The World in a Water Droplet, by Alisa Rubenstein

            After an impromptu lesson on meditation, our challenge this week was to bring down the level of noise in our heads. I thought about this challenge as I lay in bed that morning and decided on my plans for the day. Every time I’ve gone out to White Clay thus far it has been raining and after 3 weeks I was growing accustomed to the particular kind of penetrating chill the damp air brings. I put on my red rain boots, bundled up in my light blue raincoat, and headed to the spot I picked out last week.

I sat down on the fallen tree by the river and decided that today I would listen. I focused on the gurgling of the stream, but was distracted by the screeching of several nearby crows, cutting the air and snapping me out of my focus. Making it even harder to focus on the sounds of the forest were the swirling waves of rushing water I could see no matter where I looked. I closed my eyes. After a few minutes I began to notice sounds I hadn’t heard before. An entire symphony of bird song that my inattentive ears let the river cover up. The longer I sat with my eyes closed, the more I heard. I counted ten different tunes where previously I had only heard the singing of the river. Forgetting the crows became easy, but every few minutes my anxieties and stressors creeped up. I knew that pushing them away completely would only come with time and practice, but in a moment of frustration I opened my eyes.

When I looked around I realized that the branches surrounding me were coated in dew drops after the rainfall. It was a magical moment. Time seemed to stop. Everywhere I looked thousands of tiny lights lit up the forest to show me what I thought I didn’t need illumination to see. It was like Christmas, my favorite holiday despite my Jewish background, had come early. The drops hung on the tangled branches like the shiny, silver ornaments that bring me so much joy every December.

I looked closer at a small twig dangling near me. The little glass bead on its end, though small, reflected the entirety of the world around it with extraordinary depth. In it I could see the pale gray sky and the twisted branches above me. If I looked closely enough, I could even see a tiny, muddy river, flowing in time with its larger counterpart. I was completely engrossed in this miniature world. My balance is not the best, but I precariously shifted my weight to get closer to the branch. In retrospect, this is the moment when the noise in my head was reduced to a mere whisper. My anxieties no longer mattered. In that moment I wanted nothing more than to inch as close as I could to the magical bead just out of my reach.

In my chemistry classes, I have learned about cohesion and adhesion, the properties of water molecules that allow them to bond with each other and with other substances. But the material was, for lack of a better word, dry and the beauty and the importance of these properties struck me as I examined the dew drops in the forest. Learning about these forces was interesting, but watching them occur in nature was a moving experience.

Soon the wind began to pick up, shaking the branches to and fro and hurling the droplets, one or two at a time, into the river. Christmas in the forest is transient and few people get to see it, or even notice it at all. It only takes a light breeze or the landing of a bird to knock off the dew and remind me that the holiday season ended two months ago. Reluctant to leave Christmas behind, I scampered off of the fallen tree and made my way back to campus.

The Little Things, by Sam Rinko

Tuesday in the woods I went out with a goal. Professor Jenkins’ passionate appraisal of meditation and experiencing what is right in front of us, no matter how impressive or unimpressive, inspired me to look at things differently. I arrived with a mind prepped to find beauty in the places I never look, because as he said, beauty is relative.  It was a revitalizing 70 degrees out, so I decided to wear my swim trunks and take in the rays. I lied down on the sun baked rock above the waterfall and gazed into the flowing water. For the first ten or so minutes all I saw was just that, running water. Then, I had a somewhat breakthrough moment. In the stiller parts of the creek, I saw thousands of particles of sediment dance through the water. Above them were hundreds of small reflections of the sun. The profound beauty of these miniature suns glistening on the crests of the moving creek opened my eyes and mind with an explosion of realization.  It was clear to me now that for much of my life I had been missing out on many beautiful sights. I was fixated on what others deemed as beautiful, like an eagle or a rainbow, therefore not giving the little things a chance.

