Sunday, September 19, 2010

My Mother's Brithday

Today is my angel mother's birthday. As she is the one that brought me into this world, i wrote her a poem to thank her for her love and care for me throughout the years, even when i wasn't the best son.

When as a child I knew only reliance.
You were my source for life, for living.
Even in time of greatest defiance,
You stood by always loving and giving.

With sweet adoration I now recall
Those childhood days of learning and growth.
Realizing your love strikes not small
On my heart, seeing love’s sacred oath.

Time has passed by, now I understanding,
A mother’s care having so long received.
She, never with force and never demanding,
Made me the man I am today perceived.

Now I wait for our roles to reverse,
When I care for you and love reimburse.

I love you Mom, and am so grateful for everything you have done for me!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Go Do

Back, almost 6 months ago, as the cold of winter was melting into springtime, i made a post titled “the Adventure.” it was about the song of the same title by Angels and Airwaves and how my life is an adventure that i want to make full and successful so that i can say at the end that “I am all used up.” To finish the summer i want to use another song. This one is by and Icelandic man by the name Jonsi of the band sigur ros. The song is called “Go Do” and it does nothing but inspire happiness.

Here are the lyrics:

Go sing, too loud
Make your voice break- Sing it out
Go scream, do shout
Make an earthquake...

You wish fire would die and turn colder
You wish young eyes could see you grow older
We should always know that we can do anything

Go drum, too proud
Make your hands ache - Play it out
Go march through crowds
Make your day break...

You wish silence released noisy drummers
You wish white noise surrendered to summers
We should always know that we can do everything

Go do, you'll know how to
Just let yourself, fall into landslide

Go do, you'll know how to
Just let yourself, give into flood tide

Go do!

Tie strings to clouds
Make your own lake - Let it flow
Throw seeds to sprout
Make your own break - Let them grow

Let them grow (Endless summers)
Let them grow (Endless summers)

(Go do endless summers)

You wish surprise would never stop wonders
You wish sunrise would never fall under

You wish surprise would never stop wonders
You wish sunrise would never fall under
We should always know that we can do anything

Go do!

The last few months have been some of the most wonderful of my life. Anyone keeping up with my blog will understand that this summer has been a tribute to the romantic image we all hold of childhood summers. It has been full of laughter, excitement, and discovery. Discovery not just of the world around me, but the world within me. I’ve learned a lot about myself, about what is really important to me, and what will make me happy in life. The summer represents opportunity laid before us, golden as the sun, and just as warm and inviting.

I was talking to a friend the other day about our attitudes towards life. A lot of times we aren’t willing to take the opportunities placed in front of us. We find ourselves petrified by fear. Fear of failure, fear of rejection, even the fear of settling. To such a paralyzing attitudes Shakespeare wrote “There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood leads on to fortune. Omitted, and all the voyage of their lives is bound in shallows and in miseries. Upon such a full sea are we now afloat, and we must take the current when it serves or lose our ventures.”

In a matter of weeks school will begin again. My life will once again become busy, full of responsibility in work and study. The air will begin to cool, and the days will become shorter. The leaves will begin to change color, darkening, aging, yet adding more beauty and richness to the world that surrounds us. They will eventually fall and flutter from their branches, marking the season’s change. Yet despite the change in surrounding, our hearts will remain true to what we have learned, what we have experienced. We can do anything. We will find our new opportunities, and in that sense we extend the season of possibility, creating an endless summer, fighting off the cold of winter with the warmth we keep in our hearts.

Monday, July 26, 2010

That they might have Joy

Last Thursday I spent the entire day in Salt Lake participating in the ceremony of union between my friend and former roommate Jared, and his lovely wife Mindy. It was a magnificent day, filled to the trim with emotion and beauty as we watched these two lives come together as one.

The Morning began with the actual ceremony, taking place in the Salt Lake Temple. The room was filled to capacity with family and friends as we waited for Mindy and Jared to enter what the sealer described as “God’s family room.” I had known this day and moment would be coming for some time, but still it seemed unreal that an event of this magnitude was transpiring right in front of me, and that someone i knew so well was making this tremendous step forward in his life.

Throughout the ceremony i had a clear view of Mindy’s face over the side of Jared’s shoulder. Never have I seen someone so completely overcome with Joy. There is no other word or emotion i can think of to describe what i saw. It was a combination of elation, happiness, trust, and overwhelming excitement, but that description feels cheap compared to what was there. There was something more than this world offers there, something beyond what i personally have found so far in my life. Something so powerful and motivating that it commands that the highest promises of love and fidelity must be made to protect and preserve and nurture it. I think i what i saw was Love in its truest form. More on that later.

After the ceremony there was a luncheon. I had the opportunity to share a few words i had written about Jared and Mindy:

“I’ve lived with Jared for the past year, so I’ve seen his smiling face and bushy eyebrows every single day for quite a while now. However, last November i started seeing less and less of him around our place. We all had our various theories as to his whereabouts. Kendrick, having known him from Chicago immediately assumed it was gang related. Preston, not entirely sure how he knew Jared, didn’t really notice right away. And as for me, the most logical explanation was the weird smells coming from our kitchen.

Well, it turned out to be much more serious than any of us could have imagined. Jared had fallen in Love with and incredible young woman (and yes, when i say young i do realize that she is a grade older than him and i also realize that this may still be a touchy subject) and the reason that we hadn’t seen Jared is best summarized by the words Mark Twain’s Adam said of his Eve: “Wherever she was, there was Eden.” Mindy had become Jared’s piece of Paradise. In fact, in the days leading up to their engagement, Jared would struggle to sleep, not so much because he was nervous or stressed by the relationship, but because reality had become better than his dreams.

Mindy and Jared quickly became inseparable. Whether it was knocking each other over with kick balls or hitting each other on nose during every prayer, they were always together, and always with a glowing light in their eyes. With the clarity of hindsight, it difficult for us to know how we missed the signs prescient of this glorious union. It seems that Jared loved Mindy even before he had the privilege of dating her, calling every girl he met or went on dates with by the name “Mindy.”

Today we celebrate. We Celebrate friendship, we celebrate family, we celebrate relationships and Joy. We celebrate coming together and starting new, more brilliant lives. We celebrate Two souls with but a single thought, two hearts that beat as one. We Celebrate all that is good and beautiful in this life. Love is the beauty of the soul. As Robert Browning said, “Take away love, and our earth is a tomb.”

Jared and Mindy, it has been such a privilege and honor to know both of you, to see the joy you are in each other’s lives. I’ll miss the long sessions of pillow talk and the council meetings to plan Jared’s next move. Our apartment really won’t be the same after today. But beyond any other emotion, I am simply overjoyed at the sight of your happiness.

And so i raise my glass in honor of you, in honor of the love you share. May happiness and joy ever reside within your home and within your hearts is my prayer and wish for you.”

In looking up quotes to use in this speech, i read one from the book “Captain Corelli's Mandolin.” It was too long to use in the speech, and hard to apply in a toast, but it was on my mind throughout the entire ceremony and the rest of the day:

“Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because that is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion, it is not the desire to mate every second minute of the day... That is just being “in love”, which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident. Your mother and I had it, we had roots that grew towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossom had fallen from our branches we found that we were one tree and not two.”

It’s too easy to mistake being "in love" for real, true, pure Love. The former will slowly fade with time, while the latter grows stronger every day, with every moment spent together. Seeing the sparkle in Mindy’s eyes as she promised her eternal love for Jared sort of shook me, reminding me what it is that i want in my life. Motivating me and recommitting me to be the best person i can in hopes of one day finding my own piece of that same happiness.

On the next "Working Pen": Liz fumbles away her chance at being the next to be wed.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Encounter

The following is a creative piece inspired by the opening lines of Walt Whitman's great work Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, and influenced by the observations of Eliot in his Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. The words have caused me to dwell on the nature of human interaction, the daily, even constant motion between individuals and the harmony of existence. I hope to continue to develop the idea, eventually breaking it from the prose format into something more poetic and expressive in nature.

