English 10: Writing Portfolio


Catholic Memorial High School



Creative Writing  
  Upon receiving this assignment of finding something obscure enough that no one would be able to
realize what it was, my grandmother popped into my mind. She keeps everything that ever came into
her possession in her maze of a cellar and is also a yard sale junky. To my surprise the object she
presented me with was not from one of her many yard sales but from my great uncle who was a priest.
The object was a little white fragment that was in a glass and bronze case not much larger then a
quarter. Naturally, the metal was cold to the touch but having the object in your hand gave you a
feeling, a feeling hard to explain but which could best be described as a feeling of insignificance.
When my grandmother told me that the fragment was a relic of a bone from St. John Vianney I realized
why the feeling came over me: in my hand I was holding a piece of a man far greater then I will ever be. I
asked my grandmother how she got this relic. She told me that my great-uncle passed away before she
ever knew him.

St. John Vianney was a farmer from France who worked hard in life. As a boy he was not a good
student and was terrible in Latin, the language of the Catholic Church. Nevertheless, he still
managed to become a priest. He preached at Ars, a parish in Lyons France, where he tended to the
sick and spent his days in prayers. He spent forty years as the priest at Ars and had 20,000
visitors a year come see him. Vianney died in 1859.

The people of France knew how great of a man he was; this included the slums of the world. Soon
after his death grave robbers, Jean Cognos and Philip Hewlett, ransacked his tomb. They took his
heart, left leg, and his right index finger. They knew that these items could be sold for a great
profit on the streets of Paris. The early 1860s was a bad time for Paris, the crime rate was rising
and with a new Pope of the church saying that “Sinners were damned to hell!” people were desperate.
Cognos and Hewlett realized the need for salvation and decided to create “tickets to heaven”. They
took chisels and started to chip away pieces off the bones they stole. They would stand on the
street corner yelling at the top of their lungs “All sinners come repent or spend an eternity in
the underworld!” Instantly people were drawn to them, looking for a quick fix. Cognos would tell the
crowd that if you have a piece of a saint with you when you reached St. Peter’s gate he will see you
repented and will let you in. People were hooked. Hewlett and Cognos were making a small fortune
selling the relics until one day someone thought they were cheated out of their money and reported
the two cons to the police. The police, who were already looking for the people who broke into St.
John Vianney tomb, prosecuted and sentenced the men to death. When the police searched the house of the Cognos and Hewlett they could only recover the heart of St. Vianney. The heart was miraculously preserved and not damaged what so ever. The police returned the heart to the Catholic Church.

For years the church was determined to track down the relics that were sold to the unknowing
customers. It is not known how many were actually sold but the church believed that they recovered
most of them. By the 1940’s the church had collected a tremendous amount of relics for many saints,
such as St. Patrick and St. Jude, from venders who copied the ideas of Cognos and Hewlett. The
church decided that the relics were not doing the world any good by sitting in a warehouse. They
decided to distribute them to priests who could tell the story of the saint and hope to inspire
people to model there lives after them.

My Great Uncle was one of the priests who received a relic of St. John Vianney. I think all of us
can learn a thing or two from St. John Vianney. Holding the relic in my hand, I’m reminded never
to give up on a dream, just as St. John Vianney didn’t give up on his dream of becoming a priest.
It’s amazing that it something like that got over here and even hundreds of years later, Americans
still preserve something from long ago.

If you follow Rt. 18 into Weymouth, take a right and then a few lefts you will eventually reach a
little patch of grass, some trees and the foundation of an old garage. To many this would be a
useless place that is only good for dumping old grass clippings. To me this is the “Green tree
woods” a place where I would go when I was little and play hide and go seek and ghost in the grave

It has been a few years since the last time I was here. The sky is gray and covered with clouds. The
sun is making a pathetic effort to make it through and illuminate the green shade of the trees.
Still, it is not completely dark. At the top of the tallest tree there are some lonely leaves left,
colorless with shame, and wilting looking like they were about to give into the wind. Down were I
was standing I couldn’t feel the wind. The grass was not moving and the bushes weren’t swaying. But
there was wind at the top of this tree, bullying the last leaves. The trunks of the trees look
darker than I remember. The cold chill of winter must be setting in to them. The leaves from the
trees litter the ground and cover the dirt. There is almost a pattern to the fallen leaves. They
seem to clump in a pile close to the tree, but still some leaves scatter about. Many people tend to
clump to the same thing and are afraid to venture out on there own. Straying from the popular thing
can be difficult and dangerous but the out come can be very prosperous. When I look back up at the
top of the tree the lonely leaves were gone. It was like some one plucked the leaves off the trees
with their fingers and threw them away with out caring where they fall on the earth.

The ground is soft under my feet. I reached down to feel it and discover that it is damp. It is not
the morning dew and it has not rained out today. The grass still had a little color too it. It was
neither green nor yellow. It was a brown color. All of the trees were bare today and the branches
were not swaying. It was quiet, I didn’t hear a bird or any other animal rustle, they all must be
sleeping for the winter. I start to think of the grass again. The little color that was left in the
grass was showing that it still had a will to live. Too often we give up the will to live in life.
Not as in giving into death but we are giving up our emotions, identity, and our will to express
what we believe in. without these fundamentals we truly have lost the meaning of life and have given
up the will to live.

