How Pixar’s “Piper” Took Me Back To Wrightsville Beach

How Pixar’s “Piper” Took Me Back To Wrightsville Beach

Pixar’s latest short proved both adorable and memory-triggering for this somewhat-grown-up viewer.

For the first decade and a half of my life, I spent a week of every summer at my grandparents’ house in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. It was an old house, the doors still off-kilter from when a hurricane knocked the whole thing over long before I was born, and it sat right on the sand dunes the town had built after that storm. The repetitive sloshing of the ocean, mere yards away from the back porch, was constant background noise, and every breath I took brought its salty taste to my tongue. I spent countless hours at that beach building drip-castles with my sister, playing paddleball with my mother, chasing seagulls and digging up coquinas with my brother, splashing through the waves with my father, and taking long walks to collect seashells with my grandparents.

After Grandma died, almost four years ago now, her side of the family sold off the beach house and those trips came to an end. As I entered college and started going on new, exciting trips of my own – a road trip with friends to Chicago, a semester working in Disney World – those days at Wrightsville Beach, no longer a regular part of my life, faded to the back of my memory.

Though Pixar has found success and acclaim in feature-length productions, their roots are in short films. Every Pixar film is still accompanied by one of these animated “shorts”, so when I went to see Pixar’s “Finding Dory” with my cousin over Independence Day weekend, we first saw Pixar’s latest short, “Piper.”

First I heard and saw the waves, splashing on the sand. Then I giggled at the flock of sandpipers, noting to my cousin that the way they ran back and forth, away from and back towards the ocean, was exactly how they behaved in real life. I cooed over the baby bird, the eponymous Piper, a ball of feathers reluctantly learning to leave the nest and feed itself. I leaned forward as I realized that the little shellfish the sandpipers were digging up to eat were coquinas, hunted by their bubbles, just like my father taught my brother and I to look for. And when little Piper failed to notice the wave bearing down at her until the last second, I gasped as the memories hit me with equal force. Once, when I was little, I was swamped by a wave in the exact same way. There in the movie theatre, I saw the water bearing down on me. I felt the salt and sand rushing into my face and my father’s arms lifting me up and dunking me in the water again and again to clean me off before he finally carried me back to shore, where I sat huddled in a towel for a long time, wary of the sea – just like Piper sat shivering in her nest, refusing to go anywhere near the water.

But just as I eventually returned to swim in the ocean again, over the course of the short Piper returned to the shore. She realized that the ocean, though scary and powerful, wouldn’t hurt her if she was smart about how she approached it. And the pure joy in Piper’s eyes – the one part of her body that revealed her to be an animated creation in this photorealistic film – as she finally conquered her fear of the waves and discovered the fun of jumping around in the water brought tears to my own eyes.

My cousin can attest that I spent the short’s credits with my hand over my heart, saying “Oh my goodness!” over and over. Pixar’s “Piper” touched me, but not because the short was adorable, which it was, nor because it was a fantastic portrayal of the trauma that creates fear in addition to the commonly-portrayed process of getting over a fear, which it also was. “Piper” took me on one more trip to Wrightsville Beach, to stay at my Grandma's house and play in the sand and the sea, four years after I had to leave it behind.

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8 Reasons Why My Dad Is the Most Important Man In My Life

Forever my number one guy.

Growing up, there's been one consistent man I can always count on, my father. In any aspect of my life, my dad has always been there, showing me unconditional love and respect every day. No matter what, I know that my dad will always be the most important man in my life for many reasons.

1. He has always been there.

Literally. From the day I was born until today, I have never not been able to count on my dad to be there for me, uplift me and be the best dad he can be.

2. He learned to adapt and suffer through girly trends to make me happy.

I'm sure when my dad was younger and pictured his future, he didn't think about the Barbie pretend pageants, dressing up as a princess, perfecting my pigtails and enduring other countless girly events. My dad never turned me down when I wanted to play a game, no matter what and was always willing to help me pick out cute outfits and do my hair before preschool.

3. He sends the cutest texts.

Random text messages since I have gotten my own cell phone have always come my way from my dad. Those randoms "I love you so much" and "I am so proud of you" never fail to make me smile, and I can always count on my dad for an adorable text message when I'm feeling down.