FLOOD-TIDE below me! I watch you face to face;
Clouds of the west! sun there half an hour high! I see you also face to face.

Crowds of men and women attired in the usual costumes! how curious you are to me!
On the ferry-boats, the hundreds and hundreds that cross, returning home, are more curious to me than you suppose;

And you that shall cross from shore to shore years hence, are more to me, and more in my meditations, than you might suppose.

-Walt Whitman

Everyday I pass hundreds of faces. I see them and they see me, but what do they mean to me, and I to them? Every face has a story, and each story somehow intertwines into our story, my story. We are the sum of you and I, and the human race is the sum of all. We compile ourselves together and in so doing, we all affect one another. Each step I take will ultimately determine what steps you take, and in some inexplicable way, your steps will determine mine. All this happens in a seemingly invisible way. The changes in course can be so minute that we don’t even sense it happening at all. But what would it be like to see our steps? What if I could see how my steps mix and blend with yours to combine into a three-step waltz or a stumbling, awkward tango? Then we would have a fantastic array, an articulate display of the clockwork between human souls. Then we would truly see face to face.

Looking into the mirror, I see myself face to face; sometimes it feels as though I am yet a stranger, that i must look beyond the glass, slightly fogged as it is to glean some sense of identity. I look into the depths of blue, past the pale inklings of orange that add the depth and meaning of a sunrise to my stare. Through the black pits at the center I look, I search for what is to be, what this day can become. Some days it is hope that I find. Others bring something even more, a knowledge of sorts, and yet others disappoint, bringing only longing for the next. Out the door these same eyes glance, stare entranced, and with colorful perception always enhance what it is that surrounds me. They find you and meet you, incessant in their searching for some sort of contact, or intimacy. This is our intersection, footsteps winding in and out of sync and step: the crisis of moment, the crux of opportunity. Twisting and turning our steps criss-cross over cold, lifeless cement. Spinning and swirling they rise, graceful, gently touching, caressing for a moment then in half that, retreating behind the bat and blink of an eye.

A smile, a grin and nothing more. You have your direction and I mine. What those ways are we have yet to learn. Tomorrow again I will stare at my mirrored mirage and wonder. These eyes will remember the encounter, the thrill of flight, the excess of pounding deep within. Forever altered by perception, your dispersion and reception of light and color, these eyes will again seek, and again find that looming crisis of question, overwhelming, high over our heads as we walk throughout our days.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Indian Summer

One of my favorite albums of all time is Indian Summer by the band Carbon Leaf. The album, is one of the most complete sets of music I have ever heard, avoiding any weak spots of dull moments. Catchy, yet meaningful, powerful lyrics fill the album from start to finish, accompanied by upbeat, powerful melodies that magnify the emotions these songs evoke.
Through my many social networks and contacts, it came to my attention that Carbon Leaf would be performing in Salt Lake at a little place called Kilby Court. When I say little place, that is no euphemism or other piece figurative language. This place was literally a two car garage with a stage in one corner about the size of my apartment’s kitchen.Last summer I had the opportunity to go and see Carbon Leaf perform at Wolf Trap national park for the performing arts. There the crowd swelled to several thousand, quite a different experience from what I and the other 49 people at Kilby were part of Monday night.

Proof that I was close enough to feel the spit and sweat of the band.

Because the venue was so small the entire show was acoustic. They even fully unplugged for their performance of the song One Prairie Outpost, not even using a mic for the lead singer.

In my opinion, the Crown Jewel of Carbon Leaf’s repertoire is the song What About Everything, a sort of dramatic monologue discussing contentment amidst the uncertainties that life, especially at the stage I am currently in, offers. The following lyrics are the second verse, followed by the chorus. This I feel is the part of the song that relates almost exactly to me in my life and pursuit for happiness.
Get away and come with me
Come away with me and we'll see
If I was right on that night, that a future was made
Before time takes each year, like a knife cuts it clear
It's school, then work and then life that just sharpens the blade
I think about time for fun
I think about time for play
Then I think about being done, with no resume
With no one left to blame
What about fortune and fame?
What about your love to obtain?
What about the ring?
What about....

What about everything?What about aeroplanes?
And what about ships that drank the sea?
What about...
What about the moon and stars?
What about soldier battle scars
And all the anger that they eat?
I am not in need

So that's me on the back up vocals. I apologize if it ruins the song. Look up the real version. It's worth it.

So while I don’t know the answers to how to obtain your love, find the moon and stars, and certainly I do not know about everything that goes on around me, I do know that I have every opportunity to make life magnificent.

The Show itself was incredible, one of the best I've had the privilege to attend. It was awesome to meet the band afterward, talk to them, snap a picture. Last summer they hung out after the show too, even shaking little Emily's hand as we left. If you haven't listened to them yet, do yourself a favor and pick up a CD.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Bachelor Trip

Today, when I turn on the radio I get hit with some interesting messages. I learn that Ke$ha likes my beard, that California gurls will melt my Popsicle, and that you’re only gonna break my heart. Gone from the airwaves is the simple wisdom that accompanied the clean and clear melodies of 90’s rock. Right now I’m thinking specifically of the song Closing Time, by Semisonic, from which we learn that every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end. Life is a one-way street and we’re racing from gate to gate as one chapter of our life closes in order to allow us to begin the next. In just a few days, my roommate and dear friend Jared will begin a new life as a married man. It will be a new beginning born from the end of single life and everything he’s known up to this point about this world.

In order to celebrate this step forward in his life, we spent the last weekend driving to Denver Colorado. Jared’s wife-to-be is one of the most wonderful young women I have had the chance to know, but she has one flaw (or strength depending on your point of view): that is she doesn’t share the same passion for sports that Jared and the rest of us men share. Thus the trip to Colorado was centered on attending a couple of Colorado Rockies games at beautiful Coors Field.

We left early Friday morning, an eight hour drive looming ahead of us. We headed east on I-70, following the canyons carved out by the Colorado River. We watched as the rocks covering the canyon walls slowly morphed into the green mountain meadows of Colorado. We drove past ski resorts, their slopes bare from the summer heat and watched men playing golf at the base.Denver appeared on the horizon as the mountains gradually leveled into prairie. We drove to our hotel, only to find that there had been a problem with the room I had reserved, and that we had been transferred to the sister hotel down the street. This was but a minor inconvenience, aside from the loss of the pull out couch the original hotel would have provided. Without the pull-out, we were forced to put the sleeping bags we had brought to good use as two of had to sleep on the floor. We grabbed a bite at a local place called “Taco Bell” and took off to go catch the first of our baseball games.

We arrived at the corner of 20th and Blake in Lower Downtown Denver after construction forced us to take the scenic tour of residential Denver. There was a small line already formed to buy rockpile tickets, the $4 bleacher seats above straight-a-way centerfield. We got to the end of the line only to learn that there was a much longer feeder line we had to wait through before we could get in the short line and buy the cheap seats. Through some inexplicable stroke of luck, we made it through both lines and bought the very last 7 tickets on literally the last row of the stadium. The game still didn’t start for another two hours, so we went inside to watch batting practice and take naps while lying down on the bleachers. We woke up from our naps to sound of fame calling our names. The pre-game broadcast had begun on FOX sports rocky mountain and the broadcast booth was right behind the bleachers where we had been laying. We stood on the top of the bleachers and waited for the red camera light to come on and etched our faces into the archives of history. Anyone watching FSRM that evening will recognize these faces for years to come.
As game time approached we headed up to the top of the stadium to enjoy the game from a bird’s-eye view. After watching 6 innings and spending some 4+ hours in the ball park, we were hungry and ready for a change of scenery, so we headed out to find a place to eat. We decided on a sports grill that looked pretty fun, but unfortunately one of us had lost his drivers license and therefore wasn’t granted admission. Rather than leaving Kendrick to sit by himself on the curb, we decided to go to a restaurant that wasn’t 21+. Unfortunately the nearest one was a good 5 blocks further down the street, a place called Old Chicago. So there we were, a few guys from Provo, in Denver, eating at Chicago. A pretty diverse evening. Inside we ordered food while a live band set up to play cover songs throughout the evening. While we waited for our chicago style pizza, Brad and i went and shot a little arcade basketball. Unfortunately the shuffleboard table was occupied because i consider myself a first rate shuffler. We ate our food as Hit List continued to play songs from every era imaginable, aside from maybe the baroque.
We finished our food and exited back to the streets of LoDo. Girls definitely not from Provo walked up and down the street past us as we made our way back toward the car. The energy of the street kept us moving as we passed people on the corner offering fortune readings, bike rides, and who knows what else. We drove back to the hotel and all collapsed from exhaustion.
We slept in the next morning, getting out of the hotel around noon. After the long lines for the previous night’s ball game, we decided that our first stop would be to buy tickets for that night’s game so we could have the full afternoon at our disposal. Soon we were on the road west, to Boulder, Colorado, the granola capitol of the free world.

