you look at it. It can mean something to you, but it won’t mean that to everyone else. Hold the meaning it gives you for yourself, don’t take the chance that you might ruin the meaning it has for someone else with your interpretation.
So I grew up knowing that art could take many forms, and that all of them were valid in their own way, and that you could make whatever kind of art spoke most to you. You can make art that works for social change, that provides commentary on the times, you can make art that means something, or you can make art that makes you happy simply for the reason that it makes you happy, that the colors are beautiful or that you want to capture that moment of beauty or decay.
Both kinds of art can exist at the same time without discounting the other. They can exist within one artist, and that artist can have vastly different reasons for making one piece of art than for making another.
That artist’s intentions when they’re making that art are important, but only so far as they are important to the artist. Because once what they have made is passed on to the audience, it doesn’t matter what their intention is, the audience might see a different intention in their interpretations. The artist can’t control how the audience responds to a piece of art. Those response for the audience, are just as valid and meaningful as the intentions the artist had when they were creating it, and as long as everyone understands and respects that these interpretations and responses and intentions can exist at the same time without lessening each others meaning, they can exist at the same time.
The artist makes their art for their own reasons, whether that reason is because they want to or because they want to create meaning. The audience sees and reacts to the art for their own reasons, through a political lens perhaps, or through the lens of appreciating art without thinking about its context. All of these have merit, and all are valid, if they are true to self.

The Text Block. (Zoe Brook. 2/14/16)

I was riding in the backseat of a green Volvo station wagon, driving along the old highway between Discovery Bay and Sequim.
It was a gorgeous day. The sun was bright and the water was blue and looking out the window gave me one of the happiest feelings you could have. I was breathless and blown away.
Maybe I was nine. Maybe ten.
The muffler in the car was broken and it roared down the road. There was a Heron in one of the tide flats.
My family spent the day in Sequim, or some of the day. I held onto that feeling I’d had in the car earlier that day. When we got home, I wrote it down.
It was the first time I’d ever written anything down for the purpose of writing it down. Writing had up to that point been a sort of side function. Something that went along with drawing, or posters, or maybe a school assignment or an odd little badly scrawled story in a sloppily kept, fifty cent notebook.
But this time when I sat down in front of an old Gateway laptop that had been my dad’s before mine – it had absorbed his recalcitrant personality, and would eventually become a royal pain in the ass as it died a slow and painful death – it was for the specific purpose of writing something. I was using an old version of Word Perfect, a program that I would become very attached to over the next few years before it finally became too out of date to run on moderately new computers.
I tried to recapture that feeling I’d had that morning as I wrote. I didn’t pay attention to punctuation or paragraphs. At the time I didn’t even understand the concept of paragraphs. It confused me so much because when it was explained to me, I thought the indent was on the right hand side of the page, and I couldn’t figure out how you perfectly place your words to make an indent on the right hand of the page. I figured I could put in the punctuation later.
My typing didn’t include things like periods or capitalizations or the enter key. So I just wrote. I wrote a block of text. I remember it being almost a half a page of solid text, but I haven’t looked back at it in years. Who knows how long it really was.
I think I set out to write a poem about that feeling, I don’t think it was supposed to be a story. But even if it wasn’t the intention, it was certainly the result. At least some form of poem.
I probably showed it to my parents before I did anything else to the block of text. I don’t remember their reactions, probably good.
Later, when I was finished writing, the same day or a few later maybe, I went back to put in the punctuation, or maybe just to read it.
It was an incredibly painful experience, trying to figure out what I had been trying to say from a solid block of text with no punctuation, no capitalized letters, no indication of anything except letters and words that hopefully were all spelled right, in the right order, and not missing any odd words.
Except they weren’t all spelled right, in the right order, and there were definitely words missing.
Little by little, the block of text was separated out by lines, by periods and comas, by capital letters and whatever form grammar takes in my mind that lets it come out alright in the end.
I was proud of that poem. My first one. My first intentional writing, I think. It was weird and not quite perfect and I was proud of it.
Every moment I was trying to make it make sense, I was promising myself that I would never again write without taking the time to punctuate the sentences, or hit enter. It was too annoying, too painful to ignore it on the first go round.

Something Else In the Sum (Rings of Saturn Close Reading.)

