Thoughts on Jane Urquhart’s “The Stone Carvers”

Tomorrow I will get my English students to pick a passage out of “The Stone Carvers”, one they found particularly profound or poetic, and then respond to it personally.  This is one I wrote to use as an exemplar.  If they are brave enough I will have them post their responses in the comment section…and they are brave and brilliant little lightbulbs so I know they will!

“…[Klara] began to believe that, like the fog that was everywhere except indoors, she was not really inside the house of her mind.  Or perhaps it was that unlike the fog she was in that house and nowhere else.  She decided then to let the outside atmosphere into her rooms, and she opened every window, every door, and watched the white, odourless smoke crawl over the threshold and sill, curl around the legs of chairs, and spread itself over tables and beds.  She unlatched cupboard and closet doors and pulled open drawers in various dressers so that the fog touched even her most intimate underclothes and crept around her dead mother’s good dishes.”  The Stone Carvers by Jane Urquhart.  pg. 32.

Have you ever felt like Klara?  Like you weren’t inhabiting your own mind

or living in your own body?

Where you’ve felt too exhausted to engage in your own life or too traumatized to emotionally invest in your own experiences?  So you’ve severed yourself from the reality of your situation and have merely shifted into perfunctory actions,

neurons and synapses firing

(but it seems as though not of your own accord).

So,

you need some sort of invasive force to permeate your being, your space even

(metaphorically)

to tangibly weave and insinuate itself into and around your being  just to prove that you exist.  That you actually do live

and breathe

and walk

and think

and be.

That it is you taking up space and oxygen in a room.

That you consume rather than are consumed.

I get Klara.  I understand why she needs the fog as a manifestation of her confusion- a visual of her “blurred” state.  Making thoughts that are too scrambled and vague to make sense

visible.

Even if it’s absurdly vulnerable in nature.

But what to do when there is no fog.  No natural phenomenon to serve as words to your thoughts?

Do you just sit in confusion until you can claw your way through and serve as your own catalyst

jarring you from your inertia?

Or do you speak or draw or create or cry?

Or wait?

For something.

Or someone.

As ethereal as fog.

24 Comments on “Thoughts on Jane Urquhart’s “The Stone Carvers”

  1. -A dreaming child is like a weed underwater, each limb languid, heavy beneath a depth of sleep.- Pg.66- This quote relates to me because some of the things i have went through in my life has left me feeling like a weed underwater, heavy and drowning. Sometimes it does not require sleep to make you feel like your drowning, sometimes the brutality of life can leave you with a drowning sensation. Nevertheless, a simply, ugly weed can bloom into something beautiful. If you allow the right amount of light to shine on this weed, you will be surprised of what it will become.

  2. Gstir to Joseph:
    “… After that it becomes a ruin, and there is no turning back. It is the same with almost anything that remains abandoned. Friends, sweethearts, places, homelands, houses, and this castle in my mind. After a certain period of time the roof goes and there is no turning back. Still it is important to see what kind of a ruin remains, for it is my contention that only the greatest works make beautiful ruins.”
    – “The Stone Carvers”, by Jane Urquhart (pg. 53)

    Ruins.
    What are they and how do they come about? Or rather than “come about,”, how are ruins constructed? This oxymoron might be all that stands between our understanding of Urquhart’s message, and that of the simple cause-and-effect of a building stricken with decay.

    To me, Urquhart is not simply stating that great edifices eventually become ruins with improper care, she is illustrating the importance of said ruins. They hold a significance in our lives far greater than perceived at first glance.

    The ruins constructed throughout our lives; broken bonds of a friendship, decisions one makes that compromise previously planned events, and all that makes one’s life crumble, show us the future of what might be. Might be, unless a new course of action is undertaken to build upon those mistakes. The history that led to the deterioration of the edifice directs us to the improvements we must make in life, to ensure a more grande and stable bond in the future. They provide us with insight into what we did, or the actions of others unto us, and how it caused the destruction. Ruins show us how for, at a later date, we can construct a more reliable structure with another entity, free from the flaws of our past foundations.

    Connections not nurtured and relationships without invested soul are the most susceptible to ruin. They are the ones in which the minor weathering of the base can result in catastrophic effects. It is Jane Urquhart’s conviction therefore, that these spiritual structures that we make to house our ties with another being, object or idea, will if reduced to rubble and ruin, will stand as a marker of our progress, a milestone of the successes of our efforts.

    Ruins. Not simply another beautiful sight, but a marker.

    A stepping stone to perfection.

    -Noah Pardell

    • A young and wandering Tilman’s thoughts on life:
      “Always know which street gets you out of town.” (pg. 61)

      The fleeting desire to always have a way out, an escape plan, an exit strategy, is something primitive and fundamental. Without knowledge of the way out of a situation, any creature, human or otherwise, will feel uncomfortable. Backs to the wall, we try to hide our vulnerability, but it is difficult to conceal in an ever changing world. Situations will arise that we will embrace or reject based on how comfortable we are not knowing how to get out.

