Summer Day, Winter Day, by Katie Bonanno

“The Summer Day” has long been one of my favorite Mary Oliver poems. Teeming simultaneously with wonder and simplicity, she penned, “Who made the world? / Who made the swan, and the black bear? / Who made the grasshopper? / This grasshopper, I mean – …”

Questions come to mind in a similar fashion as the sweet, surprisingly balmy rays of February sun warm my back, hunched slightly from scribbling into my notebook and trying to figure out if the kaleidoscope of swirls I see in the water are actually eddylines. Regardless, the creek babbles on by as I sit, perched on the far end of the bridge that spans White Clay Creek, about two miles from the intersection of Prospect and North College Avenues. I wonder: who made this bridge? Who made that concrete barrier nearby, and who made that mysterious fenced-in structure? Who made the house that sits atop the hill across the road?

These are questions, I think, that may not have surfaced had I not been sitting on this bridge, intently observing the woods around me. In many cases, it is much easier for us to discern the ways in which humans have destroyed humans. Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt begins with several snapshots of human loss in and around Pine Ridge, South Dakota: humans are destroyed in prison, where gangs battle for drugs, sex, alcohol, and, above all, power. Humans are destroyed throughout the “the rez,” where violence and substance abuse reign, and where many, if not most, lack healthcare and employment. And devastatingly, humans destroyed Native American culture, tradition, and religion, most bitterly through the nineteenth century. White settlers saw economic opportunity and potential for Power where Native American communities had been blossoming for centuries and centuries, so with a grand, sickening burst of gunpowder, these humans stripped their fellow man and woman of their land, heritage, and vitality. Reflecting on this oft-ignored period of history, my brow furrows involuntarily; such intentional cruelty has my mind running in circles around the word “why.”

And what about unintentional cruelty towards the earth? It takes a late morning, sitting on a bridge above White Clay Creek, drinking in the winter sunshine to take note of the subtle ways in which humans have destroyed wilderness: a bridge, a concrete barrier, a mysterious structure, a house. Even more so, the chemicals that flow in and out of industry straight into our bodies, the air we breathe, homes we live in, and water we drink – possibly the same water that flows beneath my feet today in White Clay Creek. The same, too, that pools in muddy basins, rising as the snow melts, at the feet of the trees that surround me.
Noise, like water, also surrounds me. Students run by, huffing and chatting. A patchwork of dry grasses, each tuft several feet tall, dances in the wind, strumming a soft symphony. Dry, winter trees creak in the wind, startling me. Sugary birdcalls and the harsh honk of geese add to this soup of sound.

My first instinct is that they’re flapping overhead, like in Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese.” But I look up and they’re not there. I look behind me, into the woods, and see one goose pecking into a muddy puddle. The closer I look, between the trees and behind tangled, dry grasses, the more geese I see. It’s amazing that I hadn’t noticed them when I assumed my position on the bridge, but I suppose my slip is a testament to their muddy brown feathers, how expertly they blend into the earth.

In “Wild Geese,” Oliver concluded: “Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, / the world offers itself to your imagination, / calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting – / over and over announcing your place / in the family of things.” Today, I see the destruction we’ve caused to the earth and to others; it’s easy to see. It’s even easier to adopt this pessimism as a focus. But like Oliver, I must be hopeful that we can again find ourselves “in the family of things.” On this afternoon in White Clay, for instance, I can choose to focus on human destruction and carelessness; or, I can focus on how even in the thick of winter, there is warmth. Even when the landscape appears bleached by winter’s severity, I see a pair of cardinals tucked into the brush, timid green leaves making an early entrance, and a tapestry of subtle reds and oranges in the tree trunks that stretch as far as the eye can see.

An Icy Path, a Fallen Tree, by Alina O’Donnell

I yanked the key out of the ignition and sat for a moment, reluctant to leave my heated car. It was one of those deceptive winter days that appears warm from indoors; the sky was cloudless and the sun shone resolutely, but the windchill was a vicious eight degrees. I left my phone on my seat, grabbed my journal, and stepped outside, wincing as the wind pinch my exposed skin. It was the kind of cold that slaps your cheeks until they’re raw and makes your fingers stiff. I trudged towards a small tract of forest that hugged the edge of the reservoir.

