Channeling your Inner Transcendentalist


Mm. Gives you shivers, doesn’t it? Transcendentalism is a really long and complicated-sounding word to describe an American literary period in which writers strove to become one with nature and really find themselves and all that hippy nonsense. I know this because for my new job as a course designer for BYU’s Independent Study high school program, I am reading all about it. 
Also, I am an English major.
In one of today’s readings, I read a poem by Walt Whitman (THE transcendentalist)  I had never read before called  “There was a Child went Forth.” And I loved it. It’s about a boy who goes around seeing all these marvelous things and meeting all these wonderful people and being in all these amazing places and becoming better for them. So I decided to write my own poem called:
There was a Rylee went Forth

And then I remembered.
I can’t write poetry.
I would much rather create long lines of well-crafted sentences than spend years trying to find that one word. Why not use all the words? Why not find music in the long and winding sentences of prose than attempt a sentimental structure of poetry that may or may not end up working anyway?

Don’t get me wrong–I adore poetry. Wordsworth and Whitman speak to my soul as if they were my own voice trying to express the beauty of nature.

But their voices are not mine. Nor is mine theirs.

My voice is casual–it’s conversational–it’s borderline irreverent. Wordsworth is a well of profound eloquence–mine is a bucket-full of sass:

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats high o’er vales and hills
When all at once I spy a crowd
of delicious, cheesy Ritz Bitz.

Sure, my soul is moved when I walk down a tree-lit path and I’m so overcome with the beauty of the deep green against the clear blue sky and the deliciously fresh spring air that something wells up in my chest and all of a sudden it’s hard to breathe through all this gratitude. But I am not moved beyond words.

Apparently I’m just moved beyond poetry.

I try–I do. After reading Whitman today and walking home through that same tree-lined path and being overcome with all that same emotion, I decided to channel my inner transcendentalist and write poetry on a nice, sensationally lush patch of grass. After all–I was so inspired. It couldn’t be that hard to express myself through poetry with that much love-bursting flowing through my veins, could it?

Yes. Yes it could.

I tried. I took Whitman’s poem and began to simply model my own poem after his–I even began with the same lines and used same subjects and tried to make his words my own. Maybe I’m just impatient, but I just couldn’t get my words to have the same meaning or to convey what I was really feeling.

So I started this. A rant about my apparent inability to write poetry and express my immense satisfaction with this transcendentalist’s dream-come-true type of day. And you know what–it gets the job done.

Part of me wishes you could see what I saw envisioned in that poem of mine. It was beautiful–a tribute to the things and people and places that contribute to who I am, even if it is something that only stays with me for a week, like my obsession with X-Files, or something that serves as a constant reminder of who I am–a picture of the temple or love for my family.

So even if I can’t show you the poem that I want to write, I can tell you about it. I can tell you about how in love I am with this incredibly beautiful day. I can tell you about how happy my flowy pink and white striped skirt is making me as I lay here on my front lawn. I can tell you about how much I love poetry and how perfectly content I am to simply be alive and sitting in the sunshine.

Even if I can’t write poetry.


Stream of Consciousness of a Student in the Library on a Saturday Night

Disclaimer: This is boring and monotonous and if you are my mom you should probably just stop reading now so you think I’m a productive citizen. But if you don’t mind complete senselessness, please–read on.

8:56–Descend the stairs to the second floor. No cell phone service. I am completely alone.

