The Alchemist’s Heart

His reflection glared back at him through the glass of a dirty beaker, the bags beneath his eyes particularly defined. The alchemist stared down his desk, which was strewn with scribbled notes; all covered in tea rings and unidentifiable stains. He swiveled around on his creaky stool, eyes scanning the dusty little lab. The alchemist let out a miserable sigh as his gaze fell upon broken test tubes, beside broken burners, next to graduated cylinders overflowing with green sluggish liquid.
He turned back around and pressed his palms to his forehead. It had been years since he began, yet he felt no nearer to success. The alchemist shook his head as if to clear the cobwebs from his mind. A voice saying persevere, my love, echoed in his ears. With renewed purpose, he began a line of unintelligible math and chemistry equations, an integral here and a change in energy there. Then he threw down his pencil and rushed over to his stores. Shards of a volumetric flask crunched beneath his soles.
He groped for containers and powders of all sorts, hurrying in front of a large pot. The alchemist measured meticulously and stirred the mixture counterclockwise thirteen times. He swiped away a bead of sweat that crawled down his temple and continued with a huff. The liquid boiled and bubbled and started to turn dark. The alchemist held his breath, as he impatiently waited for the concoction to go clear again. For a moment he thought he’d failed once again and the defeat started to wash over him. He hung his head over the pot, and a single teardrop rolled down his cheek and into the murky liquid. Suddenly, a ripple rushed across the surface and the brew became colorless. The alchemist shrieked with pride, nearly hitting his head on the ceiling of the cramped room as he lept up and down.
He pulled a ladle from a past ruined batch and delicately scooped up some liquid. The alchemist slowly poured it into a bottle, careful not to waste a drop. With a smile forming on his lips, he lifted the container up to examine his handiwork. The potion gleamed with a hint of lavender. The alchemist pressed the bottle to his mouth, but something forced him to pause. The scent had wafted up and caught him off-guard. It smelled of his childhood, his mother’s crisp apple pie, his father’s cigar infused overcoat, freshly cut grass, and a smokey fire. It was an aroma of pure joy. His pupils dilated and he dropped his head back. A deep inhale and he gulped down the liquid.

His heart pumped fast in his chest and then for a moment halted. The potion pushed through his veins, making their way to the alchemist’s ticker, brightening everything in its path. When it reached the alchemist’s heart, the fractured pieces seemed to put themselves back together. One by when they swooped into place, the magic liquid encircling them. With a jolt, his heart began again, stronger than ever, with a thump, thump, thump.

The Thornless Rose by Renold Mueller

It’s you.
It’s you who I drive five hours into the middle of nowhere just to see for a day.
It’s you who I let perform exfoliation therapies on my acned face.
It’s you who I can play boring video games with for an age, and leave me feeling more satisfied with how I used my time than if I had spent it any other way.
It’s you who I could do anything with, no matter how mundane, and still be the happiest man on earth.
It’s you who picks up all the slack I leave behind.
It’s you who I can drop my guard with, abandoning my perfectionist obsessions.
It’s you who helps me acknowledge where my limits lie.
It’s you who I let in, like a wayward rose that happens upon a slender fault in stone, hatching and growing until the stone relents and splits.
It’s you who makes me embrace everything that makes me who I am.
It’s you who affirms me absolutely, yet humbles me even more.
It’s you who completes my whole, like the last pieces of a puzzle.
It’s you who I see as unconditionally beautiful, no matter what you might think at any given time.
It’s you who takes all my fears away, save for the fear that some day, you may not call me yours.
It’s you who I would follow into any horizon, just to stay by your side.
It’s you who I want to settle down with, to grow old, and finally rest.
It’s you who I love.

