Travel Blog #3: The Antelope Vally Poppy Reserve and Amitav Ghosh's, "Sea of Poppies"
Written by Jiarui Ye
“It happened at the end of winter, in a year when the poppies were strangely slow to shed their petals: for mile after mile, from Benares onwards, the Ganga seemed to be flowing between twin glaciers, both its banks being blanketed by thick drifts of white-petalled flowers. It was as if the snows of the high Himalayas had descended on the plains to await the arrival of Holi and its springtime profusion of colour.” -Amitav Ghosh(Photo by Jiarui Ye)
Spring has come and gone, and nature’s colors were more vibrant than ever. Thanks to 2019’s rainy downpours and snowy deluge, the seeds of flowers that were dried out were watered and filled with nutrients. For Californians, it was the best time to see the flowers bloom as their explosive color is shocking and beautiful. From December through May, we got to see the blossoms spreading all over, especially at the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve.
To see the magic behind the mixture of water and sunlight, I started off from the PCC Campus and turned onto the 210 freeway- westbound. I passed the San Gabriel mountains, once dull from the extreme heatwave last year, but now flourishing green. Cruising through the beauty of nature, I passed Santa Clarita and the Six Flags Amusement Park—loud and boisterous in contrast to the serene peace that the environment provided. Perhaps I enjoy the dangers of driving on mountainous and winding roads. Only another 8.8 miles to reach the Lancaster Road for the entrance of the reserve.
Even a few miles out, I could already see the immense bloom that took over every available field. It was a smooth ride of vibrant yellows, oranges, and purples as far as the eye could see. Children were sitting in the grass taking pictures. Adults were posing in their white dresses and suits for wedding shots as the wind blew the poppies ever so slightly. I saw the thousands of individuals who flocked over to this place just to see the majesty of the flowers.
While observing the population in the midst of the sea of gold, I was reminded of the Sea of Poppies novel written by Amitav Ghosh and reminded of the adventures that people take to reach their stories-- just like a replication of people coming to see the poppies. The glowing flowers act as a symbol of achievement, just like the quest for goals in Mauritius for Paulette, Deeti, and Zachary, in Ghosh's novel. Each individual has their own journey. For Paulette, the French orphan, the struggle of racial ambiguity leads her to find a safe haven for exiles in her society. In her life, the poppy is a representation of the struggle for freedom and the grace within that struggle.
Many do not know this but while the poppy seed is a beautiful flower, it can morph itself into something dangerous. In the novel, the poppy symbolizes danger and unrest in Deeti's life. Deeti's neurotic husband becomes addicted to the allure and potent aura which arises from these bright orange beacons. That is exactly what I felt when I looked at the hundreds of thousands who had flocked to the sea of bright colors in the poppy fields. The poppy also has the ability to transform itself—it rejuvenates and becomes something greater. Zachary's revival from a nobody to a second-in-command is like the symbolic representation of the cycle of water, sunlight and nutrients. That is why poppies are so important in culture and in symbolism.
While it is only once in a few years that Californians get to see such a super bloom, the vast nature of the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve is not one to be missed. This December go out and see the beauty that is both rare and plentiful. The journey of strength and struggle can also be learned by comparing the individuals in the Sea of Poppies novel.
Jiarui is a student studying buisness and finance with a flare for travel writing! She says, "My idea of perfect happiness is finding a balance between career and personal life".
Written by Jiarui Ye
“This is an evening to quote John Muir: “The forests we so admired in summer seem still more beautiful and sublime in this mellow autumn light. Lovely starry night, the tall spring tree tops relieved in jet black against the sky. I linger by the fire, loath to go to bed.’ Was not the glory around worth our trek up the new road and into the forest of giants?” - Charbonneau, Waltzing in Ragtime (A Photo by Jiarui Ye)
I always found it interesting how even the most turbulent nature can try and achieve zen with deep nature-air breathing techniques. Here, in Sequoia National Forest, I have never seen such majesty and scale to deal with upsetting moods. The forest of giants has repeatedly proven that it is a worthy place to visit rich with colors and variety. Even following a relentless storm, I see the huge forest enveloping itself with curiosity, as I seek sanctuary in the forest. Like the famed Children of the Forest in Game of Thrones, I could not help but wonder if I would become just as magical as the latter—or maybe it was just the excitement of being here for the first time that caused my irrational comparisons.
