Narrative Paragraph Memoir

Making a Difference   

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"One man’s fault is another man’s lesson."

~ Maltese proverb

    The interactions in your life shape who you are and how you act. More specifically, in my life one interaction with a teacher completely changed the way I think. One Friday afternoon, after walking through the sunny pathway and around the white buildings of Fenn, we headed to our last period Spanish class. Students filled into the classroom, pulled out their iPads, and prepared to continue the Spanish essays about our arrival at Fenn and a memorable moment in our Fenn careers. The essay asked students to recall their first year at the school, as well as any specifics about a significant moment while writing in the language of Spanish. Students, fervently wanting complete this essay, kept imploring over and over again, “How long does the essay have to be? How many words?” Mr. Romero’s response is one that nobody expected. Instead of telling us how long it should be, he replied back with a question: “How long do you think it should be?” Silence spread like a wildfire across the classroom. In that moment, Mr. Romero taught me something that applies to all aspects of life, not just Spanish. He edified me to not take the easy way out or always be looking for the fastest approach. He taught me to always go the extra mile and in the end it will pay off. He taught me to think outside of the box and share your ideas in a creative way. Instead of asking how many words I need, I should be asking myself: What are the most important moments to include? What were my emotions and feelings during the moment? How can I make this  interesting to the reader? Mr. Romero encouraged his students to work towards exceeding expectations rather than completing the bare minimum. I realize now that this experience has impacted me in my daily life. Now I am motivated to work harder on every assignment and I always ask myself, “Is this my best work?”

    When I am in the real world there will be no shortcuts.


Literary Analysis – Through The Tunnel

 

Deep Down Inside


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“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are”.

~ E.E. Cummings

    The drive to master something often represents an emotional milestone as much as a physical accomplishment. In Doris Lessing’s “Through the Tunnel”, what at first appears to be a young boy’s desire to impress other boys with his new ability to swim through an underwater tunnel, turns out to be his self-actualization journey from childhood to adulthood. In a foreign country but a familiar beachside town, only-child Jerry, spent vacations on the “safe” beach with his widowed-mother. On this vacation Jerry was drawn to the “wild-looking…inlets of sharp rock”. There he tried to befriend a group of older boys. “To be with them, of them, was a craving that filled his whole body”. When the boys began diving off rocks through an underwater tunnel, Jerry attempted the same. Lacking the local language and the diving skills, Jerry shouted “Look at me! Look! And he began splashing and kicking in the water like a foolish dog”. The boys were not impressed. “They looked down gravely, frowning…(and) swam back to the shore without a look at him”. Jerry cried at their disapproval, but was determined to dive the tunnel. He purchased goggles to see and found a rock to weigh him down. He endured scrapes, bloody noses, and nausea. Just days before they left, he succeeded. One might think that with this new skill Jerry would seek out the boys, but it was more than about the boys.

“After a time, his heart quieted, his eyes cleared, and he sat up. He could see the local boys diving and playing half a mile away. He did not want them. He wanted nothing but to get back home and lie down”.

Jerry’s ability to be independent and his ability to push through the pain in order to grow were part of his own emotional growth from a boy to a man and symbolized by the passage through the tunnel. This was never about learning to dive. This was about learning to be a man. “It was no longer of the least importance to go to the bay”.

    What appears on the “surface” to be driving someone’s actions is often much “deeper” than it appears.




Foggy Morning

A Sonnet

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“Give a damn”- John Fitzsimmons 

 

One day on a foggy morning in Maine

I went to the dock, excited to fish

I was determined, but then came the rain

To catch a massive striped bass was my wish

 

My father’s tackle box holds some fresh bait

He reaches out with that bait in his hand

I casted a line and began to wait

My dad taught me patience, which outlives the bland

 

As I have grown, this lesson makes more sense

Now I understand that to catch striped bass

The fisherman must use perseverance 

And not let an opportunity pass

 

When you’re young there are lessons to be learned

Dad taught me nothing is easily earned


Anything But Standard

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Everyone be following the same path,

The College Boards be releasing same wrath.

I wonder, why we take standardized tests-

If we are anything but standard.

