Monday, February 17, 2020

Week 7 Famous Last Words: Thoughts from the Week

The reading for this week went well, although I still prefer the Ramayana. I did love a lot of the aspects of the Mahabharata, though, and I finished both sections. All the odd stuff with the Pandavas was really interesting and unexpected.

This week I had a ton of fun writing my story. I wasn't sure about it at first because I didn't know what perspective to write from, but I'm really happy with it. I didn't realize how much can be written about so little, but that was kind of the whole idea of it for me. I needed practice in drawing out a scene because I too often just speed through scenes/topics like they don't matter. I also had fun writing the Grand Canyon story, although I think it could do with another round of edits.

I have been looking at other people's storybooks and I'm really looking forward to reading them! They all look so fun. As for blog stories, my absolute favorite so far that I've read in this course has been this one (I'm not sure if it's weird to link other people's stories.....but I am going to anyways). It just feels so beautiful and meaningful to me, and the wisdom that comes from it is something that I would have a hard time writing myself. I'm always so impressed with the stories people come up with in Laura's classes--so many of my peers should seriously consider writing outside of this class if they don't already.

I know the week 8 assignments are review posts, so hopefully I can get even more ahead with those. I did not expect to almost be done with all of week 7 by today, so I'm definitely excited about that. I only need to do the project story, but I always put those off until the very end. I really need to stop doing that. Over the next week, I'm also going to continue working on cover letters for internships, and I'll probably take Yumi to the dog park since the weather is getting better. :)

To close, here's an unrelated picture of Yumi from our snow day recently. :)))

Yumi playing in the snow (personal image, February 2020)

Week 7 Wikipedia Trail: From Tapas to Eschatology

I started with Tapas (Indian religions), which is mentioned in the Mahabharata. I was interested to learn more about it as a form of meditation and spiritual growth, so naturally I decided to research it. I then clicked on Asceticism because I wanted to know more about abstinence from sensual pleasures and why certain people choose to do this. According to the article, usually people do this to achieve spiritual goals. It sounds like people who do this find a lot of fulfillment in the spiritual realm--I'd imagine they'd have to, to be so dedicated to something like that.

That led me to an article on Zoroastrianism. I clicked on that specifically because it's such an interesting word...I had to know what it meant. It turns out its the word for "one of the world's oldest continuously practiced religions" and it focuses on good and evil (amongst a bunch of other things). It has influenced tons of religions, including Christianity and Islam.

I finished off with Eschatology, another interesting word. It's a part of theology that focuses on the "final events of history, or the ultimate destiny of humanity." This is definitely something I'm going to look into more, as it's right up my alley in terms of things I like learning about.

Four horsemen of the apocalypse, as depicted in the Apocalypse work by Albrecht Dürer from Wikipedia

Week 7 Biography: The Grand Canyon

At the trailhead of the Grand Canyon's South Kaibab trail sits a sign warning hikers not to hike down to the Colorado River and back in one day. For me, it was a little too late for that knowledge, as I had just spent months planning and training for a rim-to-rim day-hike. Ignoring the sign, I shouldered my bag and went on my way.

Ooh Aah Point about a mile into the South Kaibab trail (Personal image, May 2017)

Hiking down was more difficult than you would think. I had to use a set of muscles I don't typically put to use, as I'm not typically walking on a downward slope for about six miles. Still, I knew I'd be missing it in a few hours when I was on my way back up.

Going down the South Kaibab trail (Personal image, May 2017)

At the bottom of the Grand Canyon, tadpoles swam in the Colorado River, and the flat ground provided much-needed relief from a slope.

Near the bottom of the Grand Canyon (Personal image, May 2017)

I had not been making very good time, though, so I had very little time to enjoy it. I stuck my feet in the river, took a few minutes to enjoy the view, and then went on my way.

