Thursday, January 30, 2014

Nothing Gold Can Stay

We read Of Mice and Men and some poetry by Frost, which of course got me thinking about, "Nothing gold can stay," a line that moved both writers to discuss the frailty of life and the brief flicker that is our lives.

In addition to all of that, I saw a movie trailer for The Fault in Our Stars, which gets me meloncholoy and so, well, I hate February.

I know, a lot of people hate this time of year. For one, it is wicked cold. The bitter chill and frequent clouds leads to vitamin D deficiency, depression...winter blues. For two, you have VD. The big deal, the holiday wrapped in hearts and flowers that more often than not is brutal rather than loving. Expectations are high, reality is a bitch, and the holiday is rooted in a martyr.

How do you get to be a martyr?
Oh, yeah. YOU DIE.

So, that said, I realize that this holiday is hard for many, but for me, it is a time to remember when my friend died. The anniversary of our first date was Valentines day, he died on February eighth.

Like the furry creatures in Of Mice and Men, like the green of the leaves shifting to gold, and Pony Boy in Frost and Hinton's books, like the cancerfilled characters of Fault... Nothing gold can stay.

Which is why, at this time of year? I try to remember to cherish everything. No tomorrow is promised. The only thing that is promised fits far closer to something out of Fault.

“I'm a grenade and at some point I'm going to blow up and I would like to minimize the casualties, okay?”

John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

We're just like the stars, really. We burn our set amount of time. Some of us burn bright, beacons against the darkness. Some of us have a gravity that draws others in and burns them up to brighten our own glow. Eventually, though, whether we burned bright or barely flickered, we all implode, destroying everything around us. For me? I want to be like the girl in Fault. I want to minimize how many I hurt when I go, but I don't want to be forgotten, not really, either.

"There will come a time when all of us are dead. All of us. There will come a time when there are no human beings remaining to remember that anyone ever existed or that our species ever did anything. There will be no one left to remember Aristotle or Cleopatra, let alone you. Everything that we did and built and wrote and thought and discovered will be forgotten and all of this will have been for naught. Maybe that time is coming soon and maybe it is millions of years away, but even if we survive the collapse of our sun, we will not survive forever. There was time before organisms experienced consciousness, and there will be time after. And if the inevitability of human oblivion worries you, I encourage you to ignore it. God knows that’s what everyone else does.”

― John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

Of Mice and Men

      I think what moved me the most about of mice and men, would have to be the sad life of a very challenged man named Lennie, and all the bad things that happened to him through his life. All Lennie ever really wanted was what George ( his friend/cousin) had promised. They wanted there own piece of land with maybe a cow, and some chickens, and some rabbits, rabbits to tend to, and alfalfa for them rabbits. Lennie came off as a big scary guy, until he spoke. Its so sad that even though he never meant any harm to the animals or Curleys wife, bad things still came to him.
     Lennie was a very caring man with an undeniable love for the feeling of soft fur and or hair. With all of Lennies disabilities, he needed some looking after, that's where George came in. When George would introduce his and Lennies relationship he'd just say they were cousins through Lennies Aunt Clara. This whole story was a bit complicated. Trying to figure out if George was a good or bad man was mind boggling. Yet, it was so hard trying to see things from both Lennies point of view as well as George and many of the other characters in this story.
     The tragic ending confused, and surprised me. I never would have thought George would be the one to end Lennies troubled life. I honestly thought one of the other characters who was angry with Lennie, being Curley would be the one to end this poor mans life. The way that George did it though I must say, was touching and yet so violent all at the same time. He told the story of that little piece of land that he had told so many times before, just to make Lennie happy. Then shot him in the back of his head! Wow, not at all how I would have pictured the ending of this story.
     This was definitely not one of my top favorite books to read. I wasn't satisfied or appreciative some of the language used, and the way they had went about Lennies disability. This book reminded me of a couple of Mark Twains books from back in the day, complicating and kind of hard to understand. This is also just the way I feel.


