About Place.

I think today’s in-class exercise deserve some reflection in addition to the 2 pieces about “place” we’ve read for this place. Today’s writing prompt, to give directions to your home, was much more difficult that it seemed. First off, we had to pick where to give directions from. While many students chose begin their journey at Stony Brook, I couldn’t. I don’t drive, and nothing in particular strikes me on the highway that would lead to a productive writing session. So for me, the beginning of the journey mattered just as much as the destination.

Every time I go home, the first thing I do, or at least, want to do, is see my best friend. We always meet at a spot we’ve designated as “the triangle,” and that’s where I began. But even while writing the directions to the 15 minutes back home, I got bored with my own writing. The most memorable things about walking home are all the things that make me want to take a detour. Crowds of old men who hang out in front of the newsstand and block the sidewalk, or the Afghani fast food cart that I can smell down the block – these are the memorable things about going home. It was also interesting to see what other people associated with going home. While some gave straight directions, others also focused on other aspects, like the smells they would encounter that let them know they were close to home, or realizing that home could be easily missed, and offering directions to home after going off-track.

Now, onto the readings. While reading the pieces, I had to recheck the theme of this week. I confirmed that it was indeed place, but the pieces were so weather related that I thought we would spend a week discussing rain. It didn’t even dawn on me until today’s class that climate and weather are essential when discussing place. The piece that struck me the most was “What They Don’t Tell You About Hurricanes” by Philip Gerard. I’ve been fortunate enough to have avoided hurricanes. Even hurricane Sandy, which impacted New York so heavily, did not affect me or my family directly. For all the news coverage of all the major hurricanes of the past few hurricanes, no video clip or image was more evocative as this piece. The media has a way of forcing emotion onto the viewer, so it’s easy to have a degree of apathy towards other people’s hardships when others are assigning your feelings. However, Gerard’s curt writing style allows him to simply report. When I read the descriptions of the events during the hurricane, it reminded me almost of a play-by-play of a sports event. It said what you needed to know. But Gerard would then write these devastating, and horrifying lines such as “When, How Hard, How Long: the trigonometry of catastrophe” and “the world is way out of control, but you’re still responsible.” By minimizing his own reflection and sentiments, Gerard allows readers to develop feelings of their own, and interpret the words in a personal way, rather than read someone else’s account. Of course, Gerard never implies that he has become detached from his emotions, as we later understand how much his mentality has been shaken.

As a writer who is still developing and learning, Gerard’s piece was very useful in developing a style. The reason I was impacted so deeply by this piece was because of the way Gerard chose to communicate the story. I’ve learned that in writing, less can be more. I don’t need to reflect on each memory, and I don’t need to explain why a certain event is sentimental. By omitting these aspects, an engaged reader can relate my experience to their own beliefs, ideas, or memories.

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2 Responses to About Place.

  1. adharahaque says:

    I really like hearing about your perspective of the writing assignment in class about describing a place. I like how you approached the prompt differently than everyone else. Talking about the different detours and details you mentioned was a good idea. Also, I like how you interpreted Gerard’s piece.He does do a good job at communicating. A good writer has to be able to convey his ideas to the audience which the author does well when talking about the hurricane. Good blog post!

  2. I found it difficult starting my journey from Stony Brook too! It was too boring! The long roads and painfully congested roads did not really seem to grasp my attention. I really liked how you incorporated the distinct smells of your hometown, and how you can identify where you are based upon this.
    I was a little confused about how these readings related to place at first too – but then I realized that this extreme weather is common for people who live in these locations. It almost defines the area – just as Florida is deemed “The Sunshine State”. I wonder what weather would be of “common place” for us Long Islanders? Our weather never seems to be stable, have a continuous pattern or trait! (Especially lately – 80degrees in October?!)
    I agree with your view on this weeks readings, especially on what you’ve written about Gerard’s work. I believe that this is an important concept you noted and can certainly be used in our own personal statements – that at time, in writing “less is more”. By using Gerard’s simplistic approach when explaining his experiences – he remains very honest, and almost leaves the reader to draw their own conclusions, or reconsider their own understanding.

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