Tuesday, December 30, 2008

My Kind of Crazy

People must think I am crazy because I often walk around muttering quietly under my breath. The truth is...well...the truth is that I am slightly crazy. Isn't every artist? i caught myself doing it again today as I was driving home from the Pizza Factory. (i almost always talk to myself while driving since I am almost always in the car by myself.) I actually had to stop myself mid-sentence as i was getting out of the car, to make sure no one was around. it was freezing cold, so no one WAS around, fortunately. That being the case, I started my dialog again. Dialog, you say? He he. Now you're really convinced that I've lost it.
I often have dialog from the story I am writing running through my head. To say it out loud helps me solidify the idea. I then go somewhere (my laptop) where I can write it down. But in the meantime, I have to speak it to remember it. And even if I don't write down exactly what i was saying, it helps me generate new ideas.

So yes. As I said, isn't every artist a little crazy? Don't you have to be to be passionate about something? Well...that's judging by most people's perception of "crazy." And anyway, if the price of being passionate about certain things is merely that some people think i'm slightly odd, I really couldn't care less. but, um, i do attempt to keep my writerly behavior at a minimum in public. Just, you know, to maintain at least the outward semblance of normalcy.

p.s. Dad just installed surround sound and a subwoofer downstairs. Movie-watching capabilities at the Thomas household--in spite of the tiny screen--are now officially awesome.

Friday, December 19, 2008

My, um, non-final. As it were.

Today i had the pleasant surprise of walking into my 7 p.m. Shakespeare final and finding a fine spread of pizzas laid out at the front of the classroom. Minutes later our professor announced that if our grade percentage was at a point that we were fine with we had the option of not taking the final and just staying with the grade we had. he then invited us to take a piece of pizza, maybe a cup of rootbeer, and just consider what we wanted to do individually.

Dared i hope...? I discreetly let myself out of the room, dashed upstairs to one of the computer labs, logged into my account, and quickly ascertained that (at a cool, and unexpected 97%!!!!) i would, in fact, have time to stop at the library tonight. With a spring in my step, i went back down to the classroom, helped myself to a piece of Costco pizza, gathered my things, thanked my professor and slipped away. Maybe it is my instinctive laziness that kept me from feeling even slightly miffed about the several days spent arduously studying for a test i didn't take. I'm just too grateful.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Collaborative Effort

L, A, K and I (that's me), having decided that facts have not been reported as they ought, have collaborated in an ongoing project of writing and propagating revisionist history. We feel that Mad Libs is the most professional vehicle for our project. Here are the first installments.

#1
Paul Revere was born in Boston, Louisiana, in 1735. His father taught him to work with metals, and he soon became a pithy dragonfly. He was a soldier in the French and Czech War and was at the famous Boston Carpet Party when Americans dressed up as Indians dumped tons of liquid snow (i.e. water) into the ocean. On April 18, 1775, Paul Revere waited in the North Pole for a signal light from a church tower. The signal was to be one if by beer bottle, two if by dollar. When he got the message, he mounted his faithful bumblebee and rode off serendipitously. On his way, he kept yelling, “The cocoas are coming! The cocoas are coming!” This was the beginning of the American War for Independence from King Gerard Way.

#2
Although he was Emperor of France, Napoleon Bonaparte was actually a Corsican, born on a small guitar in the Mediterranean Sea. When he was just ten years old, Napoleon was sent to a military Hogwarts school in France, where his sparkly stature earned him the nickname of “The Drunken Corporal.” At 24, he was made a nervous General and married Josephine, the daughter of a well-known Parisian conch. Soon after that, he defeated the Italians at the battle of Arivederci (sp?) and in 1804 was named Emperor of all the impressions. But he made a secret mistake and attacked Russia. He reached Moscow, but the imps had burned all their invisibility cloaks and his men got frozen games. In 1914, he was farded (this means to put make-up on while driving) and sent to Elba. But a year later he came back to France and for 100 days was again the Wizard. However, he was defeated at Waterloo and imprisoned on the island of St. Helena, a primitive place which resembled the Goblin City.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Wife vs. Secretary


I can't shake this movie. I'm not going to write very much about it, because if anyone's planning on seeing it, I don't want to spoil it. But, suffice it so say, i always find it interesting when an old film such as this--under the guise of "romantic comedy"--tackles such serious, universal issues like infidelity, and does so poignantly. In some ways, I think social statements made through the medium of comedy or lightheartedness pack more punch than their Drama counterparts.

I did want to highlight just one scene from the end: the moment where Jean Harlow and Myrna Loy--the secretary and the wife--run into each other at the office. Their eyes meet, and in that brief moment, we don't need them to say anything to know exactly what conversation their having. It is very bittersweet, serious moment.

I wish I could talk more about it here, but if anybody's interested, watch the film and then we will talk. It's no Citizen Kane, but at least for me it was though-provoking. Pay special attention to the way Gable interacts with both his wife and his secretary.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Apples to Apples



I lost miserably today. I only got three cards and everybody else had like seven. I'm a failure. I'll stick to pears from now on.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Somebody More Like You

i stole this from Marissa's blog. (I hope she is flattered.) I'm tired of the complaints that I never write anything. The truth of the matter is that I have nothing interesting to write about these days.

So...I decided to write something interesting about nothing. Here goes...

RULES:
1. Put Your iTunes/Windows Media Player/ETC on Shuffle.
2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.
3. YOU MUST WRITE THAT SONG NAME DOWN NO MATTER HOW SILLY IT SOUNDS.
4. Put any comments in brackets after the song name.
5. Put this on your journal.

1. If somebody says, "Is this okay?" you say:
"Your Hands are Cold" (An indirect way of saying, "I choose not to answer that question.")

2. How would you describe yourself?
"Eden" (a.k.a "Pearadise." I like this.)

3. What do you like in a girl/guy?
"Amor e assim" (How romantic! The Portuguese is a nice touch.)

4. How do you feel today?
"Sitting, Waiting, Wishing" (almost fell out of my chair when this came up. scarily accurate.)

5. What is your life's purpose?
"Grieg: Last Spring op. 34 No 2 from Two Elegiac Melodies" (By George! Somebody get me an orchestra. Quick!)

6. What is your motto?
"The Model" (Truly, truly inspiring. The model!)

7. What do your friends think of you?
"Mambo" (Sweet. I dig it.)

8. What do you think of your parents?
"Cath..." (As in... cathhhh...eter? Thanks for that one, Death Cab. You're fired. My parents aren't that old.)

