Introduction to Nature by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Our age is retrospective.1 It builds the sepulchers of the fathers. It writes biographies, histories, and criticism. 2 The foregoing generations beheld God and nature face to face; we, through their eyes. 3Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe? Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs? Embosomed for a season in nature, whose floods of life stream around and through us, and invite us by the powers they supply, to action proportioned to nature, why should we grope among the dry bones of the past, or put the living generation into masquerade out of its faded wardrobe? 4The sun shines to-day also. There is more wool and flax in the fields. There are new lands, new men, new thoughts. Let us demand our own works and laws and worship.

Undoubtedly we have no questions to ask which are unanswerable. We must trust the perfection of the creation so far, as to believe that whatever curiosity the order of things has awakened in our minds, the order of things can satisfy.5Every man’s condition is a solution in hieroglyphic to those inquiries he would put. He acts it as life, before he apprehends it as truth. In like manner, nature is already, in its forms and tendencies, describing its own design. Let us interrogate the great apparition, that shines so peacefully around us. Let us inquire, to what end is nature?


My Ántonia by Willa Cather

Book I: The Shimerdas


The engine was panting heavily after its long run6. In the red glow from the fire-box, a group of people stood huddled together on the platform, encumbered by bundles and boxes. I knew this must be the immigrant family the conductor had told us about. The woman wore a fringed shawl tied over her head, and she carried a little tin trunk in her arms, hugging it as if it were a baby. There was an old man, tall and stooped2. Two half-grown boys and a girl stood holding oilcloth a bundles, and a little girl clung to her mother’s skirts. Presently a man with a lantern approached them and began to talk, shouting and exclaiming3. I pricked up my ears, for it was positively the first time I had ever heard a foreign tongue4.

Another lantern came along5. A bantering voice called out:6 “Hello, are you Mr. Burden’s folks? If you are, it’s me you’re looking for. I’m Otto Fuchs. I’m Mr. Burden’s hired man, and I’m to drive you out. Hello, Jimmy, ain’t you scared to come so far west?”

I looked up with interest at the new face in the lantern light. He might have stepped out of the pages of “Jesse James.” He wore a sombrero hat, with a wide leather band and a bright buckle, and the ends of his mustache were twisted up stiffly, like little horns7. He looked lively and ferocious, I thought, and as if he had a history. A long scar ran across one cheek and drew the corner of his mouth up in a sinister curl8. The top of his left ear was gone, and his skin was brown as an Indian’s. Surely this was the face of a desperado. As he walked about the platform in his high-heeled boots9, looking for our trunks10, I saw that he was a rather slight man, quick and wiry11, and light on his feet. He told us we had a long night drive ahead of us, and had better be on the hike. He led us to a hitching-bar where two farm wagons were tied, and I saw the foreign family crowding into one of them. The other was for us. Jake got on the front seat with Otto Fuchs, and I rode on the straw in the bottom of the wagonbox, covered up with a buffalo hide. The immigrants rumbled off into the empty darkness, and we followed them.

(Online Text)

The Living by Matt de la Pena

Shy went to knock on Supervisor Franco’s open door but froze when he saw someone was already in there – the older black dude with the funky gray hair who was always writing in his leather notebook. 12

Franco looked up at Shy, said: “May I help you?” 2

“It’s okay,” Shy said. I’ll just come back later.”

“Please. 3

You can wait outside. We will be done here momentarily.”

Shy stepped away from the door, leaned against the wall and let his warm eyelids slowly drop. As he listened to Franco’s heavy accent, he tried to imagine his nephew stuck inside the same quarantine room as his grandma. But he couldn’t. Miguel was too tough. Never even caught a cold. He remembered throwing around a football with the kid just a few hours before he left for his first voyage. In the alley behind their building. One of Shy’s longer tosses slipped right through Miguel’s little-kid hands, and the football smacked him in the face, split his lip. But Miguel didn’t go down. Just looked up at Shy as blood trickled down his chin, got all over his T-shirt. He forced himself to smile at Shy, laugh even – though his eyes were filling with tears, too.4

Shy felt a hand on his shoulder and opened his eyes.

The man he’d just seen in Franco’s office was staring at him, holding his shoeshine kit. “How do you sleep standing up like that, young fella?”

“I was just closing my eyes,” Shy said, wiping a tiny bit of drool from the corner of his mouth.

The man grinned. “Franco’s on the phone now. Says he’ll have to check back with you later.”