As I read this book, Rings of Saturn, I find myself not knowing quite what it is, or how to look at it.
I suppose it is fiction. It says fiction on the back cover, so it must be. But I can’t decide whether the narrator is following a path that the author himself followed, or simply an imagined one.
I don’t know enough of the coast he describes to know if it is real, and I don’t know enough of history and the histories of other countries and individual people to know if the narrator’s many tangents of history and bits of things that he’s reminded of in his wanderings are factual or real, or almost real or near factual.
It must be fiction of sorts, fiction can draw on much reality, and fiction is capable very easily of capturing a truer reality than the world itself can be. So I guess the discussions of history is true enough, even if it is fictional truth.
When I decided that it didn’t exactly matter whether it was real facts or whether it was finely woven fiction, I settled in to explore the structure of this novel. I don’t think I’ve encountered a structure like the one of this novel before. It feels very unfamiliar, and odd, but I find it interesting to read. Because it’s not so much like a normal story, it’s more like a collection of snapshots, of the narrator’s life and the lives and histories of the people and places he’s traveling through. There’s a lot of subtle connections, threads, and themes running through the book. But it doesn’t feel like it’s building to a conclusion exactly, at least not at this point.
The narrator is taking an exploration into self or into his ideas, or simply into different places. He doesn’t know what the conclusion of his exploration will be, and doesn’t seem to be particularly looking for one. And the reader is invited along in this exploration, and it is being shared with us. It’s not demanding that we share in it, nor is it telling us outright what we should be finding from the exploration. Rather it is simply letting us take what we will from the exploration and it’s not a bad thing if we don’t get the same thing from the snapshots and wanderings as the narrator or the author or the person next to us reading the same novel.
The narrator’s moments of pondering and searching for answers are brought up and left behind quickly and subtly. They are important, but they are not the priority at the time they’re mentioned. They’re part of the story, and they’re perhaps necessary. But they’re not exactly the direct focus of the narrator’s thoughts and recollections and studies.
This is the feeling that I am getting from this wandering story and unpressured story. This is what allowed my mind to wander and pick up the smaller bits of story and writing that made me the most interested or made me notice them as something to come back in the story.
I find myself wanting to come back and read this novel again, when I have time to investigate the things he is talking about in history. I’m fascinated by the bits we learn about Roger Casement. From this work, I think perhaps he’s the kind that I would like to learn more about. It reminds me there are many books, especially older books considered classics, that I would appreciate and enjoy more if I had more information about the context they were written in. But not enough time for now.
There were a couple of things that stood out to me, while I was reading. Things that made me pause to note the page number so I could go back to them. So that I could think about them more, even though I wasn’t really sure what I would be thinking about them.
On page ninety and ninety-one, the Narrator describes what he sees as he rides in a small airplane. On page ninety one, the imagery and description Sebald uses make it a wonderful and interesting exercise in scaling; “it is as though there were no people, only the things they have made and in which they are hiding. One sees the places where they live and the roads that link them, one sees the smoke rising from their houses and factories, one sees the vehicles in which they sit, but one does not see the people themselves. And yet they are present everywhere upon the face of the earth, extending their dominion by the hour, moving around the honeycombs of towering buildings and tied into networks of a complexity that goes far beyond the power of any one individual to imagine,”
On page eighty I was caught by the simple line: “What manner of theatre is it, in which we are at once playwright, actor, stage manager, scene painter and audience?” The Narrator is discussing dreams, and what makes them. He mentions a hyper reality that comes from memories, but also something else that cannot be described or explained that makes dreams what they are.
Before our discussion in seminar, the reasons these things had caught in my mind were pretty simple. I love theater, I’ve been a theater tech for a student production at 5th Avenue Theatre for the past three years, and my mind had a lovely image in mind trying to picture or imagine what a place it would be, or whether it would be a theater, or if it would be something else entirely.
I liked the way that Sebald had described the view from the plane, a way that made me imagine the Narrator’s mind’s picture being sort of like a Powers of Ten video, first seeing the individuals on a street, then up further to the roads, then only what you could see from the clouds. So much is affected by people, but from a distance you cannot really see the people, the things that have changed existence on this planet so much.
After our seminar discussion I was informed of a new way of interpreting and connecting the bits of text I had wanted to share. Our conversations about dreams and what makes them special, and about the way there always seems to be a little something else in things like dreams, or plays, or even movies, that makes them a little bit more than all the things that go together to make them.
This discussion made me keep thinking about this weird, tenuous but interesting all the same connection between my chosen text. It finally gave me a kind of a point to use in this essay, where I hadn’t entirely found one. Because while this interpretation, this connection, certainly isn’t the only one, and can’t be said to be the correct one by any stretch of the imagination, it is interesting. And in my mind, interesting is quite valuable.
The dream, as the narrator was musing, is a theater where you are both creating and witnessing. And all that goes into dreams, your memories, your mind, your emotions and attitudes, and all of you and your ability to create that goes into dreams, doesn’t always account for what you understand and feel when you witness that dream as it is created.
An individual human being has a great deal of power over their immediate surroundings, but no where near the power that our creation of cities and systems and complexity would suggest. Then at a large scale, we are quite insignificant and powerless. But still from a distance you can see our influence everywhere.
In these two minor musings on the narrator’s part, and my further musings about them, there seems to be a pattern indicated; the sum is greater than the parts. I think a lot of people feel that there is something else added to the finished product of many things. It’s discussed in different ways, it’s intuition for some, it’s magic, it’s spirituality, something science explain eventually, maybe it’s just an illusion altogether. But it is interesting, how many things people perceive to be greater than the sum of their parts.