9. What do you think about very often?
"The Very Thought of You" (Weird coincidence.)

10. What is 2+2?
"Philosophy" (iTunes attempt at sarcasm?)

11. What do you think of your best friend?
"Unforgettable" (Totally, totally true.)

12. What do you think of the person you like?
"Peer Pressure" (This made me chuckle. doesn't make sense.)

13. What is your life story?
"Am I Missing" (Seriously. Am I missing something?)

14. What do you want to be when you grow up?
"Hope" (Shanelle: i'm gonna be a dentist! Mike: I'm gonna be a doctor! Daniel: i'm gonna be a mad scientist/physicist! Pear, intrepidly: I'm gonna be hope!)

15. What do you think of when you see the person you like?
"Seven Years" (Geez. That's bleak.)

16. What will you dance to at your wedding?
"Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk" (Chocolate milk is a definite possibility.)

17. What will they play at your funeral?
"Unsaid" (appropriate.)

18. What is your hobby/interest?
"Closing" (Whatie?? Gosh guys! I just LUV to close, don't you?!)

19. What is your biggest fear?
"Aberdeen." (That freaky old city in Scotland. Say the word and I shudder.)

20. What is your biggest secret?
"He Woke Me Up Again" (oh...i don't even know what to say about this.)

21. What do you think of your friends?
"Changes" ("turn and face the strange ch-ch-changes!")

22. What song would you play during your first kiss?
"New Year's Day" (New years eve would be more appropriate.)

23. What will you post this as?
"Somebody More Like You" (bo-o-oring. Thanks for the buggy-ride, iTunes.)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

My Throat

Today, i tried to swallow my vitamin pill, and I almost threw up. I found this very odd since on any normal day i can swallow a horse whole without blinking. But here I was--with my vitamin pill even cut in half for convenience--choking and wrenching that sucker down my inflamed esophagus. It was miserable. I think my glands must be really swollen, and my voice keeps trying to skip town. Oh! And my nose finally decided to make an appearance at this little virus party. It started running at approximately 9:30 pm last night and hasn't stopped yet.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Oh, hello, I just remembered what i REALLY wanted to write about! But now it's too late and i'm tired. Maybe tomorrow.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Getting Lost

It is 11:19. i've decided I should stop wasting time watching stupid things on YouTube, like "the funniest cat video you've ever seen!" (which is pretty darn funny) and start doing something more useful, like...blogging. Crap, i forgot what I was going to write about. Ho hum. Well...i'll just write about stuff. Pressure from school has let off a little bit. In the meantime I've contracted a disease that is disturbing my sleep and making my throat rather itchy. In the meantime, I have still not gone on a date. In the meantime, I've decided not to think about it anymore because it's something I can't do anything about except just be a kind, good person--which I'm trying to be. I'm trying not to worry that something is wrong with me. My new resolution to combat these feelings of inadequacy consists of this: i've stopped thinking about how I am going to be served in any given situation, and started thinking about how I can serve. It seems sort of counterintuitive from the world's perspective, but it makes all the sense in the world from a gospel point of view. Christ said for us to lose ourselves in the service of others and how that is the key to finding joy. It's pretty hard to worry about how ridiculous you feel when you're not thinking about yourself at all. In fact, it's the best and healthiest kind of escape, i've decided.

I've already tried taking refuge in lots of things: movies, books, music... You know what i've found in these escapes? I've found myself envying the lives of people who don't even exist; i've found myself locked away from the real world while I live vicariously through the figments of other people's imaginations; and I have a whole stack of cd's that I cannot even bear to listen to anymore. Some escape....

No, I've found a better way to escape. i'm trying to be a better listener. I'm trying not to lose my temper. i'm trying to be more patient with other's quirks and foibles. I'm trying to be more generous with my time and my resources. i'm trying--sometimes i fail--but at least i'm trying, and in the meantime I'm escaping a rather huge insecurity of mine. It's always lurking like a shadow in the back of my mind, trying to sneak up on me during an idle moment. It's always waiting for just the right time to let me know how much of a failure i am... But then, i just push that thought aside and keep doing my thing, and I forget about it. i'm hoping that if I ignore it enough, it will go away altogether, eventually.

So why am i writing about this? So I can remember and not have to keep relearning this. so it will be ingrained in my soul and i can stop feeling sorry for myself. today, i was sitting in my little cubicle-room on the fourth floor in the library, working on the interviews I'm transcribing, and the shadow in the back of my brain loomed over me again and started picking at me. Dani hadn't come yet, and I was alone. It's easy to feel sorry for oneself when one is alone. After a moment, I recognized what i was feeling and began thinking aloud in Portuguese. I started talking about what I was feeling, why i thought i was feeling it, and what i was going to do stop feeling it. And then the magic happened; it went away. i'd deconstructed the shadowy feeling, and it went away.

I guess I prayed so much in Portuguese for a year and a half that somehow I feel like it's more potent for me.

yeah, this was better than Facebook.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Alright folks...

No more playing around with templates. i've settled on this one. The Barbie one was making me sick to my stomach. some joke just go to far. (Jokes are the soul's sincere desire.) He he. Until later, when i have something substantial to say.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

For those that filed complaints...

...presenting: a new template. I dare you to file any complaint about this!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Elinor Dashwood



People back in Jane Austen's day--women, at least--seemed to have a lot of time to just sit and think about their situation in life. I think this must have been the case for Austen herself. How else could she have become so brilliant? How else could she have examined the depths of her own self to create characters of such substance? As a writer, I know that nothing comes from nothing. You cannot create a character that does not include some part of you, however infinitesimal. Jane Austen, while she sat and wrote quietly to herself, must have had so many selves inside of her. She wrote her spirited self into Lizzy Bennet; she wrote her sophisticated, independent--and flawed--self into Emma; she wrote her wise self into Anne; and she wrote her patient, longsuffering self into Elinor.

I know she's just a character in a story, but tonight I raise my glass to Elinor Dashwood, who endured all manner of disappointment but always calmly thought of others' needs before her own. She knew that sometimes it is okay to be happy even when you aren't. That it was better to do something you could do instead of worrying about something you couldn't.

So really, I raise my glass to the idea of Elinor, and that little part of human goodness that Austen found in herself to write about.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Without further ado...the latest parody

Down with introspection! We want laughter! We want gaiety! We want a ha cha cha! The only times I am morose are when I am inside my own head, and when I happen to be transcribing what is in my head. No more! I want to stop living in the past! Start living in the present! Which brings me to a funny parody I made up. I love parodies, as some of you know. Like puns, they show a superior intellect--but, unlike puns, they show good taste. Just kidding. Anyway, here is my parody, which is actually a conflation of two songs, the first being Yellow Submarine by the Beatles, and the second is from veggie-tales "The Water Buffalo Song." Larry the Cucumber sings it. The parody is sung to the tune of the water buffalo song, and the words go like this:

Larry:
Everybody's got a yellow submarine.
Yours is blue but mine is green.
Where we got them I don't know but
Everybody's got a yellow submariIIIIIIIIIIIIiiiiiiine

Archibald Asparagus:
Wait a minute! not everybody's got a yellow submarine!
We're going to get nasty letters saying,
"Where's MY yellow submarine? Why don't I have a yellow submarine? And why is yours blue and mine GREEN?!"

