Monday, December 26, 2011

Christ Was Love

Happy day-after-Christmas. Boxing day? Yeah. Happy Boxing Day.

Christmas was beautiful this year. I have so many great people in my life.

I've been thinking a lot about that cute little story that gets emailed around so often; the one about the little kids putting on the school Christmas program. They were supposed to hold up letters spelling the phrase "CHRISTMAS LOVE," but the little girl holding the M had it upside down. Everyone chuckled until they realized that the message now held something deeper: "CHRIST WAS LOVE."

Love has been a big deal in my life for the past little while. I mean, Charity has always been one of my favorite aspects of the gospel, but this goes even beyond that. In the past year I've seen people start relationships, end them, long for them, and refuse them. I read most of Thomas Hardy's books, and determined that Love was a choice. I loved all of my friends, deeply and truly - I chose to do so. I read old conference talks and Papa Lewis. I liked friends, guys in my life, and I ached too much. So I went back to loving them and trying to figure out what I meant by it.

I just finished Hemingway's A Moveable Feast and am working through my feelings. It was a beautiful book, and honest. But truly sad. Sad in its articulation of the human will towards self-destruction. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, even Hemingway himself - they all spiraled out of happiness in pursuit of self-gratification posing as Love. And as nearly every Woody Allen movie can attest, relationships founded in solipsism find expression not in joy, but in a type of poignant melancholia.

"Love" (note the quotation marks, here implying our cultural projections of the term) has become a plague. Bandied about with every breath, the phrase has little real meaning left in it. Our own vain repetitions have almost robbed us of the purest experience that humans are capable of realizing. Our culture is obsessed with "love" - justified by it, actualized by it. For the past two years I have been lost in society's labyrinthine construction of the term. And whether "love" is the prize, the magic thread, or the minotaur, I doubt anyone could say. Regardless, though, we are constantly working to become une génération perdue.

Now, the day after Christmas, I've had an epiphany. It is so simple: Christ was Love. That's it. So, to be "in Love" with someone is to be "in Christ" with them. Isn't that the most true and beautiful thing you've ever heard?

I want to be in Love with everyone.

Friday, November 25, 2011


I have the greatest friends and family. Seriously. I had a nice small TG lunch with relatives, and then the best Friendsgiving the world has ever seen (culminating in the new Muppet movie).

Some things I'm grateful for (not all things, and not in order of importance):
Dubstep, trees, friend-people (Jared, Colin, Justin, Scott, Marie, Jana, Sarah, Gregory, Eric, Greg, Benjamin, Ashley, Brooke, Preston, Lance, Austin, Elisa, etc.), berries, driving, the scores of Russians who read my blog, Woody Allen, screaming, family-people (Mom, Maddy, Ifti, Gma P, A&A, A&B, J&M, M&K, R&K, D&T, D&S, A&E, Karen, Gma&Gpa, Cheryl, Casey, +40something cousins), M83, dancing, food, Star Trek, baking, Iceland, vinyl records, the Beatles, Papa Lewis, words, movies, harmony, the Burrow, the Dollhouse, blankets, crocheting, Andrew WK, Muppets, German, Andrew Bird, banjos, love, feathers, skirts with pockets, bluegrass, minesweeper, pumpkin, the law of consecration, scissors, FYE, being a Senior, the prospect of B-fast Thanksgiving, Ryan Gosling, cowboys, dancing again, rockabilly, England, hiking, cuddling, Pound Land, gradual change, guitars, incense, suburbia, Christmas music, hot water, gold paint, socks, discussions about Art, summer and winter and fall, heaters, palindromes, lightbulbs, service, noise, mountains, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, hymns, color.

There are a million more things, but it's a start.

I know some of the most talented, brave, kind, genuine, intelligent, funny, gifted, and holy people in the entire world. I lack the words to adequately express my convictions, but please don't doubt my sincerity: Thank you so much for being.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Not So Sad

Do I only post when I am sad? No.

