Thursday, March 31, 2011

Being Inquisitive

The whole point of this blog is to exercise my writing muscle, by writing about a variety of topics, by writing in a variety of styles, by exploring my written voice, and by thinking about what I want to share with the world. I often think about writing throughout the week, and wait for something to stick. I make a mental post-it note, and let it travel with me as I live my day. I roll the words over and over in my mind, composing sentences, thoughts, or phrases. Then I start to fill in the cracks, and complete the thoughts in order to convey something clearly.

I realize that I write better and more expressively when I am describing something, talking about something I love, or conveying my thoughts about my favorite things, such as a cabinet of curiosities. So my current idea is to pull all those things out of the woodwork, and thoroughly flesh out the things that have inspired me for years. There are many things in the realm of art and design that I continually revisit in order to replenish the creative ‘well’. I also enjoy a great quote, poem, movie, or song. Revisiting a place, exploring somewhere new, and adventures are also some of the most inspiring and encouraging things. Of course you can never quite predict what will appear here on my blog (well because half the time I don’t know until I start typing), hence the name haphazard.

This week the phrase, the importance of being inquisitive has stuck in my mind, an absolutely perfect segue thought to begin exploring things that inspire me. Anyway.

Curiosity rules my life. If there is one thing that would almost define me, that would be it. When something is so innate and ingrained, you cannot imagine life in it’s absence. What would it be like to not be ridiculously curious about everything around me? I don’t know, what is it like to not have an arm? Those questions are one and the same for me, meaning I have no faint idea of what it is like.

Being insatiably inquisitive about the world around you is the best way to learn. You don’t have to have information shoved down your throat because you are already thirsty for knowledge and experience. 
It's hard to be in class sometimes and have people constantly complain about whatever we happen to be learning. I have gotten through school thus far because I always find something, anything, in any subject matter that somehow intrigues me. I know that I'm not going to be a geologist, but it's fascinating how many amazing rocks and gems there are. I don't plan on being a doctor, but medical stuff is so interesting to learn about! I could go on and on. 

As an interior design student, I have to exercise my creative muscle constantly. Curiosity and creativity are infinitely intertwined. You take in, and in, and in, and then you can just explode with ideas. After sketching and exploring ideas for my designs I can feel just empty, so afterward I have to go on a design website, look at an interesting magazine, check the news to see what's happening in the world, read a book, take a walk, hangout with a friend, or do anything not necessarily design related to replenish the creative well. 

If you do not care about curiosity and therefore the world, I urge and implore you to take a chance. Explore something, get out of your comfort zone, eat something your normally wouldn't, go somewhere you've always wanted to go. People who never do anything cool are not really curious about the world, because if they were they would get off their butt and actively pursue something. I know many people have ways that they replenish their creative wells, and ways to encourage curiosity, here's some of mine.

Ways to exercise your curiosity:
1. Journal. You will start to learn how to describe your life and it will force you to explore the details.
2. Draw/Sketch. Taking a quick photograph just does not compare to studying the contours of a person, the shape of a feather, the mass of an orange, or how light plays across an object.
3. Take Walks. I grew up taking walks with my mother and siblings, and never realized how important they were until now I think. Learning to enjoy seeing the world at a slow pace takes time. Go outside and enjoy the fresh air, go see the world. I walk almost the same (and quickest route since I like to sleep in) route to the bus and my classes in the morning.  Along the way I always try to notice one thing I have never seen before.
4. Have a Conversation. Sit down with someone who studies a subject you know nothing about, and ask them questions. Get to know someone who is completely different than you.
5. Invest in People. Similar to the one above, when you take time to have conversations with people, and find out about their life you will always learn something!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

New York, New York!

It's noisy, vast, and busy. It’s sensory overload. How do I sum up the city of New York?
First of all, I went to New York City for a service trip with my student group Christian Student Fellowship, so 12 other people joined me on this trip. I had a hand in planning the trip, and I chose the organization Global Outreach to organize our time there. We drove out to the East Coast in a van pulling a big trailer. While we were there we slept in a church basement in the Red Hook District of Brooklyn, and we ventured into Manhattan and other areas for service and sight seeing.

I’ve been thinking how to convey my experience in the city that never sleeps to you my dear reader, I could post some hastily snapped pictures, ramble about the tall buildings, the people, talk about how it is a concrete jungle, and always busy. But I decided to convey my experience through the lens of the souvenirs that I picked up while in New York. Now, these are different souvenirs in that I didn’t buy them at a typical kitschy tourist booth because most of them were free. Each random object tells a story about what I did in New York. 

The letter Z
I picked up this wonderful square wooden Scrabble game piece on my walk back to the subway after helping at this food shelf in Brooklyn. I picked up the letter by a wrought iron fence, on the concrete where it was stranded along with cigarette butts and various litter. (How great is it that it was the letter Z and not some random letter in the middle of the alphabet? It is one of the best pieces in the Scrabble game) At the food shelf we helped organize the storage room, and stock the shelves in the customer area. The shelter serves over 10,000 people in a month! It was not only great to volunteer there, but we had fun quickly forming assembly lines, cutting bread, and singing while we worked.

The New World Family Encyclopedia Volume Six: Dumas – Fire Worship
This is one of my favorite things I picked up on this trip.Two different days on the trip we worked at a senior center in Red Hook, where we served lunch, played games, sang songs, and just enjoyed conversing with the elderly people who frequent the center. One task we were assigned to was sorting books in their activities room, and throwing away the ripped ones. I came across the 1953 Encyclopedia volume, and its cover was torn off so it was free for the taking. Inside there are many pictures such as the eye diagram you see in the picture. I was very excited to find an item such as the book because it seems like the perfect thing to go into my future Cabinet of Curiosity.