As I begin my journey to the Sequoias, I turn onto the US 134 freeway for exactly 3 hours and 24-minutes. I journey onto the 110 and then the 5 driveway. 77 miles later and I am past the point of exhaustion, but another 31-mile trek is left as I now start winding on the spirally and slippery roads. 88 miles left on this game of twister, as I patiently wait for the aura of the forest to uplift my spirits and dampen my clothing.
As the sky opens and the sunlight floods the trees with light, the worry slips my face. The replacement is an enjoyable one, the park is very large. The lush scenery is welcomed in a time of cold and difficult aches. Winter is still here as snow begins to slowly flow down attempting to intimidate me. The original member of the Sierra Club and the subject of many paintings and artworks over the years have now become reality as women, men and children take in the musty scent of oak and wood. The five large areas: The Giant Forest and Lodgepole, Grant Grove, Cedar Grove, Mineral Hills, and the Foothills, all have specialties. I particularly enjoyed trekking through small ponds filled with leaves and any other vegetation. These amazing trails are found at the Foothills and Mineral Hills. Watching back, I hoped that I learned more about myself in my expedition through the Sequoia's.
During this visit, I am suddenly brought back to the very old painting of the Sierra Club’s mountains. That intoxicating beauty and astonishment are represented by Olana's, the protagonist and daughter of lumber baron, own struggle of recognition in the novel, Waltzing in Ragtime written by Eileen Charbonneau. As Olana struggles to find herself and her voice, she views the sequoia tree as a symbol of security and safety. She knew that nature needs preservation, expressing,
“there is infinitely more beauty in a fine chair than in the tree that provides the raw material,” (Charbonneau, 26-27).
Olana’s own salvation through love and work is almost laughable when comparing it to the story of the forest but yet here we are. Over the years, Olana will come to understand that when things are fleeting, finding somebody - even yourself - as sturdy as a sequoia, to lead you into a life, will bring an abundance of love and joy.
Turbulence will always be present in our human lives. However, finding a strong and beautiful sequoia will open many doors for you—and that includes finding peace and serenity at last.
On the edge of your seat yet? Come back next Monday for travel blog #3 in this 5 part travel blog series!
Jiarui Ye is a student majoring in finance and business with a passion for travel writing. She says, "Ever since my first encounter with a faulty review on Tripadvisor, I hav been actively writing about my experiences and sharing tips with others."
Written by Jiarui Ye
“She could hear the rustle of palm trees somewhere off the road. Since she’d wandered away from college, she prided herself on winding up places where she couldn’t be found or, rather, where no one, especially her parents, would think to look. Until now, she’d never felt lost.” - Ivy Pochoda (A Photo by Jiarui Ye)
In the midst of the harsh desert sun, there is a dry spell in the air. The kind that has a certain mystery behind it. You don’t know what it is until you find yourself searching for the hidden oasis in the middle of nowhere. As a celebration of the newfound high temperatures that signify the beginning of spring, we look towards the flowers, trees, and other domestic plants for the sign of new life. All around Pasadena, students pass the blooming cherry blossom trees while others sneeze away from the surging pollen. However, a few hours away, we see the revival of life in the form of spikey, rough figures of Yucca brevifolia, or more commonly known as, Joshua trees.
On a sunny Saturday morning, I take an unexpected turn to the 210 freeway to avoid the morning travel traffic. As I pass the mountains of Sierra Madre, Monrovia, Duarte, and Glendora, I shift south to the 57, and then the 71, heading deeper and deeper into the center of California. As I move, I notice the population shrinking smaller and smaller, but the heat rising more and more.