Little Amusements. (2/1/16. Zoe Brook.)

I relish a reaction scene.
Those little things in life that surprise you.
I don’t remember the times that I am surprised by good things in real life. But I remember the feeling of watching a movie, or reading a book there’s a well done reaction scene. The moment the villain realizes they’ve been outsmarted. The moment someone realizes who is behind the mask. Those moments make me happy, I supposed in a strange way.
That feeling of knowing something interesting that someone else doesn’t has followed me pretty much as far back as I can remember. When I was little I remember the things that strangers told me most was that I had pretty blue eyes. When I was little I took great joy in proudly asking them if they knew what my name meant in Greek, then telling them it meant life. It became almost a game in my family to see if anyone could guess how old I was. Everyone always thought I was older than I was.
The only person who ever guessed correctly was a strange guy, I remember him as being very tan and he had an accent, maybe Australian, more likely German though. I was twelve. It annoyed me that he could guess correctly, because he attributed it to the fact that I rolled my eyes in a way apparently particular to twelve year olds. A habit I had acquired from reading the Stephanie Plum novels, at least a year before I had turned twelve, but probably almost two.
Three days before county fair when I was eight, I broke my arm. It was setup day and we were getting everything ready in the goat barn. The Costco tents that shaded the showing area in the field hadn’t been put up yet and their tops were lying on the ground.
That 4-H club was small, for the goats, and there was only two other kids my age in the group. They were brothers that were a year younger and a year older than I was. They were okay I supposed at the time. Toward the end of the day we were chasing each other around the tent tops. I might have been chasing them, or they might have been chasing me, but we were running full speed around those oblong tent tops, on damp and slippery grass.
Coming around a corner my foot slipped. I think my leg twisted underneath me, and I landed backwards on my left arm. The angle of the fall made my arm snap straight. The force made it feel as if it was bent backwards. I might have screamed when I hit the ground.
I was winded and I was in pain. Terrible pain. I was crying and trying to get air. Soon enough there was quite a healthy dose of rage mixed in, because those little bastards were laughing at me. They were doubled over laughing at my pain, and it made me absolutely furious. But I was in pain, there was nothing I could do.
We left soon after that. Because we had put in our time, or because I hurt my arm, I don’t know. But as we left, I wanted very badly to get revenge on those idiot boys who laughed at me.
I could move my arm. If I moved it a certain way it would give me a shock of pain. The next day I went to someone’s birthday party I think. It still hurt that day. If it hurt the next day, we’d go see a doctor. It shouldn’t be broken though, you can still move it. Probably nothing to worry about.
It still hurt the next day and we went to the hospital. I got an X-ray, just in case.
They were back with the results eventually. You broke your growth plate. It’s an unusual break. We can’t put your arm in a cast, or your elbow will freeze and never move from that position again. But we’ll put your arm in a sling. You should move it a little, but be careful. Eight weeks.
My sling was navy blue with a white strap. I had broken my arm. We had waited a day to go to the hospital. And now we were going to the first day of the fair.
When we got there, I was smiling widely. I was walking along the side of the barn. I couldn’t wait for the boys to see my sling. The word revenge kept floating around in my mind, even though it wasn’t really the right word.
They rounded the corner of the barn together, and when they saw me their faces just dropped. It was perfect. It was a grandly perfect moment. I had my revenge, I was smiling hugely. Their faces were exactly the right mixture of surprise and startling realization. And with that matter settled I could get down to the business of the fair. Herdsmanship, showing the goats.
I was going to get to ride the mechanical bull that year. But then my arm was broken. My only chance was traded for the priceless looks on their faces. At least I got to race in the odd weighted peddle tractors. I might not have won, but I think I was second. And there’s a picture of a girl in a navy blue sling driving a mini tractor.