      The wandering Tilman is out gathering information on how to survive in any situation. By extrapolating the data he is collecting to the larger scale of life, he will likely be able to know the way out of many situations the rest of us would be clueless in.

      If you were stuck in an unfamiliar room with four walls, a floor, and a ceiling, but no doors or windows, and no idea of how you got there, the only thing you could think about was how you could get out. All other thoughts would be pointless. You would be consumed with the aggravation of not knowing the exit.

      At this point, I can’t resist the parallel I’m making to a movie I saw this weekend called “Escape Plan.” The main character Ray Breslin, played by Sylvester Stallone, is an escape artist, part of a private security firm contracted by the FBI to find weaknesses in maximum security prisons. Ray manages to escape from 14 of these prisons, simply by learning the layout, the routines of guards, and using some sneaky tricks involving the cartons of chocolate milk and toilet paper. He is then sent to an extremely top-secret prison inside a boat, with no idea where on earth he is or if he is even on a boat. He challenges the concept of confinement, managing to escape, though not without difficulty. When he arrived at this facility, not knowing the layout, not being able to see faces on the masked guards, he believes it is impossible to escape and attempts to use an evacuation code that the warden was supposed to recognize and set him free. This did not happen, so he worked his way around it, identifying guards by the way they walk, getting the floor to open in the isolation chamber using his own sweat, making a sextant out of some glasses and a pen, and guilting a doctor, citing the Hippocratic Oath, for his aid. When someone needs to find a way out, they will do whatever it takes to find it.

      By finding an escape route, we satisfy our instincts and can feel safe. We always want to be in control of what happens to us, and the ability to find the way out is what allows that. In slavery and abusive relationships, one person is depriving the other of this ability, denying a basic need to the oppressed.

      So next time you enter an unfamiliar building, it may pay to give the map of the fire escape route a quick glance: learning where you are and how you can get out will make you feel more comfortable.

  3. “He had mistaken someone else for her. She had become interchangeable. He could not see her. This adventure had nothing to do with her.”
    – “The Stone Carvers”, by Jane Urquhart (pg. 53)

    In this quote, the plane that Eamon mounts literally and symbolically lifts him away from Klara. So much so to the point where Eamon could no longer distinguish her. He experiences something that grants him happiness without Klara.

    Last week while finishing the last season of Breaking Bad, I decided to shrug off plans with my best friend. The excitement that television brings into my life is exhilarating. A great thrill momentarily I suppose, but what does it say about my priorities?

    Was this “experience” really worth spending another night in solitude? Spending hours to an unknown extent searching for carnal experiences within a fictional universe, wouldn’t it make more sense to actually interact with my peers and finally live a life in first person?

    There’s a moment where I feel like Eamon, I enter the zone and become wired. The phone rings, I receive a Facebook message, my mother calls to me; But I don’t see or hear a thing. I respond in the least exhausting way possible and engage back towards the world of make-believe as fast as possible. Who was it that contacted me? I don’t know, and i certainly don’t care. All I care about is-

    What is going to happen to Walter White?

    Now, does this mean my relationships with my friends are not as strong as I could hope?

    As far as I’m concerned, Television and friends are two completely different things. I can watch the extended edition of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy in a one day and be perfectly happy with my time spent. I could also sit around a dimly lit room with my friends and talk about the mysteries of life all day.

    It’s apples and oranges, you need a balance between dietary fiber and vitamin C.

    …And what happens on the other side of the spectrum? I ask my friend to see a movie with me but I’m blown off because he wants to play the newest edition of Halo. Initially I’m jealous and I get mad, because how can he prioritize an inanimate object over me? A living breathing human being. I am experiencing the same thing as Klara, uncertainty of where Eamon’s loyalty lies.

    That’s the difficult thing with humans, isn’t it? With moods changing like their clothing, they become unpredictable. A irregular pattern of interest causes trust to become vital.

    This engages the saying “If you love something, set it free”

    The only way to maintain a happy, healthy relationship is mutual trust, in order to escape the demons of jealousy and negative feelings, trust and understanding are key.

