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Je ne regrette rien

As I shimmy across the finish line of this semester, I have more than a few regrets. I wish I would have managed my time more wisely, found a job sooner so I wouldn’t have to work so much toward the end of the semester, and maybe spent less time investing in those things or people who were a waste of time. That said, I’ve found that regrets are only useful for a moment, to learn from, then they become a burden.

I’ve learned through my turbulent academic career that generally speaking we are all doing the best we can. So, I leave you all with the well wish that you can let go of the regrets as well as anything holding you back and embrace the upcoming Spring semester.

I leave you with a scene from my favorite film:

 

Love,

Reed

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Harvest

I can’t believe Thanksgiving is just over a week away. The last scene in Gerwig’s adaption really sets the mood. Now that I’m working full-time in retail, constantly around the general public, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to go home for Thanksgiving this year – these are the difficult times that fortify us. I can imagine Alcott writing about her family during a crisis like this – what does it reveal in us as characters?

I can only speak for myself, but I’ve found a new depth of resilience I never had seen in myself before. I’ve almost been sensitive – my feelings are easily hurt, I care deeply, and I often feel like the world around me is too emotionally saturated for me. It’s like someone needs to turn the volume down. So I’ve always thought of myself as weak. But now I’m starting to see that while it’s slow, steady, and I’m often knocked down, I haven’t yet failed to stand back up. Even if it takes longer than everyone else, I can’t count on myself to get back up.

I’m finding myself thinking about the 2021 holiday season – how we’ll look back on this year, perhaps with time, distance, and a vaccine between it and ourselves. For now, over the upcoming holidays, I plan to keep my chin up and keep moving forward. And that’s worth celebrating.

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Welcome Home

We’ve finally arrived at the point I think many of us have been waiting for: Gerwig’s Little Women. This film touched me when I saw it last year, so much so that I brought my mom and grandma back to see it. Seeing it at the Naro in Norfolk, Virginia, one of my favorite places in the world, is one of my favorite movies. Revisiting it this weekend didn’t disappoint. It was a much needed balm after a tempest of a week. It felt like coming home.

This sense of familial warmth is distinct in this adaptation. The scenes in which the girls put on their plays, in particular, jump from the screen and remind me of my own childhood. They’re beautifully designed, acted, and captured. When I think about this version I think of the unbridled joy – the girls laughing in their costumes, shrieking in the carriage as Jo runs after the professor in the rain – and the profound loss. The scene on the beach between Beth and Jo, particularly the camera pulling back as the sand blows in the win is breathtaking.

I can’t wait to dive into this in class this week – it will be a much needed joy after a hellish week.

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That 19th Century, 90’s Nostalgia

I hadn’t really watched the 1994 Little Women until this week. Apparently I’d seen bits and pieces of it as a kid, because some frames were so familiar to me – and I distinctly remember the cover of the VHS copy we owned. Perhaps that’s why this version in particular feels so nostalgic to me, but I also think there is something inherently warm about this adaptation.

Maybe it’s the performances – Susan Sarandon, Winona Ryder, and Christian Bale are all incredibly talented and well-cast here. But to me it really comes down to the overall aesthetic. The cinematography by Geoffrey Simpson combined with the direction from Gillian Armstrong is just remarkable here. Every frame seems to glow. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but this might take the number one spot from Gerwig’s version for me… which is really saying something.

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Passion Required

I didn’t expect to like either of the television adaptations we looked at in class last week. To my surprise, the 1978 version might be my favorite adaptation we have studied so far. And it seems to me this comes down to passion. While the Katharine Hepburn certainly didn’t lack it, the two that followed did, and the result was depressing.

I’ve come to the conclusion that no matter how talented a cast is or how faithful a screenwriter is, the production has to be inspired, reverent, and most importantly, passionate about the source material for the adaptation to come alive.

I’m looking forward to looking at the 1994 and 2019 versions, as I’m familiar with both and know they are filled with passion and love for the Alcott novel. I’m excited to see the different elements that come into the foreground of the analyses as the two films are exceptionally strong. I imagine it will be easier to focus on nuanced camera work, acting, and production design. I can’t wait.

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The Fifth

My brother is my father’s namesake. As a kid, I assumed “the third” that followed his name referred to birth order, so as the fifth and youngest child, I would introduce myself as Reed Jamison Rickards the fifth with great dignity.

