Writing Portfolio: Five Essays on America
Contents

Origins

Nature

Humor

Literature

Sport

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My great-grandmother lived until I was eight years old. She was ninety-eight at the time of her death. During our month in Maine each summer, my family would visit "Granny" daily. She was accustomed to the ritual of a cup of tea in the late afternoon.

We planned our day so that we could arrive at her house at about 4:00 each day and have tea with her. My mother and father used to love to ask Granny questions about her life, particularly about her time spent in Maine. Granny's parents had bought some property in Maine in about 1900, when she was young. This property has been handed down through the generations and is where I continue to go each summer.

One of my favorite stories was about how she traveled for two days on the train from her home in Philadelphia to Bath, Maine. She described the fun that she and her younger sister had in their cabin on the night train. When they finally arrived at the train station in Bath, they where met by a man with a horse and buggy. The family trunks would be loaded onto the buggy and they began the final leg of the journey. They took the half-day trip over the rutted dirt road, 13 miles out to Small Point.

This trip that once took my great-grandmother's family half a day on a horse and buggy, now takes us fifteen to twenty minutes in our car. Interestingly, although we arrive in a fraction of the time, the community of Small Point is not so different from the one my great-grandmother arrived at a hundred years ago. It continues to be a place of simple pleasures and undeveloped natural beauty. The community of summer people, many related and descended from a few original families, strive to maintain Small Point as a place that values friendship, community, and simplicity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many places in nature go unnoticed.  One such example is the narrow space behind my garage in our backyard. This area, enclosed by the old wooden fence along two sides and the dusty brown garage on another, is surrounded by all the neighborhood action, yet often left completely alone.  
This space has not always been neglected, however.  Years ago, when I was small and intrigued by the idea of a fort, or hiding place of my own, I spent a lot of time there, tucked behind the garage.  My father and I had taken leftover timber from various forgotten projects and created a fort.  We have pictures of my dad and me, side by side, hammering together the mismatched boards.  At this time in my life I often peered over the fence from my fort and watch the older kids racing around in their own play.  Or I would bring my own friends to this secret spot to create our own fun.
As I grew older I began to play only on the other side of the garage where my basketball hoop was set up.  The space behind had been important for a while and had seen some excitement, but then was returned to silence.  Emerson wrote, "Nature always wears the colors of the spirit."  This area has had the ability to take on the feelings of its surroundings but has changed over time.  My observations over the past two weeks has brought me back in touch with this area that had once been so important to me.  
     Over the course of time I have watched this spot, I have noticed many changes.  Not changes that were drastic or noticeable to the casual observer, but ones I, too, would have missed had I not decided to watch it closely. I had never stopped to notice the subtle yet remarkable changes that take place within nature.  The tree that has always stood back here, taking in all of the action around the neighborhood, though not directly involved in it.  Lying on the ground there were the old boards, remains of the fortress from my youth.  Rusty, brown nails sticking out that had not been touched for years.  I wondered why this tree fort had been left for so long.  Was it because young children had grown up and did not find it as fun as they once had?  Whatever the reason, the spot now stands alone.  
Humans grow and change through their lives but there is a steadying constancy to nature if it is left to itself.  Nature changes through the seasons but then circle back to their beginning as the seasons come and go.
     America is a place of great natural beauty, but too many simple yet remarkable places go unacknowledged and unappreciated.  As I watched my spot behind the garage for the past couple weeks, I began to recognize some of these lesser beauties in nature.  Our lives could be enhanced if we were better at recognizing more of these overlooked places.  This place is truly American in that it has interacted with Americans as they pass through it.    
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was third period on Wednesday morning.  I had a study in the café.  Chris, Tom, Donny, J.J. and I were sitting around a table.  Each of us was complaining about how hungry we were and none of us had any money.  In the middle of the table sat a warm egg sandwich.  
"Whose sandwich is that?" asked Tom.  
"I don't know" replied J.J.  
"It's Coley's," said Donny, "he left it here to go take his yearbook picture."  
"Are you sure he's coming back?" Chris asked, "because I really want to eat it."  "So do I" said J.J, "I say that if he's not back in five minutes we all take a bite."  
I knew that Coley would be angry if we ate his sandwich but my hunger was taking over.  I wanted a bite and it was just sitting there getting cold, so we all decided to do it.
     Five minutes later, Coley was still not back.  
"Times up," said Chris "I'll take the first bite."  
So we all followed Chris, each taking a bite of the sandwich and leaving only a little piece of the middle on the plate.  
     Later in the study Coley walked in.  After walking up to see if they still had not cooked it, he came back to the table.  
"Where's my sandwich?" he said angrily, already having an idea of what had happened.  Nobody answered.  
"Who ate it?"  
Everyone at the table was trying to hide off a smirk, but it wasn't working.  J.J. began to laugh.  
"It was you, wasn't it?" Coley yelled.  
J.J. declined.  Soon the bell rang and everyone began to leave.  Coley left angrily knowing he had been tricked and mad because there was nothing he could do about it.  So we got away with eating Coley's breakfast sandwich, and it definitely had been worth it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