Yes. Brilliant, I know! i'm trying really hard not to pat myself on the back. If any of you are unfamiliar with the water buffalo song from Silly Songs with Larry, familiarize yourselves right now.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a08A7lDjTFE

Until next time, this has been Silly Songs with Peary, the part of the blog where Peary comes out and "sings" a silly song. (Don't forget the squash song I posted a few months back.)

Friday, October 17, 2008

catharsis--feeling small and powerful

wow. i've never gotten so many comments on a blog. I figured i had better write a follow up as a kind of disclaimer and apology. but actually, I'm not interested in either apologizing or disclaiming. the truth of the matter is that my feelings of inadequacy and social failure have been trying to burst out of me in one form or another for too long. in this particular case, they exploded into a rant about something not really connected with my feelings of inadequacy. and i always feel bad feeding more negativity into the airwaves, but i needed a shoulder to cry on.

i use to be so cold except to certain people. i use to be so much more judgmental than i am now. i use to throw my opinions around as if they were solid truths. i am being too hard on the old me, but the fact is i used to be a lot of things before i went to Brazil and learned that all of that was just useless pride. I learned that you can make your mark by loving people, that you "let your light so shine" by serving people and letting them glorify God through you. I learned that it isn't about me being glorified; that's the wrong motive. it's about being kind to people so they can know God a little better through me. i learned to cry on my mission--not just for me but for others. i learned about what we take with us: meaningful relationships. i learned about sacrifice and inconvenience and discipline...even my arsenal of words cannot contain the things I learned.

And what are words anyway? symbols. eloquence, a weapon.

I came home so idealistic. i came home feeling like i could never be disappointed by anything again. i felt so empowered. and what's more, i wanted so badly to try out the new me with others in a none mission setting. i wanted to be open and kind and more tactful and less self-centered and all the things i didn't recognize in the old me.

imagine my disappointment, now, when it doesn't seem to make any difference. i feel like no matter what i do, i will always scare people away some way or another in spite of all the ways i've tried to change. i know this isn't true, but this is precisely what i've been feeling for weeks and weeks on end now, like nothing is good enough.

now, lest it be thought that i am looking for soothing reassurance that none of this is true, i'm not. Shortly after writing the diatribe below, i had a healthy conversation with one of my roommates in which I was able to diagnose the real root of my insecurity. i'm not going to go into it here, but i realized that after having suffered what was, in my opinion, a pretty hardcore rejection some time ago, i was subconsciously interpreting everything as a type of rejection, and my pride was being bruised once more. it was like every time i didn't get asked out or something it was a slap in the face.

not anymore. Let's just say that now, days later, i feel i have put things in their proper perspective and i don't feel the same way anymore. i have turned my focus to other things. i avails me nothing to worry about what i have no control over. i know i am doing my best, and that is all that matters. as for the rest? i trust it will work itself out in time. i feel that assurance. and i need not feel plagued by the fear of rejection any longer. i've never felt so small in my life--and yet...now that i've put things in their proper perspective, i'm starting to regain my power.

thank you for all your comments. they were both enjoyable and enlightening and in one case (john) just dumb. but that's okay, too. sometimes stupidity can be so cathartic.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Male Idiocy in Provo

I know I have been delinquent in my blogging, but I have not felt moved to write about anything until now. It seems that a diatribal spirit has entered my body and proven to be the only emotion strong enough to incite me to write. EXPLODE, rather.

I have been back from my mission for six months now. Let's see, I can count on one invisible hand how many dates I have been on during that time period. Do you catch my drift? I concede that for four of those months, I was living at home and going to the old, fuddy duddy ward. But I have since moved out--at no small expense to me in this time of economic distress--and I have bent over backwards through flaming hoops to make myself social; I have performed feats of emotional perseverance trying to be nice to people that don't initially interest me, giving them the benefit of the doubt--because, really, I DO tend to misjudge people; I got to FHE; I do demeaning things--like scavenger hunts--in the name of making my presence known; I try to just be a nice person! But has it availed me anything in the romantic scheme of things? Have I seen one proverbial red cent for all my pains? Ha! In fact, during the course of my socializing, I the one thing I HAVE come to discover is that maybe my impressions of people arent that wrong after all. Most of them are phlegmatic or close-minded or ignorantly republican (I don't have anything against republicans, just ignorance) or what have you. I find myself slipping into my old aloof cynicism about dating.

The short and tall of it is this: I am tired of feeling like I'm not good enough. I don't need to be defined by success on the social scene. What a stupid measure of success anyway. I don't care anymore.

yes, I am angry while i'm writing this. don't take it too seriously. But basically this has been what I've been feeling for the past month. Are young single adult men REALLY as obtuse in other parts of the country as they are here?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Breach

So...all those lovely defenses I spent my whole mission building up, all those walls of self-assurance, all those hard barriers that held fear and self-consciousness and insecurity at bay--in short--all the things I did to make me almost impervious to the opinions and judgments of others...failing. It was easy to come home quietly and see the same people all the time for four and half months. But it is an entirely different thing to be confronted by hundreds of strangers every day. I'm starting to get dents in all of my defenses and i'm afraid that there is going to be a serious breach soon.

I ran into one my former companions today and told her--amidst other more light-hearted conversation--that I was beginning to feel so vulnerable when just days ago I had felt totally unafraid of anything. She wisely told me that it was normal and that it was, in fact, necessary, because the kind of barriers we put up around us on our missions didn't really have their place in the normal world. It is, of course, okay to be confidant, but not to place yourself out of range of other people, emotionally. Does this make sense? Mostly likely not. But the point is that I was reminded today that a little vulnerability is necessary to connect with people. To really connect, I mean. A lot of people probably feel as small as I do this time of year.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Um Momento em Sao Paulo

Sometimes I remember something from Brazil so vividly, i have to stop whatever i'm doing and just chew on the memory. I've thought about writing about these memories when they happen. But somehow, that seems to take the magic out of it. But if I don't transfer at least part of these random memories into some more permanent form, I realize there will, in time, be no magic left at all for me.