 

We students are the future,

Told by adults to stretch and nurture.

Each of our individual, unique ways-

To be punished by a yardstick-like test.

 

Since when does vocabulary predict worth,

A test that causes nothing but hurt.

Leads desperate amongst us to cheat-

A system nobody can beat.

 

18 years of your life reduced to a test,

How do bubbles in a page resemble to who’s best?

Man these schools are missing so much.




"Money & Work"

Less is More

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    Thoreau directly addresses his views on “Money and Work with his belief less is more when it comes working and spending. I appreciate that Thoreau believes that everyone must follow their own path and if you don’t agree, he respects the diversity of opinion. Thoreau doesn’t believe in the "spending of the best part of one's life earning money in order to enjoy a questionable liberty”. Thoreau weighs the worth of money earned for digging in the dirt to the “importance of a man’s soul”. Instead of working, Thoreau makes compromises by living a simple life and passing up luxuries. “If one would live simply and eat only the crop which he raised, and raise no more than he ate, and not exchange it for an insufficient quantity of more luxurious and expensive things, he would need to cultivate only a few rods of ground”. The benefit of this approach to spending and consuming is that Thoreau only has to work six weeks of the year to “meet his expenses” and then has “the whole of my winters, as well as most of my summers, free and clear for study.” This trade-off makes sense to me, as I would fully support working hard six weeks of the year to have the rest of the year off. As Thoreau writes, life does not need to be a “hardship….if we will live simply and wisely.”




Power of Place

Ward Hall

 

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“There are places I remember all my life”-The Beatles

    It’s often the case that memorable places are carved out of locations where one has spent meaningful time. While there are other places on the Fenn School campus where I have created great, and in many cases hilarious, memories over the past six years - like the gym, gym lobby, and turf field - Ward Hall comes to mind as a place with that power to be truly memorable for me. As I’ve sat in my senior seat these last few weeks since Spring Break, I have seen evidence of time winding down in this special space and this assignment has forced me to think about what it is about Ward Hall that makes it so special. Perhaps the most obvious is the opportunity to all be together, students, teachers, staff, for 10-20 minutes, watching a performance and sharing news and announcements. This shared experience is what helps us builds our Fenn community. It is also true that the patterns, repetition and traditions in our meetings are calming in a world that sometimes feels unpredictable. Each and every Fenn School day (except tuesdays) after first period, students begin to file into the Hall through it’s large green doors. Once every student has been seated in a seat that for the year has been their own, Mr. Boonisar begins the meeting with an opening message followed by a brief reflection, business and announcements. Each meeting closes as it began with another chance to reflect and then we file out, oldest to youngest. The silent reflection felt long in 4th grade and by 9th grade never feels like enough. The Hall, both inside and out, is architecturally beautiful. It’s steeple stands tall watching over the campus. Inside, the banners are proud reminders of what we value: empathy, courage, honor, and respect. The last senior reflections are being shared and I have found myself starting to picture our class leaving graduation and filing out onto the lawn to shake the hands of our teachers who line the paths to Ward Hall. Here in the shadows of this special place I will say goodbye to six years at Fenn knowing that anytime I step foot on campus and wander into Ward Hall I will find myself instantly transported back to some of the best and meaningful moments of my Fenn career.


Nature Paragraph

Round the Corner

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“Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.” -Frank Lloyd Wright

         In the front yard of my house life moves by fast - cars commuting to work or driving into town to do errands, people walking their dogs, and running for exercise. Life is in full motion in front of 35 Attawan Road. But, tuck round the corner to the back of my house and there is conservation land as far as the eye can see. Here I sit on the cool stone wall, a wall whose construction I admire because it is dry laid. It’s quiet in the backyard, as if I have turned the volume off of the tv, but the screen is left on. At first glance, there is no movement, just trees whose limbs stretch into the sky and are trying desperately to push out new leaves. Below tall grasses are still dried out from the harsh winter and waiting for rain and sun for new growth. If I sit there long enough I start to see movement. Not the kind of movement out front of my house, but the movement of birds that have made their home in the wetlands behind my house. There are two hawks that criss-cross the sky in a slow gliding pattern. They are serious and deliberate in flight. And, there is a small bird that darts behind them. I imagine it is an annoyance to the hawk, but its’ pestering flight is hilarious to watch. I’ve seen a lot of wildlife emerge from these wetlands - fox, a coyote, and endless deer. It’s pretty amazing that this all goes on in my backyard, while the hustle and bustle of our busy lives goes on in my front yard. This has left me wondering which side of the house I prefer? I try to come to some answer, but the question is hard and I selfishly don’t want to ruin my time on the wall forcing an answer. This chance to slow down is good and I just want to enjoy it a little longer.


