Writing Portfolio: Five Essays on America
Contents

Origins

Nature

Humor

Literature

Sport

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another family party, what a bore. My family has reunions every year or so. I walk around hoping to leave as usual, constantly glancing at my watch, but this time it is different. As I look around for my father planning on begging him to let me sneak off early something catches my attention. I see a cluster of my brothers and cousins sitting around in a circle listening intently in one of my Grandfather’s stories.

Immediately I am reminded of just a couple of months earlier when we got him drunk and pried into his tender memories of World War II, how he almost broke into tears as he recollected those horrific moments. This time it is different, he has not drunk at all. I decide to sit and listen. My younger brother has a report due on our family tree and is asking simple questions about my great-grandparents. As usual, Papa uses this as an opportunity to tell us one of his classic histories.

“My parents had one of the best stories possible for meeting each other," he began. “My father, John, was a nineteen year old from County Mayo. While my mother, Helen Dowd, was sixteen, also from County Mayo. Despite their being from the same county, they had never even seen each other before. In search of a better life, my father decided to go to America. My mother also was to go, but was forced by her father. They met for the first time at the boat. My grandfather saw a young, strong, man and asked my father to protect his daughter on the trip over. She was alone and knew no one, and at the time it was very dangerous for anyone to travel by themselves to America let alone a defenseless, teenage, girl.

"They ended up becoming very close on the trip. They spent countless hours together doing just about anything available, such as playing cards and having long conversations that extended late into the night. My mother was supposed to be picked up by her aunt but upon arrival she was no where to be found. My father, keeping his promise, took her home with him.

"After a couple of days they found my mother’s aunt and departed, vowing to remain friends. Two years later, after being inseparable, they got married.

"Now I’m going to bed," he finished. Not one of his best stories, but certainly interesting. I prepare to leave with a new respect for the family I never knew. I now realize the importance of these stories, I firstly would not be here, but besides that, this is a part of my heritage.

This is the way my Irish heritage lived their lives. I realize that I don’t know anything about my roots, I don’t even know who the President of Ireland is, and I am not the only one. Many Irish Americans consider themselves Americans and nothing more. We know little about where we came from or why our ancestors came in the first place. As I said goodbye to my closest cousin that night, I wished I knew more about the Irish way of life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

       Everything changes over time.  Things end, then later begin anew.  What we don't realize is that we are a part of that change.  Outside my back door, there is a part of my lawn that is turning gray, people don't recognize this dying garden of weeds. It sits, hidden behind a hedge, sitting beside the oil stained driveway with the only separation between them being a drop of about three feet.  Well I lay there with my legs dangling off the edge, and I watch and smell life's changes.  But I soon realize that I am connected in some way to the to the grass growing under me.  I see that as the grass grows, I grow.  The change that one thing makes is experienced by everything else.  Emerson said, "  Nature always wears the colors of the spirit."  But it is not just nature that is intertwined with our lives.  In some way we are involved with every change that takes place.


     One day as I was lying in comfortable getaway, I felt the grass under me and realized it had just been cut.  When I thought a little harder I realized that I was connected to the grass being cut, and even was connected to it growing back.  I am a thread of root, a part of something continuously grows.  But what about all the other roots and pieces of grass.  It isn’t a piece of grass on its own.  Everything is intermingled, I am one cell to a whole person.  Everyone and everything else are each one other cell to the ultimate being.  A being that can't be named, that just is.  I was a part of a teenage girl spilling her glass of water all the way over in California.  It could be me that writes an article in the newspaper "Teen Ink". The newspaper goes across the country and a girl sees my article and gets bored with it, of course, so she reads a review about N'Sync and of course flips because she realizes that there is a televised concert of them on tonight.  She obviously calls her friend because teenage girls always talk on the phone no matter what the subject is.  This girl then turns to turn on the television but by accident spills her glass of water.  This can happen with every action that occurs as long as there is connection to the outer world.


     I soon see that my life wouldn't be full without having to do with the planes flying over my head as I lay there watching them.  The only way that I couldn't be a part of them would be if I were disconnected from everything, if I was alone on a distant planet.  What would my life be if I weren't a part of the thousands of people that die from smoking each year?  We could never know.  
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     James Russell Lowell was one of America’s first generation of writers, and belonged to the famous group of writers known as the Fireside Poets.  He is considered to be one of the most talented of the group, but was disrupted by many personal tragedies such as the death of his children and his wife.  He was never able to match the work he had previously done but still wrote some very influencial works.  One aspect of his new writing was the apparent inner conflict in his work.  One such work was “The First Snowfall”.  In this poem he writes about the loss of one of his daughters.  “The First Snowfall” is a very good poem for many reasons.  It fits the traditional meaning of a good poem having rhyme and rhythm, and also gives a deeper meaning that requires us to search in order to understand it.  The reason I find this poem to be good though is because I can relate to it.  This poem invites the reader to reflect in the personal nature of death and its effects.


     While “The First Snowfall” shows mourning for death, it also shows a celebration of life.  The quote “I thought of a mound in sweet Auburn/ Where a little headstone stood” helps him to remember his daughter. He accepted that she was gone and had only had a positive influence on her.  This poem does the same for us.  It helps us to mourn our losses, and at the same time it helps us to find the good things that these losses had on our life.  When we read this poem we are reminded of those that are no longer around, but at the same time it shows us how there is always another that fills that void.  “Up spoke our own little Mabel,/ saying, ‘Father, who makes it snow?’”  We all have our own Mabel, not replacing the one that is gone, but filling the void that was left in their place.  


     It also shows how death can promote healing.  In the ninth stanza,


I remembered the gradual patience
That fell from the cloud like snow
Flake by flake, healing and hiding
The scar that renewed our woe.