Right now, i'm thinking about standing in the "fundos" (that means the back part) of several houses in my first area in inner city Sao Paulo, waiting for an investigator to let us in. The sky is white and rainy. We've just walked in from the street through a beige door, a skinny alleyway past two or three homes (all connected, of course) and into another labyrinth of interconnected homes in the fundos. People live wherever there is a nook or a cranny. My trainer walks up to the "portao" (the locked gate/door everyone in Brazil has in front of their real front door) and claps loudly. She then raises her hands to her mouth and yells, "Silmara!" We wait a minute in silence. A few curious neighbor kids look at us through their windows. "Silmara!" she yells again, in a way that my still-foreign propriety thinks is too loud. A pretty, brown girl with disheveled, violently curly hair pokes her head out the door. She has a calm, sleepy look on her face. She can't let us in today. We mark another appointment and walk back through the labyrinth of houses to the street.

This is one of the first people i try to visit as a missionary. I like memories of my first area because they are generally untainted by my natural cynicism. Looking back, I know that Silmara was giving us the runaround and that she really just didn't want to see us. But my one-day-old self didn't know that. And that's all right.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Five Mineral Pools

First of all, can I just say that the Swiss Alps have nothing on the Canadian Rockies. Alps Shmalps. The CR's not only are huge but they actually look as big as they are. Millions of years of glaciers have left them twisted in all sorts of crazy shapes, unpredictably craggy. Poetic, really. Yesterday, I went to a day spa for the first time in my life in Banff, Alberta, which is a resort town kind of like Park City. After a day of hiking with kids and wandering around and getting dirty, it felt a little silly all of us walking into this fancy shmancy spa looking like death. But I guess it didn't really matter to them what we looked like as long they had our business.

Christina and I were scheduled for the first two relaxation massages, which were pretty much amazing. After my massage ended, I wandered back upstairs alone in a sort of relaxed daze to go put on my bathing suit. After i was properly attired i wandered back downstairs in my white fluffy robe and into the steam/pool area. I skipped the steam-room and the inhalation room/sauna and wandered dreamily into the pool area. I found Sue, Bec and Mary swimming in the center of the medium sized, circular pool. The beckoned me to join them--like Sirens, I might add. I threw my robe, towel, and water-bottle on a chair, walked over to the steps, and gingerly stepped down into the warm, minerally water. The floor was a mosaic of green and blue tiles, and the amphibious strains of the spa music could be heard underwater. Surrounding this central pool were three other small, hot-tub like pools with small waterfalls pouring into them. My sisters, who have been swimming for a while, tell me that I must experience all the pools, and play the little game they had made up, which was to reveal certain things about oneself in each of the five pools.

The Dreams Pool
The first pool was the first, small, waterfall pool. It was cold, like a real swimming pool. I immediately felt giddy when i stepped in and shrieked when i put my head under the waterfall. This was the pool where we revealed our dreams. Shivering, laughing nervously, and frankly anxious to get out of the cold pool, I revealed my dream of writing really good fiction, of singing in a band someday, and...last but not least...of being able to find someone who was charismatic and NOT a jerk. (Does such a man exist?)

The Crushes Pool
This pool seems a little silly since most of our party was already married. But we called it the movie-crush pool where we revealed which actors we found the most compelling. This pool was a perfect 98 F degree relief from cold pool, and i would have happily died in its waters....But anyway. My movie crushes were the following for the following reasons. 1)Jim Caviezel, because he is beautiful and gentle-mannered. 2)Joaquim Phoenix, for exactly the same reasons. and 3) Robert Downey Jr., because he is totally and completely fascinating.

The Grudges Pool
This was a small, hot, steamy waterfall pool where, obviously we revealed the people whose faces we'd like to see smeared in the mud. Again, this was a huge joke, because Thomases are emotionally incapable of holding grudges. But we revealed things that had hurt us in the past. jokingly, of course.

The Changes Pool
This was the bigger mosaic pool in the middle of the room with the music playing under water where we revealed what we were going to change. I resolved that I would try not to be intentionally rude to people anymore. it sounds weird that i would be intentionally rude to people in the first place--and it is--but my problem is that when i see what i deem to be inexcusable character flaws in people, i can't seem to help picking at them and irritating them. I resolved to be a nicer person inwardly and outwardly.

The Confessions Pool
This one was a small, spiral of a hot tub outside. It was chilly and misty, but delicious and warm in the water. I think the title we gave this pool makes it pretty obvious what we revealed. My revelation was a little embarassing, but not because i'd been caught doing something or anything like that. My confession was simply this--and i am ashamed to admit it: the grudge I claimed to have been over, there in the grudge pool...I hadn't quite found forgiveness yet. And it still smarts. But I am trying so hard.

I went through this little game twice, once with my sisters, and once with my mom when she finished her massage. It was more flippant than anything, but the important thing was time spent with people I love so, so much.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

summer night in Calgary

I think there aren't very many perfect moments in life, but last night was one of them. After a deliciously-tiring day of river rafting and other water activities--including Afton's baptism--me and the sisters ended up at John and Mary's house for the evening. we went to the field at the high school by their house and sat in the field watching John and Henry kick a soccer ball around. Canadian summers are nice because the days are even longer than they are at home. The days seem to never end even while autumn-ness is starting to seep into the air. (I should warn you right now that this entry runs the risk of dithering away into a sea of bathos. I apologize, but also realize that perfect moments, for me, almost always involve nature and the sublime.)

So, the perfect moment came after dinner. Doughnuts were warming in the oven, water was on the stove for apple cider, and candles were being lit on the deck, for atmosphere. We wrapped up in blankies, grabbed doughnuts and repaired to the outdoors, cradling mugs of cider. The next hour was spent in conversation, kids and adults conversing in harmony--actually NOT getting bored with one another--while the stars sparkled tentatively against the bright, Calgary sky. Suddenly, Henry sees a shooting star. So does Mary. Their prolongued astonishment means that the meteor was big. We all remember that it's late August: meteor shower season. The only logical thing to do, then, is to relocate to the trampoline to watch for more meteors. (Phoebe expresses concern about meteors crashing to earth and is reassured that very few make it that far.) Wrapped up like seven burritos, we lie on our backs for twenty minutes and do not see a single meteor--but we DO re-discover summer constellations. Casiopoea, Signus, The big dipper, The summer triangle.... The immutable North Star. (Coincidentally, it feels so strange to be so far north when i was so far south four months ago.) Then, it's suddenly late--too late--and we all roll listlessly off the tramp. Walking back to the house, I see someone crouched under the hammock, waiting for an ambush. I barely have time to register this when John suddenly darts from his strategic position and rushes after Mary. She shrieks (and I'm sorry for the awkward adverb) hilariously. John is evil, which is why I like him so much. Heh.

And then, we were out the door. But then Mary suddenly remembered that she had a winter coat that didn't look good on her that she'd decided to give to one of us. Me, being the closest to her size, was the obvious candidate. And so, as if the perfect evening had not quite been perfect enough, I ended the day by inheriting a beautiful, red pea-coat. (picture forthcoming.)