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Mobile Home.

I love my friends and there is nothing wrong with loving your friends. Whether you're a guy or a girl, friendships are special and they should be treasured. The first thing I want to discuss is solidifying the idea that George and Lennie were indeed friends. At first, I thought: "Of course they are friends." But then I thought it could be the idea that George feels responsible for Lennie and therefor they are not friends, but Lennie is more of an obligation for George.

However, even though it is a very small and easily forgotten line, when George is explaining the relationship between Lennie and himself he lies and says that they are cousins. I feel like this line can be used to adequately describe the relationship between the two. George loves Lennie like family and that feeling goes both ways. If it was just a feeling of obligation that George had toward Lennie then I feel like the first time Lennie caused trouble, George would have washed his hands of the responsibility and left Lennie to deal with the consequences of his actions, even though Lennie does not really understand consequences. Lennie of course loves George, one can see this because he is always concerned with letting George down when he behaves "badly."

Given George's very protective nature and arguably his caring nature for Lennie, one can be safe to assume that there is a love there, and I'm going to label it as a familial love, and now onto my next question: Can you find home in another person?

 George and Lennie found home in one another. They held one another up, albeit one may not see it as an equal relationship--but they found a comfortableness with one another and an understanding. They brought one another a sense of purpose when there was nothing else. They friendship they had gave them a sense of belonging even though they were always moving.

A home should be a place where one belongs and where one feels safe and can truly be themselves. That's a romantic notion that's not always true, but that's my idealized version of the perfect home and I feel like George and Lennie had that in each other. It's easy to say that they didn't have a home and that they were just wondering from job to job, but the truth of the matter is that they brought their home with them where ever they went.

Sunday, January 26, 2014


We are always searching for the "American Dream." This illusion has been ingrained into our minds since we were young. We have been told that we need a nice house with a little white picket fence, a perfect spouse, 2.5 children and the dream job. And we are told that, unless we obtain these things, we are not happy. 

We spend our lives searching for this unobtainable ideal. Obtaining these will make us happy...right? We spend our entire lives trying to find happiness,searching for what we are told is the only way to be satisfied. We convince ourselves that this is what WE want. We become so engulfed in this that we never look around at what we have, because we are constantly looking forward. We cannot take our eyes off of this 'dream' and miss everything that is happening around us. If we only looked at what is happening around us, we would see that we have all we need.

Of Mice and Men's George and Lennie spend their entire lives pining after their American Dream. Their complete focus revolves around obtaining their own piece of land with rabbits, chickens, a cow and possibly a goat and pig. Through their various jobs at multiple farms, they are convinced that their lives will not be satisfying until they get their house. 

Because of their unsatisfied quench, George ignores the happiness that is right in front of him--friendship. These men have traveled everywhere together and have become more like brothers than friends, and George quickly takes Lennie for granted. It is not until George shoots Lennie that he realizes that he does not need a farm with rabbits and chickens to be happy. He finally understands that he had happiness all along and that his American Dream could never compare. If he had just taken his eyes off of this unrealistic ideal, he would have seen what he had.

What will we miss if we keeping searching for what we may never obtain? The sooner that we quit looking for what may be and begin looking at what is, the sooner we begin living.


Thursday, January 23, 2014

The adhesive that keeps people bonded to one another lies in those unspoken agreements that we all enter into, beginning with the glance or the nod that signifies who makes the first move in courtship.

Rita Dove is the master of deceptive simplicity. Like both Becket and Matisse, she paints a complete picture using the sparest of ingredients.

In "Courtship 1." the reader sees the man's initial prowling the boulevard, waiting for that one woman who will awaken a spark within him: "someone to trot out the stars". There is a Fred and Ginger tug and shove that reminds the reader of their own young moments of courtship, the innuendo, the game, the pronouncements of virtue that never last as long as intended. When he reaches for the pleats in her skirt and sighs, we hear his anticipation as she toys with him. But he's "King of the Crawfish" and he taunts her with his music laden bravado.