  4. “This was the way it was going to be then, this road she was going to have to walk. She would always be thinking of him so that he would be beside her even when he wasn’t there, making her joyous or miserable, but always, always controlling the color of her days.”
    -“The Stone Carvers” by Jane Urquhart (pg. 117)

    This quote makes me think of some sappy love story. You know, where the girl goes ga-ga over the guy? She can’t stop thinking about his good looks or his suave way of speaking or the last time they kissed while she stares out the window at the night sky thinking that “he” is looking at the same stars. Bleh. But it makes me wonder. Is this love? This quote is Klara’s thought immediately following Eamon placing his arm around her waist. The touch and warmth of his body fills hers with a bewildering rush of apprehension and pleasure. Sure this could be the feeling one gets when cuddling with someone they are in love with but all throughout Klara’s and Eamon’s relationship Klara cannot help but linger on each moment she felt the weight or warmth of Eamon’s touch: When they fell on the ice, when Eamon kissed her, when Eamon touched her neck. Leading up to the physical part of their relationship, Klara felt irritated by Eamon. He was a silent Irishman who sat in her house and annoyed the crap out of her. She was uneasy when he was around and even yelled at him for not saying anything.

    Why did this change? Touch.

    Is the physical aspect of a relationship what leads to infallible, true love?

    I would like to think not.

    I believe Klara felt the same way I did around grade seven. I had never been in any kind of boyfriend-girlfriend relationship with anyone. One day, while I was at my “friend-girl’s” house for a birthday party, she grabbed my hand. Being a teenage boy, my hormones went bonkers. Before that party I had never had any feelings towards this girl besides as a friend. But when she took my hand, everything changed. After one night of handholding the brilliant junior high kid that I was thought he was in love. In the months to follow, I dedicated all the free time I had to this girl. She was the center of my world. If she was sad, I was sad, if I was happy and she wanted me to be sad, well, needless to say she got her way. She controlled the color of my days like Eamon controlled Klara’s.

    Going back to my first question, is this what love is? Is love the constant desire to be around someone? Is love when your significant other controls the color of your days? It almost sounds like oppression to me. How can you be an individual and live your own life if someone else’s emotions, thoughts, or feelings are controlling yours? I think Klara’s thoughts towards Eamon are characteristic of a young, and naïve relationship that (if it doesn’t change) is ultimately doomed for failure. I have learned that the only way for me to be truly happy is to live my life the way I want to live it. I can’t imagine being in a relationship that doesn’t allow me to do that.

    Be careful who you touch.

  5. ‘ The kitchen was hers, really, had been so since she had turned fifteen, since her mother had died. She believed she resented this foreign intrusion into what she had worked out as her own territory. Until this moment there had been just her father and herself, night after night, their habits and conversation a hymn to predictability’ Stone Carvers by Jane Urquhart pg. 37

    We all create a special space for ourselves like a favourite chair or a designated seat at the table. These little places and little insignificant things can be anywhere: at your home, your office, your school, or even any public place. These cherished little surroundings hold a special place in your heart. Whether it’s out of familiarity or out of tenderness we often get angry when someone else takes our ‘ place’. Say, in the cafeteria or in a classroom or even at the public library.But home is different. If you’re lucky enough you’ll get to live in the same family home many years, like Klara Becker. Home is where you’ve cried over insignificant events, or significant things. Home is where you know little chips in the wall paint where you accidentally smashed something into it, where you know the stains, smells, and dents.

    Like Klara, I too have made my home my own, having lived in it for thirteen years.If you were to lift up the linoleum on the kitchen floor you’d see my name in childish writing scrawled in crayon on the plywood underneath. If you stripped away the paint on my walls you could see the animals stencilled there before I decided to repaint my room, the dents in the drywall where my cousin missed when aiming his magnetic darts, the dip in the couch that shows that I’ve slept and sat there so long that it began to slouch, paintings, pictures, furniture, decorations, a whole lifetime lives in my house. When you are so familiar with your surroundings, in a place where you feel safe, where you have patterns and familiar routines, you view the space as your territory. Bringing someone else into your home, even for a matter of seconds, is like sharing a very intimate piece of yourself with someone else. It’s your space, not theres, they won’t understand or know the meaning of the scratches on the hardwood or that rip in your carpet where you dog chewed through it. All they see is things, little pieces of who you are, not fully understanding the meaning behind your surroundings. Like Klara I have felt the abnormality of someone invading a space very dear to me. I do not treat friends and family or even people I barely know with hostility in my home as she did.Showing people around my house is like a game:

    ” oh look here I got this when I went here!”

    ” Thats where i usually sit on the couch”

    ” That picture was taken when I was really little”

    ” I don’t know those people but we have their Christmas card!”

    ” My brother gave me this for my birthday!”

    It’s a chance to share funny stories and just socialize with the person. There is obviously a line to be drawn here depending on who the person is.

    I am not nearly as introverted as Klara so I am not as stunned by such an intrusion as a person sitting in my kitchen. But like Klara I am further away from town, and can understand her isolation. Home is what she really knows well, her business is there and her remaining family is close by. Similarly to how she has patterns of speech with her father and has memorized their routines, I’ve memorized the consistent events in my house. Such as what days the TV shows my mom likes are on, the morning routine, the news station generally watched, little times like that I’ve come to know throughout my years.

