Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Everyday Mythology

"Christmas time is snow time, and in no time it'll be Christmas again..." A cute little holiday melody, yes? Just one problem. It's snowing here in the mountians - snowing hard - and it's still October! They leaves are still firmly attached to the trees (or were, this morning) and the sky is already dishing out winter weather.

But I'm not complaining (much). Because of the snow, I got to see something magnificent. I was heading to class early this morning and happened to turn around and catch a glimpse of my mountain - Timpanogas. I grew up in love with that mountain. As long as I could see her, I was home. And she was always so beautiful - just as colorful and varied as the sky itself. This morning she was wearing white. Gleaming, pristine, flawless white. The suns rays were reflected off her slopes, causing the whole mountianside to shine. Her peaks were cloaked in cotton-thick clouds, rendering the summit invisible from the valley floor.

I wondered if it wasn't just such an image that inspired the myths of Mount Olympus in the minds of the ancient Greeks. I can just imagine the gods and goddesses sitting in council on the mountaintop, looking down through the clouds on the sorry mortals below. To those who had no need to climb the higher mountains, who had no knowledge of what a mountaintop looked like - the possibilites are endless.

I've thought similar things while observing the cosmos for my astronomy course. What the ancients must have thought looking to the unfathomable heavens, and seeing the forms of their heros among the stars... the very least they could bring to the table of explanation is that an all-powerful being had put them there.

We modern mortals look to the storm-enveloped mountains, pity the poor wretch who is attempting the climb, and go on with our day. We look to the heavens and think of millions of miles of outerspace, of laws of gravity and the speed of light. But what would it be like if we could put our modern knowledge aside and look at the world through the eyes of the ancients? If, instead of explaining the world through logic and knowledge, we could put our imaginations to the test for a while? If we could stop seeing the laws of science and start searching for the touch of the Gods?

I think that in letting ages past take over, we might just get a clearer view of the present.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Sunday Scribblings #237 - Harvest

Here's my Sunday Scribbling for the week - except this time, I wrote it on a Monday. I hope I'm not breaking any rules in the act.


A storm was on the way. The trees had felt it all day, turning their leaves inside-out in anticipation of the coming moisture. A brisk breeze had been building itself up for hours until it had become something much stronger, though not yet strong enough to be called a gale. Clouds had been marching steadily onward from the west, growing larger and darker with every passing moment. Evening came and went, and darkness fell.

The house was still dimly lit, even though the sleeping hour had come. The day had been an eventful one, between the picnic and the blackberry hunting and dinner with the folks. The little ones had exhausted their seemingly unending supply of energy some hours before. They had tried so hard to stay awake, but even the most intriguing book or cunning game could not keep the drowsiness at bay in the end.

The father walked through the house, slowly and noiselessly. He was bone-tired himself, for the weeks of harvest had been long. But now, at last, all the corn was stowed away in the crib, the wheat was laid up in bundles in the barn, and the potatoes and bulbs had been planted in fresh beds of earth to await the spring. It was nearly time to rest. But not just yet.

He came to the first child, asleep over her picture book. He plucked her gently from the rug. She was a little thing, still a baby no matter how many times she insisted that she was a big girl. He laid her in her crib, day clothes and all, and tucked a blanket around her.

Then to the kitchen, where a much bigger boy, to big to carry, was resting his head on the table. The father lifted him up under the arms and guided him to the first of two beds in the back room. Then he went back for the boy's younger brother, who was curled up in front of the dying embers in the fireplace, and brought him to the second bed. He carefully bundled them up beneath the quilts, knowing from the howling wind that the night would be a cold one.  

Finally, a girl and her sister, who was nearly old enough to call herself a woman, were reclaimed from sewing room and settled deep down in their soft bed of goose-feather tick. Then it was time for the father and the mother to turn out the lights, one by one, and make their way through the dark to their own perfect bed, where they could be burried together beneath the blankets to wait out the wind and the cold of the storm.

