2021 Barrett Winner

2nd Place Harper Vanden Bosch

Introduction by Jessica Shamberger, Barrett Committee:

Hello, my name is Jessica Shamberger, and I teach in the English Language Institute here at HFC. I am absolutely honored to be announcing our 2nd place winner, Harper Bosch, for her piece entitled “Noise.” I’ve never met Harper, yet I feel like I know her, simply by reading “Noise.” I immediately felt like I was reading something from my own mind. I had to actually catch myself for a moment, because my initial reaction was, “This Harper person has somehow stolen my thoughts and submitted them for this contest!” I felt like the thoughts she had put to paper were my thoughts. I felt like her noise was my noise. And I felt reassured by her emotions evoked by this noise, because those were my emotions too. Like hearing the seatbelt alert from my car and feeling judged by my own car because I can’t fasten my seatbelt quick enough for its liking. It wasn’t until I actually spoke with her over the phone that it hit me. It all made sense. “Oh, I thought I knew her before. Now I really know her! We are kindred spirits.” Harper, for those who do not know, is a musician, but even beyond that she is a singer/songwriter. And I bring this up because I know that this is the reason why I am so connected to her work. The way that writing and music come together as inspiration in Harper’s words is so apparent and so wondrous and reminiscent of my life. She described herself with the best quote; “Nothing about me is structured.” And I thought that is so fitting, because Noise would probably describe itself the same way. You both have that in common. I told Harper that she amazed me with her writing ability and the maturity she has at such a young age, to recognize and tap into her voice. She wades in this space of observation, awareness, and musicality by embracing the “Silent chatter”, as she describes it. This quietly loud place where anything is worth everything, where one sound encapsulates a thousand words. Where one guitar rift takes you back a decade. A place where you’re driving down the freeway and the radio starts blasting, “Take me Home Country Road”, and you instantly become the Lord of I-96 (Harper is a big John Denver fan). Harper wrote, “The proper songs can change everything…” Well, people can have that power as well. And since I know you, I know you have that. Allow me to introduce, Harper Bosch reading “Noise.”


Sounds can be comforting, nostalgic, eerie, forgotten, ignored. But they are always there.

Heavy eyes and bed head greet me every morning. Whoever invented the snooze button is an evil genius. I'm tempted to press it and doze off until my alarm strikes again. But I fight the urge and pull myself out of bed. I head directly to the kitchen where I feel at ease by the bubbling and steam release noises coming from the coffee machine. A little joe in the morning works wonders.

The rest of your basic morning rituals are performed- I brush my teeth, wash my face, get dressed. I'm ready to take on the day and unfortunately that means work.

Chatter, grunting, heavy breathing, music, weights hitting the floor- yes, I work at a gym.

“Does my butt look big?”
“What’s for dinner?”
“Is my form right?”
“My back hurts.”

I wish for silence but remember that it isn’t real.

You know that little voice in your head? The one that never seems to shut up.
Even when the world around you is quiet, your mind is still busy.
It’s what I like to call “silent chatter.”
Sounds of silence are the worst.

6 o’clock. My shift is over. I hop in my car, twist the keys into the ignition, and listen to the engine wake up.
BEEP BEEP BEEP. I know I’m not buckled… I just got in the car. I click myself into my seat, put the car in drive, and take off. There’s no better feeling than driving to the right music. The proper songs can change everything; especially John Denver’s greatest hits.

It’s time to make the typical left turn out of the gym parking lot. I anticipate the chunky, cadence of the blinker. Cars zoom by, getting louder as they move toward me. Horns blare and tires screech in the distance.

I park in front of the place I’ve always called home. Walking with my insecurities, I hear the crunch of leaves beneath me.
A familiar sound
I get a sense of security.
There are purities to autumn gloom.
Fresh starts and hints of adolescence fill me.

I open the front door to my house- the place where I feel most comfortable. The lit fireplace is illuminating the living room. As I listen to the crackling, I can’t help but reminisce on my childhood. Road trips to national parks are what come to mind first- experiencing something bigger than myself. Realizing just how little I am but being okay with that.
The fire snaps bringing me back to reality.

I find myself through sound.

It is humbling what noises can awaken within us, whether it’s bringing back memories, making new ones, inflicting emotions, or making us feel at home. They add meaning to our lives. We tend to let the little things pass us by. Without sounds, what would life be like?