    Recently I had a sort of intrusion into my home. It was unexpected, and from someone I do not usually associate with outside of certain places, like Eamon and Klara. So hearing their voice while I walk through the hallways of the place I call home was strange. Even thinking about it now, it seems like it didn’t happen. I know how Klara feels with her ‘territory’ and while I didn’t have a silent irish boy sitting in my kitchen, I can understand her confusion and defensiveness of her home.

    Each individual responds differently to sharing their special place, some simply refuse to,and some are more open. I respond to newcomers with pride in my home and excitement to show more of the little pieces of my house, others like Klara close themselves off, acting like a guard dog always on watch. I think everyone can understand to an extent the way that Klara feels, even just by seeing someone else sitting in ‘their’ chair in the library or having family staying overnight at their house. It is important to cherish ones ‘ territory’ otherwise it looses all it’s meaning, but it is also important to let other people in, so you yourself can grow as a person.

  6. “his shadow twice the height of a full-grown man stretching out in front of him, his chain trailing behind him like print on the page of the road, like the end, or the beginning of a story”p.71

    Here we stand stalled between the past and the future.
    Between an unknown life and a past wrought with misery
    How can the story begin?
    Perhaps with the past and the future conspiring to force us to grow up?
    Or the illusion that we did in fact grow up?
    When Tilman disappeared into the world after breaking free of his harness his shadow was bigger than a “full grown man”. Almost like he was a full grown man.
    Almost.
    Because really he is still a vulnerable, innocent child. Not even a kid, as Phoebe latter points out. Did he convince himself he was big enough and strong enough to take on the world? I think he had to.He could never break free unless he was big enough to be free.
    Is the shadow his spirit?
    Trying to expand to encompass everything he could be,
    everything he dreamed of,
    everything he is
    Trying to grow up before he becomes eternally harnessed.
    Still,
    it’s just a shadow, intangible and untouchable.
    So how can the mere idea of being grown up and big and independent really ward off the past?
    Can we enter the future without the past? Can we ever forget the past? Can we ever forgive the past? Can we ever discard the “chain[s]” in our lives? Can we ever erase the “print on the page” of our life’s book?
    Tilman carries the chain into his new life just like the carries the memory of everything that chain meant into his new life. He can never fully discard the feel of its weight or the sound of it clinking behind him.
    With a shadow preceding him and a chain following him, is he free?
    With an illusion before him and a nightmare at his heels is he free?
    Even if he is free as a lark, unaccountable to anyone, adventuring where he pleases, Tilman will never be free of the terror he experienced while imprisoned. He carries a newfound distrust of home and confinement into his future
    Into the beginning or the end of his life
    Into the beginning of a new adventure
    Or the beginning of a bitterly nostalgic life,
    an ending.

  7. “It was childhood’s echo that moved along with them across the ice” pg 35

    What is an echo?

    In literal terms it is sound traveling back to a source, but what if this sound was actually an incident, or even for that matter a problem in life. This problem may not have been started by you; it’s almost always started by someone else actually. Standing in a valley with someone yelling in your ear, or metaphorically someone’s yell is a problem in your life; the first response is to ignore the problem. But unfortunately the problem will keep passing you by because it echoes back to you, and you can’t run. So my main point is this…what’s that echo in your head that you can’t get rid of?

    I have sadly had very bad luck in this department as a kid. Growing up with my specific eye condition I’ve been on the bad end of some harsh jokes and nicknames. When this happens, and it still does, it is so much easier to try and block my ears from the echo, but that problem is always in my head. The only way to get rid of it is to embrace the pain and stop the echo from the source. Yeah sure the very faint echo will always be with me, but without the source the echo has no value.

    An echo can be looked at as past that we can never escape. Sure you can turn to God, family and friends for help but it’s only the person that has suffered that can stop the echo. Is it even possible to become a better and changing person with this echo in your head? Sure you can hide or reason with yourself that the problem in the past is “resolved or gone” but it will come back eventually. Maybe not right away, but it will. And until you stand up to the problem it won’t leave, but if you do, it’s an amazing accomplishment. (#so sick)

    Backing up what Matty G said with Klara and Eamon, they had a little physical contact, and that event echoed in their heads and they both got this feeling of cheesy love. When Klara was looking up into the stars and just knew Eamon was looking too, Mats comment of “blah” is right. The echo of this perfect love stayed, and until they faced it, it would never go away. Eamon controlled her emotions; Klara will always have that echo of what Eamon thought of her.

    Even the most miniscule offense or event can have an infinite echo effect for someone’s entire life.

