Monday, November 29, 2010
2) This book is one of the classics of environmental literature. What does environmentalism mean to you and how does the perspective of this narrative fit (or not fit) it?
Monday, November 22, 2010
Friday, November 19, 2010
Monday, November 15, 2010
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
My Home Sweet Home
For awhile I was undecided about what inside place I would right about. It seemed to me that writing about my home would be too easy and far too overdone. However, last Tuesday I went home for an evening and the simple act of walking through the front door made it clear that I could not right about any other place. I have a unique view of my house, though, because it seems like just a very short time ago that I can remember having no attachment to my home. So instead of talking strictly about why my house is a place, I want to also explain how my house went from being a space to a place for me.
My house is a ranch style house that sits on 141 acres. It has cedar siding with an attached garage. Generally, we come in through the garage into the kitchen. The kitchen, the dining room and the main living room are basically all just one long room. There are two bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs as well. Downstairs there is another living room as well as a bedroom and bathroom. Now, all of these rooms make up my home, but just six years ago they had no real meaning to me. They were just the rooms in the house of our neighbor. We had moved into the smaller house on his property four years earlier with the intention of buying it. Towards the end of my freshman year my parents did just that. I remember the first time I got to see more of the house than just the living room. Naturally I was excited to be moving into the house but there was no emotional attachment to it. Simply being in the house certainly did not give me the sense of calm and security that walking through the door does now. The first night I stayed in the new, empty house, before we had moved our stuff in, I remember being scared. Now, in the same living room, I feel more secure than anywhere on earth.
I read on howstuffworks.com that smell is the sense that is most closely tied to memory. I had not experienced this until the Tuesday that I went home to visit. When I walked through the kitchen door, the smell of pumpkin pie was the first thing I smelled. I have never had an emotional reaction to the smell of my house. I didn’t cry or laugh, but inside of me I felt like I was home and I did not want to leave. I just looked at my mom and said, “It smells amazing in here. Its good to be home.” I have never walked into a house and felt so strong a connection to a space. The interesting thing that I have thought about leading up to writing this is how different this reaction was than the first time I walked through that very same door. In the span of six years, this house had evolved from a space, devoid of any emotional attachment, to a place that made me feel like I never wanted to leave just from the smell of my kitchen. Its amazing to think what six years of memories can do. Bachelard describes memories as snapshots in time. There is no sense of time in memories, as odd as that may seem, rather, they are more concretely tied to the setting in which they took place. I can think of many memories that happened in my house as most people can. I can’t always recall the exact time in which they happened but the setting of my house or the where, say, the Christmas tree was when the memories took place is vivid. All of these snapshots and memories are a part of the evolution of my house from a space to a place. Even the memory of that first night in the house is a part of my emotional experience there. The day that I walked once again through that same kitchen door to find that the kitchen was engulfed in flames has also become something of a fond memory. All of these memories, even the ones that seem insignificant, or the ones that seem somewhat tragic, have made this collection of rooms into my home.
In the last six years, my house has gone from being a space to a place. It’s not something I have thought about, until writing this paper, but it is something that has been very interesting to think about. Since I have moved into that house I have gone from having no emotional connection to it, to feeling a deep sense of comfort and security simply from walking in and smelling my mom’s pumpkin pie. This is the result of years of memories and experiences built up in that house. Snapshots that evoke an emotion that gives that house special meaning. They have made that house my home sweet home.
Bachelard wrote, “More than just a ‘place’, the house is “one of the greatest powers of integration for the thoughts, memories, and dreams of mankind”. The place I am choosing to write about is not my house; however it has become a home to me. On State Road ‘A’ in Linn Creek, Missouri there is a small white building that started as a small, one room wooden building. Over the years its architecture has changed as much as I have since I first entered its large white doors as a small, clumsy, and shy five-year old girl.
It is impossible for me to sit on the fourth pew in the sanctuary of Linn Creek Baptist Church without being surrounded by my own memories. I started sitting on that same pew with my sister when we were five years old. As the years past, that pew grew to become the Goldsberry pew when my mother began to attend instead of just letting us go to service with our babysitter. That pew grew even more populated as our father started to become a different man and joined us. It now seats a husband for my sister and a boyfriend for me.
In the front of the sanctuary there is a baptismal. Here is this baptismal, my sister and I hid during games of hide and go seek with our friends while our parents were attending meetings in the fellowship hall. This is also where my family was baptized together and showed our faith to our congregation.
At the altar of this church is where my parents were the first couple to be married in the new sanctuary with my sister and I serving as flower girls in the frilliest and itchiest dresses imaginable. Fifteen years later, I served as maid of honor in a far-less itchy and frilly dress as my sister married her husband in a long lace gown reminiscent of our mother’s, while our parents watched with teary eyes from a front pew. This altar is also where I saw groups of people gather after the national tragedy of September 11th. I was in seventh grade at the time, and I don’t believe I fully grasped what was happening. However, I did know that everyone looked incredibly sad and lost. I remember being proud that these people were coming to “my church” for comfort.
As I sit in the fourth pew, on the left side of the sanctuary, under the cracked beam that my father repaired, these are the good memories that surround me like a warm blanket and make me feel safe. However, over in the corner of this blanket is a tear of memories from this place that are not some warm. From this pew, I have seen adults I looked up to, who professed to be Christian ripping into each other in heated arguments over things as serious as who will be the next pastor to things as trivial as what color the new carpet will be. Politics, that as an insider, I was unable to ignore.
Inside the pastor’s office, I was faced with my first encounter with discrimination. When one of the girls from the youth group came out as a lesbian, she was banned from attending a youth group lock-in. It was the church’s policy that homosexuality was a sin and that although we were supposed to love this girl; she could also not be allowed to attend an over-night festivity. In this office, is where I stopped accepting blindly what others believed and what they expected me to believe. In this office, I began to really think critically about what kind of person, what kind of Christian I wanted to be and what I believed. This is where I decided to try to love everyone, no matter the difference, and that those ideals were going to be my kind of religion. It is also the first and only time I ever yelled at a pastor.
