20 February 2007

All things bright and beautiful...

I had the opportunity to be in sunny St. George over the weekend. It was so nice to be away from school and regenerate a bit. I think I'm like Superman-occasionally I can take power from the sun. (Fortunately I still love rain). But the warm weather was welcome.

I went down with all of my roommates and yesterday we went to Zion National Park to go on a hike before we went home. It was absolutely incredible. I'd never gone before-I thought it was just some park that you drive through and go home, I didn't know hikes were involved. But we hiked Emerald Pools. It's one of the easier hikes but I enjoyed it. My roommates blazed ahead of me and I ended up about twenty minutes behind them (not because I can't hike, but because I'm picture obsessed). I'm glad I stayed behind-partly because it gave me a chance to practise my photography skills again, and partly because taking the hike slowly on an empty trail allowed me to really enjoy God's creations. It's incredible. It's beyond incredible all that God has made. I took pictures of acorns on trees and logs that had twisted and fallen and leaves and waterfalls and mountains of a hundred different colors and textures. We're lucky here in Utah to live so close to the mountains-I've seen other places where the majesty of God's work is less "in your face", but the mountains are hard to ignore.

Enjoy the pictures...(since I figure out how to add them. Yes. I know it's obvious), and slow down and just enjoy the day.

14 February 2007

Group essays are against my religion

Two whole posts in one week! I must not have enough to do (ha!).

I got my first essay back from my Anthropology professor today. She told us on the first day of class that the average grade she gives for the first essay is a D-, so when I got my B I was pretty pleased with myself. She pointed out a few flaws in my argument that I already knew existed so I'll turn in another copy of my essay, get my A and move on with life. I love being above average...*sigh*

Our next essay for this class is a group essay. Now...I hate group work in general. I can see the benefit of it but I still hate it. I prefer to work on my own when it comes to my grade. I should clarify-I can see the benefit for group projects where a little collaboration is a good thing. I don't see the benefit in group essays. Too many minds working on what is supposed to be the product of one, unified voice. What a disaster. It's hard as it is because the class is so huge and I didn't even know the names of my group members when I signed up. Maybe it's just because I'm an English major and I have essay writing euphoria, but this whole project seems like a disaster to me. It's a melding of different writing styles and techniques and levels. I've never seen so many "we's" in an essay before. Or passive verbs. Gah! Fortunately for me I got my grubby little essay writing fingers on the essay before we had to submit it, which will give me ample time to do a sufficient amount of research and correcting of bad usage before the blasted thing is turned in on Friday. I hope my group doesn't mind what I've done to it, but it really is in a sorry state. The things some people find acceptable in writing...it's a huge piece of wordy mess that doesn't actually say anything earth shattering or relevant.

This being said, I hope none of them read my blog. And I hope that people forget to show up to our meeting today so that I won't feel guilty when I massacre the essay tonight with my research skills. Either that or hope they won't care that I've taken over the essay. *shutter*. I'm glad that I have at least some kind of competence when it comes to writing...

UPDATED: We got an A. I believe one person in the group made the comment: "I've never got an A on a paper before!" You're welcome.

12 February 2007

Life and the Hero's Journey

This is it. The big one. The one we've all been waiting for...

Actually I just wanted to say that because I was listening to Harry Potter this morning. I figure if I listen to book one this month, book two next month, book three in April etc. etc. etc. I'll have listened to all of the books again by the time book 7 comes out. It's rather appropriate, and very kind of Jo and her publishers to arrange this for me. I tip my hat to them.

So while I was outside enjoying the marvelous weather on the top of the JFSB, I started looking at the mountains...which is rather hard not to do from the top of the JFSB. The mountains are pretty much the only thing you can see. But mountains make me think of a few things and one of them is the Sound of Music. And after I smiled at the thought of the Sound of Music, I remembered that I needed to watch that movie for my ASL class (with captioning and no sound-which I promise to do until the Captain sings, at which point I can't promise a thing. Christopher Plummer-you stud). And then I started thinking about the rest of the movies in my collection...and maybe it was the connection with the mountains but I started thinking about Lord of the Rings...which made me think about Narnia...etc. etc. etc. Basically this is just a long, extended paragraph to tell you why I'm thinking what I'm thinking.

I own about...what...thirty movies? Maybe? A fair amount. Unless you want to group several copies of Pride and Prejudice together, and all of my Anne movies, and my copies of TV series' like Road to Avonlea together-either way. It's a wide selection. Same thing goes with my books. (This is going somewhere, I promise). Based on a conversation I was having with myself I was also thinking about how much I would love to be a writer-and how what holds me back is my fear of failure and my fear of not having anything original to say. How in the world could I come up with a character as real as Anne Shirley? Or characters as funny as Fred and George Weasley? A story more tragic and beautiful than The Lord of the Rings? And even if I could-who would want to read it? What does it matter? Why do we read anyway? There is no dark ring on this earth. Avonlea doesn't really exist. My broom will never be able to fly.

When I start thinking cynical (and depressing) things such as this, I naturally start to justify. I mean-I am an English Teaching major. I could no more stop reading and writing than I could stop breathing. It's part of who I am. So why does it matter? Because I think that-to a degree-our life really is the hero's journey. Not exactly an original or unique statement I suppose, most people in my major have thought about this at one point or another, but I think it's really important for us to imagine life like the hero's journey for several reasons.