The snow that had amassed over the past few weeks had compounded into a stubborn, obstinate sheet of ice. I walked with trepidity, hearing the familiar crunching sound and watching as the ice collapsed into misshapen craters beneath each footstep. I walked until I could no longer hear the sounds of cars passing and looked around for the perfect place to reflect. When I finally found a patch of land that was free of mud, I sat down and leaned against a tree, stunned by the cold that cradled my backside.

So now what? What here is worth writing about? It seemed that all physical beauty, all of nature’s vitality, had been eviscerated by the sheen of snow and ice. Stalks of raspberry vine and a labyrinth of thornbush pierced through the snow like barbed wire, casting spindly silhouettes onto the surface below. I couldn’t remember the last time I had been outside with no other motivation than to, well, be outside. In the midst of a winter so harsh and unremitting, my time spent enjoying “nature” was limited to desperate sprints from my front door to my car.

The only sound I heard was the gentle rippling of a creek that meandered through the trees. Where the creek waned it had began to melt, the current reflecting light like shards of glass. The snow lining the creek’s edge glittered where beams of sunlight landed.

I was entirely alone, besides a fleeting visit from a small, brown bird that flitted from branch to branch frenziedly before retreating into the depths of the forest. As I followed its path with my eyes, I noticed a massive oak tree that had fallen, likely during one of the recent winter storms. It’s cavernous underside was laden with soil flesh and fraying roots that hung like Spanish moss. Dismembered twigs and branches were rotting beside the tree like the fallen soldiers in an abandoned battle scene. An assembly of maple and beech trees reigned over loyally. I smiled, remembering how delighted I would have been to find this upended tree as a child. I would have pretended that it was a regal drawbridge, or the plank of a pirate ship. I would have never contemplated a dead tree as anything other than a structure to climb on.

Now I saw it as a tragic hero, a site of ecological history. Even as it was perishing, the tree was still teeming with life. Lichen crept across the trunk, insects banqueted on flaking bark and small animals burrowed in its cavities and crevices. I wondered whether someone would collect its remains, or whether it would sit idly for years to come, as a cavalry of carpenter ants slowly dispersed its resources, eventually reducing it to compost.

I surrendered to my discomfort and relished the complete silence. Twenty minutes of quiet introspection later, I felt that I had become another fixture in this little piece of forest. I sat in that spot, musing and scribbling until the squeals of children sledding down the reservoir hill shattered my repose. It was only then that I noticed how cold I was- my fingers were a deep red, almost purple. I packed up my things and returned to my car, feeling calmer than I had in a long time.

We Are All Chemicals, by Nicole Smith

I stand at the water’s edge, because it’s too cold to sit on the frozen ice beneath my feet.  I see my breath.  I hear the stream.  I see the birds.   I hear the snow.  And I think for the first time about the composition of these things, of myself.  Chemicals.  We are all chemicals.  Is that what intertwines us all?  The living, the inanimate, the liquids, the solids, the good, the bad?  Chemicals know no boundaries.  I have often heard that cancer does not discriminate, but the more I think, the more I realize – it’s the chemicals that do not discriminate.

What surrounding me in this White Clay Creek has contributed to the chemicals in my body?  The snow on the ground?  Well, I’ve been eating snow for many years now so I’m sure that’s added to the numbers.  The water, barely moving through in its frozen state?  What did it pass through to get to the exact spot its in now?  What did it collect on its way?  It certainly looks clearer than the water from my tap that tastes too much of chlorine for my liking.  But would I drink it?  Or do I believe that the bleached water is better for me than the stream in its natural state?  Is the crisp air as crisp as it seems?  What has the train that passes through 10 times a day put out?  How many of the emissions from I95 reached this point where I stand?  Too many for comfort.

For the first time I have critically thought of every single thing surrounding me.  I have thought about the toxins living in my body.  I have wondered their effect.  I have thought of the toxins to come.  I have thought of the toxins in the other beings bodies.  It disgusts me that humans are the creators of these chemicals.  We are living a murder-suicide.  Might as well lock us in a gas chamber – at least it would be faster.