Churches are interesting in that they can be seen as a space where people go in and go out once a week or twice a year or never at all. I’ll admit that other churches have definitely been spaces to me. However, these memories that the “little white church on A Road” gave to me make this particular church a place to me.
Monday, November 8, 2010
----In his chapter on the Gold Rush, historian Kevin Starr argues for some of the long-term effects of the Gold Rush on the character of California, including "enormous materialism," an "ethos of survival of the fittest" and an investment in "the most compelling of American myths, the pursuit of happiness." In what ways does Norris' novel depict any or all of these elements within his San Francisco characters?
Friday, November 5, 2010
A place brings out emotion. It is a feeling unmatched by just any old thing you could think up with the most vivid imagination. Nostalgia rings true to a place central to the hearts of those who experience it. Whether the emotion is positive or negative, the mere thought and image of a certain place can trigger even the slightest details and situations from years before that come from that place. However, for any positive nostalgic image, such as mine, it is hard to weigh whether one could remember more detail if the image was positive or negative. For myself, negative places are the ones I try to make myself forget, but the positive ones are the ones that can never be erased.
Located at the corner of a small highway and gravel road, sits the house. At the beginning of a windy array of gravel roads leading to other country-style homes, trailers, and pastures, you will find my aunt’s house. Inside, you’ll find what looks to be sort of the updated version of the homes along the gravel roads. There are big throw rugs, a fireplace once you in past the dining area to the ever-populated downstairs living room. The carpets are dated and brown and the walls seem plain with the occasional band of wallpaper along the lower portion of the bathrooms. A lot went on that house before she died. The hustle and bustle associated with the holiday season mixed with the never-ending flow of energy given off by each family member as each season turned. Throughout the years, it wasn’t hard to find something to satisfy any need that may come. For instance, I knew there would be literally nothing to do once I got there, because the town was so small and people came by the few. However, I could always expect that once I got there, I would be surrounded in the comfort of family and relaxation.
My uncle had these recliners. They were my place of rest during the day. When I wasn’t running around with my cousin or raiding the pantry, I would be lounged up in one of the two Laz-E-Boys. They were stationary; therefore they were my little place of rest. My uncle’s specific chair didn’t rock, it only reclined. When he wasn’t knocked out sleeping and snoring in it, I would sometimes sit in his chair. Sitting in the specific chair gave me a sense of power; I was the “man of the house” like he was. It never failed that I would sit in that chair and my chest would stick out a little bit farther, because now I was sitting on the thrown, and all was good at that very moment. Being that I was a kid, I preferred to keep moving a little bit all the time, so I would more than likely choose the chair that rocked so I could at least find a little rhythm to satisfy my need to stay active even though I was at rest in these chars. I would take naps, read, play on Mom’s laptop, play with my figurines, or just use my crazy imagination to make things up to keep me occupied. See, not only did I find that this was my place of rest, but when I was at rest was the time that my imagination could run its course. Come to think of it, there used to be a love seat where the recliners sat. When you stand between the living room and dining area, the little stairway leading to the downstairs was to your right and the stairwell leading upstairs would be at your left. I was about a four-foot drop if you decided to jump down into the living room from that spot, and when the love seat was still there, please believe that us kids would hurl ourselves over that shallow drop. It now seems all too ironic that with every jump down, I would land securely on my seat and chill. When I hit that seat, I might have gotten scolded, I might have even missed, but I would never leave sooner than an hour after impact. I later learned this was not such a good idea when dealing with the recliners. My aunt and uncle would rearrange the couches and chairs throughout the years, but no matter where they placed those recliners, I would always find my way back to them throughout the stay.
Some may think that a fireplace is just a fireplace. To me, I have never seen a single fireplace that gave such an emotional tie to love and warmth as the one at my aunt’s house. It was the first thing I looked at once I peeked around the corner to the living room, it would always be crackling at night, my uncle and I would always throw logs in to rekindle the flames just before the family would sit down to a peaceful movie night. My strong tie to Christmas always motivated me to sort of rest and stare at this fireplace in hopes of Santa dropping in as I was glancing at it. It was the focal point of the house though it was small and tucked deep into the back wall of the downstairs living room. The noise it made as logs would hit the inside of the little doors was auditory throughout the house no matter where you were situated at that moment. The smell of the burning wood mixed with the smell of the laundry room connected to the living room radiated from the downstairs to the kitchen upstairs. It was the source of light, ironically the focal point of the house, other than the television when my cousins and I would stay up playing until wee hours of the morning. Truth be told, that fireplace is the image that comes to mind when I think of my definition of warmth; no words or descriptions, but simply the image of one fireplace that did everything for me by simply existing.We don’t go there anymore. Since the death of my aunt, the thought of this place, which I referred to as my second home, seems all to somber. But through the negative, I’m able to see the positive out of this situation through the little things that have stuck with me since my childhood. My nostalgic views of warmth, comfort, security, and peace are all tied to events and objects from this place that exists in a tiny little speck of land located on this giant planet filled with wonders and spectacles vast beyond human recollection! But this is my space. Though this may not be my world, nostalgia lives deep within my place located in tiny Dixon, Missouri in a small house in which no one will understand its significance. I not only understand, but I adore the significance of my place. Though negativity surrounds its situation, deep within is that house which is always good.
My indoor place is small, green and has five doors, if you include a hatchback as a door. It's not even mine, but in the last three months I have become tied to the CR-V.
I had cars before, but being 6'8", I never really fit. My sister's CR-V is different. I fit in it, and it fits me.
I just finished a 1,200 mile drive. I drove the entire way. The black leather steering wheel merged with my hands, the stereo speakers bounced in my ears like a pair of headphones.