The saddest part about perfect moments is that you're usually too content to notice they're happening until they're almost over.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

What I Have Been Doing All Summer Cooped Up in my House...

Writing. A lot.

When I was younger, i played make-believe a lot. I think all of us girls did, but I'm pretty sure i played make-believe the longest. I was nearly fifteen when i packed away my Grand Champions for the last time, and it was probably around then that I stopped running around my grandparents yard pretending I was a dragon. Or a nymph. Or the daughter of the king of the world. I make-believed amazing things, especially with my cousin Midori, whose imagination rivaled even mine. Our world of dragons was elaborate. The first we came up with were Silver Dragons: roughly the size of a horse, silver scales, and incredible speed. When dragons got old, which it did on and off, we'd switch to something else, like being normal kids but with the power to control the elements. When acting out our stories became temporarily boring, we moved inside and pulled out my extensive collection of plastic animals. Or my extensive collection of Grand Champions (which, for those who don't know, are lifelike horse miniatures). Or my extensive collection of dinosaurs. Or my little ponies. Or stuffed animals. Or plastic foods and dishes to play restaurant with. Or costumes! The wonderful costumes. The coveted gold skirt...

There were so many layers to my world. I'd tuck three or four stuffed animals in with me at night as if they were my children, or my guardians against bad dreams--which they proved to be on several occasions. Even when I got ready for bed at night, i'd pretend I was a princess in hiding, dressed like a commoner, staying at a remote inn for the night.... I'm smiling right now, because I realize that some things never die.

What happens, though, instead of stories and people and make-believe dying is that the creator gets tired. Physically, I got tired. I grew up, and I no longer had the energy nor felt the need to play out what was in my head. And at fifteen, with no one to play with--and no energy to play, anyway--my creative energies began to wane. And then there was silence.

When I was sixteen, I lay on the couch one day, doing absolutely nothing, languishing in boredom, and I unconsciously to let my mind wander back into my make-believe world. It welcomed me with open arms. New stories were waiting there for me to discover them--stories that would never be games, but that would not cease to exist in spite. Stories richer in complexity and literary potential. Worlds and peoples and relationships that I alone could create and mould. And I found my outlet for this creativity through a more, shall we say, sedentary vehicle: writing. I could create while sitting in a chair. I could take myself anywhere still sitting in my chair! (What wonderful economy!) And thus was born my passion for creative writing. The fact that I had found a new outlet was like fodder on the fire of my imagination.

And now, this summer, I have begun serious work on that very story that I imagined one scene of while lying on the couch on a boring afternoon. This is my second or third attempt at it. But now, with a little more of life's experiences under my belt, I feel better equipped to house the people I've created--who seem so real to me now--in a better story.

So that's what i've been doing all summer cooped up in my house: Writing--and imagining--a lot.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

my wish list

I wish had had new tires for my scooter.
I wish I could find a place to live next year that fit my qualifications.
I wish I could go to the theater every week, several times, and that it didn't cost so much.
I wish I could find someone who couldn't live without me. ;)
I wish I could write the perfect novel.
I wish I didn't feel sick after eating too much sugar.
I wish certain things this summer had been different.
I wish I were more patient with my mom.
I wish I could play guitar and sing in a band and make beautiful music, just like Feist.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

An exchange in the kitchen...

I came up the stairs tonight after reading Stephenie Meyer for a while, trying to unwind, and plopped myself onto a stool in the kitchen. Christina sat at the bar typing at her computer in the semi-darkness.

"What happens," I say, interrupting her thoughts, "when a dream you've had for a long time dies and nothing comes to take its place?"

Biddy (that's Christina for those who don't know) looks up pensively from her laptop and offers this profound insight, "I don't know about that. I've never had a recurring dream before. I always forget my dreams anyway."

I stared at her blankly for a good three or four seconds before crumpling into laughter. I've decided it was the perfect response: a) it was an extremely funny, and b)it helped me take myself less seriously.

And c)it only fed my theory that most people who sound like they know what they're talking about, usually don't.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Playing Tennis

let me just preface this entry with this disclaimer: I cannot play tennis. I don't consider myself good at any one sport. My hand-eye coordination is not terrible, and as a dancer, neither is the rest of my coordination, but i will just say that of all the sports in existence, tennis is the one that kicks my butt the most and makes me feel the least coordinated. (Maybe we could throw sumo wrestling in there as well.) So, why do i ever pick up a racket? Why do I ever submit myself voluntarily to the humiliation of total lack of control? And why on earth do I find it, well, kind of fun? I'll tell you why. One word: boys. Not my boys. My sisters' boys. Ten years ago, I was talked into playing tennis with Amanda under the pretense of actually playing tennis with my sister. "Wanna come play tennis with me?" she would ask in her most winning way. Yeah! I did. Why not? So we went. We started trying to hit a few volleys. I don't really remember if we were successful or not, but I do remember having fun, until... "Wait!" she says in hushed tones. "Curtis is coming home!" she stage whispers as she peers breathlessly through the chain-link fence toward the Ashton home. Indeed, Curtis was coming home, and the match ended then and there. If my memory doesn't fail, i went on several of these expeditions with Amanda to innocently "stalk" Curtis under the, shall we way, weak pretense of playing tennis, but I doubt if Curt was ever aware of who was playing tennis at the park across the street. Incidentally, i never got any better at tennis. And I never played again.

Fast forward ten years. Susannah. Different sister. She's got a date with a guy she's actually interested in and he's interested back. The date? A tennis match. Sue knows how to play tennis maybe a fraction of a percentage better than I do. No...I'll give her more credit than that. She took lessons one summer, and learned a few basics. But she is basically as out-of-practice as I am. "Pear!" she says breathlessly, "I have to practice. Here's a racket. Get in the car. Let's go before it gets totally dark." Okay? I go. The park is like thirty seconds away, but it is already probably too dark by the time we arrive. We start out anyway. I congratulate myself that I can even hit the ball some of the time--even though they fly pell mell in every direction. And I'm not necessarily blaming the dark for this, though it certainly didn't help. In the process of this game, i make two disturbing discoveries a)I play tennis a little worse than I did at thirteen, in spite of my prowess at Wii tennis, and b)I still like it in spite of my buffoonery on the court. In other words, I still can't play, and i still don't care. It is something that I am so bad at, I don't even feel self-conscious, because I expect nothing of myself. I suck. So what? Let the game begin!

And I will just add a small epilogue here. in spite of my so-called "skill" on the court, my first venture with tennis and sisters and boys proved to be a flying success. Amanda married Curtis, and now has two kids. A match made in heaven, or at least...Cherry Hill Park! (pun intended. he he.) Now, Sue? Don't let me down. I do it all for you!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Untitled, Unmotivated.

