We're reading college application essays here on the Miss Marm blog, and today we've got a occulted doozy by Nita.
Musings Inspired by Simplicity
Sunday morning. The gnomon is already halfway through its day’s journey as I steer my bike onto the deserted, taciturn street and continue past the stop sign. The chipped paint and the straining planks are a tribute to toil; the wandering words drifting through my mind are one to tautology. Stagnancy pervades the atmosphere, yet this bucolic side of town is not without vitality. Simplicity, the source of sanguinity, teases my senses and coils herself around the ether of the world. A gentle breeze from the north carries the flowers from the Bradford pears to the deep green grass like snowflakes, occulted from the naked eye. Tulips line the edge of the center, circular garden bed, bright red and brilliant yellow. A butterfly floats by, uninhibited, unrestricted, free. Free from captivity or slavery, liberated. Liberty, conceived by Delacroix, Bartholdi, and Bellamy but emanating from distinct muses, struggles to lead the people, enlighten the world, and extend herself to all. Circling the cul-de-sac, a canopy formed by pine trees and crape myrtles offers a glimpse of nature’s heaven in the same way that Hinduism and Christianity can converge, creating a cross-section from which the idea of a trinity may emerge.
Midnight, an hour that is both early and late. I am restless, in body, mind, and spirit, so I decide to break out the old bike. After passing the stop sign, the horizontal gives way to the vertical until only my flying machine and I soar through the night sky. Space appears surreal; dimension retains no form or shape and begins to resemble a tesseract as tangible characteristics steadily disappear. Gravity capitulates, and for a few moments resembling eternity, the universe lies prostrate and motionless while giving an acquiescent, all-knowing grin at the sight of two audacious adventurers attempting to defy her laws. Out of the corner of my eye, I spot a bird flying out of a nearby, passing tree, taking to the dark firmament much like a star would. The tree, still, sturdy, and strong, seems to grieve over this temporary separation, almost as if her child is learning how to fly from the nest, but her love and protection is not of the senses. Rather, as Donne expounds, “by a love so much refined” she is “inter-assurèd of the mind,” her mien reminiscent of resilient, sagacious familial citadels such as Ma Joad and Mrs. Ramsay. My thoughts are soon obscured, as all phenomenology and ontology converges into a whirling, convoluted spiral, evocative of the Mandelbrot set, till time readopts its fleeting nature, the asphalt below my wheels gradually reemerges, and the gentle bump onto the driveway can be discerned.
1. You're a good writer, but you need to strive for the simplicity you mention in your essay. There are a million ten-dollar words per sentence here, which makes your writing feel overworked, overstuffed, and, worst of all, unpleasant to read. Even more dangerously, many of the big words are used incorrectly (to pick an example at random, a street can't be taciturn, because a street can't talk). Take out all the fancy words, and speak plainly.
2. This essay tells us that you're a very smart, very observant person who's infatuated with vocabulary words, novels, and theorists. But that's not enough. Instead of putting your cleverness at the center of your essay, you must give us a story. Maybe it's a story about seeing the sublime in the everyday—for example, going on a midnight bike ride, seeing a bird, smelling flowers, and finding rapture. Great! Now turn that into a narrative. You can't merely string together observations. You must create an arc, you must hook the reader, and, most crucially, you must reveal something important about your character.
How do you assess this essay? What tips for improvement would you give Nita?