Monday, October 28, 2019

It Is Enough


From Toni Morrison, "At some point in life, the world's beauty becomes enough. You don't need to photograph, paint or even remember it. It is enough."

It seems like I've written this essay one hundred times-but it keeps being asked to be written.

This morning I went for a walk in the park. Strolling down the lane, birch leaves in their golden costumes commanded my attention. I noticed them departing from their previous attachments dancing wildly to the ground. I knew the leaves had waited all their short organic lives for this one great performance. And I, the lone audience member, the sole witness, was wonderfully impressed. I wrote a rave review in my heart.

"FIVE STAR PERFORMANCE! ALL RISE FOR THE OLDEST PERFORMANCE IN HISTORY STILL ENCHANTING HUMANS MILLIONS OF YEARS LATER."

There were kids on the playground shooting hoops in the icy air. I noticed their puffs of breath coming out of their hoodies like little bipedal dragons. Did I send my kids off this morning with enough warmth? I worried. I worry so much about what my kids are wearing. I am not thrilled about this. I want them to be confident, comfortable, warm/cool, stylish, mobile, practical. I don't want their clothes to interfere with their ability to learn and make friends. I know this worry is just my projections--clothes are my first and most important language, but also my greatest distraction and torment. And it's clear my kids are inhaling my worries like it's part of the air in our house.

So that's something that occupies the pie chart in my head.

When I turned the corner at the southern point in the park, I was jolted by a view of immediate dusty silvery peaks displayed in the morning sky beyond the trees. Mount Timpanogos was veiled in white--and to the east were her mountainous bridesmaids marching along peak to peak. I sometimes think of Timpanogos in the north is the mother of our valley, and to the south, beyond the lake, is our father Mount Nebo. She is exquisite, and he is massive, and between them both lies a valley of streams, rivers, canyons, rocks, and a wild marriage of natural history--including a irreconcilable fault line, and an ancient sea. Also, us humans: first the natives who set up their lives in pit houses along the Provo River, the white people whose history in this valley must be anatomized and settled, and the migrants who come and go and sometimes stay (to their surprise).

I grew up watching students from the university set up easels outside my front door, hoping to paint the peaks with watercolors or acrylics. Those mountains were nothing but home to me, like a familiar wallpaper lining the halls of our home. It wasn't until I was leaving on my Mormon mission I came to see their grandeur. They were saying good bye to me, I knew it in a spiritual way. I was aware of how much they were a part of me, and how much I was going to miss them. And years later, the morning I had given birth to my Ever Jane at home, I stared out the window from the quiet basement bedroom where we were recovering, they peeked in and congratulated me--us--the newest human to live under their rocky spell.

This morning I tried to take a photograph. It was useless. It said nothing about what I saw. It did not convey the northern bride or her trail of maidens each slightly illuminated by the morning sun. It could not capture the birch trees tossing leafy confetti to the ground, nor their gowns of vivid yellow. It didn't say anything of my desire to leave it healthy for my little hooded dragons so they can puff out clean air and live here forever, if they choose.

It is curious how in learning to consume, we lost the skill to witness. And when I think of it, the cure for just about everything is a double dosing of observation and awareness. Seeing is healing.

The beauty is enough because it is all-consuming.

I am starting to understand.



Tuesday, October 8, 2019

End of an ERA


Hi this was me last Friday night at the Equality Utah Allies Gala where they announced that their 2019 legislative goal is to ratify the ERA. America only needs ONE MORE state to ratify to make women officially equal to men! It was introduced to legislation before I was born. WHAT PROGRESS.

I've been listening Lana Del Ray's cover of the Season of the Witch a lot lately. I think there is something to it, honestly. October really is a season of my inner witch. I just feel fiery and ornery and completely out of patience. But on the other hand, I feel mischievous, and clever, and sensual in a way that makes me feel confident. This season feels good to me, like I am at home. And every year that passes I feel less shame for all of this. [Insert witch cackle.]

I'm very happy that Equality Utah wants to ratify the ERA but that means that there will be a coalition of women who will fight against it (like they did last time) and that pain is unbearable to me. The night of the gala they brought up a group of women lawmakers on the stage to make the announcement and there was one ONE one Republican woman who showed up. Afterward she said to me, "Where were all the Republican female lawmakers?" which is something I ask myself every damn day.

I was thinking the other day about how my life would've been different if I didn't speak out so much. And it occurred to me that I'd probably be working in a GOP congressional office selling my soul out to Trump.Which made me realized that speaking out had saved me a lot of pain and anguish in the long run.

