“Bread Bakes in Heat” by Taylor Oddino (’17): A Preview for This Whitworth Life

This Whitworth Life 2014Please mark your calendar for This Whitworth Life: A Campus Storytelling event. The 2014 cast includes nine readers who’ll share their stories at 6pm on Friday, Nov. 21, in the chapel.

For a taste of what you’ll hear on the 21st, check out “Bread Bakes in Heat” by Taylor Oddino (’17).

When I was twelve, I decided to dedicate my life to ballet: Ballet class, everyday, after school from three to nine, plus all-day Saturday. When I was 15, I auditioned for the Houston Ballet’s Ben Stevenson Academy in Texas. I was accepted and moved into the dorms at the University of St. Thomas in Houston. I danced six days a week from eight a.m. to 5 p.m., for seven weeks.

All my years of work came to be defined in a single rehearsal. It was a summer day in Houston, and I could feel the 110-degree heat radiating through the glass windows in a sixth-floor studio. It was a three-hour rehearsal. There were three different groups of dancers, and we rotated, so I only danced for a third of the three hours. We were strictly instructed to be standing when not dancing. God help the girl who decided to sit and stretch.

I stood in a corner of the massively spacious studio. The six-story facilities were brand new, and the walls smelled of fresh paint. The floor looked bare without scuffs. It was all too perfect. The barres felt too smooth beneath my sweaty palms.

It was late afternoon, and after dancing all day, I was expected to stand there in the corner. I already knew the choreography by heart, so there was nothing to keep my mind occupied. The complex part of the dance was maintaining our lines, which I found extremely difficult to practice on my own. The only thing left to focus on, apart from my growling tummy, was my feet.

They were screaming at me. That kind of blood-curdling scream that makes your shoulders rise, your muscles tense, and your eardrums throb with the most uncomfortable of pains. My feet were beyond swollen, puffing out of my pointe shoes like a batch of dough that had too much yeast. I will never forget that pain. I used the barre to lift myself up; anything to relieve the pressure.

The heat from the window, my empty stomach, the dizzying smell of paint, and the loaves of bread that I called feet. Something inside me was dying. I think it was my passion. When I took my shoes off after that God-forsaken rehearsal, I rested my chin on my knees and tenderly rubbed my bloody toes. My mom always said it looked like my feet had been through a meat grinder. I preferred a cheese grater analogy.

I came back to Washington and quit dancing six months later. I got a job, and a boyfriend. I became normal. I now teach at a local studio and I am a teacher in Whitworth’s dance ministry, Jubilation.

The passion that I have now is so different. I am so much more fulfilled. I can look into my future and know that I won’t have to worry about how having a baby might endanger my chances of being able to return to work. I don’t have to worry about my career ending at age 35.

I would do it all over again. I would not be who I am today without my dancing.

I started out like these, shiny and new. The sport broke me down to this, ragged and worn. I learned that some things aren’t worth pursuing. But most importantly, I learned that you have to remember to take your shoes off and breathe.

Taylor Ann Oddino was born in California and finds herself torn between the golden Promised Land of Cali and the enchanting forests of the Pacific Northwest. She has lived in Spokane since she was a little girl and decided to study journalism, communications, and French at Whitworth University. In her spare time, she teaches dance, practices yoga, cheers for the Seahawks, and spends time with her lovely family and friends.

A Preview for this Whitworth Life by Kaurie Albert (’15)

Please mark your calendar for This Whitworth Life: A Campus Storytelling event. The 2014 cast includes nine readers who’ll share their stories at 6pm on Friday, Nov. 21, in the chapel.

For a taste of what you’ll hear on the 21st, check out this piece by Kaurie Albert (’15).

I was headed back to Whitworth after spending spring break at home in Montana. It wasThis Whitworth Life 2014 the first time I’d be driving my own car back. That 1986 Buick that had been through a couple wrecks and multiple repairs, but had been running well for some time. My dad thought it would be just fine over the two mountain passes and long stretches of interstate between Hamilton and Spokane. I made it to Missoula in good time, picked up my friend Brandon, and continued on our way. My Chihuahua-weiner-dog-terrier combo of a creature named Pippin curled up on his panda pillow pet on the seat between us.

