Losing and Letting go

Bishop's poem burns my skin today: Yes, constantly letting go of people and things can become an art-form if it must be constantly polished by practice. And naming each loss--tossing it off over our shoulders as we toss salt to keep away bad luck--helps it stop searing the flesh. But, in "One Art" Bishop even inserts self mockery--not heavy, not too light. I imagine her sitting by an open window, her head leaning on one hand, after a long night that finally ends. She wears a long cotton gown and picks up her pen with an ironic smile and writes this self jest. I love her.

One Art

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant 
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied.  It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.


Red Satin Pillowcases

I bought a red satin pillowcase. I’d rather have had silk, but it’s hard to find silk in southeast Idaho. I thought a silk pillowcase would help my night dreams improve.
The night dreams are about essays I can’t write. My writing stops in the middle of the scene. Actually, it’s not the writing; it’s getting honest and staying honest. Some things I just can’t turn and face full on yet. I want to dress them up. I don’t want to say to myself or others that reality can get so dark that we break under it.
Like what?
Like watching a judge sentence my beautiful daughter to prison for her repeated failure to stop self medication, like how she turned and looked at me to save her from the handcuffs, and like how the wooden bench felt as I dug my fingernails into it from watching them lead her away. I looked around the courtroom and noticed a detective smiling and remember how it felt to want to claw off his lips and feed them to my dog. I remember the I-cannot-stop-what-will-happen-to-her gagging me, restricting my breathing until I felt like I could pick up the bench in front of me and heave it at the judge, hoping it would crush him, crush time moving on, crush the mistakes I had made, crush the marriage that had consumed me with its problems, always stealing time from my children, like how I still sat and stared at the door they closed behind her through two more court cases, feeling buried as if whole cities had fallen on my head—I can’t write about this yet.
Or another dream about how it felt to look at a dead husband who had lain down behind a car and sucked in gas fumes, the night before, until he drifted off and out of his body. The suicide note he left in the front seat of the car seemed like an afterthought:
“I love you, Shar. And I know you love me, but my heart hurts too much.” I can’t remember what the rest of the note said, even though I still have it, hidden away, with other sacred notes, in my home.
We had to walk across a dirty red carpet to the back room of a Salt Lake City mortuary. I floated between two friends and my sister. My father sat in a car outside. He’d tried to get out of the car. I saw him grab the door handle, but he slumped back in his seat, and said “I’ll wait here; you won’t need me. I did not know if I was sad or glad that he waited in the car. I remember feeling surprised when I realized he was a coward, but I didn’t have time to justify it, to help him back on his pedestal.
I almost pulled my sister out of the car. Why couldn’t she see we needed to hurry? I did not creep up the steps of the Mortuary like my sister did. I pushed open the door quickly, still sure that I could stop whatever grotesque process was in play. I could still grab the one round rock before it rolled into an avalanche that would bury me and my children.
The worried mortician did not want us to see the body. He walked ahead of us into a stark rectangle room with a desk at one end. Mustard paint flaked off the walls in one high corner.
This—I cannot write about yet either. But I want to. I grow closer. I want to grab all of it and form it into words and place it on paper, so it’s not chaffing at my heart, always at night, in countless endless dreams.


"Like a patient etherized upon a table." T.S. Eliot

My son Beau sent me a quotation from Jack Handy that cracks me up every time I read it--maybe because it strikes close to home:
"It makes me mad when I hear people say that I turned and ran like a scared rabbit. Maybe it was like an angry rabbit that was running to fight in another fight, away from the first fight."
Some days I don't think there's much left that I'm afraid of: earthquakes, famine, volcano's--pashaaw, what could they do but bring adrenaline? But, other times I worry that I'm frozen in fear, frozen stiff like a statue of marble or lead. Thoreau's words beat through my head like a trapped bird: "I don't want to reach the end of my life and realize I've never lived." Fear is crippling. It's dark and lonely. It's my war.
Mostly, I'm afraid of going numb—like one of Pavlov’s rats that gets shocked so many times she stops moving out of the way? The behaviorist trains her to just sit there because she thinks that no matter what she does the electric shock will come again and again. And thus was born the term "Learned Helplessness".
Numb, "Like a patient etherized upon a table." What is that? What is going numb? It’s not letting any little feeling surface because if one tiny feeling gets though the concrete, others may come until there’s a whole wash of them, a flood that may drown us because the painful ones may be more agonizing than any we’ve yet known, and the sorrow we’ve already known was almost unbearable. I’m afraid of fear and how it can turn us inward to live in such a small suffocating world.
So, sometimes, to choose faith instead of fear means re-framing my day from the very beginning—not just once a week or yearly, but every single day, sometimes every hour. And the fight is endless.
Without the Atonement to oil this process, to soothe this rocky struggle, I wouldn’t last 30 seconds. I would turn my back on the future and stop moving. Like the Wife of Lot, I’d turn into salt because I looked backward instead of having faith in the Lord to shape a good future. He does have that kind of power. He does want our happiness. He does have a stake in our lives turning out well. And He IS very powerful and kind.
To keep my eyes focused takes much strength. This is the single eye in the head of the Buddha. But, there is no other way and definitely no short cuts.


