Comfort We Know
COMPOSED BY KYLE GEORGER
Lots of woods, farm animals, corn, and the smell of manure define my home environment. Over the summer, I would wake up every morning at seven a.m., help with the cleaning of the barn, feed the animals, and take on any other projects my dad had for me. The one distinct thing my home environment has is its smell, can't go anywhere else for it, because it's yours, nobody else's and that's what makes it so authentic and rare.
Family, love, sense of belonging. I know whenever I have a bad day, home is right where I want to be. Home is a place so comfortable, a place I know, and a place I can trust and always rely on. The sense of love and belonging is there too. My parents, best in the whole wide world, give me everything I need to succeed, and are always there for me, through all the good and through the bad, I know I can go to them for anything. Being home, sitting on the couch, it's just that place, my own comfort zone. A place that is so describable, yet so indescribable because as much as you can try to describe it, you just can't, that's just the way it is.
Television. When I was younger I would wake up to Saturday morning cartoons; you know, the ones called "One Saturday Morning." Our society today relies so much on the media box for news, the big game, or another new episode of Desperate Housewives. At least, families that are fortunate to have one. They just sit there, not asking for anything from us, and we allow them to be the centerpiece of our family room.
Community, family. These things are one and the same for me. My town is a place where everyone knows everyone; but it's not one of the towns that you see in the movies where people everywhere are cheerful and you know everyone who brushes on by. You see, we aren't actors or characters. We are people who are more important and real than that. We are a tight community that, well if you mess up, everyone will know the next morning, and if you achieve something great, well they know, and you don't stop hearing congratulations for a few weeks, which I guess is sort of nice, flattering.
Zen-like, joyful, peaceful, loving and caring. That is my home. I have lived in three different places since I was seven years old, and now I call Fredonia home for right now. Moving around as a youngster, you learn a lot, the people the places, always changing. Like moving is fun, but just think about all the new roads you have to learn as a driver, it's the worst part. I remember when I was trying to go to the grocery store when I was in Poughkeepsie, and I was totally living in Fairport at the time, and when I pulled out of the driveway and realized what I was doing, well I realized I had no clue where I was going at all.
Materials and Memories
COMPOSED BY GARY BAIER
My excitement builds in anticipation of the unpaved path that lies ahead. My whole life has been leading up to this moment. I've always had a vision of me waving goodbye to all that I know in search of all that I want to know. Everyone says that Fredonia is a small town, but you don't know small until you've seen where I come from. I was born and raised in a town with no more than one thousand people. I had twenty-eight peers in my graduating class ... and that was large. No matter where I go I'll never be stripped of my roots, and I will always carry a love for small towns with me, but now I'm ready for change. I'm headed to Fredonia.
Every morning I awake and rollover to silence my alarm clock. On top of my alarm clock sits a framed snapshot--my mother holding me as a baby. I have friends here in Fredonia, but it's easy to feel alone sometimes. Snapshots remind me where I come from. I am a boy who fishes with his father, a friend who dines on pizza, a boyfriend who rides the rollercoaster of relationships. The memories that were packed away in my bags for travel sprinkle my walls, my bulletin board, my mind. It's a chance for me to start over and sift my mind of the few painful memories I do have. I know that if I carry the good memories, I must also carry the bad. This is my chance to build upon those memories and paint new snapshots that will culminate the album of my life.
Clad with navy blue triangles surrounding small red dots, an oblong stain from a soft drink that managed to splash both cushions, and crevices crammed with chips, crackers, cookies, and breadcrumbs, the couch sits in my living room. It used to sit in the basement at my parents' house. My parents' house is no longer my house--actually it never really was my house at all. I only lived there. The only thing that I ever wanted to take from that house was the couch. The couch reminds me of who I am, where I came from, and what I've done. From that couch I witnessed my football team win championships, my favorite actors and actresses pretend to be someone else, and the aftermath of devastating attacks on our country. We slept on that couch, ate on that couch, played videogames on that couch, and sometimes I would share that couch with a girl. I didn't bring that couch to Fredonia with me, that couch followed me here. I find it ironic that sometimes our things can explain more about our lives than those who are supposed to know us the best. At least one of my friends from home visits me once a month. My parents have never seen Fredonia, never seen my house, they haven't even seen me in three years. It's okay though. I'm right where I want to be, right where I need to be in Fredonia, New York, watching my favorite football team from my storyboard of a couch.
I guess I was a little different from other high school seniors from the Bronx--I was going to college ... "on time." Folks had the attitude that school wasn't important, just another system that was there to embarrass us and make us look dumb. If you liked school and did well, you were cast aside, you were looked down upon not by the teachers, but by your peers, your friends. It's funny how the Bronx has the ability to reverse some of the most critical ideals. I suffered at the expense of these reversed Bronxonian ideals and I followed along. For a while. In the midst of my struggle, I found myself longing for purpose. I refused to do my homework, I skipped class on days that I had tests, and I was suspended three times for fighting. Not until I entered the ninth grade did I start to understand. My English teacher, Mr. Santos, cast a new light upon the world that immediately pulled me in. He introduced me to powerful works of literature that really spoke to me. Writings by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Richard Wright, Booker T. Washington, and Toni Morrison. These authors helped me realize that something had to change. As I continued on through high school, I no longer cared what my peers thought about my views of education. Today, while I pursue my dreams and degree at SUNY Fredonia, I do so with a sense of purpose, a love for learning, and a deep appreciation for literature.