Thoreau on Clothing and Shelter

Agree to Disagree

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 “Agree to disagree”

- John Wesley

    It’s not necessarily a good place to be when disagreeing with the philosophies of a legend like Thoreau. But, as John Wesley, an Englishman, shared at the memorial service of his friend in 1770, it’s ok to “agree to disagree.” While I agree with some of what Thoreau writes in his essay on “Clothing” and “Shelter”, I would respectfully disagree with much of it and hope that Thoreau is not shaking his fist at me from above.

    On the topic of “clothing” Thoreau warns that people that require men to buy new clothing are misguided. “Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes.” Thoreau knows if it is good enough for himself and “fit to worship God”, it doesn’t matter how old it is. Thoreau’s focus on what’s inside the man and not what he is wearing leads him to believe that “the old (clothing) will do.” I totally agree. Any business that requires a new wardrobe, is focusing on the wrong things. Which leads me to question Fenn’s dress code. Why force Fenn boys to buy special dress code clothing. Thoreau would hate that. This is a place of learning, why wont the clothing we already own be sufficient? What is so important about a collared shirt after all? Do those khakis make you smarter? Thoreau and I agree on this one. Whatever you already have should be sufficient and if it isn’t, beware.

    But, Thoreau becomes a little too judgmental in my opinion when discussing the manner in which men follow fashion trends. He refers to generation after generation following new trends and laughing at old ones. He describes this behavior as “childish and savage.” This is perhaps too strong a stance for me. While I don’t believe people should be forced into wearing certain clothing to meet certain requirements I have no problem with people enjoying fashion. Everyone has a right to express themselves, including in clothing, however they like, and if that means following trends, I am ok with that personal choice for them. I’m also not sure why Thoreau is so upset with the fact that clothing manufacturers make money off of these clothing trends. He seems upset that the “principal object (of clothing manufacturers) is not that mankind may be well and honestly clad, but, unquestionably, that corporations may be enriched.” Thoreau’s criticism of the factory system is wrong. In a market economy, people make things not just for the betterment of man, but for the profit as well.

    On the topic of shelter, I couldn’t agree more that man “yearns to be outdoors.” I do believe that as Thoreau has said that this desire to be outdoors comes from our “primitive ancestors”. We have built houses for shelter, but as our roles and jobs have changed over decades, we find ourselves indoors too much. Getting outside and connecting with nature, will always be important to man, no matter how advanced we become as a society.

    Thoreau furthers his argument for being outdoors by shaming those who work tirelessly to own their own home and this is where he loses me again. Thoreau argues that men “toil twenty, thirty, or forty years that they may become the real owners of their farms” and that this is a waste of a lifetime, especially if earning it has required men to work in jobs that they don’t like. Then, according to Thoreau, “the farmer has got his house, he may not be the richer but the poorer for it, and it be the house that has got him.” I agree with Thoreau that a life spent making money in a job you dislike is not worth the house you can buy with the money. At the same time, I understand man’s drive to own their own house because it provides reassuring shelter and security that only a home can.

    I agree with Thoreau that “herd” mentality is always a mistake, whether when buying a house or anything else in life. Thoreau warns if you try to keep up with your neighbors’ men will remain “needlessly poor all their lives because they think they need to have such a one as their neighbors have.” I think it’s perfectly fine to want the security of owning your own home, but a mistake to worry about how your home compares to others.