The wind howled. Rain began hammering the roof and walls. Thunder rumbled in the distance. The house was dark and warm and still, reaping its rest after so many weeks of labor. The harvest was at last complete.


I want to clarify my request from last time. Please comment if you want to . I have no way of seeing who reads this unless you do. What I meant by my note was that you needn't feel obligated to comment simply because you read my blog. But if you feel you want to say something, please do it (whether you're from Scribblings or not). And if not, then think nothing of it. Thanks for all your support, and for reading all these little bits of my every day. I hope they are worth your while.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Green Jell-o and Funeral Potatoes

I went to the memorial service for my great grandfather yesterday. The occasion was a solemn one, but not many tears were shed. His official funeral had been in California - his state of residence - the week before, and most everyone who attended the service had shed their tears then. I sang that day, a song specially requested by my great grandmother. "Oh, My Papa," - come to find out it was sung at her own father's funeral. I was honored to be asked to sing it for her husband.

There were two miracles that happened on that hot Utah afternoon. The first was a pre-existing one - the miracle of knowing what we know. I know that Grandpa is now content and free from pain, and that we will someday see him again. That knowledge is more precious and more comforting than anything else in this world.

The second miracle was performed by the relief society sisters. As is generally the custom among LDS wards, the relief society at the ward building we attended provided a luncheon for the family members. We were all complete strangers to these women. Grandpa was being buried in Grandma's hometown, where she and her parents and grandparents had lived - but none of the people in attendance (including Grandma) live there anymore. Few of us had even visited the place in years. And yet these saintly sisters went to great trouble and effort to provide a meal for us. If that isn't service and Christian charity at its finest, I don't know what is.

You can talk about the "mormon quirks" from now until the cows come home. The priesthood brethren coming for the food and staying to take down chairs... enormous food storage jokes... relief society hand-outs... quilt tying... return missionary stories... or, the best of the lot, green jell-o and funeral potatoes. But I can say without a doubt that there is no form of sustinence on this planet (short of the sacrament) that is more satisfying or more comforting than green jell-o and funeral potatoes. To go from weeping over the empty shell of a loved one, to laughing with friends and family over a hot meal... that is a magical transformation if I ever saw one.

So many thanks to the Axtell Relief Society sisters - you are magic in its purest form.

'Til next we meet, dear readers...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Guardian Angels

I have just witnessed a terrifying thing. So please excuse any misprints or type-os today - I am still a little shaken.

I was sitting in the foyer of one of my class buildings a moment ago, doing homework. I was deeply immersed in my missionary discussion outline when a voice startled me into reality - a young woman commanding someone else to "Call 911!" She was kneeling beside another young woman, who was lying on the ground, motionless. My first impulse was to run around like a chicken with its head cut off until I found someone from campus medical personell. This I did not do, of course, though almost every internal instinct I possessed was telling me to. Instead I kept still and stood by, just in case another pair of hands was needed. But for the most part, I knew that the most productive thing I could do was to keep out of the way.

The people who had first seen the unconscious girl collapsed were gathered around her, and from what I could gather from their conversation the situation was thus: she was breathing and had a steady pulse, but her jaw was clenched shut. Nobody knew who she was, though one member of the group had found a cellphone on the girl's person and was trying to contact her parents. She was wearing some sort of moniter, maybe for heart rate or bloodsugar, that was beeping inscessantly but not giving any clear reading. Only one or two people touched her, calling her name and cheking her pulse - everyone else kept hands off.

A few minutes later the campus medical personell arrived and took over. They ran vitals, talked with the parents on the girl's cell, and moved her onto a stretcher. Just as they were about to strap her down, her pulse stopped. Immediately one of the medical officers began CPR, his hands pressing her chest over and over, trying to put a beat into her heart. "One! Two! Three! Four....," he counted aloud and he pushed.  "Twenty-seven, twenty-eight, twenty-nine, thirty!" Check for a pulse... still nothing... begin again. "One! Two! Three! Four!" The whole room held its breath.

