Thankful Thursday 8 – Song of Myself

Grasses_in_the_Valles_Caldera_2014-06-26

Picture from wikipedia. ‘Cause that’s where I find everything.

I was reading Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” today. When I studied Whitman a little bit in high school and undergrad I remember not liking him. I don’t have any good reasons for that (at least not any that I remember), but a distaste for his work has stuck with me. Regardless, I was looking for a quote that I remembered, (which might appear in another post if I get it edited to my liking) and I found that it was from this poem.

The work isn’t something that I’d give to a kid, since it gets a little erotic in places, but I found the piece incredibly moving.

His meditation on grass in section six (I put the text at the bottom of this post) was particularly striking, perhaps because mortality is something I think about a lot these days. I love all the meanings he ascribes to something so simple: a remembrance of the creator, a symbol of the basic equality of all people, or the words of the dead communicating with us.

The whole tone of the poem is so hopeful. It embraces the potential and the nobility of humanity, and I’m always a sucker for stuff like that. It’s worth taking some time to read it. I found the whole thing online here.

Today I’m grateful that I could steal a few moments to think and reflect about my life, and I’m grateful for Whitman’s inspired and inspiring words.

6

A child said, What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands;

How could I answer the child? . . . . I do not know what it is any more than he.

I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green stuff woven.

Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropped,
Bearing the owner’s name someway in the corners, that we may see and remark, and say Whose?

Or I guess the grass is itself a child . . . . the produced babe of the vegetation.

Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic,
And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow zones,
Growing among black folks as among white,
Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the same, I receive them the same.

And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.

Tenderly will I use you curling grass,
It may be you transpire from the breasts of young men,
It may be if I had known them I would have loved them;
It may be you are from old people and from women, and from offspring taken soon out of their mothers’ laps,
And here you are the mothers’ laps.

This grass is very dark to be from the white heads of old mothers,
Darker than the colorless beards of old men,
Dark to come from under the faint red roofs of mouths.

O I perceive after all so many uttering tongues!
And I perceive they do not come from the roofs of mouths
for nothing.

I wish I could translate the hints about the dead young men and women,
And the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring taken soon out of their laps.

What do you think has become of the young and old men?
And what do you think has become of the women and children?

They are alive and well somewhere;
The smallest sprout shows there is really no death,
And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait at the end to arrest it,
And ceased the moment life appeared.

All goes onward and outward . . . . and nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.

Thankful Thursday 7 – MIB


I’ve been slacking off with my posts lately. I think Zed’s describes me missing so many Thursdays in a row well.

A few weeks ago my sister got married to a great guy (congrats again Linda and Jared). It’s always fun to see people get married. There’s an excitement and a sense of potential that can easily get lost as we move through life and get down to the business of actually being married.

I have to confess, I don’t remember much of anything about our wedding day. I don’t really remember what people wore. I don’t remember the ceremony at all. Basically it’s all a giant blur with occasional moments that stick out like snapshots.

As I’ve been reflecting on this for the past few weeks, I’ve been struck by how our wedding day is both completely essential and totally inconsequential. On the one hand, our covenants are eternal and have given Bonnie and me a lot of comfort as we’ve tried to deal with her illness. On the other hand, the actual day of our wedding is totally irrelevant. It could have been any day of the week, any time of the year and it still would have been just as effective. We could have had a tiny reception with just family and close friends or a huge party where the whole city was invited. The thing that really matters is what happened in the temple when we were sealed.

Today I’m grateful for marriage and temples. I’m grateful for Bonnie, and I’m especially grateful for the covenant that we made to each other.

Bonus Picture:

landr

L and R looked awesome in their wedding clothes, which I totally picked out.

Thankful Thursday 5 – Hiking

This is a view of one of the peaks as you start out on the trail.

This is a view of one of the peaks as you start out on the Slate Canyon trail.

I decided to set some goals for myself while I’m in  Utah. I need to have some direction and control, especially when I don’t have much control over other areas of my life at this moment.