But I must find the owl in my mind – ricochet off of every negative, albeit real, thought to reach some closure with beauty.  I must realize that all beings surrounding me are thriving.  They are pushing through the intoxication.  They are forgiving.  The tree to my back, the soil under the snow beneath my feet, the microorganisms in the stream, the insects that I cannot see, the deer and the raccoons and the skunks and the possums that come out at night.  They do not hold it against me that my species is pumping them full of synthetic compounds.  They allow me to admire their spectacle, their literal natural beauty, despite what humans have done.

And we must forgive like nature, in all realms of life.  Forgive like nature and become like nature.  Nature is not synthetic except for what we dump into it.  Humans are not synthetic except for what we dump and pour into and onto ourselves.  Soon enough, if not already, our advancements with synthetic compounds will begin to be declines.  Then we will turn back to nature for remedies.  Simply, we must change.  We must change for the oaks, and the deer, and the streams, and the snow, and ourselves, and our children, and their children.  We will be accepting of a change away from chemicals only when we accept our wrongs and forgive ourselves. And that, I realize, is what intertwines us all – forgiveness.

A Winter Walk, in Real Time. By Gabriella Mangino

At around twelve noon, I layered up in a sweatshirt and leg warmers, threw on my jacket and hood and slipped on my winter boots and left the Christiana East Tower to embark on the journey. I knew exactly where I’d be going.

“So, I’m currently walking to the spot; I knew automatically what that spot was going to be, because last semester I ran to it every weekend. It’s kind of one of those places after a long run that you can just stop and breathe and look at it, and it makes you feel so accomplished and small and that the world is so big. I like being alone, traveling to my location by myself. I’ll do this every time. Today is February thirteenth, and we just had a snowstorm overnight. It looks like about ten inches, but I don’t know if that’s an exaggeration. All I know is that my way to get there (I guess this place is in White Clay Creek Park) is through paths in the woods for at least some of the time. Obviously, nobody shoveled them since the storm, so I’m walking in the footsteps of other people, or another person. It’s strange because they’ve already left their mark in the snow, and I’m restricted in my navigation to go to trek in their impressions. How impersonal. Now I’ve hit the road, which it looks like they’ve plowed.


“I just ran into two people, two men, the first since I’ve been walking about fifteen minutes. You have to wonder, why are they walking? Probably not for the same reason as me, to make a journal, but it’s kind of nice to see how they want to get out in all of this. In all the slush and all the cold, everyone else wants to stay inside.

“In this walk I’ve decided to bring my phone only for recording purposes and to check the time, and also not to listen to any music. I’m going to utilize this time, or devote it, to unwind and think and listen to the sounds of nature. This is all very valuable; I started to read a book called “Full Cup, Thirsty Spirit” about quieting your life, reconnecting with yourself and the earth, and meditating. I didn’t finish the book but I read this really interesting part about how just walking to anywhere you’re going more slowly really has a way of unwinding you and keeping you grounded. With this idea went observing the things around you as you walk. That’s how I want to start living. If I can have these little moments to unwind, stay grounded, and keep my head in the right place, I think I’ll be alright through a stressful semester.

“I’m at the end of the road and have reached a path on the side that will lead me to the bridge overlooking my spot.

(A silent pause)

“I’m on the bridge, which is made of iron, now heavily rusted, and wood, which I know constitutes the bottom under all the snow. If I look left and right through the bridge’s railings downward and up, there is a slow-moving, wide stream. I know there’s another name for a body of water that’s almost entirely stagnant, and definitely doesn’t move as fast as a stream. Is that a brook? Does this affect what’s able to inhabit and survive in the water? There’s a guy on a snowmobile that’s almost ruining my first view of this place, but I’ll try to ignore him. I can’t ignore the track marks he makes in the snow in the distance, though, or the noise pollution.

“The trail that led me to the bridge continues on in the distance, flanked by none other than a bright yellow pole (like the ones at the end of bike paths). Human infiltration. I can’t help but to think that even though this at first seems like a beautiful, untouched piece of nature, after all I am standing on a bridge built over the stream and I do see mountain-set houses and “No Parking” signs on trees in the distance. This stupid yellow pole, and another red one next to another little bridge that crosses a more narrow part of the stream, is really distracting, so are the “No Parking” and “Speed Limit” signs stabbed into the side of the road. The road, constructed by humans.  It all feels very open.

