Thursday, June 20, 2013

Weird Things in the Writing Center

For those of you who have never visited Coe, or who haven't seen our new area, I decided to got take pictures of what I think are some of the weirder things in our Writing Center.

First off, cardboard cut-outs:

Abraham Lincoln's head fell down
We seem to accumulate cardboard cut-outs of various people. Don't ask me why; they just seem to appear in the WC on a given day.

Also, giant stuffed animals:
And busts of composers:
I think this used to be Beethoven, but now its a nightmare...
But the highlight of the Writing Center is definitely our expansive mug collection, which seems to have grown quite a bit in our new space:
My two favorites are the toilet shaped one and the owl shaped one:
You can't go wrong with owls.

As always, yours truly,

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

On Finding a Topic

Dear Reader,   

It has recently been brought to my attention that, more often than not, I sit down in front of a computer or a blank piece of paper, ready to write either for pleasure or necessity and suddenly realize that I have nothing to write about.

It’s not that I have nothing to say; on the contrary, I can be a very chatty person. It is rather that I come face to face with the fear that what I have to say will not sound as good on paper as it does in my head. Beyond this, it is the fear that no one will be interested in what I have to write. It is hard to gauge what readers will find interesting, engaging, or enthralling.

Yet, somehow, I always manage to come up with something. I have never missed turning in a paper for the lack of a paper. So how is it that I am able to spirit a topic to write about out of thin air?

Outside, the clouds are finally clearing up, and it is looking like it will turn out to be a sunny and warm day. Where I come from, we can expect 300 days of sunshine on average, and the extreme lack of sunshine in favor of rain for the past few weeks has done a number on my temperament .

Accordingly then, I set down this post for a moment to go out and enjoy the sun, whilst thinking about what it is that inspires me to write. For me, as I’ve said, the desire to write does not usually stem from any specific stroke of inspiration. Rather, it emerges from my ever present desire to make something. I enjoy making things; I love cooking, I’m an avid knitter, and I spend at least a day every few months absorbed in making candles and then regretting it whilst scraping dried wax off of the stove top. But regardless, I like making things and writing, for me, is an act of craftsmanship where words are the paints and my fingers are the brushes. Writing is the best way for me to make something from my very mind; paper and pencil are all I need to write.

But more than that, writing and reading encompass my being. Thoreau wrote, “A written word is the choicest of relics. It is something at once more intimate with us and more universal than any other work of art. It is the work of art nearest to life itself”. Perhaps it is this closeness to life that makes writing such a special act for me: it somehow makes me feel more alive.

As always, dear reader, I wish you the best, 
- Julia

Friday, June 7, 2013


 This was written at a writing center conference this past fall in San Diego.

When one truly consider the origins of humanity—indeed, the origins of life itself—it is almost inevitable that one must return to the ocean.
            Walking along the Pacific beach in October, I was struck by an awe-inspiring thought. By dipping my toes into the freezing ocean water and feeling the rough grains of sand scrape on the soles o my feet, I was communing with the primal origins of mankind. All life on this planet began in the ocean; tiny, single celled organisms drifting through a vast, empty world. The advent of land dwelling complex creatures is, in cosmic terms, a relatively new occurrence. Our origins lie in the ocean, the original birthplace in many ways.
            Around me, parents play with their children, lovers stroll with their hands locked together, surfers run out to try the water, and all the while the great, slow roll and thunderous crash of waves hitting the shore can be heard. Not only was I struck by the primordial connection I had to my biological ancestors, but also by the ancient power contained in those pounding waters. As the 2nd law of thermodynamics states, energy is never lost or gained; it merely changes forms. The energy powering the ocean before me has always been and will always be. We worry so often of our own mortality we rarely stop to consider, with reverence, the incredible nature of our world and, indeed, our universe. If all things are energy, then all things are eternal.
            Wave after wave rolls onto the shore, in and out, in and out eternally. It dawns on me that this would be the case regardless of the presence of the human species. Even if we all passed away, the world would keep spinning quietly through space. We try to deny this, to make ourselves more important than the other creatures that share this planet, but the fact is that we are no more important than the fish in the ocean or the birds in the sky. Although this revelation should make the world seem uncontrollable, it instead lends itself to a strange kind of ordered calm. Things happen, and like the waves on the ocean, sometimes you just have to ride them out.
            The icy cold of the water shocks my skin, sending icy bolts up my spine and shivers down my arms. I watch other laying on the waves with ease, but for my part I can’t bring myself to sink fully into the ocean. The salty, fishy scent, so native to the beach, fills my nose, and as I watch, a seagull marches past and eyes a bag of errant chips enviously. To my left, the moon begins to rise, a pale glimmer in the bright light of the sun. I think perhaps that I can see it pulling the ocean like a puppet master pulls the strings of a marionette. The tides move in cycles with the moon, just as everything seems to. The earth with its seasons, the planet around the sun, and day and night moving back and forth. Similarly, we too move in cycles. So often I hear people talking about “moving forward”. I prefer, however, to think of it as moving up, like a spiraling staircase. We are always going somewhere new, but constantly we retrace our steps.
            The ocean itself extends far beyond my vision, its deep greenish-blue marching off into eternity. I’ve been told by my father that you can watch ships sort of sink as the go over the horizon, literally around the curvature of the earth. As I look, I can see the tall sails of boats far out across the water. It is in moments like this when I actually realize how very small I am. I stumble through my life, concerning myself with the small problems of how to get to the grocery store and what things will best strengthen my résumé. My existence centers around me, a sentiment I think most people can share.
            But here, sitting on the collision of earth, sea and sky, I can say that I’m not thinking of anything mundane. Instead, I occupy myself with a single thought. When life first began in that ancient, long ago ocean, it started with one cell in a vast, quiet world. Similarly, I am one person in a vast, quiet universe. But still, it’s a start.