I am not sad now.

I am very very happy.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Hey guys, how's it going?

I have the biggest favor to ask you: please follow my other blog. I'm being graded on the number of followers I get, so pretty pretty please just click that little follow button.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Come Down, Come Down, Sweet Reverence

It's been a rough couple of weeks. I'm having a hard time with school, and that's translating over to life. When I feel incompetent in one aspect of my existence, that tends to spill over into other areas, too.

I'm also bad at handling people. They are too much of a responsibility for me to take. Like, I don't know how to make small talk, and I don't know how to access the deeper things that I want to talk about. So I don't say anything at all. But then people think I'm incapable of human conversation, and they give me these uncomfortable condescending looks and I want to be gone.

I think some of it is also PGSD (Post-Graduation Stress Disorder). I had a miniature panic attack this morning when I started thinking of what my after-college life is going to be like. What good will I do with degrees in English and German? How will editing a newspaper better the human condition? And with how bad the world is (cute starfish stories aside), what does it matter if I write a story of goodness and truth, even if it moves a million people? My words are so weak.

But then I was asked to concentrate on holy sacraments in my life: Consecrated actions and symbols - the ever-downplayed importance of physical interaction for holy communion. I've found comfort in the thought before, and offered these same ideas with love to others. Maybe I ought to listen to them myself. People are the thresholds into the realm of the divine. They're liminal, they love ambiguity, and they're hard to work with sometimes. But through them, with them, there's something much purer and more real.

That doesn't mean that the only real joy I'll ever find will be through people. I think I'll always love the mountains, the trees, the rivers just as much as any person in my life. The natural world represents a whole different part of God's love. Nature isn't disappointed in me, or embarrassed by me. The wilderness is stern and justly constant. Nature does not forsake.

You need both, I guess; you need to learn to accept and to be accepted. To cherish, and to be cherished. Equally difficult, equally sacred.

I've weathered the storm. I don't feel perfect, but I feel a little bit better. Emotion is holy.

So, come. Commune with me:

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Movin' on my Mind

I am the movement, the hot summer energy.
The fly, the panting dog, a flick of brown lizard tail.
I breathe sweat and rain and blood and rivers and bile and mud,
and sing the harmonies of thunder and sparrows.

I am (and will be ever!) the stillness, the waiting barn-cat.
The groan of wood on wood and bone on bone.
The sticky warm wet of the dying, and the sunset.

But we make no promises. Pull your plow,
and watch your mountains.

Friday, July 29, 2011


I found this in my email account. I don't remember when I wrote it - sometime last year, probably. I'm pretty sure this is my first attempt at writing personal essays, and, though not really a separate genre, wilderness writing.


“’I sound my barbaric YAWP!!!’”

I spat the phrase through the cold mountain air and held my breath to hear it spat right back. The sky glowed with that liminal light that suggests equally either an imminent dawn or an impending dusk. Trying to capture such unbelievable beauty on paper after the fact seems like some sort of blasphemy . . . a vain repetition of the original statement made in its creation. Yet, somehow, it feels like I have this heavy responsibility to the rest of humanity. I have to convey this experience to those poor millions who have never and will never witness a cold winter morning in Spanish Fork canyon firsthand.

Nature always makes me feel like this – like I’m supposed to tell its story, even though I’ll never really be able to. There’s some sort of divine unobtainability that at once draws me in because of its mystery, and in the same breath sends me away because I simply cannot hope to understand it. But I keep trying, because if I can convey even one tenth of the majesty of a singing waterfall, or a quivering pine, or the gasp of autumn leaves underneath a worn old hiking shoe, I’d be more than satisfied.

That’s why I started to study English. If BYU offered a “Hiking and the General Outdoors” degree, I’d be the first to sign up. But they don’t. So English seemed like the next best thing. Let me explain: Years ago when Shakespeare first created his man Hamlet, he put into his mind one question – “To be, or not to be?” He could just as easily have asked, “To write, or not to write?” For me there’s no distinction. Existence in the physical world is founded upon the idea that we are to become little gods and goddesses and also that we need some practice before we get there.