I’m homeschooled. I grew up on a farm. I grew up off the grid, without running water or electricity. They let me solder silver jewelry when I was seven. They let me grind my own cabochons. I can show you how, if you want. That looks means that adult told you the same thing I just did, doesn’t it?
I’ve written a children’s book. I’m writing a novel. I’ve written a novel. No, I’m not sixteen. I’m not seventeen. I’m not fifteen. At least two years younger, every time.
I’m in Running Start. I’m sixteen. Why do I know what the answer to this question about the tide on our lab worksheet? I read the book. Didn’t you? I’m seventeen. I’m not going to graduate through the high school. I don’t need to do the high school requirements. I’m going to graduate with my associate’s degree and my high school diploma from Olympic College. I’m eighteen.
They call for students graduating through Running Start to stand at the ceremony. I stand. Everyone beside me is surprised.
I have my associate’s degree. I’m not living in the dorms, I have an apartment.
I’m a Junior. You’re not necessarily the youngest in the class. Not necessarily. Yes. I turn Nineteen in about four days.
I’ll graduate next year. I’ll be twenty. I’ll graduate with a bachelor’s degree before I could legally drink. If all goes well.

I do treasure these moments when I do something that someone doesn’t expect. When others learn something about me that they weren’t expecting. Maybe I like these moments of surprise too much, maybe it makes me proud. There’s plenty though, to remind me I’m not perfect. And the motivation to keep these little surprises happening, is good motivation to do better. Not for everyone, but for me in this bit of time.
Maybe that makes me secretly a terrible person. But it doesn’t feel like it. It just feels like I’m living up to my name, and finding amusement in little things.

This Week. (1/31/16, Zoe Brook.)

But those things don’t matter. Those things aren’t what people want to see. It’s not what I want people to see of me. Those things I won’t tell. Won’t show. I don’t think I am lying about myself. Perhaps I am, but what am I to do about that?
There isn’t a single person alive that shows every single person they meet the same version of themselves. You can easily see it in the people around you. And that is just context, environmental factors, the change that occurs from observation, a change that depends on who is doing the observation. That’s not lying, that’s just physics of sorts. Of course that is over simplified, but that’s a valid way to get a point across, many times.
Students act very differently when in the presence of their teachers than when they are on their own. There is a different version of that student depending on the people who they are with. With different other students they present different sides of themselves. The aspects presented to a teacher if asked a question is different than those when they’re just in the vicinity of the teacher.
That doesn’t mean that all students are multiple people, or that any one aspect of what they present at different times is the one true them. Perhaps parts of those personalities and attitudes presented in different circumstances are ones that feel wrong or that have never been present before. Perhaps there are parts of those personalities that are part of all of your personalities. But it still means that there are many things that influence the way a person presents themselves in different company, whether that’s a good thing to them or others or whether it is a bad thing. And certainly not all of those differences are lies.
My dad once told me about a conversation he and his friends had when he was in college, about whether a characteristic they had picked up from someone else, or imitated was a characteristic that they could claim as their own. They decided that at the point that that characteristic was common enough, when a person did it without thinking, or when its imitation was intention or had been given its own twist by that new individual, that it was it was theirs.
This was one of the first times I was introduced to the idea that you could change yourself. Not that you were not just who you were and that who you were was unchanging and automatic, but that you change.
You could change yourself for the better, if you wanted. You could identify parts of yourself that you didn’t like so much, and you could look for things you liked in others, and you could use that knowledge to be a person that you liked better.
It’s one of those simple ideas that doesn’t seem to be put into words that make sense very often. I’m sure there are many who’ve done it much better than I have here.
It’s also one of those things that’s much, much easier said than done.
It requires a lot of vigilance and awareness of what you’re doing, and that’s exhausting. If you have other things that require your attention, circumstances you can’t control but have to deal with, it gets much harder. Sometimes the progress you’ve made feels undone.
I don’t know whether it ever gets to a point where the progress stays, or whether the circumstances will allow for the progress to be faster. But I think it will, I believe it will. I hope it will. And maybe the hope is what makes it possible to put in that constant energy to make yourself a little better, bit by bit.