Unusual for Montana, we started noticing more and more traffic. We were nearing the top of Lookout Pass when we came to a complete stop behind a long line, primarily of semis. It was just in time too, as the hood had started smoking. Trying to ignore that dilemma, I turned off the car and let it sit. Curious, Brandon and I stepped out into the cold mountain air, flurries of snow and strong wind whipping about us, while Pippin spasmodically jumped around inside the car barking. Just a small stretch ahead was a massive rock slide. It had taken out one of the cement side things and spilled onto the road.

The next four hours dragged on. We passed the time by telling stories, doing homework until the daylight faded, and observing the many people meandering about. Night fell and it wasn’t until 9:00 that the road was cleared enough for the line to start moving. The car started, though reluctantly. It was not excited to drive after sitting for so long, and regardless of how much I floored the gas pedal, it wouldn’t go over 20mph. Fortunately, we were right at the top of the pass and had a rather long descent ahead. We coasted down the mountain going 55 all the way into Idaho. Brandon’s phone finally got service and he had six missed calls from his mom and numerous messages from our friends. We were supposed to have been in Spokane a good three hours ago.

The road flattened out and the car refused to go over 20. It was making weird clicking noises, but I was too afraid to stop. What if it didn’t start at all again? I tried to drive as close to the side of the road as possible, semis flying by. Brandon searched fruitlessly for the hazard lights. No idea where those were. He was trying to reassure his mom and I was trying to keep my cool. Please, please, please, don’t stop. We can make it, we can make it, we can make it. Pippin remained passed out on the panda, oblivious. I asked Brandon to distract me. We asked each other stuff we never knew about one another. He would tell me every once in a while that it was going to be fine.

Signs to Kellogg, Idaho appeared and we decided we should stop there. There was no way we’d make it to Spokane tonight. After another hour of painstaking progress, I took exit 51 into Kellogg and coasted right into a Les Schwab parking lot. The Dave Smith car lot was adjacent to us. It seemed like a good place to break down. I called my dad, who seemed calmly unsurprised that the car did not make it. We decided to ditch the car and worry about it later. My friend Lauren offered to rescue us and drove an hour and a half from Spokane to Kellogg. I left a note on the car, saying “Sorry, we broke down” and we transferred to Lauren’s. By the time we pulled into our house it was 1 in the morning and I had six hours before I had to be at work. Although it was an incredibly long day, I abandoned a car in Idaho, and put Brandon’s mom through that trauma, we both agreed that it was an adventure. My family has been cursed with cars for years and it only made sense that it would happen to me too. However, I did discover that keeping my cool and just believing that we would “make it” was probably the most valuable trait I possessed in that moment. I will never underestimate the ability not to panic in a situation again, or be more thankful that I had someone as laid back as Brandon for a passenger. Cooler heads did prevail.

Kaurie Albert is a senior Lit major from Hamilton, Montana. She isn’t sure what she wants to do in the near future, though writing will continue to be a large part of it. However, she does plan on returning to Montana at a much later date to settle in mountain country and raise pygmy goats.


“Namaste” by Kevin Moore (’16): A Preview of This Whitworth Life

This Whitworth Life 2014

Please mark your calendar for This Whitworth Life: A Campus Storytelling event. The 2014 cast includes nine readers who’ll share their stories at 6pm on Friday, Nov. 21, in the chapel.

For a taste of what you’ll hear on the 21st, check out “Namaste” by Kevin Moore (’16):

Have you ever seen what happiness truly is? What absolute joy and contentment look like? I think I have. When I was a junior in high school, I had the opportunity to travel to India on a service trip over our winter break in early February. Oddly enough, I had applied for a summer trip to Africa, but the political situation in our destination at the time forced administration to divert applicants into the India trip. I was sixteen, and I had never been in the service field before. We flew from LAX to Dubai, and from Dubai to Delhi. We spent two days in Delhi—one for sightseeing, one for visiting three local churches and their Sunday services. I was amazed to see their passion for Christ in such a little space—rooms about the size of a Dixon Hall classroom. The next five days, after a day of travel, were spent at the North India New Life Boy’s Home, run by Pastor Varughese. It was there, among the teeming activity of the home, that I learned what joy looked like.

