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H. D. Thoreau: To build a deep path, walk again and again, think over and over

November 20, 2018


With the holidays and finals for students around the corner, it’s a really stressful time for many. In California, this has been compounded by gunfire and wildfire. In the past few weeks hundreds of thousands of Californians have been displaced from their homes temporarily, many of them permanently, adding to the numbers of those who lost homes in the wildfires of 2017. Air quality in much of the state requires air filtration masks impacting even more people.

Henry David Thoreau reminds us: “As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.”

What are the thoughts that dominate our minds? What have we planted in the soil of contemplation?

Have you noticed how stressful thoughts simply make you feel more stressed?

NOTE: If it’s not going well at school or in general, talk to a friend or a professional. There are lots of free and low cost counseling services available in every community. In the meantime, check out these suggestions.


Similarly, if we make the same mistakes in our writing, we burn pathways in our brain that are convinced that doing it that way is the right way.

Practice makes permanent: permanent pathways in our brains.

That’s why it is so hard to change bad habits or fix mechanical errors in our writing: we must literally burn a new path in our brains!


Has this ever happened to you?
You work very horde on a paper for English clash
And then get a very glow raid (like a D or even a D=)
and all because you are the word1s liverwurst spoiler.
Proofreading your peppers is a matter of the the utmost impotence.

This is a problem that affects manly, manly students.
I myself was such a bed spiller once upon a term
that my English teacher in my sophomoric year,
Mrs. Myth, said I would never get into a good colleague.
And that1s all I wanted, just to get into a good colleague.
Not just anal community colleague,
because I wouldn1t be happy at anal community colleague.
I needed a place that would offer me intellectual simulation,
I really need to be challenged, challenged dentally.
I know this makes me sound like a stereo,
but I really wanted to go to an ivory legal collegue.
So I needed to improvement
or gone would be my dream of going to Harvard, Jail, or Prison
(in Prison, New Jersey).

So I got myself a spell checker
and figured I was on Sleazy Street.

But there are several missed aches
that a spell chukker can1t can1t catch catch.
For instant, if you accidentally leave a word
your spell exchequer won1t put it in you.
And God for billing purposes only
you should have serial problems with Tori Spelling
your spell Chekhov might replace a word
with one you had absolutely no detention of using.
Because what do you want it to douch?
It only does what you tell it to douche.
You1re the one with your hand on the mouth going clit, clit, clit.
It just goes to show you how embargo
one careless clit of the mouth can be.

Which reminds me of this one time during my Junior Mint.
The teacher read my entire paper on A Sale of Two Titties
out loud to all of my assmates.
I1m not joking, I1m totally cereal.
It was the most humidifying experience of my life,
being laughed at pubically.

So do yourself a flavor and follow these two Pisces of advice:
One: There is no prostitute for careful editing.
And three: When it comes to proofreading,
the red penis your friend.

Mali. Taylor. “The the Impotence of Proofreading.” What Learning Leaves. Newtown, CT: Hanover Press, 2002. Print. (ISBN: 1-­‐887012-­‐17-­‐6)

So build a deep path with correct citation, powerful words, strong paragraphs and more!

Get your grammar going in the right direction with workshops on discrete skills at Ventura College including these (just added by my request!) evening workshops!


Similarly, if we use the same words over and over, we don’t find new ones, more interesting and expressive ones. We have to pay attention to the verbal path in our brains to become more articulate. It takes time to develop vocabulary, to build these new paths and to use them.

So what are some words you’ve discovered that are adding meaning and clarity to your work and your life? Please share two or more words below in the comments and tell us a little bit about them!

Please share two or more words in a comment! Please include in the following order:Your name. Your blog url (if you have one). The word. The definition for the word. The source of the word: title of the text, author, page number in parentheses. A comment about the word and why you chose it.

And speaking of paths, here’s one of my favorite poems “A New Path to the Waterfall” by one of my favorite writers, Ray Carver.

IMAGE with Thoreau quote is by Leslie Rinchen-Wongmo: “One of the only westerners trained in the rare Buddhist art of silk applique thangkas, she is passionate about the preservation and evolution of this Tibetan cultural tradition. His Holiness the Dalai Lama gave his blessings to Leslie’s work and encouraged her to make images that speak to the spiritual aspirations of people across religions and cultures. Leslie’s work is simultaneously traditional and contemporary, and her fascinating story is the subject of the acclaimed documentary film, Creating Buddhas: the Making and Meaning of Fabric Thangkas. Leslie mentors a select group of students around the world through her Stitching Buddhas Virtual Apprentice Program, and her Weekly Wake-ups provide a thread of inspiration to set your week on the path to awakening.”