As we arrived in Boulder, we found the tail end of that morning’s farmer’s market. In a city so enthralled by organic foods and home-made products, the Farmers market is the place to find locals. We hung around the stalls and sights of the market for its final half hour, sampling various foods and seeing the various products and services the people of Boulder have to offer. I tasted cheese that burned my mouth because of the mold content, had some of the best basalmic vinaigrette i have ever tasted (made with pure dark chocolate) and tried sweet and sour mustard which was remarkably delicious. Kendrick had an aching in his green thumb and ended purchasing a mint plant as his souvenir of the trip.

Once the market shut down, we wandered across the street to the Pearl Street Mall. In downtown boulder, there are 3 city blocks blocked off the motor traffic and turned into a walking outdoor mall. Though the shopping and food is good, the main attractions there are the street performers who make their livelihood wowing the groups of tourists and shoppers strolling down the street. We watched a couple of performances including a man from St Chris, an Island in the Caribbean, who folds himself into some of the strangest positions imaginable. This guy is a regular on Pearl Street, having done the same act for the past 18 years. I remember watching him fold into his 20 by 20 inch box some 10 years ago when i lived in Boulder.

After our fill of people watching and entertainment, we got in the car and headed back to Denver for the baseball game. Again the Rockies were up against the Padres and again they came out victorious. This time, we had planned ahead and entered the stadium with increased stamina and lasted until the final out. We filed out of the stadium towards the exit gates looming as gallows waiting to strangle Jared’s singlehood. We marched through and turned down the street, once again passing the bars and clubs of LoDo, making our way to the Wynkoop brewing company and chophouse. There we shared a final meal of buffalo meat and in-house brewed root beer. Very manly indeed. We drove back to the hotel and gave Jared our parting gifts. Due to the nature of these gifts, they will not be discussed in great detail, it will suffice to say that Mindy will be very pleased with our choices.

Sunday was the world cup final, which we had to watch. After going to a sacrament meeting in the morning we drove to Preston’s cousin’s house to watch the match. After 116 minutes of scoreless soccer, Spain was hoisting the trophy above their heads and we were back on the road west to Provo.

We arrived back at our apartment exhausted from the weekend’s travels. Jared quickly scampered off to Mindy’s, anxious to see the only person he had thought of the entire trip. For three days things had been how they once were: Jared was again one of the guys enjoying a game of baseball. Now with the future looming he was back in the world of white dresses and tuxedos, eager to step forward into a new beginning of a more beautiful, fulfilling life with the girl of his dreams.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Perfect Day

Matthew Arnold wrote that that “the pursuit of perfection, then, is the pursuit of sweetness and light.” To me that’s summer has become: the pursuit of perfection. We spend our days seeking the light of the sun and the sweetness in life. Perfection comes to us in moments throughout our lives when we can feel the cumbersome, weightier parts of life melt away and we are free to simply enjoy our existence. However, because “life is not a work of art… that moment can’t last” forever. But it can be stretched to the brink of breaking and made to last as long as possible. So with the office chairs and school desks looming with the next day’s dawn, we took a moment of perfection and pulled and stretched it into full day.

In celebration of our great nation’s birth, Monday came without the normal stresses of daily life. Classes were canceled and offices closed, giving us the opportunity to take full advantage of the summer sun. The morning began early for me as I had volunteered to provide muffins for members of our ward who would be watching the city’s Fourth of July parade later that morning. Putting my culinary skills to use, I invented a new type of muffin: Blueberry Chocolate Chip, by mixing together two packs of Betty Crocker Muffin mix. Needless to say, they were a hit.

After dropping off the muffins at the parade route, PT and I headed off for the first of the day’s adventures. We fought traffic delayed by parade goers and 5k runners as we drove out to Rock Canyon. We grabbed our bags and headed up the trail to a rock formation known as “The Kitchen.” Over the past year or so, PT has been collecting rock climbing gear and getting more and more into the sport. This summer I began going with him, invoking memories of Enchanted Rock down in Texas where my Dad would take me climbing in my younger days.We spent a couple hours taking turns scaling the rock face as the morning sun warmed the air around us. Once our forearms couldn’t handle any more pain, we pack up the gear and headed back to the car to get ready for the next phase of the day. We got back to our apartment just as the parade was ending.

Now a little background: on Saturday afternoon i had a little stroke of genius. We had wanted to do a Fourth of July celebration barbecue, but Saturday ended up being a really busy day for everyone so we never had a chance to have our cook out. However, while pondering ways to get my fill of fire cooked meats, i recalled being told about some ponds 45 minutes south in Mona where there is a giant rope swing. “What better setting exists for a summer barbecue than at some rope swings?” I thought to myself. I pitched the idea to my roommates and got them on board.

So back to Monday, the time was now 11:00 in the morning. We had an hour and a half until people weer gathering to head down with us to Mona for the epic Rope Swing Cook Out. We ended up caravaning in 5 cars down to Mona, with Brad’s truck packed full of burgers, hot dogs, and my grill. We listened to any patriotic songs we could find on our Ipods to keep up the celebratory mood of the day.

We arrived at Burriston Ponds to find that our idea was a popular one. Our group of 25 added to the already large crowd waiting turns to fling themselves 20 feet into the air over the pond. There are two rope swings at Burriston Ponds. The first, and largest, has you swing from a platform nailed to a tree about 18 feet in the air. It’s a little bit nerve racking standing on the edge of the platform try to catch the rope as a spectator throws it up to you.
The second swing, though not as high, is still a thrill. Swinging from it involves walking about 5 feet out on a branch about 12 feet in the air. Just as fun as actually swinging is watching others swing from the rope, or at least attempt to. If your form is off and you lack the proper arm strength, you are likely to break your fall with your face or your stomach. There is plenty of documentation of that on youtube is you search for Mona rope swing.

I think Brad's face really sums up the experience better than any words I could put to paper.

We stayed at the ponds, swinging, swimming, and eating for 3 and a half hours. By then the sun had sucked all the energy from our bodies, making the drive home a struggle to stay away. Once we walked through our door, PT and i collapsed on our couches and immediately fell asleep. After an hour of power napping, we arose for phase three of the day.

One confession about my friends and I: we have World Cup Fever. Because of that, we play soccer two or three time a week. So we put together a great plan for the evening, we would go and play soccer for 2 hours, come home and shower, then go see How to Train Your Dragon in the dollar theater.

The soccer was fun, yet exhausting after a day full of sunshine. I am still amazed that these long days allow us to play well past 9 o'clock. The movie was better than any of us could have anticipated, full of non-stop action and laugh-out-loud moments. Seriously the writers for these animated movies are worth every cent they get paid. We walked out of the theater just as the clock ticked past midnight, officially ending what was a perfect day.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Springville Art Museum

Yesterday I got a text message from my friend Oliver “the Juice” Johnston alerting me that it was “College Day” at the Springville art museum. Naturally, because of our deep affinity for culture my roommates and I decided to go and check it out. Now the cultural devotion to which I am referring is not actually a love for painting though we, some more than others, do have an appreciation for the arts, but rather a love of Mexican food, and the fliers announcing the event proudly advertised “generous refreshment provided by Rubios.” We loaded up in the minivan, rolling seven deep, and drove to the museum.

