Veronique Darwin

Posts Tagged ‘Walden’

A Life-Dream

In Inspiration, My Writing on December 30, 2013 at 10:10 pm

I realized tonight what my narrator was missing. She was always conflicted, always in trouble, I was just never sure her problem was enough of a thing I could describe to you if you asked me. But then it hit me how to make it tangible, somehow, even through all the vagueness that exists from being in your twenties, in the beginning of a life and not sure how to spend it. The concrete problem is that Jillian once had a very real life-dream, and then over the years she stopped dreaming. Even if she doesn’t quite realize it now (which she’ll have to, because she’s in a novel), her very real problem is that she is now in a big way giving  up on her life-dream.

The appearance of the opposite of the dream, the “life” part, makes her realize the gravity of what she is giving up on. It propels her to look into the mystery that so obsessed her ten years ago. From that comes a reawakening of all the old issues that accompanied her first escape. This time, however, she is set on carrying it though.

From over the past hour, I’ve recognized a more true form and spirit to my novel than I’ve seen yet. Maybe it’s me that’s changed, or maybe my narrator rolled over while I let her lie dormant and did some work for once. With a loose paint stroke, she set an idea in my mind that has since led me on a roll toward reformulating my own life-dream that has as a large part of it writing this novel.

088-walden-pond-2(image from waldenpondstatereservation.wordpress.com)

What It Means to Me

In My Writing, Teaching on November 16, 2013 at 7:54 pm

It’s the only way I can find any words.

It’s the way I see things: in a blinking scroll bar, on a blank space to the right of what I wrote before.

It’s how I make things right: grammar, spelling, everything in order.

It’s where I find energy, not from sleep or caffeine but thoughts.

It’s what I can give back, after taking so much from other people’s books.

But I’m not doing it so much right now. And it’s not because I’ve found words somewhere else, or because I’m seeing things differently. It’s not because I have things in order or because I already have energy  or because I’m not reading anything myself. It’s because I’ve found another passion that opened up another well inside of me: one that doesn’t want to find words. One that doesn’t want to create something beautiful! It’s a well inside of me that exists for the purpose of motivating others to create something beautiful.

I thought I was being idealistic about teaching during my education program. I believed in teachers being able to inspire students. I believed in students being able to inspire teachers. I believed in a relationship of mutual respect, of sharing thinking, of equality. I believed in motivating students to become self-directed learners. But honestly, deep down, I thought it would all fall apart once I started teaching. It didn’t. It came alive.

And teaching, I realized, isn’t going to be this thing I do on the side of writing. It’s going to be this thing that opens up a whole other part of me. Another life I can lead besides my life as a writer. Beside my life as a writer. More things I can do! More things I can create!

I assigned a Science project. They each created a world. I assigned a Halloween poem. Every one made me jump. I assign journaling every morning. Three students are working on a novel. I teach grades 5 and 6.

I’m not writing not because I’ve lost it, or because I don’t want to. It’s because a new thing in me emerged and I need to nurture it, make sure it stays, before it can stand guard as I hide away in the evenings and write. Every day I’m getting a little more embarrassed by this blog, a little more far from my novel’s core, a little less reclusive and a little more real world. But every day I know I’m building something – some foundation I’m going to need to make this a life.

Because I’m not Walden. Because I’m not a hermit (though I’d like to be). I need both.

I went looking for a pencil sharpener

In Inspiration, Thoughts on Writing on February 17, 2013 at 6:02 pm

There’s a trend, now that the world is getting more complex, to want the world to be simpler. I want to live in a cabin without electricity. I want to read by candlelight. I want to write a novel. It’s a spoiled thing, really, but maybe it’s a nice thing too. My heart isn’t connected to the internet.

I spent fifteen minutes today looking for a pencil sharpener. It was probably five minutes, but felt like fifteen. There were five minutes before I got out of my seat spent deciding whether it was efficient go look for the pencil sharpener. There were five minutes after admonishing myself for going looking for a pencil sharpener I hadn’t found.

The thing is I really wanted to go looking for it. I wanted to look for something as simple as a pencil sharpener, something once so integral but which I hadn’t used for years. I use mechanical pencils. I write with my finger on the screen of an iPad.

I held up an exacto knife instead of a pencil sharpener at one point, wondering if I was that Romantic. I wasn’t. I just used another pencil.

1886_Gould_and_Cook_Gem_pencil_sharpener_back

(from officemuseum.com)

I received the wonderful gift of an iPad mini for my birthday. It is such an incredible device, yet I’ve found myself doing such silly things on it. Mostly I’ve played a Boggle game called Scramble with Friends. It’s just Boggle.

Do I deserve all this technology, all this painstaking advancement in human capacity, when I find myself wishing for something simpler? I keep reading books about people who have decided to live like hermits (Walden, by Henry David Thoreau, and now We Took to the Woods by Louise Dickinson Rich), and wishing I had that kind of courage. Really, I’m wishing that I had that kind of skill. I couldn’t build a house in the woods. It would become immediately evident, if in the woods, that I didn’t know how to do anything.