Shy nodded.

Still no answers about the suit guy or their trashed room. Nothing to tell Rodney.

The man looked toward the window down the hall. “They’re worried about this storm rolling in. Supposed to hit sometime tonight.”5

“It’s an actual storm now?” Shy had yet to experience even a drop of rain in the time he’d spent out with the cruise ship. But he’d learned in training how badly storms affected the way passengers spent money.6

Which meant fewer tips. Less money to bring back home to his mom and sis.

1775: A Good Year for Revolution by Kevin Phillips

The Patriots of 1774, too ready to consider both pullbacks as proof of the colonies’ new stature and commercial muscle, would have done better to pay close attention to the March 1770 parliamentary debates. North had emphasized the need to end a seven-year pattern of inconsistent policy tied to ever-changing ministries and policy-makers[1]: “Our conduct has already varied greatly with respect to America. These variations have been the greatest cause of difficulty.” George Grenville, [2]the architect of the ill-fated Stamp Act, agreed: officeholders, he thought, had “given way from one step to another, from one idea to another, till we know not upon what ground we stand.” To Wedderburn, [3]the solicitor general, even the partial repeal bill they were debating was “a step further in that repeated contradiction which has obtained with America.” Such “fluctuations of administration,” agreed another Cabinet member, [4]Henry Conway, had sapped government credibility. That was certainly true.[5]

The incessant politics of faction had also contributed. The Whig rivals who had displaced Grenville and come to power in 1766 were younger and inexperienced, as well as relatively pro-American. They had repealed the Stamp Act more readily on both counts. The 15 percent decline in exports to North America was only one factor.[6]

In the 1770 debate, North freely acknowledged that the 1767 Townshend Act levies, the brainchild of an earlier ministry[7], had been commercially misconceived. Proponents had naively sought “American” revenue by placing duties on certain products—paper, lead paints, and glass, for example[8]—principally manufactured in Britain. Besides, as some repeal-minded petitions pointed out, such added levies only encouraged the colonists to think about making these items themselves. North’s new regime was rectifying another ministry’s mistake.

[1] Colon, Ind. CL before and after colon, first to set up quote with summative background. Adds ethos bc author is able to understand primary source and have it support his argument.

[2] Appositive, to give pertinent info. about noun, pointing out that this person has experience in failed policies, even being the author of one, first character mentioned means prob. more important person to mention

[3] Appositive identifying another prominent authority that agrees with what’s been said and supports author’s argument.

[4] Appositive less important authority, but used for fourth emphasis of agreement. Bc name came after as appositive, it emphasizes first words like “another” and “Cabinet” to make it seem like the whole Cabinet agrees about it.

[5] Short sentence, paragraph closer. Ending with author, reigns in the external quotes as part of his opinion, makes him sound smart.

[6] Short paragraph following long paragraph, gives reader clearer understanding, paragraphs more focused on one idea, variation in length keeps readers attention.

[7] Appositive Renaming, suggests condescension for term, suggests it was bad without explaining about it in detail.

[8] Dash—to show examples that the reader might ask about while reading through the sentence in a brief way. Use to break up monotony of many appositives. Use when not discussing main subject, a quick tangent. Discussing objects.

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

The ring of Connor’s cell phone wakes him out of a deep sleep.  He fights consciousness.7  He wants to go back to the dream he was having.  It was about a place he was sure he had been to, although he couldn’t quite remember when.2     He was at a cabin on a beach with his parents, before his brother was born.  Connor’s leg has fallen through a rotted board on the porch into spiderwebs so thick, they felt like cotton.  Connor had screamed and screamed from the pain, and the fear of the giant spiders that he was convinced would eat his leg off.  And yet,this was a good dream3—a good memory—4 because his father was there to pull him free, and carry him inside, where they bandaged his leg and set him by the fire with some kind of cider so flavorful, he could still taste it when he thought about it.5 His father told him a story that he can no longer remember, but that’s all right.  It wasn’t the story but the tone of his voice that mattered, a gentle baritone rumble as calming as waves breaking on a shore.6Little-boy-Connor drank his cider and leaned back against his mother pretending to fall asleep, but what he was really doing was trying to dissolve into the moment and make it last forever.  In the dream he did dissolve.  His whole being flowed into the cider cup, and his parents placed it gently on the table, close enough to the fire to keep it warm forever and always.

Stupid dreams.7 Even the good ones are bad, because they remind you how poorly reality measures up.