In "Courtship 2." the reader must ask who has won the prize. When he "wraps the yellow silk still warm from his throat around her shoulders" it is as if in that moment where she relents and lets him adorn her, he is affixing to her his first place ribbon. Here, it is he who has won the prize. Yet one stanza later, he must ask himself as he stands before her father, if he has sold his soul for a song. Was he really ready for settling down? "His heart fluttering shut then slowly opening" indicates his vacillation, like a runner stalled after the gun has gone off. How many men wonder if they are ready to run that race when all the hurdles are so well worn, so known by all? How many men run that race because without all those hurdles, they will be wholly alone and alone is a fate with more drawbacks than your average marriage.

As Thomas and Beulah continue on in their relationship, we see the subtext of each spouse begin to change. The man is now inside his mandolin. The honeymoon period is still alive and well but is he beginning to feel safer inside his music than he feels inside his wife? And Beulah turns her back on him after their amorous interlude because there is no other way "to shut him up". They're still riding the same raft, but the poetry here speaks to the unspoken agreement that underwrites the relationship: we're stuck with each other, for better or worse.

Thomas waits, "with a scream caught in his throat" for the inevitable. This is the price he knew he would end up having to pay back when he wrapped that yellow silk about her shoulders, but what he leaves locked up in his throat is his sense that he could be somewhere else and be happier.

The beauty of Dove's work is her brutal display of honest humanity. How many marriages are ties we lean on in resentment? When do we feel most alive, in the moments when we feel we've been given a reprieve, or when we rush home to the comfort we so often take for granted?

No Southern Charm 

This is about the book Thomas and Beulah by Rita Dove.  I did not like the poems in this book.  The poems were about the old south, like in Tennessee.  The word "negroes" appears in some of the poems.  I understand that at this time this was how they spoke in the south.  A lot of the poems were not cohesive to me.  Most of the poems were very short.  The reading was is meant to be in sequence.  A lot has changed in the south since these poems were written.  For instance, most people say or write "black" or "African American".  The emotional stress was overbearing.  I could not get pass the negative connotations in some of the poems.  The poem Straw Hat was hard to understand.  But I did like one of the poems," Aircraft ".  It was the only poem that was out of it's time.  It was very good about women in it specifically by describing women as "robust".  The author of the book did well for this poem.  But overall the reading was brief, the book took about an hour to read but it must be done in sequence you can not skip through.  This book was not for my taste, some others may not agree with my opinion.     

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

What is it?

Home Burial , author Robert Frost......What is it??  The sad death of a child?   Why did the child die and how did the child die?  We can only assume or imagine.  We do not know how old the child was.    "Cant a man speak of his own child he's lost?"

"The little graveyard where my people are"   "Not so much larger than a bedroom, is it?   Frost lets one  into this little graveyard and the meanings it has to the reader.  As the title  :Home Burial: suggests it is about a small family graveyard as we often see in small towns.
The old woman sees things and wants to leave to go talk to others instead of her coaxing husband to stay and talk to him.  He also lost the child, but talks about the shovel and the dirt to dig a small place in the ground where there are three stones of slate and one of marble.  Which one belongs to the child?  Again he gives us the opportunity to only imagine and we all think different.. I would believe the child has the marble stone.  The story is rather long for a poem , but, it is a good piece of literature for all.

Better Life

The context of the poem "Abandoned Farmhouse" paints a picture of decay and long forgotten way of life. An overall sense of sadness follows as ones eyes pass over each word of every line. The poem goes on to detail the many aspects of life long left to decay and be forgotten. Toys are left to collect dust, nothing lives in this home anymore. The family is long gone, and not coming back.

