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    London, day one. The air was different when I stepped out of the airport and finally took in the atmosphere of another country. I had just traveled thousands of miles but the journey had only just begun. 8 texts, lots of excursions, miles of walking, dozens of tube rides, and an incredible amount of learning lay ahead of me. In that first day I realized that this trip could be anything that I wanted to make it. I decided that I would take advantage of every opportunity, engage with every text, and try my best to soak in the culture, atmosphere, and ideology of England.
    I left New York with a few personal goals too. I wanted to be able to write every night to reflect on the events of the day. I wanted to take note of my feelings and any changes that I felt myself going through during the trip. I wanted to record what music would play through my head as I walked, or what song would lift my spirit in a coffee shop. Basically, I wanted to remember everything!
    Song of day: London Calling – The Clash 

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    The first text covered on that sleepy monday morning after a weekend of soaking in London was The Emperor’s Babe. This book made me so grateful to be in this century. Old Roman warriors and rulers of state, slaves, class order, oppression of women, power for the few elite men. Actually….it still sounds uncannily similar to the world today! Zuleika is the protagonist, and like me, has a journey that we are lucky enough to be witness to as we read her story. She is a girl (girl is a key word here) who has no idea what she is getting into when her family sells her off like a cow. She is sent off to an old man, an important man who shows his status by his girth. We all know the story, so I will tell you my story of engaging with not only this novel but with Zuleika herself.
    Zuleika challenged me to analyze my own life and the society I live in. So often, we look back into the past and see murky waters, bad decisions, and we often disengage from it because it is not current experience. But, if I’ve learned anything from history and stories of the past it is that the only veil between us and the mistake of past is linear time. But, time isn’t always linear and the spaces of 211 A.D. are far closer to us than one may think.  Albert Einstein once said, “The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.” This means that the only reason Zuleika isn’t here, in the present, is because lives have to be spaced out, timed out. But, she could very easily have been your, or my, next door neighbor.
    In the book Zuleika says, “Like scales, she had to rise / so that I would sink. / The result? To weigh me down / or perhaps balance?” This small passage of reflection had an immense impact on me. I didn’t know how to digest it; I wanted to relate it to my own life. Are relationships, with friends, lovers, parents, family, all on a scale? When we are tipped up and have the higher ground, do our close ones get dragged down?
    When we went to the Museum of London we saw the juxtaposition of the old world and the new. That tied together perfectly with the reading because even the language of the book was very modern and accessible. The Museum of London also made me wonder whether or not or protagonist would’ve been a suffragette is she had been in 1900’s London. In one passage of the book Zuleika is witnessing a brutal and common event, as popular as todays football games… The lines read, “The amphitheatre was a brazier. / it was too hot to look up at the sky, / the delirious crowds made me dizzy. / I wanted the band to play, / something loud, something heavy metal, / but they were quietly watching / as each woman was pushed into a cage. / I tried to put my eyes out of focus, / to witness and yet not, / as what had been human became chunks”. This witness of the brutal, disgusting mutilation and death of women makes me wonder is her pity for them and for herself as a women would’ve translated into action had she been in another century.

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    Song of the day: I Want To Break Free – Queen 

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    Another day, another novel! Falling Angels and the suffragette display at the Museum of London made a big impact on me. Being so attached to character that are so developed and complex on the page and then to imagine them as I walked through the exhibit was a fantastic and heart wrenching experience. I began to learn more about women’s rights outside of the facts and figures. I engaged with the movement in a deeper way than I ever had before. “I have spent my life waiting for something to happen,’ she said. ‘And I have come to understand that nothing will. Or it already has, and I blinked during that moment and it’s gone. I don’t know which is worse — to have missed it or to know there is nothing to miss.’ Kitty made me look at myself, in London, in a different way. I think Kitty made her life into something that had ‘things happen’. For better or worse, she had a lively existence throughout the novel because of the choices she made.