“The water isn’t frozen; it has this slushy snow in it that makes it look like it could be frozen but it’s only inches of half-melted snow blocking the top. The snow is dirty, but I like that. I hear the tweeting of other birds high and distance in the trees. I hear many geese; I see two flying in the air and quacking(?) and almost three dozen more swimming slowly in the part of the stream that’s almost completely still and clear. This shows me that there’s still life in the water, despite the storm. Things live on because they have nowhere else to go. It’s funny that, when settled in the water, the geese are so quite amongst each other. It reminds me of a group of strangers forced to sit amongst each other in a closed room, not talking, only doing their own things and living quietly on despite the company.

“Under the bridge are extremely thin, fragile pieces of ice that are elegantly gliding and moving on the top of the water, so delicate that pretty soon they’re just going to dissolve into the water or hit a twig and break into a million pieces. There’s a soft wind blowing, yet everything is surprisingly and remarkably still. I feel like snow usually does this. The part of the stream that’s mostly covered by snow is unmoving, and there’s nothing on it. There is, though, the constant and perfect rippling of the water, as if there was a speaker in the water vibrating it in a steady beat and in all different directions, yet in directions that met back with one another. Maybe because it’s getting too warm but the snow on the top of the railing of the bridge is starting to melt, sending drop after drop of water downward.

“I just heard a rustle in the woods, but I’m not sure where it’s coming from, it’s either another person (one just walked by) or a deer, which would be really cool to see. This makes me think back to the geese, and something I’d like to look up is what the hell geese do when a body of water is completely frozen. Where do they go? I know they’re land animals too, but what if a lake or pond or stream is completely frozen over for an extended period of time: do they need to get in the water again? Is the water ever too cold for them; do they freeze to death if, because the water is too cold, they’re forced to stay out of it? A simple answer to all of this is they fly south, duh. But why are these ones here?

“Today I’m only going to view this spot and the stream from the bridge, but probably make my way down below, where I’ll walk around in rain boots and get dirty, within the next few weeks. I want to poke around the banks and study the plants and other life there, which I can’t even see from here let alone because of the snow. There’s not much else I’m noticing right now, partially because a lot of things are covered in white. I do see, though, this strange fenced-in metal box (for electricity, for water treatment or diversion of some sort?) and another metal cylinder/barrel next to it. I’d like to find out what these weird objects are, and why they’re placed literally right next to the stream on the bank, and so close to the geese. I really hate these things already, and can tell they’re really going to piss me off when I see them every week.

“I’m happy with how my first encounter’s gone. I don’t know how deep the stream is, but maybe I’ll look it up and/or just get in it myself and see. Should I try to walk across it for my last journal? Should I run some water quality tests on this stream if I can get my hands on the right equipment while I’m at it? I’ve done a huge water quality project before. What chemicals run into this water; if the stream runs dry will they fill it or knock down this bridge and build a road over it? Anyways, my boots are soaked through and I can say I’ve seen enough for today. Hopefully next time the snow will be gone, and I can see how everything’s held up under it.”


Note:  Here’s some information I found about the descendants of migratory geese in Canada that have no biological need to migrate during the winter: (hopefully, this applies to Delaware?)

Unfortunately, the geese born as a result of the Canada geese repopulation effort do not have the imperative to nest in Canada since they are born here. Resident geese nest here, where their ancestors were forced to nest. And since the climate is temperate in our area and the water bodies do not freeze for long periods of time, the resident Canada geese have no need to fly south to find open water and grass in the winter. Although in harsh weather they will fly south for the short periods of time needed to find open water. Migratory geese nest in Canada because that is where they were born.

Even when it is 10 degrees Fahrenheit, as long as the geese can find open water, they stay warm. The water is 32 degrees and the geese have down on their bellies and chest which insulates them from the cold water.

Also:  To minimize the loss of heat, the arteries and veins in the legs of

the geese lie in contact with each other and function as a

countercurrent heat exchange system to retain heat. Arterial blood

leaves the birds’ core (trunk) at body temperature, while venus

blood in the feet is quite cool.  As the cool blood returns toward the core,

heat moves by conductance from the warm arteries into the cool veins.

