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.