They received us with banners and a common Indian dinner consisting of rice, naan, curried chicken, and the wonderfully familiar liters of Pepsi. We shuffled about, unsure of ourselves, while dark faces and huge grins lugged our suitcases upstairs. We were specifically instructed to leave the baggage to the boys, who viewed it as their sacred duty. After the meal, we divided into rooms and collapsed exhausted into bed while mosquito candles burned, filling the air with a scented smoke that, thankfully, did its job. The week that came after was filled with equal parts work and play. We worked in and around the house, which I was told used to be a smaller scale training facility for the Indian Air Force. We painted, cleaned, organized, and overall did anything that the small staff could come up with. We spent time in devotional time with them, singing hymns in English and listening to the boys chorus together in Hindi. We visited the school they attended and spent time with all the kids there, organizing and playing simple games with large groups of the school’s uniformed students.

This aspect of their lives, the nature of their play, showed me what I believe and use today as a measure of human satisfaction. Back at the home, we played with a soccer ball. That is not to say we played soccer, which did occur enough for me to learn the breadth of the tenacity and energy of these children. But we played something much simpler. We stood in a circle and threw the ball to one another. That was it—the game in its entirety, and yet every boy in the circle was beside himself with joy to be part of that circle, to toss a decrepit ball barely held together by archaic stitches to friends both old and new. No rules, no remotes, no screens, no batteries, no assembly required. We stood together, smiled together, and tossed around an old ball together. We were happy.


Kevin Moore is a junior and an English major on the Writing track. Kevin enjoys sunshine, writing, aquatic activities, and any combination therein.

Join Fred for Over The Rhine (Did we mention Fred will be there?)

Straight from the horse’s mouth…or rather, from Dr. Fred Johnson’s keyboard:

Many of you already know that Over he Rhine, a folk duo (and sometimes-band) from Cincinnati will give a **free** performance for the Whitworth community on Wednesday, November 5, at 7:00 p.m. in the HUB. Open to the Whitworth Community. They’ll also do a talk about their work (and faith and place and community) in the morning, 10:25 a.m.

Here’s the band website.http://darrinballman.com Darrin Ballman Photography

They’ve been around since 1989. They’ve shared the stage with a lot of amazing musicians, including Bob Dylan and Ani Difranco. They’ve been touring members of the Cowboy Junkies (another often astounding band). They were on the same independent record label as REM back in the early 90s. And–always with the core songwriting duo of Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist–they’ve produced a lot of stunning albums over the years.

Over the Rhine is a heart-and-mind kind of band. They have never really been a part of any “contemporary Christian music” scene, but their Christian faith often finds its way into their work thoughtfully and beautifully, with all the mess you might want from real and artful engagement with questions of faith.

It would be great if you’d click the “attending” links on those pages, so we can get some sense of headcount (especially for the morning talk).

More songs? Okay, more songs.

Hope to see you all there!

Dr. Johnson (In my English Department Chair/Concert Promoter Role)

Poetry and Pie 2014

As per usual, Westminster Round will be hosting Poetry and Pie again this year. The event will take place in the Mind and Hearth Coffee Shop on November 14th, at 7:00 p.m.

If you’re interested in contributing, here are the details:

Please email any work (roughly 2-4 pages/minutes in length) to Luke Eldredge (leldredge16@my.whitworth.edu) by November 11th. We hope to have our lineup complete by the 13th, so don’t hesitate to send your stuff in!

For more information, email Luke Eldredge (leldredge16@my.whitworth.edu) or Nick Avery (navery16@my.whitworth.edu).

Calling all English Lovers!

Join the EL Dept folk this Wednesday (Oct. 29) for the Majors Fair and Thursday (Oct 30) for ElectiveFest.

The Majors fair will take place in the HUB Multipurpose Room from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Come and see what the English Department has to offer!

Electivefest will take place from 11:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. in Westminster 252. Chat with English professors about Jan and Spring term offerings, and have some pizza!

See you there!

