PW #4: A simple question

Have you ever had a simple question you always struggle to answer when asked? For a while I struggled to define my favorite season. I found it difficult to choose – each season had its own merits, and the best one seemed to be the one at the time.

In springtime, I love the fresh crispness of the air; the exalting way that the daffodils burst out of their buds; the cool clear spring water in the streams trickling down from the mountains; and the color everywhere as everything which seemed dead returns to life.

In summer, I love the cool of the ocean in a midday swim; the sunflowers cheerfully shining up at the sky; the warm breeze tugging eagerly at your hair; and the stars sparkling, in a somber black sky over the tents in a campsite.

In autumn, I love the crunch of pumpkin leaves under boots; the rain transforming the world to a mysterious gray, with flashes of thunder in the distance; the rainbow of leaves on the trees in the parks; and the whistling leaps of the wind through the beams.

However, I realized recently that my favorite season is winter. I love the warmth of a mug of creamy hot chocolate; the lazy drifting of a crystal snowflake in the chilling air; the contrast of colors, from white snow and blue frost to cozy red Santa hats and warm gingerbread cookies; the scent of pine needles fallen under the tree; the glitter of sparkling lights on the trees in the park; and the feeling of a winter morning, spent surrounded by freshly packed snow, carving an icy fort. For me, winter is the time when I see my family and friends, and good cheer is all around.

IRJE #3: Keeping Memories Alive

My next IRJE is from “The Kalahari Typing School for Men,” the fourth book in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith. The series follows Mma Ramotswe, a detective running the No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency in Botswana, and her fiancé Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, who runs a garage. Mma Ramotswe was hired by a man named Mr. Molefelo to find the people he had once stolen a radio from in for him order to make amends, and in the following paragraph she reflects on it:

“The more she thought about Mr. Molefelo, the more she admired what he had done in coming to see her. Most do not bother with the really old wrongs; many forget them entirely, whether deliberately – if you can make a deliberate effort to forget – or by allowing the past to fade of its own accord. Mma Ramotswe wondered whether people have a duty to keep memories alive, and had decided that they have. Certainly the old beliefs were that those who had gone before should be remembered (p. 107-108).”

In this paragraph, we can see Mma Ramotswe as she reflects on what happened that day, and the philosophies which she holds. The things that I like the most about this series are the slices of life in every page and that Mma Ramotswe often “muses” to herself about things in life. While these things aren’t rather important for the story, they add a element of realism. They also characterize her – for example, showing that she holds a strong belief in the old ways of her ancestors. They demonstrate Mma Ramotswe’s wisdom, allowing the reader see how she thinks and contrast the way that she thinks about things to the way we usually do in Canada and the US. Many times, the more modern and “advanced” isn’t always better.

PR #2: All Quiet on The Western Front – Desensitization

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque is a novel that I found very poignant and tactful, but what struck me the most about it were the descriptions of death throughout the book, which felt very realistic about how the soldiers may have felt.

One of the first depictions of death, which I found the most moving, was the death of Paul’s friend Kemmerich, due to the inclusion of Paul’s thoughts and emotions. Paul, sitting by Kemmerich’s hospital bed, attempts to ease Kemmerich’s suffering by describing what he could do after he healed, despite being aware that Kemmerich would not survive, and ends up worsening the situation. Paul’s thoughts are shown in this example: “…he is crying. What a mess I have made with my foolish talk (p. 30)!” For me this is a very heartbreaking scene as it brings me into Paul’s perspective as he berates himself about his behaviour during Kemmerich’s last moments. It doesn’t show Paul as someone who always knows what to say, and instead depicts him as someone who sometimes makes mistakes. This scene felt very genuine, and also let me relate to Paul and imagine what it would be like to have to comfort someone in such a situation.

Something else which struck me as very lifelike were the changes in the ways that the deaths of Paul’s friends were portrayed. At the beginning of the book, where Paul is present at Kemmerich’s death,  he has many strong feelings as he describes the moment: “[Kemmerich] says nothing; all that lies behind him; he is entirely alone now with his little life of nineteen years, and cries because it leaves him. This is the most disturbing and hardest parting that I have ever seen (p. 31)…” Paul is deeply affected, and we as the reader also have the opportunity to connect him to Kemmerich, as they are both the same age. This scene is very emotional, and differs greatly from the descriptions seen later in the book. When Müller – another of Paul’s old classmates – dies, he gets a much shorter description: “Müller is dead. Someone shot him point-blank in the stomach with a Verey light. He lived for half an hour, quite conscious, and in terrible pain (p. 279).” Little more is said about Müller. When I first read this, the significant change in tone and description surprised me. In the first example, Remarque  illustrates Paul’s feelings, but at Müller’s death the description is very factual and none of Paul’s thoughts are shown. While Kemmerich’s death occurs first in the story, it still seemed strange that Kemmerich, someone who wasn’t described as being a particularly close friend of Paul’s, was given such a long description but Müller was not. Upon further reflection, I saw it to represent how Paul’s mindset changes throughout the book and I found this distinction very realistic. Before he has seen as much death on the battlefield, his friend dying is a substantial blow. However, by the end, Paul has seen many of his friends die and is desensitized to death as a whole. The addition of another death is not significant, and it is mentioned only as a passing fact.

