Sunday, April 04, 2010

Breaking the Silence

Having the discipline not to look at Blogger for a month doesn't necesarily translate into the discipline to spend a good chunk of each day in meditation, involved in worthwhile projects or focused on self-improvement.

Does it sound like I was hoping for a miracle? Well . . . maybe I was.

Still, March was productive, though I can hardly believe that five weeks has flown by. Since writing last, we spent a weekend in Sunriver, enjoyed a visit from my mother, and spent five days in the Redwoods. I also read and/or finished five books in that time, critiqued a writing project for a friend and committed to look at two other manuscripts. I wrote a long essay-style letter to a former student on the subject of evolution. I added twenty or thirty pages to my current writing project. I worked on a couple of shorter essays for blogs other than mine. I went to the temple and studied my scriptures somewhat regularly. I unwittingly started a Facebook brouhaha when I made a (very) innocent comment about health care. It was innocent, I swear.

Hm . . . it sounds pretty good when I lay it all out like that. I won't give you the list of things that didn't happen, of course. I want to leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy about me since we haven't chatted in a while.

Since writing last, I've had two fairly significant moments of insight. In my faith-tradition, I would even call these epiphanies revelation. Personal revelation. The first is too close to my heart, too personal to share in this format. The second I think might have a more universal application, however, and might be of value to somebody else, so I will share it here.

I was reading a book called "The Undaunted." For those of you who read Gerald Lund's "The Work and the Glory," this book is pretty much along those lines, though without the delightful characterization of Joseph Smith to help hold together the narrative. The love story (Lund always employs this device) is beyond-awful cheesy--which pits two sisters against one another as they fall in love with the same perfectly delightful leading man who falls in love with each of them, in turn, thankfully. The book is NOT about polygamy, though it is written at a time period in Church history that it could have been. The sisters are, of course, perfectly delighted for one another, because nobody gets to misbehave in Lund's delightful books for more than a few minutes.

Did I over-use the word delightful? I'm sorry. It comes from reading too much Lund who wins the award for using some variation on the word on nearly every. single. page. of the whole book. It became so distracting about half way through that I seriously considered taking tally marks. His editor should have delightfully used his red pen a little more often.

But I digress, and apologize for the spoilers. Hm . . . I guess I should have done so ahead of time. Straight on to the point then! The story is about a group of second generation Utahns who were asked to form a colony in the Four Corners area. The population of that desolate part of the country is not a lot larger now than it was then. Perhaps the most remarkable part of the story is that these saints who answered the call had not all been pioneers, or they had been very small children when their families crossed the plains. They were living a relatively urban existence when they sold off everything, loaded wagons and struck out into the wilderness.

The two daughters in the story--aged 18 and 20 have different feelings about being on the journey, and these attitudes are thrown into sharp relief as the trek continues. The younger (blonder and prettier and more charming, shocker) never really likes it. She follows her family out of duty but grumbles frequently and has little patience. The older (you guessed it--brunette, smarter, plainer and easier to talk to) sees her duty as being to the Lord, and follows with patience and determination. Stay with me; my point wasn't just to bag on Mr. Lund's mediocre writing.

The younger sister is complaining to the older about one very difficult spot on their journey, where they'd had to wait weeks longer than expected to move on from where they were camped because of nearly insurmountable obstacles. Obstacles, some critics have argued, that should have remained insurmountable and the mission scrapped. The younger sister basically says, "I'm so tired of all the waiting! I just want to get to where we are going so that we can get on with our lives!"

The older sister says, with infinite patience, "Maybe this IS our life."

This simple interchange has stayed with me all month, and will probably stay with me until long after the more unpalatable aspects of the book fade. As I look a my life now, its holding pattern of days repeating with little change from week to week--three meals a day plus two snacks at set times, diaper changes, consistent tantrum controls, prayers, baths, scriptures like clockwork every night at the same time, Goodnight Moon so many times I can recite it in my sleep . . . you get my gist. Perhaps this is descriptive of your life too? Too often I look at this mundane routine and say (usually to myself), "Enough already! I just want to get on with my life!"