A New Beginning
COMPOSED BY OWEN REILLY
I define Fredonia as the place where friendships are made, broken, and then reborn again even stronger. From late nights in the dorms talking about high school experiences, or whatever unbelievable thing our professors have us doing that week, to getting kicked out of the library at one in the morning together. Spending hours upon hours arguing about which one of us is going to win the NCAA Tournament pool this year, but knowing in the back of our minds that none of us really knows what we are talking about. Not saying good-bye at the end of each school year to my "fred-family," but instead saying "have a great summer, can't wait for next year." Each night ends a different way, but with the same people.
On the seven minute walk from the dorms to class, I see ten people I know. Not just ten faces that I recognize from taking this same route to the academic buildings three days a week, but ten people that I can tell a story about. Ten people that I have shared memories with. Memories that no one else will be able to look at and fully understand exactly what we were laughing at that night. Being from a big city, this just simply doesn't happen when I step off my porch on the way to work.
The first thing I noticed about Fredonia, when I was on my way here for the first Saturday of my freshman year, was the half hour stretch of nothing but a thick brush of trees surrounding the highway between the city of Buffalo and my destination, exit 59. Being used to my hometown where everything I could ever need is just a mere ten minutes away (at a slightly brisk walk), the isolated town of Fredonia scared me at first. The gigantic monster of a store I saw while driving through Dunkirk, with floods of people coming in and out all the time, convinced me that if residents of Fredonia weren't at home, they were at Wal-Mart. But arriving to the campus put my fears of nervousness to rest. A bustling hotbed of activity, right from the start. Frisbees flying over my head and footballs whistling by my ear made me feel right at home.
Saying I was going to be a freshman at Fredonia always got me a wink and chuckle from my high school teachers. "Oh, you will have a fun time there for sure." "My brother went there, don't get kicked out!" I always laughed to myself when I heard that because I always thought college is college, every school is a party school. Maybe that's true, but fun and excitement are certainly never scarce in Fredonia. Any time of day, any day of the week, you can convince someone to go out and have a couple of drinks. Stepping into the cool night air at two in the morning with scattered cigarette smoke surrounding the entrance of Sunny's is a common feeling. On top of the world every Friday and Saturday night.
Outside the campus of Fredonia, a whole new world opens up. Miles and miles of chaotic grapevines intertwine to surround the town all the way up to the Lake. Looking the other direction, a seemingly flat plain dominates the picture. Ponds off in the distance, barely within the limits of human vision, suddenly seem to rise up and grow into wavy hillsides. The Chautauqua County skyline.
Defining Fredonia is fairly easy for me. Being an English major, the first thing that comes to mind are the comfortable chairs right in the front of Reed Library. Walking in after a full day of classes, I see the same people who sit two rows to the left of me in my British Literature class, and right in front of me in my Drama and Film class. Spending my nights discussing the human condition with Shakespeare, Twain, and Joyce have replaced the bedtime stories Goodnight, Moon and Where the Wild Things Are.
Notes on the Project
In anticipation of the final assignment for our Realism and Naturalism in American Literature class, we wanted to produce a project that not only reflected what we learned in the class throughout the semester but also differed from the monotony of a conventional research paper. Our inspiration for this project transpired when we attended a presentation on Richard Wright by Howard Rambsy, a professor from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. In his presentation, Professor Rambsy introduced us not only to Richard Wright's 12 Million Black Voices, but he also shared a Wright-inspired project entitled Journey to SIUE Project--a multithreaded creative travel narrative highlighting the experiences of hundreds of students, staff, and faculty at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Because of the realistic and naturalistic nature of both Wright's and Rambsy's works, we decided to adopt the structure and ideas present within each.
In order to create a focus for this project, we decided to pay particular attention to the Fredonia environment and how that environment affects its inhabitants. In order to do this, we felt that we should construct three questions, one for each of us to focus on, and distribute them to Fredonia students. At first, we struggled to formulate questions that addressed our needs. This struggle was due to the evasive and elusive nature of the terms "realism" and "naturalism." Larry Laudan writes, "Naturalism is unique in being the only -ism generally less familiar to philosophers than the fallacy that is named for it" (44). We not only wanted the questions to be vague so that we could receive a wide range of answers that were both concrete and abstract, but we also needed the questions to promote answers that reflected the effects of the Fredonia environment on its inhabitants.
After much deliberation, we decided upon the following three questions: What is one thing that defines your home environment? What did you carry with you to Fredonia? What is the one thing that defines the Fredonia environment to you? By creating these questions, we were hoping to build the foundations for a final product that will reflect Willis Truitt's definition of realism: "Realist theory of art does not necessarily claim that art mirrors the world, but rather the artists construct a symbolic reflection of their environment" (143).
Once we collected the responses to the questions, we distributed the questions among us and each focused on the responses to the assigned question. We each then separated the responses into different loose categories to focus on the many responses in order to creatively expand upon them through short writings. By turning this project into a creative writing piece, we took on the task of authoring an original work with the content found in the responses. This was our attempt to construct "a symbolic reflection" of the Fredonia environment.
Once we each completed our section, we came together to create one full-length work. Within this work are pictures that allow for visual representations of the ideas found within the accompanying writings. The idea for including pictures was inspired by Wright's 12 Million Voices as he utilizes powerful images in order to contextualize his literature. Overall, we are very pleased with the final product and feel that it represents that which we set out to do.
Laudan, Larry. "Normative Naturalism." Philosophy of Science 57.1 (1990): 44-59.
Truitt, Willis H. "Realism." The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 37.2 (1978): 141-48.…