byu, each life that touches ours, literature i love

These parents of mine

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from Pinterest, naturally

Today I sat in my dad’s office and watched my parents exchange business cards.  One of them had just gotten a new one or something, so they swapped and it was really funny but I didn’t have time to Snapchat it.

I tease my parents a lot: “Remember that time I broke my arm and no one believed me?”

Dad: “Yeah, I think we made you go to your siblings’ soccer game.”

Mom: “I know, I know, we’ve scarred you all…”

All joking aside, they’re great parents, and here’s one thing they did really, really well—they encouraged us all to read.

When I was younger we’d go to the local library all the time. I’d write book reports, sometimes for school, sometimes for fun, about stories I read.  In the summers we’d do the reading programs.  For fun, we went to the movies and dinner and the beach, but more than anything we went to Borders.  Night out to dinner? Definitely going to be a Borders trip afterward.

And this is what they did really, really well with encouraging us to read: whenever anyone was in trouble (e.g. sent to their room, grounded) nothing was allowed except reading.  There was no TV, no music, no phone, no hanging out with friends…but reading was totally kosher.  And that, my dear friends, is how one of my brothers ended up reading this random novel my mom had picked up the previous year but no one had touched yet…which is how we all discovered HARRY POTTER and our lives were forever changed for the better.

So last week I took three finals on Monday and first thing Tuesday morning I went to the library to treat myself.  Picked up a foreign film, two classics, and a book. Because that’s fun to me.  And amidst studying for finals, packing to come home, and now being at home, I’ve been switching between Jon Meacham’s book about the friendship between FDR and Churchill, and a biography about Sandra Day O’Connor, and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Now, back in my house, I’m reminded of all of the books I’ve yet to read, just within my own house. I never did finish The American Political Tradition back when I started it as a sixth-grader and learned what “hindsight” meant.  Or Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth.  There are dozens of religious books written by professors I can take classes from at BYU (how cool is that. Three weeks ago I went to a lecture with 300 other people to hear a world-renowned scholar expound on the relationship between understanding the nature of God and understanding the nature of man, and all I could think was, “My mom has books by this guy.”).  And of course, my mother’s nightstand is layered with novels and self-help books and fitness books and all sorts of knowledge.

It took me a long time to realize how good my parents are at fostering a love of learning, but I’m so grateful that they are.

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boys, literature i love

Why I looked away

The weasel was stunned into stillness as he was emerging from beneath an enormous shaggy wild rose bush four feet away. I was stunned into stillness twisted backward on the tree trunk. Our eyes locked, and someone threw away the key.

Our look was as if two lovers, or deadly enemies, met unexpectedly on an overgrown path when each had been thinking of something else: a clearing blow to the gut. It was also a bright blow to the brain, or a sudden beating of brains, with all the charge and intimate grate of rubbed balloons. It emptied our lungs. It felled the forest, moved the fields, and drained the pond; the world dismantled and tumbled into that black hole of eyes. If you and I looked at each other that way, our skulls would split and drop to our shoulders. But we don’t. We keep our skulls.

Annie Dillard, Living Like Weasels

You’ve been looked at like that,

And you’ve looked at like that.

Across a crowded chapel, a beckoned finger

Yes, yes, I mean you.

Through a glass door as you turned around,

a happenstance glance while you waited for something else to start.

He looked so very good, so very well.

(Oops.)

A year later it wasn’t the glance that split your skull:

It was the lack of looking that told you everything.

So without contact but with brutal force your heart is split and so is his, ever so neatly,

There between the pews.

No messy guts.

Just truth, clear and steady as a pulse.

literature i love

The third time we decided we wouldn’t date,

I stood up from the grass with just a single thought in my mind:

“Word I had no one left but God.”

{from Robert Frost’s Bereft}

We could talk about why that came to my mind, but let’s start with why it didn’t: I am not, in fact, alone. I live with my friends.  I go to the temple.  I work.  I talk.  I shop.

But there is a sure feeling that my heart has been halved.  I feel as if I have been assigned to a period of grief.  I can’t say how long it will be.  I just know that I feel so indescribably and so darkly alone.  It’s the kind of alone that makes you sob so hard the temple worker stops in the middle of an ordinance and holds you.  It’s the kind of alone that’s always on the tip of your tongue, your mind (and on much more than the tip of your heart).  It’s always threatening to spill.

I cry.  A lot.

So I think that poem came to mind 1) because I could do to learn to better rely on God.  But 2) because of the title.  I am bereft.

I don’t want to date and I don’t want to make new friends. I don’t want to talk to people I’ve known for years. I don’t want to think about plans beyond tomorrow or the next day after that.  Too many things change, all the time.  I don’t want to make plans.

So please don’t call me. I know I asked our friend to mention my name to you.  But please don’t call me.  Wait a month, wait a year.  Things might be better then. And then we might be better then.  But until then, do not call. Please, please, do not call.

literature i love

HBLL revisited

From Mary Oliver's
From Mary Oliver’s “Blue Horses.”

I forgot my watch there with the books

No, not the time—

I knew it far too well.

But my watch that withstands 5atm of water

(So I learned in the hot tub last night)

Could neither bear down nor bear up against the immensity of beauty

I delighted to comprehend

There at the three-by-three desk.