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    Walking through London made all the texts come alive. I was able to see the layers of space, the sharing of space over time, and the interconnected nature of the human existence. I could look up into the London skies, see the stars, and myself if I engaged with them like Maude’s father taught her; cold, scientific, calculated. Or, do I walk through London with heart instead of head? Neil Gaiman always has something that sums up my emotions,“I can pretend that lives last longer than moments. Gods come, and gods go. Mortals flicker and flash and fade. Worlds don’t last; and stars and galaxies are transient, fleeting things that twinkle like fireflies and vanish into cold and dust. But I can pretend…” I enjoyed pretending that Kitty and Maude existed as I walked through the exhibit and even the London streets. Because, even if they didn’t exist, their stories have impacted many people.
   Song of the day: 99 Red Balloons – Nena
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    Feminine Gospels! First off, I love the title. It made me want to raise my voice and sing! This collection of poems was another that engaged with the history of women of the past and transported them to our present audience. (I’m seeing a theme here!)
    This text made me think about how women construct spaces, public and private, within their lives. I wondered about how women in London, as opposed to in the suburbs, engage with the world around them and how they change spaces in order to make movement within London easier.
    Once I had these thoughts I took note of how the women around me, myself included, changed behavior and appearance once we stepped out into the streets of London and also how that changed depending on the time of day. I began to notice that I would always move aside on the sidewalk when anyone approached the other way. At night I would make sure to reapply makeup, maybe even change clothing. I noticed that the women around me all did the same thing. I always felt more ‘on my guard’ at night and I felt more freedom to not be on alert in the mornings. All these things are common place but it wasn’t until reading this text that I began to analyze why these things are ‘normal’. If we lived in a matriarch society would roles be reversed? Would the circumstances that appear because of gender be equal? Would women feel comfortable walking down the street late at night, alone, if society were different?
    I don’t really have answers for any of these questions. But this course made me start thinking critically about, not only the questions, but why I have to ask the questions in the first place.
Song of the day: Sæglópur – Sigur Rós
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    The Mara Crossing was easily my number one favorite book from this course! Padel managed to cram a million facts about everything from whales to family relationships in under 300 pages! Oh, and she also included beautiful poetry to add the appreciation of the unbelievable facts in this book. I clearly was impressed by the book itself but I also found a new appreciation and understanding of just how connected we all are. “We compare ourselves with nature and see ourselves reflected in it.” Padel understands the spider web that humans, animals, plants, air, gravity, and the entire universe share.
    I recently watched a documentary called, I am. When I watched it I realized how closely related it was to Padel’s book. It asked the questions, “What is wrong with the world.” And it proves that the answer that each individual should have is, “I am.”
    This book, along with the trip to the Natural History Museum allowed me to engage with the world in a more connected way. I remember a moment when I was waiting to walk down the street between the Natural History Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum. I saw people, old, young, one with a dog, one with bags, a lot with cameras. I also saw pigeons fighting over someones chips and I could see a worm trying to make its way off the sidewalk to a less hostile space. In that moment I felt a string that twist and wound itself around everything around me, even the trees and the grass, pulling us all together. Padel’s book and seeing all the history inside the walls of the museum made me feel closer to the critters swaying in the current that surrounds the Great Barrier Reef. It made me think about the monarch butterfly’s journey and the swallows and the animals of Africa. It, like all the other books, continued to add layers layers to my understanding of the world I live in and the spaces I inhabit. The shift in my understanding of the world is captured in a short excerpt from Padel’s book, “It moves you into a disoriented world which doesn’t add up in the way you are used to. You have to start putting things together in a new way.”
    Here is a link to NASA’s migration site!
    Song of the day: Fly Me To The Moon – Frank Sinatra

