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.


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.

Warnings of a Different Kind

So, I still receive email updates from a ward I attended in New York City. Right now, they’re preparing for impact from Hurricane Irene. I’m tons of worried about my friends there. Hey, kids. You’re in my prayers.

Thursday, August 25, 2011 11:17 PM


As you all prepare for the hurricane, there are a number of things you should do immediately (if you haven’t already done so):

1. Please see the hurricane map HERE to determine if you live within an evacuation zone. It is likely that it will be a category 1 hurricane, which means that zone A might be evacuated. Please stay tuned to what public officials say in terms of evacuations. The evacuations could be voluntary or mandatory (by law).

2. Please make sure your 72 hour kit is ready to go.

3. We need volunteers. If you do not live in an evacuation zone, we need volunteers who would be willing to temporarily house ward members who might be asked or required to evacuate. Please e-mail [this person] if you would be willing to house displaced members of our ward.

4. Please e-mail [the same person] if you live within evacuation zone A and let us know what your plans are (and if you need a place to stay). We would like to have a complete database to keep track of everyone in evacuation zone A.

5. Please be aware that public transportation might be shut down this weekend. Please pay attention to announcements from city officials for more info.

6. If you have not already done so, please contact those whom you home teach and visit teach to make sure they are prepared and have a plan.


Friday, August 26, 2011 12:58 PM

Please read carefully:

1. Mandatory evacuations have been announced for Zone A. If you live in Zone A, please contact [the same person] as soon as possible to let us know what your plan is. If you need a place to go, let us know and we will find a place for you.

2. If you would be willing to house members who have been evacuated, please email to let us know (if you haven’t already done so).

3. All public transportation will be shut down beginning noon tomorrow. Please plan accordingly.

4. Church is cancelled on Sunday.

5. Please circulate this infomation with those you home teach or visit teach.

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.

La révolution des crabes

We’re only slightly more highly evolved than the crabs.  It took me a long time to learn I didn’t always have to cross the street at crosswalks, and I don’t always have to cross perpendicular to the curb, but I can walk at a diagonal, or at a gentle curve to the other side. Even if it was pathological or even congenital, I could change it.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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?