But how much practice? How many times will I cut my soft pink lungs with frigid mountain air before I can adequately describe the taste of falling snow? How many times will I scrape my skin before I can convey the smell of blood and earth through ink and paper? How many times will I see the poetry of a bird in flight before I, too, can sing his song?

Standing atop Double-O arch, I found no answers. The rocks there were warm and living, smoothed by a loving wind. A sole black raven circled overhead, reading the drafts and swimming in currents that I couldn’t see. The thermometer read as high above 50 degrees as the winter canyon read below it. Past conquerors had carved their names into the red stone, letting me know the Steve had been there, and that J. H. plus M. P. equals love forever. Were they right? Did cutting a story into stone make it any more real? Who knows if Steve had actually been there? And are J and M still in love like they promised me? A tiny trickle runs from the base of my sweating water-bottle, carving its own story into the red stone for a heartbeat or ten until it vanishes in the hot air.

Are my stories doomed to the same fate?

Walking along an Oregon seashore, I had a similar impression. Along the beach were dozens of small holes. Perfect and empty circles marring the smooth sand. I walked until I saw one that wasn’t empty. A little mound of gel sat in the middle - a dying jellyfish. Or maybe it was already dead. And I was jealous of it. Jealous of a tiny mound of goo that may or may not have (ever) been capable of thought. Jealous because even if the little thing were to shrivel up and vanish, it would still have left a mark. And maybe, in a few million years, someone would find the little depression fossilized in the sand like those from its gigantic ancestors. Someone would find it and imagine its story: how it lived in the cool Pacific waters, and how it bred and how it was finally washed up on a beach where it sat in the sun until it died. But no one would know about the 19-year-old girl who stood over him and wept at the bitterness of life and its end before taking a picture to show her sick mother.

In a way, I’m on the same plane as that jellyfish. All I envied him was the story I had created for him. In reality the waves probably erased his last resting place. And even if it did survive to become a fossil, who can guarantee that it would ever be discovered, or be recognized for what it really was? The paleontologist digging him up will never really know what it was like to be a jellyfish. All they’ll see is the hole in the ground that holds the part of him that meant nothing. They’ll see a grave where he never lived and where he was never happy.

Is this what I love? A nature that swallows up stories? An earth that erases all tales in the telling of her own? No. I love a world that lets me tell my story with her. Or, rather, I love a world that allows me to be a spot, a letter, a word, a line in the great poem of existence.

An old professor of mine once read a passage about a woman who took a walk in the woods. She wandered off the path through some autumn leaves. She stumbled and fell to her knees, hands splayed in the wet earth to catch herself. But she didn’t get up. She stayed there because that was the appropriate position for worship. I didn’t write down the author of that book, or even the title, and have since spent hours looking for those few sacred lines. But even if I never find the book again, I have something better: I have been that woman.

Perhaps her story was really mine. Maybe it was never actually written in a place that anyone would read, but it comes to people who need it. I write it in the footprints left on a dusty trail, and in the grass bent over from the weight of a sleeping-bag.

It would be wrong to say that there is no poetry in these things I do. But it would be just as wrong to say that there is none in the things I write. The French have it right when they say, “J’essaie;” Self and the written word are inseparable. I will sound my barbaric YAWP! as often as I can – and if it echoes from these pages as clearly as it does between canyon walls, well, all the better.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Foxes and Mountains

The Fleet Foxes concert last night was so beautiful. The light of the dying sun bled red and gold down the hill's face, while a warm animal breath of wind teased leaves and hair.

O my mountains!

And this video is just because I am absolutely in love with Mountain Man right now.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


Well, I'm back. I've been back for a while now, but I've been feeling fairly lackadaisical about writing. What else is new?