Authors and Their Worlds by Madi Hart

The relationship between authors and their worlds has always fascinated me. Successful authors from every time period have been able to live lives as long as any of the rest of us, but have also been able to soak in, analyze, and beautifully frame the messages woven into the fabric of our society. It’s as if they have lived a thousand lives before, watching the subtle body language of those around them, noticing patterns in relationships, realizing that no matter the period, human existence has mirrored the experiences of those in our past and shot laser beams into the future, engraving the same path for us to move along. Just as our experiences simultaneously mirror and engrave, an author’s work is stuck in a constant cycle, portraying and affecting the world while they chronicle it.

The relationship between readers and their favorite authors? Even more fascinating. The most intimate interaction between human beings occurs when a writer shares their work with a reader. When a writer shares their observations of the world, they offer up feelings and experiences (in the forms of their characters and settings) that may be so deep-seated within their subconscious that they aren’t aware of them yet. 

Authors spend the entirety of their lives breathing in the world to sigh it back into the universe from which it came. As soon as it’s released and breathed in by a reader, the reader uses it in their life experiences from then on, someday to be transformed into a sigh of their own.

The Red Thread – Sophie Browner

I was five years old when I met my sister.  I remember my dad picking me up from kindergarten, and telling me that my mom was finally home after two weeks in China with our long anticipated baby girl. I remember cracking open a door and peeking through to see my mom holding a tiny, eleven month old baby who looked nothing like me. An ancient Chinese proverb states that each newborn baby is connected by an invisible red thread to people in their lives. They are bound together by fate, regardless of time and place. The red thread gets shorter as people who are destined to be a part of each other’s lives meet and become close. 
My sister, Lia, went through several different foster homes and orphanages for the first 10 months of her life where she was not always given the care that she needed, and she has struggled to overcome this period ever since. Frequent night terrors and unexplained fits left our family feeling helpless at times, but constantly motivated. It was like putting together the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Finding ways to make her smile and help her open up not only helped her immensely, but brought our family together as well. With each giggle coming out of her adorable mouth, I felt the red thread tighten.

Having an adopted sister has allowed me to take part in a very special process: healing. Some of the healing has taken place in the mundane everyday interactions that siblings share. At the same time, some of the healing transcends everyday moments and feels more profound. When I see the the resilient, outgoing girl that Lia has become, I know that I have played a part in her reaching that point. While I have been helping her through the years, she has been helping me just as much, possibly even more. Sometimes getting through to people who are hurting seems impossible, but I have learned that with enough persistence and support it can be done. It is incredible to think that there are seven billion people in the world and that I, a girl from Cleveland, Ohio and Lia, a girl from Nanchang, China, were brought together as sisters. I simply cannot picture my red thread tied to anyone else.

Gender Blog #1 – Identity by Jocelyn Ting

Gender is confusing. I’m going to talk about it but I’d like to preface this by saying that I am speaking for my own experience, not for anyone else.  This is only my small story.

“Are you assuming my gender?”
It became a common joke at the high school last year. Initially I thought it was hilarious.  I was wonderstruck by the prospect that not assuming someone’s gender could be spread in such a palatable way.  I thought it was admirable that Shaker was so “woke” to trans rights that there was a widely understood meme about it.  My agender friend didn’t like it so much. I did not understand her.  

“I am not a lesbian, I just hate men…”
The audience chuckled, the comic paused and continued, “Truthfully, I feel a little bit like a boy and a little bit like a girl.“”  This is one of Jes Tom’s more common jokes. They are a stand up comedian, but having their gender assumed is one joke they do not find funny. Since this assumption is a constant part of their life, they tell this joke at the beginning of most of their sets to introduce themselves as non-binary (they/them), clarifying to everyone how they would like to be addressed.

“A pronoun is just a sound for me and all I’m looking for in that sound is positivity” -Rain Dove
For me, labels have two sides. The outer side is made for other people to read. The inner side is an aid in self-discovery, giving us the language to understand ourselves.  College applications spark this type of introspection, as you try your best to convey yourself to an institution that only has five minutes to get to know you.  As these forms go, almost all of them asked for my gender, but this time is was different – there were more than two choices.  Glancing at the list, it felt like it was a lie to check the box for “female”.  I’ve since found there are many words to convey to an outside observer what I am – “Genderfluid”, “Queer”, “Non-binary”, “Other”.  Like Rain Dove, a single label or pronoun is not central to my identity; I use anything that will convey to the observer enough about myself so they address me in a way I feel is correct.

