A Few Favorite Photos from 2012

On New Year’s Day, 2013, Reilly is on the floor grading papers and lesson planning. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade plays in the background. It’s one of those cold yet sunny days. I’ve decided to sort through this year’s photos and see which ones I like the most, strike the fondest memories, make me smile a lot. These are in no particular order and only represent a tiny fraction of the photos we have.

When the light is right and when the walls aren’t purple, I still like admiring the engagement/wedding ring.

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Really, one of the funnest days I’ve had.

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Along with this.

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And this.

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I love weddings. I always cry. If not for the actual photographer’s flash in my way, this would be one of my all-time favorites. What a jerk. Still a super cute picture though.

Big screens showed shots of the massive audience. I just say I had a backstage pass.

I never listened to a lot of Iron Maiden, but this concert was a lot of fun.

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I came out of this concert walking on air.

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Free Frontrunner day with one of my favorite families.

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The Alpine Loop in the fall is always pretty. Reilly is always pretty.

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At Rockefeller Center in August. We got some sun, and my hair isn’t horrible here.

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The past, present, and future all here.

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He wears these all the time now.

 

Awesome, right?

The picture’s blurry, but this hike was amazing.

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Labor Day weekend in Moab. Saw good friends for the first time in around five years.

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Simple. I really like it.

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Something magical about the hint of mountains here.

Reilly’s done grading and planning now. So we’re watching Last Crusade with more attention. It’s at the part with the dirigible.

Here’s to another year, more pictures, more memories, ever more happiness.

Aron Ralston Was Here

I never have my camera with me for these opportunities. My little flip phone does okay. The lower end of okay, but still okay.

Aron Ralston’s talk was part of the Nuskin convention at UVU this weekend. A friend of mine who works with that company had some extra tickets, so Reilly and I jumped at the chance to hear him speak last night.

Company formalities took up the first hour of the evening: votes for Nuskin’s Got Talent, a Lifetime Achievement Award, recognition of the Gold and Lapis executives. Those familiar with the company know how this business works, their whole culture. Easily, at least 2,000 people filled the seats of the UCCU Center, and one could conclude that nearly all these people matched the network marketing archetype. A giant family all with this personality came to this reunion with loud music and a bright stage almost as bright as the smiles of the crowd, almost as clear as their product-enhanced skin. I felt out of place. I didn’t get the jokes. The whole setting was surreal.

It was worth the wait, though, because Aron Ralston told an incredible story. He cut his hair and wore a suit and tie. We watched the trailer to 127 Hours, we watched a few scenes from the movie during his talk. He shouted and whispered and reenacted scenes of videotaping himself and fidgeted with his prosthetic arm that he helped design. Effective pauses and homage to his mom. Out of body experience where he met his future son. Picture of the 4-year-old son nearly 10 years later. Pictures of him with his friends climbing various mountains around the world. Pictures of him climbing solo, appearing impudent, challenging fate, seeking the same solitude he pursued when that boulder pinned him.  Pictures of him giving back to the community, participating in search and rescue parties and other non-profit organizations.

He recounted that a truly bad day is when you’ll have to drink your own urine. He spoke of turning boulders into opportunities, being grateful to leave the arm behind that held him back. He prayed in the middle of nowhere. He thanked the boulder that he used to break his arm off and ultimately set him free. He described everything well, as if he’s had to tell this story thousands of times. He talked about what matters when death is imminent. He dismissed prestige and achievement and lauded his family.

His appearance at the Nuskin convention seemed fitting. He inspires.

I’ll never go hiking alone.

I haven’t seen the movie or read his book. But hearing him tell his own story live, in person, seems a sufficient primary source.

All in All, A Very Good Day

Clickr the photo to  get to flickr.

Matt and Karissa got to come to Utah for the very first time, and Moab was a good place to start. I’ve lived in Utah a while, but I hadn’t been to Moab, so we agreed that this would be a good place to meet.

It only took seven or eight years since the last time. And the landscape was totally different last time. Last time was New York City. Little Italy.

But we overheard some Italians during one of our hikes today. So maybe it was almost like last time. I mean, there were skyscrapers, sort of. And we walked Park Avenue.

