Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Aristotelian please

I love dropping Aristotle into institute lessons. I love that I get to read Confessions for school next year. I wandered through the library today picking up books to start putting together my year (and to just read) and it was delicious. Some titles: Habits of the Mind: Intellectual Life as a Christian Calling, Leisure: the Basis of Culture, Josef Pieper, some P.D. Wodehouse who I've never read, One Whole and Perfect Day, a YA novel that won a bunch of awards this year. Most of the titles were recommended through an essay on liberal education from my stepfather...the essay definitely has an agenda, so I'm trying to sift carefully, but how could I resist really?

What I love, though, about libraries, is that what you come out with is hardly ever what you went in looking for. Sure, about half these titles were on my list, but the other half were next in line in the library catalog, or next to the book I was looking for on the shelf, or on the sorting shelves (where Teaching Adolescents to Write should have been but definitely wasn't). So I wandered and searched and scavenged and it was lovely.

On heroes: Homer and Plutarch told stories about people so that they could stand as examples for how we should be. Yeah, Achilles and Agamemnon were great negative examples, but even their positive virtues were touted, right? The hero traditionally stands in for us and stories are a way to pass down social mores and expectations.
I've been thinking a lot about Michael Scott, though (from The Office) and about the anti-hero. For those of you who don't know, the schtick is that he is socially oblivious and abrasive and watching him is like getting a really deep-tissue massage--painful, but ultimately rewarding. And by rewarding I mean hilarious. What I think though, is that our society doesn't trust positive assertions: postmodernism has thrown everything into a state of relativity where there is no clear cut right. What Steve Carrell is doing is showing us how not to be--the only advice we're willing to take on heroism. Maybe?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

A touch

So, was reading a friend's post today and thought I'd let myself do the nostalgic thing just for a minute. Yesterday I had a very difficult and overdue conversation that reminded me that things aren't the same as they were and that they won't be and that that's ok. I went to the Writing Center to make copies today (with plans to leave some cash in the cash box) and the code (which I probably shouldn't even had access to last semester) was changed and it stung for one second, but never really was mine anyway...so I sat on a couch in the newly reopened JKB, which I'd never really made my own, watching out the window at people passing. There were couples and kids who looked little and bishopric members and I found peace in planning out next week, making sure to fill it with friends and stuff to work on and responsibilities and fun.
And that's what it's going to be like for a minute here. Planning out week-by-week, not sure where I'll be or who I'll be living with in a couple of months. Scary and hard for someone who likes control, but that's the focus right now--this week. Some plans for next week. I know what I'll be doing in fall, and preparing for school and new kids and a new year.

On my first day at BYU I was wearing red sneakers and I got lost. The first day was a Tuesday, not the Monday that I'd planned for and so I made a trip to the ASB to figure out where my classes were, then walked into Ed Cutler's English 201 15 minutes late. I remember thinking "it will be cool when I see people I recognize on campus."

Now it's done. It feels good, I am ready to be done. I can't cross the quad anymore (couldn't when it was populated) without stopping to chat. I have had classes in every building I could see from the JKB. I have had several homes on campus--writing centers, my office, the pub--I know where the best places to nap are and the best places to eat and the quickest routes to caffeine and the best smelling handsoap and the best drinking fountains. And there was where where that first date was proposed, and there was where I decided I couldn't get married, and there was where I met a best friend, and there was were I decided I might be crazy, and there was where I talked about the French Revolution and that was where I gave my farewell talk...

So this week I will learn to bake bread and go to a concert and start a book club. Next week I will read more teen lit. Maybe sometime this summer I will go and visit a friend in DC (what do you think Amanda?). In the meantime, I still have my red shoes. And my planner. And years and years of memory.


So I bought a car, and this is she, and her name is Mandy. My reasoning: she's low maintenance, a hard worker, and adorable, but you can't quite take her seriously because she's midnight blue (she glitters in the sun). A Mandy.

Things I love about having my own car: I never have to adjust my seat. I have my favorite radio stations programmmed. I can go wherever I want whenever I need. And she's fun to drive and has a sun roof and a 3-disc CD player and comfortable adjustable seats.

Things I don't love about having my own car: oh oil prices make me cry. $3.81 at the Provo 7-11 Saturday. Otherwise though.

