Reading Notebook: 4/29/21
Book: Solar Storms by Linda Hogan
A lot happens in these final chapters. The prevailing theme of this section of the novel is a cultural war between Native American traditions and beliefs and the modern American world that strives for progression. While Angel and her people want to preserve their land, which they hold a strong spiritual connection to, the government wants to build the dam, keeping their own interests in mind. As a reader who is unfamiliar with Native American beliefs and struggles, this novel offers great insight. Hogan utilizes Angel’s first person perspective so that readers sympathize with her and her people’s fight. As Angel sees her world changing around her, so do I.
Another important note to make about these final chapters is the inclusion of Angel’s mom, Hannah. In chapter 15, Angel finds her mother. A meeting that she had been anticipating for years, Angel does not know how her mother will react to seeing her. Despite the unknown, Angel is disappointed when Hannah is just as cold and rigid as she feared. This meeting offers closure for readers, as we now have resolve to the anxiety and confusion Angel possessed throughout the whole novel. However, the young girl does not get closure herself until Hannah dies. After her mother passes away, Angel finally feels as though she can close that chapter of her life and start a new. In fact, a new character enters her life after her mother leaves, a daughter named Aurora. Like many others in the novel, Hogan purposefully uses the name Aurora, Meaning dawn, aurora represents a new beginning and start in life, ever relevant for Angel.
Reading Notebook: 4/27/21
Book: Solar Storms by Linda Hogan
Chapters 6-10 are dominated by winter. Much like the weather that it brings, winter is a cold time for Angel, as she learns it was during then that she was born and abounded by her mother. Hogan relates Angel’s mother, Hannah, as “[she] was a force as real as wind, as strong as ice, as common as winter” (115). By comparing the two, Hogan continues the novel’s theme of the Native American connection to the universe. These chapters are filled with this theme, as winter allows Angel to slow down and think about her place in the world. We see this when she pretends to be a turtle in chapter six as she learns how to swim as well the description of her and Bush spending hours talking about the planet and all things in it. By showing this connection to the natural world, Hogan drives home the culture component of this novel.
In addition, the slowdown that winter provides, gives Bush the time to plan the canoe trip that she, Angle, Dora-Rouge, and Agnes will be going on. In chapters 11-14, we get to see this trip and everything Hogan wants it to represent. As the four women travel to the Fat Eater’s land, they feel connected not only to the nature around them, but their ancestors who made the very same voyage. Just like their ancestors, the four women do not take their surroundings for granted. “Field, forest, swamp. [Angel] knew how they breathed at night, and that they were linked to us in that breath. It was the oldest bond of survival” (171). Here, Hogan makes clear the connection Native Americans have to nature, as Angel recognizes her surroundings as they only form of survival. We see this in action, when Agnes falls ill and the others rely on the natural world to heal her. Unfortunately, Agnes cannot be saved, adding a bit of irony and imperfection to the passage previously mentioned.
Reading Notebook: 4/20/21
Book: Solar Storms by Linda Hogan
Prologue: Set in the past, as Hogan indicates wither her use of past tense. After Angel introduces us to her, Agnes (great grandmother) narrates the rest of the prologue. This section of the novel serves as back story for our protagonist, Angel. As the story goes, Angel was taken away from her family after her mother abused her.
Chapter 1: Angel longs to return to the North Country after years of finding little to no comfort nor familiarity in multiple foster homes. Now 17, Angel wants a real home. Scarred, both literally and metaphorically, by her past, she returns to Agnes and her mother Dora-Rouge, who live in Adam’s Rib, an Island Town tucked between Minnesota and Canada. Important Note: Angel and the vast majority of those who live in Adam’s Rib is Native American. Once there, Angel is told the story of her mother and why she is the way she is (primary due to the way she was raised).
