Wednesday, September 1, 2010
The castle looked like a five-tiered square wedding cake on a rock in the river, the eves thrusting out from each layer like gray waves. My fear of bridges kept me from crossing the bright red one that separated me from the tower in front of me. This bridge seemed even more questionable because it contrasted too much with its gray surroundings.
“Just go on ahead, I’ll catch up.”
“Are you sure? I can wait with you.” Stacy’s suggestion was ridiculous. She’d never be able to tour the castle if she stayed with me. I immediately rejected her offer and sat down on the bench that overlooked the river and provided the best view of the pagoda.
I imagined that the rooms probably looked like the typical traditional Japanese architecture found throughout our short tour of Japan. My four friends who endeavored to enter the Matsumoto Castle were probably having a blast imaging living there or reveling in the history of the building.
I was drawn to the water that must have been twelve feet below me. I watched a spot where it would swirl behind one of the poles that held up the bridge. The water seemed to be fighting against this unnatural barrier, willing for it to give in and be carried by the current. The support stood its ground, though.
Few other tourists were at this spot. There was an old couple speaking German who were getting their picture taken by a young woman artist whose abandoned easel stood meters away. Besides their short exchange, the surging water made the only sound.
I continued to watch the stream of water in silent contemplation.
Below the surface, a light object being carried by the current caught my eye as it passed my favorite spot. I followed its progress as it slowly rose to the surface. Feet, followed by hands, and finally a pale face emerged. I blinked and squinted to make sure I saw it correctly. I walked up to the edge, and saw, as the figure passed below me, my lifeless face staring right back up at me.
Monday, August 30, 2010
Many people say that the brightest light on earth is that from the sun. But, in this darkness, daylight is only a speck in the distance. It tries to connect us to the outside world but fails at reaching this far.
I watched the soot form a shadow on the glass in my hand. It was the only thing I could think about. The flame would briefly lick the glass between the flittering caused by movement in the air around it. But, momentarily, it would still itself long enough to grow and reach the glass above.
I ignored the din around me, hearing only a buzz accompanied by the beat of my heart. I concentrated on that flame, counting the seconds between its calm moments, measuring the fierceness of its dances, willing it not to go out.
Buzzing swelled into an unnatural, high-pitched ring. And then—darkness.
Monday, July 26, 2010
I couldn’t quite make out what Winnie’s gestures were from the other side of the crowded gym, but I knew it couldn’t be good. Her lips were moving frantically as she glared at me and continued to point at the ground where her foot was stomping.
I had been talking to Gina about who she thought was hotter: number 7 or number 24 on the opposing team, when her eyes nearly bulged out of their sockets, and she just mouthed “Oh my god!”
I thought I had missed something exciting happen on the basketball court, like I always did. Just before halftime I decided to go to the snack stand to check out what food the moms prepared. It was just then that Keith managed to score from behind the three-point line—on the opposite end of the court—and he took his shirt off and threw it into the crowd on the bleachers, which he got reprimanded for by Principal Reich, who had to pry Keith’s jersey from a sophomore who was determined to keep it and—I’m sure—mount it on her bedroom wall. I only managed to see his abs disappear under his jersey again as he was being escorted to the locker room by Principal Reich, followed by the rest of the team and Coach Schwartz.
I whipped my head around, so I wouldn’t miss the whole thing only to see Winnie doing this weird dance by the doors next to the bleachers. The handful of people standing at the doors (because our bleachers fill up pretty quickly for the guys basketball games) were shooting her weird looks or snickering to each other, but single-minded Winnie didn’t seem to notice that she was causing such a scene. She was determined to get my attention. Once she did, of course, she started her foot-stomping-finger-pointing-thing that only meant one thing—Come here now!—which I’m pretty sure was what she was mouthing to me.
“What could she want this time?” Gina was saying. I just huffed and rolled my eyes in response as I got from my front-row seat on the stage behind the basket (perfect view of every guy on the court) and headed towards the stairs.
Unlike Winnie, I don’t like drawing attention to myself, so, ducking out of others’ views, I ran under the bleachers to the other side of the gym, coming out at the doorway where Winnie stood with her arms crossed, waiting for me to emerge. The moment my head cleared the low boards, she grabbed my wrist and pivoted, leading me out the door and into the hallway, where she suddenly dropped my wrist and stopped at the same time, causing me to trip as my hand hit my thigh. I knew that was going to leave a bruise soon.
Being the palest girl at Cedar Crest High had absolutely no pros to it, just cons. First off, I bruise easily, making it look like my parents beat me or something, which is so not true, they are the coolest parents in the world (according to my friends, who are just as much friends with my ‘rents as they are with me), but I’m scared someone’s going to see the bruises in gym class and call Child Protective Services on them. Secondly, everyone knows it’s not cool to be pale. Maybe if I lived back in the Edwardian times, I’d be highly sought after because paleness was equated with wealth, but now guys like Keith Penn or Channing Tatum go for tan, the darker the better.