The city EMTs got on the scene less than a minute later and told everyone to vacate the area. I had felt totally powerless all the while - I'd been praying like crazy just to feel as though I were doing something helpful - and so having a command to follow was a relief. I packed up my things as quickly as possible and headed out the door. I lingered a moment, giving one last look at the scene behind. Then I heared four words announced - the four most beautiful words that could possible have fallen upon my ears: "She's got a pulse!" I heaved a sigh of relief that was almost a sob. The girl was still alive. She taken away to an ambulance just after I left, and hopefully will be alright.

The bottom line is this. I've discovered something though this experience. Those young men and women I watched in action today stayed calm and in perfect control in the face of a fatality, and with their training performed a miracle. A heart had stopped beating... and they brought it to life again. Who can describe such an act as anything less?

Guardian angels don't wear white - they wear EMT uniforms. And lab coats, and nurse's scrubs, and surgeons masks. Their deft fingers and unsurpassed knowledge are the instruments of salvation. I know this for a fact - my own life was saved by a genius of a man who had worked hard to gain the knowledge and skill necessary to operate on a heart the size of a golf ball. I was ten days old at the time, and I have not met with Doctor Hawks since. But I hope that one day I will be able to thank him personally for every new day I live to see. That is my challenge for you today, readers - take some time to do whatever you can to express gratitude for the medical personell in your life = those who have kept you living, breathing, healthy, and happy. We can never thank them enough for the miracles they perform every day. They all are truely guardian angels on earth.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Everlasting Things

Usually I talk about simplicity and magic. Today, I have something of a more important nature to share. I have talked all this time about blessings in this world, but there is a very important one that I have neglected to count.

It is this: What an inconceivable blessing it is to have a prophet and apostles on the earth, and to have the ability to hear their words! It is a blessing that we live in a nation that has progressed so far in technology as to enable us to listen to what they have to say wherever we are on earth. And it is a blessing to know that we, the imhabitants of that earth, are God's children, and that he has been thinking of us. He wants us to be as succesful as we can be in this life, and so he give us though his prophets words of wisdom, comfort, and warning to help us on our way.

Last week, my great grandfather passed away. Despite the sadness of the occasion, I did not cry when I found out, and I probably won't at his funeral service (not much, anyway). Do not mistake me - it is not because I am in anyway cold or heartless. I have not mourned his loss for three reasons: the first, because he lived in California, and I did not see him often or know him intimately. I did, however see him frequently enough to know what manner of man he was, and to enjoy my visits to his home. The second, because he has been ill for many months, and all of us knew that his time had come. But thirdly and most importantly, I did not cry because I have been blessed with great knowledge. I know without a shadow of a doubt that his spirit lives on, and that one day I will have to opportunity to see him again and come to know him better.

Today I was able to witness a beautiful occasion - the blessing of a new baby. The child, my newborn cousin Grady, was blessed by his father in their ward church building. In my mind there is no more moving or more powerful sight than that of a circle of worthy priesthood holders taking an infant in their arms and invoking the blessings of heaven upon him. I have been blessed to have this power in my life. Any time that I or one of my siblings was ill, even if it were two in the morning my father would don a white shirt and tie and come to our bedside to minister to his fevered child.

I have been blessed in so many ways - with loving family, a good education, dear friends, food and shelter, and good health. But the greatest blessings of all are the everlasting things, the truths I have come to know that will never end. Eternal families, the atonement, the priesthood, the restored gospel - all these are things that will stand to the last, even when the world itself crumbles at my feet. This I know for myself, and I cannot deny it.

For any of you who are reading this from Sunday Scribblings, I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The words I have written today are no less than my testimony, and so I close in the name of our savior and redeemer, Jesus Christ.

May God bless and keep you all - 'til we meet again.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Dry Clothes.