On Jane Eyre And Interpretation. (Zoe Brook. 1/19/16)

I once compared Jane Eyre to stale roadkill.
In the complete wisdom and frustration of my approximately thirteen year old self, I wrote that comparison into a note that I wrote to the Teen Coordinator Librarian at my local library.
I do regret handing her that paper, because I’m sure there were far, far better ways to have handled the situation, but at the time I was quite fed up with the woman and her insistence and demand that I read the book.
She had told me every time I had seen her that I needed to read the book because it was fantastic and had changed her life and would change mine. I ignored it for a while, and then I was in a situation where there wasn’t much else for me to do other than lie in bed and read for several months on end, I decided that if I read the book I could tell her I did and not have to hear about it anymore.
I think I managed between forty and sixty pages before I gave up on it. It had struck me as a particularly depressing story written in a manner that was not particularly captivating. My comparison to stale roadkill came from my feeling that it was a dry exploration of horrors that I felt no connection to, and in my mind, especially at the time, I thought that reading about roadkill might have been more interesting, and thus the book was stale roadkill.
I don’t think it’s likely that I’ll ever try to read Jane Eyre again, in part because it was one of the only books that someone else demanded I read in my young life, being a home schooled kid whose parents allowed her to read whatever she wanted. In part because of that early experience with basically despising the book, and because it’s linked with a memory that I’d really rather not dwell on in particular.

I truly hope that that rude thirteen year old didn’t lessen the importance of Jane Eyre to her. I hope she doesn’t remember that note as well as I do.
When I look back, this experience seems to highlight for me how important and different people’s interpretation of art and literature can be. It wasn’t any particular experience that taught me this, but a collection of events throughout my life to this point that has taught me and reminded me of this; my situation with Jane Eyre included.
I did not, and probably never will, see Jane Eyre in the same way she did. It wasn’t an important book to me, personally. But the way I relate to that book has no effect on how another does, and on whether that book was an important literary work to literature itself.
There have been quite a few times when I have read something, or watched something that’s supposed to be a brilliant eye opening masterpiece that absolutely everyone raves about, and talks about all the meaning they see in it, and when I see it, I don’t understand. Maybe I see something that’s okay. Maybe I’m just confused by it.
I don’t know whether this is a fault of my mind, or whether it simply doesn’t mean that much to me in that moment. Sometimes I wish I could see and understand what others do. But then, I think I would miss the things I do find meaning from. I would miss the little connections, intended or not, that string through excellent novels and movies, I would miss the way an abstract painting of my mother’s can make the hair on my arms stand up and shivers run down my spine.
A few days ago I was thinking about this, about how people interpret and interact with literature and art. And I think maybe I can finally put to words something I’ve thought for what seems like a long time.
When I see posts on social media from fans making really arcane but plausible connections in novel series, or pointing out minute things that only show for mere seconds in TV shows, I can’t really know whether those connections or tiny things were on purpose, whether the author meant for those connections to be made. But to some extent whether it was intentional or not doesn’t matter.
Each person will find something, some connection or theme or something. Whether it was an intended something or not doesn’t matter because that person has found it and to them it is part of the meaning of the work from that point onward, or until something else is noticed that changes the perspective of the first thing.
Authors and creators have a vast amount of control over their works, and many things that are done in literature are done very purposefully. But I don’t think it’s possible for an author to anticipate absolutely every possible interpretation because you cannot know what experiences and focuses that every single person brings with them in reading and experiencing a work. Thus in my mind, to a certain point, interpretation is created by the readers more thoroughly than the authors in some cases, especially when the readers are specifically looking for a deeper meaning.
I have always loved books that you can read multiple times and still notice something that you hadn’t noticed before. Those books are rich and complex. You can read them lightly and still find them wonderful, or you can read them deeply and notice so much nuance and they are just as wonderful.
I love people discussing the little details and how everyone sees everything. I love finding out how many interpretations there can be, how many connections and details there are.
Except, when those discussing the book are trying to suss out the one true meaning, or the meaning that the author was specifically trying to impart. Those boring as hell book clubs that failed at my library, those misguided high school English courses where the sometimes misguided teacher is the all knowing all powerful authority on what the author really meant, or what the book is really about. Those pursuits of the one true meaning, they make it hard for multiple interpretations to exist at once, they remove the room for nuance and thought and the creation of something that exists as a mixture from the author and from yourself.
The trick lies, I think, in discussing without aiming to find one meaning, and without exactly aiming to change anyone else’s interpretation. To allow another to have their own interpretation, to know that their interpretation will not directly harm your own. To not force another to have the same interpretation as you do.
I think it must have been a very good thing that I did not attend public school. The way I handled one instance of someone demanding that I read a particular book was such that if I had been in public school, I would have either gone mad or, perhaps more likely, made all the teachers want to murder me.
I once compared Jane Eyre to stale roadkill.
Today I have the experience to recognize that one person’s stale roadkill is another’s fine art. And today I have what is hopefully wisdom to know that both interpretations can exist without harming the other. At least they can if you’re not demanding that a rude thirteen year old sees the book the same way you do, and if a rude thirteen year old finds a better way to vent their frustration at the demand.

