For the next several weeks, I attended church when I could. Participation often included lowering my eyes when the bishop or his first counselor walked by and gave me stern “We’re watching you” stares. In some ways the whole business interested me so I wasn’t suffering as much as some might suppose. But given the treatment of these two ward leaders, I did feel somewhat cordoned off. Perhaps that’s why when a prettily decorated invitation to a special R.S. council arrived in my mailbox, in a fit of high irritation, I nearly tossed it.
Preface. At the risk of running afoul of Nate’s post on turning the other cheek—that is, of appearing obnoxiously immodest and of proving myself once again impossibly dense—I’m telling a story about how I received one of the best lessons I’m still learning. It’s a long story and hopelessly self-referential. Over the last two decades, I’ve slowly awakened to my unfortunate condition: I don’t have access to the details of anybody else’s mistakes or near-mistakes as fully as I do to my own, so those stories where I made matters worse (or nearly did) and those which, surprisingly, erupted into fireworks at the end are the ones I have the greatest right to tell. Of course, no adventure unfolds in a social vacuum. It’s unavoidable that others should be mentioned, and—darn it—their actions described from my point of view. I apologize in advance for this story’s unlikelihood. I don’t expect anybody to believe it. If you’ve already lost patience over…
I’m posting this at Times and Seasons as follow-up to a three-part series I wrote here a couple years back (see here, here and here). I’ve cross-posted it over at A Motley Vision’s companion blog Wilderness Interface Zone. September 17th marked the two-year anniversary of the closing of Crossfire Canyon (real name: Recapture Canyon) to off-highway vehicular (OHV) travel. Since then, the canyon has become an even more volatile epicenter of rhetorical and legal power struggles over land use policy. Private citizens, environmental and off-road advocacy groups, and the federal government have all entered dogs in the fight.
A while back our household sat down to watch an episode of Monk. We like Monk because not only is it funny, itâ€™s also sad and tender and offers good â€“ sometimes very good â€“ cultural satire. As I fed M she kept turning her head to look at the TV, watching whatever it is she sees when sheâ€™s watching something. Weâ€™re not sure what that is because doctors have sent mixed messages about her eyesight. But she does see.
Like many people dependent upon care from others, M can be a tyrant. For instance, sensing my anxiousness during her feedings, when itâ€™s crucial to get enough into her to sustain her plus stimulate her slow growth curve, sheâ€™s begun extorting favors. Sometimes sheâ€™ll demand to watch her favorite video over and over or else she wonâ€™t eat. She wrings the last drop of pleasure out of these viewings then collapses back into boredom. Then she grows irritable and stops eating again. Do something to entertain me, she pouts, or Iâ€™ll starve myself.
So there I was, staring the lavishness of my ignorance. I saw the presence it had in the world, how it could impoverish and destroy as efficiently as the most inspired scientific breakthrough could improve somebody’s standard of living. Before M was diagnosed, I saw my ignorance in a slanted light as I came to realize she wasn’t showing herself to me in a way I could understand. The light came up a little more when the nature and degree of her trouble dawned and our family found itself standing at a door we didn’t know for sure would open. But that day I began to comprehend the nature of the creature I’d unleashed, unknowingly, upon M at a perfectly vulnerable stage of her coming into being, the world changed in a blue bolt.
Many parents with severely disabled children live life underground. Apart from societyâ€™s burbling mainstreams, they labor beneath the weight of exigent circumstances, dealing with mortal crises day by day. They monitor their childâ€™s breathing, their sleeping, their every bodily function, often for years, developing a sense for delicate balances in their particular domestic environments. Grief has become part of these parentsâ€™ body chemistries.
Joseph Smith went to the woods because he wished to know the truth of his existence.
I hope some of you grabbed your moon glasses and stepped outside to have a look at how that full moon lights up the world. Thirty thousand miles closer than usual and thirty percent brighter, tonight this lesser light has a chance to really shine.
The textbook I used when I taught freshman comp at BYU contains an essay by Gilbert Highet titled â€œDiogenes and Alexander.â€ This well embellished tale recounts the legendary maybe-it-happened, maybe-it-didnâ€™t visit that Alexander the Great paid to the notorious Cynic philosopher at Corinth.
â€¦ grow tomatoes in their home garden, and lots of them. Men who know grow them, too.
