Saturday, 16 April 2016

a short story on femininity and freedom

Isabella blew out the gas-lamp by her side, and undivided darkness prevailed. The only fracture in the night sky was the ethereal gleam of white light emancipated from the moon.

The indifferent silence perplexed her, and she began to reflect upon how all life was indeed far removed. She could hear only the bleating of elk in the distance and in the thinned, elastic air she dismissed her light-headedness. Inhaling deeply, she longed to feel the optimistic rush of oxygen to her brain, mistaking the onset of faintness for strength, and thus lulling her mind into a false sense of vitality.

Around 4,500 feet from the foot of Long’s Peak, part of the Rocky Mountain range discovered in 1820, 
53 years ago, her memories and her dreams seemed apparent to another existence. Two evenings ago alongside her travelling companions, Jim Nugent and Mrs Chalmers, she had reached the base at the foot of the mountain. Upon their arrival, with the sun dutifully descending down over the glorious, desolate mountain range, she had excused herself in order to admire the native Indian settlements visible upon the horizon. She had, however, split from her acquaintances instead, and began to ascend the mountain alone as darkness fell. Her reasoning for doing so was an irrational streak to escape her peers - feeling that they were confining her successes, and that in order to truly succeed, she must be alone. Her mission was therefore a mission of self-discovery, and a subconscious effort to prove herself capable of the highest personal achievement: refusing to allow others to influence her successes.

After escaping from her companions and fleeing up the treacherous mountain path, she was forced to stop a few hundred feet up as night had fallen and she could no longer configure a safe path. The next day, she climbed further, and from the vantage point at which she paused to rest upon, she watched Jim Nugent and Mrs Chalmers frantically trawl the landscape below in search for her. As they trawled the area in close proximity to the base, their figures on horseback became toy-like. They would assume her dead, her mountaineer skills concluded feminine - inept. A search party would be sent out on request of her family, but she estimated she still had a few days yet.

But now, once again sitting alone in the darkness, though without the adrenaline of spontaneous escape, the dense silence created no distractions from her thoughts. The night seemed opaque to her. Exhausted, she lay out on the rock, still warm from the day’s heat. Her body felt as though it were detached from her mind. The cold shawl of the wind pummelling her body and the skin of her lips, fractured from the heat, did not feel genuine in existence.

Struggling against these thoughts of existence, past reality appeared obscure and fantasised. She questioned whether the reality she was experiencing was all but a trick of the mind. Her watch told her of the time, but she did not see for she became lost in the darkness of late evening.

Her mind, a morass of questions; her body, feeble and weak, collapsed into a state of heavy sleep. She slept deeply, and her body drifted into a state of unfrequented unconsciousness. She dreamt of her youth, and the stigma of these images haunted her. She awoke startled; though determined and refreshed, despite the palpitant heat of the morning.

She grasped with her surroundings. The distant callings of birds rang with splintered hope and the bleak shrubbery sat still.

Her future appeared to loom upon the horizon, stained with the tumbling colours of dawn and antipathy of her past. Her mouth was arid with dehydration but her mind was drenched in astringent memories, heavy with questions and the embittered taste of harrowing mistakes. In empty daylight, the once glorious mountain range that had seemed to reassure her with its heights and intangible power, became ghastly: an imposing, desolate landscape, dry of reassurance.

Again, delirious thoughts forced their way back.

The wild, intangible colours of the morning sky seemed to prove to her that her life was simply an extension of a dream, that she was stuck inside a painting of her own mind.

The skies looked like a paisley patterned wallpaper: a wonderful mixed cauldron of purple hues and emerging blues, passionate pinks and flaming oranges: electric, wild clashing colours that chased after each other in kaleidoscopic curls. It was almost illusionary, appearing in a different combination of colours and patterns at every tilt of her head. In the first few minutes of sunrise as the moon had secreted itself into the gashed pores of the universe, the skies were murky underfoot seaweed. As the sun rose, a burning sphere of orange white light, the skies were a hundred chameleons crawling over these colourful wallpapered walls of the atmosphere. In her mind it was her thoughts: chaotic, tumbling with unrestricted emotion and laughter and light: physical freedom and haunting wilderness, colliding together at dawn and bursting through dotted pin-pricks when absolute darkness prevailed at dusk, for that was when she was left alone to be with her thoughts.

She laughed instinctively, and the echoes of the unknown joke ricocheted down the face of the mountain, breaking the stone-silence. Her mind seemed to be as free as the unruly positioned masses of rock stretching out around her, and as wild as the shrubbery lining her way.

Dazed and drawn back sharply into reality, her laughter cut itself short. She was here, alive: a young woman on her way to the summit of her own mind. Her mother had taught her well in her youth: knowledge of the universe; maths and physics, subjects deemed abhorrent taught to a girl; and knowledge of literature and geography, subjects deemed more suitable. She had always been equal to her male counter-parts in child-hood, despite the ill-health that had plagued her. In her view, she thoroughly believed that varying biological attributes should define you no more than the colour of your eyes or the length of your nose. In her journey, that happened to occur as both a physical and mental challenge to herself, she felt she should be considered no less equally than Stephan Harriman Long, the male explorer who had once discovered this very rock. Everything was relative, she thought again, and how she took solace in the illusion that her existence may as well be fabricated!