On the way back up (Personal image, May 2017)

On the way up the ~8 mile Bright Angel trail, I eventually thought I wasn't going to make it. About a mile in, I couldn't believe I ever thought I enjoyed hiking. About three miles in, I thought I would have to be one of those people who are helicopter-lifted out. But I refused to quit, because I knew I could do it. I knew I was stronger than my mind was telling me I was. That last mile was tough. It never got easier. By the time I reached the Bright Angel Trailhead at the top of the Grand Canyon, I didn't even really care. After 12 hours of walking (well...probably nine hours of hiking, and three hours of eating, drinking water and gatorade, and resting), I was just glad to be done. Eventually, I was glad to have challenged myself, but at the moment of finishing, I just wanted a bed and a massive amount of food.

Someday I hope to hike the Grand Canyon from rim-to-rim-to-rim, but I'm at least self-aware enough to realize that I am definitely not in shape enough for that right now. But someday.


Author's Note: Last week I wrote about my Manitou Incline hike, so this week I decided to keep writing about my hiking adventures. I tried to write a 100-word story, but obviously that didn't work. Still, I tried to keep it minimal and only give the most vital details. When thinking about my Grand Canyon trip, these are the snapshots I remember, so I didn't try to dig too far into my memory for the sake of writing more. I felt like these were the most important points, and they would make for the best story.

Week 7 Story: The Lake

In a world where impatience thrives, wisdom is ignored, and greed flourishes, there is a lake that seeks to change this. He who approaches the lake feels a thirst unlike any he has ever experienced before. It burns, drying his mouth thoroughly until hardly any coherent thoughts can be formed. In the lake sits a crane, quietly awaiting the next mortal who desperately needs admonishment. The crane watches, day after day, night after night, until a traveler stumbles upon the water. The water is unlike any water a person has seen before. It sits like a mirror, so clear, clean, and motionless that it reflects the sky. It begs to be consumed.

The mortal reaches out, excited to finally be relieved of such extreme dehydration. But then to his horror: a voice, snapping him out of his reverie, reminding him there is a world around him. He sees a crane moving its mouth open and shut. In his dazed condition, he doesn't know what it is saying. He catches a few words, wait, don't drink, riddle. But doesn't the crane understand? He wants it now. He doesn't need to listen to a bird. He will do whatever he pleases. Right now, that is drinking this water in front of him.

He dips his hands in the lake, ignoring the incessant warnings of the crane, and lifts the water to his lips. He already feels refreshed, just having it so near him. It touches his lips, and as he swallows, he feels a regret unlike any other. He realizes he could have waited, he should have waited just a few more moments to hear the crane out. He thinks of those he has hurt. He wonders why he had wasted so much time focusing on himself when he could have been helping others--and then nothing. He stills.

The crane looks away and sighs. Another one gone, she thinks. A sadness fills her, making her wonder if any of this is worth it. It makes her wonder why she even tries. Sometimes the world feels doomed. She folds her feathers in and focuses on the few who were changed for the better because of the lake. She thinks of those who listened to her warning and felt grateful for the change in their heart. She tries to focus on them. It is not much, but it is something.

Crane (Bird) from Wikimedia Commons


Author's Note:

For my story, I focused on the crane and the lake in the Mahabharata. Originally, this crane/voice was actually set up as a test for Yudhishthira and his brothers, but I liked the idea of the lake so much that I made it an actual setting that anyone could encounter and end up being tested at. I made the lake a little more mystical and magical than mentioned in the book. In my version, the lake attracts people whose hearts have been corrupted. The crane sits there to stop them from drinking it, but the character in my version doesn't even bother to listen. I really loved this part of the book because it is such a conflict--the characters were so thirsty, but they definitely could have waited a few more moments, just as Yudhishthira did. It says a lot about the human spirit and how difficult it is for us to be patient.

BibliographyNarayan's Mahabharata

Week 7 Microfiction: Harry Potter, Year Two

Riddle's Diary

Ginny felt lonely; the diary knew. 

Tom Riddle's Diary by James_Seattle on Flickr

The Voice

Isolated his whole life by differences, Harry found that even in the world in which he belonged, he was an outcast. This didn't bother him much, but the voice in the walls that only he could distinguish did.


