Driving the streets of San Francisco in the morning, I see fleeting fragments of the Golden Gate Bridge pass in and out of view between buildings and the leaves of low-hanging trees. Shrouded in fog, the bridge is like a spectre, continually appearing and disappearing beyond the city.

Mount Rainier is a similar ghost, overhanging Tacoma like a mirage, its white crown hidden between shadowy clouds that trap sunlight and don’t let it go. Walking up Commencement Path from the library to a class in Wyatt Hall, a hood pulled over my head, I catch glimpses of the mountain between the ivy cords that cover the façade of Jones Hall and between the lachrymose clouds that cling to the bluing hills in the distance. The ghost of Rainier is as evanescent as my breath, materializing and dematerializing in the cold air. My breath passes away.

At a clearing on Todd Field, where Mount Rainier is visible between Commencement Hall and Regester Hall, several students stand with cell phones in their hands, desperately trying to capture images of the ghost between drops of rain. Others stand and only watch, knowing that a ghost is not a ghost if you take a picture of it.

As I climb the stairs of Wyatt Hall, I peer out of the east-facing windows and watch fragments of Mount Rainier pass me by.


I was in Seattle a few weeks ago, where I met up with a friend from the university. He picked me up from my downtown hotel and we drove to Beth’s Cafe, a breakfast restaurant known for its 12-egg omelets and the crayon drawings that line its walls. The drawings showcase a range of artistic styles, from remarkable reproductions of Elsa (of Frozen fame) to Dalí-esque surrealisms. My favorite drawing was of two stick bugs, wading through a puddle of rainwater that had accumulated in a crack in the sidewalk. The bugs were indistinct brown sticks, each with six legs. The drawing struck me because it appeared to be the work of six year old who used too much purple crayon. Yet it evoked solitude with an intensity unmatched by any other drawing that I saw. It may have been the color, or a combination of color and visual understatement, but the figures of the two stick bugs seemed to represent a shared lonesomeness.

We finished our meals and drove to nearby Green Lake. There was a boat rental hut, where we rented a blue two-person pedal-boat. We hopped into the water and got into the boat that was waiting for us. I tightened my life-vest, and we began to pedal. There was more resistance than I expected, and I felt my thighs tighten as we pedaled out onto the water, leaving a V-shaped trail of ripples behind us. We talked about our summers. I spent a lot of my summer alone in a library. It’s not a bad thing. Alone, but not lonely. I realized that college, for all the social attention, often is a solitary activity. I study with friends less often than I did in high school. I eat lunch, and sometimes dinner, alone, which, I should stress, is not a bad thing. I think college calls for a healthy amount of solitude. Of course, it also calls for interaction, but I think that solitude is underrated.

In the middle of Green Lake, my friend and I drifted, our feet drying upon the pedals of our $18/hour rented pedal-boat. We weren’t especially thin, having eaten more than our fair share of eggs, hash browns, and bacon, but in every other way we were like the purple stick bugs of a six year old, alone on a boat in the middle of a lake. I could have sighed and my breath would have vibrated the water.

To Unknowable Heights

On the last day of finals week last semester, a friend and I, to celebrate the end of the school year, drove to North Bend and hiked Rattlesnake Ridge. We got there early, before the morning fog had lifted, and so, for the most part, we hiked in a cloud. Though the sun was out by the time we’d reached the ridge’s 3,500-foot peak, the fog covered the surrounding areas so that, where we should have seen the forest and Rattlesnake Lake below, we saw only gray. There were others at the peak, taking pictures, sitting on lawn chairs, and watching the rodents scramble across the rocks. My friend and I found a ledge near the edge of the peak and sat, as wisps of fog passed around us. I pulled out a couple of granola bars and we ate.

I wish the fog would go away, my friend says. The view is incredible. And it puts how high we are in perspective.

A part of me wishes that I could see the view, too. But the sensation of being a kilometer above ground doesn’t abandon me. I gaze into the impenetrable fog from my perch.

I don’t know, I say. The not being able to see is kind of cool. In a sense, it makes me feel that we’re even higher. Too high to see the ground.

My friend unlatches his camera bag. He points to a chipmunk, nibbling a nut on a pedestal-like rock. For an instant, the chipmunk looks at us, long enough for my friend to take a picture, then it darts over the ledge and slips into the fog.

I stand and peer over the ledge. There’s no trace of the chipmunk. Then I notice a man, walking on a thin outcropping of rock on the side of the cliff.

Check this out, I say.

My friend stands and looks in the direction of the man.

That guy’s insane, I say.

He must not be afraid of heights.

The man lowers himself and sits with his back against the mountain-face. He hugs his knees to his chest and leans forward. As he cranes his neck to see the trees below, a thick cloud of fog envelops and shrouds him from view.