    Going to the the Museum of the Docklands and seeing the area of the Docklands helped me to understand the significant role that its plays in the novel. I had trouble relating to Matthew, the main character, in a personal way but I think I used the book as an insight into how London works behind the scenes. Matthew allows the reader to see the city of London as its own living and breathing entity.
    His daughter made me ask questions about space as well. She wants to know where her father is when he is not with her. She made me ponder what existence means in relation to the people around us. London is a city because of the people that inhabit it. Every moment that time progresses, London changes and moves with the people.
Walking through the museum was really interesting in its progression through time. We start where the docks started and as we walk through we get to see the change in the area and the development of capitalism. By the time I reached the exhibit that captured the protagonists world, I felt like I had enough history of the space to actually understand the importance of an architect walking through the city. He sees all these spaces up next to each other and has to try to picture a mark of his own. Walking through London streets made me realize that it is a city that has mastered a delicate balance of old and new. Matthew has to create with this doctrine is his mind. I think I can use these concepts to help me when I construct my own space. Respect for the old and for tradition, but the need for progression and change. Here is a link to a site that breaks down all the different types of architecture in London. It was really cool to browse this site after walking through London myself.
Song of the day: We build this City – Starship

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    Studying Patience Agbabi was a really incredible experience. I think that whenever people read a book they feel removed from the author. You connect with the story being told but you don’t think about the author during the process. Authors are typically stagnant to their readers; Agbabi is a tidal wave that keeps crashing while you read her words. She isn’t stagnant because her poetry is live, raw, and moving. She is constantly performing and has an active presence on the internet through her blog Telling Tales.
    I have always been really moved by performance poets, I find that they engage with the current world in a very effective way. Covering her collection, Bloodshot Monochrome in class was very insightful. In Problem Pages she taps into the canon of literature and engages with the authors. Researching the great authors that she was referring to taught me a lot about why its effective to reach into the past to help with present questions.
    Probably the most rewarding thing about the experience of covering Agbabi in class was when everyone took turns performing her poetry. Performing poetry is such a raw way of showing people who you are and I felt more connected to my fellow classmates after that experience.
Song of the day: Crayola – Esperanza Spalding
    The definition of formerly is ‘at an earlier time’. Yoseloff’s collection of poetry captures former and present London. Meeting Yoseloff was definitely the icing on the cake in the study of this collection. Reading it back at home in New York was interesting but I wasn’t able to connect with it beyond the surface because I didn’t know much about London. Once I saw the city for myself, and even accidentally ran into one of the places that was captured in the book, I was able to truly appreciate Yoseloff’s and MacDonald’s vision.
    These poems and the photography taught me how to engage with a city on a different level. I learned that the city is ever moving, never stagnant. And walking through London I could see why a poet and a photographer could fin inspiration from something as simple as an old storefront. I started to notice the little, hidden spaces that don’t seem important at first glance. The images in this collection are nothing like St. Paul’s or the Tower of London, they are just dirty, dusty, broken down places. But those places are just as filled with stories as the grand places of London. Maybe even more so because the stories are untouched, they are hidden under the weather worn buildings and the fallen down signs. I think I have come to realize that those hidden places can be even more filled with meaning because the memories are protected. Very few people probably found meaning in the old sign that read ‘duk of on’ at the side an awkwardly shaped building. But, Yoseloff and MacDonald did, and they passed on their inspiration to us.

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Song of the day: maps – Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Going to The Royal Observatory after reading There But For The was really helpful for my own understanding on the novel. I am still grabbling with the themes of the book but being in the area that it was set was useful.