With this new power of super sight, I looked as closely as possible into the soul of nature. I yearned to know that else had been hidden from me. I stared at the dead leaves that had formed one hardened giant leaf where the creek brought them into contact with rock. The different shades of brown converging into one sparked my interest as a painting would. Then, I lied on my back and tilted my head over the edge of the rock in order to gain new perspective, as though Robin Williams in “Dead Poets Society” were instructing me to do so. The trees looked funny upside down. Suddenly, a group of geese flew over me in unison. Throughout their flight, they exchanged places in their V-shape formation with such fluidity and perfection that it outshined any airplane flight show. Thoughts flurried through my mind about how sad it is that we have lost massive creatures like the Mastodon when it would be sad enough to lose the goose. Most people probably don’t look more than once at a goose if they see it, and if it were gone forever, wouldn’t even care. That thought scares me.  How many species would have to go extinct in the next couple of decades for there to be civil uproar? I fear that the number is quite high. We need to start appreciating the little things in life. It will be a challenge but nature can be our guide. For example, as I write this, I notice a spider in the corner of my room. My heart rate speeds up, but I remind myself of what I have learned in this class. So, in the hope of uncovering some bravery and love for all things, I attempt to look for beauty in this gangly intruder. Seconds pass. Minutes pass. It moves. I fail. However, thanks to this class, at least I tried to care about a spider, which is more than most people can say. Also, instead of killing it, I was Mr. magnamonious tonight. I telepathically negotiated with this spider. If he stays in his little corner and doesn’t bother me, I will not bother him.

It will take practice to live completely in the moment and recognize the beauty in the subtleties of nature but I will continue to try as I did Tuesday at the waterfall. For that hour I spent with myself and the woods took me away from the constant problems and worries that my mind creates. I realize now that it is because I put more of my attention outward than usual. This required also more attention directed inward to notice my mind going crazy at times. This newfound attention makes me wonder where my focus usually resides. Am I wasting away parts of my life in autopilot mode?

Whale Day, by Shannon O’Neill

 

February 18th (World Whale Day),

Xavier Rudd’s song, “Follow the Sun”, came to mind as I walked through Dewey’s floaty sands

to the firmness of the water’s edge..

“When you feel life coming down on you,

Like a heavy weight

When you feel this crazy society,

Adding to the strain

Take a stroll to the nearest waters

And remember your place

Many moons have risen and fallen, long before you came”

Life is full of a spectrum of experiences, and I’ve learned along the way that feeling all

that I feel with radical acceptance is deeply healing. I recently listened to a shamanic healer in

Oregon say that humans usually have three fundamental impulses to life’s experiences; feeling,

thinking, and acting. What comes first of these three can be balanced with what comes last. As

soon as the tides within me began to rise in wake of my punching “you don’t have time for this”

thoughts, I turned to action with my camera, and began snapping photos of every pleasing

perspective that met my gaze. I needed action. Like the workout that I’d done before coming to

the ocean, it took quite a lot of time before I really warmed up, but when I did, something clicked

(literally with my cam, but mostly figuratively). I was seeing everything differently. As details

became more absorbent of my mind, winter’s gift of empty beaches gave the sounds of each

breaking wave an exhilarating depth.

Dewey Beach is less than 15 blocks long, and only a couple of blocks wide, with the

Atlantic on one side, and the Rehoboth Bay on the other. When the sunset lights up the bay,

glassy hues of pinks, oranges, yellows, reds and purples pour onto the patterned ocean sands. On

this lovely evening, the water began looking like a concoction of magical, liquid cotton candy. I

Shannon O’Neill

ENGL230

Page   2

took many intentional motions through in the sand, and peered backwards to see my footprints…

the past couldn’t be more tangible. The photos I took were like capturing grains of sand as time

continuously slipped through my hands. I began four rounds of ujjayi breathing (also known as

ocean’s breath), and the air that streamed through my lungs, and oxygenated my blood, enlivened

that precious, still, expansiveness in my mind. I was one with the endless sea that poured through

my eyes and into my subconscious. I’m pretty sure my mind turned blue.

I felt a re-rendering of loyalty to my homeland taking place in my spirit this evening. An

influx of gratitude struck me as I realized how lucky I am to be on earth right now. One day this

town could be gone due to sea level rise, but for now it is part of my purpose to synchronize my

actions with the highest good and health of myself and this planet. I try to lead in this way,

especially for the change I wish to see in Dewey. Each summer, the bars that saturate this town

throw away more plastic in a day then several people could consume in a lifetime. Plastic

decorates the south and eastern coasts of pacific islands like confetti because of the plastic people

all over the world, including here, throw away, but like most giant parties, this plastic one isn’t

going to end well. As written in food fight, the gnarly chemicals used in pesticides and herbicides

have hormone and endocrine disrupting chemicals, and plastics have these alarming sorts of

properties as well, and now they are bioaccumulating up the food chain to our dinner plates.