In front of me is the odometer, and in the nook between the odometer and the steering wheel my carmex, my hand sanitizer (germaphobe), and a pen.
What's that? I'm a bit warm? I don't even need to look to add some chill to the air. Do I want more volume, it's also right at my fingertips. In a world where everyone is out for themselves, at least my car works for me.
In the deserted strains of lifeless West Texas, the CR-V and I made a perfect pair of man and machine. With no sign of civilization, human or animal, for hundreds of miles, I decided to see the limits.
100, 110, 120. Shooting forward on a road as straight and flat as a virtual plane, the CR-V left the landscape in its dust.
Inside the confines of that car, I am able to rest, even at remarkably and dangerously fast speeds.
My dad talks about his father, my granddad, taking the kids for a ride on a Sunday afternoon. My dad and his siblings would hop in the Lincoln Continental, a whale of a car, and my grandpa would drive around the rural areas of Kansas.
This peaked my interest. I asked my grandpa one thanksgiving why he would do that?
"It relaxed me," he said.
It took a decade, but I now understand what he was talking about.
In the car, I'm in control. All the things in my life that are fleeting, all the things in my life that I want to leave behind, they are left behind. I can focus on the road, just the road.
Life is hectic, but when I am in the car, I don't feel that frenzy. I don't feel the pressure to do 15 things at one time.
Some would call this an excuse, a reason to not do do work. That's hardly the case.
When working on 10 things at a time all the time, having to be single minded moment is great. Having hours of single mindedness, that's bliss.
It's me, the wheel, the GPS (her name is Gertrude), the road in front of me and some nice central air.
In the small confines of the car, I know where everything is, I know what everything does, and again, I can control everything.
Meanwhile, out the window, I can see the some of the great landscapes of the world. Or, in some cases, the most boring places in the world.
With nothing but the road in front of me I can zone out, I can turn off the mind, if only for a moment, allowing the stress to melt away.
There's a thrill to the car as well. There's something to putting the car on cruise control and relaxing. It is another thing to push the car to the limit, to open the windows and go for a joy ride of sorts.
Much of the allure of the car is its ability to move. That's not what separates the CR-V from any other car. It's memories, it's the warmth of the interior and the comfort you feel when you close the door.
I have had some of the most memorable conversations of my life in the car. In the process I have learned about myself and others.
Every time I close the driver's door and turn the key, the conversations, the memories come back in a rush.
When a song comes on the radio, the conversations come back as if they never ended. Love, hate, pain or gain — the car is a crapshoot of emotions.
Is the car a home? No, but it might as well be. I have slept in the back seat and I am spending more time driving than in my apartment.
My parents moved out my childhood house three years ago. I never developed a bond or fond memories in the new home.
I move apartments annually. And while the memories in each are numerous and the bonds with each place tight, I never go back.
Like a man without a country, I am a man without a real home. Sure, I have places I live, but my car is the place of comfort and familiarity.
One of the best feelings in the world is walking out of a cold winter night and into a warm home. When I had that feeling in a house, I would let out an exhale, knowing that I can relax. I don't have that feeling in my apartment, but sitting in my car and closing the door, I can let out the same exhale.
Over the next few years, I will be moving around a lot. More than I have traveled in the last four years. I can only imagine that my bond with the car will continue to grow in the future.
And even if I am driving to something that is different, unknown and scary, the comfort the car can provide me I am sure will help me in the future.
"It relaxes me," my grandpa told me.
It took a decade to understand what he meant, some would say it took a decade to grow up, but in 2010 I now understand.
I chose Kyle’s basement because of the memories that I have of it. His basement has always had the most fun or happy memories for me and memories are a huge factor in what I consider to be a space or place, and what place I chose for this paper. Not that I don’t have good memories of home, I have tons of them, but Kyle’s basement brings memories of the best group of friends that I have ever had, and the most fun I have ever had.
Thinking of Kyle’s basement brings back the memories of playing Risk or Monopoly for all hours of the night, playing ping pong, at least when his mom’s Christmas decorations aren’t cluttered on top, which they are year-round now, and just being with my best friends. As Bachelard says in his writing, home always conjures memories and dreams that are poetic, and that has always been the case for Kyle’s basement. Dates and specific times have never been important when thinking of these nights, and in some cases, separate nights from different months or even years, sometimes combine into one memory, and it’s hard to differentiate from nights that I’ve combined in my memory and the actual night in question, and in that sense, I think it’s very poetic. The memories are jumbled in a way, with no specific beginning or end.
Bachelard also mentioned in “Poetics in Space” that trying to describe the memories or dreams that you have of the particular space you’re trying to describe, it puts limits on the memory itself, and I find that to be especially true here. I can describe the exact layout of Kyle’s basement, going down his stairs to see his drums, bass, guitar and piano and to the left of that his giant couch and TV, with his even bigger movie collection. I have a memory attached to each of those, from watching the Mizzou Tigers play and ultimately lose to the Memphis Tigers in the 2009 Sweet 16 NCAA basketball tournament, the countless number of movies seen there, or the times he tried to teach me to play drums, that all ended up failing. I have all of these memories, but trying to describe them puts limits on them that don’t make them seem nearly as important as they are.
Kyle’s basement means many different things to different people. I believe that our group of friends and Kyle himself may be the only people that see this space as a place. His mom uses it as storage and a place to do laundry, and his dad only seems to use it to take their dog outside. Kyle lives down there and it is really seen as his “wing” of the house. The rest of our group of friends uses it as a hangout place quite often, and I think that we all have the emotional attachment to it. Whenever all of us are home for a period of time, we make sure to go over to Kyle’s because it does not seem official or right unless we are over there. As his family has found out recently, the basement had an interesting meaning to them as well. The house is supposedly haunted, and the family that owned the house before hand had much of the encounters in the basement, and they never went down there. So to them is was a place that they rarely ever went to, and when they did, it was for an extremely short period of time. It all depends on the perspective and experiences you have with a place or space, and with this particular space, mine has been a great one, which is probably why my attachment to it is so strong.