Author's Note:

For the first story, I did a six-word microfiction about how Tom Riddle's (Voldemort) diary was possessing Ginny. I had trouble deciding if "the diary knew" should have been first, but I think this order packs a punch a bit more. I'm doing six-word stories every week to get better at them (I need a lot of's definitely not my forte), so that's why I decided on that length. 

For the second story, I wrote about Harry hearing the basilisk in the pipes that was causing paralysis  in Hogwarts. I wanted to depict Harry's differences, but when reading the series I noticed that Harry had much bigger things that he focused on than "woe is me." He had Ron and Hermione, which helped him get through any feelings of isolation, and he listened to his instinct in the second book, telling him that the noise was definitely something concerning. I decided on a two-sentence story because I wanted to point out two different things, and I felt like that necessitated two sentences. 

Bibliography: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling

Week 7 Reading Notes: Narayan's Mahabharata, Part D

  • Bhima tricks Drona into thinking his son, Ashwatthaman, is dead. Drona is then extremely distraught and ends up being killed. It could be interesting to write about Drona's thoughts while he's paralyzed with despair--thinking about his worst fears and his anguish. 
  • After the battle, Dhritarashtra is grieving and wants to kill Bhima. Krishna makes a metal statue and puts it in place of Bhima. 
  • At the end, Yudhishthira goes to Bhishma and gets information about being a king. 
  • Krishna's people get into a civil war and end up destroyed. 
  • Krishna is murdered by a hunter who things Krishna's feet are birds. 
  • There wasn't much in this half that I'd want to write about, but I do like the above points. It feels like they could be details in other stories I write for my storybook (or details from the story I will write this week). 

Image source: The Death of Bhishma

BibliographyNarayan's Mahabharata

Week 7 Reading Notes: Narayan's Mahabharata, Part C

  • I was really intrigued by the voice in the lake. It'd be really fun to write a story about this, as well as the mysterious giant deer. I could have a character (or a series of characters) from another story approach the lake, or I could re-write the scene where the Nakula and the others find the lake and drink from it. Or maybe a story about the crane??? So many options. (Pages 176-185ish in my version of the book.) I'm a little confused about if the crane eventually only became a voice, or if it was killed?? But overall I really like the idea. 
    • "He came down and proceeded towards a crystal-clear pond, sapphire-like, reflecting the sky. He fell down on his knees and splashed the water on his face. As he did this, a loud voice, which seemed to come from a crane standing in the water, cried, “Stop! This pond is mine. Don’t touch it until you answer my questions. After answering, drink or take away as much water as you like.Nakula’s thirst was so searing that he could not wait. He bent down and, cupping his palms, raised the water to his lips. He immediately collapsed, and lay, to all purposes, dead.” (Excerpt From: R. K. Narayan. “The Mahabharata: A Shortened Modern Prose Version of the Indian Epic.”)
Yudhistira and Yaksha from Wikimedia Commons


Bibliography: Narayan's Mahabharata

Friday, February 14, 2020

Week 6 Biography: The Manitou Incline

As my alarm rang at 4:00 in the morning, my excitement mixed with anxiety. I tried to ignore all of the emotions I was feeling and just accept that I was going to do this no matter what--I would hike up the Manitou Incline whether or not I was physically ready for it. I had driven to Colorado primarily for the Incline, and I would not leave until it was done. I would push through every single one of the 2,744 steps even if it took me all day. Locals apparently hiked it weekly in under an hour with ease, so why couldn't I at least try it?

The first few steps made me overly confident. It wasn't too steep yet, and I was passing people already. Then, about 15 minutes in, I realized my error. Those people I had passed were now passing me as I slowed to catch my breath. I knew I would need to take it slower.

The Incline from near the bottom. The top half is hidden from view, which makes you constantly think you're almost there...but you're far, far from it. (Personal image, October 2018)

Some minutes would pass quietly, where it was just me, the sun rising, and the people hundreds of steps both ahead and below me. Other minutes, someone would catch up with me and a stranger would become a hiking buddy. Then one of us would decide to pick up the pace or slow down, and silence would return.

Halfway up, I sat down to take a break and was glad for it. While the amount of steps I saw below me did not compare to the amount I thought I had walked up, it was still an incredible feat. That didn't even compare to the view of the town below and the mountains in the distance. I was happy to be there, even if my rapidly beating heart wasn't.

