January 1, 2016

November in Thisby

The Scorpio Races captured my imagination through Stiefvater’s ability to transform the landscape and the natural elements into characters.

I have lived on an island for a long time, and I understand the unique sense of isolation that most islanders feel and that drive some away. Stiefvater draws on the isolation of the place to fuel the tension between characters. The conflict between Gabe and Puck is none other than the island of Thisby. Gabe has to get away. The island of Thisby, his home, is closing in on him. “This island […] That house you and Finn are in. People talking. The fish—goddamn fish, I’ll smell like them for the rest of my life. The horses. Everything. I can’t do it anymore” (38.69). But not every islander feels claustrophobic. Some need to stay because it’s their home, and they couldn’t bear leaving. Maybe it’s a matter of loyalty or maybe some just fit where they are. Puck will stay.

I didn’t actually realize there wasn’t much to the island until a few years ago, when I started reading magazines. It doesn’t feel it to me, but Thisby’s tiny: four thousand people on a rocky crag jutting from the sea, hours from the mainland. It’s all cliffs and horses and sheep and one-track roads winding past treeless fields to Skarmouth, the largest town on the island. The truth is, until you know any different, the island is enough.

Actually, I know different. And it’s still enough.

The island is not just the place where the characters are, but it is a force in their lives.

by matsaiko via flickr

I also lived in the northern part of Canada where the natural elements not only cause inconvenience and make life hard, but they can actually kill you. Stiefvater describes a wind that tears ‘the mist to shreds’, acts “ruthless” (6), and “rips at [Puck’s] hair, pulling it out of [her] hair band and whipping the strands across [her] face” (46). This is the November wind fierce, cold, and deadly. But Thisby is an island and the ocean that surrounds it is also fierce, cold, and deadly. The ocean is not a neutral force. It has a relationship with the characters. Sean’s connection to the ocean is obvious.

The water is so cold that my feet go numb almost at once. I stretch my arms out to either side of me and close my eyes. I listen to the sound of water hitting water. The raucous cries of the terns and the guillemots in the rocks of the shore, the piercing, hoarse questions of the gulls above me. I smell seaweed and fish and the dusky scent of the nesting birds onshore. Salt coats my lips, crusts my eyelashes. I feel the cold press against my body. The sand shifts and sucks out from under my feet in the tide. I’m perfectly still. The sun is red behind my eyelids. The ocean will not shift me and the cold will not take me.

Ever present, natural elements are never to be underestimated or forgotten.

My first and deepest connection to this story was through its atmospheric writing. Stiefvater creates the setting in ways that are completely recognizable to me. I know this place. I have felt its November winds. And when I finished the book, I missed the place as much as I did the other characters.  

September 22, 2015

The Call.

va Flickr

Motivation is a slippery idea. We all aren’t motivated to do things in the same way. Heck, we’re not even motivated in the same way consistently in our own lives! One time I might be motivated to finish a task because there is an external reward, but another time I am motivated by the sense of satisfaction I get from a job well-done. Sometimes it seems that nothing can get me motivated.

How is it then that some people seem to have such high levels of motivation?

Many people think there is a connection between how much we are invested in the task, or how much we care about it, and our levels of motivation. I guess this make sense. The next question is how to find something to care about that much?

Joseph Campbell, an American mythologist, writer and lecturer, believed that each of us is called to our own heroic journey. Not the running into the burning building to save the child kind of hero, but a kind of hero journey of our lives that transforms us and opens us up to our true selves. For Joseph Campbell, it’s not that we need to go out looking for ways to be a hero; we need to learn to answer the call.

Literature is full of examples of the heroic journey. Some like The Hobbit explicitly follow the pattern of the hero monomyth. Other stories only use parts of the cycle. As we work through Pay It Forward, consider how this lens, the hero’s journey, might apply.

What motivates Trevor? Did he answer the call?

February 5, 2014

Rise up, rise up.

Technology integration is on the rise at Wasse-Abin High School this semester. Mr. Baumgarten’s TGJ3M class has a new blog that will feature their work in digital photography. Ms. Black’s ENG2L class has a class blog. You can check it out here. Of course, ENG2D and 2P, have this class blog, but we also have our individual blogs, and we are using Twitter and other web 2.0 tools in our learning. And Wasse-Abin has a new school blog that is almost ready for launch. I am looking for bloggers and editors to help flesh out the site, so if you are interested, please speak to me or use the Contact Us page or Tweet me @msbalen. It’s time we all become more savvy with our use of technology, especially in our learning!

 This is where I am headed…

image by Bill Ferriter @plugusin