“You’re like some cool hacker, a hacktress actually.”
My computer science teacher said this to me and it immediately felt wrong.  Why did he feel the need to correct himself to feminize me? I didn’t feel this way at all.  His word sparked comments throughout the class, poking at him for making up a word. I followed their lead, turned around, and used the words that had been pre-created for this moment a year ago- “Are you assuming my gender?” This time it wasn’t a joke, and though he initially took it as one, I used this opening to tell him that I actually identify as genderqueer.  He took it in stride, saying that he considered himself a pretty progressive person.  I was grateful that he accepted my identity, but clarified –

“Not progressive, just considerate.”

I guess if there is any moral to this meandering blog that is it- accept people unconditionally.  You do not have to be progressive or some magical gender-bender, just a considerate human being. Treat people as they wish to be treated, ask for identities, pronouns and practice until you get it right. It can be confusing but that is not really the point. Listen our stories and ask us questions if we are open to it.  I am right here with you, learning.

News Flash! by Sophie Browner

Count how many times a day you hear an adult say “In my day, we didn’t have phones! When we wanted ____ we had to…” 99% of the time I try and dismiss those comments, because I mean, come on. It’s not our fault that its 2017 and we’re using our resources. However there has always been one situation that I can’t help but kind of agree with: the newspaper. Online or print. When was the last time that you picked up an actual newspaper? Not for a school project, not even for the comics, but to find out what the heck is going on in the world. 

I know that many people like to disassociate themselves from politics. Which is fair, because recently it seems like most of the headlines offend or scare a massive percent of the population. I just do not believe that dissociating yourself from politics is an excuse to disassociate yourself from current events as a whole. While Donald Trump has been distracting America with an attack on the NFL and violent threats toward North Korea, Burundi and South Sudan are both border lining genocides, Somalia, Nigeria, South Sudan, and Yemen continue to suffer from devastating famines, along with many, many more global issues going on as we speak. 

Maybe it’s not the most positive and fun thing to learn about in your free time, but as global citizens, I think that it is incredibly important. We should learn current events in school. Taking three minutes at the beginning of class to read a few headlines could spark so much curiosity, action, and change.

A Few Words of Thanks to Russell H. Rupp Field

For the first time I walked in, with no clue how to hold a field hockey stick.
For the sunrise and sunset practices.
For the long hours in the pouring rain, blazing sun, and freezing snow.
For the pale shins and racerback tans.
For the ever-dreaded “get on the line”s.
For the fastest mile I have ever run.
For the 20-40s, fresh legs, and track workouts.
For the sore muscles and gasping breaths.
For the fingers jammed and broken.
For the bruised knees and bloody knuckles.
For the cone and pinnie games.
For the rounds of knockout and the alliances formed and broken.
For the clatter of sticks in the huddle.
For the first time my name was called for the starting lineup.
For the heartbreaking losses and exhilarating wins.
For the instant of silent anticipation before the game begins.
For the bang of shots hitting the back of the cage.
For my first goal.
For the day I learned to love defense.
For the the heart stopping breakaways and unbelievable stops.
For the interceptions and takeaways.
For the adrenaline rush of the corner.
For the blast of the air horn as the time runs out.
For the teammates I’ve played with and the bonds we’ve formed.
For the hard work and the laughs.
For the sacks, bets, no sirs, yes cuties, unicorns, and sweet potatoes.

For today.
For the last time I will walk off this field as an athlete.
For knowing that this is it, that one way or another my final season will end this weekend.
For the chance to play.

For the chance to be a champion.