Thus, arterial blood reaching the feet is already cool and venous blood

reaching the core has already been warmed. While the core temperature

of a goose standing on ice is about 104 degrees F, its feet may be only

slightly above freezing.


Dams and Diversions, by Franci Revel

My roots are in the woods. My family’s Southern Delaware home is deeply nestled in the forest, an isolating paradise for my bird-watching mother and a natural inspiration to my woodworking father. The moment I read that 80% of my grade would be based on weekly nature journal entries, I knew it would give me an ideal escape, teleporting me back to one of my favorite places. So, thanks for the great assignment idea!

As I was walking down White Clay Drive, I saw the rustic park sign. At first I thought I should walk a little farther down the street and search harder to find my own “spot” in the woods. After all, I’d be dissecting it through observations all semester…should it not be a spot worthy of dissecting? But the 4:00 PM sun seemed to be positioned directly onto the wooded background of that sign, laying an illuminated path on the footprints reaching past it. I squinted questioningly down the street once again before turning my attention back to the sunbeams’ playful dance on the snow’s blanket. I followed the footprints. I can always explore a little more, I thought, if this isn’t the view I’m looking for.

The snowy result of the uncharacteristic winter we’ve had this year piled high on the ground but exposed the end of a log large enough to be a comfortable, dry seat. I situated myself, lifted my eyes to examine my view, and watched my skepticism of choosing this seemingly obvious spot float out of my mind and dissolve completely. From my seat, a pair of great birch trees framed a portion of the creek, complete with couples’ initials and the typical “(insert name) was here,” scrawling. They had deep knots and thick branches reaching to embrace the sky and, in the space between them, thinner branches slightly obstructed the view of the water. I knew right away that in a month, this would be a scene of metamorphosis.

Soon enough, I’d be squinting through the windows of vibrant leaves at the rippling reflections on the creek. I knew that as the second semester of my freshman year bloomed and transformed and continued to come alive, so would this spot. As I met new people, new names would be scratched into the bark. As the reflection of my personality altered, I’d see a new color palette mirrored onto the water. Though a seemingly simple choice in spots, this birch archway provided the necessary framework for both observing and experiencing transformation.

I took a 360 degree survey of this new subject for dissection. Behind me, the sun’s gradual descent stratified the glistening snow with the tree’s shadows. To my left, sheets of ice met between tree stumps and the water they’d soon fade into. Across the creek, the bank of rocks peaked out from the snow and accepted the water’s gentle lapping. This movement of water, any movement of water, always interested me: some parts flow so smoothly while others shift to kiss the land, while still others resemble vibrating sound waves. There are also those parts that halt in their downstream trek due to obstructions invisible to the distant, land-dwelling eye. The upstream bend that I can’t see fully is calm, collected, until a point directly in my vision where the water’s activity is altered drastically. It’s just a dam of some sort, but the fact that I can’t clearly see it makes me think of all the obstacles in my own mind, in every human’s mind, that others can’t see or understand. The buried causes reveal their effects through our actions, and the buried obstacles reveal themselves through the water’s diversions. Even though we often speak of it as an entirely separate entity, we are a part of nature as natural beings, and we inevitably mimic it.

Nature mimics itself in other ways as well, as patterns repeat themselves in many forms and objects from different areas mirror one another flawlessly. The chill of winter left me with low expectations for seeing animals and left me to settle with the harmony of birds chirping. But just as I packed up to leave, two ducks trotted down to the creek’s edge together. An emerald-billed male and his tawny mate skated across the water on their bellies and shaped the same “V” on the water that a gaggle of geese would in the sky. This repetitious habit of the world reveals itself again in the raised brown bumps on my log-seat that mimic the barnacles of the ocean’s jetty at home that my father and I love to fish off of. Some scientific, some maybe just coincidental, the repetitions connect everything on the planet, including us. That’s something I’d like to explore more.

