Alpine Loop Drive

Around this time last year, about a week later, Reilly took me on a drive through the Alpine Loop. I was hoping — hoping — that he would kiss me for the first time on this date. We wound around the mountain, the vibrant colors jumped at our eyes and danced with the setting sun. We got out of the car and stood together on an overlook.

He gave me a hug and put his arm around me, then . . . nothing. After watching the sun set, we got back into the car, went to JCW’s for a burger, then we went back to his place where we listened to some music and watched Breaking Bad. So, not a complete loss.

Reilly later explained how scared he was that evening. He really wanted to, but he couldn’t, because he was too nervous.

We drove the Alpine Loop last night. The car climbed the winding road through the aspens, up the back side of Mount Timpanogos. On the descent toward American Fork, we stopped at a parking lot for one of the main overlooks. It was the same place we stood last year, right when I was expecting that first kiss. We took some photos, we made fun of things — particularly the beautiful family that was getting professional portraits taken — and we looked at the halo the sun formed behind the peak nearest to us.

Before we got back into the car, Reilly leaned down and kissed me gently on the lips. Confidently. Without hesitation. I asked him if that’s how he would have done it last year. He said maybe, except that he would have also pooped his pants. Yes, he said, “pooped.” And of course it perfectly describes his level of nervousness so many years ago. Which is less than one.

He’s exceeded all my hopes.

Here are some photos we took. The leaves turned early this year, and I was afraid the colors would have faded too much. They were much brighter two weeks ago, and many of the leaves have fallen to the ground. Fortunately, the Alpine Loop is almost always beautiful, except when there are fires. People, don’t start fires.

A Few Updates

Remember when I used to treat this blog like a journal? Remember how particular I used to be about calling it an online journal and NOT a blog? Remember how nearly effortless it was for friends to keep up with my life just by visiting this site? Remember how I sometimes practiced writing on here, or at least thinking by laying out a few ideas?

Times change, and in some ways, so do I. I would like to return to practicing writing, because goodness knows this semester suffers from something wrong with it.

So lately I haven’t shared a lot of details about what’s going on here at the BYU. Part of that is deliberate, part of it is my packed schedule, and all I have time for sometimes is a cute, French video or a photo or general whining. Part of it is letting my inner hermit win, and at times for me, that’s okay.

In case I haven’t told you:

I have a job. I really like it, and the folks there like me, too. It’s taken me two months to figure out how to balance my schedule and moderate my stress level whenever midterms come around and papers are due. I still don’t have it down pat.

French class is kicking my trash. I’m getting used to the format and all the time it demands, from homework to writing labs to speaking labs, to cultural activities to going every single day. But, all that is why I understand and appreciate that BYU probably has the best foreign language program in the Milky Way. And probably even the Andromeda.

Speaking of, has anyone seen the inadvertent meteor shower that Halley’s Comet caused?

Today was a fine day for me commenting in one of my classes. The professor asked for other thoughts about a short story we were discussing. I had been sitting on an idea for a few minutes already, and I was feeling bold, because instinct told me this insight was worthwhile, and so I raised my hand.  I made an initial statement, after which the professor said it was very smart and wanted me to expound upon it. When I did, he followed along when I cited a passage from the text, and then he said, “That’s very smart. I have nothing to add to that.” I smiled, but I wanted to laugh, which is an occasional reaction to compliments. But still, I felt … smart.

And yet, I still have to decide on a favorite class. I like all my classes for different reasons.

The leaves are turning quite nicely. Autumn in Utah has delighted me so far.

There’s family stuff. But there’s always family stuff.

Was it this time last year I was dealing with a Craigslist scam paralyzing my bank account for two weeks?

All things considered, I’m in a much better place.

On A Descending Pendulum

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The air smells of nature’s slumber. Sunlight retracts, and branches dry, becoming less pliant. They lose their grip on leaves that have stopped making chlorophyll. The non-green colors that emerge are a happy surrender to the cooler air and shorter days. Wind and gravity coordinate, and the leaves disconnect, then dance downward. As the trees slowly undress they become brittle, craving sleep; their clothes no longer live, lying dormant on the ground: crackly, delicate, waiting patiently to become one with the earth. Decompose to recompose; transformation to transcendence, so that they might twirl and swing and flip and float again. Next year. They live to fall.

Why This Is A Pretty Great Oktoberfest Photo

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1. Tent – these kinds of events are best held outdoors, especially when the leaves are turning and with inordinate amounts of drinking going on.

2. Polka band – the moment I took this photo two accordions and a tenor saxophone were jamming. The band made polka look very, very cool. They were incredible! See the clarinet next to the other saxophone off to the side?

3. Liederhosen – does anyone else find the attire pretty sexy? Shorts and suspenders? Buttons and clasps? No one? Think about it, people.