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    “The fact is, a mystery clock is an old-fashioned sort of clock that seems to go by itself on its own without seemingly needing any winding or ever being looked after by anyone.” In the Royal Observatory I got to see dozens of ‘old-fashioned’ clocks. These clocks made me think of time and especially about the time and perspectives of the novel. In the book we meet Miles through the eyes of others. We see him through their own biased lens and many of their reflections on him occurred in the same moment in time. The spaces the characters occupied were the same, the time the engaged with each other were the same. But, the readers time and space is completely different. The clocks in those rooms made me question our perception of the passing of time, especially time within a novel or even a movie. Here is a link to an interesting article that covers a lot of different ideas about individuals perceptions of time.
    Another concept that this book made me think about was what a mind remembers and what it forgets. Brooke brought this up part way through the novel, “Yes, but you can’t tell me what I’ll remember and what I’ll forget, the child says. / That’s true, Bernice says. But. The whole point is, we can forget. It’s important that we forget some things. Otherwise we’d go round the world carrying a hodload of stuff we just don’t need.”
    While I was wondering through Greenwich I was pondering what I would remember about this trip. Would I remember the moment that stood at the prime meridian? And when I say, “remember the moment,” I don’t mean the literal image of me standing there at the longitude center of the world. I mean, will I remember what was running through my mind in that moment? I hope I remember a lot of things from my trip in London, not just the sights but the smells, tastes, and the feeling of the London air in my lungs.    
Song of the day: Catch the Sun – Jamie Cullum
    The city of London is the pulse of England. It brings pride to a nation and being their, in the city streets, was life changing. Being able to sit in Russell Square, reading novels set in the very same city, walking where Virginia Woolf walked, was so fantastically overwhelming. I learned a lot from just being in a new place. I had to force myself to learn my way around, to find my own comfort within a new city. London is a city that forces engagement with others, it was impossible for me to walk down the street without having an interaction with someone. This trip and these texts have contributed so my to my knowledge of the world. I’ve learned that critical thinking and active engagement are key to live a full life.

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Virginia Woolf captures the busy, bustling, chaotic, and beautiful streets of London. “In people’s eyes, in the swing, tramp, and trudge; in the bellow and the uproar; the carriages, motor cars, omnibuses, vans, sandwich men shuffling and swinging; brass bands; barrel organs; in the triumph and the jingle and the strange high singing of some aeroplane overhead was what she loved; life; London; this moment in June.”
Song of the day: Hopeless Wanderer – Mumford and Son’s

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Natural History Museum

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The Natural History Museum embodies englishness in a transnational, worldwide way. It is home to everything from Dinosaurs, ancient trees, and prehistoric rocks, to newly discovered tree frogs and butterflies. This space preserves a history of nature and opens its doors to educate individuals about the vastness of our planet.
The building itself is an incredible example of iconic spaces in London. Its architecture is ornate and intricate. A massive vaulted ceiling greets you as you walk in and a person realizes that even the presentation of history is important. Britain takes great pride in its presentation of nature. It is an interesting idea, to preserve nature within the walls of a building. Each hallway of the museum is a different time period or theme, all neatly organized and categorized.
Walking through the exhibits in this museum was interesting but chaotic, there were children running, parents arguing, people bustling around from one place to another. Places like these give me mixed feelings. On one hand I love the exhibits and all the knowledge that can be gained by reading the plaques and taking in the imagery of the place. It is like walking through a history book! On the other hand, it is impossible to have a quiet moment to reflect and soak in the immense amount information that is presented in a place like this.
The Natural History Museum also has a interactive and vast website which I found useful after leaving. I needed more time to digest everything that was lining those halls! The website helped, the Dino directory especially was cool since it was the most fun exhibit.
The question I asked myself while I was walking through the museum was how it reflected on Englishness. The purpose of the museum is to preserve nature from all over the world. This can be found outside of the museum though. Churches with their ornate and old architecture preserve, in their stone, the culture that they were built in. The museum preserves englishness within its walls. There may be apes from Africa and whales from the ocean but they are on english soil and have become in a way english themselves.

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Here are links to some of the major natural history museums in America. Compare and contrast! Are they free? Open for many hours? How accessible are their websites?
Los Angeles Natural History Museum
New York
DC

-Kp

Longitude 0° 0′ 0”

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The Prime Meridian is an imaginary that splits out planet in half starting at the north pole and making its way down through the south pole. Like slicing an apple or an orange, it creates two equal halves. This line happens to run through a spot at the top of a hill in Greenwich. The Royal Observatory, at the top of a peak, perfect for viewing stars and discovering new ideas of time and space, and is the center for measuring every other place on earth!
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Imagine being the source for measurement of all other places. This reflects greatly on the British Empire and the fact that they are the center of the world… Look at any map that is folded out for a full 2d view. Great Britain is the center, not Asia or America or the Middle East.

