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.

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.

You Can Skip This, Too.

My first actual memory of Jera Gunther was a random spring evening in 2003 in the west foyer of the Inwood ward building. She sat on one of those floral print couches, reading a book. I can’t remember why I was there, but seemingly out of the blue, she asked me if I’ve ever read the Scarlet Letter. That’s pretty much all she had to say. We’ve been friends ever since.

When I walked into Jera and Jordan’s house last Wednesday night, Jera told me that I looked the same. I can’t imagine changing that much in the past four years, and I told her that she looked the same, too.

We played with the kids and toured the town and talked about grownup things like politics and economics. We laughed about old times.

I don’t remember how I met Summer and Joel. I do recall going over to their Manhattan apartment for karaoke parties. It was me and Adam and Sheridan, and we’d choose songs from the computer and sing silliness into a microphone.

We’d also meet at ward picnics and go on bike rides and there was this one time we went to an Egyptian restaurant and paid way more for the meal than it was worth.

Summer and Joel haven’t changed much, either. We remembered when and listened to the kids sing the Beatles and laughed when the older sister dressed her younger brother as a girl in a polka dot dress and purple hair bow.

St. George in August is hot. Around 10:00 one night, I came out of the Gunthers’ house to get something from the rental car and  felt the heat from the day and in the driveway against my face and bare feet.

Their house is on a hill. At night, the valley twinkles. When I saw that, I wondered if I could live in the town of St. George, Utah.

This past Wednesday night, I went to dinner with my friend, Angie. It had been four? or so years since I’ve seen her. We met when she moved into the Inwood ward, and we had a few mutual friends. We caught up and gossiped and laughed and talked about important television and people we remember from New York.

On Thursday, my friend Cristi and I caught up over Jamba Juice and chocolate-covered cinnamon bears. I asked her when we first met, and she said that it was probably through Becky. Which: of course. We talked and laughed about everything in the shade of the JFSB courtyard.

I’ve known these cool cats for years, but I’m convinced yet again that time doesn’t always determine quality. It felt amazing seeing those friends, but when I see people I love from Utah/BYU, I’m equally pleased.

The Williams family has been generous to me. I started hanging out with Cynthia in January 2010, and we’d go to the music documentaries at Muse Music, where we learned about Daniel Johnston, Radiohead, Sigur Ros, and Arcade Fire. Then she made sure to invite me to everything she did. Potlucks, concerts, family drives, birthday dinners. We went with other friends and her other family members to the Festival of Colors and the Llama Festival, and we have inside jokes about peeing on ourselves and share a few family stories and secrets. I have been able to meet a lot of people through them. My boss knows their dad. They have been a stabilizing force for me here in Provo. I’m truly grateful for them.

Then there are Africa friends. With them, I shared things about myself that I normally wait to tell people in “normal” circumstances. I’ve been ever so fortunate to run into Natalie twice in the computer lab this summer. And to hang out with Sarah and Kylie. The Skabelunds and I met for lunch this past Monday. And I saw Spencer once, too. I’ve only known these kids for only four months, really, yet when I’m around them, it feels like home. Like we can kick back and talk about anything or watch tv or not feel any pressure to talk at all.

My heart has been so full this week. I have loved the quality time.

This past week was also Education Week at BYU. I’ve joked trying to compare it to EFY and Women’s Conference, because campus gets crazy and crowded and annoying during those events. Walking around these past few days, I met a lot of kind eyes and smiles, and it was rather touching to see how happy all the adults of all ages were to be at BYU learning fun and cool things. They get a week each year.

I’m coming up on two years. I pay tuition for each semester, but still.

It’s easy to forget how exciting it is to be here. To have access to all sorts of information and the academic community. To be someone to offer a perspective  of a roundabout path that might actually be valuable.

And I’ve been thinking about grad school. It’s my last undergraduate year, and I’m trying to reconcile the joy in moving on to even greater opportunities and the heaviness of my heart that also comes with moving on to even greater opportunities.

Yes, I do have to plan for the future, but I need to be ready to make the most of now. Of BYU. Of Utah. Right, Thomas Traherne?

Entering thus far into the nature of the sun, we may see a little Heaven in the creatures. And yet we shall say less of the rest in particular: tho’ every one in its place be as excellent as it: and this without these cannot be sustained. Were all the earth filthy mires, or devouring quicksands, firm land would be an unspeakable treasure. Were it all beaten gold it would be of no value. It is a treasure therefore of far greater value to a noble spirit than if the globe of the earth were all gold. A noble spirit being only that which can survey it all, and comprehend its uses. The air is better being a living miracle as it now is than if it were crammed and filled with crowns and sceptres. The mountains are better than solid diamonds, and those things which scarcity maketh jewels (when you enjoy these) are yours in their places. Why should you not render thanks to God for them all? You are the Adam or the Eve that enjoy them. Why should you not exult and triumph in His love who hath done so great things for you? Why should you not rejoice and sing His praises? Learn to enjoy what you have first, and covet more if you can afterwards.

Mountains and Me

Click the photo, etc.

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.

A Midsummer Dream

“Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d tow’rs, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.”

–Prospero, The Tempest

So, the Shakespeare Festival was fun. The play was quite good, and I’ll probably not write a lot about it. It pleased and amused me. The drive was exhilarating and I sang along to my iPod, and the roadwork along I-15 didn’t even annoy me.

Click on the rodent to see what I did after the festival:

Or, check out the slideshow.

I tried to decide whether I would have enough time to do some exploring, since I was already in southern Utah, and since it’s the summertime, and I was feeling rather energetic today. Still. The play finished around 4:45, and it would take about three hours to go home, and I needed to finish a paper for class and clean my apartment for cleaning checks tomorrow.

Cedar Breaks National Monument wasn’t even 30 miles away. I headed east on Center Street in Cedar City and the let the winding roads take me into the sky. Occasionally as I climbed, I would look at the valley expand below me and the height triggered my acrophobia, so I would try to refocus on the road. But then I’d always look back at the valley. I liked the thrill.

You guys, Utah is so beautiful. Today was one of those rare days I wish I had a car just so that I could bounce around the state and feel (especially) small against this great big magnificent world. A surreal backdrop on the grandest stage. Floating in a false consciousness.

And then there’s the price of gas.

Today was absolutely worth it, though.

Love Triangle

Utah, I’m so proud of you for topping this list:

Of course, there are the concerts in New York. But I’m not there. I’m here, in Utah. I’m going to have fun here. I’m going to be present with folks here, make friends here, love people here. It’s the least I can do.

This week:

Shakespeare Festival down in Cedar City to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Um, Harry Potter 7.2 (DUH)
Hopefully dinner with some Senegal friends if  one doesn’t get chosen for jury duty
Hanging out with people
Llama Fest down in Spanish Fork
Possibly, a date
Possibly, a bike ride

Utah, how about you and I try going steady, and we’ll see where things lead. Don’t get fresh, though.

Sorry, People

I’m a couple of days behind. Be sure to scroll down to check for backdated posts in the next few days.

Had a going away party this evening. It was fun. Having so many people you love get together and laugh brings me great joy. I’m glad everyone seemed to have a great time.

Everyone’s gone now. The air has settled.

Tears are freely flowing.

Good night.