  8. “Eventually Klara began to view the whole landscape, all the land given to Canada by France , the sky above, and the depths of the chalky earth below as part of an interconnecting system, one aspect of which could not survive without the other. The tunnels were like extended tangled roots reaching up to the monument above, feeding its construction by their very existence.” Pg. 356

    As Klara begins to understand the contrast that is the Vimy Ridge Memorial, I am reminded of how my own views and my relationship with this very same battle have melded and shifted throughout the years.

    My Great Grandfather, or my Mother’s Father’s Father, if you want to be specific, fought in the battle of Vimy Ridge at the age of twenty four. When I was younger, starting in grade one, I would bring his picture to class on the days leading up to Remembrance Day. In my young eyes the man in the photo seemed proud and certain of himself, as well as in the uniform he was wearing. My teacher would place the him on the blackboard, and this to me was essentially a bragging point.

    Yes, I am related to that soldier from that famous Canadian battle.

    I knew on a basic level that we remembered these wars because they were terrible, but I was focused on the glory that I had heard mentioned many times by adults. It made me happy to be connected to this brave man who had fought for important ideas, even if at the time I had absolutely no sense of what they were, or why they were of value.

    As I grew up, my thoughts strayed from this familial and personal connection and I started to see the First World War as being an obscure, distant age. If the relation was brought up, I would distance myself.

    Yes, I guess I am related to that soldier from that battle all those years ago.

    I concluded that the war had no direct connection to my daily modern life. I saw the struggles and the deaths as barbaric, especially after doing a project on the health and living conditions at Vimy Ridge in Junior High. The pictures I saw of the men appalled me, and I lost any aspect of pride I had once had. In the image of the man I had once seen as mature I now saw youth in the fullness of his face and what I deemed naivety in his eyes.

    However, as with Kara’s view of the memorial, I now see how these two aspects of battle are intrinsically connected, and how both hold truth. A war can never be magnificent for the simple fact of extensive loss, both of lives and of innocence. The death on both sides, of soldiers or civilians, family or friends, caused a pain insurmountable no matter how many memorials have been built or how much we remember. And yet, the Allies and therefore Canada were fighting for a just cause. They fought for our ideals, and trite as the saying may be, to give us the lives we have today. Klara sees “the sky above, and the depths of the chalky earth below” as integral to both what the memorial seeks to remember and what it strives for. This is the connection of the brutality of war and the of hope that at the end of the path will be a better future. This combination of opposing ideas, of the “tangled” past and the “reaching” future make up the essence of Vimy Ridge to me. My great grandfather fought, and he lost close friends. And yet, he was able to start a family in the country he had fought and won for. The”roots” of past horrors “feed(…)” a brighter future and give us hope. I no longer avoid my connection to the battle, but can also see my great grandfather as a person who experienced loss as well as achievement. He was a man who refused to talk about the war, let alone any glory, but who returned victorious.

    Why, I’m glad you asked.

    Yes, I am related to that man who fought at Vimy Ridge.

    His name was Jack.

  9. “For a moment she thought about how inconsequential fire appeared to be in the full brunt of sunlight. Barely visible in the glare that knifed toward her from the water, it illuminated nothing and threw no shadows. Love was like that, she told herself, just like that, when you look at it in the ordinary light of the day.” Pg. 151

    Love is an incredibly complicated wonder that language cannot fully capture. So when one comes across a piece to the puzzle of love we must stop and cherish the beauty upon us.
    Urquhart is truly a wizard with words, the way she brings to light the beauties in which the average person can only feel. I am fascinated by her accuracy towards the delicate nature of love.

    Those who are cradled in the warmth of romance believe that the blaze of their love burns hotter than the sun. In love we feel infinite, we feel as if loves eternal glory will burn longer than one can even imagine.
    But what if this immense feeling is all an illusion?
    What if we view love from another angle and see beyond the smoke and mirrors?
    When we separate ourselves from this glow we begin to see how insignificant love is to the rest of the world. We receive neither the joy of love… nor the heartbreak. Those outside the field of love see no great truth illuminated nor do they see any physical trace.
    Perhaps the beauty of love comes directly from this illusion. Perhaps this is precisely where the magic comes from. Magic created by a secret shared only between two people which may blossom solely for those who allow themselves to drift into the illusion.
    For a magic trick to be enjoyed, you must ignore all doubt and reality and immerse yourself into the dreamlike act. Once you begin to question the illusion, the magic is lost and the joy you were feeling is simply crushed by the weight of reality. However, if you ignore what your brain is telling you and let your heart lead you, the trick becomes so much more. The trick becomes a pathway to purity unscathed by logic and reason. The intent of the illusion is not to make you a fool, but to allow yourself to escape reality for just a moment and to be untouched by the doubt of skeptics, to be in a place of wonder shared between all those who allow themselves to drift blissfully under the charm. We cannot fully explain how exactly the illusion makes us feel or why. But together, after we have fallen under the spell, we may rejoice in this shared indescribable beauty.