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When I walked up that hill to the Royal Observatory (please note the term ‘royal’ because I’ll return to it later) I was taken aback by the beauty of the view. I could see the skyline of the city of London, the park below, the blue sky littered with clouds and a cool breeze that floated past. I was excited and eager to explore what was hidden behind the gates!
When I finally got inside I was surrounded by clocks and fancy paintings of men showing off their clothes and legs. I felt surrounded by displays of knowledge, wealth, privilege and was reconfirmed in my suspicions of Britain being ‘the center of the universe’. I wanted so badly to appreciate and take in my surrounding but I was stopped by the crowds of people wandering around and taking pictures to have proof of being at…
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What does it mean to stand on that line, to have each foot on a different sides of the world? I began to think about it in a figurative way and discovered that I didn’t find any special significance in the idea of it. I think it is essential so we can label the measurements of other places in relation to something. Put one foot on a path and the other on the grass, that is a split that means something. Overcoming boundaries mean something but the splitting of the earth in a particular spot (especially straight through Britain) in 1675 has great scientific benefits but also is a display of power, masculinity and rule.
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‘Royal’ Observatory. Royalty throughout the history of England has been revered as God’s chosen. Look at the Church of England. Henry the VIII was a confused and sexually frustrated man who wasn’t allowed to divorce his wife because of the church rule. But, as God’s chosen ruler of England, he had the power to make his own church and force his people to adhere to his rules, not only in state but in church. If this isn’t an example of masculinity, power, and patriarchy (all in the name of God), I’m not sure what is.
With this in mind, I ask the reader to ponder, what it means to label something ‘royal’ and what that means for the observatory. I am not denying the fact that the observatory was the key to many advancements in science. Instead, I am asking everyone to think about why an imaginary line running through Greenwich, England is so important. And, where do you stand in relation to Longitude 0° 0′ 0”?

-Kp

Victorian Haunting

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Walking into the West Cemetery at Highgate was an incredible experience. I felt as though I was walking into another century. In a way, that is accurate. Highgate, build in 1839, was the stylish and popular burial place of Victorian England and walking down the winding path transports you to another time.
After touring Highgate, I started researching the burial practices of Victorian England and the superstitions and fears that prompted the need for expensive and intricate tombs. I discovered many interesting facts that allowed me to understand the depth and history of that cemetery.
When a death occurred, any clocks in the room would be stopped to ward off bad luck. The body would be watched every minute for 3 days in case the person was just sleeping (thus the term wake). When the time finally came to carry the body outside of the home, photographs of the family were typically turned over. This was so that no one could be possessed by the spirit of the deceased as they left the house. The body would be carried out feet first, also so that there would be no chance of the dead to convince anyone in the house to follow them.

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The fears surrounding these practices were so interesting to me. Why did they fear death so much? Its a natural step that each and every person takes and yet there is an all encompassing fear surrounding it. The fear of haunting was everywhere. Walking through Highgate was like stepping into a real life ghost story, it gave me goosebumps.
But even though it has a presence of haunting and mystery, Highgate is splendid and beautiful place. When you walk through, you are surrounded by brilliant craftsmanship, all to commemorate the death of loved ones. It is a humbling experience to stroll down those paths and look at the layers upon layers of graves and memorials. All these tombstones have been left to the changing of seasons and the age of years. Surrounded by vines, grasses, and moss the angels still have their somber, watchful gaze and the urns are still draped with regal remembrance.
The readings of this course, especially Urn Burial, and Falling Angels added so much depth to the experience. I remember looking up at one of those angels and pondering how I would’ve felt if that was my own family members grave. The people of the Victorian Era may have feared death and being buried alive but they also respected the need for remembering the dead and doing everything in their power to make their spot in the cemetery perfect. Once I thought about it, I realized that a cemetery plot is like a home for a family after passing. It shows status, wealth, comfort, and allows the family to send a final message to viewers to see for ages to come. It is the last place where people can be remembered after their homes have been sold, companies passed to others, wealth distributed, and job filled by others.