Letter of Recommendation: ‘Pinky and the Brain’ by Jonah Weiner

“Pinky and the Brain,” a cartoon that aired for half of the 1990s 8, is a three-chord kind of show, as bound by formal constraints as they come. Before spinning off into its own half-hour slot 2, the series began life as the best thing about “Animaniacs,” an exuberantly unhinged variety cartoon executive-produced by Steven Spielberg and packed with non-sequitur punch lines, meta-level laughs and so many showbiz in-jokes that you could forget this was a show nominally made for kids 3. “Pinky and the Brain” stood out for its ingenuity and extreme economy. The show has only two recurring characters to speak of — the talking lab mice of the title — 4 and precisely one plot, set into motion in the opening moments of each installment with the same 23 words: “Gee, Brain, what do you want to do tonight?” “The same thing we do every night, Pinky. Try to take over the world.”


That the mice will deploy some scheme for world domination is the lone narrative motor, and that their failure is guaranteed provides not only the inevitable third-act kicker but also the condition of the show’s continued existence: a reset button that returns the mice to the lab to plot again. The pair is at once idiosyncratic and archetypal, in a vaudevillian kind of way. Brain is a hyperintelligent, short-tempered straight man voiced by a guy doing a stentorian Orson Welles impression; Pinky is daffy and sweet and speaks in an over-the-top Cockney accent 5.

They are given no back story beyond a stray line in the theme song (“Their genes have been spliced”), and they learn no lessons by episode’s end. Characterization takes the form, instead, of kid-friendly, broken-record repetition 6. In every episode, while unveiling the plan at hand, Brain will ask Pinky, “Are you pondering what I’m pondering?”–a question so ritualized that fans refer to it by “AYPWIP”–to which Pinky will offer a reliably outré response. “I think so, Brain, but I can’t memorize a whole opera in Yiddish.” “I think so, Brain, but Pete Rose? I mean, can we trust him?” “I think so, but Kevin Costner with an English accent?”

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

It was cool and quiet under the waves.

For a few endless moments, Tally felt only relief to have escaped the searing wind, the thundering machine, the blistering heat of the firestorm. 7 But 2 the weight of the crash bracelets and knapsack pulled her down fast, and panic welled up in her pounding chest.

She thrashed in the water, climbing up toward the flickering lights of the surface. Her wet clothes and gear dragged at her, but 3 just as her lungs were about to burst, she broke the surface into the maelstrom. Tally gulped a few breaths of smoky air, then was slapped in the face by a wave. She coughed and sputtered, struggling to stay afloat.

A shadow passed over her, blacking 4 out the sky. Then her hand struck something—a familiar grippy surface… 5

Her hoverboard had come back to her! Just the way it always did when she spilled. The crash bracelets lifted her up until she could grab onto it, her fingers clinging to its knobbly surface as she gasped for air.

A high-pitched whine came from the nearby shore. Tally blinked away water from her eyes and she saw that the Rusty machine had landed. Figures were jumping from the machine, spraying white foam at the ground as they crashed through the burning flowers and into the river. They were headed for her. 6

She struggled to climb onto the board.

“Wait!” the nearest figure called. 7

Tally rose shakily to her feet, trying to keep steady on the wet surface of the board. Her hard-baked shoes were slippery, and 8 her sodden knapsack seemed to weigh a ton. As 9 she leaned forward, a gloved hand reached up to gab the front of the board. A face came up from the water, wearing some sort of mask. Huge eyes stared up at her.

She stomped at the hand, crunching the fingers. They slipped off, but her weight was thrown too far forward, and the board tipped its nose into the water. 10

Tally tumbled into the river again. 11

Hands grabbed at her, pulling her away from the hoverboard. She was hoisted out of the water and onto a broad shoulder. She caught glimpses of masked faces: huge, inhuman eyes staring at her unblinkingly. 12

Bug eyes. 13

Don’t move to Canada. Stay and fight. by Michael Krikorian

No one’s moving anywhere. My friends Dahlia and Chris aren’t going to Mexico, and 14 Alexis is not going to Copenhagen. My gal Nancy’s not permanently packing up and moving to Umbria, and Duke is not moving to Thailand with his cousin Jake.

And2 you?  You aren’t going wherever the heck you say you are moving to now that Donald Trump is going to be president of the United States of America.

What we all do is this:3 We stay and fight.First, we wait and see. Even Hillary Clinton said Wednesday, “We owe him an open mind and a chance to lead.”