22 Comments leave one →
  1. November 20, 2018 2:43 pm

    Gavin Amendola
    Gyre: large system of circulating ocean currents
    Source: Decker, Julie. GYRE: The Plastic Ocean. Booth-Clibborn Editions, 2014.

  2. queenofmycastle87 permalink
    November 20, 2018 2:58 pm

    Krista Ward,, Incremental: relating to or denoting an increase or addition, especially one of a series on a fixed scale. “Gyre, The Plastic Ocean” by Julie Decker, Page 88. Corrugate: contract or cause to contract into wrinkles or folds. “Gyre, The Plastic Ocean” by Julie Decker, Page 99. I chose these two words because I did not know what they meant so I took the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone and learn while doing a class assignment.

  3. November 20, 2018 3:03 pm

    My first vocabulary suggestion is used by E.B.White in his short story “once more to the lake”, page 404, inside ’50 essays’. The word is “Marred”, which is to impair the quality or appearance of; to spoil.

    the next vocabulary word is used by Cheryl Strayed, page 308, inside ‘Wild’. The word is “Cantilever”, which is a long projecting beam or girder fixed at only one end, used in the construction of bridges.

  4. November 20, 2018 3:06 pm

    adversary- one’s opponent in a contest, conflict, or dispute. (tupac- do for luv)
    wordsmith-a skilled user of words. (flatbush zombies- ask courtney)

  5. November 20, 2018 3:06 pm

    Inculcate: Instill (an attitude, idea, or habit) by persistent instruction.
    From “Stop Stealing Dreams” by Seth Godin (35).

    It’s more or less what you’ve been doing this whole semester. Beyond just teaching, you’ve been making us care about things we hadn’t previously.

    Zen: A state of calm attentiveness in which one’s actions are guided by intuition rather than by conscious effort. From “Wild Mind: Living The Writer’s Life” by Natalie Goldberg (130).

    Zen’s a lot of things. Hiding in the above definition is the realization that zen is a state of flow, being so deeply in your element that what you do becomes almost automatic. And across the semester, we’ve been talking a lot about its usefulness in writing.

  6. November 20, 2018 3:07 pm

    2nd-Gavin Amendola
    why gyre, because half way through GYRE the book I didn’t realize that a gyre is a actual definition of a type of current.

    Testament: a person’s will
    source: Decker, Julie. GYRE: The Plastic Ocean. Booth-Clibborn Editions, 2014.

  7. November 20, 2018 3:10 pm

    Stephen King: On Writing

    Reverently- With deep and solemn respect(107)
    I picked this word because I didn’t know what it meant in the text.

    Raconteur- A person who tells anecdotes in a skillful and amusing way.(115)
    I chose this word because I was completely off when i tries to guess what it meant when i was reading.

  8. November 20, 2018 3:15 pm

    Jacob Barnett 11-20-2018
    My first vocabulary word is used by E.B. White inside his short story, ‘Once More to the Lake’ on page 404 in “50 Essays” The first word is, “Marred” meaning, to impair the quality or appearance of; to spoil.

    My next vocabulary word is used by Cheryl Strayed on page 308 of her book, “Wild”. The second word is “Cantilever” meaning, A long projecting bean or girder fixed at only one end, used in bridge construction.

  9. Angelina Guzman permalink
    November 20, 2018 3:17 pm

    magnanimity (n): the virtue of being great of mind and heart
    I picked this word from the last five pages I’ve read in East of Eden by John Steinbeck (pg 366). I knew this word was positive just based on the context of which it was written in the novel, but now I know it’s exact meaning.

    collectivism (n): the theory and practice of the ownership of land and the means of production by the people or the state.
    Usually when I read a word I don’t know i use context clues to make an inference. Right now I am reading Ayn Rand’s We the Living, which is a historical non-fiction based in Soviet Russia. Since the book is political in itself and this word is often used, I thought it was important that I know exactly what it means.

  10. November 20, 2018 3:19 pm

    analogous- comparable or similar
    didactic- designed to teach people something
    source list on website.

  11. November 20, 2018 3:20 pm

    -Affectation (n.): behavior, speech, or writing that is artificial and designed to impress
    * King, Stephen. On Writing: a Memoir of the Craft. Scribner, 2010.
    I chose this word because as I was reading my reading on writing book I didn’t really know what this word meant, I originally thought that it meant some sort of affection, but I was really wrong.