There was still life in the woods. There was a bird perched on a tree. It was not moving. The brown
of its feathers were a magnificent color. It was not the normal brown that you see. It was a dark
and distinct color. He started to move. Hopping down the thickest branch of the tree like his feet
were tied together with a tiny piece of string, He flitters for a second and lands a few feet above
his previous spot. Not long after he flies away into the dull dark sky. I will never see him again.
He can never tell me his secrets that he might hold. I see my self as this bird, never letting
others get to close to see the real me. We tend to venture off and never expose our true self.

It was warm, not the usual weather from mid December. Many of the dead leaves that were previously
here were gone now and dry dirt took its place. The trees haven’t changed much. Only a few helpless
branches that broke off from the night before lay on the ground now. I walk over to the dirt and see
tons of little holes through out its surface. What ever lived in these holes are long gone. It is
strange to think that down this hole no bigger then a quarter there was once a civilization.
Hundreds of animals all working together for a common goal yet all we do is walk upon them. It seems
that we walk upon many things other then the ground. We walk over the homeless, poor, sick and even
ourselves. We are constantly putting some one down for not being perfect in out impure society.

As I walk upon the damp ground there is a brisk chill in the air. The sun had just stretched out its
rays and has not had the opportunity to warm the cold dull ground. To my surprise I see a bright
color out of the corner of my eye. It sticks out compared to the colorless ground. It was a yellow
flower. This yellow was a magnificent color, which can only be compared to the bright burning of the
sun. The flower had four pedals and was nestled next to the base of a large tree. The large tree was
protecting the little flower like a father would protect his child.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said that “A man is related to all nature.” This theory holds true over one
hundred years since he wrote that. As a society nature and our lives go hand and hand. We are born,
we have a great will to live, and we will all die. Nature on the other hand is far more advanced
than us. Nature has developed a respect for one another. In the “Green Tree Woods” there are
hundreds of different plants, animals and insects all living in harmony to survive. We can learn how
to live from observing nature.





















Times were changing in the eighteen-hundreds. The United States was growing, wars were being fought
and many influential people were born into the world. One of those people was born December 10, 1830
to a father named Edward and a mother Emily whom she was named after, Emily Dickinson. Emily was a
quiet girl who kept to her self. In her own privacy she would write volumes of poems only allowing
her sister-in-law to read and critique them. Emily's writing style is unlike any other poet of
her time, and of present day. Her unique ability to play with images is unrivaled, her grammar at
times can not be explained, and her fascination with death sets her apart and creates an aura about
her work. However in Emily Dickinson's poem did the Harebell lose her Girdle (216). She breaks
away one of her trade mark techniques.

There is not an argument when it is said that Emily Dickinson has the lyricism that can fool the
mind and frustrate you for hours. After careful reading the imagery that is injected into the line
seeps out and it is clear as day. In poem 216 Emily describes in third person a discussion of
whether a man and a women who are unmarried had relations, using the images of a bee, the man and a
flower, the woman. The last four lines of the poem are filled with images that blow your mind.
Paradise -- persuaded -- Yield her moat of pearl -- Would the Eden be an Eden, Or the Earl -- an
Earl? This stanza is referring to the morals of the woman. Paradise -- persuaded -- Yield her
moat of pearl” is saying did her belief in Heaven, paradise, convince her not to have sex with the
man, or yield her moat of pear, and give up her virginity. It can be noted that Emily did not have a
firm belief in God. This can be seen in her poem God gave a loaf to every bird, But just a crumb to
me. This suggests that Emily felt that God hated her, therefore if she is writing of her self in
poem 216, then the idea of God would not have stopped her. The second half of the stanza Would the
Eden be an Eden, Or the Earl -- an Earl , refers to the edict of a woman and how a woman is always
supposed to act lady like and how the stereo-typical man only wants sex.

While the imagery of Emily Dickinson's writing is fantasizing, the little things that she adds
give the poem a personality of its own. One of Emily's trade marks, whether intentional or not,
is her use of dashes. Dashes can mean several different things such as spacing between lines, a
pause in the reading, or to emphasize a certain part and to grab the reader's attention. In
poem 216 the dashes are used as pauses for a dramatic effect. The words that the dashes separate are
seemingly insignificant but the pause in-between the two words slow down the reader and make the
ending of the poem, which is the only place where the dashes are in poem 216, seem extremely
important and prominent. Another technique that Emily uses is the capitalization of common words to
give them a personality and significance. Words such as harebell and bee are capitalized to show
them as not a flower and an insect but as people. The word paradise is also capitalized, this gives
the reader the idea of it is heaven.

These little touches helped Emily Dickinson become one of the most influential poets of all time.
Emily seemed to be obsessed with death. The reason behind it is unclear but it is clearly evident as
it is present in almost all of her poems. Poem 216 is one of those anomalies that does not conform
to the cookie cutter theme of Emily Dickinson. Instead it is a poem about a love, lust and personal
morals. Emily never married; in fact she was a social out-cast that rarely ever left her house. The
presence of love and lust in her poem could represent what she never had but truly wanted

Emily Dickinson style of writing was largely due to the lack of professional criticism. If she was
published more when she was alive she most likely would have receive criticism from writers who
would have wanted Emily to conform to a cookie cutter style of writing. Emily’s nonconformism style
is what makes her one of the most influential and magnanimous poets who has ever lived.