I'm worried about falling into the pattern of so many before me, back from a different country and incapable of talking about anything but the differences between here and there. Not everyone wants to hear about how much easier it is to be a vegetarian in England, or about Poundland, or the tragic, tragic Mud-Swallow situation.

And, really, that isn't what the trip was about. My major preoccupation, of late, has been the quality of human interaction in "natural" situations. I've been reading Walden, Desert Solitaire, and Into the Wild over the last week or so, and I really am fascinated by the "Wilderness Code of Conduct." So many people advocate the embrace of solitude in Nature. And having explored my fair share of this green earth, I'd agree that Nature itself (or, grant me my personification of divine femininity, herself) is a holy thing really experienced in moments of spiritual aloneness. A unique and beautiful communion.

What I struggle to comprehend, then, is the need for other people in the wilderness. People who really do enter Nature entirely alone end up in situations like Chris McCandless or Aron Ralston. The Wild is too big to tackle singlehandedly, so we set up rules of respect for fellow wanderers and for the land itself. To anyone who has ever found their way following a small trail of cairns, you know that you are a member of a community, regardless of whether or not you literally walk alone.

Maybe that's the appeal. Nature isn't a substitute for human interaction, but a sort of preparation for it - an extended metaphor, maybe. Because while on a basic level it's one step removed from the reality of humanity, it is, by that same character, simplified. Nature doesn't send mixed signals - it speaks boldly and loudly.

I need more of that simplicity and security in my life. I'm not going to end this post (as I sincerely was tempted to do) "I am going into the wild." Instead, I'll offer a thought on the beauty of travel: The best part of going away is the coming home. Yes, I'm currently a vagabond. But aren't we all, really? I'll enjoy my few weeks of homelessness as much as I have enjoyed the rest of my 21-year period of transience. And meanwhile, I'll just imagine how nice it'll be one day to finally go back home.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Joyas Voladoras

A gorgeous essay by Brian Doyle.