But I need to listen to that older sister's message. What exactly do I mean by getting on with m life? This is my life. Now. How much time is wasted in waiting for the next big thing? In searching for what the next big thing even entails? How do I balance what I want for myself in the future with being content in the here and now. Please don't misunderstand. My priority is to my children and our family. If it wasn't, I doubt very much I could stay home with my dear little brood, but I see other things for myself too. I'm tired of having days where I sigh with frustration over the routine and wonder when my life will start.

I guess it comes back to choices. I chose exactly what I'm doing right now, and it is futile to think of alternative paths. It is time for just putting my hand to the plow and getting to work. It is time for a change of heart.

Here is a glimpse of my life, now. Delightful.

At Sunriver. Our "winter" vacation with spring-like weather. We did manage to drive up the pass and find a great place to sled one day. Mommy didn't even think about how she'd rather be skiing. . . at least not more than a few times.

When Grandma visited, we went a few miles down the road to the "Covered Bridge Capital" of Oregon. It took some doing to follow the terrible map put out by the Chamber of Commerce, but we managed in the end. While cruising around, we called my sister to tel her that we wished she was with us. She asked us if we found an old National Geographic reporter and a housewife committing adultery under one of the bridges. Uh. No.

With Grandma after a long, beautifully warm afternoon at the Portland Zoo. If you looked behind our photographer, you would have seen a few sleepy animals and fully HALF of the people in the state of Oregon at the zoo with us. Note to self: the first day of spring break and 78 degrees is the most crowded possible day that zoo.

My little flannel boys as we road trip to the Redwoods. The three-year old calls this his "man shirt."

If you ever want to go to the Oregon caves, I highly recommend it. As long as everyone in your party is 46 inches tall and can get through the cave on their own power. You don't need a measuring tape to know that we didn't qualify. This picture at the cave entrance is the closest we got to spelunking for Spring Break. Still we had driven nearly 45 minutes out of the way on a very windy road and decided to at least get out and look around at the cool old lodge. While we were getting snowed on, Jedi Knight said, "This isn't exactly what I expected Spring Break to be like." I heard the same phrase more than once that weekend. It wasn't exactly what I expected either, but it was still really great.

When did Jedi Knight start to look so grown up?

Padawan is eating dirt. Nobody knows why.

At the Smith River in Jedidiah Smith State Park. The biggest tree I'd ever seen in my life was right in our campsite, but it was no where near the biggest tree we ended up seeing. Please nobody tell my little boys that princesses don't wear bandannas instead of crowns. They seem to adore me just the way I am.

Are your kids, like mine, concerned that looking at the camera will steal their soul?

That is one big tree.

It is hard to tell, but we are posing by the roots of a giant redwood that has fallen over. I was fascinated and enthralled with the descriptions of this unique ecosystem--America's cold rainforest. We made the mistake of pointing out to the kids that the Star Wars Endor segments (Episode VI) were filmed in the Redwoods. Any peace or awe they might have been feeling flew right out the window as their imaginations took over. They've been pretending to be Ewoks ever since we got off, fighting over the single dollar store bow and arrow set here at the house.

Our second full day in California was rainy, windy and wet. Taking down camp was a bit of a soggy job, but we managed. Instead of spending the day at the beach and park near our hotel as we had hoped, we roadtripped down Highway 101, seeing the other state parks, taking a short hike when the weather broke for a little while, and riding the Paul Bunyan tram up into the tops of the trees. We did stop at the beach for a little while. Its wildness was startling and awesome. I've never seen it like that before. Jedi Knight, Mom and dad took turns running down to let the waves "get" us. The little ones weren't quite so enamored with the cold.

Yeah. I could climb it.

There's no charge for awesomeness.

This is the view from our hotel room.