It does not tell us to forget our losses, but tells us to live with them and learn from them and let the healing take place on its own.  This is a good message to the reader and tells us a lot.  It could be telling us a moral, or it could be telling us helping us in a personal level.  The healing expressed in “The First Snowfall” has nothing to do with snow.  It tells us that time is the snow, healing gradually, and not to give up on this healing.  


     This poem helps the reader by presenting a personal experience, and allowing it to be translated into any possible situation. If we lost a friend or family member in death, this poem can be paralleled, or if our friend is no longer a part of our life, this poem can be paralleled. This helps us to deal with the situation and promotes us to remember the good things these things had on our lives, and not the bad. It also shows us that remembrance can be found in any and all ways.  


Again I looked at the snowfall,
And thought of the leaden sky
That arched o’er our first great sorrow,
When that mound was heaped so high.

James Russell Lowell remembers his daughter by seeing the first snowfall.  It allows us to include our own remembrance when we look at nature, or anything.


     “The First Snowfall” can be interpreted in many ways.  Some may see that it is talking about an inner conflict in the author, that it is a personal poem.  But the poem was not written for one man.  It is a message to everyone that tells us to remember and not forget.  The poem is not to mourn in our losses, but to benefit by them. This poem bestows a good influence from those that have been lost in our lives.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

         Rugby is a very physical and self-demanding sport.  Being, a combination of soccer and football, it requires a substantial amount of stamina, toughness, and determination.  According to a history written by Huw Richards, rugby began as a competition, not as a sport.  It originated in England and served as a technique to relieve the tensions built between groups of different economic and class structures.  Through a dispute, the group split and he sport was brought to life as twenty one clubs set up there own union called the Northern Rugby Football Union in 1895.  Rugby began as an anti-professional sport whereas it was forbidden to participate in competition unless you had a full paying job.  It was not until 1899 when rugby became professional and the players were paid, but even at this time it was required to hold an alternate route of income.  The sport is now played internationally, by professionals, amateurs, high schools, and even by women.  Over the years, the sport of rugby has undergone many changes in order to become more attractive to athletes, fans, and spectators alike.
     A sport is essentially a game.  It remains a game until it is set apart by following certain criteria.  When a game is organized into set teams, and a league is established to mediate the competition and matches between the teams, it can be considered a sport.  However, a true sport requires the participants to work in order to be good at it.  It requires the body to work both physically and mentally.  Rugby can be described under all of these characteristics.  It became a sport in 1895, when the league was set up.  It was not professional, but it still was considered a sport.  Rugby is very self-demanding.  It requires a player to be tough physically due to it being a full contact sport, and tough mentally due to its complex play and the beating you need to overcome from playing it.  Rugby is a sport in its own.  It is virtually impossible to play something like football and just be automatically good at rugby.  An athlete needs to be exposed to it and they need to participate in it in order to be an effective participant.  Rugby fits all the criteria, therefore, qualifying it as a sport.
     It is not known how rugby was introduced to America.  But it can be theorized that it was brought to America by Irish immigrants in the 1900’s.  It is not prejudiced to say that the sport is mostly played by Irish-Americans.  Rugby was first noticed when a coach in Pennsylvania began to coach his own team. The sport slowly spread around New England where it is now organized into six teams with more than three hundred athletes participating in it under the American National Rugby League.  The league’s mission is to popularize the sport and to have it become an openly accepted and played sport.  However, the sport has barely spread beyond New England.  This could be due to the fact that New England is heavily populated by people whose routes stem from the British Isles. Its popularity is worldwide, it just hasn’t been able to compete with the original “American” sports.  John Goodbody, critic and writer of the sport, says this in The Times, “The viewing public remains unenthusiastic about rugby, even though the stadiums remain full.”  He doesn’t however follow up on the statement but it can be expected that what he means by this is that the sport has the potential to be popular but has not taken hold as a televised sport.  It is popular among its fans, but has not been popular with the general public.  Rugby is not failing in America, it is simply taking root.
     Frank Doyle plays rugby and is a part of the team at B.C. High.  When asked about why he plays rugby he said, “Rugby isn’t like most other sports.  Your ability to play the game comes not only from your skill, but also from your willingness to play.  It’s a rough sport and you need to be both physically and mentally tough.  I like that about rugby, I don’t need to be a really good athlete in order for me to play, but I do need to be in really good shape to last.”  Rugby isn’t unfamiliar with many other sports.  It requires a great deal of discipline and stamina to play.  However, it is very different with the fact that just about anyone can play, and that it is so physical.  Former French skipper and coach Pierre Berbizier illustrates this difference when he says, If you can’t take a punch, you should play table tennis.”  When Frank was asked about the lack of support for rugby in America he said, “Don’t worry about it, the second people realize how fun it is it will be right up there with the other sports.”  He takes an opposite look at the sport in America than John Goodbody.  He says that rugby hasn’t even been exposed to the general public.  Those who play the sport tend to support it more however, it is a biased opinion on the publicity.
       Rugby would have been incredibly popular with eighteenth century America.  It is a very physical, rugged, and aggressive sport.  This description also illustrates the classic American.  Times have changed however.  The selfish and spoiled life lived by an American today would most likely cause most of us to look at rugby as being barbarian and suicidal.  We are obsessed with our own self-preservation and with the roughness of this sport I am not surprised it isn’t as popular here as it is in other countries.  Rugby will one day be accepted and be a very popular sport in America.  We have begun to enjoy the risk of sports like rugby just as we once did.  Sooner or later, rugby will be one of the most popular sports played internationally.