See Part Two posted 9/27. On September 22nd, I rose early and hiked into Crossfire. Afterward, I stopped at the local market and ran into a women I’d seen at the BLM’s open house, one of the most vocal SPEAR members present that night. We greeted each other and she demanded to know who I was and what my interest in the canyon was. “Are you one of those tree-huggers or something else?” she asked.
See Part One here. On September 18th, the BLM held an open house explaining the closure to local residents. The BLM’s acting field manager opened the presentation, telling everyone that the purpose of the closure was to stop traffic through cultural sites. It wasn’t intended to be permanent, he said.
Crossfire Canyon is not the canyon’s real name. Following the trend in nature writing, I have refrained from providing any obvious identifying names or details. Otherwise, this three-part series describes actual events and conversations. Mormons in Utah, especially in southern Utah, often find their concepts of stewardship put to the test when predominantly non-Mormon environmental groups act to preserve resources they perceive Mormons (or any others) are abusing under their stewardship ethic or are allowing to be abused.
In the Preface to New Genesis: A Mormon Reader on Land and Community, the editors cite an unidentified 1991 report that places each of the thirty largest Christian denominations in one of five categories based on their environmental stances.
The day before the cliff swallows return to traditional nesting sites in canyons near where I live in southern Utah, the sky hangs quiet, with only a few ravens, hawks, and eagles spiraling through. The next day, whoosh! Swallows arrive reeling in their folklorico like revelers at an unseen party spilling onto a quiet street.
It is the destiny of mint to be crushed. â€“Waverley Lewis Root June 12, 2007 Rained most of the night. Morningâ€™s cool and sweet. Good day to venture into a canyon. Because the storm has left behind puffy white seeds that could blossom suddenly into rain, I replace my extra water bottle with a rain poncho. In honor of the sky, scrubbed to a deep, shining blue, I wear my turquoise tee shirt. Usually I wear a white one with sleeves, but I like to wear this color when I hike. Weather permitting, I do.
Warning: To write this post, Iâ€™ve had to get personal. I apologize in advance for that, but some points I make require grounding in my observations about personal experiences, many of which are highly charged. The stories and observations I report here in no way represent everything I think about these matters. More importantly, they donâ€™t represent everything I will think; Iâ€™m not through turning over these events and ideas to see what else is there. If you’ve come to this post already feeling overwhelmed or bothered about something, you might want to skip reading this, because it might make matters worse for you. After you read this post, it will self-destruct in sixty seconds. (I wish, but then again, some records must stand.) Did I mention this post runs long? Okay then, here we go. In 1992 I gave birth to a daughter, Mattea. An in utero infection of a predatory organism called cytomegalovirus (CMV) destroyed nearly half her…
Who I am is not enough. It is necessary to become more. May 3, 2007 Been out of action nearly a month due to injury from hiking in broken-down boots. Finally bought new boots. Two days ago I made it into the canyon and found it well awakened since my last visit: trees far along in their leaves and birds flying and lizards scuttling as if there’s been no winter hiatus. Also, birds sounded fit to burst with song.
We might use language in our attempts to set boundaries, but language contains in microcosmic acts the macrocosmic thrust toward new form. November 4, 2006 The trail into the canyon is rougher at Novemberâ€™s threshold; run-off from recent storms took the same trail to the canyonâ€™s main water course that I must take.
Some weeks ago a friend (an archaeologist and therefore a man of science) and I were discussing a nature writer who was coming to town to promote his latest book. I asked my friend if he liked this writer’s work. He said he did. I said that I did, too, and that I thought this writer one of the better nature writers out there. My friend agreed then added, “Although I wonder if a lot of them aren’t actually writing fiction.”
Remember the silence around Pueblo Alto in Chaco, so heavy you felt blanketed by its snows, and the desert landscape spread out below, unmoving for miles? That was silence. Not even a breeze singing on the stones. June 8, 2006 Hiked in the rain this morning.
All winter I plotted how to improve the garden, my first focal point for exercising “good stewardship” over the acre plus we moved to a year and a half ago. Last year’s garden had gone all right. I loved every minute in it, especially the time spent with animals, like Woodhouses’ toads and cliff swallows, which helped keep the garden in good order. But I got a late start and the harvest fell short. This year, I pushed to start my tomatoes on time along with other herbs and veggies that don’t mind sprouting indoors. I schemed how to improve our red, clayey soil. I saved money to hire a local man to till our ground.