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Highgate is a place to remember the past, to respect the dead, and to transport yourself back in time. I was moved and inspired by the beauty and mystery that surround Highgate Cemetery, it still haunts my thoughts.

-Kp

Crossing paths

   “People or birds, migrating is all about home.The quest for it, changing it, making it.”
In Ruth Padel’s book she blends poetry and prose to tell a story. This story crosses oceans, flies through the air at great heights, swims through seas, follow the magnetic pulls of the earth, and leaves no animal behind.
What does it mean to have an origin or identity? This question can be applied to you and me but also to the creatures we share this planet with. Padel draws lines and webs that show the reader just how close we all are to each other and how these lines intersect with each others homes.

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Home is a place that we return to, a place that we create, a place that we yearn for. In JRR Tolkien’s epic tale, The Hobbit,  he tells the story of a company of dwarves, forced to evacuate their homeland at the cruel greedy hand of a dragon, return after an incredible journey. They laid their lives on the line just to return home. This is done in so many stories and it demonstrates the human, and animal instinct to not only create and be home but to protect it at all costs. Birds,  the animals of the great migrations in Africa, sea creatures, and humans make huge movements to find home. Maya Angelou wrote, “The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” Maybe all of us are pulled by the magnetic force that drives the birds, maybe we are following the sun so that we can never see it set. So we are never in the dark and never in doubt.
Transport yourself to London, walk in the gardens with me at and notice the flowers, are they native to this dirt or are they beauty brought from another land to share their brightness in the english soil? Maybe seeds migrated here, blown by the wind or carried by a bird making a similar journey. Or maybe they were picked up by an admiring human for the sole purpose of adding beauty to their yard.

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Migration takes many different forms but the outcome of almost all migrations is a change and a new start. Padel writes, “Migration means leaving things behind. It moves you into a disoriented world which doesn’t add up in the way you are used to. You have to start putting things together in a new order.” You have to create or find a space that has the qualities that are essential to life. Migration strips down wants and leaves you with needs. From their, it is up the to individual to create a home.
People and animals migrate for reasons. Sometimes it is a need for change spurred by a discontent in the heart. Sometimes it is from oppression; the destination is a new chance for freedom. Sometimes migration is yearly, bi-yearly, for food and water and comfort. No matter what, migration causes change and forces the meaning of home into question.

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We, as humans, share the oceans, the air, the dirt of the earth with our neighbors. These neighbors consist of bears, cattle, horses, whales, birds, giraffes, lions, snakes, worms, and much much more. This planet is meant for sharing. As Padel writes in her poem, Sharing Spaces, “The night before 9/11 a million Swainson’s thrushes must have flown over the towers. Their road songs have been recorded other years on just that date in the skies over Manhattan.” Powerful words for a world that sometimes needs to remember that we share a beautiful, green planet with others.
-Kp

There. But. For. The. Why.