About 2,200 steps in, a deer slowly made its way across the stairs, giving me an excuse to take another break. 2,400 steps in, I wondered if I should just turn around, but then realized my brain wasn't thinking clearly because that would make no sense--I was almost there.

Those last 344 steps were a lot. Extremely steep, and extremely tiring. There were some times when I almost fell backwards because it was so steep. I had to use my hands to climb at one point. Every muscle in my body was screaming, so I took multiple breaks because I'm a firm believer in not creating a preventable dire emergency situation.

Near the top. (Personal image, October 2018)

Then, at last, after about two hours total, I was there. I had pushed through all the aches and pains, and I could now enjoy the view from 2,000 feet up. A few chipmunks were running around, looking at all the sweaty and exhausted people. I didn't really know what to do with myself at that point, so I just sat down and appreciated what I had accomplished. I ate some trail mix, made some friends, took some pictures, and watched Colorado be beautiful.

View from the top. (Personal image, October 2018)

Then, with stiff muscles, I began my descent.

I'm hoping someday I can live near the area and learn to hike it in an hour like the locals, but for now I'm proud enough that I finished. I definitely got lost on the way down (you have to take a different route back), and then proceeded to get trapped in my hotel elevator for 45 minutes and had to have firefighters help me out, but those are stories for a different time.

A chipmunk(?) friend I made at the top of the Incline. (Personal image, October 2018)

A picture I took on the way down. (Personal image, October 2018)

Author's Note: In trying to decide what to write about, I realized a story could be told about my hiking adventures. I might write about my Grand Canyon and Hawaii hikes in the future, but for now I started with this one that is extremely important to me. I'm not sure why, but it holds a special place in my heart. Ever since I visited Manitou Springs and saw people walking up those stairs, I knew I wanted to trek up it, too. It's such a simple hike but it makes you feel like you've accomplished so much. While writing this story, I had trouble deciding what to include and what to take out. I didn't want to make it too long, but there are some details that are just too significant to leave out. I'm pretty happy with the length I decided on and the way I told the story.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Famous Last Words: A Fairly Average Week

The reading for this week went well, although I am definitely more of a Ramayana person. There are so many names to remember and keep track of that I keep getting lost. This means it takes me forever to finish a single page. Still, I did have time to finish both portions. Once I realized how long it would take to get through it, I allotted the necessary amount of time for it in my schedule. The reading did leave me with questions about the characters and certain ideas in Indian culture, so hopefully I will be able to explore those in future Wikipedia Trail posts.

Since I did a story lab this week, I don't really have many choices of my best writing from this week. So far from this course, though, my favorite writing has been the story I wrote about Yumi. I also had a lot of fun writing the introduction for my project last week. I have never described a place in so much detail before, so it was a new writing style for me.

Outside of this course, my coursework is going okay. I am struggling with quizzes in one course, which is frustrating because I know I can apply the knowledge we've learned but I just have trouble memorizing it. Doing the work for this course provides much-needed relief and helps build my confidence when my other courses aren't going well.

Outside of school, I have been looking into publishing internships. I recently realized how much I want to work in children's literature, so I just finished editing my resume and writing a cover letter for internship applications. Unfortunately, I lack qualifications and experience, but hopefully someone will take a chance on me.

Next week, I am hoping to get back into a routine. This past week I have been busy catching up with assignments, so next week I need to get back to my schedule. I definitely notice a difference when I don't have a routine, and I haven't been taking very great care of myself so the plan is to allot some time for resting, reading, and working out.

Reflecting on this past week - Image from Growth Mindset Memes blog

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Week 6 Microfiction: Harry Potter, Year One

Story 1: The Train Station

Platform 9¾ was only the beginning.

Story 2: The Philosopher's Stone

The stone did not tempt Harry, for even he knew there were more important things than immortality.