(Note that I hold no ill will toward Jane Eyre fans, and I hope I have not terribly offended anyone. It was not the intention.)

Birthday Nineteen. (Zoe Brook. 1/13/16)

Yesterday was my nineteenth birthday.
Much of the day spent in class. Interesting of course. But not the place you want to be on a birthday, cooped up in room with a lot of strangers. I came home exhausted. No energy to maintain any kind of celebratory mood. A little homework. A bite to eat. Then lie down, frustrated but unable to stay awake any longer.
The first birthday that I’m away from my family. And I don’t have the energy to ask if any friends on campus want to hang out. Feels lonely here, amongst the clouds in my mind.
I’ve never been good at keeping friends very long. I’ve always lived far away from everyone I know, and then after a while, I start to wonder whether they actually like being around me, or if they just tolerate me. The thought paralyzes me every time I think about saying hello and then I don’t.
It feels like too much effort to try and set up a birthday celebration. It’d be cool to do this with these people. But the scheduling, the coordination, the cooperation of the universe. I’ll think about it later and then it’s the next year.
I like the number nineteen. I feel like the year should be a special one. I feel like I should do something. I should go camping. I should take some day trips. I should travel with friends or family. I should try harder to publish my writing. I should make a blog and keep up with it better this time. Things should go my way. That would be a nice change.
But save my tenth birthday, there’s been no click at each birthday. Nothing changes much. Gradual changes, but it feels the same. I miss the feeling I’d finally achieved last quarter, but when I lost it partway through, confidence is lost too, and the little bubble of competence. Now it feels more like just trying to keep going, to keep my head above water until I can get back to somewhere better.
It’s not to say that yesterday was a horrible day, or even that nothing good happened. I got to talk to my family. I got to eat lunch with interesting people. Friends said happy birthday to me. The magazine that’s published three of my essays in the past responded to my last submission; it looks like it will fit in the August issue. And a professor from my first college, my favorite professor there yet a professor I never ended up actually taking a course from, who I admire very much, wrote a really wonderful Facebook post about me that pretty much made my day. I had a leftover meal from my favorite restaurant that I ate for dinner, I watched some funny YouTube videos, I read a book of my own choosing, instead of a book for school.
I’m glad that I had these little things. I’m glad I have good people around me, even when my mind doesn’t want to believe it. I hope that this year turns out to be a good one. I hope the gradual change is good. I want to know what’s next.

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