Rubios has great salsa. For those of you not familiar with the place, it’s really the exact same as Baja Fresh. They serve the same roasted chipotle salsa and guacamole, which is fantastic if you mix the two together. Also on the refreshment menu was my personal favorite, churros. I love these Mexican delights. In fact, on my mission, because Ukrainians have never really heard of Mexican food, for our Cinco de Mayo celebration, I made homemade churros. They are simply too delicious to go two years without.

After our fill of free chips and salsa, we decided to go look at the art work. I never realized how big a collection they have at this museum. It was really cool. Especially neat for me was that the Springville Art Museum houses the largest public collection of 20th century Russian impressionist and realist paintings. Looking at these pictures took me straight back to Ukraine. I had actually gone to the birth home of Repin while over there and a few local galleries and seen some pretty similar works as those housed in Springville. But most fascinating was how though many of these paintings were created 50 of 60 years ago, not much has really changed about the country. Here are a few of my favorites that I have found images of:

This picture is titled Sevastopolis Fishermen. Sevastopol is a city in southern Ukraine, on the Crimea, originally part of my mission, but split out when the mission boundaries changed. The picture was painted in 1960, yet those very same guys could be sitting at any table in Ukraine today. They would be dressed the same, eating dried fish and probably talking about the same thing. It really is a timeless style.

This one is called Enemy at the Door. I love the look on the little girl’s face, and how tightly she clutches her doll. The grandmother lies sick and helpless in her bed. I can’t decide if it’s an apartment of a hotel room, not that there’s much difference between the two, but again the buildings have not changed in the last 60 years there. I think that the focus of the picture is the strength of the child. I was talking with Oliver as we looked at these paintings about the resiliency of that generation. There were several pictures of babushki, with their weathered hands and face and we were talking about the tough lifestyle that brought them to that point.

This picture, Election Day at the Collective Farm, shows another aspect of why life was so difficult for that generation: collectivization. The soviet government turned all the farms into collective farms and took all the food from them, effectively creating a famine for the working class. Death tolls are in the millions, and the full extent of the damage is not known as the Soviets did well to keep it covered up to the rest of the world.

This one is called “Gray Day.” The title alone reminds me of every winter day I spent over there. Colors all seemed to melt away from the world around us and blend into one gray existence. The sky, the ground, the trees, the buildings, all of it was just gray and barren, like this forest.

Last there is this piece: Curious Onlookers. The children over there are adorable. I particularly remember the daughter of one investigator I worked with. The girls name was Dascha. It was the cutest thing to hear her speak Russian, and it was always fun to play with her while her mother studied at our English club. The children are so bright and cheerful, especially compared to the circumstances that surround them. I had the opportunity to, on more than one occasion, work with some orphans, some of whom were being adopted by American families. Visiting the orphanages was an incredible experience, definitely a highlight of my time over there. If there is a hope for Ukraine, it has to lie in the future generation and their optimism and drive for happiness.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Taylorsville Dayzz

Yes I know what you’re thinking, and yes I do realize that adding two ‘Z’s is not the correct way to pluralize the word “day.” I know that because of the little red spell checking line that popped up under the word Dayzz as I was typing it. If it wasn’t for that line, then I would be just like every child growing up in Taylorsville who for that last few months has been taught by city-wide signs advertising the city’s celebration that the correct spelling of “days” is “Dayzz.” Now the fact that this entire town is confused about proper spelling is not surprising news, a quick google search for information on Taylorsville schooling reveals that only 55% of students at Arcadia elementary in Taylorsville are proficient or better at language arts. The curse of the double-z pluralization clearly has a grip on this community.

That being said, Taylorsville dayzz is clear evidence that the abilities to spell and to throw are party are not correlated in the least. Honestly my 5 hour trip to Taylorsville could not have been a more awesome and wonderful experience for one reason alone: the excellent quality of the people I met there.

The true Taylorville experience began as we made our way through the mazed streets of the Salt Lake suburb to pick up Lacey, our local Taylorsville tour guide. The first item on the tour agenda was a stop at Papa Murphy’s to decide on what type of pizza would serve as our dinner. Upon entering I knew we were where the locals came to buy dinner. It suffices to say that the company joining us in Papa Murphy’s wasn’t your classic Provo fare. This was good because I have a theory on travel: try to go to the local hot spots, not the real touristy places; try to blend in with the indigenous people and have the most authentic experience possible. In order to increase the authenticity of the experience, I asked Spencer, the local high-schooler working behind the cash register, what kind of pizza to get. He recommended the stuffed chicken and bacon pizza with the garlic sauce. I could tell by the look on Spencer’s face that he was honored to be asked his opinion on pizza as this is a topic he clearly holds dear to his heart. There is no other conceivable reason he would have taken that job. With respect to his expertise, we got the stuffed pizza, which is really like a giant calzone with cheese and sauce on top. Lacey ordered a veggie delite pizza as well. Apparently because her family was all girls they hadn’t yet discovered that you can get meat on your pizza. Preston and I also bought a bottle of lemonade to present to Lacey’s parents Terri and George, formally known as St. George and Mother Teresa respectively. We then headed back to Lacey’s house.

When we got to Lacey’s home, I got to meet Mother Teresa and St. George in person, which was an honor. Then I had Melissa, Lacey’s new roommate/semi-unofficially adopted sister take me on a tour of the clocks St. George has collected over the years. These were some amazing clocks! In preparation of this trip I had studied up on my clock facts. The only one I can really remember is that the mechanical clock was invented around 1300 a.d. Pretty fascinating stuff!

After the clocks, it was time for the photo tour. There really isn’t a better way to get to know someone quickly than by seeing the photos of their past. These windows into someone’s history are really worth a thousand words. I made Lacey explain to me all the photos of her adorning the walls and shelves of her home. Mother Teresa offered to break out the photo albums to show off the really embarrassing pictures, but Lacey refused to allow us that privilege. Fate also refused us the opportunity to watch the Powell home videos as they had loaned out their video camera and had no other way of playing the videos.

Dinner was full of sparkling conversation as the Powells dispensed their wisdom upon us. We learned that sometimes it’s okay, even necessary to propose on your first date and that if you think of eternity in terms of billions of years, it suddenly seems really, really long. We also learned what it feels like to look across a crowded room and see the way the light attaches to a special girl. In the words of St. George, that’s called “only having eyes for her.”

After dinner we got a tour of the Powell garden. As an avid mental gardener (I currently have no place to garden other than my mind), I really enjoyed the tour of different vegetables used in making magic Powell salsa. At least four types of peppers are used in the salsa which magically transforms between sweet and spicy flavors, kind of like how kettle corn goes from sweet to salty. I also learned that there is a type of tomato called Mr. Stripey, a name I would have reserved for a clown on a children’s game show.

We finished up our evening with the Powells by hearing a few stories about the devious local raccoons that haunt the neighborhood. Now if I ever have any sort of raccoon problem I know exactly who I’m bringing in as my senior anti-raccoon strategist. St. George has great technique.