    Love is like that, I think to myself, just like that.

  10. “What she had never admitted, not to the grey-haired man, not to herself, not to anyone, was that there had never been a waltz, there had never been a declaration, that all the pain and delight she later thought of as dancing was made known to her simply by the expression on the young man’s open face.” (p.118)

    In our world, the “real” world, you are buffeted by advertisements and people telling what you should like, who you should like, what you should wear and how you should feel.

    Ha! Feelings. Those dark and twisted thoughts burrowing deep into your soul, like a sweet poison flowing to your veins and to your heart until, thump, your heart stops. Then the poison dissipates, and all you’re left with is emptiness, and pain. Until the next feeling comes along and the process starts over again. A paranoid wife leaves her husband after he came home late one day, because she had thought he was cheating on her, though in truth he had been out getting her anniversary gift. in the end we are not the masters of our emotions, they are the masters of us.

    The darkness and shadow of feeling can also be something of beauty. A white bat in the darkness of the dawn hours, but exposed because of the unique deformity will not last long, but it is splendid to behold while it is around. Some days it truly baffles and amazes me how easily feelings can be brought up with a single word. Finding the right word is the key.

    It is not often that I feel anymore than the dullest of emotions. Mostly I am content to let the world spin into endless chaos with a smug, twisted sort of satisfaction. But last night… last night some one told me something that no one had ever said to me before.

    You are a good friend.

    I have never considered myself to be anyone’s “good” friend. Just a friend. Like ice cream with pie I never thought myself important to any group. If I was gone tomorrow people would miss me, they would cry sure, but their daily routines would go on as they did before, and I would soon be lost to the mists of time.

    I do not share feelings often because no one bothers to ask. And because no one asks I feel no need to tell.The dark torrent of emotionless emotion fills me to the depths of my soul.

    But shadows are only dark when there is a light to cast them.

    And you thought I was just another pretty face.

  11. “This one simple touch freed the storm of speech that had been building in her mind for weeks, setting in motion a savage interrogation” (pg 42)

    In my opinion, everyone has moments like this. A stressful or uncomfortable situation builds up until we experience extreme catharsis, letting our emotions get the best of us. Already this year I have freaked out on more than one occasion about my plans for next year. Friends and family all asking “What are your plans?” “Have you applied” and my personal favourite “Will that actually get you a job?” Talk about a “savage interrogation.” But honestly, like Klara, when we are pushed and pushed and pushed on an issue, eventually something deep inside of us breaks. In her case, the lack of communication from Eamon caused her to snap and demand what he wanted from her. I feel like part of Klara’s hysteria in that moment stems from the fact that she isn’t sure what she wants from Eamon either, if anything. When we feel confused about our emotions, this can cause us to lash out at those around us, often those who mean the most to us.

  12. “What lay before him was a view of his first deep Canadian valley, one with signs of settlement near a shining stream, and he fell in love at once. He had to admit, however, even in the midst of his sudden infatuation, that place was a cluttered mess, all vegetation having been recently torn up or chopped down, leaving behind acres of mud littered with uprooted and rotting tree stumps.” pg 14

    To find beauty in destruction is an awfully strange thing. How can something (or someone) be seen as beautiful when all of their roots, beliefs, and strengths, have been torn up, ripped out, and discarded from their being? Why is it always the “tortured soul” that we all fall in love with? Why do we find beauty in destruction?

    Maybe it has something to do with the fact that as humans, we constantly feel the need to “fix” everything. We try to fix every little thing around us, even if it isn’t broken. Why’s that?

    Maybe it is our need to feel gratified and praised by others for doing something viewed as great or rewardable. We want to plant new trees, build up new crops, and smooth down the torn up land. Fixing things around us will take the attention away from the fact that we, ourselves, have been chopped down and uprooted, that all of us are destructed in one way or another..We feel that if we create beauty in someone or something else, hopefully someone will come around and plant trees in our chests and make us blossom, because we cannot find the strength to deem ourselves beautiful when all we see is the tattered grounds.

    On the contrary, maybe you have already been fixed (or needed little to fix at all) and found beauty in yourself. Maybe you are the person that sees the beauty within the destruction of others rather than in yourself. Maybe you are like Father Gstir, finding excitement and beauty in your new valleys.

    Also, its important to note that even if you have the ability to find the beauty in the mess, it is still important to recognize that it is a bloody mess, and there is no doubt about that. But that’s okay! It is alright to admit that you are a terrible mess, but you are still beautiful. You should fall in love with the mess. Fall in love with how there is still a surviving, shining, stream flowing through you; there are settlements of all those you have met growing in your heart. And some of those settlements are full of screaming and crying but they still make up the community of your memories. The memories that feel you alive. The memories that keep you flowing.