This small town seems to be a microcosm of a macrocosm in regards to profit

maximization over environmental protection, but I find peace in knowing that no matter how far

off track we get as a species, the steps we need to take to come back into balance will be there.

There’s a lot of thinking and acting going on within the big industries and political powers that

be, but I wonder if more feeling (specifically compassion) could evolve these enterprises.

Nevertheless, enjoying nature does wonders in reaffirming my peaceful guardianship for it.

Shannon O’Neill

ENGL230

Page   3

Stretchmarks, by Billy Kaselow

I took my time getting here. Appreciating a variety of sparrows, a pileated woodpecker, and the first tree frogs of spring. The cold air on my bare hands, visibly dry, forced me off of my bike and for the better. I meandered along the trail greeting fellow forest dwellers human and otherwise. Silent judgement of those with heavy feet followed by stinging repentance.  

I now sit on the giant sycamore that rests its canopy in the creek. The wood is warm and smooth where the sun finds it. The shade side is cold and damp with decay.

The water has dropped nearly five feet in six days to reveal this spot. The bark twists with the current and the lengthy cracks like stretchmarks mimic ripples; curved and nested.

I am distracted, disconnected and uncomfortable.  My thoughts float from woodpecker to weekend activities to assignments to beavers and how hard they could bite if one decided I was too close to the lodge. Perhaps it’s the camera and binoculars dragging on my neck or the imbalance in my brain but I feel physically off center and insecure on my wooded perch. I retreat to the stream bank where I would be caught by wood or stone rather than water. I cross my legs and begin to focus on the breath and the awareness that comes with this. I close my eyes and allow the rambles of the stream and rustles of leaves to harmonize in my ears unfiltered. The glow of the sun, still distant, reddens my view through closed eyes; hardly kissing my face with warmth when the breeze allows. I am out of practice and remain easily distractible. Though l do not stay long in this, the pleasures still are undeniable. When I open my eyes I am momentarily blinded by the unmistakable white light of the ultraviolet calming to blue then baseline. I’ve come to love this feeling. I begin to inch closer to center.

A cooper’s hawk just flew by, sparrows saw it first. For once the chickadees are the second to sound the alarm.  

Early spring is as turbulent a time as any; just days ago I shed layers and rollicked in the shaded tributaries flipping rocks for salamanders and cray fish. Now, with snow in the forecast I listen to desperate tree frogs piping their carnal desires from the woodwork. Clouds take the sun and the breeze picks up. It’s time to leave.

Mind Your Step, by Darius Pirestani

Darius Pirestani

Professor Jenkins

ENGL230

18 January 2018

Mind Your Step

Today began with agitation. I became frustrated with myself as my eyes opened to the golden light of the afternoon sun. I sheepishly checked the time, even though I was already well aware that I’d slept too long again, feeling guilty of wasting those precious hours of daylight that seem all too few and far between in the winter. As I pushed that frustration to the back of my mind, old thoughts quickly resurfaced to fill the vacuum of short-lived silence and empty space – irritation, anger, exhaustion from the days before, all swirling forth in a vortex of mental commotion. I needed space.

I yearned for space, both physically and mentally; space to breathe freely beyond the four walls of my room, and space to process the backlog of thoughts I’d held off on working through for several days. Desperate to find refuge from that suffocation, I quickly headed towards the one place where I knew I’d find it: the forest. The ground was slick with mud and wet grass, weighed under the slowly melting burden of last night’s snow whose remnants still dotted the landscape with white among emerging shades of green and brown. I nearly slipped more times than I’d like to admit as I angrily stomped down the steep hill that led to my spot in the forest without any caution or concern, still brooding over the torrent of thoughts and emotions that have been congesting my head since I woke up.

I wasn’t sure what I expected to find once I did reach my spot. Answers? Guidance? Closure, even? It was silly to think that just hiking through the woods would solve all my problems, because it didn’t. I arrived at the creek with the same mental baggage I brought with me – I didn’t find any signs, or insight, or the direction I so badly wanted, but part of me knew I wouldn’t anyways. What I did find, however, was perspective. I crossed the smaller stream to the other side where two fallen trees had formed a perch directly over the larger creek, providing the perfect opportunity for a new point of view.

