As I’ve mentioned in several of my posts within the past few weeks, I spend a lot of time around the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir in Central Park. And, as a result, I keep coming back to photographing it whenever I go for a jog in the morning. No matter how many times I travel the circuit, I never get tired of the color of the sky or the reflection of the buildings on the water.

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I have so many pictures of the reservoir that my work computer is now a slideshow that scrolls through a few of my favorites. Even from the same exact spot, the scene changes day to day and can make a picture seem completely different within the span of 24 hours.

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But, even I will admit that too much of the same thing puts me dangerously close to being a boring person. Routine has its limits. I feel the weight of the “shoulds” on my shoulders. I should be doing more new things, I should be doing something different, I should be tired of taking pictures of the reservoir.

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I’m not tired of it (yet), and so I’ll continue to take pictures of whatever strikes me as particularly interesting. Routine may have its limits, but it’s better to be constantly inspired by my surroundings than stifling that interest in an effort to do something different.

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So here’s to the reservoir. I’m sure there’ll be one day where I will stop taking pictures of this place, but today is not that day.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Muse.”

I live pretty close to Central Park, close enough to jog around the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir in the mornings. However, besides these jogs around the Reservoir, I don’t spend as much time in the park as I should. (It’s right there, for crying out loud!) So I was determined this month to explore as much of the park as I could.

When I studied abroad in Sydney over two years ago, I always wrote about how just walking around a new city was one of the best ways to really get to know it. My biggest study abroad “pro-tip” was to go for an early morning jog to really get to know a place before the crowds filled the streets.

A few weekends ago, I took my own advice and wandered around Central Park to find areas I had never been in before…

And I ended up getting lost for three hours.

The places I stumbled upon, however, were gorgeous. I’ve said before that there are parts of Central Park that make you forget you were in Manhattan, but I hadn’t felt that in a while (the chicken wire fencing along some of the paths I’ve traveled recently have been reminding me that I’m still in a city). This time, some places I found on my walk just felt downright enchanted.

One place in particular that I had been trying to find for a while was the Shakespeare Garden. I first heard about it last year in passing. But suggestions like these always get lodged in my brain (that’s how I got it in my head a few years ago that I absolutely needed to go to the Cloisters, just casual suggestion). I found it accidentally as I was trying to get back home, and it is a gorgeous garden filled with flowers mentioned in Shakespeare’s writing.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to find these places again. I got so turned around that I have no idea where I would even begin to try and find these spots now. And I never seem to find whatever I’m looking for unless by accident.

But these places in Central Park exist, quietly waiting for others to stumble upon them.

Many thanks to The Traveller’s Notes for the wonderful Monthly Travel Challenge!

When can I call myself a

For the longest time, I refused to call myself a writer. A “writer” was someone who viewed this pen scratching as more than a hobby, but had it at the center of their life. A writer was someone who took more seriously the writing process than I ever did, someone who made their living by putting pen to paper.

Even now, after having decided that yes, I am a writer, I find myself still refusing to use the term to describe myself. In all my professional, public profiles, the writer part of me is severely downplayed. I don’t mention it at all anymore on my resume or LinkedIn.

And yet I cling to this personification of myself because I do write. Every day. If I don’t write in a given day, it’s because I more or less chose to; I spend the day with friends or set aside a specific day to leave my notebook alone. But I’ve gotten to the point now where I have to plan a day to not write, otherwise I fill up every spare moment with it.

Does this make me a writer?

Most of my writing has never been seen by another human being (unless people have been sneaking peeks over my shoulder in coffee shops). And much of this writing will never be seen by another human — I believe the term for this is called “woodshedding.” (I have no idea why.)

I have only ever taken one creative writing class, and even though I have been toying around with the idea of signing up for a class with the Gotham Writer’s Workshop, I probably won’t go for it — I want to see what I can wring out of myself first before I present it to others.

Does this make me a writer?