We jumped in the cars and drove over to the local rec center behind which Taylorsville Dayzz was taking place. The crowd was already growing rapidly as blankets covered the grass claiming the best fireworks viewing spots. We were greeted by skydivers falling out of the sky carrying American flags as a Beatles tribute band informed us that they are Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
After marking off our territory for the fireworks we went to go explore the fairgrounds and meet up with some people that Lacey knew. That morning Lacey had run in a 5k and had a sore knee from it. In an action deeply rooted in chivalry, I offered to allow her to ride on my back rather than stumble around painfully on her hurt leg. When she accepted the piggy-back ride I took advantage of her severely limited mobility to have the face-paint artist paint “kiss me” and big set of lips on Lacey’s cheek. She was not nearly as appreciative of this as I expected her to be. She said something about “having to see people from her home ward and what will they think of me.” It was thoroughly entertaining watching her try to cover the side of her face with her hair.
One of the many booths set up at the fair was for the UQA, or Utah Quidditch Association. These people are serious about the sport. The tried to recruit Preston and me to be on the team after we told them that we are both fast and strong. Check out the website, if anyone wants to start a Provo team, The Drick has already suggested the name: Provo Prefects.
Before too long it was time to head back to our blankets and get ready for fireworks. What I did not know at the time was that I also needed to prepare for a brawl. Sitting behind us were two rambunctious little boys who were having fun throwing a foam ball back and forth. Then one of them threw the ball at our group. My competitive edge came out, and I grabbed the ball in a sort of taunting manner. Immediately both boys pounced on me. Encouraged by Preston they began using all sorts of WWE moves to dislodge the ball from my hands and my spleen from my abdomen. This sequence happened repeatedly throughout the evening. At one point during the fireworks one of the boys even managed to sneak up on me and give me a noogie. These kids were definite bullies.The fireworks themselves were awesome. There is nothing that epitomizes summer more that lying on a blanket on a warm night watching the dark sky explode with color and light. Patriotic tunes filled the air as we were mesmerized by fantastic display above us.
Yes summer time is officially here in Utah. To celebrate that fact we ended the night with milkshakes from Iceberg, home of the biggest “mini” sized shakes ever. I still have half of mine waiting in the freezer. I’ve been asked several times what my favorite season is. I always hesitate to answer because there is so much great stuff that happens all year. Fall, with its natural colors and mild temperatures, Winter with the beautiful snow and Christmas celebrations, and Spring with its rebirth and release from school all are wonderful. But after a summer night like Taylorsville Dayzz, I can with confidence say that none of them can hold a candle to the beautiful torch that is summertime, when our spirits are high, stress is low, the nights though short offer endless fun, and the long days welcome us with the sun’s bright rays.

Monday, June 28, 2010


Because my mother could not be out here in Utah for my talk last week in church, i have taken the text of my speech and presented it here. My assigned topic was keeping our covenants.

The Book of Abraham teaches us the purpose of our mortal existence: “And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.” It is that challenge, our exact obedience to the words of God, which forms the foundation for each covenant we make with God. From the Book of Mosiah we are taught the importance of entering into covenants by the people of King Benjamin as they said, following his great discourse, “And we are willing to enter into a covenant with our God to do his will, and to be obedient to his commandments in all things that he shall command us, all the remainder of our days, that we may not bring upon ourselves a never-ending torment, as has been spoken by the angel, that we may not drink out of the cup of the wrath of God.” Benjamin then explains, “And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.”

Our salvation comes through the covenants we form with God, and us striving to live up to those promises throughout our lives. It is through these covenants, especially those formed in the sacred ordinances of the temple that we learn how to become like God.

The Doctrine and Covenants teach us “And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God. Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest. And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh.” Covenants and their associated ordinances are vital to our eternal progression, we simply cannot reach our potential with them.

As we enter these covenants we become key players in battle of Good and Evil. We have upon us a solemn obligation to keep the commandments of God and serve his children. Said Jeffrey Holland:
“The war is on, and we have conspicuously enlisted. And certainly it is a war worth waging. But we are foolish, fatally foolish, if we believe it will be a casual or convenient thing. We are foolish if we think it will demand nothing of us. Indeed, as the chief figure, the great commander in this struggle, Christ has warned us about treating the new testament of his body and his blood trivially. We are told emphatically not to pilfer and profane, prevaricate and fornicate, satiate ourselves in every indulgence or violation that strikes our fancy and then suppose that we are still "pretty darn good soldiers." No, not in this army, not in defending the kingdom of God. More is expected than that. Much more is needed.”

The prophets of old knew what dedication the covenants would require. Nephi learned that lesson as he went back to get the brass plates to fulfill the commandment of the Lord. After having his property taken and life threatened, in order to live up to the Lord’s command, Nephi was required to take Laban’s life, an event that no doubt was a struggle for someone raised by goodly parents. In discussing this Book of Mormon story, Elder Holland comments:
“’I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded’ (1 Nephi 3:7). I confess that I wince a little when I hear that promise quoted so casually among us. Jesus knew what that kind of commitment would entail, and so now does Nephi. And so will a host of others before it is over. That vow took Christ to the cross on Calvary, and it remains at the heart of every Christian covenant. "I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded." Well, we shall see.”

Yet despite the refining fires of affliction and trial that surely await all of us who declare our allegiance to God, we can have confidence that because of our covenants, we need not fear abandonment.
From Isaiah we read, Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me. For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.

George Q. Cannon adds:
No matter how serious the trial, how deep the distress, how great the affliction, [God] will never desert us. He never has, and He never will. He cannot do it. It is not His character [to do so]. He is an unchangeable being; the same yesterday, the same today, and He will be the same throughout the eternal ages to come. We have found that God. We have made Him our friend by obeying His Gospel; and He will stand by us. We may pass through the fiery furnace; we may pass through deep waters; but we shall not be consumed nor overwhelmed. We shall emerge from all these trials and difficulties the better and purer for them, if we only trust in our God and keep His commandments.

Brothers and sisters, we have taken upon us covenants of eternal consequence. We have promised God, the creator and ruler of the universe, that we will obey him. We have taken upon us the name of Christ as a symbol of our dedication to the kingdom of God as we turn our lives over to the Savior. In return we have been promised guidance, help and support throughout our earthly journey back to our Heavenly Father. We must live up to the covenants and promises we have made. Christ, as our supreme example did so. For the Joy that was set before him, Christ endured the cross, despising the shame and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. That eternal joy can be ours if we will but put God first in our lives, obey his commandments and keep his covenants.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Cheers to my little sister!

Today my little sister Megan graduates from childhood! Well, not legally, that won’t happen for about another month when she turns 18, but socially, she will no longer be a little school girl. I am quite proud of all my siblings, they have followed my glowing example very well, especially this sister. A lot of people comment on how she has followed my footsteps in having stunning good-looks, a charismatic smile, and a personality that can light up a room. My mom was also quick to point out that she actually surpassed me in scholastic performance, and gets to wear all sorts of academic bling as she walks for graduation. I am also pleased to announce that she will be joining me this fall in the hallowed foothills of Provo, Utah to further her education at Brigham Young University. I will be sure to take advantage of her meal plan dollars in exchange for rides in the car. Megan, I am very happy for you and proud that you choose to stay in school even though I know how badly you wanted to drop out. You will never regret that decision you made so long ago to stick it out and get your diploma. I know Mom and Dad are proud of you too. We all love you and wish you the best summer followed by an even better freshman year!

Monday, June 14, 2010


Last night I took a glance at our apartment wall calendar to see what we had scheduled for the next week. There were only 2 things written on there for the entire month. One had just passed: June 12 – Kendrick’s birthday. The other arrives at the end of this week: June 18, which is designated on the calendar as the worst day of our lives.

Now to the average person, June 18 is just another day, in fact it will probably be better than a normal day because it is a Friday, and everybody is just working for the weekend. However, for us at apartment south seven, that is the day everything will fall apart.

June 18 marks the end of the spring term here at BYU. With its conclusion, over half of the people in my group of closest friends will leave Provo. Some will be back in just a matter of months, ready to rekindle our relationships with new stories and experiences, while others will remain only as cherished memories and the focus of an occasional wishful thought as they move on to perhaps bigger and better things. Our lives will become more quiet and less full as close knit ties will, in a sense, unravel. I take the following from a song (the title of the post) by Carbonleaf, a great band from Virginia that everyone should listen to, especially every song on their album Indian Summer:

Let fondness be our souvenir
To keep it warm it we’ll keep it near
Otherwise with no heart to recall
A memory’s just a memory after all

I feel blessed to have so many great people in my life. Sometimes life doesn’t make sense, but there always seems to be someone close to us that can make it a little bit clearer. And so, if I were a drinking man, I would raise my glass to friendship, and hope that it burns forever bright, not as a candle sheds its lights, but a glowing torch in the darkened night.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


This past Friday, the stars, against all conceivable odds, aligned. My roommate’s fiancĂ© was out of town, which meant that we got to spend some time with our long lost friend, Jared. Jared happens to be currently enrolled in a golf class, a skill he has used to impress his impending inlaws. He has to play a few times out of class as part of the course requirements, so we decided that this would be good opportunity for us to go.