Proud to be Irish Button
I picked up this Saint Patrick's Day find on the walk back from Covenant House a homeless youth shelter. We worked two separate days at the shelter, first time sorting clothes, and the second a game night with some of the residents. I was fortunate to talk to Michael, a guy who was only a year older than me, after he played Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata on the piano. He grew up in all 5 boroughs of New York after leaving home at a young age, and on his own he saved money to move to Buffalo to start anew. Before he could leave though, all his money was stolen and now he is at Covenant house to work and save money. Covenant house plays a crucial part in giving mainly people ages 18-21 an opportunity to succeed, whatever their past may be. It was a privilege to spend time there, and helping in even just a small way.

Subway map, Metro Card
Ah the subway. What an adventure. The loud screeching metal bullet is a great way to get around the city, and fun too. Half the fun of this trip was just finding my way around. I used the handy metro card every day on bus rides and subway trips. It's a strange experience to walk down the steps into a whole other subterranean world. There's also nothing like the feeling of walking up the steps of the subway and emerging into a completely new city scene.

Il laboratorio del gelato
The plastic cup came from an ice cream and gelato place in Soho. They had strange and delicious flavors such as black mission fig, black currant, honey crisp apple, and maple. A wonderful part of the New York experience is finding great eats, from a pretzel from a street street vendor, to hearing some good and mostly not so good off Broadway singers/waiters at the Stardust cafe, or even listening to karaoke at the neighborhood restaurant Hope and Anchor, the choices in the city are endless. The best food I had was a Nathans hot dog on Coney Island, a divine slice of Grimaldi’s pizza, and a 3" thick pastrami sandwich from Katz deli, oh be still my heart...

The MOMA ticket
Last but not least, I had to squeeze in time at a Museum, even if it happened to be the free Friday night at the MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) along with about, oh I dunno, a million other people!! That experience was a great end to the trip, and it literally was since we hopped into the van that night and drove through the night back to MN. The crowds of people in New York, the ever present noise of sirens and car horns, and  just the perpetual sensory overload that happened every time you walked anywhere basically sum up the city experience. 

I definitely did more sightseeing than I expected to do on this trip, and I ended up going to most of the major sighting destinations. (Central Park, Times Square, Grand Central Station, Rockefeller Center, Coney Island, walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, seeing Trinity Church, and walking by the Stock Exchange) I'm glad I was able to see the sights, but most of all I loved to serve in the city. My goal for whenever I travel is to do volunteer work where I am, and usually that ends up to be the best way to understand a new place because you stretch beyond the normal tourist bubble. Also as a Christian, because I claim to live in Jesus Christ I must walk as he did (1 John 2:5-6) and so I will take every opportunity to imitate the love and compassion of  Jesus, even when I'm exploring a new place.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Off to New York City

I was considering not writing today, but I thought I could squeeze in a quick post before I hop in a car and go off to New York City for the week.

Here's some things for you to explore, they are things that I check on often online, all great stuff.

This is an amazing blog that I check all the time.

I find these guys hilarious.

I find the sermons available from Mars Hill Church very helpful.

I will be sure to update you on all the wonderful things I see and do in New York!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

On Writing

I've always been a writer I guess.

I am never one to freely grab at labels and apply them to myself. Some labels such as daughter, sister, Minnesotan, and Preble apply to me, I was born with them. But some are what you make of yourself: student, lifeguard, Christian, or friend. I've had labels attached to me by others, and politely declined them. At what point do I really become an artist, designer, writer, poet, etc?

My favorite things, including one of my past journals
Anyway, I've been writing my whole life. I am a very visual person, but at the same time I think in  words. Often when I see something I will construct a perfect way to describe it, in a sentence or two. I've been a chronic journaler since I was 12, but a few scrawled entries date back to 7 and 8 years old. Capturing memories has always been my hope. Journaling, composing poetry/prose, essays on random subjects, or just silly stories about teddy bears and trees have all been produced at one time or another. Not for other people, but for myself. Often times it doesn't even feel like a choice, I am compelled. I must write, and commit word to paper. 

Okay, enough musing... but my actual point for writing today was to share some of my writing with you. Here and there I write poetry (more like prose), I consistently write in my journal, and also find various other outlets (such as this blog). While tinkering around with writing, I realized what a rich resource my childhood is. I tend to write simple memories from my childhood when I can't find anything else to write. My childhood is such a source of inspiration. In my tween years I wrote terrible 'poetry', ugh. But many things I jotted down about my childhood became seeds to return to and cultivated into a more complete thought. At my previous school I took a reading poetry class, and a writing poetry class. I always gravitated toward writing prose about my childhood. It’s interesting that my writing style tends to be more whimsical than anything else. I just try to capture a memory, sum up a moment. Basically it’s those moments that are so pivotal when you are a kid. The moment when you realized gravity existed, or realized how bad you were, or jealous you could get. The moments where you learned that you and others were not invincible...
Here's one of my favorites:

The Day I Learned How to Fly

The day I learned how to fly
I first discovered gravity

Tiny white fingers gripping each metal step
I ascended to the top of a mountain
Pulling my weight up to the summit
Though no more than four feet high
On top of that swing set slide
I could reach out and touch the clouds

I surveyed the land below, my backyard, prepared to jump
My parachute was harnessed and ready
Little tennis-shoed feet lifted off the metal
Leaping into the unknown
Unexpected, hands broke my fall in the grass
The halting flight ended in a crinkle of plastic

I didn’t fly! My trusty parachute!
Glancing at my shoulders I inspected the straps
The thin plastic bag was in working order
Rather than risk bruised knees a second time
I took flight with my feet firmly on the ground
The grass cushioning my steps as I took off running

The day I learned how to fly
I first discovered gravity