Attentive Minds

An essay whose title places beauty on lower purpose and one named after a condiment don’t not seem likely to have anything in common. In the case of Diana Kappel-Smith’s essay, Salt, and A Lovely Sort of Lower Purpose, written by Ian Frazier, it is true that they do contrast, but by comparing their perspectives, there is an obvious similarity. Through experiences entirely of their own, both essayists show a perspective of embracing the present and an importance in feeling life as it happens. This perspective is reached by two different people with two different life styles, but none the less, their conclusion remains quite similar.

Searching for an answer, Kappel-Smith’s finds one through nature, while Frazier, on the other hand, is reminded of what he used to know through his children. “It was rebirth,” (Kappel-Smith 201), she says, referring to her time in the desert, “I began a kind of journey in which my life would become more insignificant and more wonderful than I could have ever imagined.” (Kappel-Smith 202). Her journey starts with shepherding, but ends with something a lot deeper; She is left with a new perspective on life, something she did not expect. Frazier’s awakening to this new perspective is a result of his children.

Who knew that a small detour while on a fishing destination would change the way one viewed life? As Frazier and his children made their way towards a nice spot, they were distracted by an irrigation ditch they were in need of crossing, which proved to be quite an unexpected treat for the children. Not having the heart to pull his kids away and move on with his destination, Frazier watches his son and daughter play in the irrigation ditch; But it doesn’t take long before another fisherman walks by and observes Frazier’s idleness. “He took me in at a glance, noticed my equipment and my idleness, and gave a small but unmistakable snort of derision.” (Frazier 162).

Frazier realizes that the reaction of the fisherman wouldn’t be far off from his own, if he were to switch places with this snorting man and see another fisherman, doing nothing. This is when he truly sees himself and what his own actions have become; Just like the other fisherman, he has become determined to start and complete a task with no “free-form aimlessness” (Frazier 160), like he had when he was younger. He has taken an important element out of his life, and his children have showed this to him. Through experiences all their own, Kappel-Smith and Frazier start a journey into an awakening that changes their perspectives on life.

Perspective tells quite a lot about one’s identity, and while on their journeys, Kappel-Smith and Frazier’s writings reflect their identities. Kappel-Smith starts out with a scientific mind, putting reason to everything she sees. After experiencing the desert and shepherding, she starts to transform into someone who looks more within her environment, rather than out, and sees a deeper meaning in things that science couldn’t give to her. While wearing this new skin, she doesn’t completely discard the scientific side of her, she just incorporates both sides with one another: “There’s a brittle whitish horn I carry in a plastic bag in my pack…

I stole it from Badwater in Death Valley… I’m eating what I love: the unendurable places, the bone-stuff, the ground. The same electrolytes that dance their vital dance in my blood – sodium, calcium, potassium, carbonate, chloride…” (Kappel-Smith 204-205). Her perspective has now given her the identity as someone living for the moment, as she appreciates her environment and gives herself the opportunity to feel life more deeply. Frazier’s identity has also become someone who wants to appreciate life in a deeper sense, but he discovers this want and goes about it in a different way than Kappel-Smith does.

What Frazier wants is to not have to feel the need to have a set purpose for all that he sets out to do. He says “…we need margins.” (Frazier 163), and what he means is that we need a place where we “can try out odd ideas that you might be afraid to admit to with people looking on.” He wants to be able to be like he was as a kid, when he could do nothing and not feel guilty about his “blue-sky research”. He has an interesting comment about this issue, that “Scientists have a term for research carried on with no immediate prospects of economic gain: ‘blue-sky research.’ Marginal places are the blue-sky research zones of the outdoors.” If Kappel-Smith were to peer onto that last sentence, she would most likely agree to it, without a shadow of a doubt. If one were to find these two authors, given their present identities, in the same room, it wouldn’t be far fetched to think that nothing short of agreements would be exchanged among them.

While finding these essayists in a room together may be a little far fetched, saying that finding your identity is an amazing thing is not, and since Frazier and Kappel-Smith have, they embrace their present being. Their pasts are looked at quite differently, and as far as the future goes, there are differences as well as similarities. Starting with the past, Frazier’s is apparently being embraced, while Kappel-Smith’s is not.

They have sort of an opposite way of forming into what their identities are now, in that Frazier is getting back into how he was, and Kappel-Smith is steering away from how she was. Frazier speaks of his days in “the woods” with his friends, and how their “purpose there was a higher sort of un-propose, a free-form aimlessness that would be beyond me now.” (Frazier 160) When he was younger, he could go into the woods with his friends with no specific agenda at hand, and just do what he calls “nothing”. Kappel-Smith’s past was more of ignorance, which she is not fond of or trying to get back into.

She says, “I knew a lot about sheep in those days, but my understanding of other things was primitive.” (Kappel-Smith 201) She saw herself “as the center of the world with nature as kind of a backdrop… It was also the raw heartbreaking place in which I worked” and that she had not yet “begun to put these things together.” Her ignorance and immaturity were things she started to grow out of and grow into the identity she now embraces in her present being. As far as the future for her, “I would lie down and join the struggle” (Kappel-Smith 210), she says; avoiding limitations and doing everything she possibly can.

Frazier’s idea of what his future is going to look like is not anywhere near Kappel-Smith’s, but this doesn’t mean he will be giving up his identity as one embracing the present and stressing importance on feeling life as it happens. He writes of the future as almost impossible to get away from those who ask “what are you doing?” (Frazier 162), specifically he writes about “a classic marginal, anything-goes sort of place” (Frazier 164) that he sees being destroyed.

“On the far west side of the small western city where I live… is an open expanse of undeveloped ground… It is a classic marginal, anything-goes sort of place, and at the moment I prefer it to just about anywhere I know.” (Frazier 163-164) He continues with examples of how versatile this undeveloped land is to the people of the city who utilize it. Now, the city has plans of building on this land, something Frazier has no embracing feeling towards. In closing his thoughts, he states, “The place’s possibilities, which at the moment are approximately infinite, will be reduced to merely a few. And those of uncertain purpose will have to go elsewhere when they feel like doing nothing in particular, just fooling around.” (Frazier 164) Frazier wants to avoid limitations, and with the city’s plan of development, all he can see is the imagination being put under limitation.

Even a limited imagination could see the similarities and differences brought forth in the essays, Salt, and A Lovely Sort of Lower Purpose. Through their own experiences, Diana Kappel-Smith and Ian Frazier have reached a very similar perspective in their life. Their idea of embracing the present and realizing the importance of feeling life as it happens is told in their own story, in their own way.

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