Chapter 2: There is great character development for Angel in this chapter. It is clear that she is still troubled from her time in foster care and struggles to adjust to life in Adam’s Rib. This is apparent when she is tempted to steal from Agnes and Dora-Rouge, just like she did from her care takers. Another great moment is when readers get a sense of how insecure Angel truly is about the scar her mother left on her face. She goes into great detail about how “[her] ugliness ruled [her] life” (54). Finally, toward the end of the chapter, we see Angel begin to adjust to her life in Adam’s Rib, as she shows reluctance to move to Fur Island with Bush, the wife of her grandfather. It’s clear that she is beginning to find comfort in this place and these people.
Chapter 3: Here, the real action of the novel begins. One day, two men come up and speak with Agnes. They tell her that the government is planning on building a reservoir of several dams in Adam’s Rib, which would cause flooding on the land. This project would completely ruin the lives of the native people and as the coming winter delays the proceedings, protestors begin to organize themselves. Angle is aware of the tension and overall vibe in town, as she “felt something in the air”
Chapter 4: In this chapter, Angel must move to Fur Island, where she is to live with Bush. Angel feels hesitant about Bush. However, she soon finds that the two have some things in common, especially loneliness and Bush is the only resident of Fur Island. The most significant event in chapter 4 is Angel finding a baby picture of herself and her mother. In the picture, she has no scar. This sets something off in Angel, who feels as though she has a fragmented view of her past. She wants to change that.
Chapter 5: As a storm comes in, Angel thinks about her mother and how she would have reacted to it. In addition, Angel ponders the Native American belief that human lives are witnessed by animals. Being Native American herself, Angel wonders what the animal kingdom and universe would think of her mother.
There is a lot to unpack in these first five chapters. To begin, Angel is an amazing protagonist. As a reader, I see her struggle and am excited to see where her character goes. The uncertainty of her past that Angel possess is very interesting. It is almost as if she is defining herself by the stories Agnes is telling her, like a puzzle the girl must put together in order to find her true self. I hope she breaks away from this and begins to form a personal self definition.
Adam’s Rib is a unique setting, as mostly women who have left their husbands make up the town. Because of this, the women hold power in the town and possess a great sense of confidence. In a way, they hold stereotypical masculine roles within their society, whereas the view men in town are stereotypical feminine in their ways (Angel witnesses two boys paddling a canoe, who are both gentle with and connected to nature).
Finally, readers get great insight on Native American culture. We learn that Native American’s hold great respect toward nature, as they believe that animals observe their lives. This perspective is fascinating and explains why the people of Adam’s Rib are so upset with the construction of the dams.
Reading Notebook: 4/15/21
Book: Refuge by Terry Tempest Williams
Most important takeaways per chapter:
“Whistling Swans” and “Magpies”: Williams notices and comments on both death and loss, two of the most prominent themes in the memoir.
“Western Tanager & Gray Jays”: In these two chapters, Williams describes her process of letting go and moving on.
“Meadowlarks”: Connecting to the title of the memoir, Williams provides commentary on what it means to have a space for oneself. For Williams, Bear River and her mother are her refuges, both of which are at risk of being taken away.
“Storm Petrel”: Great revitalization in the last paragraph of the novel (178), which shows Williams’ self awareness.
“Bald Eagles”: The freezing of the Great Salt Lake serves as a metaphor for life and death
Reading Notebook: 4/13/21
Book: Refuge by Terry Tempest Williams
Pages: 1-119: I am stricken by the Williams’ extensive use of metaphors in her writing. Seeing as though the book connects themes of life and nature, this stylistic choice makes perfect sense. The main, overarching metaphor of the memoir is the one in which Williams compares her mother’s death to the flooding of the Great Salt Lake and its aftermath that leads to the displacements of the birds.
I’m thoroughly enjoying Williams’ writing style thus far. It’s informative, but also very engaging. She is teaching a master class on having a clear and apparent presence in her writing, something we have talked much about in class.
At first, I wasn’t sure why we reading this book in class, but after I read about Williams’ strong connection to nature and specifically the lake and birds, I now understand. Throughout this entire section, Williams weaves together the story of her life and the natural world. Here are some specific examples:
“Burrowing Owls”: Williams describes the Great Salt Lake in great (pun intended) detail.
“Whimbrels”: Williams makes connections between her loneliness and the marsh flooding. Great use of metaphor.