When I did finally acknowledge that I am indeed a writer, I actively did my best to avoid writer stereotypes. For a while, I didn’t seek out Moleskine notebooks, instead opting to rip out pages of old class notebooks, the notebooks that were mostly empty because I gave up on taking notes about a third of the way through the semester. I used any pen that I had in my desk, never mind if they weren’t the same color or brand or type of ink. I didn’t make a huge deal out of my writing tools. And I didn’t try to hole myself up in a room of my own, nor exclusively write in coffeeshops. Instead, I conformed to another writer stereotype and simply wrote everywhere.

(Let’s ignore the fact that I now conform to nearly all of the stereotypes about writers that I previously avoided; I like Moleskines and get them when I feel like splurging, I have a designated pen that I get refills for all the time, and I write best when I’m alone at my desk with the window open and video game soundtracks on in the background.)

Does this make me a writer?

For a while when I was on the verge of definitively declaring myself to be a writer, I agonized over this question. Am I a writer or not? Part of me was inclined to believe that because I was thinking so much about writing, and wrote so much about writing instead of writing about other things, then I couldn’t be a writer. Then it occurred to me that as long as I wrote about something, I was writing, and therefore a writer.

We all have ways of evaluating whether or not someone is the real deal when it comes to writing. Many famous writers have very quotable definitions of who a writer is and what a writer does.

For me, determining whether or not someone is a writer boils down to two questions that must be answered, in some way, in the affirmative:

1. Do you want to be a writer?
2. Do you write?

One year afterI’ve started this piece several times. Every time I started I’d get part of the way through and feel uninspired by what I was writing, or I would get interrupted and come back to it unsure of where I was going.

But I’ve thought about this past year from every possible angle. I have completely analyzed my experience all the way down, thinking about how it fits into the larger picture of life. I have recorded everything of note in more than adequate detail.

Still, for all this analysis and examination, I cannot come up with a single, cohesive way to characterize this year. And maybe that makes sense; it has been only a year, and this time immediately after graduating is supposed to be one of rapid change. Recent grads are thrown into completely new and different lives, and it takes a lot of back-and-forth, a lot of teetering on a tightrope, to find a good enough balance.

When I graduated, I didn’t have a solid idea of where I wanted to be within the year. I was so focused on passing my classes that I had to put serious thoughts about the future on the backburner. The summer after graduating, I cast my net wide in a frantic search for a job, and I didn’t think about what I wanted just that I got something.

Now, I’m doing a decent job at staying afloat. I’ve been making my bill payments on time, I’ve been building up my savings account, I paid my taxes (well, more like got my tax refund), and I’ve more or less matched every challenge that “adulthood” has thrown at me.

Regardless, in the one year since graduating, I am still a work in progress. The illusion that I’m fairly well-established is just that — an illusion. And this, I think is the reason why I feel like it has been so difficult to write about this year since graduating. I’m in the middle, and being surrounded by my ever-changing present is making me blind to what this year has really been all about.

So what has this year since graduating from college been like?

Ask me again in a year.

Caroliena Cabada:

Last week I posted about the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture. This week, I did some research into their online resource for farmers, the Virtual Grange.

Enjoy!

Originally posted on Food Forests Forever:

A screenshot of the Virtual Grange homepage, taken 8 June 2015. A screenshot of the Virtual Grange homepage, taken 8 June 2015.

What is the Virtual Grange? [1]

Inside the Grange, you’ll be joined by hundreds of other beginning farmers from across the country who are busy preparing for the season ahead.

from the Virtual Grange’s “About” page [2]

The Virtual Grange is a website for beginning farmers to share resources and participate in discussions about farming. It is managed by The Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in New York [3]. The Virtual Grange is part of the Stone Barns Center’s Growing Farmers Initiative to increase the number of small, sustainable farms, focusing specifically on the Northeast of the United States.

What do they offer?