8:58–Walk through the stacks to find a decent cubicle. Glance at the titles on the shelf. Multi-variable calculus? I have reached the deepest, darkest part of the universe. There is no escaping now.
9:06–Sleep starting to sound good. I’ve been here for less than 10 minutes. How will I survive?
9:08–Internet non-functional. All hope is lost.
9:09–A sign of life. I hear something across the room. But it’s hidden behind the rows and rows of bookshelves. Friend or foe?
9:11–Internet non-functionality storm has passed. I can begin work again. 
9:16–Try non-work. Turns out the guy I’m in love with in Divine Comedy is married. Not point in living. Go on without me.
9:21–Someone is legitimately playing the Jaws theme song down here. I am not even kidding. This is not a joke. My life is about to come to an end. Tell my mom I love her.
9:22–I should have worn sweat-pants.
9:25–Oh my gosh, there it is again. And I think it’s getting louder. Seriously, I am toast. What possessed me to come to this evil place??
9:32–Wondering what it is about the internet and cats.
9:33–Oh great, now my stomach’s growling. Why weren’t you hungry 3 hours ago when I had time to feed you, body? WHY??
9:36–Do commas go outside the parentheses or inside? Thank goodness for Google…
9:37–Outside and after, it turns out. Interesting….
9:38–Ah, that does look better. As you were, Google.
9:41–Currently having deep thoughts about our country’s current education system.
9:42–Just kidding. Found more cats.
9:48–Does anyone else ever have trouble with Microsoft Word formatting? Can’t it just read my mind to do what I want??
9:49–Forget you, Word. I’m going to get a drink of water.
9:51–Most interesting book I found on my drinking fountain field trip: The Big Book of Fungi. Followed closely by The Geology of Kansas. 
9:52–Also, the only thing I could think about while getting water was that dumb Jaws theme song. I need to get out of here. I’m losing it. Big time.
10:00–How many revisions does a student need to go through on a 2-page personal narrative, for heaven’s sake? I don’t want to read them all!
10:09–Losing will to live.
10:12–The silence is doing nothing to convince me I’m not stuck in time and space. Someone should at least cough or something.
10:13–Just realized I need a model text for some examples. Be right back, little cubicle. I’m off the the Young Adult section!
10:25–What an adventure! I rode the elevator to the 4th floor, which was creepy. The elevator, not the floor. I passed through the music library and the Asian Collection the the big mural in the juvenile section. Which apparently does not carry Harry Potter. Boo. But I did find some good mentor texts. Yay! As I was walking back, I found some picture from El Alhambra and paused to reminisce. Good old-fashioned nostalgia will get you every time. Then I came back on the elevator. Which was less creepy than the other one. Phew…that was a lot of excitement. I might pass out now.
10:29–Pass out from hunger, that is. *whimper*
10:35–What do you mean 9th graders are too old for a refresher on coordinating conjunctions?? Please, Common Core State Standards…just work with me on this one.
10:43–Guess I’m going to have to settle for semi-colons, dang it. Who wants to learn about semi-colons, anyway?
10:45–That announcement about the materials desk closing gives me a heart attack every time. Can you say panic attack?
10:56–Welp, I think it’s about time to give up on this. To blow this popsicle stand. To put an egg in my shoe and beat it. But mostly to go home and eat a snack and go to bed. This unit plan is getting closer!
Wow…you really read that whole thing? Again, I apologize. That was…interesting.


One day, when I was being particularly dramatic, my dad said something about how I should calm down and stop acting like Anne Shirley. I paused my melodramatic performance, looked up at him with glistening eyes, and asked if he really thought I was like Anne. He gave me a pointed look, something that said you’re-on-the-ground-sobbing-about-something-nonsensical and walked away. I suppose I should have felt embarrassed or offended, but I was overcome with a sense of giddy happiness. Me, like Anne Shirley? What a wonderful thought!