As I carefully navigated my way across the fallen trees, I noticed writing on one of the branches I had been holding onto.

BUT I AM NOT ALONE

A reminder that I wasn’t the first to seek guidance from this spot, perhaps.

The creek rushed beneath me, fed by the excess of melted snow as the sun rose higher across the sky. Bubbles formed with every twist and turn the water took, pouring over the large rocks that the creek flowed through, glimmering as they refracted the sunlight from above onto the bottom of the

stream. As mesmerizing as the bubbles were, they weren’t made to last – each pop would send glistening ripples of light across the surface of the creek in a beautifully ephemeral farewell. My eyes followed the remaining bubbles further downstream, and I noticed a vivid splash of pink upon the muddy water floor as a crayfish darted by. As quickly as the crayfish appeared, however, it soon dashed off between the many rocks and pebbles among the creek, not wanting to be discovered again. I probably wouldn’t have even noticed it if I hadn’t climbed across the fallen trees to get a different view.

It was far too easy for me to blindly stomp down the hill this morning in search of some kind of answer, nearly slipping several times because I was too clouded by the thoughts and emotions that fogged up my head to be conscious of where I was stepping. However, the perspective I found while I sat above the creek was much more valuable. The bubbles that burst into shimmering ripples across the surface of the water; the patches of snow that shrank to reveal verdant shades of green as the sun rose higher; the crayfish that darted into the safety of the many rocks on the creek floor – all of these things were fleeting. As quickly as those moments disappeared, so too did my uneasiness, lost in the comforting vastness of the forest. In the epilogue of Food Fight, a student named Kelsey noted that “[the farm] was where I found peace, where the only material goods I ever required were the occasional shovel or hoe. (284)” Similar to the sense of fulfillment that Kelsey felt while working on a farm, I too found peace among the natural beauty of the forest, something I wouldn’t have gotten from staying indoors. With that realization in mind, I began my way back up the hill, more mindful of where I stepped.

Rain is Beautiful, by Erin Russell

Prof. Jenkins reminded us that rain is beautiful—which I knew could be true—but I still waited hopelessly for the sun to break all week to trek to White Clay Creek. It soon was Sunday, and I woke to the sound of rain. With a bit of forced enthusiasm, I drove through the soggy campus until I hit the woods. As a Parks & Recreation vehicle drove by, I momentarily worried about getting a parking ticket, as I have experienced firsthand Newark’s relentlessness in distributing tickets. I reminded myself that even Newark Parking Services would refrain from ticketing whatever lunatic would be hanging out in the woods in the rain on a Sunday morning.

I already had My Place in mind: down the path to the right of the small parking lot that leads to the waterfall. I have been to White Clay enough to be familiar with the area, but not enough to walk down the correct path on the first try. After turning around once or twice, I eventually found the correct walkway. As I removed myself from the dry haven that was my Jeep Cherokee with nothing in hand but an umbrella, I found myself holding back a smile, which could have been from my satisfaction with stepping into muddy, ankle-deep puddles while wearing rain boots, or from the situational comedy of the biology-student-in-woods-on-a-stormy-Sunday case I found myself in.

I walked by a large, fenced in machine that I had never previously noticed on this path, and began to hear the roaring of the waterfall – I had found it. I passed a skinny tree decorated with white spray paint reading “RIP Pudgey,” and perched myself on a rock as close to the waterfall as I could get without falling in.

The water was higher than I had previously seen it at that same spot last April. It was brown and angry. Probably because it was raining. Or maybe because it was fifty degrees in February. Maybe because we had invaded its personal space years ago because humans needed big houses and supermarkets and toxic lawns that choke the water. Perhaps it was so angry because I had been neglecting it for so long, even though I call myself its advocate. The raindrops on the water’s surface made it twinkle like a mudded Milky Way, almost distracting me from the dead leaves being limply thrown into the frothy underbelly of the waterfall. A pointed log jutted up at the top of the fall, much like the upstroke of an Olympic swimmer’s arm. Still water swirled into a small extension of creek that leaked up towards the RIP Pudgey tree.

Containing the angry water on one side was a stone wall that met the bottom of a hill, atop of which was a house that overlooked My Place. Much like the one I saw walking in, the stone wall also had a large, fenced in, wildly out of place machine built on it. A haze engulfed the naked trees that lined the creek.