Alumni Update: Dr. Jeremiah Webster (’01)

You must imagine me writing this with a copy of David H. Richter’s The Critical Tradition sitting on my desk. It is the same copy I used to study literary criticism with Dr. Sugano at Whitworth in the pre-autumnal-Y2K-9/11-smartphone (yes, that long ago) days of my youth. Fourteen years later, I now teach Literary Theory at Northwest University. Richter’s tome remains the standard for any critical survey, and is one of the few texts whose intellectual demands can inspire a student to drop a course outright. Paradise Lost and Ulysses vie for second place. The dust jacket photo alone inhabits a melancholia one expects from Edward Gorey or The Sorrows of Young Werther. I wish I could report that my students receive as positive an experience as I did at Whitworth, but there is no way I understand Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason as well as Doug Sugano. He is one of the best professors at Whitworth, a professor who provides first-tier preparation for graduate school.

I’ve been asked to respond to the prompt, “What have you been up to lately?” Beyond the usual, “getting older not wiser” bit, beyond the Charon riverboat crossing from cultured hipster to thirty-something in tweed, I’ve been at the work I love, the work that being an English major at Whitworth allowed me to pursue. In his book, Life Work, Donald Hall remarks that, “Work is my obsession, but it is also my devotion.” In a very real sense, this is how I would describe the work I am privileged to do. Obsessive. Demanding. A way to inhabit the sacred. A work of devotion. A work of love.

One extravagance of teaching is that with discipline (and Vic Bobb ACME-grade coffee), a person can synthesize the work of the classroom with the work of writing. When I began teaching twelve years ago, I would not have believed such a claim. To my mind, writing and teaching were the oil and water, 16th Century Protestant vs. Roman Catholic oppositions of academic life. No longer. Two years ago I taught British Literature and an essay on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight emerged from the experience. Last year, I wrote a critical introduction for an anthology of T.S. Eliot’s poetry in preparation for a class called T.S. Eliot and the Moderns. This spring, I plan to present a paper at Seattle University that examines the theological implications of Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) and Cuarón’s Gravity (2013), an idea that was born out of a Faith in Film course I taught last year. More often than not, the dialogue of the classroom inspires the thesis, encourages the research, and revises my presuppositions. The dynamism of this exchange is exhilarating and serves as the primary inspiration for my artistic and scholarly endeavors. Parenting two children with my wife Kristin and taking long walks in the woods of Western Washington doesn’t hurt either.

And then there is the poetry: the blue Proteus. There is no more reliable bulwark against the tedium of institutional life, the noonday demon Acedia, than the work of composing a poem, submitting it to strangers, and receiving the all too common, “We’re sorry, but your work does not fulfill our present needs” rejection in the mail. Kidding aside, poetry is indeed how I keep my bearings, keep my vision of the soul in a world given over to materialism and status. It is my sense of how language might approach a fruitful silence. My work has appeared in several journals, including Rock and Sling (Thanks, Tom!), and is interested in how individuals can preserve their humanity in a world of webpage logins, buzzing phones, and “that guy” at Starbucks complaining that his triple shot caramel macchiato lacks a true grace note and is the wrong temperature.

Ultimately, the work I do is an act of faith. Faith that this is the best time in American history to be an English Major. Faith that what we need most in an age of terror and triviality is to sit quietly in a classroom with Laurie Lamon and read everything Emily Dickinson ever wrote. Faith that, in the words of T.S. Eliot (shamelessly ripping off Julian of Norwich): “All manner of thing shall be well.” I think we need more of this kind of faith. It is why I can still call myself a Christian post-graduate school and mean it. It is the apprehension of dappled things. It is a faith that might inspire students to give Richter a second try.



Jeremiah Webster is Assistant Professor and Chair of English at Northwest University. His poetry has appeared in North American Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Crab Creek Review, Floating Bridge Review, The Midwest Quarterly, Dappled Things, Euonia Review, and Rock and Sling. He wrote a critical introduction for Paradise in The Waste Land (Wiseblood Books), an anthology of poems by T.S. Eliot. He also served as contributor / co-editor for The Spirit of Adoption (Cascade Books) slated for publication this fall.

You can find his work here:

Paradise in The Waste LandWebsterParadiseintheWasteLand

North American Review

Dappled Things

Beloit Poetry Journal