I shivered for the ducks as they ventured back and forth down the creek. It was particularly active today, reminding me of the ocean’s increased ferocity in the winter. There are moments when winter is my favorite season. I love to watch plants peak out of the soil and the floral brilliance paint the world in the warmer months, but these months provide an entirely different type of perspective if you allow them to. It can seem as if the planet’s been stripped of its beauty, like the hues have been drained through a syringe. But I like to think that its foundations have just been exposed, bare bones and all, to provide a different sort of beauty. The winter roots up our world in its most simple version. It is functional despite being devoid of its typical beauty, and the bare bark of the branches and chilly shine of the water mix with the purity of the snow for a new type of luminescence. Is that something we could all learn from? The stillness of the planet during its lack of embellishment has never spoken “ugly,” to me. It speaks “real,” “naked,” “vulnerable.” Exposure isn’t entirely bad, and, as this week’s reading from What’s Gotten Into Us? explores, we hide ourselves from exposure at a destructive cost.

While I read about the harmfulness of the chemicals many of us are blind to, I couldn’t help but think about the simplicity of one part of the solution: we just need to stop hiding from our natural state. The make-up, the colognes, the synthetic clothing material, the prescriptions that “fix” our natural minds. All of these toxin packed items created for “aiding to our natural goodness” are really just slowly disposing of us. There is such an immense fear of going without all that, of exposing our natural, real selves, embracing our own “winter,” you could say. Fear is a potent, piercing emotion, giving it power and control. I really wonder what it would look like, but more importantly FEEL like, if we all altered such a powerful emotion into something positive, the opposite of this irrational fear of our vulnerable and natural selves. If we were all our most simple versions, full of embracement and acceptance of it, I think the atmosphere’s entire vibe might change, not just our actions. That obvious but ideal forest spot I uncovered this afternoon revealed something incredible, even ironically complex, about simplicity. What could humans reveal about it?

A Creek in Winter, by Retura Claar

White Clay Creek State Park


I visited White Clay Creek State Park the evening of Monday, February 17th, 2014 with another student in the class. I anticipated the snow would cause problems to get close to the creek, so I wore snow boots. The recent snow and ice storms caused the snow to be crispy and hard on top, only to cave in and make your feet sink to the hidden grass within seconds. Snow boots were definitely a good decision. White Clay Creek was truly a beautiful sight to see covered in snow, and the pictures I took almost resemble paintings of what a perfect snow-covered forest would look like.

Once I tackled the snow sinkholes and got closer to the creek, the first thing I noticed was that there were still leaves on the tree next to me. This struck me as odd, considering I was calf deep in about 10 inches of snow. The leaves were small, a pale yellow, and speckled with brown. There were also some leaves on the tree next to it, but they were very small, withered, and brown. I heard birds chirping in the distance, and the creek slowly flowing along. The creek was very calm, and not even a foot deep right in front of me. The bottom third of the banks were exposed, as well as the side of about five stumps and logs in my general area. However, snow was covering the ground everywhere else. There was still ice in the creek, mostly along the banks. There was a spot of snow and ice in the middle of the creek a little ways down. It was an island of white in the middle of a perfectly flowing creek. It looked as though there were rocks under the island, and that the water level was probably very low.

Trees in winter have a weird way of looking even more melancholy than they already are. The trees that I observed had mostly thin branches, and lots of them. This immediately made me think of spider webs. A whole forest of decaying, brown, spider webs, tangled together and taking over the land as far as you could see. Some of the trees on the bank were even arching towards the opposite side of the creek, resembling half of a canopy and framing the river. A large tree directly across the creek from me had fallen over some time ago, and was starting to bend up towards the sky on the left side. I couldn’t help but think of yoga when I saw the tree.

There was something specific that I saw during my time in White Clay Creek that I thought was especially stunning. This was the reflection of the creek a little ways down from my spot near the creek. The colors of the setting sun, the sky, and the trees hit the water just right that it looked like a painter had just come in and dragged a paintbrush from bank to bank. The fluidity of the lines also reminded me of the aesthetic of the 60’s and 70’s, which could easily translate into a mod dress hand painted with natural dyes. I see nature and the environment as the predominant inspiration for my designs this semester. I truly can’t wait to see how my little spot at White Clay Creek changes over the next few months.