The Virtual Grange offers a number of resources, both online and in person. Many of the resources offered overlap with those offered by The Stone Barns Center…

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I’ve been having a little bit of trouble leaping out of bed in the morning to go on my morning jogs. It’s been rainy and cloudy the past few weeks in NYC, and I’m missing the vivid colors of spring sunrises.

It helps to think about potentially great photos I can take with my phone during the jogs, though, so I always end up heading out the door to start my day with some exercise.

Here are a few of my favorites from these past few weeks of jogging.

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Have a fantastic week!

Caroliena Cabada:

A few weeks ago, I got the chance to visit The Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, just 25 miles or so north of Manhattan. I had a great time, and I wanted to get this post out on Food Forests Forever as soon as I could.

Enjoy!

Originally posted on Food Forests Forever:

A screenshot of the Stone Barns Center website, taken 25 May 2015. A screenshot of the Stone Barns Center website, taken 25 May 2015.

What is the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture? [1]

Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture is on a mission to create a healthy and sustainable food system that benefits us all.

from their “Mission” page [2]

The Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture is an 80-acre, four-season farm 25 miles north of New York City. They are a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that provides valuable resources to young and beginning farmers to practice resilient and regenerative farming. They also provide public awareness and education for people of all ages about the United States food system and regenerative farming.

What do they offer?

The Stone Barns Center offers a variety of educational opportunities and events that are open to the public year-round. Becoming a member also grants you privileges and access…

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Housed in a grand, glass-walled structure with the First Amendment engraved on a large panel outside the front entrance, the Newseum remains one of the more accessible, interesting, and moving museums I’ve ever visited in my life.

I visited when I saw The Young Turks taping the first hour of their online news show a few weeks ago, and I spent the morning wandering through the exhibits and learning a lot about the news in America and freedom of the press around the world. Using a combination of striking visuals and carefully curated exhibits, the Newseum offers an in-depth, informative, and engaging overview of the news in all its forms over the years. Exhibits included the Berlin Wall, from the lead-in to the eventual tearing down of the wall; a comprehensive look at 9/11 and all its aftermath; and the evolution of news, from print all the way to online news reporting.

Inside the Newseum.

Inside the Newseum.

When I visited, the exhibit that struck me the most was the collection of Pulitzer Prize-winning photographs. In a darkened wing, tucked away by the coat check, the photographs were illuminated with spotlights that showed entire scenes in all their glory. From photographs depicting scenes of war or wreckage from natural disasters to capturing moments of striking, simple happiness in a Chicago neighborhood, the range of photographs was a powerful display of what photography can accomplish.

As a barely-amateur photographer that still totes around an outdated DSLR when I’m out and about in the city, seeing the photographs moved me, and made me understand why so many people take their photography so seriously. But many of these prize-winning photographs were captured almost incidentally, in the middle of intense conflict or in a moment when the entire world was caught by surprise. Although I would love to capture photographs that are as moving and momentous as some of the ones that I saw, I also think that I would have a difficult time hanging back and simply observing the action that unfolds.

Part of the exhibit on the Berlin Wall, taken from the floor above.

Part of the exhibit on the Berlin Wall, another moving and striking exhibit. One of many.

The entire museum was a great reminder of what the news is meant to accomplish, that is, to examine events and public figures critically. It seems that neutrality nowadays is the ultimate goal of “good news reporting,” but too often neutrality can lead to mistakenly balancing two ideas that should not be considered with equal weight, and manipulating the general public into accepting the status quo.

At the time I was visiting, it seemed perfectly fitting that I was seeing The Young Turks at the Newseum, an online news show that doesn’t pretend to be neutral, and instead is intensely critical of the actions taken by the leaders of the country, and of the world.

Inside the Knight Studio at the Newseum, before the Young Turks taping.

Inside the Knight Studio at the Newseum, before the Young Turks taping.