“Wilson’s Phalarope”: In this section, Williams goes into great detail comparing the lake to her mother’s death. I loved this part so much, such an insightful read.
“California Gulls”: The term “refuge” is explored in this section. Williams discusses the qualities she admires in gulls and how she finds refuge in them.
“Pink Flamingos”: Williams writes about hope and birds here. It made me think of Emily Dickson’s “Hope is the thing with feathers”
“Snow Buntings”: “We are taught not to trust our own experiences. Great Salt Lake teaches me experience is all we have” (92).” Great quote for discussion.
“White Pelicans”: In this chapter, Williams discusses the relationship between self and the world. This reminded me of discussions the class has had on previous books.
I’m loving this memoir so far. Williams’ writing and life experiences creates a beautiful and philosophical read that I cannot put down.
Reading Notebook: 4/6/21
Book: The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey
Chapters 16-17: George’s loyalty is on full display. After someone insults Bonnie, George fights them. This not only shows his loyalty, but also his passion. Another character defining moment for George is when he says “My job is to save the fucking wilderness. I don’t know anything else worth saving”. This confirms his love for nature and his willingness to stop at nothing to save it.
Chapter 18: Character development for Doc. Well away from her, Doc misses Bonnie. This shows that he truly does care for her and needs her in his life.
Chapter 19: A masked man! While at the logging site, George runs into a masked man who is also vandalizing the place. The inclusion of this mysterious figure shows that there are more people fighting against the destruction of the natural world around them.
Chapter 20: Important note on George: Back at the goal site, a helicopter flies over head, which sends George into a panic attack. PTSD from the Vietnam War is kicking in for George. This just adds another layer to his character and his story.
Reading Notebook: 4/1/21
Book: The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey
As a major book nerd, I am thoroughly enjoying this novel and the breath of fresh air it is offering me after the first three books, all out of my comfort zone, that I read for the course.
Chapter 5: Historical note, the title of the chapter, “The Wooden Shoe Conspiracy” dates back to the 19th century. With a root meaning of “sabotage”, the term was created after the willful destruction of the machinery and production capability that oppressed workers and lower class individuals during the Industrial Revolution. Appropriately titled, the chapter is where we first see the three men discussing what’s wrong in the world and how they want to sabotage the forces destroying the environment.
Chapter 6: The first raid begins. The group acts cautiously during this first raid and are not quite sure what they want to do, settling on vandalizing machinery on a construction site. George’s character really shines through in this chapter, as he wants to act more violent and do more, but is shot down by the rest of the group.
Chapter 8: I’m keeping my eye on Bishop Love, as he seems to be a big threat to the group (he might know they are the ones vandalizing construction sites).
Chapter 9: I was right… Bishop Love is the group’s biggest foil at the moment.
Chapter 10: Great character development for Bonnie in this chapter. Her discussion with Doc about love and George shows that she is bored and life and unsure of what she wants to do.
Chapter 11: As George and Seldom continue their raids, their individual personalizes shine through. Where George is more violent and wishes to destroy, Seldom wants to save. Great dynamic between the two.
Chapter 13/14: As the group executes their plan of setting off explosives at a coal company, Bonnie has some character development. Her previous confidence seems to crack a little and she becomes indecisive and nu-sure of herself after failing to set off the explosives.
Reading Notebook: 3/23/21
Book: The Unsettling of America by Wendell Berry
As I continue reading The Unsettling of America, I am struck by Berry’s brutal honesty and often times bitter attitude. In chapter 2, he talks about the “most unhappy average citizens in the history of the world”, people who live every day the same, seek no other fulfillment, and are not anxious about the changing world. Although I agree with some points Berry makes here, he seemed a little too holier than tho. As a reader, it made me feel like his writing isn’t meant for me, the average American, but rather highly educated scientists. Maybe he wanted the reader to feel uncomfortable though… that is a question for the man himself.