The day I picked up my textbooks from the bookstore I browsed through all of them. It just so happened that in New and Selected Poems by Mary Oliver, some of the corners of the pages had been folded down. I’m not sure if there were folded down because they were favorites or because they were assigned readings, but after reading “Sun” and “The Summer Day” I knew that I would devour this wonderful book. There was also a beautiful, makeshift bookmark left in the book, made of thick artist paper and painted blue and yellow to make an interesting abstract design. An artistic soul evaluated the pages of this very book before I did, and now it was being passed down to another artistic soul.

The last few lines of “Winter” were, “in this world I am as rich, as I need to be”. This struck me as something that was definitely written a couple decades ago, because most people would not say that today. People today aren’t concerned about happiness, all they want is money and power. Even when people are extremely rich or powerful, they still want more. This insatiable need gets in the way of happiness, which is the real indicator of how “rich” a person is.

I found “Lonely, White Fields” to be particularly dark. However, this is the circle of life that goes on unnoticed to most people. I really liked that “Some Questions You Might Ask” dug deeper into the mysterious thing that is a soul. The poem asked about the consistency of it, the shape, and who has it. Oliver even went one step further to question whether things in nature have souls, such as maple trees or stones. Considering there is currently snow on the ground, I thought that “First Snow” did an excellent job of describing snow, and the feelings and sights associated with it.

It’s remarkable how much I’ve learned in one class, a prologue, and two chapters of What’s Gotten Into Us?. This “plastic plague” that the world is now experiencing was really put into perspective with the section of the prologue about the discovery of the Titanic. There was no plastic found on the ship, but how could that be when the Titanic sunk just over 100 years ago? People from that generation seemed to be living happy lives without plastic, even the rich ones. I question whether our society is “advancing”, or whether companies and industries are just discovering cheaper ways to make millions of dollars, regardless of the consequences to the general population. Should we really be using something on our lawns that Hitler used to make bombs? Before fertilizers and pesticides were invented, lawns were growing just fine.

Petrochemicals are something that scare me, especially since I put a plastic retainer in my mouth every night. After the readings, I’ve become so much more conscious about the products I consume. I was going to go to Walgreens to buy a tube of red lipstick, but not anymore. The thing about lipstick is it doesn’t just go on our lips, some of it will probably get on our delicate face, we’ll definitely breathe it in, and it will find its way into our mouth and body. As a female in the world we live in today, you’re expected to wear makeup after a certain age to look “pretty”. The ingredients in cosmetics are listed on the packages that you buy them in, so I flipped over my makeup remover wipes and scanned the ingredients. There were over 15 ingredients, and I could only pronounce two of them. If that many chemicals are in the things used to take off makeup, what’s in the actual makeup?

Something that really hit home for me was the fact that “One in three women will die of cancer”. That means that out of my Mother, little sister, and I, one of us will die of cancer. There is something terribly wrong with this. There’s also something wrong with the fact that hybrid cars and organic canned vegetables both are made with hidden carcinogenic chemicals. What really baffled me was the fish experiment where potentially harmful chemicals were “tested”, and how we’re all exposed to these chemicals at some point.

Someday I want to have children. However, I do not want to transfer hundreds of chemicals to them. It’s unreal that even in an umbilical cord, which is internally in the body until the end, can be so saturated with chemicals. I had to reread the paragraph about the umbilical cord blood experiment to fully grasp the severity of it. This really shows that although we can’t see or feel chemicals, they are internally in our bodies, sometimes forever.

The home was always thought of as a safe place, but now I’m rethinking this. As I look around my room I see old windows that probably contain lead paint, a dresser with fake wood this is most certainly glued together with formaldehyde, and plastic everywhere. This is just my room, what about the kitchen or the basement or the garage. As in most houses full of college students, a couple weeks into the semester the kitchen area starts to secrete an odd burning smell after somebody uses the stove. The basement is only used to do laundry, and is filled with spider webs and probably mold. The garage is used for storage of miscellaneous things, and plastic is unfortunately not the worst offender. I never thought about these things before, and am now noticing how toxic my own house is. I try to live as sustainably as I can, but there’s definitely even more I can do to limit my exposure to toxic substances.