There are two aspects of golf. The first is of course hitting the ball into the hole. The second, the part in which I excel more, is looking like a golfer. I grabbed my argyle socks to go with my plaid shorts. I probably should have also thrown on a newsie’s cap, but I like to think I would have still made Payne Stewart proud. Good form on the practice swing

We went out to the Links at Sleepy Ridge, a beautiful course near Utah Lake, in the west end of Orem. Pulling up to the course, you are immediately greeted by the massive club house. It is a mansion of a building that plays host to weddings and other catered events, as well as housing the pro shop and Magleby’s restaurant.

Because he is in a golf class at BYU, Jared was able to get us 9 holes at about half price. They threw in my club rentals for free and gave us a cart for only 5 more bucks. For that I commend the folks at Sleepy Ridge. Very friendly people. We grabbed our clubs and strapped them onto the back of the cart and followed the GPS to the first of 9.

The extent of my golfing lessons mostly comes from reading P.G. Woodhouse’s The Coming of Gowf. There we are instructed by a true scot, “Use the interlocking grup and keep the staunce a wee bit open and slow back, and dinna press or sway the heid and keep yer e'e on the ba'.” With thast in mind I approached the first tee. We played through 9 holes. My highlight was getting par on the 8th. Chipping onto the green, I somehow managed to hit the ball right where I wanted to. It landed on the slope and rolled straight towards the hole, stopping one inch away from the lip. I leapt into the air, swinging my club in celebration.

We only lost about 8 balls between the two us, less than 1 per hole. I also managed to find 2 new balls in the various water hazards while looking for my own. I finished the front nine 10 under double par, one stroke behind Jared. Not bad, not bad at all.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Wherein lies happiness?

In that which becks
Our ready minds to fellowship divine,
A fellowship with essence; till we shine,
Full alchemiz’d, and free of space. Behold
The clear religion of heaven!
-John Keats

So around 11 o’clock last night, I was lying in a field being sprayed by sprinklers. I was completely soaked and the cold night air shot chills down my spine. Yet, I couldn’t stop smiling. There, by myself I was really happy. I began thinking about the sources of happiness in our lives. I’ve long be of the opinion that the people around us bring us joy. I believe that memories often aren’t worth forming unless we are sharing them with people we love. But last night, I realized that sometimes we let too much of our happiness rest on the acceptance and opinions of others. Sometimes we put in too much energy trying impress those around us, and if we don’t see the result we desired, we cannot be happy.

I think that is an unhealthy way to live. To constantly seek the attention and approval of others and not be happy without it is a dark road. There is an immense freedom available to us when we can be happy with ourselves; when can see what our true value is in this world, our true potential, and our opinion of ourselves isn’t swayed by the doubts of others. The people around us should enrich our lives. They should be an integral part of our existence, enhancing the experiences we go through. But we must have a base on which they may stand. We must have our own platform of confidence and self worth that establishes a happiness intrinsic to our lives. Without that, we will constantly be questioning our relationships, unable to trust in others because we cannot trust in ourselves. As Keats said, our happiness lies in fellowship divine. I believe that fellowship begins with ourselves. Once we have mastered that relationship, we can fully reach outward and magnify our happiness by the divine fellowship of others.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Moab part one

I just got the last few grains of sand out my ears and hair, finally ridding myself of the last unwanted souvenirs from my most recent trip to Moab, Utah. I suppose the campfire musk will continue to follow me for a few more days, but that only adds to the manly image I try to project. (For the record I have been told on several occasions that I am a man’s man. I think that that is a compliment, though I’m not entirely sure what it means. Also for the record I do hope to someday be a woman’s man.) That being said, the trip south can officially be labeled an immense success.

This idea of going down to Moab had been rolling around in my roommate Preston’s brain for sometime. Of course I was immediately on board with the idea signed on as co-planner. We circled Memorial Day weekend as the time to go, and then decided that in the spirit of adventure, we would wait until the last possible moment to do any further planning. In fact, when we eventually arrived at the campground, we weren’t even sure who else would be showing up. We had been advertising the trip to our friends for a few weeks, never giving any details aside from “trust me, you’re gonna love it!”

About 11 o’clock the night before we were leaving, Preston and I sat down around our planning table, which was really just a couple of concrete steps a few doors down from where we live. There we hashed out the details: we will drive to Moab, find a campsite, and live there until we get tired of it. While there, we will do fun things. We will not sleep in a tent, but rather hope that it doesn’t rain. The only actual activity we knew we would do was go mountain biking on the world-famous slickrock biking trail. I had even bought a new bike so I could participate.

The next day, about 4 hours before we planned on leaving, I called a campground and asked about availability in the sandflats recreation area. The guy on the other end informed me that though the campground was currently only half full, he expected it to reach capacity by that night, and that it would be best to arrive as early as possible to guarantee a spot. He also told that there was a sand storm going on down there, but I decided to keep that detail to myself, lest anyone who was planning on going suddenly have a change of heart for fear of being sand-blasted. Since we needed to reserve two campsites to cover our estimated group size, Preston and I decided it would be best to bump up our departure time an hour to 4 o’clock. It was a good thing we did so because we ended up having an hour delay in leaving which put us right back on the original schedule.

The drive down was uneventful, which is good because with driving, I like to think that no news is good news. We just rolled along in Preston’s suburban, enjoying the scenery and a giant bag of pretzels. Eventually the greenery of central Utah faded into the red-rock terrain of the southern desert and we finally reached Moab. The road took us through the small downtown strip of gift shops, restaurants and trading posts, across mill creek and into the sandflats recreation area where we began our search for camp sites. The goal was to find two campsites next to each other, so every time we found a new spot, we would leave someone behind to guard it while we searched on for an even better location. Finally, at the end of cluster H, we found our version of El Dorado, the city of gold. Preston left me behind and went back to go pick up the girls and gear we had left at various spots along our trail. In the mean time, I decided to explore our new home. I climbed the nearest rock, a place we would later name sunset hill because of what I found on top: one of the most incredible views of the western skyline I have ever beheld. It also turned out to be the only spot near our campsite that offered cell phone service. There I sat and watched as the sun sank below the horizon, the clouds above reflecting its bright rays, echoing the rich colors of the dirt and rock that lay before me. The wind from the dust storm I had failed to warn my fellow travelers about pushed on my back as I waited for them to return and we could begin to set up camp. The sunset got me excited for the rest of the weekend.

As Preston’s headlights turned into our campsite, I scrambled down the rocky face of sunset hill and we began establishing our camp. We put up the girls’ tent first, a sturdy dome borrowed from Liz’s uncle. Then we turned to putting up Preston’s tent as a decoy to claim territory as well as to store our supplies during our expeditions. It turned out that the tent, given to him by a friend who bought it for two dollars and Deseret Industries, was missing one of its main poles and therefore was not nearly as sturdy as one would hope their shelter would be. It also didn’t have any stakes, so we filled it with small boulders to keep the heavy winds from turning our experience into an outdoorsy remake of The Wizard of Oz. Once camp was established, we jumped back into the suburban and headed into town for some late night eats.

The night life in Moab isn’t very established. Much to our chagrin, there were no advertised dance parties or karaoke going on. Instead, there was a lot of advertising for the best green chili in Utah, served at the Moab diner. We are very influenced by such advertising gimmicks because we only eat the best, so the decision of where to go was simple. We arrived at the diner at 9:58. Once seated, we found out that they close at 10. There was a certain amount of annoyance exuded by our server with the prospect of having to take care of four poor students who are probably not big tippers this late at night, but still the service was good and food delicious. I had a Chili Burger, which is just what one would imagine with that description: a burger on which you pour world famous green chili. The fries were also very good: thick cut and crispy. It’s hard to go wrong with a local joint in touristy town. Their reputation is their life blood. We drove back to camp fairly exhausted and quite excited for the next day’s adventures. Anxious to get to sleep, Preston and I laid out our sleeping bags on the sandy ground and closed our eyes.