In chapter 3, Berry offers thought provoking insight on how humans view their relationship with nature. He argues that we need a shift in the way we think. Rather than thinking about how nature exists without us, we need to think about how we fit into nature (pg 29). I love this moment, as it puts Berry’s entire argument in easier to understand and more accessible words.
Switching topics, I love Berry’s commentary on machines taking over human jobs in chapter 5 (pg 72). It’s very interesting to think about the fact that machinery is made to make human easier, but in a way, it’s making it harder as more and more jobs are being lost to technology. Yes technology mat help some people, but it greatly hurts others. This begs the question, what do we do going forward?
Reading Notebook: 3/18/21
Book: The Unsettling of America by Wendell Berry
Wendell Berry’s book on agriculture is so much more than that. The most striking part of the so far (I’m one chapter in) is the commentary offered on culture. Berry composes a deep dive on the American culture, its hierarchy, and how it has come to be. Making historical connections to the Indians and Colonists, the first chapter describes the country’s relationship with not only agricultural, but the environment as a whole.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Wendell’s writing thus far. Similar to both Carson and Snyder, he presents facts and events in a unique way. His argumentative and more opinion based approach of writing creates an interesting and captivating read, as I want to hear all of his honest thoughts. In addition, I love the inclusion of both Edwin Muir and Thomas Hardy’s poems, as I believe that poetry offers commentary on the time of its composition. By referencing these poem, Berry shows us the evolution of culture, rather than telling us.
Reading Notebook: 3/9/21
Book: Turtle Island by Gary Snyder
As someone who has never been the biggest fan of poetry, I had my hesitations about reading Turtle Island. I was worried that abstract ideas and far fetched imagery would distract me from the main idea of the collection. However, as I turn each page, Snyder slowly converts me into a poetry lover.
From the opening poem, “Manzanita”, it is clear what Snyder is trying to accomplish with Turtle Island. Appealing to all five senses, Snyder transforms readers into the beautiful natural world, filled with mystic animals creating both sound and action, beautiful plants that beg to be stared at, and a much welcomed feeling of peace and serenity. In creating this seemingly magic world in his opening poem, Snyder leaves readers longing for such a sense of calm. This world may seem foreign, but Snyder is really describing planet Earth and its beauty. And as later poems address, that beauty is in danger and we need to save it.
“Without”: Simple, short, and effective. Sometimes the fewer the words and the easier of concepts strike a home run. Addressing the power within, “Without” takes a break from the beautiful imagery of previous poems and offers an almost pallet cleanser, just as good as the main course.
“Control Burn”: More verse, than “Control Burn” serves as both a story and a history lesson. Painting a vivid image of how Indians use to burn brush, Snyder longs to go back to such simpler, and in his opinion, more beautiful times.
“Pine Tree Tops”: Much like “Without”, this poem packs a big punch in few words. Simply describing the pine trees in the cold night, Snyder vivid imagery leaves readers in a state of serenity and thought as they realize how beautiful this word really is.. After reading this poem, I want nothing more than to enjoy the beauty of pine trees, something I now know I take for granted.
Reading Notebook: 2/21/21
Novel: Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
From what I’ve read so far, I thoroughly enjoy this book. Carson gets her message across in a easy to follow, yet extremely informative way. The book has taught me a lot about the environment in the 1960s, but the movement as a whole.
From a writing standpoint, I love the way Carson opens the book. Her fable about an American town where “…all life seemed to live in harmony with its surroundings”. This peaceful account of a town filled with beautiful imagery left me feeling calm and painted a smile on my face. However, as I kept reading, Carson brilliantly breaks that tone and informs me of the reality facing the world, a damaged environment that “The people had done… themselves” (Carson 1). From that point on, I knew that I was in store for a serving of the ugly truth.
As the turned the pages of the book, I found myself feeling more and more discouraged. Despite being published in 1962, Silent Spring holds relevance and truth even to this day. Hearing that the 1960s is “…an era dominated by industry, in which the right to make a dollar at whatever cost is seldom challenged” made me realize that not much progress has been made, as it seems as though the same can be said about today (Carson 13).