I’m reading about art education, and how educators can either decide to turn a blind eye to popular culture and technology or incorporate it in their teaching. The author seemed to think it was evident that a blind eye was not the way to go. But how much technology can we incorporate into our education, into our lives and our bodies until we become consumed by it? Maybe a blind eye would help us out sometimes. Maybe instead of doing an app where you build a cabin, you might gain something out of building your own. Something that is not efficiency. Something that is closer to the heart than efficiency.

I know I don’t want to give it all up, but sometimes I just need to make myself spend the day looking for pencil sharpeners, in order to remind myself that my body is manual and that I need to take the time to remember how things used to be, even though I grew up in a time when you threw out pencils and I’m only dreaming of a time when knives were used to sharpen the lead.

Why Thoreau Got It Right

In Thoughts on Writing on October 13, 2012 at 5:09 pm

taken from Walden, from the chapter called “Visitors”

“I have three chairs in my house: one for solitude, two for friendship, three for society.”

“Many of our houses, both public and private, with their almost innumerable apartments, their huge halls and their cellars for the storage of wines and other munitions of peace, appear to me extravagantly large for their inhabitants. They are so fast and magnificent that the latter seem to be only vermin which infest them.”

“One inconvenience I sometimes experienced in so small a house, the difficulty of getting to a sufficient distance from my guest when we began to utter the big thoughts in big words. You want room for your thoughts to get sailing trim and run a course before they make their port. … I have found it a singular luxury to talk across the pond to a companion on the opposite side. In my house we were so near that we could not begin to hear, – we could not speak low enough to be heard.”

Why isn’t everyone reading Walden?

In Book Club, Inspiration on September 2, 2012 at 10:58 pm

I am on page 77 of Walden and I have so far read Henry David Thoreau’s take on mortgages, fashion, DIY, travel and school. Thoreau published his masterpiece in 1854, but it feels so relevant – too relevant to be so good, so insightful. I don’t know why we aren’t all reading Walden right now.

(from mapsofdeserts.wordpress.com)

Walden is the account of a social experiment. Thoreau built a cabin and lived on the edge of Walden Pond near Concord, Massachusetts for two years in search of meaning in his life. Isn’t that what we are all reading right now? Memoirs of people looking for the meaning of life?

Thoreau is a philosopher of sorts – a trancendentalist. We read his quotes everywhere – on bookmarks and graduation gifts. His school of thought says that man is inherently good and needs to find ways to be independent and self-reliant or else he will be corrupted by organized religion and politics. Isn’t that a lot of what we’re reading right now? Books arguing for the power of the individual?

Thoreau on mortgages: “And when the farmer has got his house, he may not be the richer but the poorer for it, and it be the house that has got him.”

Thoreau on fashion: “My tailoress tells me gravely, ‘They do not make them so, now,” not emphasizing the ‘They’ at all, as if she quoted an authority as impersonal as the Fates.”

Thoreau on DIY: “Shall we forever resign the pleasure of construction to the carpenter? … Where is this division of labor to end? and what object does it finally serve? No doubt another may also think for me; but it is not therefore desirable that he should do so to the exclusion of my thinking for myself.”

Thoreau on travel: “This spending of the best part of one’s life earning money in order to enjoy a questionable liberty during the least valuable part of it, reminds me of the Englishman who went to India to make a fortune first, in order that he might return to England and live the life of a poet. He should have gone up garret at once. ‘What!’ exclaim a million Irishmen.”

Thoreau on school: ” ‘But,’ says one, ‘you do not mean that the students should go to work with their hands instead of their heads?’ I do not mean that exactly, but I mean something which he might think a good deal like that; I mean that they should not play life, or study it merely, while the community supports them at this expensive game, but earnestly live it from beginning to end. How could youths better learn to live than by at once trying the experiment of living?”

(from nevalee.wordpress.com)

I can’t get over how much I want to be reading this 160 year old book right now. It’s exciting to feel that sometimes we can find the answers to the most pressing issues in the oldest, wisest places. I’ve maybe learned something about why people read the Bible: the answers were here, all along.

It might be that Walden caught me at the right moment in my life, and this moment in my life has coincided with the right moment in time.

Me, on mortgages: I am contemplating, in the Vancouver housing market, the possibility that if things go on this way I may never be able to buy my own home. And if by chance I am able to successfully buy my own home, still never own it.

Me, on fashion: As a young woman bombarded by media, I’ve developed a bad habit for spending money on frivolous items, such as the latest clothing and other ephemeral trends.

Me, on DIY: I’m attempting to eat and buy local in order to offset the negative impacts of globalization.

Me, on travel: I am at the point in my life where I’m supposed to travel, but also at the point in my life where I’m supposed to settle down.

Me, on school: I left school last year and am going back this year, all in search of what?

I don’t know why everyone isn’t talking about Walden right now. Then again, this headline was in The New York Times this morning. Maybe everyone is, and I just haven’t been listening.

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