T.S. Eliot wrote the poem "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" in 1915, when he was only twenty-two years old.  It was his first published work and marked the beginning of his illustrious literary career.  "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" is among Eliot's best-known poems and introduces the reader to his unique voice.  It seems odd that the poem, written by a man so young and with so much of his life yet to live, develops themes of self-doubt, regret and missed opportunities.  Throughout the poem, Eliot shows Prufrock as a man paralyzed to action.  '"Do I dare?" and, "Do I dare?" "Time to turn back and descend the stair." '  The reader is drawn into Prufrock's mind and musings and reads on with the desire to learn his fate.


The style of "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock is interesting and unique.  The reader is taken inside Prufrock's mind and is privy to the ramblings of his stream of consciousness. Spoken in the first person, the reader feels Prufrock's pain and experiences his thoughts and dreams. His struggles are easy to relate to because the images are clear and remind the reader of their own similar emotions.  


Throughout the poem there are many references to missed opportunities and regret for decisions not made.  Interestingly, Eliot writes is a young man when he writes "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," and yet he describes a character that seems to be at a later stage in life, having suffered from inactivity and indecision.  Prufrock says, "And indeed there will be time…time to turn back and descend the stair." And again later he says, " And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker, And in short, I was afraid." These lines typify Prufrock's approach toward life and reveal his and inability to act on his desires.  He seems to have tremendous despair about his circumstance, and yet is powerless to do anything to change it.


The overall tone of this poem is extremely pessimistic. There is negativity throughout which creates a hopeless feeling and one that suggests that Prufrock has perhaps given up on life. This pessimism is shown in a line, "I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.  I do not think that they will sing to me."  He does not feel that anything good will happen to him and shows no hope for the future.  "No!  I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be; …At times, indeed, almost ridiculous- Almost, at times, the Fool."  It appears that he does not have any self-respect left.