Carson goes on to educate me in chapter 3 about all things pesticides. I never knew much about pesticides and the harmful chemicals in them, so I enjoyed the informative, albeit scary, lesson. The most alarming fact I came across in this section is how close human beings are working with these highly poisonous chemicals. It got the point where “…laboratories where physicians may obtain aid in diagnosis and treatment” are established. It’s so difficult to understand why chemicals that are originally used in war are still being produced.
Although filled with somber content, Silent Spring has been a wonderful read so far. I’m hoping that a more optimistic tone will appear in the later chapters, but I know that sometimes the difficult truth sparks change faster than a sugar coated fantasy of better times.
Reading Notebook: 3/3/21
“We stand now where two roads diverge” (Carson 277).
As I near the end of Silent Spring, a sense of hope has taken over me. This hope has been ushered in by the heaps of knowledge I know possess about pesticides and the environment as a whole. Carson has effectively informed me about and sparked my will to help fight for the climate. The biggest takeaways from the novel are as followed:
“A Who’s Who of pesticides is therefore of concern to us all. If we are going to live so intimately with these chemicals—eating and drinking them, taking them into the very marrow of our bones—we had better know something about their nature and their power.” (Carson 16).
- This passage emphasizes the importance of educating ourselves on the pesticides that are greatly affecting our environment. Before this book, I never thought about the chemicals that are all around us, as most people and news sources don’t talk about them. Although the rest of this chapter is a little to science heavy for my liking, it effectively breaks down the “Elixirs of Death”. This information allows me to speak more confidently and informatively on climate issues.
“Although modern man seldom remembers the fact, he could not exist without the plants that harness the sun’s energy and manufacture the basic foodsTuffs he de pends upon f or life.” (Carson 63).
- This is a very humbling passage. As humans, we tend to think they we rule the world. In a way, we do, however, the earth itself hold great strength and power over us. It is because of the plants and the air that we are able to live, which we often forget. If more people are reminded of this, maybe the fight for climate change would have more fighters.
“Over increasingly large areas of the United States , spring now comes unheralded by the return of the birds , and the early mornings are strangely silent where once they were filled with the beauty of bird song.” (Carson 103).
- I love hearing the birds chirp in the morning, even if they wake me up. Birds singing is a great reminder of Earth’s beauty. The thought of the earth’s beautiful things being destroyed is depressing. This powerful passage is a reminder that our actions are directly hurting our environment and hearing it described in these words hit right at the heart strings.
“Life is a miracle beyond our comprehension, and we should reverence it even where we have to struggle against it…”(Carson 173).
- This is a beautiful reminder that we need to cherish not only our earth, but our lives. Within the heavy material of this book, this quote almost highlights itself. When I first read it, a smile came to my face, as it made me think of all the small things I took for granted in life. Carson wants us to remember and protect these things. She encourages readers to not take the earth for granted, as it is a miracle, perhaps one that we are destroying.
“The fact that every meal we eat carries its load of chlorinated hydrocarbons is the inevitable consequence of the almost universal spraying or dusting of agricultural crops with these poisons” (Carson 183).
- This is a scary thought. Now, whenever I eat, I’m going to think about the possible chemicals that could be in the food. Carson includes this to scare the readers in a way. After reading this passage, one might feel more inspired to educate themselves about pesticides and how they’re affecting the climate, as they don’t want to be harming their bodies. From a writing point-of-view, this is a very smart and effective passage.
“The lack of sufficiently delicate methods to detect injury before symptoms appear is one of the great unsolved problems in medicine” (Carson 190).
- I love this quote because it’s not only a scientific lesson, but also an important life lesson. Carson states that as humans, we are accustomed to looking at the immediate problem and figuring out how to fix it. She argues that if we should look at the beginning of the problem and figure out how the aroused as opposed to looking at the small picture. I agree and believe that this applies to all aspects of life. Sometimes it is difficult to look at the big picture, but in doing so, we understand the problem as a whole, not just the current state that it is in. By reading this novel, written in the 1960s, I’m being informed of the “beginning” climate change movement, which feels good. I’m enjoying the more robust outlook Carson is providing me.