I haven't written anything all summer of substance. I keep getting ideas and starting outlines, but they're not coming to anything. I always feel like I write more and better stuff during the school year. Maybe because I'm under more pressure and I have more time commitments which make me write better. I don't know. But I know that when I sit here and stare at my computer, knowing I have no commitments all day except to feed my grandmother, my mind wanders elsewhere.
I know that I'm only twenty-one, so I shouldn't be expecting brilliance or perfection or even a full book. But I don't think it's possible for an optimist to stop expecting great things, and everybody knows I'm an unrelenting optimist. So maybe my expectations of myself are too big. Maybe I need to work on my editing more. Maybe I need to go to the public library and find a quiet spot in the front more often. I don't know yet.
Part of it is that this summer is much more stressful than previous summers because I'm going to my senior year and applying to grad schools and studying for the GRE. I'm still deciding what I want to do with my life after I graduate. Right now I'm thinking I'll go to an MA program for Library Science and then later go back for my PhD in history if I still want to teach in a few years. Part of it is that my life feels much less together and sorted than it did last year or the year before. Everything kind of feels like it's falling apart right now.
I know I'll do better again, but for right now I know I'm stalled. At least I got through my birthday and I can look forward to my senior year. Any advice?
Twenty has been a great year for me. It’s had its ups and definitely, definitely had its downs, but overall it’s been a great year. A lot has happened, a lot has changed, and I’ve definitely grown more this year than any other. My birthday is in just over a week and I'll be 21. It feels like I just turned 20 but at the same time it feels like I've been waiting for this somewhat arbitrary life mile-marker my entire life. I feel simultaneously like I have the world ahead of me, and like I'm running out of time. Does anyone else feel like this summer is shorter than all the previous ones? I feel like I just finished junior year and all of a sudden I'm making lists for a triumphant return to DC and my final year.
Twenty began with me getting my permit, and ended with me getting my license.
Twenty saw me become a junior, a Big, and a mentor.
Twenty saw me expand my friend group when my best friends studied abroad.
Twenty saw me break up with my boyfriend of over four years.
Twenty saw my dreams change, evolve, and completely re-form.
Twenty saw me act as a treasurer, a committee member, and then committee chair.
One hundred and fifty years ago this week a battle was fought in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the likes of which no American army had known before, nor has known since. It lasted three days, beginning on July 1st with the doomed Picket’s Charge, and ending, mercifully, on the night of July 3rd with a casualty count of 46,286. For days and weeks the bodies of Confederate dead lay rotting in the fields where they fell, while the Union dead were buried in a massive gravesite. Families lost sons, husbands, fathers, and brothers on both sides. Several days later President Abraham Lincoln made a speech that lent morale to a force that had nearly given up before the battle. Gettysburg was a turning point in the Civil War, and had it gone to the Confederacy, the outcome of the war might’ve been different.
Recently, there have been a lot of TV spots about Gettysburg and its significance. A lot of them have had someone visit the battle site now, or run B-roll of the reenactments or the site on its normal days. One thing that’s struck me from all the tv spots I’ve seen was that so many people remarked on how tranquil Gettysburg is now. They’ll show some film of the open field, empty but for some fences designed to recreate the look of 1863, and a reporter will talk about how calm it is when the ground was soaked with the blood of nearly 50,000 people. This isn’t a new trend in talking about battle sites many years later. I heard it when I visited Gettysburg, I heard in when I visited Shiloh, I’ve heard it at nearly every battlefield I’ve been to (and believe me I’ve been to a lot). But this has always baffled me. Did they expect the battle to still be raging? Did they expect the ghosts of the soldiers to still be shooting at each other, though no bullets could harm them now? Did they expect constant thunder?
Of course the battle sites are tranquil, these battles have been over for centuries. I don’t mean to belittle the feelings of those reporters, but I don’t understand them. I find the tranquility to be a better memorial to those who fell there than any plaque could be. It reminds me that everywhere could have been a battlefield at one time. It reminds me that people died in every corner of the earth, but they don’t all get a memorial, and they don’t all get remembered.
Instead of thinking about the weird things that have happened in history today, I think we should take these days leading up to the anniversary of the founding of our nation to remember those who have lived before us. I think we should examine why we go to war, as nations, and as individuals, and recognize that they are often very complicated.
Here’s another weird history piece, this time from the American west. In the nineteenth century it
was easy to change your name and become someone else. That is exactly what John Johnson, born Garrison, did. And then his real story begins.