Old Tired Hands by Margaret B

Thinking about how many college essays I have read this week in the writing center; I am reminded of how little time we as students write with a pen and paper any more. Ink goes on papers with little meaning, often to scratch notes that students will never revisit, or write a name on a paper just so a teacher can put a grade in. Pens have been dissociated from writing personal pieces, academic writing, anything in full. This makes me feel so sad.
Teachers sometimes complain that they can’t read our chicken scratch, but maybe the decline in quality of handwriting is because we started learning to type in first grade, and have since been engaged by our computer screens as the primary source of both our knowledge and platform to write.
I don’t know why I care. Maybe I like pen and paper because I have sensitive eyes and the screens hurt them. Maybe it’s just the fault of my stubborn grandmother, who has told me that her knobby, arthritic fingers were pretty before too many years of holding her pen too tightly. She writes poetry every morning. I have always taken after my grandmother. I know it’s wishful thinking to hope that I am not the only person in my grade to keep a journal. Maybe it’s just the novelty of it all.
When I write on the computer, my right pinky always rests on the backspace, ready to erase words I have written on the screen. With a pen, all I have is more ink to use, there is no impermanence, all the words stay. I think it feels more human, more honest, more of some feeling I seem to really like.

I don’t think I would mind knobby fingers when I’m 80. I wouldn’t mind a reminder of words I have written arising on my hands.

Red Aster by Sofia A-A

Cry baby has trouble saying bye lately
Always needs mama to stay
To hold her fingers and sing her a song
While wishing her troubles away

Mama loved lilies and roses and tulips
Forsythia and calla and coxcomb
She named her baby girl Aster
And imagined she had petals for eyes

Vibrant colors bloomed in June and
Faded away every fall
Mama brought them back each spring
But last June she didn’t come home at all

So crybaby stuffed her mother’s flowers in a vase
before the Tall Hats knocked on the door
The glass was smashed by the wheels of the carriage
And her petals wept and cried some more

Whisked away to the edge of the city
Away from the rats and the fumes
In the carriage she combed her hair
and sniffled while her tears bloomed

Crumbling derelict walls of stone
Decorated by shriveling vines
And the only flower anywhere in sight
Was the boiling sun in the sky

Five hundred girls ate porridge for breakfast
Four hundred ninety nine slept in five rooms
Crybaby curled up in the apple barrel
To dream of red aster and gloom

Nadine was seven but claimed to be eleven
She stole seeds from the market to grow
Crybaby grew lilies and balsam and aster
And dreaded the day it would snow

A lily of the valley was her mother’s spirit
Azalea was her mother’s blue eyes
She put a flower under her head each night
It was dead by the time the sun would rise

Cry baby has trouble saying bye lately
Says mama can’t be too far away
She’ll smell the flowers and walk for hours
To the garden where her Aster must stay

Yes, My Name is A Noun By Lily Roth

Yes, my name is a noun.  And yes, my mom’s name is an adjective. That does not mean that every time you see my name on a sign or hear it in a song, you should feel free to chat me up about it.  I don’t look like a flower, my mom isn’t the most joyful person in the world, and yes, my dad’s name is Steve.  Why couldn’t I have been named a name?  Like Eleanor or Louise or Kayla or Caroline.  I just want a name that can’t be worn out by children’s books or greenhouses.  Although I wish I wasn’t a noun, I’m happy that my noun has no connotations or double meanings.  Poor Molly, poor Cliff, poor Rebel and Hunter and Mills and poor, poor Mary Jane.  I guess maybe I should look favorably upon my noun name.  I am featured in songs of Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Stevie Nicks, Sinatra, Bob Dylan, and many more among greats. The problem isn’t that my name is a lyric or a flower. The problem is just that anytime my peers hear those lyrics or see those flowers, everyone stares at me and expects something.  Like, what do y’all want me to say?
“Hey everyone, my name is Lily, and YES! You did just hear my name in that song! I’m so glad you’re all staring at me and notice that I, like a flower, am alive.”