4. He taught me how to be brave.

When I needed to learn how to swim, he threw me in the pool. When I needed to learn how to ride a bike, he went alongside me and made sure I didn't fall too badly. When I needed to learn how to drive, he was there next to me, making sure I didn't crash.

5. He encourages me to best the best I can be.

My dad sees the best in me, no matter how much I fail. He's always there to support me and turn my failures into successes. He can sit on the phone with me for hours, talking future career stuff and listening to me lay out my future plans and goals. He wants the absolute best for me, and no is never an option, he is always willing to do whatever it takes to get me where I need to be.

6. He gets sentimental way too often, but it's cute.

Whether you're sitting down at the kitchen table, reminiscing about your childhood, or that one song comes on that your dad insists you will dance to together on your wedding day, your dad's emotions often come out in the cutest possible way, forever reminding you how loved you are.

7. He supports you, emotionally and financially.

Need to vent about a guy in your life that isn't treating you well? My dad is there. Need some extra cash to help fund spring break? He's there for that, too.

8. He shows me how I should be treated.

Yes, my dad treats me like a princess, and I don't expect every guy I meet to wait on me hand and foot, but I do expect respect, and that's exactly what my dad showed I deserve. From the way he loves, admires, and respects me, he shows me that there are guys out there who will one day come along and treat me like that. My dad always advises me to not put up with less than I deserve and assures me that the right guy will come along one day.

For these reasons and more, my dad will forever be my No. 1 man. I love you!

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From One Nerd To Another

My contemplation of the complexities between different forms of art.


Aside from reading Guy Harrison's guide to eliminating scientific ignorance called, "At Least Know This: Essential Science to Enhance Your Life" and, "The Breakthrough: Immunotherapy and the Race to Cure Cancer" by Charles Graeber, an informative and emotional historical account explaining the potential use of our own immune systems to cure cancer, I read articles and worked on my own writing in order to keep learning while enjoying my winter break back in December. I also took a trip to the Guggenheim Museum.

I wish I was artistic. Generally, I walk through museums in awe of what artists can do. The colors and dainty details simultaneously inspire me and remind me of what little talent I posses holding a paintbrush. Walking through the Guggenheim was no exception. Most of the pieces are done by Hilma af Klint, a 20th-century Swedish artist expressing her beliefs and curiosity about the universe through her abstract painting. I was mostly at the exhibit to appease my mom (a K - 8th-grade art teacher), but as we continued to look at each piece and read their descriptions, I slowly began to appreciate them and their underlying meanings.

I like writing that integrates symbols, double meanings, and metaphors into its message because I think that the best works of art are the ones that have to be sought after. If the writer simply tells you exactly what they were thinking and how their words should be interpreted, there's no room for imagination. An unpopular opinion in high school was that reading "The Scarlet Letter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne was fun. Well, I thought it was. At the beginning of the book, there's a scene where Hawthorne describes a wild rosebush that sits just outside of the community prison. As you read, you are free to decide whether it's an image of morality, the last taste of freedom and natural beauty for criminals walking toward their doom, or a symbol of the relationship between the Puritans with their prison-like expectations and Hester, the main character, who blossoms into herself throughout the novel. Whichever one you think it is doesn't matter, the point is that the rosebush can symbolize whatever you want it to. It's the same with paintings - they can be interpreted however you want them to be.

As we walked through the building, its spiral design leading us further and further upwards, we were able to catch glimpses of af Klint's life through the strokes of her brush. My favorite of her collections was one titled, "Evolution." As a science nerd myself, the idea that the story of our existence was being incorporated into art intrigued me. One piece represented the eras of geological time through her use of spirals and snails colored abstractly. She clued you into the story she was telling by using different colors and tones to represent different periods. It felt like reading "The Scarlet Letter" and my biology textbook at the same time. Maybe that sounds like the worst thing ever, but to me it was heaven. Art isn't just art and science isn't just science. Aspects of different studies coexist and join together to form something amazing that will speak to even the most untalented patron walking through the museum halls.

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