This poem is a great portrayal of how economical stresses can impact ones interpretation of home. The title itself illuminates this in and of itself. Why is the farmhouse abandoned? No crops? Drought? Many questions can be put forth, but the overall conclusion is that the resulting factors were enough to cause the family to uproot this life, this home and move on in hopes of finding a better life, a better home.

Today, we live in a world of excess and consumerism, people lining up to get the newest gadget. Yet in a time not too long ago, people were lining up for bread, for food. The 1930's saw great impact on the agricultural lifestyle of Americans, drought ran rampant in the great plains. This farmhouse was one of many left in search of something better. But today, I feel the aspect of home is taken for granted in today's world, society is far more materialistic, far more demanding to have the bigger house, the better life. Homelessness is far greater now than decades past. Whose to say that those who are homeless are not deserving of finding that better life? Yet you'll pass them by, maybe toss a few coins in their cup to ease your conscience, then go home and watch Netflix not giving it a second thought. I felt that this poem humbled my idea of home, to take a greater appreciation of what I do have, and consider what excesses I could live without because I know at some point in time I will have to abandoned certain aspects of my life now to find the 'better' life we are all looking for.

Killing the Home

How does one kill the home? Is the home like a person and can be killed with one fatal blow? What's the afterlife of a home demoted back to house?

In Ted Kooser's poem "Abandon Farmhouse," the reader is led through the remains of a building that was once a home. The evidence of this home are all left behind. There are toys, and clothes and wallpaper. Fields and foods. The unknown narrator gives no detail of what happened only of what is left, the rest is up for the reader to imagine. 

This poem is troubling in many ways. The idea that a home can become physically broken is jarring to readers. As someone who sits in their comfy bed surrounded by loved ones and a pet, the thought of having to leave not only the home by all my possessions behind makes me more uncomfortable than I would like to admit. If I had to leave, would I be leaving a house or a home behind? Does my presence turn this two storied building into a home? I would say yes, to some degree, but more importantly, how I feel about this place is what makes it home. I lived on a college campus far away from the house that i loved and for a very long time and never once did I call my dorm room "home." So, since I believe that my love and comfort  here make this house my home, then the house is killed when those things are taken away. 

However one has to think about the death of the home and when it occurs. Some may say that the home was killed when  people leave. Forced out due to dire circumstances--unable to work, failure to provide, chased out by the community. In Kooser's poem, the reader is spared the easy way out of thinking they were starving since there are jars of food left in the house, so the reader really has to think deeper about the possibilities that drove the family out. 

No matter the cause, one has to imagine that there may have been days leading up to this. Some will say that the home is killed when there is no love in the building anymore; when sorrow grabs hold of the foundation and does not let go as it creeps up the brick and permeates the walls until it affects all the souls in the dwelling. Others will say it dies when the people leave and give up their fight against the building; they pack their bags and take that final step out of their home and leave behind them house.

No matter how the home dies, it is important to know that it can die. Just like a person it can cease to be and become relegated to past tense, "I used to live there," " I loved that house." Once one dies, it's very hard to regain the title of alive, the same goes for a home, once it becomes a house, it's a fight to become a home again, and sometimes the only choice is to find another.

Home Is What You Make It

The James R. Barker, my home for 3 years
I really enjoyed the poem "The Filling Station" by Elizabeth Bishop, for it's non traditional view of what home is considered and because it reminded me of a former job I had and one that my brother is still currently doing. I worked for Interlake Steamship on and off again for a few years and on average, most of my time was spent on the boat rather then at home. The same applies to my brother, who on average is home for maybe three months out of the year. So for us, our home wasn't a house, it was a small 10 x 10 room with a bathroom, which actually, I got used to pretty quick, and being with my brother one of the seasons probably helped also.
The poem also reminded me of many of the stories I have encountered while reading military history. Most stories I have encountered have described how soldiers deployed try to make stuff as close to home as possible. Many times, their "home" is literally what they are carrying on them in their packs. I had a friend who served in Desert Storm, and he explained that his entire dining and living room sets made out of cardboard because "one, we were bored, and two, it made it seem more like home."
In both cases, home is ultimately what you make of it, whether its a filling station, a boat, or a trench somewhere in the desert.
Marines on Guadalcanal Ralph Morse—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images  