I don’t believe that any one part of the basement makes it a space or a place, it’s the sentimental and emotional values that we have to the objects in his basement. It’s a very open space, with lots of room and it’s an inviting space, which may lend itself more towards being a place. It doesn’t have any features that makes people want to get in and get out. The fireplace, television and the couch are also a big factor in making it a place, but even with all of those things, his parents primarily use it as a place. It is the time that we have all spent down there and the bond we have made with these objects over the years that have made it a place.
Kyle will be moving out of his parents house shortly, and with that he will take away the space that for years, we have used as a backup plan for most nights when we could not think of anything else to do and days spent celebrating New Year’s Eve, Fourth of July, or just celebrating. Our friendships have grown stronger and longer in that basement and even as Kyle moves away, and our chances of using that basement much longer are slim, the memories and friendships that have been fortified in his basement will carry on in my memory for a long time.
American Lit: Geographies
November 5, 2010
Inside Space/Place Paper:
Our House is a Very Very Very Moderately Sized House
My mother bends over to set the lit match on the fake fireproof logs that occupy the grill in the fireplace. Already showered for the evening and dressed in her pajamas, she then turns on the gas with a slight turn of a large metal key, we have ignition. The flames on the west side of room add to the warmth the brown walls already provide us with. The large dark brown couch wraps around the entirety of the north wall and the open entrance into the family room to the east. The south side of the room is home to the rusty red love seat and large bay window looking out to our backyard. Old toys from my mother’s childhood such as a big red truck, a train set, and several block sets neatly decorate the antic shelves that hang about a foot from hour eight and a half foot ceiling, and fireplace. It is about an hour till my father will head off to bed and my mother is scratching his back, unintentionally letting us know that they are still going strong after twenty-six years. The cream colored carpet is soft on my bare feet as I grab one of my dog’s blankets and coax her into a tussle over the rights to her beloved play thing. We wrestle in front of the television, which occupies the southwest corner of the room. My father warns us to be careful of the light brown coffee table. The dog knocks into one of the plants and spills dirt everywhere. Even in his mild anger my father laughs. He is getting too old to be angry all the time.
One of the most important places in my life is the one that resides in the southeast corner of our middle floor in the western Chicago suburbs. The most comforting memories of my childhood, from nine to twenty-one, all occurred in this little section of my house.
It is the nostalgia of the place that gives it so much meaning. When I first think back to even the simplest of nights waiting for my bedtime to send my dad into a teeth-brushing song frenzy, I can’t help but feel the slightest bit of comfort knowing that somewhere that place still exists. I left my home for boarding school at the age of fifteen. From then on, every time I am able to return to this place I am only met with parents who have missed me for the passed few months. Most people hold on to moments like this. It is odd to think that even the not so good memories eventually join in with those nostalgic moments of bliss. Remembering when one’s father makes them do homework where they can be closely monitored due to a bad grade or failure to complete the previously days assignments are warm reminders of those that care for you. The place itself is not as important as the events that happened there.
The experiences that I have had in my living room far outweigh the comfort of the long brown couch. Many such events happened on the couch, which is why the thought of it brings so many sweet memories. If it weren’t for the place, that is my family room, acting as the catalyst for the remembrance of the Christmas I got a scooter, the place would not mean as much to me as the den or bedroom. Though not literally, figuratively the family room is the intersection of our home. At the beginning and ending of everyday my family finds ourselves sitting on the couch sipping some orange juice and eating some cereal while watching cartoons, or winding down and laughing at mindless sitcoms and reruns of our beloved television show, Family Guy.
It is said that smell is the one of the best ways to trigger memories and feelings. During the latter half of my third year in college I was suffering from severe anxieties and I was unable to perform properly as a student. These anxieties and depressions continued until I was able to go home for the Forth of July. Not five seconds of being in my family room wrestling with a dog whimpering with joy, did all the uneasy feelings lift from my troubled head. The smell of the carpet when pinning the dog and the smell of the couch I have know for so many years when tackling her against the large pillows made it seem as if nothing had been troubling me at all. On top of all of that, I was able to just soak in the air of my home.
It is the smell of our mothers cooking drifting into our nostrils while waiting for supper, the sound of the door closing in the mudroom when our father returns from work, and the deep bark of our black lab as she charges at her master for affection that causes your head to turn to see your family from a good distance. Soon we will all be on the couch or sitting in the love seat. With my feet kicked up onto the footrest, my father pulls it out from under me for his own comfort. These antics keep us going back to these places.
Home defines a very important part of who we are, for me it is this idea of my living room that gives me the most happiness. Places are triggers for very specific emotions and self-identifications. We define ourselves by significant moments in our lives. The most significant moments in my life are the ones I spent with my family. When we are younger, some of us do not realize how incredible it is to be loved in what can be a very lonely world. Giving ourselves a place, like my living room, gives us a sense of who we are and where we come from when away to school. Watching movies after a snowball fight in the backyard and drinking hot chocolate sounds like the sweetest thing in the world after being deprived of that for several years. In the moment we hardly think about the impact the events happening in a specific place. Thinking back to when we first brought our new dog home after the pup I was given for Christmas in my youth passed away while away at school is of utter bliss. A great time of healing occurred on the floor of that living room for my entire family. We build associations with places and spaces, the most intimate of those being located in areas, which are smaller and more tangible.
In apartment 303 there are many reasons that you could identify this space as a place. A space where someone moves, breathes and lives but the memories of this space don’t come from this apartment, they come from the past. The past where we can thrive on the memories that once were alive. We might be able to think about what once was but we will never be able to re-live these memories but we can always hope that one day they will come alive in our dreams.