One area I need to work on is physical fitness. I’m not in particularly good shape. I’m not hugely obese or anything, but I’ve definitely got a few extra pounds. I can’t run fast. I can’t jump high. I’m a terrrible swimmer. I’ve never done a pull-up…

You get the picture.

On the other hand, I’ve always aspired to the ideal of the Renaissance man. I’m a pretty talented person generally, but if one area in my life is neglected, physical fitness is it.

With that in mind, my physical fitness goal is to hike the summit of Mount Timpanogos. I’ve lived almost my whole life looking up at that mountain, and I’ve never hiked to the top. I’m giving myself a couple months to get into some sort of shape (round is a shape, right?), and I’ve started doing some easier hikes in the area. Last week I hiked Battle Creek with the kids, which is a short, easy hike to a waterfall. This morning I tried hiking Slate Canyon by myself.

I did not make it all the way through the trail (I mis-typed that as trial initially, which is close enough); I don’t even think I made it halfway through the trail. It was steep and I can’t breath at elevation yet. However, I still had a really nice time. How many places have views like this just ten minutes from home?

This is looking out of the valley on the way down.

This is looking out over the valley on the way down the trail..

If I was in better shape I would have been singing or humming, rather than gasping and huffing, but I had two songs going through my head as I did the hike: For the Beauty of the Earth and Wolf’s Fußreise (here’s a translation).

Fun Fact: If you time your steps to fit with the beat of the song you’re imagining, then the song will get slower and slower in your head as you tire out. I was walking to the most dirge-like For the Beauty of the Earth that you can imagine.

The truth is that Utah wilderness is sublime. I’m grateful that I have some time to explore it and see how amazing it is.

Thankful Thursday 2

washing-feet-JesusThis also a Friday edition of Thankful Thursday, but that’s because I spent much of Thursday at the hospital with Bonnie, and then our internet went out in the evening when I was going to write this. Faced with such a daunting obstacle, I gave up and watched “Jeeves and Wooster” with Bonnie. Intent counts for something, right?

This week I am thankful to all of the kind people who have helped us in the last while. On Wednesday a bunch of ladies from the ward showed up and packed up our living room and our whole kitchen. They were amazing and cheerful as they packed up  all our junk (As a side note, if our house burns down while we’re in Utah, it totally wasn’t me).

There has practically been a parade of cheerful and helpful nurses and hospital staff. I don’t even remember all their names, but they’ve all been kind, helpful, and accommodating.

Various family members have sent money or offered to fly out to help us as we drive cross country.

Our contact at the Olcott Cancer Center was originally going to get us some free flights to Utah from Angel Flight, but when she found out that we wanted to drive she contacted a different group (who do not appear to have a website) and got us some gas cards.

Everyone wants to help, and even though things can suck, a little lift is sometimes all you need.

Thankful Thursday 1 (Friday Edition)

IMG_20131127_165956155After yesterday’s downer of a post, I thought I’d do something more positive today.

I used to have a blog where I would try and write something that I was thankful for every day. My history of failures with topical blogs is something I’ll talk about another day, but with this blog I very quickly ran out of original ideas. It’s possible that I’m an ingrate, (I wouldn’t rule that out), but coming up with something insightful or clever or interesting to be thankful for every day just wasn’t in the cards for me. That blog really jumped the shark when I started trying to use things that I was learning about in school as posts. (“I’m thankful for polymers because they make life possible…”)

The truth is that the things that I’m thankful for don’t change all that much day to day. I’m thankful for Bonnie and the kids, I’m thankful for my house, for the country I live in, for my chance to attend IU. I’m thankful for Christ and the gospel and the scriptures. I’m thankful for books and learning, for a naturally curious disposition and for all my great teachers. I’m grateful for a supportive and loving extended family, ward, and community.

Even though a daily gratitude blog isn’t in the cards for me, I think it’s still worthwhile to take some time and express my gratitude for the many, many good things in my life. Therefore this is the first installment of what I will call “Thankful Thursday.” Yes, I know it’s Friday. Stop being so literal. Now, knowing how I am, there will probably not be a gratitude post every Thursday, but I’ll make it a somewhat regular thing.

Probably.