Home is where we imprint?
I'm sure we all familiar with the phrase "Home is where the heart is." Yet, is that phrase really true for everyone? In the case of the poem "The Abandoned Farmhouse," was that home a place where that family had left their hearts? Or was it just a place where something unspeakable had happened? Or how about the poems "Home Burial" and "The Death of the Hired Man?" Sure, an argument can be made that in some way these poems do show that home can be a place where the heart is. However, I feel that these poems show that home is more than a place that contains your heart. It's a place where you imprint. Every home has an imprint that was made by previous occupants and every home leaves an imprint upon the people who have lived there. The imprint is two-fold, its cyclic, it never stops. I feel that its better to think of homes in this way because not every home is a happy place, but that doesn't mean that it's not still a home in some way.
As the poems we have read so far have shown, every person leaves some sort of mark on their homes. These marks tell stories about the people who have lived there, and about the people who are currently living there. Not all imprints are big things such as; wall-paper or paint choices, furniture or appliance choices, and outdoor garden choices. Some imprints are as small as leaving an initial carved in the wood somewhere or a specific stain on the floor in the dining room. In the case of "Home Burial" the little mound outside where the child was buried is a specific imprint that tells of the loss of a little person. In "The Abandoned Farmhouse," the things left behind by the family is an imprint that tells a story. Additionally, the way that the author recites this poem really gives life to these objects so that they are able to tell the stories behind the imprints that they leave.
Even though one of the poems we read gives a specific quote about what home is. I would like to leave you all with one from this man:
Winston Churchill
"We shape our dwellings, and afterwards our dwellings shape us."


In Robert Frost's poem, "Home Burial" a man and wife are witnessed by the reader in the throws of grief. Each spouse is in a very different place emotionally regarding the loss of their child. But the poem's primary conflict deals with the fact that the wife will not accept her husband's help. For what man could possibly understand losing something that grew within you? What man can understand being the soil that brought forth a spring bud, only to watch what kicked inside you whither and die?

Over and again the husband tries in vain to be the help his wife clearly needs. He sees the small grave outside the window, the one she never fails to stop and stare at while on the stairs. She momentarily lets herself 'cower under him', a line which recalls the child's conception and the potential for relief in her lover's arms. But she does not choose that route. Instead she withdraws to that place that only women can attend. When he says that he sees it, she tell him he does not.

"Don't don't don't don't" forever negating him and denying him his perfect right to grieve alongside her. No. She doesn't share this pain with him. She withdraws to that ultimate interior: the hollow empty womb and mourns alone for what is no longer there.

This quiet man is thus alienated from his wife as she pushes him away, in pain. He was cavalier with the shovel and the soil, as if he could have buried the child in a more correct manner. By withdrawing and alienating her husband, the mother in "Home Burial" puts three souls at risk, to spite the one she could not keep.

Lost Path

No other animal dares doubt fate...
It was Frost who said, “Nothing gold can stay,” and Frost who wrote Home Burial, one of the poems we’ve looked at already this semester. Home is a place littered with ghosts and riddled with the voices of those who have breathed and fought before us. Their whispers and howls can either guide us and make our way easier or be the drumbeat as we fight a war against the tangled webs of fate.
Neither way is easy, no life is without pain or death. And yet, we stride through life so sure that love and hope and happiness await us. The human spirit with its indomitable belief that something greater waits over the horizon is unique in all of animal kind insofar as no other creature seems certain of the promise of something good coming from simply existing. An animal stuck in a trap or hit by a car doesn’t look to the distance, waiting for rescue…they almost seem to accept their destiny while the human claws and awaits their salvation to that last gasping breath.
Can Teddy save you from the dark?
What so separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom? What makes us so sure that we won’t become the abandoned farmhouse where something went wrong, where nothing managed to save the toys or unbreak the dish? Is it our belief in the fairytale, in the magical rescue? Is it the whispers of some invisible voice from childhood promising that all would one day be better if we just believed? Is it Disney’s lies and illusions reaching out from the Magic Kingdom, offering tiaras and thrones to us all if we just believe and clap loud enough to scare away the darkness?
Or is it simply that we as humans have conquered so much, risen out of the primordial muck and proved we’re more than our sum parts in the past and know that we shall do so again, that makes us endure when we might otherwise give up and forget trying to stumble down that broken path to find the lost way home?