The smell of this space is so nostalgic but the instant you step out of apartment 303, that sense of emotion is swept right beneath you. This apartment is a symbol of time, symbol of change and a symbol of loss. In this 600 ft square apartment you can look around and see so many pictures that inspire thoughts of what once was happened but it is the wonderful woman who lives in this apartment that makes these pictures come alive.
I have been blessed to have a wonderful Grandmother, who helps me accept things that I cannot change. She accepts time and change with open arms. She makes you feel like you will be young forever. Yes, she does live in a tiny apartment but the instant you walk in, it becomes a huge globe of ideas, thoughts, and inspirations. For me, going to apartment 303 is like walking into a space where time stops. It’s a space where all anxieties of life go out the window, my Grandmother is a symbol of hope. She gives inspiration in a space that someone would see as a jail, but in this space she see’s it as another opportunity to do something with her life.
Apartment 303 is a retirement home where my Grandma lives, she has been living there for 6 years. Before moving into to 303, she lived in the same house for 50 years. My grandmother, like older people, accepted that she could no longer take care of a big house and made the decision to move into a place that would be easier for her to live. For myself, my Father and the rest of my family, it was heartbreaking to see her move out of the house. It was symbol of growing up and to her, it was her life she was leaving behind. Most people would be devastated to move out of place that holds so many memories but for my Grandma, it was just another chapter in her life. Every Tuesday I am blessed with the time to go have lunch with my Grandma. It is the same thing every time, we get the same order, we sit in the same place, it is a time and place that I know exactly how things will go. As an anxious college student I am always worrying about what will happen next, what I’m supposed to do with my life but when walking into her apartment, it is a place where I along with my life stop.
The table. It is the exact same table that has been in her life forever. This table is not just a table where you eat, it is a place that has shared many meals, many conversations, many late night talks, things that forever change who you are. My Grandma hasn’t had the easiest life, she was divorced and raised two children on her own. This table represents her life, it is made out of wood. Each chip, mark and stain has a story, just like her life. Every Tuesday when I make the trip to apartment 303, I see this table and I remember every memory she has shared with me that has happened here. Yes, we do eat at this table but it’s the things that are shared at this table that makes these instances special. Even though everything is the same at these meals, the thoughts and stories are always different.
The recliner. She has had the same recliner since I was born. She sits everyday and drinks countless amounts of tea and reads. This is her life, this is what she enjoys. To some people this may seem boring but to her, this is what she aspires to do every day when she wakes up. I enjoy walking into her apartment and seeing her in that chair because it is familiar. It is something that I have seen many times before. I have a picture in my mind of her sitting there at Christmas drinking tea and reading a Christmas Story or a picture in my scrapbook where I, once a child, am wrapped up in this chair sleeping. It is a small memory but to me it is a picture and an object that brings me back to reality, that even though we cannot stop time, we can always remember things and objects that brings us home again.
Photos. Everyone has photos that they love to share, my Grandma has the most awkward montages of photos on her walls. People might think the way she hangs these photos is crazy but to me, it symbolizes movement. You can walk through these awkwardly hung wall photos and realize what a great life my Grandmother has lived and still living. It starts from her traveling days, to her married life, to her children and then to us. You never know how much you mean to someone until you hear them talk about you. I remember walking into my Grandma’s apartment and hearing her speak of me to her neighbors, it was a different feeling to hear someone that you inspire to be, talk about how you inspire them. It was a beautiful feeling and a memory that will forever be stored in my mind.
This space is 600 feet, it is white, boring and has no meaning to me. But the stories, objects and the person moving around in this space makes this non-relevant space a place to me. This area makes me realize that time doesn’t stop but to make the most of the time that is left. My Grandma helps me realize that its not the space you are in, its what you make of it that defines it as a place.
Sure, I’ve lived in the rest of my house for 19 years, but it was just a space through which to move to other locations in the house. I always felt like the other rooms of the house were communal spaces to be shared with everyone. When guests came over, they were entertained in the common rooms like the dining, living, and family room. My room though, was reserved only for me and the closest cousins and friends. The rest of the house collectively belonged to family - me, my brothers and my parents. But my room belonged only to me. No one else could feel the connection that I feel in my room. I know the creaking sound my bed makes when I stretch out in the morning. I know the sound the heat vent makes when it powers on during Christmas time. This is mine.
I find the whole changing relationship with my home to be somewhat bittersweet. It’s odd how things change when you don’t expect them to, even when you have been warned. And it’s odd that you can form relationships with places that so closely mirror relationships with your friends and family. I know that as get older, we also grow apart. Even though I have grown apart from past friends, relationships, and even my home, its reassuring to know that you will always have some things to fall back on – whether it be your kindergarten friend or your childhood room. Sure, after enough years any friendship can be lost and any place can become a space. I’m sure that if the family that lived in my home before me came back it would no longer be the place that they remembered. But for now, I’m happy to know I have a place to go back to – even if it is just my room.
The University Bookstore, to many people on campus, can be seen as a space, somewhere to buy textbooks, a game day tee shirt, and even the occasional Clinique product or Vera Bradley bag. To me however, the University Bookstore is a place, an institution that I am attached to; a place where I get to see my friends and hang out, and on occasion, work.
After clocking in for the day, I walk to the clothing computer desk, write down the approximate time that I arrived, and start running around the store trying to get the impossible list of "things to do" accomplished, as there is always some project to complete. The Bookstore and all its happenings have become so familiar to me that it is comforting on some level. Every day is almost always the same. I either fold or hang clothing items, talk to co-workers, and fill and straighten (the clothing motto) the floor so it can look so beautiful that the customers are so inclined to pick up the perfectly folded items and throw them into a pile on the table. At least I have job security. These activities have come to be as common as washing the dishes or taking the garbage out that I do not have to even think about what I am doing anymore. I find that it is nice to be able to do my work and still be able to daydream and converse with others without worry of doing my task wrong. It is also surprisingly soothing to be able to go through the motions of folding, as it leaves the mind open to wonder at the larger aspects of life, such as the reasonings for the necessity of having a dog house shaped like a football helmet or a shirt that has so much glitter on it that even touching it leaves a trail of pixie dust. These motions allow me to get away from the pressures of the college world for awhile. While I am there, I only allow myself to worry about why the shipment of sweatshirts has not come yet, and all the drama that occurs between the employees, which can be quite entertaining at times.