4. Western European girl with very rosy cheeks and perfect little highlights – she came to have a great time, and she looks successful.

5. Steins of bier as big as one’s head – can someone explain the size of that beer receptacle? Also, you can’t see how the woman is holding it, which makes me think the ‘fest is haunted. Wouldn’t that make sense? Up at Bear Mountain? Beginning of autumn? Secluded area with a lot of drunk people? Why wouldn’t the ghosts want to come out and play and hold people’s frothy mugs while they polka and puke?

I had a brat with sauerkraut and onions that day. The perfect nip chilled the air under overcast skies. I watched my friends Lisa and Jason waltz and polka; we went on a hike; we watched kids on the haunted carousel, round and round, round and round.  ROUND and ROUND … Then we took the Metro North home and I finished getting ready for my own going away party. I have pictures of that as well. Oktoberfest, indeed.

Time in the Trees

The mornings lately are sliding into autumn. That coolness settles in the air and the sun takes a while longer to rise. Buildings surround me, but I catch glimpses of the park, and I see trees on television whenever I watch television these days, and I see leaves turning. I saw it on the way to Maine. Splashes of red, orange, rust. Who knew rust could be so pretty against the slowly fading green?

I have settled into a routine of fatigue. I wake up around 4 o’clock every morning, and I think about my day. I pray nervousness doesn’t completely swallow me in front of the teenagers I get to see this school year. I am in love with those kids. They’re high-energy, nothing like the way we were back when I went to seminary, starting some 18 years ago.

A friend and I were instant messaging. A high school friend. We both teach freshmen, who we disbelieve were born the same year we graduated from high school. Something seems really out of whack here. Either we or they are anachronisms; can we possibly exist (and even interact!) in the same space and time, the same plane, the same dimension? We can, and we do. It’s nothing short of a miracle.

The contrast wouldn’t be so vibrant if it weren’t so obvious. This time of year, the same trees’ leaves turn red, gold, brown, before bursting into green come springtime. Those trees can’t do it forever, though. They cycle with the seasons, and they also get older. Both processes are one process, and the trees develop character while starting to look a little tougher and more worn.

And yet, they share the same soil as the whippersnappers, which term clicked for me just now. The newer trees are a little more bendy in the breeze, and their branches whip! and snap! as the air moves a slight chill into the region. Their leaves may hold their green for a few more weeks or months, because the same energy from our mutual soil sustains a smaller, younger tree longer perhaps, while those trees that are more aged are ready to wind down and brace themselves against the cold. So we shamelessly, proudly show our reds and oranges and rusts amidst all this lush, greying verdance that’s just as proud.

And the contrast wouldn’t be so vibrant if it weren’t so obvious.

Who knew rust could be so pretty against the slowly fading green?

Seasonal Musing: Autumn Is Scrumptious When It Crunches

This morning feels like fall. It feels like a miracle. Some of the trees are burning bushes, and God speaks to us through the cool air, the overcast sky, which makes me feel I’m participating in one of the blindfolded taste tests: Which one is more like autumn, yesterday or today? 99 out of 100 people surveyed says it’s today. Mother Nature is doing her laundry, as the rain put the air through the spin cycle. It’s crisp, the air; no starch necessary or needed. Not even a dryer, for that matter. I wake up, bounding; this time of year it’s an autumn in my step, waiting for the days to shorten and consume the burning bushes, in order to litter the ground; the air to desicate the gold and red and rust and yellow and orange and all related hues in between to, finally, brown. I highly anticipate this crunchy brown, this audible carpet signifying the changing of seasons and reminding me of bounty and life and deficit and death. The world needs a nap, and who am I to stop it? It works so hard throughout the year. Finally drowsy, as the sun continues to dim earlier each day. Soon, the earth will sleep, and I must fight the same urge with my soups and cookies and down jackets and waterproof boots with the insulation and rubber soles. My nose perks at scents of cinnamon and nutmeg; warm, hearthy flavors wafting through the streets and hallways. It isn’t cold yet, but I’m poised. Winter hasn’t decided to blast us, as autumn is being a bit coy. I get the hints, though, and I’m not one to be fooled. Fall, don’t let winter pass you by. Take your deserved turn, and let us enjoy you for as long as you see fit. Then let winter introduce the barren trees and frigid air and therefore the crummy, grumpy dispositions of many city-dwellers. Autumn, tarry awhile, while I break out my sweaters and shoes appropriate for stepping on curled, lifeless leaves. Stiff, yet delicate. Non-pliable, perfectly shattering under enough pressure, the only way to celebrate rigor mortis. It’s fun. Let me play with the sound and feel of the crunch beneath my feet. I’d cross streets – against the traffic signal – and jostle passersby to jump on the perfectly dried leaf. It can be my way of helping you with the decomposition of this world, so that it can awake again. It’s the least I can do.