But such lucid thinking had impoverished her mind. She needed water to quench her thirst and oxygen to replenish her brain. Delirious, she had drank the remains of her water supplies in the heat of the day before, and now without a stream in sight, she was feeling the onset of severe dehydration. Her skin was rough, her throat rattled dry and her eyes looked on dulled, exhausted after having glittered with the prospects of the souls offerings.

Her thoughts had reached their ultimate peak, and inevitably now suffered the soaring downfall, cursing down from esteemed heights along a sharp gradient of self-ridicule. She deemed her own earlier notions on existence as abhorrently childish, though this confusion only heightened her severe altitude sickness.

It was fear of the unknown that had brought her to concur a false reality made of her own illusions of existence. Was that all fear was, a mechanism of escaping death? Had she felt such intimidation by the universe that her existence had seemed false?

She yearned for proof. Proof that she did exist, that physical existence was all, and that there was indeed a society out there beyond this mission of self-discovery.

Desperate, she pleaded with the rocks to spare her the energy in regaining motivation for life. For her lips to be softened with the dewiness of filtered water, her throat to smooth like a snake shredding its skin, her mind to replenish itself, for then perhaps her derisory views on existence would cease. What it would be to be awake, truly, after this lull in existence!

The sun had risen now, and she could feel convention diffusing out of her body in the bitter sweat that glistened on her face. In the new light, she could see plants hanging precariously from the rock face above her, anchored into cracks that spread out like individual pathways into the rock-face.

“Plants!” She exclaimed, and then paused, thinking. “Plants!” She exclaimed again, though with more assurance in her tone. For in her first spoken words since her departure from civilisation, she had reached an epiphany: plants relied on water, and if not sudden relief from this altitude, she needed water to mitigate her dehydration.

Tormented but eager, she used her nails to claw at the cracks in the rock nearest to her. Her nails tore and broke, unfamiliar to such drudgery. But it was no use, for the water did not appear. Her mouth was dry, and her thoughts were draining of enthusiasm. She had reached a point where social etiquette was abolished and fear of others other than herself was ridiculed more than her own thoughts. Her mission in escaping her companions was to prove to the doctors, the nurses and the specialists involved in her childhood that challenges, even as a woman, do not make you incapable. Her ill health in her youth was not a barrier, but an obstacle to overcome, one that she was only now truly defeating in her travels. If she could be at one with herself by proving all others wrong and herself right, then she could find ease of mind. But these thoughts were ignored as she realised that despite her reverence for life, in these moments, existence only mattered because she had found water and it would only continue to matter if she could consume it.

Her mouth filled with bile that tasted like the dirt of society she had come to acknowledge, and she spat it out with distaste.

For she was both the water in the rocks and the woman clawing the rocks, in search of herself, the water. The rock: societies hard-faced orders of conformity, needed to be cracked and broken apart, and only then would the water appear: a mirror of her true self. She came to realise that she was not lost to the wilderness of her surroundings, but to herself. In realising this, her mind became unsaturated, and purity prevailed.

She heaved with the weight of realisation upon her chest, and fainted, on an uneven patch of rock, around 4,548 feet above sea level, at 6:32AM, at one with herself, finally.


This short story was submitted as part of my English Literature and Language coursework in the summer of 2015. The title was 'Women and Fiction', and needed to be influenced by at least two other texts. The primary textual sources that inspired this short story were The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, A Lady’s Life in The Rocky Mountains by Isabella Bird and The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde.

Saturday, 2 April 2016

I think it's time for me to post, again.

So aptly, here's a poem of mine on time. Likewise the style of e. e. cummings, this one has no title.

We are the time-smiths,
The controllers of the hour. Fine
Spinners of silver-stained myths.

Forged upon a linear line,
And cast upon these chalkboard skies.
A single strike, undoubted, in this mine

Laced illustriously with volatile lies.
Undeterred, as mortals spawn their thoughts
Of curious desires, our illusion sighs
Once again, and resorts,

Back to the eternal enigma of which we distort.
Through dreamy abstraction and noble smiles
Our riddle is unsolved and our lessons untaught.

Enslaved to ignorance these mortals pass. Dead dials
Left motionless, though not on our watch. No.
For we understand, eventual demise is a trial;

A testament to wonder, of which we bestow
Upon our beguiling selves alone.
So primitive belongings shall set aglow,
Iron burning dead, burdened by our loan.

Aeons dawn and drown but we persist, sewn
Into a timeline of our own illusions
From which can no longer escape, unknown. 

