The Human Nature of Nature

Chelsea Ashley Feb Blog PictureGrowing up, I wasn’t a big fan of the outdoors. I was a brownie in a Girl Scout troop, but I always skipped out on the camping trips. The thought of sleeping outside of a house where bugs were most definitely present and there was the prospect of wild animals never seemed alluring to me. I sometimes walked around parks with my friends, but if a bug even buzzed around her heads at a pitch too high for our liking we’d make our way back inside. I found air conditioning and glass sliding doors more comforting than any ducks’ pond or shady tree.

Since I have started writing, I have learned to pay attention to the smaller details. I’ve been in line to buy an item of clothing and heard a single sentence from my fellow customers behind me that spark an idea in my head. I’ve watched my mom fiddle with her bracelets and watch the sound they make tumbling down her wrist, and knew that I needed to write that moment down. The neon color of a hat will give me a story idea. The way a stranger glances back at her car while walking into a store will give me a poem idea. This attention to smaller details of human nature made me feel as if my lack of appreciation of actual nature could be holding me back in my writing life. How could I pay attention to the smaller details in life when I wasn’t paying attention to the smaller details that made up the physical realm of everyone’s lives? It’s the squirrel that seemed to run into the road as soon as it saw me coming at 45 mph. It’s the Japanese plum trees that grow bulbs of yellow and tilt slightly to the right. The smallest of details are the ones I pass everyday without even thinking about them, the ones that were here before I was born, before my mother was born, and beyond. I now try to incorporate the physical beauty of nature into my writing, but not in just the description of setting or comparing someone’s eyes to a blossoming rose. I try to compare physical nature to human nature, two very present aspects of our lives that are both predictable and unpredictable. I think that is why both natures are so interesting to write about. For example, the ocean is vast and what lives underneath is surface is both a mystery and perpetual fear to humans. However, what we know for sure is that the white bubble waves of the ocean will always come back and meet the shore. I think humans are like that as well. You can think someone is the most complex person in the world, but everyone has habits and flaws. Everyone has basic instincts that kick in when in a situation. It is human nature.

I still don’t find myself in nature, but it’s not because I’m avoiding it. Somehow as I’ve written about the beauty of nature and what it can represent in humans, I’ve found myself wanting to be surrounded by sunlight, whistling birds, and crouching trees with swinging moss. When I’m able to write outdoors, I breathe in crisp, spring air and breathe out whatever I’m writing, all while swatting at a mosquito the process.

Chelsea Ashley, Digital Media Editor

The Craft of Nye

naomi-shibab-nye

When I first came to Douglas Anderson I swore I would never write poetry. How could I?  Poetry was constructed of line breaks, and choices. Like fiction these choices were made with intention, but with poetry the intention was a hard technique to learn, a hard technique to master. When I look back and think of what scared me most, was how raw poetry allowed one to be. Every word gave away a personal detail. It feared me to know that in a few stanzas people could know aspects of myself I never shared with anyone other than myself.

My junior year I wrote my first real poem, what deemed it real is I had to share it with others, yet I didn’t hide my emotion, the emotion I was always scared of sharing. Of course it was the cliché poem about the death of my grandmother. Later that year I had to recite a poem of my choice, and I chose Naomi Shihab Nye. A poet crafted in detail, and symbolism. Metaphors that brought me to the sands of the Middle East, every word counted.  What brought me to Nye was how she respectfully wrote about her heritage half American, half middle eastern. I always had a hard time writing about my half Albanian heritage. I felt as if I didn’t have a right to those topics, because it was only half of my identity.  The poem I recited my junior year was titled Blood, a commentary on war, and a narrative about how it affected her father, symbolism for how it affects us all.

“Years before, a girl knocked, 

wanted to see the Arab. 

I said we didn’t have one. 

After that, my father told me who he was, 

“Shihab”—“shooting star”— 

a good name, borrowed from the sky. 

Once I said, “When we die, we give it back?” 

He said that’s what a true Arab would say.”

Yet Nye  wrote about this in the perspective of herself  an American, who is so torn by what is happening, torn because even though she is an American they are still her people.

Nye is the reason I can write about my own father, about my own heritage, and also why I can write about being an American. Because what does the word American really mean? Who gets to fit that description? Nye has made me consider how every detail counts, how a title can convey much more than it seems, and that displaying a picture in someone’s head is a gift that not many can master. Nye is the reason I have never felt that when it came to my heritage I had to choose.  

-Mary Feimi, Co-Editor in Chief