I often gaze out over the horizon like this. Obviously.
I had read Anne of Green Gables in Jr. High, but it wasn’t until my best friend and I watched all 3 Anne of Green Gables movies in one day that I truly began to love that mischievous redhead. Tenery and I even decided right then that we were bosom friends, just like Anne and Diana, and destined to love each other forever, even if I accidentally got her drunk and her mother forbid us from ever seeing one another again and even if she married roly-poly Fred Wright and I spent my evening reading poetry by candlelight after a long day of teaching. (Oddly enough, Tenery is now married [although her husband is awesome and non-roly-poly] and I still spend my nights reading in bed whenever I get the chance.) 
We often go to parties in puffed sleeves.
I liked Anne. I liked that she was spunky, I liked that she stood up for herself. She followed her heart, and she was a bookworm, like me. All I knew was that I thought Anne was great. And so was that handsome Gilbert Blythe.
Let’s be honest–who doesn’t want a Gilbert Blythe? He’s smart, funny, and knows how to pull off a Newsie hat. 
I don’t really know what’s going on here…
But it’s adorable.
And who doesn’t want to fall in love with their best friend? In terms of fictional characters, Gilbert is at the top of my list, up there with Mr. Knightley, Darcy, Atticus Finch, and Edward Cullen. (Joke.) 
When we first watched the movies, Tenery told me Gilbert dies, and I spent half the movie in agony, trying not to fall in love with that charming young man who was only going to die on me. But it turns out Tenery enjoys lying to people’s faces to get them all riled up, so I got to see Gil win over Anne in the end. Sigh…I could go on and on about how wonderful this whole story is and how I think I was Anne in another life, but I’ll save you the trouble and end this ridiculous post now.
If you need me, I’ll be quoting Tennyson while floating down a river, waiting for my Gilbert Blythe to come and rescue me. 
Anytime now, Gil.

Home Away from Home

Here at BYU, people will often introduce themselves with their major and say, “Yeah, I live in such-and-such a building.” This does not mean they actually sleep in this building (although they may) or eat in this building (although they may) or have parties in this building (although this is entirely possible as well). It simply means they spend a big chunk of their time there. Chemistry majors, for example, usually claim the Benson building as their “home.”

Music majors like to say they “live” in the HFAC.
As an English major, I have several homes.

And I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to work at this wonderful building for almost my whole BYU career:
Smoot Administration Building
(Or the X-Wing, according to a friend. As in one of these.)
I’ve never really been able to consider any of these places my “home,” though. I figured I was just doomed to be one of those campus homeless people who doesn’t really belong anywhere. Just yesterday, though, when I went for Women’s Chorus call-backs, I walked into this place.
And I was home.
I know I write about Women’s Chorus all the time on this bloggy blog of mine, but after feeling that sense of belonging the minute after walking in the Madsen Recital Hall, I once again realized how my participation in Women’s Chorus has been the best part of my BYU career.
That’s right. The Best.
I love feeling like I have a “home” with 180 other girls, with a fanastically amazing director, and the Spirit as we sing all kinds of songs. My upcoming semesters is going to be the craziest one yet, but the part I look forward to most is having the opportunity to use Women’s Chorus as my daily sane-pill–taking a break to do the thing I love most.
Here’s to my fourth and final year in Women’s Chorus 🙂

Shining Eyes

Today was another one of those days.

(I realize I start a lot of my posts like this. And every time I’m describing something different. Apparently I have lots of days.)

I came home from school beaming. I just had the best discussion in a great class and I was still giggin’ out about the ground we had covered.

(I do have lots of those days.)

Class: Film and Literature.
Subject: Jane Eyre.
Context: Marriage and Christianity.
Outcome: Mind Blown.

I won’t bore you with the details of our conversation, but it was one that not only helped me understand and appreciate Jane Eyre in a new light, but made a deep, personal impression on me and helped me re-examine how I view society around me. When Rachel came home and asked me how my day was, all I could do was fall to my knees with my hands open to the heavens and declare: Great! I love being an English Major! as I shook my little outstretched arms with gratitude.

(You think I’m joking. This actually happened.)

She laughed and indulged me as I spouted off all this new-found knowledge and repeated every other phrase: It was so great! It blew me away! I love my life! or other variations of a similar theme. After I finished my literary rant, she laughed and said: That’s so great! I know when you love something because your get Shining Eyes.

So, yes, Jane Eyre gives me Shining Eyes.

Enriching discussion with smart people gives me Shining Eyes.

Having an English major Love Burst gives me Shining Eyes.

And the opportunity to study at such an amazing university gives me the Shiniest Eyes of all.

Sigh…how lucky am I??