I found All Quiet on the Western Front quite profound and emotional, but what I admire most about the book is the author’s ability to realistically portray the war in so many of its facets. Even when writing in a less expressive manner, Remarque manages to convey very meaningful parts of a soldier’s life.

PW #3: Memories as a Patchwork Quilt

Do you ever think about how we never fully appreciate a moment until it’s gone? We look back on the past, at moments that may have been melancholy or pulsing with hatred, and we smile (albeit wryly). Sometimes we look back in nostalgia, but either way our memory is embellished, embroidered on the edges like an intricately adorned quilt, changed from a few patches of fabric to delicately sewn artworks. When we first experienced the event, they were just squares of cloth that weren’t particularly special – but after a while, they became so. Even when we appreciate the moment, it’s bittersweet. We know that the time will pass, and though we’re still in the moment, we’re aware it won’t last.

Over time, the colours fade and disappear, and the fragile embroidery is all that is left of the original pattern. I know that so many of the memories I have today will fade and that it is an inevitable part of life, but sometimes I still can’t help from wishing that they wouldn’t: hoping that the colours would stay forever bright, and the quilt would never be tucked into a box in the attic and forgotten; that it wouldn’t be found faded and moth-eaten, years later while looking for mementos to show around, but instead stay in use, something to decorate a room and a reminder of a different time.

IRJE #2: Dead Leaves

I decided to write my next IRJE about another quote from Sense & Sensibility that connects with the first one rather comically. This quote takes place some time later after Mrs. Dashwood and her three daughters have left Norland Park, where they had lived for many years. After their friend Edward mentions it, Marianne and Elinor have this exchange:

“And how does dear, dear Norland look?” cried Marianne.

“Dear, dear Norland,” said Elinor, “probably looks the much as it always does at this time of year – the woods and walks thickly covered with dead leaves.”

“Oh!” cried Marianne, “with what transporting sensations have I formerly seen them fall! How have I delighted, as I walked, to see them driven in showers about me by the wind! What feelings have they, the season, the air altogether inspired! Now there is no one to regard them. They are seen only as a nuisance, swept hastily off, and driven as much as possible from the sight.”

“It is not everyone,” said Elinor, “who has your passion for dead leaves.” (pp. 52-53)

I chose this quote because I found it very funny after reading it, but also because it shows the difference in character of the two sisters. Marianne is much more ardent and sentimental, which can be seen in the way that she describes her old home with such nostalgia in this and the first quote, while Elinor is less emotional and more withdrawn. This is an important part of the story, as (slight spoilers!) Marianne ends up having troubles with her emotions after suffering a disappointment, and Elinor, after going through something similar, instead hides her pain and acts as if nothing had happened.

PW #2: reading in the rain

It’s a rainy Sunday afternoon, and she hears the tempest outside swirl and paint rushing images with whistles and roars of wind. It’s been raining since she woke up, and her breakfast was splattered with the delicate echoes of droplets pattering above her head.

The trees outside look dreary, as if they’ve been half-saturated, and the grass is dyed a darker shade, coated with water, but she loves it. On days like these, the clouds look like a blanket of grey cotton balls tinted with slight stains of darker grey tinged throughout. They stretch as far as she can see and suppress memories of sunshine and cerulean skies. The beads of water inch slowly down the window next to her, intersecting and conjoining. Rain patters over the sombre skylights as she sits reading in the dim light of an amber lamp, and the gale brushes her ears.

It reminds her of sitting in a classroom years ago while everyone was working quietly. Rain would splatter against the windows, and the class would become still and calm, a hush growing over the group. She would sit with her friend, looking out the slick windows at the shadows shifting as the world transformed into a cooler, greyer version of itself.

As her book’s pages crinkle, the incessant deluge pounds on. It drums and patters, joining in with the whispering flips and whirls of the wind as it dances across the grey sky.

IRJE #1: Leaving Norland Park

The book I’ve chosen to write this IRJE about is Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen, which I have recently started to read. The story so far centers around the Dashwood family, Mrs. Dashwood and her three daughters, Elinor, Marianne and Margaret. Mr. Dashwood has recently died, and his son by another marriage inherited the estate, Norland Park, where they had lived. The son’s wife is unempathetic and persuades him not to give them any of his inheritance, and Mrs. Dashwood and her daughters go to live elsewhere.