This dehydrated landscape and its ever-menacing aura reminds me of the novel, "Wonder Valley" by Ivy Pochoda, as the clear and unpopulated land is nothing similar to the claustrophobic and chaotic Los Angeles center. Within the novel, the depiction of the contrast between congested city life and an uninhabited utopia reminds me of an unnerving enigma as I start my journey. While entering through the city of Twentynine Palms, I am greeted with a throwback to the past century when cowboys and horses roamed the land. The reminisce of old town homes, the country charm, allows me to step back into a world that was less convoluted than the present. Driving in, I pass the mini oasis that holds little-to-no protection from the harsh sun as I see the typical desert animals running around.
The beauty continues down the route as I pass the lands filled with Joshua trees, prickly cacti, and bushes full of spines. I reach the first major tourist spot, where I can see children shouting as they climb on the smooth bouldered rocks, quite in contrast to the rough terrain just nearby. This was Jumbo Rocks, one of the most popular campgrounds where the surroundings were encased by the enormity of sediments. If perhaps you choose to spend the night, and perhaps if the sky is kind, you will see the most spectacular view of the stars at night. If it is any consolation, the boulders surrounding you will provide excellent protection from whatever menaces nearby.
(It should be noted that if you do plan to visit such a place, please wear running shoes. Spikes from bushes and cacti can severely pierce your skin.)
Thirty minutes in and I arrive at the center of all the action where tour buses and family cars are parked as far as the eye can see. This is the attractive area of Hidden Valley where its name alone, shows an indication of what mystery lies within. Its unorthodox setting is the perfect location for misfits of all kinds and acts like a commune of all personalities of the world. Perhaps, everyone is connected, just like the five characters of Ivy Pochoda's novel: Ren, Owen, Blake, Tony, and James, where they settle at this place. The Hidden Valley is the perfect location to connect where the desperation of hope and love is overshadowed by the sun-bleached canvas of nothingness. It is the perfect seclusion from the hectic populous city of Los Angeles. As I look around the dry yet alive landscape, I am amazed by the simplest and warmed tone allure. Even in such a hot-tempered location, life still grows- wildflowers bud and fruit sprout.
This beauty in the middle of nowhere is special. The disconnect from life's daily on-the-go style is welcome here. All personalities live in this desolate yet alive land, just like the search for connection in "Wonder Valley". There is much to do in this dangerous and enchanting park. In the morning, I suggest you take a hike around and search for the plentiful water at the Barker Dam hiking trail. A darker turn can lead you to the mystery of Skull Rock and its many climbing locations. Reminisce with a blast from the past as you walk a few miles and return to the olden days of wooden homes, cattle ranching, mining, and homesteading at Keys Ranch. At night, remember to look up- the heavens light up the sky with millions of stars that are unlike anything you have ever seen.
The mystery of the desert brightens each minute once the sun falls. Suddenly, you find you are encased in the dark sphere with stars glittering about. This is why you have traveled this far - to witness the beauty, the smell the sunflowers, to hike the travels, to find yourself in the middle of no where and soak in everything it has to offer. The dark secret that the wondrous valley possesses is a vision that is both inspiring and daunting. This is the place of mystery- this is the Wonder Valley.
Haven't got enough? Stay tuned for next weeks blog post in this 5 part travel blog series by Jiarui Ye!
Jiarui Ye is a first-year finance and business management major with a passion for travel writing. She says, "When I am not traveling and doing photography, I likes to learn about theology and politics."
Survivors Aren't Victims: A Look Inside Roxane Gay's, "There Are Distances Between Us".