I almost forgot it was raining because I felt too tranquil, and was then reminded that rain itself is tranquil. In the city, I associate rain with unhappiness, frustration, inconvenience. At My Place, however, the rain seemed happy, peaceful, correct. I did not feel inconvenienced, and did not once worry about the preservation of my hair or shoes. As much as I did not want to come, I did not want to leave. I momentarily remembered my Real World responsibilities, only to realize that this is the real world. The world we constructed is fake –the upstroke log is real, the angry water is real, but highways are fake, big food industries that lie and deceive are fake. It sickens me to think that as someone so environmentally conscious, I am still so out of touch with the real Real World.

I passed the RIP Pudgey tree and the large, fenced in machine to return to my Jeep Cherokee. I did not receive a parking ticket.

A Trick Day, by Lauren McGregor

As soon as the journals were described the first day I already started brainstorming what mine would entail. Going within the same hour each day, taking a picture from the same spot of the same point (where exactly would have to be figured out once I found my place), writing down the weather, taking notes and sketching in my mini moleskine notebook. Walking out and spending time by White Clay Creek for class? Sounds great to me, that way I didn’t have to stress that I could be putting my time to better use when I went out there anyway.

I live on north campus so I took the little path down by the tennis courts and decided to let my feet take the lead. I know there are plenty of beautiful places right off the path, I bike down there often and have definitely veered off to take in the scenery more than once.

As I walked the only noise I heard was the wind, the muffled noise of half-rotted leaves beneath my sneakers, and two freshman quickly hiding something behind their back when they heard me approach. My sense of smell was more than enough to deduct what was going on there. I continued past and my thoughts rolled over different ways to start this journal entry, after about eight were created and ricocheting within my head, jumbling up and creating new ones with the pieces I started to ignore them. I knew I wouldn’t be satisfied with it until it was written down anyway.

A little path of leaves smoothed into a crude path snaked down on my right, the sound of water distant but emanating from that direction. I shrugged and set off down the small isle, avoiding brambles and leaves slick with moisture, whether the path was man-made or simply from water runoff I didn’t care. I was let out on a road, one where the creek streamed alongside. I browsed up and down the dip from road to water for a bit before finding an area that could accommodate my flat-soled converse and wouldn’t dump me into the icy water if my footing failed me.

I settled down on a jutting piece of old concrete, mixed in with a few rocks scattered before the bank. It seemed almost sadistically symbolic that even down at the creek’s edge humanity and it’s pollution creeped in, with waste unneeded. The first thing I spotted was a large tree to my right and took out my camera. Looking now at the washed out polaroid, overexposed at staring at me in stark white I realize I didn’t change the light setting. Looks like the week by week polaroid change with have to begin next time.

The creek was loud today, most likely due to yesterday’s rains. No birds unfortunately. I’m hoping once I become more accustomed to the different calls I’ll be able to sketch the birds I hear, that seems like a fun artistic exercise for me.

The shades of brown from every angle around me seemed dull and overwhelming at the same time. Every rock, tree, dead leaf, patch of soil, even the reflection off most of the water held the same dead sandy color, only showing slight variation. It made the clear sky look refreshing and where it’s color reflected off the water it looked almost like a child’s drawings concept of water, too blue and bright for reality.

Today was a trick day as my mom and I call it. From inside, the sun beams warm you through windows and the blue expanse stretches as far as you can see, utterly cloudless. But, as soon as you step outside a shock of bitter cold hits, leaving you with only memories of what your nose and fingers felt like. I certainly felt that way today, attempting to draw that beautiful tree next to my spot. It curved over the water in a way that its reflected twin stood out on the brown and blue water almost as clearly as the real one.

As I sat out there in the 30 degree weather I closed my eyes and focused on one sense at a time. Feeling: numb, the hard concrete beneath my legs no longer unbearably cold since my body had been there a while, my hair tickled my cheeks when the wind picked up. Smell: not much, it almost reminded me of skiing, that burning feeling of cold dry air in my nose that smelled of winter. Hearing: the rush of water, a lone car cruised by above me, the wind whistled, no animals. Sight: starkly bright after closed eyes, blues and browns and the water flowed with force over the small rapids to the right of my place. The big tree stood stooped to my left, I’ll have to figure out what kind it is.

I’m quite excited for these journals and their evolution over the semester.