The Bookstore has become my second home. I even have chores that I must do everyday, like going through the returns, checking voicemail, and other tedious tasks that need to be done throughout the day. Though these are not the usual chores that parent's make their children perform, they nonetheless bring a homey feeling to the workplace. My bosses bring in an aspect of home as well. They are all generous and kind, but stern when they have to be. They have become friends to me, but not ones that I can share every detail of my life with. They are more of the parent type within this place. They are there when you need them with sympathetic words and ideas to assist the overwhelming problems in life as parents do. Still, there is a dividing line between the boss and the employee that cannot be breached, which can be seen within the parent-child relationship. They are the foundation of this abnormal home.
Imagine walking into your first day of work, excited at the new surroundings yet nervous of the unknown, and finding the employees dancing around and singing Disney songs. Believe it or not, this is a usual scene in the Clothing Department (though it is not always Disney songs). It is the people of the Bookstore that add a special character to the place. All of them are weird in their own way and that is what makes them so special. Little did I know, I became one of those crazy people. Due to the lack of intellectual stimulation in my line of work, my fellow employees and I cannot help ourselves to some much needed silliness. Having a full class load, working on a Black and Gold Fridays and games days when thousands of people believe that they need that gold teee shirt for the game, and having the pleasure of hearing the same Marching Mizzou c.d. all the way through at least six times in a day can lead to a little stress and annoyance. Sometimes the only way to get all that frustration and stress out is to go a little crazy and just dance it out.
Bachelard states in his writings that "the house shelters daydreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace," and this is exactly what the Bookstore does for me (6). I can express my daydreams and my general wonderings to any co-worker without fear of humiliation and they are able to share the same with me. It allows us to be ourselves, which is all one can ask. My co-workers have become my second family. We share our sadness, our frustrations, and triumphs. Over the years they have become my best friends and I am not scared to be myself around them. The Bookstore is a shelter and home which brings us all closer.
The University Bookstore, to many students on campus, is just a space full of comings and goings, nothing to really think about. To me, however, this store is the place where I spend my days. I has taught me that a home can be anywhere that I want it to be. My co-workers have become a family throughout the years, and the store has become the walls that house this family and keep it together. After I leave the University Bookstore when I graduate, it will no longer be the same bookstore as when I left it. The people will change, the atmosphere will change, but the mindless tasks and shell of the store will still be there, though it will just be a commercial space to me then, as my family will have become grown-ups with careers. As Bachelard states in his Poetics of Space, "we are never real historians, but always near poets, and our emotion is perhaps nothing but an expression of a poetry that was lost" (6). I find this to be true as I think up on the day that I will leave the Bookstore seeking greener pastures, for when I look back on the store and all the memories that I have and will have of it, it will be a place that has made me into a better person (or crazier depending on how you look at it), a place that was a home away from home for many years, and I will think fondly upon the store which caused some stress and frustrations, as a place that holds only good memories.
The whitewashed stone and mortar walls were old and crumbly. The ugly, celery green linoleum floor, supporting the nine by fifteen foot room, was slightly uneven and covered with faded stains. The wooden door had a lock that would sometimes stick. The old gray furnace only worked on the highest setting. The little closet was missing hooks and its door would never close completely. Half of the outlets did not work. The tan-colored wooden desk was small and flimsy with a hard, wooden chair, and the matching bed frame was wobbly underneath its hard, old mattress with springs that squeaked with every movement. I loved this place. My posters of favorite bands and drawings covered the walls. My area rug with its bands of different colors lied in the center of the floor, eye-catching and bright. On the outside of the door hung a sign with my name on it. My big, cozy and soft, turquoise circular chair stood in front of the furnace. My colorful clothing hung in the closet, filling it with the scent of fabric softener. My little black TV and Macbook sat on the desk; all of my favorite books were perched on the shelf, and pictures of all of my friends and pets were stuck on the corkboard below it. The bed was adorned with my turquoise sheets, kaleidoscope-patterned bedspread, soft and fuzzy blanket, and lots of pillows. My little pink table with my lucky bamboo plant on top and my ceramic gnomes and mushrooms served to further decorate the room. For primping, my black full-length mirror and shelves, full of various scented bottles promising to make you beautiful, stood against the wall. My black mini-fridge softly hummed in the corner. It was my second dorm room in Cramer Hall, and it was all mine.
I lived in this small, single dorm room during my sophomore year at Mizzou. It was my second dorm room, but my first time living alone. Cramer Hall was one of the oldest dorms on campus; so old, in fact, that my aunt lived in it while she was in college. My dorm room was definitely a place not a space to me, my home away from home. Interior spaces have a distinct difference from interior places. Spaces are more public, do not encourage any attachment, and have specific purposes they are used for, like banks, post offices, or grocery stores. Their surroundings are not intimate; they encourage people to get in, do their business, and move on. They are totalitarian and inhospitable, providing little privacy for people to dwell and think. Places, on the other hand, are more private and intimate. They encourage emotional attachment, feelings of ownership, and a sense of home. They are inviting locations that afford privacy and security for thinking, daydreaming, and introspection. My dorm room had all of these elements for me. I personalized the room with my belongings; making it my own, I took possession. It was a place of relief from all of the public spaces and the masses of people throughout them on campus. Inside of my room I felt safe and secure surrounded by its heavy stone walls. It gave me a sense of privacy, the door shutting out the rest of the world to leave me in my solitude. Surrounded by all of my beloved belongings, it felt like home, and I grew emotionally attached.