This is a fact that I’ll never get, Sixteen magazine always claims that guys go for the “natural” look, but everyone knows that the girls with boyfriends are the ones who go tanning, like, daily (I know because, honestly, no one is born orange) and wear tons of make-up (without even blending it in to their necks, creating that disgusting jaw-make-up line. UGH!) and dye their hair blonde because guys like blondes. Well, I’m sorry if I’m not ready to conform to this Barbie doll look and lose my identity and uniqueness. I’d rather be the short, pale brunette that I am than a plastic doll with no personality. And, who knows? Maybe people will go back to the Edwardian view of beauty, and I’ll become the prototype for the “perfect” image. Right.
“Just what,” Winnie was saying, “do you think you’re doing?”
“What are you talking about?” Honestly, I don’t know what her problem was.
“C’mon, Alex. Do you remember anything about our conversation in homeroom this morning?”
“Yeah…” Shoot. I forgot. She made me promise to do something; I just don’t remember what.
“Oh, Winnie, I’m so sorry! I totally forgot until just now. Oh my gosh, I’m such a horrible friend.” I could tell by her nose flaring that she wasn’t happy with me, but she had to believe me. “Honestly, Winnie, I swear, I would never do that on purpose.”
I hate being such an absent-minded idiot. I always forget important things like this. My friends usually just rub it off when I forget; they make it out to be less important than it actually is because they don’t want me to feel too badly about it. But this? I don’t see how Winnie will ever forgive me for forgetting about our plan to sit on her couch all night eating pints of store brand ice cream and badmouthing Eric, who had decided last night that Winnie was too crazy to date her anymore and that they should “see other people.” Only he didn’t say crazy; he just implied it.
I saw the status update this morning as I was checking Facebook. “Winnie Shoemaker is no longer in a relationship.” Plus Eric’s completely heartless status didn’t help matters much. “Eric Wayne is glad that’s done. Now to bigger,”—I keep on insisting this is not a reference to her 34A breasts—“better things.” I un-friended him the moment I read that.
That's all I have for now, please be honest with any criticisms you may have! Thank you!
Monday, February 22, 2010
My best friend since fifth grade, Kate, always has a twinkle in her eye (sorry for sounding cliche), and this is no exception.
My cousin, Jessica, whom I've always thought was one of the most beautiful people in the world. Still is.
Ji Eun, my best friend in high school, is from South Korea. I just love her eyes (almost as much as she loves mine (due to the fact that they're blue).
This is my eye. It seems as if I was either sad or tired (or both) at the time. Interesting, since the picture I took it from, I was smiling.
This is a random, imaginary eye. It may be yours!
This is my current boyfriend/love-of-my-life's eye. Not much else to say here.
This is my new friend, Sam, I actually drew this, not thinking of anyone, but it turned out lookin like her eyes, which I think are beautiful.
This was actually just an idea of an eye that I had in my head, as of now, I' can't put a name to it.
Walking over the threshold of the Room of Remembrance in the Holocaust Museum, I could feel my muscles relax. I hadn’t noticed how tense I had become experiencing the horrors of the Holocaust—my arms tightly clasped close to my chin as if praying and my upper lip curled up in a snarl of disgust while tears clouded my vision. But this room, this hall, calmed my stance into a careful submission to its beauty.
An oppressive darkness, fitting for the death and destruction, gave way to this bright light at the end of the tunnel. One was almost claustrophobic from those previous rooms, but this room was open like going to the country after spending a lot of time in the city. It was a breath of fresh air after suffocating from sympathetic pain. It was silent like the rest of the museum, but this silence was not out of sadness, but out of awe. Where pain and fear were prevalent throughout the other floors, I saw hope.
Seeing the chick pea colored marble and pavement colored limestone, one would expect to feel cold. Instead, warmth coursed through my body from my heart. Against five of the six walls, hundreds of candles were lit in remembrance of those lost. An overwhelming scent of burning wax accompanied them. Directly across from the entrance in the inset brick colored granite floor of the room’s center, an altar burned the biggest flame out of a bowl. This was not like the fire used in the crematoriums used in the Holocaust, but it was more like the fire of the burning bush that God used to speak to Moses through. It was a holy fire, sent up as an offering to God and to the people killed in the Holocaust.
Dachau, Belzec, Ravensbrück, Treblinka, Auschwitz-Birkenau, Bergen-Belsen. Light streamed in through the hexagonal skylight to illuminate the words on the walls. Behind the columns and candles, the dark limestone walls had the names of places where Jews were killed engraved into them. Above the columns, the walls stretched higher, containing words of hope and memory. A verse from Deuteronomy chapter four verse nine was displayed on the wall behind the alter.
Only guard yourself and guard your soul carefully lest you forget the things your eyes saw, and lest these things depart your heart all the days of your life, and you shall make them known to your children, and your children’s children.
This pointed my thoughts upward through the windows above it to the open sky. It was a clear, blue sky with warm, bright sunbeams permeating through it.
Beyond that sky, invisible to the naked eye, was the universe—stars, planets, moons all orbiting in space in perfect synchronization—so vast in all of its entirety. All of these things God created to point us to Him, yet He chose to love us and maintain a relationship with us. I think of another passage from Deuteronomy, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your strength” (6:5). It’s one quoted by Jesus as the greatest commandment in Matthew chapter Twenty-two. He quotes another with it from Leviticus, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (19:18).