Everybody's heard of a cloudburst. Most of you have seen one, no doubt. And I'll bet some of you have been caught in the middle of one. Well, the other day, we here in Utah county got hit with something that was more of a cloud explosion. Gallons and gallons of rain pouring onto BYU campus... and guess who had to walk through all of it?

I was studying at one building and had to get to another for class - in ten minutes or less. That's the long and short of the matter. So I walked (not ran - walked) through the rain to the Fine Arts building - and at a fairly slow pace, thanks to the mountian of textbooks I was packing along in my shoulder back. The rain kept coming - if anything, it poured all the harder - and as an added bonus, BYU has a very poor drainage system on the brick paths, which results in puddles a foot deep. And so, between one thing and another, I arrived at my theatre classroom positively soaked. Dripping on the carpet. With Lake Superior hanging out in my shoes. And mermaid hair - bad mermaid hair. When I walked in the door of the Fine Arts building, a girl who was preparing to go out took one look at me, and froze. As I passed, I heard her mumble something like, "Oh my gosh..."

Fortunately, I wasn't the only one who came to theatre looking like that. But by the time I had sat around in my sopping jeans for an hour and ridden my bike home through a frigid wind... the fact that other theatre students showed up in dripping t-shirts was doing little to console my mood. I locked up my bike, went up to my apartment, peeled off my wet things and threw on a dry pair of sweats...

The effect was instantaneous. Goosebumps receeded, muscles relaxed, breathing slowed... it was comfort in its purest form. My whole outlook on the day was turned around in the space of ten seconds. Add a hot meal, a glass of milk, and an oreo... Magic? I should say so. You don't have to wave a wand to make contentment appear out of thin air. All it takes is dry clothes.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sunday Scribblings #235 - Flashback

I have joined up with Sunday Scribblings, a group of writers who write based on a prompt every week. So here I am, scribbling on Sunday! Make of this little piece what you will.


The old woman sat by the window, trying in vain to feel the touch of a breeze. This afternoon was hotter than yesterday - perhaps the hottest this year. The sun seemed to stifle every spark of energy beneath its gaze, and the wind had given up weeks ago in its attempt to give solace to the fevered village.

The woman shifted in her seat, but the change was of little use. Her arthritic joints groaned in protest at the slightest provocation, buckling against her efforts to make herself more comfortable.

Her sewing lay abandoned on the table in the decrepit kitchen. The needles were still clinging to the same muffler she had been working on since last year. She had given it up a long time ago. Her fingers were no longer nimble enough for such delicate work, and her eyes too far gone. She could hardly make out even the door of the next house anymore. The village doctor had encouraged her to do as little reading and sewing as she could, so to preserve her remaining vision - but it was not his advice that had finally caused the muffler's neglect. She was simply tired of miscounting stitches in the embroidery.

Tired... the word was appropriate. She was tired. Tired of the heat, tired of her blind eyes, tired of being in pain... tired of being alone, day in and day out, every week, every month, every passing year...

Through the curtains, a sound reached her from the dusty street outside - for though her eyes were failing, her ears were still plenty sharp. It was a sweet sound... not at all unpleasant... someone playing some sort of flute outside. It was a dancing tune, very light and easy... and so familiar...

And suddenly it was night. The moon and stars shone bright and clear over the moors, and the air was crisp and cool. Laterns lit a circle of people on a gentle hilltop, from whence floated the sound of happy laughter and racing music. She stood among them, dressed her simple finest, the blush of the virgin yet glowing in her cheeks, her hair hanging unhindered down her back. A young man approached - ruddy faced and handsome as a stallion. He offered his hand, smiling a smile brighter than the stars above. She laughed sweetly and placed her hand in his own.