First-our lives really are journeys. We go places. We do things. We travel and experience. Life is active. At the beginning of a hero's journey (let's take Lord of the Rings-it fits well into the mold and it sounds more scholarly than Star Wars)-the hero-Frodo (or Sam. I prefer thinking of Sam as the hero-) begins in a place where there are no huge adventures. Adventures are frowned upon really. But either way, his life is at "normal". It's hit a kind of every day stride. It's still active, but it's certainly not as active as going to destroy a huge evil ring of power. Life is like that sometimes. It's summer vacation. But the point here is that we go places. We are forced into situations that we don't always want to be in where life throws that ring of power around our necks and says-alright Frodo, go destroy it.

But we don't go on these journeys alone. We always have people there. Anyone who reads this is free to correct me, but I can't think of a single example of a person being entirely alone for a whole life. Not unless they choose to be (or have it forced on them by abusive parents-I heard of a girl once who was locked in a room for seven years, but then even she had contact with her dad and-I'm getting away from my point). Every hero has his Sam.

And then every hero has his Gandalf the Grey. The one who has power-obvious connection here with the Savior who dies, overcomes death, and becomes more powerful (Gandalf the White).

I don't need to go through all of this. We know how it goes. They leave home, they get friends, they get a talisman for help, people die, the old wise one will die and come back, after lots of trouble the ring is destroyed and we have the tying together of all loose ends and things are happy until someone else decides to create another ring of power.

My point is that thinking of our lives in this way is useful, because in many ways it's true. We are trying to overcome things. We do have the old wise guy to help us. We have our problems. We tell our Sam's to go away (and they come back). People die. We struggle, we fight, we lose, we lose over and over again until we do win because that's what heroes do. It's why Harry won't die in Deathly Hallows-because in this genre-the hero MUST defeat the villain and he must LIVE afterwards. He will have to go into the last battle completely alone physically, but he won't be alone emotionally because of everything else that has happened to bring him to this point. He will be changed. He might run off to the Grey Havens to find peace in a world that can give him none-but he survives. It's the whole point of the book-to make the hero fight for his life to live. It is what we do. We see mountains we cannot climb and we climb them. It's how we're programmed. It's how I'm programmed anyway. I suppose I can't speak for the rest of the world. But I don't know many people who are content to let outside forces dictate on them forever. Not people who are happy for long at any rate. It isn't a happy state to be in. It's not proactive.

So there you have it. Go destroy your rings of power now. No one wants to be Gollum. Well...I take that back. My twelve year old brother does. But it's just because of the cool voice and the loin cloth. Don't ask.

01 February 2007

The end of the world as I know it...

Here comes a post that is far from the prophetic heights I normally reach for, but indulge me a little because I'm about to wax sentimental...

Years ago, a little, strange looking-braces wearing Joni was going to Junior High School. In the middle of the year her English teacher handed out a book order that contained an offer for some very bad, and some very good books. Joni saw a few books that looked interesting...they had pretty covers...so she ordered them. Several weeks later Joni had in her backpack Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Joni read...Joni loved...Joni bought the first book and read it as well. She waited months for the fourth book, years for the fifth, and ages for the sixth...she theorized, she ranted, she scared people with her obsessiveness...

And now the end of that era is about to come, because ten years later, the last book of the series is finally coming out. Now, people who don't really know me all that well probably won't understand, but those of you who *do* know me well will understand that when I obsess about something, I *really* obsess about them. I don't hold back at all. I learn anything and everything on the topic of choice. Over the years I have become a walking encyclopedia on the Romanovs, or the sinking of the Titanic, or the history of Lucy Maud Montgomery or-as this post is about-Harry Potter. Harry Potter really has defined my years growing up. When I started reading the series I was a girl on the verge of teenager hood and by the time this book comes out I will have officially moved beyond that stage of my life.

As sentimental and sappy and unoriginal as it sounds, Harry Potter really did help me out growing up. Hermione especially taught me that it was alright to be smart. Really, in the first few books we don't see Hermione with a lot of friends other than Ron and Hermione. It isn't until book four/five that we see her spending time with Ginny as well and even then she's not the most popular girl around. I could relate to that. I'm not saying I'm the smartest person in the world, but I do know what it is like to be made fun of for being the teacher's pet. I know what it's like to hear people saying horrible things about you. Most people do. These books are incredible really-they got my brother reading again. They got half of America reading again. They've taken the world by storm and if you haven't read them you've probably seen the movies, and if you haven't done that then you're probably one of the groups of people out there who think they'll turn into witches for reading them (or who aren't reading them out of rebellion against pop culture, but I'm here to tell you-I liked them before they were a huge hit, so everyone can get in line behind me for book 7).

Anyway. I don't have time, and I'm sure you don't really care, to hear any more about Harry Potter-but let's just say that today has made me think a bit about what's in store for a world after Potter. I've been (ugh, not to quote Hillary Clinton) living history as I've watched all this unfold, and it's exciting. It's *really* exciting.

Only...six months and twenty days to go :) And I'm telling you all right now-Harry won't die. If you want *that* rant, then just tell me that you think he will, and expect a six page long post about the history of the hero's journey.