I have lost my motivation to keep this blogging up. Why? I ask myself. I love to write. But that's just it: I am expending all my writing energy on other things. This last week, I spent time writing very long, boring, introspective journal entries on my computer. Sometimes I wish I could share these things, but I really can't. No, that's silly. I could if I wanted to, but I think it would make me feel sort of vulnerable and exposed. Plus, I always want to tell a good story, but a good story requires there to be some sort of conflict and resolution, and I just don't feel like life has very much conflict right now--or resolution for that matter. I feel like I just got off a train I'd been riding for a long time, and am waiting at the station for the next train to jump on. But in the meantime, it seems like everyone else I know is already on a train. What a dumb metaphor. But my point is, my life is so inbetween right now, I don't feel the urge to record it. I want to tell a good story...but maybe I should stop trying so hard. Maybe, like in many other aspects of my life, I should just stop trying so hard.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

a wonderful parody

Today at church, as christina and I walked out of relief society and headed towards the door, we passed two kids, brother and sister. One was holding a giant zucchini. "So...faith is like a squash?" the sister says, dubiously. They were well past us by the time the boy answered, and we didn't hear. But Christina and I busted a gut. And in the five minutes it took to walk home, we forged this amazing parody out of this experience and a well-loved primary hymn:
I am like a squash growing quickly
Growing for the whole world to eat
Slap me on the grill
add me to your meal
And you will like me better than meat!


A sure hit! Needless to say, we sang it first to my sister-in-law Karin, who is vegetarian and who got us all hooked on grilled zucchini.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

my new favorite scene

my new favorite scene in any movie comes from Lars and the Real Girl. Lars performing cpr on Margo's teddy bear. I laughed so hard, I cried. Pure genius.

The solution to my protein/calcium problem

cheese and yogurt.



And i'm not sure why this Yoplait is scooping money out of itself unless it's decided that it's a philanthropist.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

souvenirs

today, I got an email from a ward member in Santos and it was like getting a letter from across time. I can't imagine myself in a more different place than Brazil than where I am right now. (Well, okay. It's not that different.) But anyway, I was doing very different things than what i'm doing now. it's amazing--mind-boggling, actually--to think that I belong to two such different sets of people. And I realized something else after having received that short little email: we never totally lose things like places or people. We leave them, or they leave us, but we always take something of them with us, like a souvenir. I used to get so freaked out over loss. But I think--I just think--I may be mastering the art of losing. As Elizabeth Bishop says:
The art of losing isn't hard to master
though it may look like (write it!) like disaster

Thursday, July 10, 2008

poor hands

One would think that after all I've been through to finally be able to just ride my little scooter to BYU that the saga would be over. But no. After the tune-up, inspection, registration, written exam, and the normal growing pains of learning to drive a new kind of vehicle, i'm getting some lovely little blisters on my hands (callouses maybe? hopefully?) from constant gear-shifting and general rattling of the bike. It may have something to do with the fact that every time i want to brake or put on my signal, or change gears, I have to stretch my fingers to the max just to be able to pull off these oh-so-important maneuvers. And, I find today that my wrists are shaking (not while i'm driving.) today, at work while I contemplated this disturbing development, I wondered if I was showing signs of Parkinson's or if the muscles in my forearms were just overtaxed by both a) scooter driving and b) "Badmimbledon": Christina's and my weeklong badminton tournament. sigh Next, they will tell me I already have osteoporosis.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Let Freedom Ring!

.

"Wait! No. We must ignite them one at a time!"


"That's more like it. Now, we musn't light our father on fire."


"Careful--"


"Great. They've gone and blown themselves up again."



Fireworks are a little expensive this year, so we tried to maximize the experience by not only igniting the fireworks themselves, but their packaging as well.



Oddly reminiscent of Depression-era fireworks (i.e. box burning)

midnight watch


A few nights ago, around one o' clock, I wandered out into the backyard in my pink, fluffy bathrobe. All was dark and soft. The weather was restless. I was barefoot. I walked out to the middle of the lawn and sunk down into the grass. It was a little damp, but I didn't mind. I directed my thoughts to God. i told Him that I missed the past and was confused by the present. I looked up, and through breaks in the clouds I could see stars--Cygnus fixed in space in its giant cross formation. Then I had a good cry, and was glad that nobody could see me.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

cute loaf


I just found this picture of me and the loaf and i think it's too cute.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Riding Hobbes

Today, i went for a ride on Hobbes. It was just one more illegal jaunt on my scooter, i guess. But I felt justified because I only went down 2000 S., down the winding part, and back up our street again. i need to practice anyway if he is to be my main mode of transportation for the next two or three months. Before it gets cold, anyhow. It's hard to describe how fun it is to drive. It is one thing to ride as a passenger, to feel the security of someone else in control, the luxury of looking at the scenery, the careless abandon of turns. But it is an entirely different matter to actually drive. To feel the full force of the wind in your own face, to have absolute control--and responsibility. To feel completely secure on your own merit. Yes, Hobbes and I have bonded. I need him because I have no one else, and he needs me because the last time people stopped riding him, his battery died and his scrapes rusted over again. Look how sad this is: it is nearly one in the morning and I am anthropomorphizing a small, orange vehicle. But I just smiled and thought, "Why not?"

Saturday, June 28, 2008

A Festival and a Dispenser of Shields

First of all, the Utah Arts Festival:

Cool art. Cool music, if you don't count the atrocious honky-tonk country and the tacky rock band on the Amphitheatre Stage. (Why does the Intermountain West insist on country music? Why? Is it some sort of throwback to our frontier roots? We are living in the twenty-first century, people! Not everyone's a cowboy!) Among the other festival attractions were lot's of overpriced food and watered-down cups of lemonade, and LOTS of beer. You could get drunk off the fumes. In fact, I almost did. With my weight and drinking experience (none, on both accounts) I don't hold my liquor so well. But when all was said and done, the best thing of all was the Brazilian dance group, which we could just see if we looked through tiny cracks in-between people's bodies, the crowd was so thick. With a little perseverance, I was able to get a prime spot precariously perched atop a wall where I could see basically everything if I craned my head over the person in front of me. But before getting on to the coveted wall, I had the honor of getting beer spilled all over the back of my legs. "Oh man. I am so sorry about that," says the culprit. Sure you are. Sorry you just dropped your five buck dixie-cup of Bud Light! Luckily, alcohol evaporates quickly. I guess that's why they use it to clean things, and that, in my opinion, is the only thing it should be used for, and NOT to enebriate otherwise sane people. The art really was cool, though, all other things aside. So was the dance.