And they were off. The flute and fiddle never ceased, rushing through the notes like a waterfall rushes over a cliff. The two dancers' beating hearts and tapping feet kept time as they flew across the dancing green, his hand firmly on her back, her hand grasping his shoulder. Each held as tight as though their partner was the only thing keeping them anchored to the earth, their eyes never wandering from the other's perfect face. They whirled around and around, skipping and leaping, singing and laughing, never pausing to rest until the musicians finally retired for the night. Without anyone to provide music, the crowd of revelers was forced to return to their own homes as well. But even then, the blushing virgin and the handsome youth did not part, but walked back to the village hand in hand, whispering of many things which only the moors and the moon could hear.

The music outside the window had stopped, but the old woman did not stir. She reposed in her chair, her eyes closed. The sun continued to beat upon the street, and the dust still rose from the cobblestones. But to her... to her the moon was shining, and the night wind was gently blowing, and she was without pain, dancing across the green...

Anyone looking upon her in that moment would have seen once again the rose of youth in her cheeks, and the smile of a lover gracing on her face. And any who saw her would have wondered that anyone in so ancient a form, and bearing so weary a soul, could have looked so undeniably... free.  

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Constant Things

In the book of Fairy Tales I am reading, there is a story about an obnoxious little chicken who thinks the Sky is falling. For any unfamiliar with the tale, the chicken's cries alert all his neighbors in the near vicinity and soon chaos reigns because everyone thinks the sky is going to fall.

I had a long night yesterday. After a long day of study, my cousin and I went for a girls' evening together. We went and got something to eat, tried some sumptuous frozen yogurt, talked to my other cousin, and then finally went to a movie at about 10:00 at night. It was excessively violent (though not immoral, thank heaven), but had a very exciting plot line. But that's not the point - this is not a movie review website (usually). Anyway, we got back to my apartment a little after midnight, where my roommates where hanging up some decor they had found earlier - a task with which we gladly assisted. Between one thing and another we didn't get to bed until nearly 2 in the morning (well past my bedtime, I assure you).

I woke up at 8 this morning wtih mixed emotions, very few of them positive. Dead tired... frustrated with home improvements... guilty about not eating very healthily yesterday... disappointed that my cousin had to leave earlier than expected...

I rolled onto my back and looked out the window. There was the morning sky, clear and bright and blue, and at the sight I was instantly comforted. I noticed that the horizon was still pink, and so, much to the surprise of my cousin and roommate, I snatched up my slippers and robe and sprinted out into the crisp morning air. I stayed there for some time, breathing in the bracing chill of the morning, watching the sun manifest itself in the sky before its true entrance. The sky had turned a light cerulean, and all the mountins and the clouds around them were tinted pink. A pool of golden sunlight was visible a few miles off, making its way slowly  but surely toward my apartment complex, which was still cloaked in shadow. The sun was begining to break away from the eastern cliffs when I finally went inside.

The heavens have always been a fascination for mankind. The greeks put their ample imaginations to work and filled the nighttime sky with heros. The pirates and explorers of antiquity used the sky as their guide, to bring them safely across the sea. I cannot say to the point what allure the sky holds for me - it's not any one aspect. I love that it looks beautiful in whatever it's wearing - be it billows of storm-gray clouds, constellation-strewn black, pink and gold dawn, orange and red twilight, or even perfect summer blue. And I love that as much as the sky changes, in its way it is always the same - always there, ready for the world to look upon it in all its splendor.

This morning taught me somthing. While you may think that your whole world is crumbling, that everything is falling apart, all you have to do is look around to discover that the exact opposite is true. Even if you have bombed a test, or forgotten a rent payment, or dented your car - whatever it be - the world does not cease in its turning. The sky is not falling. It's still there, still beautiful, despite your life's insantiy. I think that is why I found the heavens so comforting this morning. It is one of those constant things, the things that will not change. Things like the sun rising in the east, or the peaks of the mountains, or the push and pull of the ocean, or whisper of the wind.

And you  may believe what you will, but I know that our Heavenly Father is one of the constant things, too. He is like the sky - always there, always watching, always waiting for the children of men to look up and see his grace and mercy. And like the heavens above, he will never fall.