However sleep would be far from us as the wind continued to howl in our ears and sand was blown into our eyes and mouths. The ground on which we were lying was steep enough to elicit us placing large rocks at our feet to stop us from sliding down into the next site. The wind and sand continued all night as we struggled to get any rest. I ended up turning my sleeping bag around and zipping my head inside to protect it from exposure to the elements.

The sun came early, rudely tearing us from our hard fought sleep several hours before my usual rising time. The first thing on the day’s agenda: slickrock bike trail. A quick google search of slickrock shows that this trail is the most popular in the world, has singlehandedly made Moab the Mecca of mountain biking, and is absolutely exasperating. Really the perfect place to introduce yourself into the world of mountain biking for the first time. In fact, this was the first time I had ever ridden my new bike, the first bike I have owned since middle school.

I began riding the trail rather tentatively. I was already sure that I was going to crash at some point, I had the whole thing envisioned in my mind: the cracking of bones, the flash of light as my head slammed against rock, the blood flowing across the already red dirt. So I was just waiting to make a fatal mistake. It wasn’t 30 minutes into the ride that I made that mistake. The accident wasn’t fatal to me, but rather to my shorts. While attempting to climb a very steep section of hill, I leaned too far back as I pressed on the pedals. I popped a wheelie and immediately bailed off the back of the bike. I landed on my feet, but the crotch of my shorts caught on the bike seat and tore clean through. It looked as though I was wearing a skirt with an extremely high slit up the front. Not my best look, and certainly not better than me riding the rest of the trail in just my spandex. Good thing I’ve been doing a little P90X.

The ride itself was mesmerizing when I had a rare opportunity to look up from my tires. The Colorado river was below us carving out its canyon deeper and deeper. The rolling rocky hills seemed to flow on like waves across a desert sea out to the horizon. We had to take several breaks to regain strength in our legs and to eat the cliff bars we had packed in. The dry air that surrounded us parched our mouths with each breath; I drank water bottles as though they were shot glasses. We kept biking on, up and down the rocky hills until I made my nearly fatal error. Coming down a steep section, I failed to pop up my front tire as I hit a rock at the bottom. I flipped over the handlebars of the bike, my legs staying tangled with the pedals as I tried to push myself free of the wreckage. Unable to pull away from the bike, my swinging legs flipped the bike over me again and I came to a halt. My arm and legs were scraped, but besides that no harm was done. I jumped back on my bike and we continued on.

In total, the entire loop took us about 3 hours to complete, not bad considering 4 hours is the recommended time to set aside on the state website. By then end, my legs burned with a fire that could have melted Thor’s hammer. We rode two miles at a very relaxed pace along the road back to our campsite for a cool down. I was already beginning to feel sore.

Preston and I understand one principal: you have to keep women happy. We have learned this through much trial and error in our own lives and knew that with having girls on this trip, efforts would need to be made to keep them smiling and not complaining. So with that in mind, we all went into town to go to all the gift shops because everyone knows that nothing makes women happier than shopping. It’s a strange and inexplicable phenomenon. Personally I don’t know where the female endurance for shopping comes from. I could spend all day walking up mountains, riding bikes and jogging, but put me the mall for one hour and my legs begin to falter. For women, it appears to be the exact opposite. I think we went through 5 gift shops and one trading post. We read hundreds of slogans sprayed onto t-shirts, all of which had something to do with dirt or rocks. There were bumper stickers galore, Preston’s favorite was “Hike Naked: Moab.” I don’t know what kind of person broadcasts that message from the back of their car, but I’m sure they’re a special breed, and I’m not sure if I would like to meet them. After getting our fill of shot glasses and Indian trinkets we went over to the Moab visitors’ center. This was two pronged mission: one, we wanted to find out the best hikes available in the area for that afternoon, and two, the center boasts the best bathrooms in the city.

Staffing the visitors’ center’s information desk was a member of the Canyonlands historical society. You could tell the length of this man’s beard that he knew everything about the area. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had been raised by wolves out in the Moab wilderness. He gave us some recommendations for the afternoon and we decided to think about our options over lunch. Now for anyone heading down to Moab, I would highly recommend Paradox Pizza. It’s a pizza by the slice joint that serves delicious, gourmet, gargantuan slices. I had the pesto veggie pizza, and the jalapeno Hawaiian. Both, I thought, were superb.

Energized and invigorated we headed off for the day’s next adventure: Corona Arch. Corona arch is a huge arch located outside of arches national park. It has become famous because Tim Martin, a local bush pilot, flew his plane through the arch back in the 80’s. (You can order the video of this and other of Tim’s low flying feats at the following website:

We began hiking as the sun started its descent from high noon. The temperature high for the day was in the 90s and we could feel it. Feeling it even more were the various dogs sharing the trail with their owners. I didn’t know dogs could stick their tongues out that far. There were even people carrying their over-heated dogs over the last stretches of the trail. I tried the tongue hanging technique to cool down, but found drinking more water to be a more effective alternative. After posing a few times by the arch, we turned back towards the car to go for hiking round two. We followed some European hikers down the trail and watched as they stopped every 10 steps to snap another picture. Honestly I don’t know how these folks were still functioning: the heat was approaching 100 degrees and they were wearing long sleeves and zip-off pants that they hadn’t zipped off. What’s the point of the zipper if you’re not going to use it? Either they must have been really embarrassed of their legs or the un-zipping instructions were in English only.

Along the road to the next trail was a huge wall of rock featuring petroglyphs drawn on by the ancient indigenous people of the area. This sparked a conversation on the merits of graffiti. These pictures could have simply been drawn on the wall by a bunch of prehistoric punks as a way of defacing the local corner store, and now they are considered priceless artifacts of history. After a few moments of observation we drove on to the trail head for observation point. The sign said 1.5 miles, so we weren’t expecting too much difficulty in reaching the end. After we had hiked for that mile and a half, we found that the sign had simply meant that the trail begins in 1.5 miles and from there it’s 2 more miles until you get to observation point. Still undaunted we pressed on, the trail finally breaking away from the road that had been running parallel to us about 20 feet away the entire time.

After about 30 more minutes of walking up the mountain, the heat began to catch up with us. Our bodies were exhausted and observation point sounded like less and less fun. The turning point had come, as well as my opportunity to be hero. I volunteered to run back to the car and drive it up the road that followed the trail and pick everyone else up. Honestly it was a selfish offering because I find nothing more fun in the hiking world than scampering downhill like what I imagine a mountain goat would look like on two legs. I arrived at the car drenched in sweat and covered in dust, ready for what we had previously dedicated as our next activity: bathing in the Colorado River.

The Colorado River is not especially known for its cleansing properties. The water is a dirty brown color, but when combined with a bar of Irish Spring soap, it can still do miracles on a filthy camper. The river is also notoriously cold, so to get ourselves ready for the deep chill we would encounter we put up all the windows of the car and turned off the air as to create a sort of dry sauna to ride in. We arrived at the river gasping for air and desperate for relief from the stinging heat. I quickly threw on my swim suit, grabbed my Irish Spring and ran into the river. Goose bumps immediately formed all over my now shivering body as I scrubbed my away the dirt and sweat that covered me. The wind was still blowing at hurricane strength so the bathing was cut short as we tired of chasing our towels as they blew away.

After bathing, the next basic human function was to eat dinner. In order to keep our outdoor experience authentic, we decided to pic-nic. The local city mart, aka Kroger’s, has these delectable deli sandwiches they sell premade, but still fresh. They are roughly the size of my lower leg and only cost 6 dollars. Preston and I each got one and the girls got one to share. We found a little city park to eat at and relax as we waited for more of our friends to show up that evening. Sharing the park with us was the Rocky Mountain Adventures group having a huge barbecue. I don’t know what the requirements are for joining the group, but it actually looked like an older crowd, middle aged and higher, who probably just can’t get enough of the outdoors. Definitely something to look into for the future.