It’s late, and I’m tired. As you can tell from the photos, the day gave us a lot to do and look at and talk about. The park was relatively busy, but everyone was friendly. Except for the foreign people in the rented RV who said in a rather severe accent and attitude for Matt and Karissa to move their rental car out of the way. I mean, why would you want to bully anyone in one of the most beautiful places on the planet?

It’s great when Reilly’s so willing and excited to meet my friends. And it was wonderful seeing those guys again, catching up, being in nature, seeing pretty stuff. Let’s hope the next time we get together will be a little sooner.

What I Wrote In My Kindle about A Hike Earlier This Month or, Still Trying to Reconcile Writing Technology and Nature

A few weeks ago, I went hiking down in Buckskin Gulch/Wire Pass in Southern Utah. We started at the Buckskin trailhead, and the first 4.5 miles, despite starting at 9am, were very hot. Because the summer has also been very dry, instead of wading through the occasional stillwater pools we would have encountered, we trudged through about 13 miles of soft sand. It was like the beach, but without the ocean.

But.

Thank the Lord for making geology pretty.

We walked for about 7 hours, most of that through the slot canyon’s shade, which was very pleasant.

And yes, of course, we ran into some French people.

I apologize for the blurry picture, but lighting was sometimes difficult, and my camera is broken because there’s probably too much African sand in it, and about halfway through this hike, Reilly’s camera broke, because of Utahn sand.

Maybe that’s also why I haven’t been blogging as much. Not a very good excuse, I know.

Here are some thoughts I wrote on my Kindle during the trip, because I couldn’t find my Moleskine. I wish I had some pen and paper instead, just for the whole natural experience. Also, forgive my frequent use of the words gorgeous and amazing and beautiful. I couldn’t help it:

We’re at a guest ranch, sharing a cabin. It’s gorgeous out here and not too warm. There’s a chance of rain tomorrow but I’m hopeful for nice weather and a beautiful day. This is already a lot of fun.

We’re pretty close to the Arizona border. Lots of red rock and striated formations. Eastern Utah, heading toward Page. Dad used to talk a lot about Kanab and Page when we were younger. It’s gorgeous down here. All this open space and big sky make me happy.

Checked out the trailhead where we’ll be starting in the morning. I’m very excited about this hike. The cabin is really cute and pretty big, considering. It’s quiet and a place where I could do a lot of thinking.

Sometimes I just really enjoy the emptiness I can find in my head, which is more abundant than I’m willing to admit. When this emptiness harmonizes with the quiet of nature, there’s  nothing like it.

It’s 8:20 pm and we just entered Glen Canyon. I can hear my dad’s voice telling some story about a roadtrip. The open road is jogging foggy memories.

Seven of us are on this trip: Cody and Hana, Reilly and I, Gavin, Travis, and Jason. We’re going to Page to get some cash to pay the ranch people for our lodging.

I can’t believe how beautiful the scenery is here. My dad wasn’t lying. Sagebrush. Red dirt. Mossy green. Gradients of blue. Pinking clouds stretching to the horizon, wherever it is.

Bats fly around the lone lamppost, and I hear foreign accents from the saloon or dance hall or whatever it’s called. We can fit all seven of us in this little room.

A little library has formed over many visits to this cabin. From Norman Mailer to foreign authors to Jodi (which the Kindle autocorrected to Iodine. Which may not be wrong) Picoult. The main focus is not to read, it seems.

It’s almost 1am, and we are waking up in six hours. Sleep and I will become close friends very soon, sooner than I can close my eyes.

I slept relatively well. We hiked like nobody’s business. We saw amazing rocks and squeezed through parts of the canyon. More sand got trapped in my shoe than should be allowed. We didn’t get to wade through any water because the summer has been too dry. We were probably the only party engaged in a food fight during the hike. We met Chad from Brooklyn and Angelie from San Francisco. We finished the hike behind a French party and I got to speak with them for a little bit.

Everyone is exhausted. My feet are tired and I might be really sore from all the pushing through sand.

We did not die from a flash flood.

The hike was fun and beautiful and I loved spending time with these people.

More photos here.

Because Smartphone Apps Are More Important Than Nature’s Majesty

Wind and water. One wonders if the air really stays still, but hot air rises and cool air sinks, and sometimes these phenomena occur at the same time and air actually begins to circulate. Then humans, after millions of years, come to certain places on earth to observe that this air doesn’t always stop when it collides with rock; there’s actual friction, which causes actual erosion. The evidence speaks for itself.