Or should have been. Imagine less green--it is earlier in the season. Now imagine a gray sky, and rain that is coming at you sideways because the wind is blowing so hard. Oh, also, is high tide so the path people are walking on is completely inundated. That whole rocky segment in the middle is underwater actually. Still, I was undaunted and I came to see a lighthouse. I covered myself head to foot in Plantboy's raingear and braved the storm. The signs said that the working lighthouse was closed to tourists before May, though the island itself is open year-round. I waited for the waves to recede slightly at made a break for it across the thin bridge of sand. Or tried to. Making a break for it in soft wet sand, is a bit like running in a dream. Or a Scooby Do cartoon. I was nearly across when the waves came in unexpectedly and fell to one knee, catching myself with my hands. I was then wet to the waist, so why bother turning back? One more big push when the waves went out and I was up to the island. I walked around a bit, my imagination running almost as wild as the weather. I waved toward the hotel room--but I could hardly see that far, and I could barely keep my feet under me because of the wind. Deciding it was foolish to stay up there any longer (because it wasn't foolish to go in the first place, right?) and wet to the skin. I made my way back across the jetty and crossed the piles of soft redwood drifted onto the beach and clambered across granite stones. I returned to our hotel room somewhat worse for the wear, though I'd been gone less than half an hour. The boys were fully engrossed in PBS' Dinosaur Train. "Did you see me wave?" I had to ask three times before I got the answer. No. They did not. I suppose that adventure without glory is still adventure. Hmm . . . I'll have to think about that.


Jenny said...

YOUR life is good.
And all of that was SO much better than blogging~
welcome back.

Yankee Girl said...

Love the pictures and the thoughts. Glad you are back!

Dickey said...

Beautiful pictures. I enjoy "watching" your boys grow up. Too cute for words.

chris w said...

Sounds like you got a lot of good "living in the now" done on your sabbatical. ;)

Those pictures are great and your boys are the cutest. I have a feeling your boys will only be attracted to princesses who wear bandanas - or at least are willing to brave a windy jetty with quicksand to see something beautiful. They've seen princess Leah enough times to know that real princesses kick butt. :)

emandtrev said...

What a great post. I'm so glad you're back to blogging!

Cathy said...

Not to be daunted, perhaps? The double negative cancels out what you meant to say.

I envy you. I miss the coast so much. I'm also glad you're alive because I got a cold shiver reading about your trip out to the lighthouse. Made me think of a terror-filled moment on the end of a the fog...with water splashing and swirling around me.I was happy to get nothing more than some extra wetness from my rogue wave experience. Seriously, don't underestimate the ocean. The size of preceding waves is not always a good gauge of what comes next.

I have somewhere a quote from a pioneer journal that was shared in a talk in the MTC. The situation: in the middle of great struggle, a convert receives an invitation from her parents to come home to comfort, no questions asked. Her response (paraphrased) "I have no intent, nor has Nathan either, of going back. No man having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the work. Before we made our choice, we counted the cost." It's so much better in the original but I haven't read it for a few years.

I spent the middle part of Easter crying because of motherhood struggles. My kids are 2, 3, and 5. I've dealt with postpartum depression. I still deal with intense anger and impatience that make me feel like I've lost myself, lost the person who knew how to be joyful and write poetry. I didn't know that motherhood would be like this but I did know it would be hard. I'm keeping my hand on the plow and hope to recover some joy along the way. I empathize with the feeling of needing to stop waiting for a change, to just accept the conditions of now and do my best to live joyfully. Good luck, Nan and others.

calmrapids said...

Great pictures. I hope you enjoyed your break from the blogging world. :)Good to see you back although I will admit every time I see a pic of you with long hair I have to look twice!

p.s. I don't think you would have known the people who passed away in our ward. They both moved in within the past 3 or 4 years.

Janssen said...

Glad to see you back! I love that concept of "this is our life." I know my personality is the kind to want to "get on with it."

仁南 said...

how do u do?................................................................

Kimberly Bluestocking said...

Welcome back. :)

I feel like I've spent most of my life waiting for the next thing (college, graduation, marriage, kids, kindergarten . . .), and failing to really savor the present.

I don't want to make the same mistake now (kids grow up so fast), but after yet another day of feeding, changing, errands, etc., I rarely even feel satisfied--just worn out. I'm sure there's plenty of joy to be found in this stage of life, but I'm not sure where or how to look for it.

I wonder what kind of mom Princess Leia would have been. :)

heidikins said...

For reasons I am entirely unsure of, I am sobbing right now.

And it's not because I have an intense crush on the Redwoods--although that is true, and the vacation pics look lovely.

It was definitely the first part. I have no words. Thank you.


Debbie Barr said...

I feel much the same way right now. I'll be graduating in a year, and it probably won't be too long after that I'll be starting a family. And on top of that I'm still writing and working towards becoming published. And with all these things I'm not really paying attention to the now. This part of my life is so relatively short, and I need to savor it. Thanks for the good reminder, and we're all happy to have you back. :)