Last Friday night after the announcement I asked one of the ERA organizers how I could help. "We're going to need the writers to write" she said to me. I don't know what I expected her to say (maybe get my email to join the newsletter?) but I found myself pledging to do the work. I suppose this is one way a witch might cast spells--with words.

[Cackle.]

After the gala, CK and I stumbled down the Salt Lake City streets to an after party of our friends the Urquharts. They live in a downtown high rise with a almost a 360 view of the Salt Lake Valley and are known to throw the best soirees in Utah. We have been to many, only a few I can remember with keen detail. [Wink, cackle.]

We squeezed into the party with wall-to-wall guests. Queers, beards and drag queens mingled with lapsed Mormons, legislators and influencers of public policy. We found two chairs calling our names (and our feet) in the living room. A few minutes later Billy Porter (yes, that Billy Porter) sat down across from us and an entourage of adoring fans gathered around him, but not before I got a few stuttered words out of my mouth that went in his direction. I love him. I love him like Utah women love to obey patriarchy. And I am not even being sarcastic about that.

It was a surreal moment. I sat observing the sheer joy in that room. A gentleman I've known as a state lobbyist handed me a fresh grapefuit drink inspired by his southern roots, "It's a classic," he promised to me with a wink and a blink of southern drawl. Christopher, all dressed in black and as handsome as I've ever seen him, was chatting it up with dear friends and people we greatly admire. Folks were dancing, eating, kissing, singing, laughing, gossiping, and reveling with delight. I caught the eye of a young kid with purple hair in an open red leather jacket from across the party. He blew me a kiss. I returned it.

Just then lawmaker Shireen Ghorbani--in a glamorous head piece full of flames and flowers--power-lifted a chair over the crowd and planted it next to mine. "Ok, let's talk about recruiting moderate candidates in Utah County, so..."

There is no rest for the justice-minded. Just ask Bernie. Or the witches who showed up for a thousand years threatened with being burned at the stake. Every year I get closer to becoming one of them.

And I am ok with that.

Cackle, cackle. pop.



Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Hot Family Summer

Photo by the unmatched Justin Hackworth

Here it is, the last day of summer break. We're definitely going out with a whimper. In a minute we'll hit up the pool for the last time. Then we'll clean up and go to back-to-school night so our kids can meet their new teachers, see where they'll sit tomorrow morning, high-five their friends they haven't seen in two and half months.

It was a good summer.

I think I prefer summer to school schedules. I like spending time intuitively rather than instructively. I like slow days for my kids. I like to see what they do when they get to spend their own minutes in a day. Yesterday they built a town out of Duplos and asked for help. When I sat down to aid in the construction I got an idea to build a church. It had a huge cross on the top. Then Erin knocked down the spires and turned into a queen's castle, with a huge statue of Snow White standing guard over the gates.

I mean, ok. Appropriate for the house she's living in, I suppose.

We didn't do much this summer, just as I hoped a few months ago. We went to Bear Lake twice as guests of friends and family. We did a lot of kayaking on lakes and rivers. Ate a lot of grilled cheese sandwiches (or as Iris calls them, "burnt cheese"). Swam daily at the local swimming centers. I taught Erin how to use my credit card and so when we go to the pool she promptly fetches us two churros and a cinnamon pretzel for Iris and I don't have to move from my beach chair. Best part about that is that Erin and I are so damn proud of ourselves for this development.

This was the most social summer of my adult life I think--CK and I were lucky to spend a lot of time enjoying friends these past few months. What a difference having in-house babysitters make! And our kids inexplicably like it when we leave. Which yes makes me suspicious, but on the other hand FREE DATE NIGHT!!!

Anson's hair has grown out this summer to the point where he has dreamy boy band hair in the front, but in the back, it looks like a desperate octopus is trying to escape out of his head. That's just a detail about Summer 2019 I never, ever want to forget.

I took Iris to jazz class where she shook her hips and strutted her clever confidence. She learned to connect her device to her siblings and enjoyed playing online with each other. (I now call screen time STEM Discovery Family Time!).

Christopher and I were sitting on the old couch in the Green Room the other night when he looked over at me, put his hands on my knees (like we're 90?) and said very sincerely, "This is it. This is life. And it's f*&^ing great." Not without pain, for sure. But great. Solid. With a slice of f word.

Last night we went to visit Grandpa Clark's garden to relieve him of some very fertile produce he's been tending to all summer. The kids picked carrots, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini. We had a huge bag full of vitamins in vegetable form and finished just as the sun was setting.

Ever walked home with me. "Mom," she said as we rounded the corner for home, "I want us always to have a relationship like we do right now."

"Me too," I told her, "I think the secret is for me to accept you as you are and for you to be patient with me."

"I promise I'll try." She said.