The room was used for multiple purposes, but only by me. My friends and family rarely spent very much time there, as it was too small for multiple people to occupy at once. On a utilitarian level, I used it to sleep in, groom myself in, study in, relax in, and snack in. The predominance of my time was probably spent either sleeping or trying to sleep in the bed, or studying or reading for classes at the desk or on my turquoise chair. This is what the room encouraged, as the bed and the desk were the two most prominent pieces of furniture in the room. I also used it often for something else quite different. I would escape inside my head and think. I would sit in my comfortable chair or lie on my softly blanketed bed, and drift off. I would think about everything: what happened that day, what my family and friends were doing back home, what exams I had next week, what my favorite fat cat was doing back home, what I did in the past, what I would do in the future. My mind would drift to memories and from those to daydreams. I cannot remember any specific daydreams, but all were about the future, and in all I was happy. The room was like my womb, filled with my possessions accumulated throughout my history. The solitude encouraged introspection, and the security sustained it.
My dorm room both encouraged and discouraged emotional attachment. I did become attached to it and thought of it as my home. I fell in love with it; it was the first time I had a place of my very own. I used to say, “It may be a shithole, but it’s my shithole.” I always felt relaxed, secure, and calm while I was in the room. However, the room also discouraged attachment because of its transitory quality. I knew it would only be my home for a year. There was always the awareness that many had inhabited the room before me, and many might after me. The only thing that was making it mine was the presence of my belongings; underneath them it was just a space. I knew it would not be my place for long.
(mine was the room right above the door)
Shortly after my inhabitancy there ended, Cramer was shutdown, destined to be demolished. My room and all of the others were stripped of their furniture, windows, and exterior stone walls. Eventually, it was blown up, leaving only a huge pile of stone, dust, metal, and wood where the dorm used to be. It is now only a place in my memory; it became a space when I packed up all of my things and left it as I found it. Now it is not even a space, but a mere pile of rubbish. When I look at that big pile of destruction, nevertheless, my heart sinks. A sense of nostalgia washes over me, and memories of all those times I had in that room, all that introspection and daydreaming fill me with a sense of loss. I do not feel an attachment to that pile, nor do I even recognize it as my former dorm, but I do still feel an attachment to that place inside my memory. I can remember every inch of my dorm room perfectly, and remembering it always gives me a sense of warmth, putting a smile on my face.
Five to seven thousands members come in weekly for this religious experience. Unlike a place of worship we charge at the door and that is where I come in. The front desk the gate of the facility, and it’s a member’s only club. It’s something like being a mix of a salesman and a doorman working there. Though we have so many members this keeps the appearance that we are exclusive and you can be too for the right price. The smells of chlorine, pheromones and lemon cleaner and the perpetual warmth generated by thousands of bodies creates an intoxicating atmosphere that draws people from near and far. Bemoan those who come in without a photo ID, for they are cast out of paradise. Some of them accept their fate and leave while others wish to put up a futile fight. An officially issued piece of plastic with your name and picture on it is what you need to pass, no exceptions (well, sometimes).
When inside one is affronted by a multitude of heavily decorated spaces. In the center of the lobby sits an enormous fake tree with hundreds of fabric leaves. It is there to add to the organic feeling of the stone halls, and to distract one from looking up at the industrial ceiling it climbs up to. The area is supposed to give a feeling that people are a tiger in the jungle, and to tie in the theme of our “Jungle Gym” equipment room. Behind the tree is an area known as the “Red Hall Beverage Company.” Though once being a functional area for beverages, it has now become a computer station. On the right side of the lobby there is an entrance to the Tiger Grotto, the pool with a vortex and a lazy river. There is no stairway that actually leads you down to the pool, but there is a deck area with multiple rocking chairs so you can stare down at the people actually swimming and having a good time. The lobby’s function is to give our members a look at our facility without serving any real practical purpose other than as a study area.
Further into this sanctuary is the “Jungle Gym” where hundreds of treadmills, stair-steppers, recumbent bikes, and other sweat inducing equipment reside. This is our most heavily trafficked area in the entire gym, only being open without the wait when we open at 5:30 AM and when we close at 11:00 PM. All of our equipment has some sort of media feature on it like a T.V. screen, so our members can trick their brains into thinking their being lazy on the couch while a machine burns calories for them. The vast majority of the people there are women. Some come for the purpose of working up a sweat, while others enter with their hair and make-up done, ready to entice body builders with their pink Victoria Secret short shorts. Many will also put on the appearance of already being fit by choosing the highest level of difficulty on their machine, even if they can’t manage to use their legs walking out the door afterwards. The Jungle Gym is the center of activity of the Rec.
The basketball courts on the lowest level and the dance studios on the highest level are where those who want to get in shape while having fun. The Rec hosts hundreds of different sports teams and classes, so there is no possible way for any of our members to get bored. Most of them are driven and very competitive individuals whose goal is not just to look good but strive for accomplishment. I personally partake in the Mizzou Martial Arts club, and find it nice to be able to test my physical capabilities and earn a colored belt for it. If I didn’t do this I’d revert to being lazy and unfit again. Working out without a goal is impossible for me. I think most of the people who utilize this area of the Rec share a similar sentiment.
There are several other smaller groups that utilize a specified space in order to accomplish tasks which require more focus. Brewer Butte and Scroggs peak, our climbing walls, obviously only are used for those interested in…well, climbing. The racquetball and squash courts are the same way in that regard. The pump room, though holding a variety of different weights and equipment like the Jungle Gym, is designed for the serious body builder as the free weights alone max out at one hundred and fifty pounds. Our fifty meter pool is also an area that can generally intimidate the average outsider, since our swim team practices alongside our members regularly. These groups are generally tight knit regulars who have a very specific task they wish to perform in order to get in shape.