Anyway. Good news, eh?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Some thoughts on Trash

This was an essay I was composing in my head. They are never as good on paper...

The sun is hot and I am picking through grass and scrub oak for trash. I use a trash-grabber, a claw that is as delightful to use as it was when I was small and stole my brother’s extendo-arm and never got to play with it as much as I’d like and now am playing for hours with the sun warm on my neck and it’s early enough spring still that there are no bugs droning.

How long does it take before refuse is no longer trash? I find tin cans smashed and rusted, barbed wire that was once a fence tangled in the brush, broken glass rubbed rough and smooth as a pebble. These pebbles were refuse once. Some glacier brought them from far away and set them here and laid them down into the soil deep like the wind and snow and sun have these cans. These pebbles are not the granite of our mountains, they are transplants, they are foreign but not trash. I dig a flattened can up and out of the dust and wonder if I’m preserving or disturbing.

Beer bottles, whole and broken. Beer cans, smashed, shot, rusting, full of rain and whatever else. Was it prohibition that drove men to the outskirts to do their drinking? Moonshiners, gunrunners, hiding their stills, speakeasies, swigging flasks from the law? Or did this all start much earlier? Start with ceremony, with altars on mountaintops and wine? With oak groves? On moors with ale and meat and fire? Have we always sought oblivion where it spreads like wings from the moon?

Styrofoam. Whenever I find a piece of Styrofoam I think of two things: one, the egg carton I decorated with nail polish and kept painting as it melted and warped and shriveled. This is when I learned what fumes were and about the hole in the ozone. Two, where on earth did this come from? Literally, as light as leaves and almost as plentiful, I wonder where it traveled from and where it will go before it never returns to dust.

In the early nineties Utah’s handful of environmentalists prevailed on the state to begin an anti-litter campaign. Don’t Waste Utah, yellow stickers were stuck and there were commercials: a leather-clad, 5 o’clock shadowed, motor-cycle rider was the star. The commercials were filmed in the expanse of Utah deserts and the hero took personal offense to trash thrown from cars and he looked soulfully into the camera and I swore never to litter ever, or maybe I would to bump into this nameless do-gooder. A regular Aragorn of environmentalism.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

My Summer Job is Better than Your Summer Job, Part 2

Lest you guys start to think that I'm getting paid by Orem city for lying around tanning and smiling at passers-by: today I spent about an hour in a tree. I climbed it with my branch cutters and snippers (the snippers in my back pocket) and inched my way around trying to pull down a vine that had tangled itself up. Later I had a rake-fellow (one of the sharp ones) and was using it as an extendo-arm to pull down the vine and the nest it had created that captured last year's cotton seeds. Gorgeous. I also spent more than an hour digging up rocks. This entailed the digging up of small rocks, the tossing of these somewhere out of sight, and the attentive watching of the earthworms wiggle and gasp. They are sooo cool and sooo gross!

You wish you had my job. :)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Iron Man

So, I have a crush on Robert Downey Jr. A big crush. For a long time I was ashamed of my crush, you know the whole drug conviction thing, and the whole very questionable, arrogant, smarmy thing, but Downey's recent foray into superhero-dom (he's perfect in Iron Man, perfect) has convinced me that it's safe to go public.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


A couple of things:
1. The drinking water in Armenia is unreliable for a couple of reasons probably, but one reason I know of for sure: so pipes are designed to leak, right? They're going to leak anyway and so they're designed to leak to let pressure out as needed and to avoid needing being fixed incessantly because who has time for that? The idea, of course, is that the water pressure is high enough to keep bad stuff out--if water is always pushing out, nothing is ever seeping its way in. Except if, as is the case in Armenia, you end up turning off the water once or twice or whatever a day. Then, as the water pressure slows to a trickle and then to nothing, the icky, wet, muddy, rotting stuff hanging out near the pipes and enjoying a constant water supply makes its way into the pipes and so into your house. (Except if you have an industrial-strength, Salt Lake-issue water filter.)
2. When we talked about Revelation in Sunday School we talked about how precisely we're supposed to battle evil. It's evil, right? And there's a whole lot of it and we're commanded to love, so how do we love if we're simultaneously trying to find and snipe down evil? Luckily, I talked to Amandadam the night before this lesson was given and we came up with some very lovely tasting conclusions. Mostly one: out job isn't to smother out evil. Our job is to create as much good as we can because dark cannot exist where there is light.
3. I've been in a real funk lately. A funk because I don't have enough going to keep me in crisis mode and, as some of you have pointed out, I have no hobby to keep me busy. So I'm kind of just being. I feel better when I hang out with friends or take some initiative to accomplish things on my to-do list or when I keep myself occupied otherwise. I feel like I get in a funk when I go into passive mode: when I'm not putting enough good out there to keep bad stuff from getting into me. On a (yet) more abstract level, I think that this might be the key to being in the world but not of it...emitting enough light that no darkness can get into you, but as I'm not sure how that would work I'll leave it at this, the level applicable to me right now. I've got to be up and doing, or will be wrestled down and beaten by the world or my life or whatever.