Written by Cassie Wilson
How do we write about trauma? When do we determine if we are ready? How do we make that jump? It is difficult - it is emotional, a roller coaster with every turn sharp, every breath shaky, every loop naseousating - for the writer and the reader. The hidden moments of your past become raw and vulnerable. Transparency is hard - being exposed to everyone and their criticisms - being exposed to that person or people. There is no ticking time clock counting down for the right moment to “come clean”. It sometimes feels as if you are the guilty one, hiding a secret that could break the hearts of your family and friends, but in a weird way - you feel safe keeping your secret safe from their eyes and ears. And then all of a sudden you have given up your keep-safe - no turning back. No rewind button of life. It is scary and messy and at times too much. You’re afraid of the healing - afraid of the letting go. Powerless to the next course of concerns, reactions and questions. Like I said, transparency is hard, being authentic is not only about the real you, but about what has happened to you.
The personal essay, “There Are Distances Between Us”, by Roxane Gay, is bash and unrelenting in a subtle manner. Roxane Gay is a published author of many beautifully stimulating books, my personal favorites are New York Times Bestsellers: "Bad Feminist" and "Hunger: A Memoir of My Body". Gay reveals herself in small ways in this personal essay. She takes the reader on a journey within the interstate highway system, while simultaneously depicting a very traumatic experience. I admire the silent boldness of Gay in this piece. She touches upon a heavy subject with hidden illusions and vivid imagery. She reveals the theme of her essay in the middle of the piece:
“Before I left, there had been an incident involving some boys who broke me right down the middle, and, after, I couldn’t pull myself back together.”
Instead of describing what happened to her in detail, she uses an analogy of being split apart. Her choice of words is specific, “broke me down the middle”. She gives the piece a heaviness without revealing - feeling - too much. You can sense her struggle, her battle to pull herself back together. The difficulties of living with what has happened to her. Gay’s subtle heaviness alludes to the same feeling that trauma does. Feeling, enduring and dealing with this hidden secret - moving throughout life with the pain, the guilt. Unable to fess up - your entire world is different - but you keep treading. Gay incorporates these heavy lines by weaving them into her story line. The piece originally starts off depicting a highway system:
“We are red stars on maps protected beneath hard plastic in highway rest areas tired travelers touch to make sense of where they are.”
The movement of her words is hard to ignore. Gay intentionally does not describe her abuse in detail. Instead, she preys upon hidden illusions, disguised with imagery. Her adjective word choice is specific, she chose to use “red”, “hard”, “tired”. These adjectives alone describe an image of abuse, violence and trauma, while still describing imagery of traveling throughout the interstate highway system. The words themselves are split apart from the sentence, connecting to her metaphor of being “broken down the middle”. Gay gives the reader a hidden description of what her abuse felt like. Her perspective is weaved into the sentence with a whisper. Her secret, her keep-safe, is present, unmoved by the mundane movements of life.
She then alliterates:“tired travelers touch”. Here, she leaves for the reader a fill in the blank, a mad lib of her life. Each word, phrase and line intentional. She alludes to her trauma with a delicateness, allowing the reader - allowing herself - to move throughout her piece without feeling overwhelmed. I felt like I was traveling with her, going through the phases of her life, understanding her struggle, while remaining unmoved by the distances that kept growing or decreasing between her and her abuse.
The fluidity of her piece took me on a journey. Rich with imagery, I touched, saw, smelled and heard every experience she described. The whisper moments were strong, loud. Gay’s piece reminded me that life keeps going, no matter what happens to you. The outside world remains constant, changing, and moving, unaware of personal hardships. No matter how broken, dirty and split a person is, life doesn’t stop. And so, just like Gay, you must continue to move with it, finding strength in every turn and tumble.
If you or a loved one is struggling from abuse or trauma, please don't be afraid to stand up and speak up.
You're not alone.
You matter and so does your voice.
Your healing can begin at any time - anywhere - and its waiting for you with open arms.
What has broken you - will not be the end of you.
You are a survivor - not a victim.