    There’s no question Thoreau’s writing and philosophy on life have been studied and respected for decades, but that doesn’t mean that everything he says is always agreed upon by everybody. I’ve discovered through this exercise that is possible to respect the writing and philosophy, but not always embrace it. I finish this essay the same way I started with knowing it’s ok to “agree to disagree.”


Basic Necessities

Food, Shelter, and......

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"Basic needs: backbone, wishbone, funnybone"- Raven O'Keefe  

        If necessities are truly “most basic” would they change, as the phrase suggests, by the “stage of your life”? For me, the answer is “no” but time will tell. I consider basic necessities things I always needed throughout my life key to my existence, regardless of my “stage of life.” Thoreau lists food and shelter. I don’t disagree. However, Thoreau’s list focuses on physical needs. Realistically, he has a need for funding for his food and shelter, so I would add income to his list, as not everything he has at Walden Pond is found or made from nature by his own hands. I would add to Thoreau’s list the need for things that fuel your heart and mind. I wouldn’t imagine living without a supportive community – big or small – wouldn’t matter. I would add that something that provides happiness in your life is a basic necessity – could be a person, but also could be a hobby, or a place. I consider opportunities for physical exertion and thinking to be basic necessities, to live for any significant time on the edge of Walden Pond. This list feels complete, but only time will tell, and Fitz asked for 200 words!




 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Economy Essay

A Start to Walden    

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Why should they begin digging their graves as soon as they are born?”-Thoreau

 

            It’s the second week of Senior Spring for Fenn’s 9th grade class and I for one was fully expecting to cruise a little into graduation, until I read Thoreau’s piece on Economy. Frankly, this first exposure to Thoreau has left me thinking he is rather confusing because he contradicts his own advice. He claims to lead a simple life and “require(s) of every writer, first or last, a simple and sincere account of his own life” and yet just look at his use of vocabulary – obtrude, impertinent, resignation, belies – could his writing being any less simple? He does apologize, although not for his vocabulary, but for writing so much about himself. No excuse needed here, because after reading this passage ten times (thanks!), he does have valuable insight on both where man should focus his work in life as well as the opportunity for man to make a change at any point in how he lives his life.           

           If this were a boxing match, Thoreau comes out of the corner strong in round one with several paragraphs pointing out the bad choices men make in spending their lives working towards the wrong goals. According to Thoreau, it is a “misfortune” to inherit money and professions. Instead he believes men make much better choices for how they will spend their days working, if they come from nothing and find their own way of making money. “Better if they had been born in the open pasture and suckled by a wolf, that they might have seen with clearer eyes what field they are called to labor in.” Thoreau believes it is important to figure out for yourself where you would like to spend your time working and not have it handed to you because working towards a career is easier than trying to get rid of one that is given to you. Thoreau believes “men labor under mistake”. He points out that men are employed by seeming fate and out of necessity, to collect “treasures which moth and rust and will corrupt and thieves break through and steal.” Thoreau says these men, so focused on getting things, miss out on “finer fruits that cannot be plucked from them.” This is his way of saying focus on the simple experiences and the “true necessaries", because when life is over you can only take the memories and not the “things.” But, what is man to do, after reading Thoreau’s warning, if he isn’t living in accordance with Thoreau’s lessons?

              Luckily, according to Thoreau, men who have not lived by Thoreau’s lessons still have hope because man can make changes to the way he is leading his life at any point in his life. “Alert and healthy natures remember that the sun rose clear. It is never too late to give up our prejudices.” Each morning the sun rises and so what Thoreau is saying is that each morning man has a chance for a new beginning or “clear” slate. I believe that to be true. Thoreau also writes that man has to come up with what he believes to be true. “No way of thinking or doing, however ancient, can be trusted without proof.” Thoreau was pretty specific about how man should live his life for experiences not material things. However, here Thoreau gives man permission to develop his own understandings and path. I’m guessing Thoreau is saying make your own path and come to your own conclusions, but keep it simple.

            Ironically, as I drove to soccer practice tonight, I passed by Walden Pond, Thoreau’s temporary home. I developed a sudden dislike of Walden Pond. But, Moby Dick was challenging and we got through it, so I’m hopeful Thoreau’s writing will begin to get easier.