Visiting the museum also brought back memories of my own childhood dreams of wanting to be a journalist. It was purely a whim; I wanted to be a journalist for the Wall Street Journal, even though I had no idea what kind of publication the Wall Street Journal was. Even though I’ve deviated from that dream, being in the Newseum suddenly made me remember writing up my own fictional news, formatting the text and images in a Word processor, printing out a copy to send to one of my godmothers in Florida.

Now that I’m all grown up, I can better appreciate that curiosity about news reporting, and better understand the media and all its facets. Visiting the Newseum rekindled a fire that I had forgotten had gone out.

The past few weeks I’ve been dealing with the fact that I’m getting another year older, and generally reflecting on the events of the past year and how things have changed.

But all of that can be saved for a different day.

The birthday itself was rather low-key. I ended up going in to work for a half day, and spent the afternoon resting and preparing for a day trip to Tarrytown 25 miles north of Manhattan with my boyfriend the next day to visit the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture. And more details on Stone Barns will be coming in a post on Food Forests Forever, so stay tuned for that!

Here's a taste of what that day at Stone Barns was like, though!

Here’s a taste of what that day at Stone Barns was like, though!

And on Sunday I spent the day with friends at Smorgasburg as a graduation celebration for one of my close friends. The day was bright, the wind off the water was refreshing, and even though I think I might have ended up giving myself heat exhaustion this past weekend and got a little sunburned on my nose, it was definitely worth it to eat mushroom lumpia from Lumpia Shack on Pier 5 at the Brooklyn Bridge Park and hang out with friends.

This has been a glorious birthday weekend (the three-day weekend is the icing on top of the cake), and 23 has already gotten off to a good start.

Mushroom lumpia in Brooklyn.

Mushroom lumpia in Brooklyn.

I have a tendency to slide into a train of thought that largely focuses on how things were “this time last year” around the time of my birthday. Last year, I had just graduated, I spent the day at the Statue of Liberty with my family, and I was thrown into a post-grad summer that was very different from how I had imagined that first summer after graduating.

This year of being 22 has been filled with things I was surprised to learn about myself. I am a damn good cook. I am a damn good blogger. I know what I’m passionate about and interested in, and I know now the general area I want my life career to be in. I know how to keep on working hard, and I know how to motivate myself to keep doing what I need to do. And I’m not going to give up on doing something big and wonderful, because I’ve already gotten a taste of what that could feel like.

Five days before my birthday I was already contemplating the past year of life.

Five days before my birthday I was already contemplating the past year of life.

Again, all of my thoughts about the first year after graduating will come in a future post, but right now, after all the birthday celebrations and passing into 23 with so much activity, I’m looking forward to what these next few years will bring.

I think the word that best describes the past few years is wandering. But now, I don’t think I’m wandering anymore. I know that I want to improve, so I’ll improve. I know what I want to learn more about, so I’ll learn. I know how to keep on moving past the roadblocks, and that’s a skill that I’m constantly improving. And maybe these are things that everyone else had before I did, but now I have them too.

I had a great time being 22. I’m looking forward to 23.

Caroliena Cabada:

Interesting way of thinking about how to “raise the stakes” in writing. If anything, it’s a great writing prompt!

Originally posted on BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog:

Movie-Trailer-posterWhile editing another author’s work this morning, I found myself wrestling with how to say, “You have 170,000 words, but you don’t have a story.” They are well-written words, they are good words, they are interesting words…but as Gertrude Stein wrote about Oakland, California, “there’s no there there.” Nothing is at stake. No-one is risking their health or happiness in service of a greater goal.

As writers, we’re often told “raise the stakes.” How can we tell if the stakes are high enough in our own work, even before asking for the opinions of our fellow authors or our teachers?

The “In a World” test.

Think about the cheesy movie-trailer cliché. There’s a shot of alien-created devastation. Or a sunrise over a battlefield. Or a sunrise over a castle. A deep voice intones, “In a world…”

That’s the stasis, the situation as it is now, the situation that…

View original 371 more words

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