Upon leaving, Marianne is very saddened:

“Dear, dear Norland!” said Marianne, as she wandered alone before the house, on the last evening of their being there; “when shall I cease to regret you? when learn to feel at home elsewhere? O happy house! could you know what I suffer in now viewing you from this spot, from whence perhaps I may view you no more! and you, ye well-known trees! but you will continue the same. No leaf will decay because we are removed, nor any branch become motionless although we can observe you no longer! No; you will remain the same; unconscious of the pleasure or the regret you occasion, and insensible of any change in those who walk under your shade! But who will remain to enjoy you?” (p.16)

I chose this quotation because I find it very beautifully written and it touches on how I felt when I moved homes, though my feelings were less acute as I had spent less of my time there. I also felt regret and sadness upon leaving, and especially as we rented it out for a time, that it may not be “enjoyed” enough or ever quite in the same way.

I like how Marianne reflects on how the trees which she has loved so will continue as they are though she is gone. It makes me think about how often we can be so absorbed in our own issues that it feels as if things are more affected by us than they really are. For Marianne, it may feel as if Norland Park has changed so much ever since her father died and her half-brother and his wife inherited it, but to the trees, nothing has changed except the normal passing of time.

PR: They Shall Not Grow Old

I found several parts of They Shall Not Grow Old very striking due to the realistic elements of the time period and the people portrayed. For example, in one clip the German and British soldiers are swapping hats and joking, and in another part, a veteran says, “Snipers would fire and not hit anybody, you know?” I found these examples very moving because they highlighted the fact that the soldiers were all people just like us, but in a different time period. You can sense what life was like during that time through what they say and how they act, and I find that very humanizing. While we’ve grown up being taught about people from other nations, they may not have and have spent the last few years hating the opposite side and hearing stories of their brutality and monstrosity. But nevertheless, certainly some of them managed to be empathetic and compassionate and treat the soldiers that they had been fighting so long against as people.

I feel that “out of sight, out of mind” is a concept that greatly affects me. Sure, I can know the facts about historical events and people, and may even know their life stories, but it doesn’t seem real until I see something like this movie that shows the people involved being “real people” – not just unknown faces and mystery soldiers of the past. Looking at old pictures and hearing about “the soldiers of WWI” doesn’t make the events from over a hundred years ago feel real, but seeing the soldiers, in color, joking about with another, having a cup of tea made from water their gun heated, and hearing veterans talk about how “no one cared who won at that point,” really brought it home to me, so to speak.

PW #1 another blue day

PW #1: Fictional Writing

*Fictional story*

The day wakes me with a crisp blue morning. Blue in more than one way – blue as in the sky, peeking out from behind the crumpled white window shades above my bed, humming with cold light. Blue as in my first class that morning was math, which I had carefully color-coded as a pale cerulean on my schedule in my spiral notebook, and in which I always used my wrinkled pastel blue graph book to take notes.

But most significantly, blue like sadness, melancholy, and sorrow. Blue that makes you think of gray skies and heavy rain. Blue that weighs me down, tightening my throat and constricting my lungs. Blue like my drenched heart, hanging heavy in my chest like the muffling fog of a cloud barely hovering over the ground. Blue that fills my veins, pumps my blood, and injects my sinuses with the thick saturated burden of grief.

Blue because last Tuesday, my dad died.

I can’t deny it.

Can’t rephrase what happened, or avoid it.

I always try to restate it, to forget it by erasing the memory. But it can’t be done. Every morning when I wake up, the fact crashes through my head like a tsunami, leaving destruction and chaos in its wake. Every morning, I’ve ended up here, staring at the light leaking through my window shades, and wishing.


Hanli’s Very Original Blog Post Title

Hello! My name is Hanli Loubser. My sister and I have lived in Victoria all of our lives, though my parents are both South African and as a result, we speak Afrikaans at home (it’s like a subvariant of Dutch). I live on a farm with my cat, dog and chickens. This is my second year at Brookes Westshore, and I’m excited to meet even more new classmates and people this year! I enjoy reading, writing, and drawing, and I’ve loved dinosaurs since I was little. I also do aerial silks outside of school and I enjoy learning new tricks.

I would describe myself as a very avid reader! I read less now since I’m busy, but I usually read at least a chapter or two every night. I read most everything, but I prefer fantasy, science fiction, and Agatha Christie murder mysteries.

I enjoy creative writing, but not so much academic writing! I love writing fiction stories and books, and I have a few book ideas, including one that I’m writing with my friend, but none finished. I’m part of a writers club with some of my friends, but have increasingly less time to spend on it, so I’m hoping that I will be able to as I write my personal writing blog submissions!