Author's Note:

For my first microfiction, I did a six-word story on the famous Platform 9¾, where it kind of all started for Harry. It was the entrance to a world that introduced him to the realization that he was loved. It's where he met the Weasleys, and it's where he got on his first train to Hogwarts. I wrote a six word story for this one because I wanted to see how much I could tell of Harry's story in six words.

For the second story, I wrote a <100 word story on the Philosopher's Stone. It's based off of the part where Harry is able to obtain the stone because he has no desire to use it. I feel like this shows his character so well because it emphasizes what he values and what he doesn't--which inevitably leads to later successes for him. I had a hard time writing this one, too, and I definitely had to cut it down to be less than 100 words because I have so much more to say about it.

Image information"Headed to Hogwarts" by Daniel Incandela is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

BibliographyHarry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Wikipedia Trail: From Ganga to Samsara

For this Wikipedia trail, I started with Ganga, who is the river Ganges personified. She was mentioned in the first few pages of the Mahabharata and I was really curious to know more about her.

Hindus believe that bathing in her river lead to "liberation from the cycle of life and death", which is known as Moksha. I clicked on Moksha because I was really intrigued by that idea, and that led me to Nirvana.

A depiction of liberated souls at moksha from Wikipedia

Nirvana is a term I've heard of before but knew very little about. Basically, it's when a person doesn't have any suffering or any desires. It turns out this is actually another term for Moksha.

From there I clicked on the word Samsara. Coincidentally enough, I actually just found and listened to a song with this title the other day. I had no idea that it is a Sanskrit word meaning "wandering" or "world", and it emphasizes cyclical change. What a beautiful idea!

Week 6 Lab: Writers Write Articles

I read the article Why You Need Consequences In Fiction, which talks about how to make your stories matter. Writing characters with dimension is important to keep readers interested. If the characters are perfect and have no flaws, it can get boring really quickly. To make your stories more realistic, you should ensure your character's choices and actions have consequences.

I also read this article on cheat sheets for body language. I often have difficulty finding the exact right words. I know what I'm trying to say, but I can't quite put my finger on the phrase or term. Having cheat sheets like this is so helpful, and it even gives me more ideas that will help expand my writing. One of my favorites on the cheat sheet is, "Secretiveness: tight-lipped smile, hands in pockets look away, cover face, look down." The article also lists good reasons to describe body language. I'll definitely be putting this cheat sheet to use in the future!

This article on 10 Powerful Recurring Themes In Children’s Stories is exactly what I am interested in. I love children's literature, as it has played a huge role in my life. I really hope to be a part of publishing children's stories some day. They can give kids such important life advice without the kids even realizing it. The list includes things like courage, love, and friendship. It gives specific examples, and one of my favorites is Harry Potter, which it mentions shows how to have courage in the face of evil. There is so much depth to children's books that we don't even think about. They're more than just cute and interesting stories--they're introductions to important life lessons that will teach kids how to be kinder people as they grow up.

Children's books from Wikimedia Commons

Week 6 Reading Notes: Narayan's Mahabharata, Part B

  • (Chapter 7) Shakuni and Yudhishthira play a dice game, and Yudhishthira loses everything he owns. He keeps laying, though, and loses his brothers, himself, and Draupadi. Duryodhana tells Draupadi to take her clothes off. She calls to Krishna for help, and when her sari is taken off, another one replaces it. It could be a fun story to re-create this story with other characters or personified animals. 
  • Dhritarashtra gives Draupadi a wish, and she uses it to free Yudhishthira. She uses another wish to free her other four husbands. She declines to use a third wish. Dhritarashtra gives back all the Pandavas' things and sends them back to Indraprastha.
  •  Krisha visits Yudhishthira and says Duryodhana and his allies will be punished. Draupadi thinks its wrong that Yudhishthira is being forgiving towards their enemies, but he tells Draupadi to be patient. Vyasa teaches Y a mantra that allows him to get weapons from the gods. Y teaches this mantra to Arjuna, and Arjuna gets weapons from some of the gods. 
  • Indra is impressed with Arjuna's self-control and says his curse will end up being a blessing later. 

The Disrobing of Draupadi (Vastrapaharanam) (from a Persian Mahabharata)

Bibliography: Narayan's Mahabharata