24 May 2011


I’ve been meaning to write about how the degree of control I feel over my life is directly correlated with how regularly I floss.  Maybe I still will.  But for now it may seem a little less pathetic, and equally accurate, to substitute the word “run” for “floss.”  I’m kind of a black sheep in a family with a pretty strong running culture; I have trouble getting into it.  Even though its positive effect on me is immediately palpable.  I mean I presume, and fervently hope, it’s reaming out my arteries of all the saturated fat and cholesterol I put into them.  And it’s definitely doing the same thing with my brain. (What’s the cerebral equivalent of cholesterol? TV? Melancholy?)  As can be attested by the disproportionate number of my blog posts that mention me running, it clears my mind and gets me in a healthy, meditative, writey mood.  It is wasabi to the nasal cavity of my life.

Clarification: I’m talking fifteen, maybe twenty minutes.  I don’t even want to tell you how many miles that means.  The intrinsic reward of running for its own sake is a level of sanctification I haven’t attained, so I look for other little things to motivate me.  And it’s been easy lately because every day I wake up to this ridiculous lush dewy marvel of a rainy world.  The air is wet.  When is the last time you felt like this in Utah? 

Folks, the world is transformed.  It’s been, what, two or three weeks of really consistently rainy weather, and a lot of people are sick of the rain.  I’m not.  These wise, mischeivous, persistent clouds are a direct and forceful challenge to the notion, foisted on us by advertisers and publicists, that the ideal life is one in which the sun is always shining on everyone’s blond hair and shiny cars.  Which I abhor.  (Also it sticks in my craw that this life gets marketed as California, which ignores that the most beautiful part of California is its rocky central coast on a windy, overcast day.)

This morning I took off through the hills.  As I think I have mentioned before, I love the hills and I happen to live right next to them, so I ran down the street to where I could just wander and explore the hills.  It wasn’t raining, but the grass was holding so much water that my shoes were soaked within seconds; I might as well have been wading a stream.  I keep on expecting the weather to dry up, the rains to get bored and seek more receptive climes.  But they keep on, insistent and imperturbable as God’s grace.  This rainy spring will end, and pass into myth, and be forgotten.  But it’ll happen again, and the world is breathtaking.  It breathtakes.

14 May 2011


I love the hills, and I am drawn to them like a salmon to wherever it is they're all going in such a hurry.  I have this consistent urge -- I think it's inborn -- to climb on them.  The hills, not the salmon.  I don't think what I have is the same as the mountaineer's itch: I'm not that attracted to mountains.  I mean I love them; I stand in awe of them as godlike matriarchal creatures of unthinkable wisdom and beauty.  But that very air of incomprehensible ampleness, of perfection by sheer volume, gives them a certain distance.  Especially the tops of them, which seem very far away, and tricky, and rocky.  Maybe my relative reluctance to mountaineer is a product of my short attention span, I'm willing to concede that likelihood.  And I've bagged a few peaks in my day; not many, but I like a long hike to the top of a reasonably tall mountain once in a while.  I wouldn't call it an insatiable drive of mine.  Duncan's dad is a mountain climber.  I'm not, at least not yet.

Nor am I much of a rock climber.  Wussy forearms.

For me it's hills; on them I clamber.  They're just so accessible, or at least they seem to be.  They usually take longer to scale than I expect, which I think is a part of their charm.  Maybe the biggest hill I've climbed is Big Baldy, that mass jutting out to the southwest of Timpanogos near Lindon, looking like the knee the mountain would would rest its banjo on if it played one.  That hike took 4 hours or more, longer than Squaw Peak.  But I still classify it as a hill because it gets so dwarfed by the massive lady behind it.  Illusion or no, there was a long time when anytime I'd look up at it, I'd think, "It's just right there.  I could just walk up it."  Which I eventually did last summer with some friends and it was a very rewarding experience.  I recommend it.  Near the top you get to this big green meadow where we played a kind of rock baseball Nate made up.  