If you are struggling and need help:
or Please call the National Sexual Assault Hotline: (800)-656-4673
Cassie Wilson is a student at Pasadena City College majoring in English. She hopes to become a published creative non-fiction writer and is currently in the works of writing her own memoir. She says, "Trauma is a really hard subject matter to to write about and, at times, to read about it. I really admire how strong Gay stands in her personal essay, she was able to describe what happened to her without giving away too much - for herself and her audience. She is an example of strength and a real life archetype of healing."
LGBTQ Community of 2019
Written by Andrea Vazquez
People wave flags full of colors to represent their LGBTQ community. Every year during the month of June, people around the world march to bring awareness to the LGBTQ community. Though we have come a long way to accept and normalize the gay and queer community, they still face harsh struggles with homophobia and traditional values and beliefs. Our current president, Donald Trump, should be supporting and creating a positive impact to those who struggle the most in social change, such as LGBTQ members. However, Trump has lied and brought false hope into a positive and safe change. Now he is against the LGBTQ community and taking away the rights these members have fought for.
In an article entitled, "The Trump administration's latest anti-transgender, explained", Vox's senior correspondent German Lopez asserts that Trump gave LGBTQ individuals a hard time during his first year of presidency. He lied to US citizens about supporting the LGBTQ community and now he is not acknowledging Pride Month or the celebrators' rights. For example, Lopez states, the “Trump administration has tried to reinstate a ban on transgender people in the military". Trump is dehumanizing transgender individuals and publicly demoralizing the LGBTQ community. He is also preventing gay couples from getting their Visas. It is amply evident that Trump has his sights set on limiting both transgender and gay rights. It is our responsibility, gay and straight alike, to try to halt the assault on LGBTQ rights. We can not let this happen. It is important to continue to shed light on the life-changing struggles and battles that LGBTQ individuals face in a society that we have cultivated. Nevertheless, times are changing, individuals are growing, and society is evolving. Change is upon us.
Even though there are many hardships in 2019 for the LGBTQ community, people are pushing for more changes in the entertainment industry, such as producing LGBTQ films. An LGBTQ film released on November 2, 2018 titled Boy Erased was based on a memoir written by Garrard Conley. The film revolves around a true story that Conley experienced as an openly gay man. The story focuses around the idea of conversion therapy. Conversion therapy is a practice where therapists attempt to convert the sexuality of a LGBTQ individual into heterosexuality. Conley lived in a Christian household with a priest as a father. His father believed in his son being converted to heterosexuality, so he sent Conley to conversion therapy. However, his mother realized that conversion therapy was not the answer for Conley, that in the process of this therapy she was only hurting her son and decided to save him from his suffering. As years went by Conley began to write about the assumptions of what conversion therapy can do. Boy Erased has been out in many cities across the world and introduced in more labeled theaters (since it is an independent film).
Personally I have watched the movie two times and all I can say is that it's tear inducing, life changing, and incredible. Even though I am not part of the LGBTQ community, I support this group and their beliefs because they are humans, like I am. There are many LGBTQ people and organizations that I support such as GLAAD and artists like King Princess, Troye Sivan, Carlie Hanson,. We must be opened minded and practice radical acceptance of diversity. It is important for people to be aware that conversion therapy and changing someone's sexuality is neither okay nor healthy. The LGBTQ community struggles more than we can perceive. It is extremely important for us allies to show support through clubs, volunteering, and becoming apart of organizations like the Trevor Project or Ally Coalition.
Andrea Vazquez is a PCC student majoring in Graphic Design with the hopes to transfer to a undecided university in the future. She says, "I personally love any form of creativity, that being in music, fashion, art or writing. It all depends on the mood I suppose".
PCC Inscape Magazine, housed at Pasadena City College, is following Coronavirus protocols. At this time our staff continues to read submissions and publish web content.
Blog Posts reflect the opinions of the writer and not the opinions of Pasadena City College or Inscape Magazine Editorial Staff Members.