Writing Portfolio: Five Essays on America















A few years ago at a family reunion I began asking some of the older members of our extended family about how we arrived in America. My great-uncles, Jim and Dan, who are the two oldest members of our family at ninety and ninety-five told me the story of their parents journey to this great country.

They were emotional in their story telling and were sad that they could not remember the story in considerable detail. My great-grandfather, Daniel, was born in Ireland in 1859. My great-grandmother, Mary, was born in Ireland in 1866. In the 1870s when he was around eighteen years old my great-grandfather came to America from Currow, Ireland. Currow is just outside of Kilarney, and settled in Jamaica Plain, outside of Boston, Massachusetts.

About two years after he came to America he met my great-grandmother who also came from Currow. They had lived less than three miles apart but had never met until they had arrived in America. They had known each other’s families but had never met in person before their arrival in America. My great-grandfather decided to marry my great-grandmother and they lived together in my great-grandfather’s house in Jamaica Plain. He began to work on the construction of railroads in and around Boston while my great-grandmother worked as a seamstress. I heard this courageous story of my great-grandparents leaving their sheltered lives in Ireland to come to America and begin a new life.

The story inspired me to be fearless in my life and to try new things when I could. It showed me that I should be proud to be an American because my great-grandparents sacrificed their lives in Ireland to come to this great country.












In life many paths are taken to reach a desired conclusion.  Behind my house there is a path that travels alongside Route 495.  At the end of this path is a serene and tranquil site that can be easily overlooked by an unattentive eye.  I took the path less taken to this undisturbed American site and observed with great scrutiny the changes that took place. Thoreau said, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.”  I watched as men and women traveled by such a tranquil area without noticing it as they continued their desperate lives.
     On my way to this lonely American site I asked myself why no one has appreciated it.  During my observations many people have passed by it oblivious to its magnificence as an unadulterated American place.  These were not people hastily rushing through life, but they simply were not aware of this superb section of land.  They could not see the brilliance a place whose main purpose was not akin to ones' goals faster, but simply there to beautify nature and the surroundings.
     Some people are so overwhelmed with the end that they cannot enjoy the means.  I observed some of these disillusioned in action who went through their desperate lives without trying to become aware of their surroundings and the beauty of untouched nature.  These people moved swiftly through life and did not take the time needed to appreciate a place that had been undisturbed for what could have been centuries.
     In life there arise many paths that can be taken that lead to a bright and blissful future.  Some are more traveled than others and can be taken with more haste; therefore, they are less enjoyable and fulfilling.  Another path is the path less taken and it leads to a spot in an American environment much like the one I visited where life can be relished.  This path leads through many of these places for which life becomes more meaningful and worthwhile.











     Emily Dickinson wrote many poems, more than 1775, each teaching a different lesson to the readers throughout the world.  She wrote for herself and to those close to her through letters.  However these poems can be translated into the lives of everyone as they teach an undying lesson that is applicable to all.

     In Dickinson’s “There is a solitude of space”  she shows us that solitude can be found even in and especially in the most wide open spaces such as the sea and death.  In her poem she teaches that to find solitude one must first be in the most open area.  Dickinson herself found solitude in her own open spaces in Amherst where she peacefully wrote her poems in spite of the chaos that surrounded her life.
     Dickinson’s poem also reveals the “...profounder site That polar privacy” she enjoyed within the confines of her house in Amherst.  She wrote of finding a place that was truly one’s own, where one could be at peace with the world no matter what the outside circumstances surrounding them were.  Her solitude was found in virtual isolation on her grounds at Amherst.

     Dickinson uses paradox such as “Finite Infinity” to capture the sense of ambiguity that she has about solitude.  It is used to show that all space can be measured and that all measurements are endless.  Dickinson shows that solitude can have many different meanings for each person.

     Emily Dickinson’s “There is a solitude of space” is used to teach its readers, mainly the specific person she wrote to through her letters, that solitude can be found anywhere.  She wrote that solitude should be cherished and that anything can be attained through solitude.  This lesson can be used for all people and in all walks of life to better understand oneself.



