What are the options however for our members who don’t want to work out, but an area to socialize or relax? For them we have two pools, the aforementioned Tiger Grotto and Truman’s Pond, our seasonal pool. These areas were built for indulgence. Where else can you wade in eighty degree water under a waterfall, or make a trip into one of our saunas to relax? Then of course there is the Spa, a retail paradise for all one’s tanning and beauty needs. If a drab public locker room isn’t enough, you can upgrade to the exclusive private one known as the Rothwell Club. These things are a perfect compliment to our work out stations because what better excuse is there to spend money rewarding yourself to a massage or watching T.V. in a leather arm chair near your own private locker? I would say this setup is comparable to placing the milk in the back of the grocery store.
The Rec is a place everyone wants to go to feel happier about their body image and to obtain a sense of achievement. It’s interesting to see people use a space which could have just as easily been a warehouse so creatively. It is apparent to me that this recreation complex is a place because of the emotional and cognitive attributions people apply to it. I personally consider it such because of the many hours I’ve spent there working the night shifts and watching the previously mentioned groups pass in and out, and learning the unique cultures that inhabit the different spaces.
My eyes are wide open, intensely focused on the clock sitting at my bedside. Have been, point of fact, for about thirty minutes. I generally find it hard to sleep in around this time of year. The moment I wake up and see the sun making any sort of effort to rise, there’s no getting me back to sleep.
One more minute. Every year, my parents have to lay ground rules.
“Jared,” Dad said last night, “You don’t wake anyone up before eight tomorrow morning. Your mom and I are off work. We want to sleep in a little bit.”
This is the thing about me: you give me directions, and I promise I’ll follow them. But, I’ll use up every privilege I have directly outside of them and bang on the walls of acceptability. Tell me I can’t wake anyone up before eight, and I’ll see you at…
Already on top of my blankets, I kick my brother’s bed, bunked above mine, and run out of our room before he can grab me. I bang on my sister’s door as I tear down the long hallway to my parents’ bedroom.
“MERRY CHRISTMAS!” I yell,
As if I really needed to.
Amy and Josh, aged six and four years–respectively–older me, are scowling at me from the ugly, blue furry couch. My parents forbade them from bullying me because, after all, I had abided by their rules.
Mom is sitting in one ugly, blue furry recliner in a Christmas sweater and Dad, never the biggest Christmas guy, is sitting in the other with a cup of coffee in hand, eyes half-open, limboing in conscience.
To no one’s surprise, I’m wearing a Santa hat, sitting on the carpet and waiting to get the OK to pass out everyone’s gifts. The Christmas tree, set up a month ago by Mom and me, is fully lit, decorated with an oddly collected bunch of ornaments aggregated over the years between school and various organizations. There’s not really a theme to it.
The fire from last night is out, of course, but still warm. The deceptively warm-looking sun naturally lights the house. Cinnamon candles fill the room with a tangible scent and, somewhere, a nearly worn-out Mannheim Steamrollers tape echoes through the house for the eighth time this week.
Mom nods to me and I tear into the presents.
A live Mannheim Steamroller’s Christmas album echoes along our hardwood floors. Dad has already assumed his position on one of the crummy blue recliners, the only old remaining furniture in the living room. Mom is wearing my old Santa hat, trying to make everyone excited that it’s Christmas morning.
Josh, Amy and I are crowded onto our new leather red couch, exchanging smirks at Mom’s enthusiasm. A blazing fire makes one side of the room disproportionately warm.
No less than ten different scented candles fill up the room with some sort of holiday mish mash, a blend of cinnamon and gingerbread and cranberries and only Baby Jesus knows what else.
I look around the room, the brilliant natural light from the sun; the half-awake dad, the shitty, synthesizer-powered Christmas music; the brother and sister; the over-bearingly strong candle mix; the dad snoring on the couch and the mom in the Santa cap; and realize the most present aspect in this room is the unavoidable feeling that, no matter what any one tries to otherwise convey, there’s nowhere else they’d rather be.
“Merry Christmas!” she says.
As if she needed to.
There’s something that distinguishes spaces from places – something more than the nebulous lines of nostalgia and unidentified areas.
There’s something that makes a place a place, and not a space. And it’s not just the identification with it.
When you envision an intensely personal space, say your home, it’s not just the home that you see. Sure you see certain inanimate things in it – hey there’s the corner where the Christmas tree goes! – that make you remember that place, but what is ground into your head isn’t that inanimate tree.
It’s the people that you’ve experienced it with. It’s the million times Josh and I nearly murdered that poor tree with a football. I don’t just see the fireplace; I see the 18 times my dad tried to show me how to build a good fire, and the fact that I never really got it.
I understand that place identification is considered a strictly personal thing, but – no matter your personal identifications with something – it’s still nothing more than an inanimate place. Everything – EVERYTHING – has some sort of meaning, some sort of connotation, but almost all of it is based on human relationships and interactions.
Using that as a qualifier, the home has to be considered the strongest place of all. It is there, after all, where you spend some of the most formative years of your life. It is there that you spend the most time you’ll ever spend with some of the most important people in your life. It is there where seeing things becomes a routine, something learned, something you identify with day after day, sometimes consciously and sometimes sub-consciously.
It’s where you learn the things that allow you to identify a place: relationships, nostalgia, communication, emotion – all things that involve other people.
Without human relationships, without those Christmas mornings, what is a home? Somewhere you watch TV? Somewhere you sleep? Somewhere you work? Nothing more than a glorified hotel room. It’d be space of transition. There’s the desk where I work. There’s the bed where I sleep. There’s the TV I watch by myself.
In some ways, then, place may come to be defined by human interaction. When I think back to my childhood, I can see the basic outline of the living room – the walls, the doors, the hallways and rooms that come off that room – but it’s the people and the moments that I see, not certain furniture arrangements or types of flooring.
With people, space becomes a place. With people, a house becomes a home.