Saturday, 23 January 2016

illusions of everything and realities of nothing

Recently, I've descended into a state in which all I see are recreations and shadowy façades, disillusioned conquests and heavy webs of self-conceit.

70 people submerged in blissful ignorance, oblivious. Defined by the burdens of expectation sweeping through our generation, we are absorbed into the comforts of familiar house parties and vodka-fuelled escapades. It leaves me overwhelmed by the realisation that everything is relative, and these terrible mistakes will become favourite anecdotes, the foundations of our future. And contrastingly, with the world in throes of fear, we 70 teenagers converge with hopes and dreams in the relative troubles of hedonistic pursuit amongst family photos and fruit bowls, a floor sticky with cider and littered with abandoned bottle lids. For in this quiet pocket of heady oblivion, the news channel obscured by shouts and crackling iPods, we exist, a black hole within another. Our troubles are purely relative, and those bigger are the same. We co-exist with evil and good in this world of self-doubt and ambition, a false dichotomy of ideals. We label our words and ideals meaningful, caught up in the tides of time and dictation. But we exist as questions, a manifestation of ambiguity. For what else are we, other than a recreation of ideas? Individuals a façade; a collective of disillusions in the name of humanity, pushing on through into what, perhaps, is the greatest of questions, but for millions of years we have survived, and we shall continue to do so.

- Journal extract, 13/11/15

In November I attended an English Literature course, and one idea discussed was Roland Barthes' essay, Death of The Author. The essay argues that writing and its creator are two separate entities – essentially limiting factors to one another. Barthes argues that, ‘to give an author to a text is to impose upon that text a stop clause’, thus promoting the rejection of an ‘Author-God’. Most notably however, is Barthes' consequent conception that ‘the text is a tissue of citations’, suggesting that all text is derivative, a manipulation of pre-existent culture and meaning. 

The same 26 letters of the alphabet form my creations here, a further 'tissue of citations', another combination of letters. As Barthes would argue, my meaning behind these words is of what you interpret, not that which I intend.

Therefore, in extending the notion of post-structuralism, we ourselves can be seen as products of interaction- an amalgamation of a chain of events tied by the commonality that we call humanity. Our physical qualities are inherited, we are nurtured by the world around us, and our minds are dependent on our existence in the outside. 

We are counterparts of the collective.

Can responsibility ever be truly denoted in these illusions of innovation? Who has the authority, or the right to claim ownership in a world of recreation? Are my ideas remodelled outputs of all other ideas, a collective interpretation of these 26 letters?

It appears to me that creation is a façade gleaned from others' masterpieces of recreation. It appears a vicious circle of imitation, questioning the possibility of us ever having an inherently unique existence as manifestations of such controlled expression.

Such as it is in Euthyphro's dilemma, do we determine reality, or does reality determine us? If reality determines us, the supposed authors of our own lives - with the text therefore determining us, do we simply become another reader, with the text - reality - taking on autonomy?

And therefore, must we suppress ourselves in the interest of living, or are we already intrinsically suppressed to the society of humanity that we find ourselves in? Do we put ourselves into our creations or do our creations put themselves into us? 

This shared language that no one can take accountability for, only manipulate, is what we are founded on. But this is not solely the language of letters, but language as synonymous with shared existence, a code of humanity.

It is this language that allows us to acknowledge our common ties. To understand language would be to understand life, a feat that no one has yet accomplished. We are unsure of this language that ties us, that allows us to build up these illusions.

Language knows only a subject, but this subject can be misinterpreted. Language is not an absolute. Their/there. Allowed/aloud. Side/sighed. Road/rode/rowed. Your/you're/yore. Only a few homonyms that exemplify this case. I suppose that all we can ever hope to be are good interpretations of this shared humanity.

But I think there is a certain element of irony here, in analysing Barthes' own ideas, attributing this idea of the 'Death of the Author' to him, himself. And certainly a sense of irony on his own behalf, choosing to publish his works under his own name.

Whilst we are facilitators of humanity, we choose the elements to interpret, and those to disregard. As in the proliferation of text, we are text ourselves, a million things.

As my philosophy teacher proposed, "does the lack of confines in post-modernity in literature mean that new combinations of words can convey previous combinations of thoughts that previously would have been have considered meaningless due to lack of adherence to agreed conventions?" 

We might be recreations, but we are differing combinations derived from this imitation. 

Barthes’ essay culminates into the argument that the reader holds more responsibility to the text than to the author. It is from this point that we must move forward, and dictate our lives of our own accord.

We can only hope to imitate humanity in the best way that we can. Reckless adolescent abandon and consequent terrible anecdotes shape our existence, and perhaps it is in such a state of “heady oblivion" that life is most meaningful, without the restrictions of language, but only thought and disillusion to revel in. We are illusions of humanity.

Perhaps through these explorations however- through these differing combinations- though relative, the meanings of humanity will change itself, until humanity has "died the death of a thousand qualifications", and takes on a new meaning...

....only to repeat the cycle of the first, an imitation itself.