    So go on! Be like Gstir and fall in love with the valleys, even if they are a terrible mess, because you can make something beautiful grow.

  13. “As [Gstir] ran, the normal passage of time either collapsed or expanded (he was never able to accurately determine which) so that the surprisingly delightful aspects of the terrain through which he passed impressed themselves on his memory, as if he had been looking at them for a long, long time… …When he burst into the muddy and now quite startled domain of the millers who had set up near the little river, he was gasping with joy. ‘You live here in this beautiful valley, this shoneval… …God be praised!'”

    As I drove home this evening (although the darkness had already deepened enough to be considered night) I got a text.

    Look up at the moon! It’s beautiful.

    I was already a ways out of town, so I pulled off onto a side road and opened my sunroof. Perched on the roof with my feet dangling near the dash I twisted and turned, eagerly pursuing the sky. To my disappointment the moon was nowhere in sight, obscured by some tall trees on the horizon. I slumped down, preparing to slide back into the car and drive off, but I paused.

    Perhaps I had better look again, just to be sure.

    The moon was indeed nowhere in sight, but what I did see eclipsed the moon from my mind. Hundreds of thousands of stars, sparkling billions of miles away, seemed to be shining just for me. I sat there, unable to even consider moving, captured so completely by this wondrous beauty I had overlooked just seconds ago. I let the sublime music flow across my skin, the smooth bass lines from the stereo I’d left on shivered up and down my spine.

    I felt a force, the hand of God perhaps, tearing at the seams of the world, and all at once the sky opened up into more than just stars. It became all of the beautiful things I passed by everyday that went unnoticed or ignored. The smile of a student, a teacher, a coworker, a friend, the kind word of a stranger. The warmth of the sun, the marvel of engineering I was using as a seat.

    “Perhaps I had better look again, just to be sure.”

    Take a moment. Let go. Look around. Consume and be consumed by the beauty you pass by each day.

    There is beauty in every stroke the brush makes. Go find it.

  14. “she knew this was nonsense, of course, that there was nothing at all one can do something one can’t forget. the more it is pushed away, the more it stays stubbornly planted in rich soil of a life’s narrative.dormant, perhaps, but ready with the smallest provocation to burst into full flower.” page 32

    everyone has a closet full of skeletons some scarier then others, sometimes you try hiding it so hard because your embarrassed or even afraid of what others may think but its always in the same place in the open. some people try their whole life’s hiding the mistakes they’ve made but like the quote says “the more it stays stubbornly” so they waste they’re days only making it worse for themselves. even if you just dismiss this something one can’t forget it will plume into that full flower, a flower that no matter what people will go and inspect, to see if there little seed will became it or worse. when this flower is full you can’t undo its growth because its roots are to deep and pulling it out would mean ripping out your heart.

    So at the end you will always be laid in a bed of roses.

  15. “Always remember the bones” Joseph Becker would say to his granddaughter after relating this story. “They last the longest and explain the life history of people, monuments, sculpture. Without them everything else fall apart.” pg 54

    We don’t realize how precious life is until we met our end, the fragile bones we thought would support us throughout life breaks, then we fall; we fall through an dark abyss, an dark abyss we thought wasn’t that deep, to remember ‘always remember the bones.’ The small things that support our everyday life, the objects that make your life possible then all of a sudden one breaks and you lose support to that one area, then if it isn’t repaired or supported everything else starts to fall, we lose all we worked for, we lose all we had, then we fall into that dark abyss thinking we will never get out.
    In the end if we chose not to get yourselves out of the mess we first ended up in, we stay in the dark.

    So don’t let that happen to you, drink milk!

  16. “Suddenly I understand why God spoke to me in my mind, why I have been sent here.”

    This quote can relate to many people. It presents the idea that one may not understand why they are put into situations where they do not feel comfortable or necessarily agree with, but one may see the the good in it and enjoy the opportunity. For example, Father Gstir was sent to Canada although he was particularly delighted about this he did not have much choice and saw it through. Once getting there, he realized how wonderful this opportunity was for him. He saw that the village he was in did not have anyone to lead them to God and that this was his calling. Like Father Gstir, each person on Earth, is called to do something with their lives. Sometimes these callings don’t come with a lit up arrow, pointing to the right path. It takes faith in our beliefs, and the perseverance to see through every opportunity ,good or bad, in order to to be successful.

  17. This is Tillman’s father trying to reason with him:
    “”You see,” he said to the boy, “we are all tied to a place.’ he coughed into his hand. “We’re stuck to it. What if I were just to up and leave? What if I were just to wander off? Then who would keep the fields?”
    “There’s fields everywhere,” said Tillman quietly.
    “And everywhere,” said his father, “there’s a man keeping them.””