We watch. The fog thickens around the mountainside. Then we hear a scream, muted by the cloud, as if from a distance, and it echoes down the mountain, into the valley, and ripples over the lake. I think the worst. I think, This man has fallen to his death.

The people turn. They inch their way to the edge of the peak, as if afraid to see what awaits their eyes below.

The cloud of fog passes. The man still sits on the narrow strip of rock on the side of the mountain. The people let out sighs of relief. He shivers. There’s sweat, or dew, on his forehead, but he’s there. I sit back down and lean against the rock. I realize that what I thought was a scream was a shout, or a cheer, his thrill at sitting blindly in a cloud, at knowing but not seeing, and seeing what we don’t know.

We watch the fog pass beneath us like a slowly moving stream and imagine that we’re on an island, floating in the sky.

The Sea from Different Shores

The sea in Hawaii is as green as it is blue and rides onto mounds of golden sand, molded by the feet of passerby who carry their shoes and roll up their jeans. Waves overlap waves like sheets of ice floating on the Antarctic sea, sliding over one another like clouds. The sea leaves behind flowers of foam on the sand, which dissolve under the heat of the sun. At dusk, the sea sings the colors of the sunset, purple and red and hazel under balmy skies. The sea in Hawaii sparkles in moonlight and rolls in the breezes of the night. It rocks itself to sleep, as the wind whispers its breathless coo.

Years ago, I threw a bottle with a message into the sea.


The sea only reaches Tacoma through the Puget Sound and maybe through some rivers. On the rocky, black-sand shore of the sound, crabs scurry into crevices between stones, carrying with them the detritus of the sea. Tongues of seaweed wash ashore, covered in slime, where they harden slowly under the mild sun. The water of the Puget Sound drops fragments of shells and crabs onto the sand, where they remain half-buried, like the statue of Ozymandias in the desert. But the shore of Tacoma is not a desolate place. The Puget Sound is quiet, and birds rest on the wooden pillars of piers that have known older days. I think that, if I were any good at it, I could skip a rock that would hop infinitely by feeding on the stillness of the sea.


I think of these things as I sit in the SUB, alone at a table with five other seats. I’m holding a bottle of soda to my ear and listening to the sea inside of it. At times it sounds like the sea in Hawaii and at others the waves of the Puget Sound, which I suppose, for all their differences, don’t sound that different. Maybe the sea is getting back to me, in response to the message I tossed it years ago. But I don’t know what it’s trying to say, and my friends take their seats, so I lower my bottle and leave the waves for another time.

Against the Current

Toward the end of my summer vacation, over late-night frozen yogurt, I had a conversation with a friend about how it feels to always be leaving and returning home, for and from school. We were sitting at a table overlooking a marina and watching the water reflect the starlight. Boats bobbed on the current, the water lapping their sides. Two years removed from high school, I feel more than ever a sense of distance from the things that I associate with home—the people and places I knew, and the memories. If home is a place constituted by memories, then home must be ever elusive, a place that necessarily exists in the past, and therefore unreachable. I told my friend, “When I came home this summer, I felt less like I was returning to something real and more like I was returning to a memory.” My friend sympathized. He said, “Even though I live here, the times I feel closest to home are the times when I’m away and remembering it.”

The next day, I drove to my childhood school, which is nestled in a valley between mountains that are a thousand shades of green. When I got there, it was raining, so I parked underneath some trees. I leaned against the window and watched the rain drip from the branches onto the windshield of the car. The rain slid down the window, etching rivulets into the glass and running shadows onto the dashboard. I watched a man drive a lawn mower over the grass, and the grass bent and cracked beneath the blades. Then a bell rang and doors opened and children ran onto the blacktop basketball court with balls and jump ropes and Chinese jacks. And for a moment, I realized that, though I wasn’t, my memories had led me back to a place that I had known in a previous time.


I spent most of my summer at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa, where I read, researched, and wrote an essay about Roberto Bolaño’s posthumous novel 2666. My research was funded by the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences (AHSS) summer research program, which allowed me to sit in a library all-day, doing things that I love to do. For me, this entailed reading a challenging, but rewarding, novel and what a bunch of people much smarter than I had to say about the novel, and writing to seem much smarter than I am about a novel that is much smarter than I. The project was an exercise in independent learning, and I recommend the program to any student with a desire to do something intellectually stimulating over the three-month summer break. (There is a similar research program for students interested in research in mathematics and the natural sciences.) The great thing about the program is that the student has full creative control, choosing everything from the scope of the project to its end product. This is how I was able to write about the book of a Chilean who may never be taught in an undergraduate class. The program also posts completed projects to Sound Ideas, the online repository for Puget Sound students and faculty, and so represents a publication opportunity. I will be presenting a poster on my research at the AHSS symposium in Collins Memorial Library later this semester, alongside the 27 or so other AHSS summer research scholars, whose projects are ambitious, sophisticated, and meritorious.