  12. November 20, 2018 3:21 pm

    magnanimity (n): the fact or condition of being magnanimous; generosity.
    I read this word in the last five pages I read in East of Eden by John Steinbeck. Through context clues I knew this word was positive, but no exactly how.

    collectivism (n): the theory and practice of the ownership of land and the means of production by the people or the state.
    Right now I am reading Ayn Rand’s We the Living, which is a historical fiction novel set in Soviet Russia. Since I have read the word multiple times, I gathered that it was a political ideology but wasn’t entirely sure what it meant.

  13. November 20, 2018 3:23 pm

    @ my last post… the source and why. “Blog.” Take Your Success,
    I chose these words because they are related to some of the books we have read throughout the semester.

  14. November 20, 2018 3:26 pm

    Justin Perich,, “Supercilious”, coolly and patronizingly haughty, King, Stephen. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. New York: Scribner, 2000.(187) I choose this word because it stood out to me and made me stop reading and think about what this word actually means. I have seen this word many times but never truly known what the correct definition is.

    “Unconsciousness”, the state of being unconscious, King, Stephen. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. New York: Scribner, 2000.(93), I choose this word because i feel that this word can help expand our vocabulary and help better your essays.

  15. November 20, 2018 7:29 pm

    This is Colette Jolliff.
    Coalesced: Come together to form one mass or whole.
    Cofer, Judith Ortiz. “The Myth of the Latin Woman.”

  16. Vibe With Cass permalink
    November 20, 2018 7:33 pm

    Cassy Monreal
    Undulating – move with swift like motion (White)
    Tantalizing -torment or tease (Simic)

  17. November 20, 2018 7:56 pm


    [1] COAXING (p. 112) – persuade (someone) gradually or by flattery to do something.

    “Sometimes institutions need coaxing, because intuition is a little shy.”

    I chose this word specifically because I do not know of the word.

    [2] CALLIOPE (p. 207) – a keyboard instrument resembling an organ but with the notes produced by steam whistles, used chiefly on showboats and in traveling fairs.

    “Maybe it won’t be a song exactly, but maybe just a little tune, a calliope tune, the tune of survival.”

    Calliope was a really weird word that poked out at me and I poked at it to learn what it meant.

  18. November 25, 2018 12:00 pm

    King, Stephen.On Writing: a Memoir of the Craft. Scribner, 2010.(page 18 and 72). The title is underlined.
    1. curriculum vitae- a brief account of a person’s education, qualifications, and previous experience, typically sent with a job application.
    “This is not an autobiiography. It is, rather, a kiind of curriculum vitae- my attempt is too show how one writer is formed.”(King,Stephen.18)
    2. obstreperous-noisy and difficult to control.
    “Tabby wore her pink uniform out to Dunkin’ Donuts and called the cops when the drunks who came in for coffee got obstreperous.”(King.72)

  19. November 26, 2018 2:46 pm

    Shania Bauer
    1) Snipe: make a sly or petty verbal attack.
    “I listened to the lazy buzzing of bees as they staggered drunkenly from flower to flower, the petty, sniping chirps of the cardinals remarking upon our bird feeder.” (p. 14) Lab Girl
    I liked this sentence but was unsure what she meant by “sniping chirps”

    Nefarious: (typically of an action or activity) wicked or criminal.
    “…the printer ink cartridges we secured late at night through nefarious means” (p. 20) Lab Girl
    Honestly this book just had a lot of vocab I was unsure about. I had to look up multiple words throughout reading this book.

  20. November 27, 2018 4:59 pm

    Michelle Martinez

    1. Microcosm: a community, place, or situation regarded as encapsulating in miniature the characteristic qualities or features of something much larger.
    “Our family lived in a large urban center in New Jersey during the sixties, where life was designed as a microcosm of my parents’ casas on the island.” (“The Myth Of The Latin Woman: I Just Met A Girl Named Maria” by Judith Ortiz Cofer pg. 104) 50 Essays

    2. Congenial: (of a person) Pleasant because of a personality. qualities, or interests that are similar to one’s own.
    “I have been calm and extremely congenial on those rare occasions when I’ve been pulled over by the police.” (“Just Walk On By: Black Men And Public Space” by Brent Staples pg. 342) 50 Essays

  21. dyingoutwest permalink
    December 6, 2018 12:32 am

    Lucas Hoyt

    1. Encompass – to surround or hold within. ” Thus, good dialogue encompasses what is said and what is not said.” (“Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott”)

    2. Supercharged – contains a lot of energy. ” Nothing like a supercharged atmosphere to get things going.” (“Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott”)

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