The Nazis surely didn’t love their neighbors, the Jews. They even conditioned the friends and neighbors of Jews to hate them. In Operation Gomorrah, despite the continuous stream of dangerous bombings in Hamburg, the girl and her mother were denied shelter from their neighbors. I personally could not understand what would keep these people from sheltering their neighbors in that time of crisis. Recalling the schoolbooks that depicted Jews as evil creatures on display in the first room of the museum, I surface with an answer. A misconception brought about by the brainwashing Hitler enforced, along with the fear he produced in his subjects, could be the only explanation.
The Jews lived by these commands to love others despite their differences. If put into these same circumstances, they would have helped those who refused them. We must ask ourselves, then, what is it that would drive us to be so cruel to the innocent? A great cause of this may be a simple ignorance of those different than us. This is where stereotypes are born and bred. A domino effect would be soon to follow of prejudice and ultimately hate crimes. It is all planted by one small seed of doubt, cultivated through misconceptions encouraged by others. This happened with the Jews and Nazis, and it is still happening today with the Ku Klux Klan, the Bloods and the Crypts, radical Muslims, and other violent hate groups. How did these all start? Perhaps it was with the idea that each was supreme over their prey, or maybe because they grew up on these stereotypes and chose to act upon them. I cannot claim to know the inner workings of a mind filled with such animosity. I do not understand the reasons behind the bias nor the attraction to join such a group. It can only lead to one thing, reflected in the words written on the alter in the room,
Here lies earth gathered from the death camps, concentration camps, sites of mass execution, and ghettos in Nazi-occupied Europe, and from cemeteries of American soldiers who fought and died to defeat Nazi Germany.
Are we just as guilty as these radicals when it comes down to it? Do we just stand on the sidelines watching, waiting for someone to speak up, and all the while staying silent? That is what most of the world did as Hitler conquered other nations, and as he imprisoned millions of Jews. We ask where humanity has gone and do nothing about it. Fear can drive a great many people into silent submission like unknowingly walking into a gas chamber when you think it’s a shower. If we are already on our way to this slaughterhouse, why not at least attempt to take a stand? Either way we are headed in the same direction, but standing up would give us hope and may even make a difference.
We tend to be stereotypical while looking at other people. Everyone, admittedly or not, has a bias. Do we get these from our families or friends? Wherever it comes from, it is wrong to assume characteristics and viewpoints of other people. It is worse when we act upon these assumptions. The real reason why we tend to do this is the fear of the unknown in other people.
We can start at the root of the problem by education ourselves and each other about different cultures, religions, and age groups. The more we learn about others, the less likely we tend to label them like the Nazis did with their patches, and the more we come to appreciate them. If we keep our minds open, we may not just learn about them, but also learn from them. I truly believe that we will lead a more enriched life by immerging ourselves in different cultures. Tolerance should not be considered a taboo word. We may not agree with each other, but accepting each other as individuals despite our differences can improve our lives greatly.
I look around and see people of different ages and ethnicities, and I see a bright hope for our future. We are a long way away from Hitler, but we still have pretty far to go until we can achieve perfect equality and tolerance of each other. If we continue to work towards this goal daily while helping each other, we may someday see that day when all humanity is truly humane. Hope is what I see in this room through the detail and thought put into it. We have come to realize our downfalls and honor those who did not deserve this punishment that was inflicted upon them.
The Room of Remembrance was there for us to remember those who were lost in the Holocaust. It was to pay tribute to the millions of lives sacrificed for no good reason in order for us to open our eyes to see man’s cruelty. It makes us think of the innocence of those lost, and encourages us to try to make a difference for the future. We see a bright light at the end of this tunnel we know as life. If we choose to become more responsible and tolerant of those around us, we will change our lives and the lives of future generations. It is possible to be different and take a stand towards loving everyone, despite our differences.
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Stark white as bleached linen without a speck or blemish—layers of blank space—replaces what was previously black as midnight, speckled with dull pupils and dried blood. Those words—spoken from holy lips—swallowed all that was darkness in one moment, taking what was once perfect and breaking Him with the weight of all chains. Those words, “It is finished,” travelled across time and space, rejected by some and satiating others, seeping holiness into their cores. “It (death) is finished (no more).” But for One it had just begun—a three-day battle with Death, only to defeat it once more. Atonement built on sacrifice—The Sacrifice—fulfilled in necessary pain for mankind. Extending beyond Himself, stretched over all, filtering black so only white is visible. His elastic love—grace—made man holy. Set apart by those words which overcome the darkness in the soul, separating man from world. This untouched snow cleanses man, burning away dirt, leaving only the colors of life in His whiteness. Fire red, sun’s-bright orange, sunflower yellow, mint green, horizon blue, lavender hues—vivid colors of the northern lights—reflections of prisms and gems. Man may now choose what to do with this newfound freedom. Whether he let a black box and wires dull his senses and enslave him once more or he seize each day is up to him. A new door—decorated with simplistic love—has opened in his life. Pardon for wrong—payment in full—comes to the new Saint, former Sinner.