About the author:  

Virginia Nelson believed them when they said, “Write what you know.” Small town girl writing small town romance, her characters are as full of flaws, misunderstandings, and flat out mistakes as Virginia herself. When she’s is not writing or plotting to take over the world, she likes to hang out with the greatest kids in history, play in the mud, drive far too fast, and scream at inanimate objects. Virginia likes knights in rusted and dinged up armor, heroes that snarl instead of croon, and heroines who can’t remember to say the right thing even with an author writing their dialogue. Her books are full of snark, sex, and random acts of ineptitude—not always in that order.

You can connect with Virginia on multiple social networks:

Monday, January 20, 2014


Why do we feel the need to redeem ourselves? Guilt? Satisfaction? Or is it a Sense of Duty that causes us to correct our mistakes? Or maybe it is a Life-Threatening Event that causes us to finally see past our selfishness and realize what is important. But even is one finds a reason to try to obtain redemption, is it possible?

Robert Frost's "The Death of the Hired Hand" confronts the concept of redemption. Silas, the previous hired hand, eventually returns to the farmhouse of Mary and Warren to fulfill his broken contract. Mary comes home and discovers Silas; however, Silas is no longer in the working condition he once was. On the contrary, Silas' youth has disappeared and there is now a man on the verge of death. Assessing the quality of his health, Mary quickly brings him inside.

Mary and Warren argue over whether or not Silas should stay at their farm. Mary understands what Silas needs and persistently tries to convince Warren to let him stay. Mary knows that Silas is about to die so she tries to tell Warren that all he wants is to fulfill his contract so that he can receive redemption. Mary understands it is redemption that he needs to achieve comfort as he dies. Warren doesn't understand this and, therefore, only feels resentment. Warren finally enters the house to confront Silas and finds his old, hired help dead.

Why does Silas return to the farm? He returns to die honorably. In order to die honorably, he needs redemption. Silas feels his life slipping between his fingers and he finally realizes that he needs redemption. His nearing death finally forces Silas to this realization and instead of spending his last moments with his family, he searches for this redemption.

Is redemption possible? Ironically, even after his realization and attempt to find redemption, he still dies alone. Mary and Warren are not there, as they are outside, and his last breath is taken alone and absent of the redemption that he longed for. Silas' attempt of redemption is unsuccessful and the pronouncing of his death solidifies this as Warren bleakly says, "Dead."

So is redemption possible? I do not know. But maybe if it did not take a Life or Death situation to make us realize this need, it could be possible. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Defining Home

What makes a place home? 
Photo Credit
According to, home is "house, apartment, or other shelter that is the usual residence of a person, family, or household."

According to my mom, home is where my family is--a sentiment my best friend echoed when he sent me a necklace with a tiny charm of my parents' new state for Christmas.

The picture on my living room wall argues, "Home is where the cat is."

What I like the most about the poems we've started with is the way they each expand the definition of home.  Cold and lonely or dirty but cozy? A place affected by the people who live there or a place that affects the people who live there? 

If you're struggling to come up with ideas for your first blog, you might want to think about the ways our first readings relate to your personal definitions of home. Do they contradict your idea of what makes a place home? Do they expand ideas you previously had?