When I was not writing and reading for my research project, I was writing and reading for fun. To celebrate a friend’s birthday, I put together a collection of poems that my friend and I had written over the past year or so. Using a publishing program called Blurb Bookwright, I printed the collection and had it bound in hardcover. I fancied the book by including professional-quality pictures from an online, attribution-free photography website called Pixabay (which also has nice wallpaper photos). The book featured twenty poems, ten of my friend’s and ten of mine, and a foreword and afterword (which were extraneous, to be sure, but gave the book some credibility) written by two other friends of ours. Needless to say, my friend liked the gift.

I did a modest amount of reading outside of my research. Of the books that I read, my favorites were Witold Gombrowicz’s Cosmos, a smart, dizzying rumination on the ideas of chaos and order, and Jerzy Kosinski’s The Painted Bird, which is written with the audacity and power characteristic of Nabokov. I recommend both—and 2666 while I’m at it—though neither is exactly palatable, which, I believe, is the point. I also, at the beginning of the summer, received a signed-copy of Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant as part of a pre-order special through Barnes and Noble. I must have spent as much time examining Ishiguro’s signature as I did reading the book. His signature is plain, like his prose, which I think is fitting. It is also tilted, as if behind the cleanliness sits an unreliable narrator, with a tilted smile. Opening the book to Ishiguro’s signature made the reading that followed more personal, and throughout the novel I found myself flipping back to the title page, as if the signature constituted an interpretive key to the book. In the end, I suppose, it served only to mock.

I have talked for long about my summer, when in fact I never strayed from the library. My summer didn’t take me to many new places, as some of my friends’ summers did (Spain, China, New York), but it did challenge me to envision all of these places through books, and it did enable me to learn a few things along the way.


Late one night, five friends and I walked out of Trimble Hall with a light-up Frisbee. We formed a circle on Todd Field under the clear sky, while the dew on the grass kissed our ankles. I turned on the lights of the Frisbee and threw it. While we tossed the disc between us, a plane flew overhead with a rumble that caused the trees to shiver.

If on that clear night a passenger in a window-seat looked down, then she might have seen a speck of light flying across the grass. She might have followed this light as it zigzagged between six points in an indistinct circle. And she might have woken the man sleeping next to her to point out the roving speck of light; but by then, the plane would have passed and the light would have been lost.

After about an hour, we sit and watch the stars. We search for constellations, make up our own. The sky is full of stars.

This year has been filled with memories, moments to keep, each one a star in the night. I have stood on a hill watching fireworks shoot into the air. I have thrown a Frisbee around with friends more times than I can count. I have been to the Sound on multiple occasions, and have each time taken with me something special. I have said goodbye to a friend who decided that he would be better off at home, and watched him succeed there. Most of all, I have taken the time to wonder at the night, the light, the planes and the cherry blossoms, the blue beyond the hills, and the stars.


After dinner on weekends, my friends sit around and talk, drinking tea and eating cookies. Sometimes, we’ll play a game of cards, or Clue, or Hangman. And we’ll think that two years have gone by fast—almost as fast as twenty years have gone by. We’ll remember the time we wandered, lost, around Tacoma in the rain. Or any one of the many nights that we sat around a table, laughing, talking. We’ll remember that night four semesters ago, when we sat in a study room in the library, staring at laptop screens or words on a page, unaware of who, to each other, we would become.


I examine my empty room and wonder how all of my things fit into three cardboard boxes. I’ll store them later on and dust my hands of them. The future looks bright. I trust in it.

Out of the corner of my eye, I see something that I’ve forgotten to pack. A light-up Frisbee, resting against the wall. Perhaps, I’ll see if my friends want to play outside for a bit. I don’t yet want to come to terms with the fact that I am halfway done with college.

Soon, I will board a plane headed for Honolulu. It will be dark when the plane takes off; when it passes over the university, I might see a small, almost imperceptible speck of light flying over the grass, like the beam of a flashlight searching the skies, or a firefly circling the sides of a glass jar in the night.

And I will think, It is well.


On my desk sits a trinket box that I once received as a gift. Printed across the box in white letters are the words, “Good friends are like stars you don’t always see them but you know they are always there.” A friend once pointed out that the sentence suffers from a lack of punctuation. This made me think, Good friends are like punctuation[;] you don’t always see them but you know they are always there.

I have been blessed with good friends and a good family, who have always been there. I would like to recognize them, as such. I would like to thank my professors, who have worked with me on every essay and prepared me for every exam, and who have nothing but encouragement and kind words for me at the end of each day. I would like to thank my bosses and co-workers for making work fun, and thus, for paying me to have fun. I would like to thank everyone who has read my blog; I know there are not a lot of you, but there are more of you than I could have wished for. Finally, I would like to congratulate my sister, who will be joining me at the University of Puget Sound in the fall.