    Responsibility, being held accountable for your actions… In our western society people often fail to do this, we find excuses, blame others, even lie to cover up our mistakes. We go through life believing that we can get away with anything, and society enables us. In this particular part of the book Tillman’s father is trying to get him to understand that what he does with his life affects more than just him, his actions ripple out influencing his friends and family. Today people are allowed to lie, cheat and steal their way to the top, without being punished, quite the contrary in fact they are often rewarded with wealth and power.

    Tillman reminds me, of me, going through life on a whim, a wanderlust if you will. Thinking only of yourself, not in a selfish or self absorbed way, but rather an ignorant unconcerned way, subconsciously letting your actions affect others and not thinking twice about the consequences. Over the course of my life I have developed into a pathological liar, as a way to build my self up and stay out of trouble I became able to weasel my way out of, undesirable situations. The terrible part was that I either didn’t care or didn’t realize just who my lies were affecting, and just like the Tillman my actions affected those around me, relationships are hard enough as it is in this crazy world, but fill them up with lies and there is no way for them to survive. Trust is wiped completely out of the picture, how were they supposed to hold me accountable for my responsibilities as a boyfriend if i couldn’t even hold myself accountable for stealing the last piece of pie out of the fridge. A relationship requires that both parties trust each other, and take full responsibility for their mistakes. That is what responsibility is looking after the greater good, being more concerned about the consequences and taking every possible option into consideration before making a decision.

    When life takes you on a crazy roller coaster, and it will, having a strong family and tether to keep yourself grounded is welcomed feeling. With the modern capitalist world giving us the impression that only the fittest survive it is easy to be discouraged, or tempted to join. But speaking from experience truth is always the better path, holding yourself accountable for everything you do, you can see your improvement, and are even more excited after victories… Perhaps I’ve just wasted about seventy seconds of your time, and if so i apologize, but if i can leave you with anything i will leave you with this, think about your tether, about your victories and shortcomings embrace them don’t hide them and work with them because when the world pushes you, be sure that you can push back…

  18. “The past need do no more than shrug its shoulders or lift its eyebrows for us to cease to exist.” Pg. 8
    I love this quote. It says so much in so little. As a race, humans experience life every day. We live, breathe, think. But we never stop to consider what a miracle life truly is.
    Our generation is more connected than any previously. Social media, television, cell phones, these are all resources that allow us to be connected every day, all the time. But these are not the only ways we are connected.
    Our grandparents, parents, peers, they are all connected. One person misses a bus and that affects, not only their future, but every generation after them. If that person had been 2 minutes earlier, and caught the bus, they may never have met their future spouse, had their children, entire relationships and ultimately lives would never even begin.
    That is what this quote is saying. I believe that we are interconnected in the form of technology, but also history. Everyone and everything in our past, present and future connects us. We may not be able to see those connections directly, and we may not be able to see our effect on the future right away, or ever, but it is there.
    Be it a missed bus, or a cup of coffee that you bought for someone, everything has an effect. Every little detail of our past, our parents, grandparents, and so forth, has an effect. We would not exist, at least not in the way we do now, if it weren’t for those little details. That day you were running late, the day you allowed yourself to sleep in, or you got up early. If any of those things happened differently, you would not be who you are today.
    That is quite a terrifying, but amazing thought. That the person you are right this second, although you feel the same as you did 5, 10, 15 minutes ago, is completely different than you were in the past. You, your friends, family, everyone around you, ever changing; forever a sequence of cause and effect.
    And to think that if one detail of your history happened differently, that you wouldn’t exist. That you would never be born if your mother and father hadn’t met, if they hadn’t been in the same place at the same time, if they hadn’t crossed paths. It’s terrifying and wonderful and amazing. You are a miracle. Every single one of us is a miracle. We were all a result of the past and a cause of the future.

  19. “…[t]he world somehow always takes us back to the chisel.”

    Joseph Becker on carving, not just statues in the metaphoric state as well. When have you never felt the change -yourself taking the chisel to your body to perfect yourself in the best way possible -of you becoming something different?

    I understand Joseph in this quote for this explains we are always changing, picking up the chisel and correcting a mistake. We mature every second we lose ignorance each minute we learn something. We are not the same person we were five minutes ago let alone a year ago. We gain time and we are forever chisel away at ourselves until we are ready to step back going,

    “look at this, this right here is me.” That won’t happen till we have reached the old age and have the experience of the elders. Father Gstir, I do not believe killed himself but more or less let himself go because he perfected the best thing he could of himself. He got his bell, his job was complete.

    We all reach that point, and until then we will always change. If I were to go back in time and tell myself I’d be who I am today I’d lock myself away for being crazy. We don’t ever remain the same, unlike many people who think like Javert we do change. The proof is all around us.

    We chisel away destroying the unwanted all the time, only to create something new in it’s place. We become prettier statues in the long process of life.

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