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In or at that place! There is the house. There is that man, still hovering at the window. There is the world. There is a stranger in the house.
How much do we know about people really? People we met years ago, felt  a connection with, maybe spotted them some change for lunch or held the door open for them. We remember them, think of them sometimes even. Lives are bustling around us and dilemmas come and go and sometimes we are confronted by the question of life. Miles, or Milo (its sounds so much better that way) is a man who helps, answers question and cares for others, strangers even. His life is in pieces because we see it from different people, not from him. He has a fragmented life as he walks up the stairs to the room that will be his escape from life. Miles is there, he is a being who is there in front of us in a pixelated form. The rest of the novel has to work on putting the puzzle pieces of Miles together.
But
On the contrary! But, maybe it isn’t true. But, how does that work? But shouldn’t we choose the better path? But, how do we live a life with a man locked upstairs?
There are so many questions is life! Brooke is a perfect example of this; curious and thirsty for knowledge! When a child writes a story they tell the truth, it may be under the guise of imagination and fancy, but it is entirely and brutally honest. Brooke is Miles’s friend, she understands him better than anyone else. But, what can a child do under the shadow of a world that does not understand Miles.
For
With the object or purpose of.
What is the purpose of shutting yourself in a room in a strangers home? The narrative of this story is broken, there are gaps and spaces that can never be filled. For what purpose?! Miles is a man but is he masculine? Can he fill the role that society deems right for a man? He is giving and loving and caring and lost in time. He seems like a floating ghost of a man throughout the narrative, no one really knows or maybe just don’t care to know who or what he is.
The
Is used for this and that. The man is upstairs. The window is shut. What does the note say?
Miles is still upstairs, months have passed, time is no longer a concern. His presence is normal now, extraordinarily normal. The home is too perfect to break down the door. Popularity springs from a mans struggle with life. Silent protest doesn’t even get him anywhere. At least now, in this room, he is in control of something, even if its only within 4 walls.
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If I could add a chapter to this book, I would title it WHY… It is a brilliant book with compelling narrative but I want to get into Miles head and ask him why all this happened. But, (there is that word again) maybe it is up to the reader to determine why. Because, “the fact is,” life is presented in fragments. It is up to us to piece them together to find meaning.
-Kp

finding answers amidst the waves…

“Water is the driving force in nature.”
-Leonardo da Vinci

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Take a moment to think about water. It is an essential element of life and no one can live without it. Water can serve as a way to escape or discover new lands and, most often, it is a source from which civilizations are build.
Carol Ann Duffy’s poems in the Feminine Gospels are all tales of women surviving, living, struggling, protesting, overcoming, and sometimes succumbing to society and nature. In The Long Queen, “She sent her explorers away / in their creaking ships and was queen of more, of all the dead / when they lived if they did so female. All hail to the Queen.” The power of a woman is exude throughout these poems. Queen Elizabeth has the power and strength to send massive fleets of ships across oceans to conquer land in her name! But, even a queen, in all her glory, has to be a conquerer from the confines of her room.
For the Queen, water was both a boundary and a possibility. Water made it possible for her subjects to travel and bring back treasures but even a woman in rule had no power to step beyond her door.
In the poem, Beautiful, Duffy writes, “A thousand ships – on every on a thousand men, each heaving at an oar, each with her face before his stinging eyes, her name tattooed upon the muscle of his arm…” This paints a whole new picture of women and water. Men, thousands of men, bring there women in their minds, on there arms, in their hearts, across the sea. But where are the women really? Far from the sea, at home, safe. Duffy gives us something to think about here, why are women so prevalent in mens thoughts and yet thought of as inferior?

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Now, how do women themselves, use water to escape? Duffy writes a very interesting poem in the final pages of her collection; The Laughter of Stafford Girls’ High, gives us insight into how women escape and what that means for their livelihoods. Mrs. Mackay is a head teacher at an all girls school. This school is meant to educate proper young ladies and teach them etiquette for their futures. The girls are fed up with the way that society confines them so they laugh! They laugh and just keep laughing. This, as you can imagine, disrupts everything within the school. The teachers can’t teach and thus their meaning and purpose in life is put into question. Mrs. Mackay has taught at Stafford for years, she is a wife who gets no satisfaction from her marriage and the only thing she has control over is her teaching. When this is taken from her in the form of laughter she is forced to come up with a solution to her life crisis. How does she find meaning in life? How does she find her purpose or a passion for living? Mrs. Mackay finds walking to be her pleasure. She might be walking to find something, a destination, a purpose. Or, she may be walking to get away. To get away from a life that doesn’t provide her with anything worth hanging onto. In the end, she just keeps walking into the sea. Picture walking into the sea, not swimming, but letting your legs wade in till you can’t touch the bottom. Letting yourself be pulled in and taken away to a new world, a new start, a new existence. Mrs. Mackay uses water as her gateway into the unknown. But, maybe the unknown is more exciting than what she has known.

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-Kp