The Blue Beyond the Hills

The blue beyond the hills teems and mist slides down the mountains.


On Todd Field, six friends sit looking at the hills. It’s evening and the sun is beginning to disappear behind the trees. The grass is damp but not too wet to sit on. It bends in the wind.

“It’s Friday. What are we going to do?,” one says. He twirls a blade of grass around his finger and rips it from the ground. He stares at it for a moment, then lets it fall.
One by one, they shrug.

“We could play a game,” one says. She’s remembering the deck of cards she bought from Target one night.

“Like Clue? Or Scrabble?” another says.

“Or Uno.”

“We haven’t played that trivia game in a while.”

“Or there’s Hangman.”

“Or Pictionary.”

“We could watch a movie,” one says, pulling her hands into the arms of her sweater.

“On campus or at an actual theatre?”

“Either one.”

“I don’t want to spend money.”

“We could just go out to dinner.”


“Korean barbecue?”

“Dim sum.”

“I don’t like dim sum.”

“You don’t like anything.”

They go on.


A panting golden retriever runs into a reading group, with a tennis ball in its mouth. It circles twice then runs back to its owner, who calls it from the pathway.

A group of students have started a baseball game. One sends the ball flying into the trees.

In the music building, a pianist plays Satie’s Gymnopédie while a thoughtful audience of one listens outside the door.

A cup drops in the S.U.B. and falls down a flight of stairs. Fellow diners applaud.

A student types at a computer, alone in the library. Her typing does not penetrate the silence.

A man sleeps at the base of a tree. An acorn falls beside him. A squirrel climbs the trunk and crawls onto a branch.

A girl and her girlfriend slip into a car, turn the headlights on, and pull onto the street. They pass a man walking his golden retriever.


Time will pass if we sit here and watch the mist creep down the mountainside, and the blue beyond the hills will slowly fade away.

Water the Cherry Blossoms

On February 15, 2001, the Trail published a message written by former Asian Pacific American Student Union President Ngai Fang Chen, which called for a more-than-passing remembrance of the internment of thirty Japanese Puget Sound students. With eloquence, Chen contributed her voice to the chorus in condemnation of the internment and of ethnic persecution in general.

Six months later, two skyscrapers fell in New York, ushering in a period marked by, among other things, a heightened national sense—that is, a countrywide solidarity founded on a common American identity.

At the same time, ethnic discrimination persisted. Entire groups were targeted for the actions of a few, resulting in the ostracism and marginalization of ostensibly suspect peoples. This unified backlash against entire communities reflects a unique inability to attribute blame to individuals with individual motives; fault is found with peoples and not persons, in perversion of a proud democracy that generalizes persons as groups according to principles of equality/equation. This tendency manifests itself daily in the persecution of American ethnic minorities based upon historically informed suspicions, however uncharacteristic of a group they may be.

What troubles me is the co-presence of a strong national sense that fosters unity on the grounds of American-ness and an opposed ethnic sense that seeks to divide Americans on the basis of color. Herein lies a fundamental problem with the attitude America has adopted toward its multiethnic inhabitants. America will continue to undermine itself and its people if it cannot reconcile its sense of nationalism with its hostility to ethnic others.

The internment of 70,000 Japanese American citizens reflects the danger of a divisive ethnic mindset, in which prejudices culminate in the subordination of national identity. Chen writes of our responsibility as students and Americans to learn from the mistakes of the past. With fourteen years elapsed since her reminder and the anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 9066 recently past, it is important, more than ever, to heed the lessons of the past and to undo, if in-small, the tension between national and ethnic identities that troubles America today.

In doing so, we water the cherry blossoms.


I was walking up the path from the S.U.B to my dorm, when, illuminated by the light of the lamps above, I saw the water-prints of a dog’s paws upon the pavement. Naturally, I followed the tracks, which took me past my dorm. Turning on my phone’s flashlight, for the light grew dim, I walked the path the dog had walked. Sometimes, its paw-prints would disappear into the grass, at which point I wouldn’t be able to see them anymore; but before long, they reappeared, as if the dog’s owner pulled the dog back onto the path, as if he didn’t want to get his feet wet.

The tracks eventually began to disappear, a result of, what I believe to be, the drying of the dog’s feet. I followed them to the Field House, at the edge of campus, where the paw-prints ceased. I looked around to see if I could track the dog any further. I couldn’t.

I’ve never had a dog. But my grandparents had some and so did an aunt and an uncle of mine. Whenever my family visited, my sister and I would always play with the dogs before we would enter the house. Some, if not all, of them have passed away by now, with nothing left of them but the memory of their wet paws on the sidewalk. And even those disappear.

I turned and walked to my dorm.

It’s all in the past, where it’s safe.