   Billiards is a game played by many, in a bar room or within their friend's basement and is perfected by few.  There are many different games of billiards that include pool, snooker, and carom billiards, all of which can be played by multiple players.  In each game there are a set of plastic balls including a separate cue ball that must be hit by a wooden tapered stick, the cue.  Like all other sports, billiards is a complex game that includes a myriad of different situations and intricate rules that provide a great source of competition between friends or even by one’s self.
     Pool, or pocket billiards, is the most popular game played within the United States and can be played in many different forms.  The most common of these games are 8- ball, 9- ball, continuous, and for more than two players the game of “cutthroat”.  All these games involve pocketing a ball into one of the 6 pockets located at the corners and in the middle of each long side of the rectangular table.  Many of the games use 15 object balls that are “racked” in a triangle where they are broken up with the cue ball.  These games, as with snooker and carom billiards can be played recreationally or professionally where many of the star performers can earn lucrative salaries.  Pool is now considered a social event where many can relax and enjoy themselves with a beer and a group of friends(Chidley and Nemeth 55).
     Pool is not a genuine American sport, such as basketball, that was invented and developed in America, but it is an example of how the sport of billiards was adapted and has become a piece of American culture.  The sport of billiards was transformed into a more stream-lined version of snooker that involved less object balls and provided for an abundance of differently styled games that can be played by more than two people.  This sport of pool can be played in any forum where a pool table is accessible, much like basketball where a hoop can be found on virtually every street in the country.  Because of this, pool has become a popular sport in American society and on every Friday night one can find solace in a local pool hall filled with a jovial group of Americans enjoying a competitive sport.  One of these typical Americans, Joe Cavallini, enjoys the sport because it is a game in which the same situation never occurs which makes for an exciting game.  He also says that it is a sport distinct to American society where a group of people can go after a long day of work and enjoy themselves in a competitive game in a barroom atmosphere.
     Billiards, like all other sports, has spawned a growth in the number of leagues and championships that are held every year.  Because of the popularity and growth of the sport many Americans have been able to secure their income solely from playing and writing about the sport.  One of these writers, Joe Chidley, has written about the growing popularity of the sport and has commented that billiards has become the third largest recreational sport in America, behind bowling and basketball.  He notes that the rise  of pool is a result of the changing from idea that it is associated with wasted youths and drugs to the idea that it can be played even within the upper eschalon of society(Chidley and Nemeth 55).
     With the development of leagues around the nation and the transformed image of the sport more people are becoming involved with the sport at an earlier age and have the opportunity to play pool or billiards for a living.  The best of these can be seen, from time to time, competing on television in front of large audiences with the ability to make large sums of money just for playing a sport they love.  One of these professionals, Steve Knight, is at the top of the ranks in 9 - ball competition.  He said, “The rise in popularity of the sport stems from the image it has created for itself and the ability to be seen as a distinguished sport played by all.”  He has worked for most of his life to create and strengthen this image of the sport to which he has dedicated his existence.  With the expansion of the sport he has a greater ability to prosper from playing because more sponsors will invest into each competition.  The reason he believes the sport has become Americanized is because it has the ability to be played by anyone and any one of those people can be successful at the sport.
     Other forms of billiards not played in America are Snooker, a term used to describe the path of the cue ball to the object ball, is mainly played in England and is similar to some games of pocket billiards.  It involves a similar 6 pocketed rectangular table but uses 21 object balls with different point values and has no variations. Carom billiards is a type of billiards played across the world, typically outside of America, but is different from pool and snooker because it does not have pockets.  Points in carom billiards are not scored by pocketing a ball but by striking it with an object ball that was struck by the cue ball.  A popular type of carom billiards is 3 - cushion billiards where a player must strike the cue ball which must hit three rails and an object ball in any order before it strikes a third ball.
     Billiards takes on many different forms and can be played by anyone who has the desire.  Billiards is not a difficult sport to play but can never truly be mastered.  There are different forms of billiards and many types of games within each form of billiards which allows for every player to develop their own personality as a billiards player.