Written by Kaylin Tran
Community; noun, often attributive
com·mu·ni·ty | \ kə-ˈmyü-nə-tē \
// the international community
Clifford Larson’s short essay is one of the more rare finds in Inscape’s recent issue of the 2019 Fall Common Book—it certainly stands out amongst the other skillful works of poetry and short fiction. “California Sensibilities” is a bittersweet piece about Larson’s personal experience moving across the country intertwined with references to Helena Viramontes’, Under the Feet of Jesus, a book about a migrant family working in California, and a quote from writer and scholar David Ulin, "thinking about California is thinking about struggle, and a sort of 'brothers in the ranks' while enduring the struggle." Having been uprooted from South Boston with no warning, he struggled with his solo move to southern California.
His writing is eloquent yet simple, casual, and honest; it’s an entirely relatable piece with a certain amount of finesse that elevates his style of writing.
He describes how he “literally showed up to California with $4 in [his] pocket” and had to survive off the free meals he received at work—three months’ worth of sushi, to be exact—to get back on his feet. Ironically, it was because of his struggles that he was able to survive, some might even say succeed. His grit, his determination to survive in a foreign environment consequently lead him to discover that his co-workers were enduring similar hardships.
He’d met other people who were California transplants from Mexico, Canada, Europe, Russia, etc., “but all of us [were] in California because of the possibilities we’d imagined.”
In reference to Ulin’s idea of the California struggle, they endured it as “brothers in the ranks,” much like how the migrant workers in Viramontes’ novel had to develop trusting relationships to survive their hardships together.
The parallels between Larsen and the migrant workers reveals how universal and necessary a sense of community truly is. Larsen isn’t Latino or Hispanic, but he still relates to their struggle to survive. It takes more than hope and ambition, and it certainly takes more than self-motivation. It’s important to establish connections with others, to develop a sense of camaraderie amongst the strangers who become your family. It’s about creating a community with a group of people who make you feel like you want to succeed, not that you have to.
This is what Larsen attempts and properly communicates in his short essay. The universal message of connection and support is what he and the migrant workers needed for future success. He mentions the startlingly bittersweet reality of his situation:
“I knew that someday I’d get out, but like Viramontes’ characters at the end of her book, there’s no telling what will happen to them. There’s hope, yes, but sometimes that’s not enough.”
It’s this struggle that truly represents the Inscape branding and aesthetic, the message that our publication strives to capture.
“Inscape is the unique inner nature of every thing and every person: the eclectic, the human, the becoming, and the unexpected—a compost of imagination and inquiry.”
Larsen’s story is a shared part of the human experience. It’s human nature to have a sense of belonging, to want to succeed. His candor exposes the raw reality of what it’s like to struggle. More importantly, he emphasizes that it’s a widely-shared, universal concept that anyone and everyone has a shared understanding of.
Moreover, he becomes a transformed individual; his confidence and self-realization blossom after he finds the strength to become something greater than what his provided circumstances would have entailed. He embraces the unexpected—his sudden move to California, the similarities between him and his co-workers—and manipulates them to become his successes.
His determination to succeed propelled him, but his community is truly what gave him the strength to prosper.
“We need each other—we need a community. In a sense, I’ve found a community in these books.”
Kaylin Tran is a journalism major at Pasadena City College. She is the assistant blog editor for Inscape as well as a staff writer for the PCC Courier. She hopes to work as an editor at a digital magazine.
Written by Jiarui Ye
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. As a resident of Southern California, I am quite familiar with the feeling of the sun beaming against my back, the sound of crashing waves, and the smell sea air. The clear oceans bring serenity and peace to even the most boisterous of characters. Big Sur has long been known as a romantic tourist destination where millions flock every year. With uniquely-placed boutique hotels and lush forest greenery, it is the crown jewel for residents who are looking for a calming getaway. The symbolic view of Big Sur is the McWay Falls; just around the bend off the 1 freeway. The sweeping tones of blue and green are majestic, if not iconic. Getting to the incredible landscape will not be an easy journey, 287 miles stood before me and McWay Falls.
I first start off at the PCC campus and head onto the 101, heading west towards the Californian shore. 103 miles later, I am shifted into the natural scenery of oceans and beaches and as I turn onto the 101, I am reminded why I love these drives. The next 56 miles of the 101 freeway is the commitment of me and the ocean.
In the middle of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, I park on the side of the road, ready to hike the short walk for the waterfall views. Trailing along the rickety wooden steps, I am suddenly reminded of the novel, "Daring to Dream" by Nora Roberts, and the homey feeling that Margo, the protagonist of the book, feels when she smells wet algae and salt; the reminder of her home in Big Sur. Even though Margo has strayed far away from her family and ventured out to Europe to chase her dreams, she returns. Margo is welcomed as a member of the family and sister to young Laura and Josh Templeton, as well as orphaned cousin Kate, who grows up with them in the lap of luxury. The feeling Margo experiences, heading to a place of sanctuary, is nostalgic of how I felt in that exact moment. Big Sur’s fleeting population of incoming and outgoing visitors makes dreams come true.
Despite the beautiful scenery, I could not help but think of hitting rock bottom. As I stared down a daunting cliff, I realized that when you fall, there is no other way but up. Margo’s journey represented that for me. Margo has dream of becoming a lush model, but soon saw those dream dash and divide in front of her. She had hit her rock bottom and as she rushes home, the trials and tribulations of her life flash before her. She realized that there are different type of goals in her life, different types of success. Modeling wasn't her only way forward and with this she rebuilds herself up from the bottom.
Growth and acceptance equate to finding your serenity. Big Sur is not only a place where people come for weekend getaways or romantic mountain moments. Its legacy is in the generations of people- including myself- who come to laugh, to love, to cry, to heal, to find themselves again.
Not ready to say goodbye? Come back next week and see where Jiarui takes us next in the last blog of this special 5-part travel blog series!
Jiarui Ye is a student at Pasadena City College majoring in business and finance, with a flare for travel writing.
Written by Jennifer Lopez
Jennifer talked with Michelle Rosado in May 2019 and created this collage-style mini-profile from their conversation.
On the writing process and what makes a powerful poem:
Rosado says: a poem is primarily derived from its power and strength. It is based on the ability to create a meaningful metaphor to fully capture those memories, wishes, and personalities that the writer possesses.
On what influences and inspires:
Most writers are inspired by experiences that shape us. Rosado said she was very much influenced by the experiences of her childhood. Her book Why Can´t It Be Tenderness is a filled with poems and writings about her childhood and about her adult life. Reading about her childhood experiences really inspired me to look back on some of the experiences that I faced growing up. For instance, Rosado felt she had a different connection to her mother when compared with her father. In one of her poems she reflects on the need to rely more on herself. This made me think of being in solitude and comfort with one’s self.
Fun Facts about the Author
Rosado describes herself as a snail emoji.
She relates more to her mother now that she’s grown up.
Recently she has been seeing more and more butterflies everywhere she goes.
Many of the people Rosado works with are writers or have some association with art and writing.
Visit the website: http://www.michellebrittanrosado.com/
Buy the book: http://www.michellebrittanrosado.com/books
Read other interviews: http://www.michellebrittanrosado.com/interviews
Read a few sample poems: http://www.michellebrittanrosado.com/poems
Jennifer is a student at Pasadena City College and former member of Inscape.
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."
Blog Posts reflect the opinions of the writer and not the opinions of Pasadena City College or Inscape Magazine Editorial Staff Members.