#2 Shield dispenser
If you are Bryce, or as squeamish as, you may want to skip this part. So, we are all familiar with maxi-pad dispensers in women's restrooms. You put in a quarter, twist the nob, and bingo: you are spared embarrassment in an emergency. The restrooms in the Church Office Building, like any other respectable, accredited establishment, provide these little vending machines, but (and this is a big but) with an added component which I happened to note while drying my hands with a paper towel. I glanced over at the little white box and couldn't help but notice that you could not only buy a pad or a tampon (ten cents each), but also a "shield". Now, let us consider the context of this discovery. I was in the Church Office Building, which is, as you know, kinda like the temple. Or at least close by. Could it be that the Church Office Building Tampax vending machines dispensed some sort of big, billowy shield?. Was that really necessary? I sneer at myself even as I write this. Of course not. Of course it meant that for ten cents you could buy...the Shield of Faith! (But where, then, were the white boxes selling Breastplates of Righteousness?) Obviously, my own logic wasn't getting me anywhere. I called Christina into the bathroom. "What is this? What kind of shield are we dispensing here?" I asked, pointing to the box. She caught my eye and we succumbed to what is commonly referred to as "the giggles." "Do you have a dime?" She asked. I did. I put it in and turned the nob. I braced myself to catch the enormous, cast-iron shield that was sure to come tumbling out of the small white vending machine...but was greeted instead by a small, pink box. We poured over the writing on the box trying to distinquish what hidden treasure, indeed, what shield it contained therein.... It was a dumb panty-liner! Oh, the irony. Disappointed, we finally left the restroom, armed if not by the Shield of Faith then at least--you know--for some other kind of emergency.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Why I will NOT be going to law school

Because I do not want to be a lawyer, and though law school itself might be kind of interesting--really interesting even--in this case the means do not justify the end. In other words the virtues of law school do not justify the outcome of law school: just one more lawyer in the Thomas family and in the world.

The End.

Monday, June 23, 2008

I am a fool

Perhaps the biggest fool on the face of the planet. You know when you make certain discoveries about yourself that are not exactly complimentary? Well, i have discovered--and not for the first time--one of my majorest character flaws. i would even venture to say it is my greatest flaw. And I am extremely sorry to say that it was Pride and Prejudice that helped me give a name to it. Or at least a description. Why am I sorry that Pride and Prejudice was involved? Simply because it annoys me that Pride and Prejudice seems to be heavily involved in every English major's life whether they want it to or not. Don't get me wrong; I like the book and like the movies even better. But I do not feel that Elizabeth Bennet and I "just have so much in common." Well, I was watching the part of P&P yesterday where Darcy and is talking to Elizabeth as she plays the piano and Lizzie accuses him of holding people in contempt, to which he retorts (and I quote) that her fault is to "willfully misunderstand them." Somebody might as well have punched me in the gut. It probably would have felt about the same.

Two days ago, I found myself face to face in the kitchen with my older sister angrily accusing her--if not in words than in action--of criticizing and disliking all my taste in music. Details are unimportant, but this was not the first time I had felt thus criticized. It was a small thing, but in the moment it was a big deal to me. I was tired of trying to please her, and all my siblings really (being the youngest, you know) and always seeming to meet with indifference if not disdain. But there in the kitchen, just when I was sure I was totally in the right, she declared, "Why do you always assume I don't like what you like! Why do you always assume I'm criticizing! I'm sick of it!" I'm not sure if my mouth dropped open, but it would have been appropriate if it had. I felt the scales drop from my eyes, and I was seeing a part of myself that I had never recognized before. Still shocked, and not quite repentant i mumbled an apology, but was really trying to wrap my brain around the implications of what she'd just said. Did I really assume so much about people? Did I who was always, by principle, so critical of those who assumed or analyzed things so totally blind to this defect in myself?

i thought about every recent unfairness or crushing doubt i had experienced and came to a very important--and humiliating--conclusion: in almost every occasion, my own assumptions had made me "willfully misunderstand." I had assumed that so and so thought such and such about me. I had assumed that such and such meant such and such, etc. etc. All subconsciously, of course.

And this of course brought me around to thinking about a gospel principle that I first thought seriously about on my mission. "Charity thinketh no evil." What does this mean anyway? I never thought very hard about it because it seemed so obvious; of course charity would think no evil. Most good, albeit uncharitable, people might have a few bad thoughts, but nothing evil, necessarily. But the way it's phrased in Portuguese says that charity "does not suspect wrong." I remember a talk a friend sent to me in Brazil that addressed this very thing in a short paragraph:

"Guilelessness," it says, "is the grace for suspicious people. And the possession of it is the great secret to personal influence. You will find, if you think for a moment, that the people who influence you are people who believe in you. In an atmosphere of suspicion men shrivel up; but in that atmosphere [of belief] they expand, and find encouragement and educative fellowship. It is a wonderful thing that here and there in this hard, uncharitable world there should still be left a few rare souls who think no evil. This is the great unworldliness. Love 'thinketh no evil,' imputes no motive, sees the bright side, puts the best construction on every action."

This friend will probably never know how much this talk came to mean to me on the mission, where I often felt so utterly inadequate. (The letter with my response was lost.) No one may ever know how this helped me dealt with my own crippling insecurities. "Don't be self-conscious!" this screams. I spent the year before my mission working on this. "Don't be suspicious!" it declares. I spent time with my companions working on this. But in spite of all my hard work, I feel like I've just fallen back into the same old vice: "thinking evil."

What can I do? How can i make amends with the world for all the willful misunderstanding I have unwittingly pumped into it? I will start by adopting a new assumption that no one anywhere is even thinking about me at all let alone bad about me. This sounds extreme--and it is--but it's what I must do to purge myself of self-consciousness. And then, the logical next step is to stop myself from having the unkind thoughts I was so afraid of in others, to stop imputing motives and to stop being so ridiculous!

Well, this has been long and no doubt way too introspective to be even remotely interesting, but i had to write it down so i don't forget and slip into the same thing in the future. i consider myself a confident, reliable person--exuberant even. a good friend. Responsible. Loyal. Well, i have been exposed for the fraud I am. It appears that the person I have misunderstood the very most is, of course, myself.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Walden Pond


I've never really cared about Henry David Thoreau, not because I don't like his work, but because I haven't read enough of it to care. I have read the obligatory blips from Walden and Civil Disobedience that have been assigned to me in my literature survey courses, but I have never sat down and studied transcendentalist lit. (Not shocking.) While we're on the subject of literature, I'm no snob when it comes to books. I don't like Dickens and I really have no desire to read Crime and Punishment or, or--i don't know--any other equally reputable classic. i have read my share of classics, but they do not automatically find themselves classed among my favorite books.

but i have gotten off topic. Walden. I first saw the Pond--the real thing--five years ago passing through Lexington and Concord with my dad and sister. It was on that occasion that i made the amazing discovery that you could actually go swimming in Walden pond, for Walden is no mere algae-covered mudhole, like most ponds we think about. It's really a small lake: a lake that I fell in love with the first time I saw it, looking down through a thin grove of skinny-trunked trees to the shore where people were happily splashing around. There is something unutterably romantic to me about swimming in nature. Unfortunately, at that time we didn't have our swimsuits. How on earth were we supposed to know that you could actually swim in Thoreau's Walden Pond? We drove off a little wistfully. At least I was wistful.