But4 if we don’t like what happens, we fight it. We5 take to the streets and rekindle memories of the anti-Vietnam War protests and civil rights marches. We don’t run and hice.6 We don’t abandon America.

I feel, strangely, not what I thought I would “the morning after.” I’m more patriotic than I was yesterday. More in love with my country than I have since, I guess, Sept. 11, 2001.

As my old friend Aqeela Sherrills, a longtime Watts gang interventionist and community activist said in a Facebook post Wednesday: “There’s a gift in every tragedy…   A Trump victory is an opportunity, if your like me, I do my best work under pressure. Don’t go to Canada or where ever you thinking, The U.S. is ours! and no President, Senate, Congress or White House will tell me otherwise!… lets go to work!”

The country our parents,7 uncles, aunts, cousins and grandparents fought for is sliding around a hairpin turn, but it hasn’t crashed.

Yesterday, a guy I know from the streets showed me a knife he had in his waistband. A killing knife.8 It made me think of “Saving Private Ryan”and a brutal, achingly sad scene:  room-to-room fighting, a German soldier slowly pushing a killing knife into the chest of an American soldier.

What happened Tuesday doesn’t compare to those days. Everyone walking around like it’s the end of civilization now that Trump is in? It’s not. We’ve been through far worse. A perceived threat is not as bad as a punch in the face.

I was on a text thread Tuesday night that included several millennials. It started with how wonderful the election was going turn out: the first woman president, the rejection of hateful talk.


School suspensions don’t work by David Bulley

Cindy sits across from me in what is now called The Justice Center at Turners Falls High School in Montague, about 20 miles north of Amherst. The room is brightly decorated with student art, there is a coffee machine and some candy on a table, and behind me on the wall is a quote from the mystic Rumi: “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” 9

Cindy (a pseudonym) smiles, though she is painfully embarrassed. Last year she was suspended for fighting. Now she sits across from me after having thrown a cafeteria tray and several other things at two boys. She is upset — 2 still in fight or flight mode. 3 We just chat for a while, about the weather and her weekend, her friends. 4 Eventually I know she is ready, and I ask a question to begin the real work of our meeting. “Cindy, what happened?”

When it comes to student misbehavior, most schools have long practiced a basic system of crime and punishment, isolating the perceived “offender” through detention or suspension. Until this school year, that’s what we did at Turners Falls. But 5 during the summer I was trained in a system called restorative justice, an approach that focuses on nonjudgmental discussion, developing empathy, and repairing the damage done. 6 We’ve put it into effect for all our nearly 300 students.

Even last year we might have suspended Cindy first and done the restorative work second. Before that we would have simply suspended her without ever asking what happened. After all, it’s caught on camera: 7 her throwing the tray. That’s all the evidence we need to make a problem disappear for at least a couple days. 8

“Flying Carpets” by Steven Millhauser

In the long summers of my childhood, games flared up suddenly, burned to brightness, and vanished forever. The summers were so long that they gradually grew longer than the whole year,9 they stretched out slowly beyond the edges of our lives, but at every moment of their vastness they were drawing to an end, for that’s what summers mostly did: they taunted us with endings, marched always into the long shadow thrown backward by the end of vacation.2And because our summers were always ending in games, we sought new and more intense ones; and as the crickets of August grew louder, and a single red leaf appeared on branches green with summer,3 we threw ourselves as if desperately into new adventures, while the long days, never changing,4 grew heavy with boredom and longing.


I first saw the carpets in the back yards of other neighborhoods.5 Glimpses of them came to me from behind garages, flickers of color at the corners of two-family houses where clotheslines on pulleys stretched from upper porches to high gray poles, and old Italian men in straw hats stood hoeing between rows of tomatoes and waist-high corn. I saw one once at the far end of a narrow strip of grass between two stucco houses, skimming lightly over the ground at the level of the garbage cans.6 Although I took note of them, they were of no more interest to me than games of jump rope I idly watched on the school playground, or dangerous games with jackknives I saw the older boys playing at the back of the candy store. One morning I noticed one in a back yard in my neighborhood; four boys stood tensely watching. I was not surprised a few days later when my father came home from work with a long package under his arm, wrapped in heavy brown paper, tied with straw-colored twine from which little prickly hairs stuck up.7


Millhauser, Steven. “Flying Carpets.” The Knife Thrower and Other Stories.” Crown Publishers Inc., 1998.