There is a surprise at the end of the poem that suggests that maybe these ramblings have only been a dream.  Perhaps there is hope for Prufrock.  But even with the waking there is little optimism, "Till human voices wake us, and we drown."  "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" successfully holds the reader's attention.  It shows Prufrock's situation as bleak and hopeless, and whether a dream or not, he is a man with social problems and a man who is unable to take the active steps necessary to change his life for the better.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Throughout history, humans have competed in a variety of physically challenging
    types of competition.  These "sports" have involved many different skills and
    techniques, and have tended to require some form of physical endurance.  A keen
    knowledge of the game and some sort of strategic planning has also been an
    important element in successful play.  Golf is a sport that was probably played in
    some form from earliest times, and then was formalized in the late 15th century.
     Many authorities believe that the game of golf originated in Edinburgh, Scotland
    at the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, recognized as the first organized
    golf club in 1497.  Golf's status and popularity quickly spread throughout the 16th
    century due to its royal endorsement.  King Charles I popularized the game in
    England and Mary Queen of Scots, who was French, introduced the game to
    France while she studied there.  Indeed the term 'caddie stems from the name
    given to her helpers who were the French Military, known in French as cadets
    (History of Golf since 1947).  Though not invented by Americans, golf is a sport
    that has been enthusiastically "Americanized".
                It is no wonder that the game of golf has been embraced more easily by
    Americans than by people of many other nations.  Golf is a game that takes a
    long time to play. Unlike other sports where one can complete play in an hour or
    so, golf requires a large portion of the day to finish.  To play a full round of golf,
    eighteen holes, one must dedicate four or so hours to the game.  America is a
    country that enjoys leisure and the pleasures of life and also has the luxury of
    time.  The equipment necessary for golf is more involved and expensive than
    simply a basketball or soccer ball.  And more importantly, entry to a golf course is
    expensive.  Private courses are hugely expensive, but even a public course costs
    $25 - $50 for a round.  The United States has a greater number of people than
    other nations with available time and money for golf.  
                Although golf is not an activity that requires a great deal of physical
    exertion, it involves many aspects that allow it to comply with the definition of
    sport. The mental dimension of the game is clearly one of these characteristics.
     Golf requires a tremendous amount of patience and concentration.  For many
    shots there is very little margin for error.  On one level, the game is very simple.
     The object is simply to use a set of "sticks" to get the ball into a hole. Over the
    years, however, courses have been designed with elements of increased
    difficulty.  Many golfers spend hours fine tuning their putting, chipping, and
    driving skills. Golf requires a mix of talents.  It is not necessarily the strongest or
    the fastest person that will win; it is the person who has a balance of skills and
    one that truly knows the game.
            As the golf legend, Arnold Palmer, once said, "What other people may find in
    poetry or art museums, I find in the flight of a good drive."  Golf is a sport of
    beauty that brings joy to many people who take part in it.  Although the sport
    can be viewed as a relaxing walk around a beautiful location, it is not as easy as
    it looks.  As Sam Snead once said, "These greens are so fast I have to hold my
    putter over the ball and hit it with the shadow." Lee Trevino's quote also backs
    up the concept of how hard the game actually is, "If you're caught on a golf
    course during a storm and are afraid of lightning, hold up a 1-iron.  Not even God
    can hit a 1-iron."  Many children and younger people have the impression of how
    hard could it be to hit a ball about three inches in diameter with a club.  These
    amateurs, however, do not know the great deal of work millions of people put into
    the game, and that even the pros in the sport must put in great amounts of hours
    to perform the way they do. (quotes from Golf Quotes).      
    The sport of golf is not as popular as basketball, football, and baseball in America.
     There are many reasons for this.  The main reason is that many Americans simply
    do not have the money, the time, or the access to play it.  Some choose not to
    play it because it seems boring to them, others because it contains no physical
    contact, and others because it is an "old man's" sport.  As stated by an author,
    "The sport of choice for the urban poor is basketball.  The sport of choice for
    maintenance level employees is bowling.  The sport of choice for front-line
    workers is football.  The sport of choice for supervisors is baseball.  The sport of
    choice for middle management is tennis.  The sport of choice for corporate
    officers is golf.  Conclusion: The higher you are in the corporate structure, the
    smaller your balls become."  
    Any golfer whom is not apart of the PGA Tour, who just plays the game for fun, is
    considered an amateur.  These golfers might have the toughest time playing the
    game, but always do it for the enjoyment and the pleasure they get out of it.
     Hank Aaron, the famous baseball player and amateur golfer once said, "It took
    me seventeen years to get 3,000 hits.  I did it in one afternoon on the golf
    course."  This speaks to the point of how much harder the game is to play than
    many might imagine.  The baseball great is one of the few in the baseball 3000
    hits club, but had trouble hitting a straight drive with the golf ball.
            The game of golf is loved by some, seen as boring by some, and respected
    by some, but it is perfected by few.  Americans are the best golfers in the world.
     This is perhaps because they practice the most or because they have the
    easiest access to courses.  Whatever the reason, the sport of golf has been
    adopted by America and developed into the game many know and love today.
     America, through the publicity of stars and golf celebrities, has made golf a
    worldwide spectacle.