"Me too," I responded.

Thank you for these moments, summer.

Until next year....over and out.



Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Unlived


Occasionally I get a tiny email dropped in my inbox from none other than Ann Cannon, the saint of Utah's newspaper columns (also a successful author in her own right).

They're always just one liners, maybe two.

She calls me Doll or Sweetie.

Tells me she's read my latest blog post, offers the kindest regards, a short deep compliment I always need to hear.

Then ends with "Ann xox".

And, then I always respond with, "I am finding no time to write with all these kids I had, tell me it gets easier. Maybe when they're all in school?"

I have sent this S.O.S. a dozen times.

And she always replies, "Wish I could tell you it's get easier, but it doesn't. So carve the time out now."

Dear God, please let my children have an Ann Cannon in their lives, first of all. Let them have an intelligent, beautiful, creative and clever mentor like I have. I am so lucky. I feel that every single time I see her name in my inbox. It's a perk of humanity.

Second, here I am. I have nothing on but my sports bra and gray leggings. I am sweating in this corner office in the basement. My kids are playing a video game together shouting about lightening balls, stun rays and coins. The laundry is just about to "ding!" me for a change of machinery.

But I am here, carving out time because I want to be like Ann Cannon.

I want to be like Toni Morrison.

I want to be like Mary Oliver, Frida Kahlo, even Kurt Vonnegut.

And I want to recognize that we use the word "carve" because it means that we have to take a knife to our lives and reshape it so that writing can fit in. It's a blunt act. It means something will have to disappear, cut out of my life, so I can do this. This.

And perhaps to say nothing at all.

Except two things: the Carl Jung quote that is presently making the rounds goes like this, "Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their children than the unlived life of the parent.”

This, this is why I cannot give up writing all together. And this is the core struggle of my life--to not let parenting these four gorgeous beings, or wifehood to a good man be all there is to me. I have to let them see me separately. I have to leave behind a record of who I am. Because I am convinced that someday in their lives they will recognize that they're missing pieces of who they are, and want more context. Maybe they'll see that the mystery of their lives is the part they didn't know about who their parents are, what they believed, wrestled with, went through, and what they thought about--and how all of those things shaped who they are as differentiated adults.

My fully lived life starts with writing. Retreating to this room, sweaty and shirtless, is part of showing them that I am not them. I am me. And perhaps more importantly, that they don't have to be me.

And secondly, with the passing of beloved Toni Morrison last week I found this shattering quote, "We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives."

I am measuring my life, line-by-line. Writing is a power that will endure past me. And even if it didn't, it is the point of my life to witness time. I will die, so I must write.

Thank you Ann.
xox


Monday, July 29, 2019

Frenzy

Midsummer mid life accounting:

I ran out of dreams.

I came down the stairs the other day with a laundry basket in my hand and stopped to see my kids--all four of them--splayed out on den floor like a photo straight out of a pamphlet on How To Combat Kid's Summer Break Boredom ("Are your kids watching tv all summer long? Sign them up for Kountry Kids Kamp!"). It was a most insignificant moment, but there I was having a significant moment.

I have all I ever dream of.

I don't have much left to dream about.

All the visions I had for myself--of being a community leader, of having a job where I felt important, of having babies, and a husband I adore, and house I love have come to fruition. Being paid to write? Yes. That's all my second grade me and my seventh grad me could ever want. Travel? Sure I've seen some beautiful places. I feel full of friends who I adore so very much. I wake up every day feeling free.

And I don't dream much for my kids, because I want them to have their own. Same for my husband.

But for me, I don't have any more grand visions of life. I am pretty grateful I got as much as I did. So I would like like focus on three things I haven't yet experienced:

1. An ability to feel feelings. Not eat them. Not sideline them to social media or Netflix. Not even walk them off. I mean just sit down on the floor crossed legged and feel them when they are asking to be felt. I've never ever mastered that feat.

2. See life. I want to spend what time I have left on this planet to observe what my eyes see, my ears hear, my body touches. I want to watch and observe. Listen. Listen. Listen.

3. Be a witness. I was taught growing up to be a witness at all times and all places. And I do want to witness for the good, the bad, the sad, the triumphant. I want to add my voice to others in strength and unity. I want to be a witness for those who need one. Especially to those who feel invisible.

I feel like this post is very self-important but I don't mean it to be. I just mean that life has given me a lot in its first act and I'd like to enjoy being grateful for what I have for awhile. I mean, I guess I am done asking for the universe to give me things. But except I would like nice hair. Consistently, not just nice hair days every few months, or after I've been to the salon, or to the lake and it's wind-whipped into a post-sex-hair-like frenzy.