So today was my first day on the job at Orem city. It was amazing, I think this summer is going to be fantastic. Some highlights: a) the sexual harassment training video. Mmm, there was much objectification of women because apparently women are symbols of our society's rampant sexuality? Otherwise awkward and hilarious. b) I went up to the Orem cemetery to do a driving test. Not only did I get free homemade salsa, I got a look at their casket-shaped grill. Yes, they have a bbq that is shaped like a casket hidden in their garage. Looks like it gets some pretty good use too... c) I'm working at Mt. Timpanogos park. This is the park built for the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival. It's very lovely, rather grassier than not. I work with Aaron and Brian who are super nice. d) I got (get) to drive a Kubota tractor guy. It's amazing, I wish I could drive him around parks all day long. e) I got free t-shirts. Granted, they're my summer wardrobe, but they're great and free! Also, I got work gloves and safety glasses.
Anyway. I'm excited for the job. We cleaned bathrooms today and power-sprayed a pavilion. :)

Sunday, May 4, 2008


I just got back from a day in New York. Yes it was only a day and yes it was rushed and yes the majority of it was spent watching "Better Off Dead" and hanging out in a friends apartment with babies, but what a good trip.

My roommate asked the other day why I travel. Well, she mentioned, at least, that she'd been thinking about so I started to think about it. I travel (or love travelling) because it makes me feel anonymous. Makayla (see comment from Furrowed) hit it right on the nose. She said that she feels awe in big cities, where you realize how many people there are and that God knows and loves all of them. Suddenly my decisions and choices are minute and manageable because billions of people make choices every day and God is in all of their lives and loves all of them.

I rode the bus from the airport and felt a deep sense of connection to the people I was riding with. It was a really reassuring moment. And too, finding my way around the city and finding kindness everywhere (and people were mean and I got whistled at a little but still...) and being anonymous. It was the best way I could've spent this weekend.

I met a woman on the plane named Helen who was flying to Green Bay to say goodbye to her little sister who was dying of MS. Helen teaches elementary school in Wyoming. She raised 5 incredible kids and had lived this full and interesting life--working in Germany, building her own house, teaching in inner-city New York coincidentally, adopting, she hatched baby chicks with her students this last week, loveslovesloves her family--and she told me to teach what I loved. She drank a vodka and Mountain Dew which smelled incredible and had just made this flight and cried in gratitude when she found out she didn't have to switch planes to make the next.

And I ate dinner (two thumbs up for the Wok and Roll in Minneapolis--miso soup is the most perfect travel food I've ever found) with Greg, a consultant who was living in Montana. He drilled me on being Mormon, which I loved: we talked about the Texas polygamy deal and about my mission and about family. He told me about his relationship with his wife. He's on the road 5 days a week and often travels for fun even when he's off. She likes her space. Over the weekend they work on their house together. She paints because she loves it, he does whatever else until she can come and help. He talked about the way they've grown together, how their relationship has evolved and is still evolving. It was really reassuring.

I got to explore another section of New York: I was around Union Square where they had a market--flowers and apples and bread. Lovely down there, with the trees and the old buildings. Last trip I spent an inordinate amount of time around Rockefeller Center and Time Square and it was good to get out a little (very little I know). There was a street fair selling street fair kitsch, funnel cakes, kettle corn, corn-on-the-cob. Just people and stuff and food.

Anyway. Lovely trip. Good sense of centering.