Since spending so much time with Alcott’s fictional sisters and all of their various incarnations, I’ve thought a lot about what it means to be born into a tight knit team of siblings. I never imagined that one day we’d live so many miles apart, miss birthdays, or make new relationships that would take on more significance.

I wonder when it started, the drifting apart. Was it the weddings? Was it the children that made siblings more mom than sister or dad than brother? Was it the loss of physical closeness? Was our bond really only born out of the convenience of living down the hall from each other?

I miss being the fifth. I used to resent it–being known as my sibling’s younger brother. Now I wouldn’t mind being known only as someone’s something. The magnitude of true independence is more overwhelming than exciting at the present moment. And while I’m lucky to have friends and family who support me, I can’t help but feel a bit lonely in my independence.

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Our Own Plumfield

I went home this weekend to see family. The brick farmhouse was mostly the same, though my innumerable nieces and nephews have moved their toys into my old room. A giant Medieval style castle that you piece together like a three dimensional puzzle was brought down from the attic for my nine year old nephew to play with. I was around the same age myself the last time I saw it, the old Christmas present that was eventually stored to make room for other toys and belongings. The whole scene had the same buzz that I imagine when I read about Plumfield academy. Kids everywhere, arts and crafts, and creative projects out under the oak trees.

At the end of the weekend I drove away from Oak Lake Drive, my heart a bit less heavy than last time. That’s growing up, isn’t it? We just become more and more comfortable leaving home behind until we create a new home. We leave the attic, costumes ready to collect dust, and we set out in search of our moment under the umbrella, our moment in the paddle boat, and eventually, our very own Plumfield.

For now, the hands are still ink-stained and the future is still a dream. “What will I be doing in however many years?” “Gosh! I’ll be so old!”

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Storm of Creativity

Surely every reader knows the electric feeling of sensing an approaching creative storm. Like the old man in the village whose left hip tingles when bad weather approaches, us creatives feel it in our bones with the vortex of creativity that will suck us in is on its way. I feel it approaching, gaining speed, and the feeling reverberates in my bones. It excites me. I need a good purge of all of the good, interesting, and heavy thoughts that have been swirling waiting to be inked onto paper.

I’ve been enjoying writing the old fashion way this week: ink and pen. It seems to emphasize this ritual, giving it more impact. It feels like action of dancer in combination, artist with brushstroke, and conductor leading his symphony. I have to escape the keyboard and glowing screen sometimes. I wonder sometimes who will find my terrible unorganized long-hand notes and papers one day, whether another version of myself, older and wiser, or family or friends. Then I shirk the thought because it makes me self conscious. But still, the question hides in the back of my mind. Where will this writing go? What will come of it?

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Good Strong Characters

It’s hard not to think about character when reading Little Women. Jo may be one of the most famous in American literature, and for good reason. Alcott was particular gifted at writing well-rounded, complex, and lovable characters—this is particularly evident in the various relationships between the sisters and their male counterparts. I’ve tried to study this art in Alcott’s writing, but she makes it look so easy that it’s difficult to pick out exactly how she does it.

I’ve also started to consider my own character compared to those in the novel. I didn’t anticipate considering myself as a character and the insight that would bring. It’s given me more self-compassion and perspective. This is something I want to bring into my own writing moving forward.

I’m curious to see how these characters differ in the various adaptions and if Alcott’s characterization is able to shine through in the various takes.

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My Own Orchard House

Since I moved here I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on my upbringing. In a way, it was our own Orchard House. My parents had unorthodox ideas on how to raise their kids: we were homeschooled, given a lot of freedom to express ourselves creatively, and took extensive time off to travel. There were even times when we put aside school work or household duties to go help a family in need. So much of this has been reflected back to me while reading Alcott’s story.

How fitting that I should move from my own Orchard House to an apartment on Grove Avenue. I’m lonely without my sisters and mother, but I’m able to focus on my writing and studies. I can already see how this period has strengthened me as a writer and person in my own right. I wonder how much more growth lies ahead of me here at Grove Avenue.

My world has been so expanded in this past year. I went to Paris, wrote my first serious piece of writing, and moved away from home. I want to keep this momentum and use this time to propel me forward into new directions and new experiences.