The park we found featured a rather unique xylophone section. I had never seen anything like it before, but it certainly fit the hippie-vibe that Moab puts out. There were ten different xylophones of different sizes and styles, complete with mallets and everything. The sounds of our masterpieces carried above the trees into the clear sky. As we played, the first car of fellow campers showed up. It was the group I will designate as the new guys: Ryan, Nick, Freddie, and Grant. Freddie we’ve know for a while, but Ryan and Nick just moved into the ward a month or so ago. Grant is their old roommate who came down on his way to California for an internship. We started playing a little Frisbee, which led to an experience that has no doubt changed lives.

While playing Frisbee 500, a little boy came to join in our game. His name: Gavin. Just mentioning that name for the rest of the trip would cause an eruption of thunderous laughter. Gavin was one of those athletes with simply more hustle than skill. We would try to gently toss him the Frisbee and he would miss it. Anytime the Frisbee would land on the ground, Gavin was after it like a hound on a fox. He would slide, dive or lay out trying to grab the Frisbee in order to have the opportunity to throw it back. Unfortunately he could only get the Frisbee about a quarter of the way back to his target. This elicited the question, “So do you play sports?” The answer: a clarifying “No.” After playing and laughing with Gavin for a good 15 minutes, it was time for us to head to campsite to watch the sun sink down from sunset hill. As we were leaving, Freddie jokingly asked Gavin if he wanted to go camping with us. Gavin’s eyes lit up, especially when he heard that we had candy at our site, and he ran off to go ask his dad if it would be alright to go with us. Not wanting any legal trouble we jumped in our cars and drove off before the question could be posed.

Once again I was back on top of Sunset Hill for the 8:30 display of natural magnificence painted across the darkening sky. For some reason there is something sublime about the sky and watching it change colors as the spectrum bends and breaks. There is some connection it has with the human soul, stirring the deepest part of our emotions, reminding us of what is beautiful in life and rekindling our aspirations. So with the sky burning up before us, we watched, thought and felt. Headlights lit up the road below us as evening turned to dusk. It was more of our group. We went down to meet them.
Almost everyone had now arrived. We built a campfire and sat around telling stories of the past and talking about plans for the next day and for the future. It was the embodiment of summer. The last car we were waiting for arrived. We talked and laughed. The wind stopped and the air cooled. We laid out our sleeping bags and closed our eyes.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

There are things that drift away like our endless, numbered days

Here is the first summary of my recent trip to Moab. This isn’t the fun report, this isn’t the description of the memories I made or the laughs we shared around the campfire. These are the melancholy, sobering thoughts that came to me while watching the stars from the dusty desert floor.

The first two nights of camping kept the stars hidden behind a thin veil of clouds, so it wasn’t until the third night of sleeping among the red rocks and dark skies that the stars came out in such an impressive display of cosmic beauty as to evoke the pensive state of mind in which I found myself. There, laying on the hard, rocky surface, I was wrapped up in a blanket of celestial lights so immense that I could feel myself being lost in the sheer grandeur of all that surrounded me. And that feeling of being lost brought with it a consciousness of how easily our lives can drift by us.

I realized that everything we had done that weekend, all of the fun things, every smile, every sunset, all of it, was drifting away from me and from reality into some other realm of the past. By tomorrow, everything might as well been a dream. I would have pictures to show that it happened, but those would be images of ghosts, depictions of times that have already passed away and drifted out of my life. I can’t go back to the beauty of the first desert sunset I saw on that trip. I can’t go back to the excitement of my freshman year at college or to the thrill of my first kiss. All of those experiences are gone and the scary part is that though for now we think that these days are endless and our opportunities unlimited, in fact they are quite numbered and with each passing day, that number grows smaller and smaller.

Sometimes you can almost feel life slipping through your fingers. You can see what you want be, how you want to live and who you want in your life, but you don’t know how to get there. It’s like being covered by that starry blanket that is so large that you cannot find the edge. At times it can feel overwhelming. It gives me such a sense of urgency to figure out my life and find what it’s missing as I continue to drift further and further into the future.

Yet despite these fears of the future, of losing and missing opportunities, the stars inspire a sort of confidence in what the future may bring. The vast expanse of magnificence in the desert sky brings out such a sense of awe as to seemingly whisper to us that everything will work out, and then gently coax us to sleep, just as any good blanket should. With that in mind, so begins a new day, a new opportunity and a new vision of what life can be.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Buried Life

In case I haven’t told you about it, the show “The Buried Life” is one of my new favorites. It’s a documentary made by some Canadian 20-somethings who decided to step away from the emptiness of modern life and set about accomplishing their real goals in life. Stuff like #18: tell a joke on late night TV, or #41: make a toast at a stranger’s wedding were on their list of 100 goals to do before they died. Originally they posted their mini-episodes on youtube, and gained quite a following until MTV bought up their show and started producing full episodes to be aired on TV. The show is inspiring, especially since after the boys accomplish one of their own goals, they help someone they’ve met along the way accomplish one of their dreams.

But what exactly is the “Buried Life?” I was wondering where they had come up with that title myself and decided to do a little research. I discovered that it comes from one of Matthew Arnold’s lesser known poems of the same title, written back in 1852. I read through the poem and it has become one of my favorite pieces of literature, right up there with Tennyson’s Ulysses and Eliot’s Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock. Here are a few excerpts from the poem:

Matthew Arnold in all his handsome glory

Lines 12-23:
Alas! is even love too weak
To unlock the heart, and let it speak?
Are even lovers powerless to reveal
To one another what indeed they feel?
I knew the mass of men conceal'd
Their thoughts, for fear that if reveal'd
They would by other men be met
With blank indifference, or with blame reproved;
I knew they lived and moved
Trick'd in disguises, alien to the rest
Of men, and alien to themselves--and yet
The same heart beats in every human breast!

Lines 45-63:
But often, in the world's most crowded streets,
But often, in the din of strife,
There rises an unspeakable desire
After the knowledge of our buried life;
A thirst to spend our fire and restless force
In tracking out our true, original course;
A longing to inquire
Into the mystery of this heart which beats
So wild, so deep in us--to know
Whence our lives come and where they go.
And many a man in his own breast then delves,
But deep enough, alas! none ever mines.
And we have been on many thousand lines,
And we have shown, on each, spirit and power;
But hardly have we, for one little hour,
Been on our own line, have we been ourselves--
Hardly had skill to utter one of all
The nameless feelings that course through our breast,
But they course on for ever unexpress'd.

Lines 77-90:
Only--but this is rare--
When a beloved hand is laid in ours,
When, jaded with the rush and glare
Of the interminable hours,
Our eyes can in another's eyes read clear,
When our world-deafen'd ear
Is by the tones of a loved voice caress'd--
A bolt is shot back somewhere in our breast,
And a lost pulse of feeling stirs again.
The eye sinks inward, and the heart lies plain,
And what we mean, we say, and what we would, we know.
A man becomes aware of his life's flow,
And hears its winding murmur; and he sees
The meadows where it glides, the sun, the breeze.

Amen Mr. Arnold, Amen. You’ve really got a great insight into human nature here. Who doesn’t conceal their inner most thoughts and feeling for fear of being hurt? I know I do. We all have on our facades, our faces that we put on. Eliot wrote about this in Prufrock as well: “There will be time to prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet.” It simply is a natural emotional self defense mechanism we have in place in our relationships. We are so reluctant to trust anyone enough to allow them to see into us, to know how we really feel and what we really think. And yet, by keeping ourselves safely tucked away, we hinder ourselves from finding a fullness of beauty in life. That life, that beautiful life remains buried until we can trust ourselves to someone else. That is when we find the “lost pulse of feeling” and life becomes full, complete; perfect.