Consider the hummingbird for a long moment. A hummingbird's heart beats ten times a second. A hummingbird's heart is the size of a pencil eraser. A hummingbird's heart is a lot of the hummingbird. Joyas voladoras, flying jewels, the first white explorers in the Americas called them, and the white men had never seen such creatures, for hummingbirds came into the world only in the Americas, nowhere else in the universe, more than three hundred species of them whirring and zooming and nectaring in hummer time zones nine times removed from ours, their hearts hammering faster than we could clearly hear if we pressed our elephantine ears to their infinitesimal chests.
Each one visits a thousand flowers a day. They can dive at sixty miles an hour. They can fly backwards. They can fly more than five hundred miles without pausing to rest. But when they rest they come close to death: on frigid nights, or when they are starving, they retreat into torpor, their metabolic rate slowing to a fifteenth of their normal sleep rate, their hearts sludging nearly to a halt, barely beating, and if they are not soon warmed, if they do not soon find that which is sweet, their hearts grow cold, and they cease to be. Consider for a moment those hummingbirds who did not open their eyes again today, this very day, in the Americas: bearded helmetcrests and booted racket-tails, violet-tailed sylphs and violet-capped woodnymphs, crimson topazes and purple-crowned fairies, red-tailed comets and amethyst woodstars, rainbow-bearded thornbills and glittering-bellied emeralds, velvet-purple coronets and golden-bellied star-frontlets, fiery-tailed awlbills and Andean hillstars, spatuletails and pufflegs, each the most amazing thing you have never seen, each thunderous wild heart the size of an infant's fingernail, each mad heart silent, a brilliant music stilled.
Hummingbirds, like all flying birds but more so, have incredible enormous immense ferocious metabolisms. To drive those metabolisms they have race-car hearts that eat oxygen at an eye-popping rate. Their hearts are built of thinner, leaner fibers than ours. Their arteries are stiffer and more taut. They have more mitochondria in their heart muscles -- anything to gulp more oxygen. Their hearts are stripped to the skin for the war against gravity and inertia, the mad search for food, the insane idea of flight. The price of their ambition is a life closer to death; they suffer heart attacks and aneurysms and ruptures more than any other living creature. It's expensive to fly. You burn out. You fry the machine. You melt the engine. Every creature on earth has approximately two billion heartbeats to spend in a lifetime. You can spend them slowly, like a tortoise, and live to be two hundred years old, or you can spend them fast, like a hummingbird, and live to be two years old.
The biggest heart in the world is inside the blue whale. It weighs more than seven tons. It's as big as a room. It is a room, with four chambers. A child could walk around in it, head high, bending only to step through the valves. The valves are as big as the swinging doors in a saloon. This house of a heart drives a creature a hundred feet long. When this creature is born it is twenty feet long and weighs four tons. It is waaaaay bigger than your car. It drinks a hundred gallons of milk from its mama every day and gains two hundred pounds a day and when it is seven or eight years old it endures an unimaginable puberty and then it essentially disappears from human ken, for next to nothing is known of the mating habits, travel patterns, diet, social life, language, social structure, diseases, spirituality, wars, stories, despairs, and arts of the blue whale. There are perhaps ten thousand blue whales in the world, living in every ocean on earth, and of the largest mammal who ever lived we know nearly nothing. But we know this: the animals with the largest hearts in the world generally travel in pairs, and their penetrating moaning cries, their piercing yearning tongue, can be heard underwater for miles and miles.
Mammals and birds have hearts with four chambers. Reptiles and turtles have hearts with three chambers. Fish have hearts with two chambers. Insects and mollusks have hearts with one chamber. Worms have hearts with one chamber, although they may have as many as eleven single-chambered hearts. Unicellular bacteria have no hearts at all; but even they have fluid eternally in motion, washing from one side of the cell to the other, swirling and whirling. No living being is without interior liquid motion. We all churn inside.
So much held in a heart in a lifetime. So much held in a heart in a day, an hour, a moment. We are utterly open with no one, in the end -- not mother and father, not wife or husband, not lover, not child, not friend. We open windows to each but we live alone in the house of the heart. Perhaps we must. Perhaps we could not bear to be so naked, for fear of a constantly harrowed heart. When young we think there will come one person who will savor and sustain us always; when we are older we know this is the dream of a child, that all hearts finally are bruised and scarred, scored and torn, repaired by time and will, patched by force of character, yet fragile and rickety forevermore, no matter how ferocious the defense and how many bricks you bring to the wall. You can brick up your heart as stout and tight and hard and cold and impregnable as you possibly can and down it comes in an instant, felled by a woman's second glance, a child's apple breath, the shatter of glass in the road, the words I have something to tell you, a cat with a broken spine dragging itself into the forest to die, the brush of your mother's papery ancient hand in a thicket of your hair, the memory of your father's voice early in the morning echoing from the kitchen where he is making pancakes for his children.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Love and Knitting

Coolest video ever:

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Sometimes I get frustrated that this little town is so lonely, but doesn't have any places to just be alone.

I really need these next 10 days to be over.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Sunday, April 3, 2011


Yeah I'm tongue tied and dizzy
And I can't keep it to myself.
What good is it to sing helplessness blues?
Why should I wait for anyone else?

The latest Fleet Foxes album is beautiful.

Friday, March 18, 2011


Good morning.

Winter is slowly sleeping. And I am getting that wonderful itching in my bones.

I want to be moving again. I want to be running, jumping, swimming, swinging, singing. I want an interpretive dance party to the Fleet Foxes in the middle of a meadow. I want sweet summer kisses. I want heartbeats and drumbeats. I want fresh peaches and honey, and tree-bark scraped inner thighs. I want worn copies of Walt Whitman. I want baskets and farmers markets and sundresses. I want that warm-belly feeling.

"Summer in the Mountains" by Li Po

Gently I stir a white feather fan,
With open shirt sitting in a green wood.
I take off my cap and hang it on a jutting stone;
A wind from the pine-tree trickles on my bare head.