Five years later--last week, to be precise--I finally made good on my wish to swim in Walden Pond. Now, make no mistake about my motives. I didn't want to swim there because it was the Walden, or because 150 years earlier Henry David Thoreau happened to live at its water's edge in a small, primitive hut where he wrote his world-acclaimed philosophy. Don't be ridiculous. I wanted to swim simply because it was the most inviting natural body of water that i'd ever laid eyes on! When we approached it's water's edge--this time, appropriately dressed--it was more beautiful than ever. The three o' clock sun was pleasantly golden, but not fierce, and there was no wind. We skirted along the edge of the pond to a place that was not very crowded, threw our towels indecorously in the brush, kicked off our flip-flops and gingerly stepped into the crystal clear water. And I do not used this cliche lightly: the water was in every sense of the words "crystal clear." With each step in, the parts of my body that were not yet used to the chill shivered and I could not help but cringe a little--I hate the cold--but the water felt pleasantly warm after a minute or two. I waded in up to my chin, still able to see the bottom, and watched as Christina swam out further. As much as i think swimming in lakes and rivers is romantic, it still makes me a little nervous, and i didn't like the thought of treading water fifty feet away from shore, so i watched from the shallows, side-stroking here and there, trying not to get the top of my head wet.

Well, i will stop before I drift into the realm of sentimentality. But I will say this: Walden far and away exceeded my expectations. i am determined to go back someday. And who knows: for all my anti-literary-snobbishness, i may just take a serious look at Thoreau's literature now that I have beheld his muse--and swum in it.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Powder Magazine

So i just went to Boston to help my sister pack up her stuff and drive back across the country to home. I have to say, my going out there was not so much an act of charity as it was tourism. i hadn't been to Boston in 15 years and the only thing I remembered from my previous trip was the swan boats putting around the pond in the Common. Not a bad memory actually, but one that actually--now that I think about it--may have been fabricated by reading Make Way for Ducklings so many times as a kid. Well anyway, Christina's and my first act of tourism in Boston was to take a ferry to the harbor islands. I am, of course, talking about Boston Harbor here, of "Boston Tea Party" fame. It was nice. The boat ride, I mean. There were about five thousand middle school kids on board with us, but rather than take offense at their, shall we say, obnoxious presence, we decided to enjoy them as we would any other form of native wildlife. (What would a tour of some historically significant site be without the obligatory middle school fieldtrippers, after all?)It turned out that on weekdays, the ferry only went to one island of the many, this island being Georges Island. This particular island houses an old Civil War fort: Fort Warren, where the Union used to keep Confederate prisoners captive. It is also a strategic point of defense for the harbor as a whole. The fort, like all forts, was roughly the shape of a donut. It was a huge, roughly star-shaped, stone edifice with a big green lawn in the middle. (They probably used to do drills and practices and stuff in this area, but the middle school crowd used it to play frisbee. Fair enough.) The fort was large enough that it enabled Christina and I to find places to explore unmolested by the seventh graders. There were many dark--possibly too dark--passages to explore, corridors lit only by the sunlight through the small slits in the wall, curving staircases, dead ends in the dark, etc. We hadn't thought to bring flashlights (gee, how did that one slip our minds?) so we tried to use the light from our cellphones in the darkest area with...hm...limited success. The whole experience was fun and just the right amount creepy. But finally, after all this tiring exposition, i have finally arrived at the moment that I want most to record: the powder magazine.

What is a powder magazine? I didn't know either. Turns out that it is a storage shed for ammunition and gunpowder and all that other nice, explosive stuff. It's a smallish, thick-walled building smack in the middle of the fort. Why the middle? Well, would you want the enemy to blow up your powder magazine--and consequently your fort--at the first opportunity? Probably not. So, we found this shed and decided to check it out. The ferry back was not scheduled to leave for another fifteen minutes, so we had time to kill, and why not kill it in a small, empty, thickwalled shed? So that's what we did. And then, we discovered the best-kept secret of the fort.

The entrance to the magazine was a narrow doorway that smelled like urine, and looked into an ominously dark--and boringly empty--arched room with a window at the other end. Wrinkling our noses, we started to turn from the doorway, but then turned back. The room was deliciously cool, and the day was hot. Once past the doorway, the bad smell seemed to disappear, and after a minute or two our eyes adjusted to the dark. The room really was as empty as can be, but this is what facilitated the magic that we discovered. "Listen!" Christina said. Listen! Sen! Sen!, the walls repeated. "Wow," I whispered. Wow, the room whispered back. All of a sudden, this old, unused, unvisited powder magazine presented us with unbelievable acoustic possibilities. We played around with various sound effects at first, but the sound of the room was so much like a monastery that it just begged one to sing a Gregorian chant. Since the only one I even kind of know is "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" we sang it together. We harmonized. I'm the first to admit I don't have an amazing voice, but we sounded phenomenal! This song inevitably led to other Christmas songs--which lend themselves so easily to being beautiful--and even some of the more musically complex hymns. (Only the Ralph Vaughn Williams ones.) A couple times during our impromptu concert, a couple people poked their noses in the doorway, smelled the stale urine, stared into the uninviting darkness and turned away, just as we almost did. We waited patiently each time this happened, and then, when they would leave, we would start humming, or whistling or singing once more. And then, after ten minutes, we discovered the best trick of all: you could harmonize with your own echo. I could sing a chord with only the sound of my own voice reverberating around the tunnel-shaped room.

I must say that we sailed back to the docks feeling very good about ourselves. It is a fantastic feeling to have done something different than most people, and to have taken the time to discover it. It was not smugness that we felt, but rather a kind of joy that truly beautiful things always seem to evoke. And the seventh graders only made our triumph more piquant.

Hello from above ground

Before I get started let me just say that I'm really excited about this new blog, because it will require no effort. I am not going edit very much, if at all, and I will not have to face the perfectionist in me that always rears its ugly head whenever I try to be creative. Editing and creating are fine in their place, but this is not their place. So...in the spirit of my weekly emails from my mission, I will write as fast as I can so as to not lose energy.

hoop-de-do