And, it’s not just air that does this. It’s water. Rivers and rain penetrate and seep into rock. They carve and sculpt, and one cannot deny the artistry. Sheer cliffs, curved, sinewy surfaces, molded like pottery then baked in the sun as if fired in a kiln, only to show glazes in stripes, in chiaroscuric striations and slick-black facades. Against a blue sky, against a low, grey backdrop; at high noon, in front of a sunset, from one minute to the next, the art shifts and continually transforms. Crying, possibly, comes closest to expressing the inexpressible. Or perhaps holding one’s breath. Pictures of our hike in Southern Utah yesterday are coming soon.

Then there’s a smartphone photo application that can morph pictures of two different faces into one. Reilly’s brother downloaded it after dinner this evening while the family played Ticket to Ride. So he experimented with different couple combinations, and everyone was quite shocked at the hybridized photo of me and Reilly. The wave of laughter built in the order of those who saw it: first, his brother, then his nephew, then his sister, then he turned the smartphone display to us, then to his other brother and sister-in-law, then his parents.

Laughter is like happy mouth wind: the very action etches happiness at the eyes and the corners of the mouth. It makes the eyes shine, it tightens the face, it works the abs. When I saw the app-generated photo, I started to giggle, then the laugh turned silent as I could barely breathe and tears slid down my cheeks. I looked around to see that I wasn’t the only one crying. I loved it.

Notice the breathing and crying comparisons between the two experiences? Is there any comparison, really? Is it too much to mention it?

The pictures of the others are very funny, too – even cry-worthy, but I will only post Meilly Ray. Thanks to Gavin for forwarding this to us. Plus, posting it first preempts any possible blackmailing situations.

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Summary of the Past Three Days:

Wednesday
1940: arrived at the Gunthers
met children
bedtime stories, family prayer, etc.
talked politics while eating a turkey sandwich
talked about Africa

Thursday
1000: arrived at the St. George Temple
walked the grounds
went to St. George Town Square
played in a fountain and wading pool
rode a carousel
met random relatives of friends
went to Target
played with kids
had dinner at the Robertsons’
ate Key lime pie

Friday
900: arrived at Zion National Park
became a relayer between rangers
hiked the Narrows
hiked the Emerald Pool Trails
was completely blown away for 8 hours
spoke a decent amount of French
got lost and joked about it
ate soup
played with kids
saw a movie with Jera

Saturday
920: arrived at Duck Creek Village
1000: arrived at the Blowhard trailhead
mountain biked
fell and stuff but still had fun
became altitude sick
ate lunch
2000: drove back to Provo in the rain

Sunday
1230: placed ice pack on left shoulder
wrote short blog post

There are stories and details ahead. But first I have to try to sleep and grow back skin cells.

You Should Be Very Jealous of Me Right Now

Because I went showshoeing.

Vivian Park, south fork. Fresh powder, breathtaking views. On the way up, my fingertips were going numb, but once we leveled out and my blood was pumping properly, I was nice and toasty. Sweating, even.

Utah, today I really, really love you.

My friend, who was on cross-country skis, told me I did a good job. I told him I’m very strong.

By the way, is that very fair, him on skis while I’m in snowshoes?

We met a couple on our way up, Kaitlyn (not sure how she spells it) and George. Blond and smiley, they were. The girl spent last summer nannying in New Jersey, near the George Washington Bridge, and she said she prefers the fake niceness of Utah to the brashness of New Yorkers.

I can see where she’s coming from.

They took pictures of us, and we took pictures of them. I mean, how can one not bring a camera for an occasion like this?

I’m still kicking myself because I forgot mine. It’s sitting next to me now, in plain sight, cussing me out.

Sorry.

Good thing my friend brought his. I took a few photos with my camera phone, but the lens kept fogging up. You’ll see.

The snow brightened everything. It brought color to our cheeks. It was beautiful and powdery and frolicking in it brought me great joy. We would come to an untouched field along the trail and my friend would say, “This field is for you,” and so I skipped along in the snowshoes, sinking into the drifts and leaving deep prints and wandering trails of a very happy May.

Absolutely exhilarating.

Here are a few photos. Seriously, so much fun.