The Voices of Nature

I went to the Arboretum while it rained and sat under the shelter of the gazebo. I learned from my father early in life that the best times to observe nature can be during bad weather, because no one else will be around. While this usually meant going out to Niagara Falls when it was twenty degrees and covered in ice, I understood what he meant. For one, the silence of nothing but you and the falls is something that really makes you listen to what it is saying. Second, even though it felt miserable to be there while it was so cold, the ice that covered the trees and sidewalks from the mist of the falls looked like diamonds in the sunlight.

Nature can be loud when it wants to be. I’ve been through enough thunderstorms and blizzards to know nature can be very, very loud. Sometimes it can be annoying, or debilitating. But, those with the frankly stupid courage that I have, venture out to listen to the loudness. During the Christmas Blizzard that buried my hometown in five feet of snow and drifts taller than the street signs, I wrapped myself in ski gear and ventured into my backyard. I laid in the snow and listened as the wind roared. It’s hard to describe because it doesn’t seem like it, but it was incredibly calming. Just lying on the snow as the world screams around you, low enough to the ground that the wind doesn’t touch you and allows you to sit and stare in wonder.

Nature is also silent when it wants to be. My father would take me and my sisters out far from the city to traverse into the woods and find owls. Coming from a largely populated county, it was such a different experience being out so far at night. It’s colder, darker, quieter. But my father always made hot chocolate to combat the cold, and the darkness let me see more stars than I ever could have back at home. But the quiet was intimidating to an eight you old who still fell for when my father claimed tigers lived in the woods. Absolute silence, minus the occasional call of a frog from the water or the migrating canada geese above our heads. Now, I understand the quiet isn’t so terrifying. It forces you to be quiet and listen for any sounds, for the calls of owls my dad searched for.

As I sat in the gazebo, I thought back to all these times that nature commanded me to be quiet and to listen. To listen to it’s screaming or it’s silence. The rain was particularly quiet, letting me sit in contempt as it fluttered around. I shrunk into myself from the bracing winds and stared out over the leafless trees and barren ground, still not awoken by the call of Spring. Hopefully it will wake soon.

Nature Picture

The Fluid Nature of Literature

Friday, March 01, 2024

Before the course began, I thought of literature as something concrete. Literature is stuff everyone can agree on; Shakespeare, Fitzgerald, Golding, Tolkien. They are incredible and fantastic stories of characters with lives far removed for the ordinary person’s. I also thought that literature was completely separate from modernity. You can analyze and interpret a novel without a laptop or phone. These things were written without such things, so why would those things add to the experience? To me, the only use would be easy access to Google so you can understand the allusion the author made.

I was wrong about these two thoughts, of course. My first introduction to literature as something not as solid of an answer actually came last semester, in a class where I learned about African Literature. In that class, I learned that literature, itself, isn’t as clear cut. A lot of different things can be literature, but the type of things we often learn of are classic lit and are, more often than not, stories by white men. Of course, they are classics for a reason; they are incredibly well written stories that can have huge influence on media and society. However, it is only one perspective. Learning about literature is understanding that there are many different kinds of people who deserve to have their stories told, and more often than not, those stories are overshadowed. The class broadened my horizons, and helped me better in both this class as well as my second major in Political Science.

When it came to literature and modernity, I still beieved they couldn’t be connected. This was until we learned about the manuscripts of Walden by Henry David Thoreau. Something written decades ago and something probably very overlooked was now at my disposal because of the internet. Without the internet, a lot of people wouldn’t know about or care about the manuscripts. This makes sense because literature isn’t often about how it was written but more the final product. But this manuscript opened my eyes to see that it can be just as fascinating as the finished product. reading manuscripts gives you a better understanding of the author than the work itself ever could. You see where they messed up, erased, crossed out, and rearranged.

Literature is not simple. There is a reason we study it. I now see where I was limited in my thinking. There is much fluidity in the definition of literature. There is so much that can be learned from it, it’s creation and manuscripts, it’s authors, and how it came to reach the readers to today. There is more than just the one persective we as students see and read in schools, and there is much more to it than just the novel itself. I now understand where I was incorrect.