A little backstory, he was born under the name Garrison in New Jersey around 1824. When the chance to see the world and serve his country came up, he joined a fighting ship in the Mexican American war, but quickly deserted after a brawl with an officer that likely would’ve gotten him dishonorably discharged. Garrison then changed his name to John Johnston and hopped a train out west, as many generations of Americans would do after him. He was said to be a striking figure, over six feet tall, two hundred pounds, and pure muscle. Not a man I would challenge lightly.
Johnston (later called Johnson) traveled to Montana in hopes of finding gold and becoming a rich man. He did not find gold, what he found instead was a welcome to the Flathead tribe. He married a Flathead woman and considered them to be his family. Tragedy struck in 1847 when his wife was killed by a Crow brave. His wife was heavily pregnant at the time, and Johnston had been away hunting, unable to protect his family. Johnston was heartbroken and vowed revenge.
To the Crow the liver was vital to an individual’s chances of entering the afterlife, and Johnston knew it. He began a personal vendetta against the Crow that would last twenty-five years and claim the lives of countless Crow men. Distraught over the loss of his beloved wife, Johnston, now called Johnson, began killing any Crow he came across, and eating the liver, insulting the Crow. Just coming across Crow men wasn’t enough for him, the loss of his wife was so great and Johnson was so bereft, that he sought out Crow men to kill and cannibalize.
The Crow picked out their twenty best warriors, outfitted them, and sent them to kill Johnson. Not one of them returned, and no accounts exist of what happened when they left their tribe.
Many legends surround Johnson, it can be hard to tell legend from fact through the veils of history, but one in particular stands out. Some attribute this to another man, but many attribute it to Johnson. He had begun a journey of over 500 miles to sell whiskey to some of his Flathead family when he was attacked by Blackfoot warriors. They planned to sell him to the Crow for revenge. Johnson was tied up, and put in a teepee with only one guard. Of course, as we know, Johnson was a brick wall of a man with quite an axe to grind.
Johnson broke through his binding, killed the guard, scalped him, and supposedly cut off his leg. He then escaped from the camp and survived on only the guard’s raw leg in the middle of a Rocky Mountain winter until he reached the cabin of a friend and old hunting partner Del Que. He would’ve traveled 200 miles through snow and ice.
In 1864, almost twenty years after the death of his wife and unborn child, John Johnson joined the Union Army. A year later, at the end of the war, he was honorably discharged from the army, and returned to Montana. A few years later he made peace with the Crow, bodies having piled up and followed him everywhere. Later, he was appointed deputy sheriff, then town marshal in Montana. In December 1899 Johnson was admitted to a VA hospital in California, where he died on January 21, 1900.
Tragedy can be truly transformative, and for John Garrison Johnston Johnson it created a monster.
Hi guys. Sorry for my unanticipated hiatus. I've been super busy and kind of stressed, but I've also been writing. Yay for writing! Let's hope it keeps up. I have a cool weird-history style Weekly Dose of Weird for you tomorrow, so stick around.
I've also been thinking of cross-posting the Weekly Dose of Weird posts on their own blog page so that people who are only interested in them don't have to wade through all the rest of my weirdness to find them. Also cause then I could use them as an example of freelance writing, although they need to be edited and cleaned up more if I'm going to do that.
Regardless, good luck with your own writing and other summer adventures. I'll be in my cave.
This is the first post in a while that I haven't pre-written in Google drive, edited, then scheduled. And it's gonna be a really honest one. It's time to talk about writing again.
Writing has been rough lately. I've been having a lot of trouble getting it going at all. I re-read outlines from last summer, and I get excited about the stories again, but I also can't seem to slip into that world like I did in 2012. So I'm struggling. Partly I think it's because I'm doing so many other things right now, partly I think it's because I'm leading a particularly stressful life of late (lots of added responsibilities with my family and the house, lots of personal stress about finding a place to live after I graduate and hoping to move there as quickly as I can after I graduate, etc). But regardless of why, I'm struggling.
I've been trying to get back into my Camp Nano book from last year, about a teenage psychic who moves to my hometown and discovers there's a lot more to the world than she thought. It's a character I've been playing with for the last six years.
I'll let you know how it goes. But that'll probably take a while.
To any of you struggling with writing right now, good luck. And I've always got the chocolate for when we need it.