That's the thing though, or at least part of the thing: they're just right there.  They're so inviting, nonthreatening, accepting.  Overlooked, even, living in the shadow of these ponderous majesties.  Every time I drive up the canyon, at the point where the buildings finally get out of the way and I can look at Timpanogos from head to toe -- they have lately been green like Wales -- I want to get up onto those low rolling foothills and just gambol around like a big gazelle on the moon or something, bounding from one to the next.  Maybe I was Welsh in a former life.  Consonants consonant consonant consonant consonant.

The backyard of my Grandma's cabin in the south fork of Provo Canyon is a steep hillside, and I recently realized that I've never climbed it.  One weekend last month I was staying up there with Nate and Clark and Duncan, and on Saturday morning I got up early to climb.  I mean it's a steep hill, and thickly wooded, matted, I should say, with small trees, so it was hard to tell how near I was to the top.  I had to bushwhack since there was no path, and there were still big patches of deep snow.  It only took me about an hour to get to where I was headed, but it gave me a disproportionate sense of accomplishment.  And it is gorgeous to see South Fork from the top.  At the top of the ridge I found some deer antlers from a five-point buck.  I saw that what had seemed like the top of the hill wasn't really the top of the hill at all, but just a kind of level ridge that sloped up to the north.  This is one of the hazards and joys of hiking in the foothills: summits are relative, fleeting, and ever-receding.  The perspective from each one is different.  I decided to leave the next hill for another day and circled around to come down the dry gully southward (which, weeks later, gushed with spring runoff so that we had to scramble to deepen the streambed and throw up a laughably inadequate levee of cinderblocks to try and keep the ad hoc stream within its banks).  Incidentally at that very moment back at the cabin Clark and Duncan were trying to coax a live raven out of the wood-burning stove.  There are a lot of stories involving the cabin.

Last night I went out to my car to get something, but a warm midnight wind was blowing and instead I walked down the street to where a path between the houses leads up to a swath of bare hillside -- this is one of the many perks of living in the Tree Streets.  It's remarkable how much more you can see with just a five-minute walk upward.  I looked out at the whole valley, with the lake and the mountain luminescing in the moon's supernatural light.  Halfway up the hill was a big square rock, taller than me, looking for all the world like an altar.  I stood on it and glorified God.

10 May 2011

I read slow.

I do.  I’ve been trying to decide how urgent I should feel about remedying this.  For now I’m letting my decision be constrained by the fact that I hardly have any time to read at all, much less learn how to read fast.  Maybe the logic on that is backwards.  Maybe necessity is the mother of invention and I’ll start reading fast as soon as I want to read as bad as you wanted air that time when I plunged your head unexpectedly into the Mediterranean and held it there until you went blue, young grasshopper.

But there are perks to reading slow.  I’m thinking of this because I’m ruminating (a welcome byproduct of slow reading; some books, I feel, need to suffuse the pot roast in my mind over a long time.  To marinate my brain to tender, succulent perfection.  For the zombies.) on how long it’s taking me to read the book I’m in, which is fine because I’ll be a little sorry when I finish it.  I will read it again sometime, but there is magic in first discovery.  It’s a collection of essays - Leaping - by Brian Doyle.  Max got me into Brian Doyle, and Pat Madden got him into him, and I tried to get my friend’s mother into him but she was unimpressed; she said she’s already read these ideas before, at this point in her life she needs to read something new.  She mainly seems to like books about divorce and infidelity and homosexuality.  Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with that.

And maybe when I’m her age I will also be bored by the wide-eyed, full-throated abundant roar of vitality that is Brian Doyle’s Catholic prose, but I sure hope not.  I hope will never get tired of hearing that basic and simple refrain God is good, day after day, raucous loud and ardent soft, through the voices of ten thousand of His flawed and gorgeous kids.  That flawless and gorgeous one, too.