Positive and Negative

Sometimes I get caught up in terms of positive or negative. As in this is a positive or negative day. Or, I can’t think these negative thoughts, or I can’t write until I write positive words. But minutes and hours and days are not negative or positive. They just are. They go on and on. Minutes tumble over each other and turn into months, and then years, then decades, and what do we have to show for them? Is it negative or positive? How do we measure experience? How do we judge time?
What will it mean if we spend our years dreaming of money we want to fling around the decks of cruise ships toward the end of our lives when we've proven we're worthy of our hire? Money—the golden American calf—a flimsy symbol of exchange for real things we think we want—a new white summer dress to show off our tans, a float boat that drifts lazily down the Snake River while we catch more fish than we can possibly eat, a new dune buggy to race up hills of sand, down hills of sand, to make big, cosmic, silly circles in sand. Or, above all, it may buy a momentary look of envy in a friend’s eyes across a small dinner table in a New York cafe.

Money—that paper representing thousands of hours of my focus and time—may buy me a solid house with a full basement of food storage, so I can be safe and ready . . . for what? The End? The end of what? Some nights I see in dreams my fragile children falling from cliffs, and I am screaming until my throat bleeds, and it does not stop their fall. And they lie on the ground at my feet so real that I reach out and try to gather their jagged bones in my arms. But . . . with a full supply of food storage, I can, at least, be sure I won’t have to go begging to neighbors, whom I hardly know and barely like, for food and water. Ah, the threat of humiliation bred into me— probably worse than whatever pain the End will inflict.

Last night a small snake that lives in the flowers by the front porch slithered across the door’s threshold as I opened the screen. It was as thin as a pencil and as long as my foot. The snake must have been trying to find a warm place up against the door ridge or more bugs to eat. (Have I ever mentioned that I loathe snakes, detest them, and fear them like I fear rabid, raving Republicans?) This pearl-colored snake sashayed back and forth, fast, toward the coat closet before I could grasp that another of my nightmares was actually happening in front of me. (Though in my dreams, the snake is thick and ten feet long and, of course, poisonous.) He slid back out of the dark corner of the closet to slime sideways across the floor, and I beat him with a broom until I almost swallowed my tongue. He slithered back and forth, trying to squeeze under the door jam, back to the closet, and then slid sideways toward me. I swept him out the door with such force he flew across my garden fence. And then I clinched both fists, while I sat on the couch, shivering, to keep from smashing him into powder with huge rocks. Fear is an illness like a bad flu. Fear is a definite negative.

Or is it worth anything to me if my years never quite lost some moments of curiosity and creativity even though for many hours a day I tried to become a “company” person—to bend to those in control whose ideals I wanted to believe in, but could not because those ideals seemed to fly around the universe like loose wet paper, a compromise between fidelity to God and an obsession to turn out students on a conveyor belt who would, above all, be able to make more money. Can these two goals exist in the same overall blueprints? What has it all meant? The time I gave to my employer, organizing lesson plans, attending endless meetings, typing recommends for students who have no idea what lies ahead of them? I, who once received A’s, now gave out A’s—for what? Is it courage or resignation that I do not let the grind or the deadlines stop my ornery voice, keep me from singing Santana when others are not around? Or blind me to the deer in my backyard who stand so still that time stops? Or, instead, will I shut myself up in high towers –for creativity’s sake—and turn into cement?

What happens to the times we gave to friends who have moved on? The hours we lavished on our lovers--the vibrant richness we thought would never end, though it soon settled into dappled colors? If nothing ever disappears or is destroyed, where are the days we spent watching the skies and thinking about God, astonished at how His essence can infuse everything beautiful, but wondering how He can possibly hear our puny little prayers when at the same moment a small boy in Afghanistan is torn from his parents and bashed against a wall? Do those times get logged down in a book or do they fragment and float outward into space connecting with . . . what?

Earnest Hemingway won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1954 (?) and took his own life in 1961. His wife locked his rifles and pistols in the basement, and then put the keys behind the kitchen faucet. Why did she think he did not know where they were? Or did she know? I thought his suicide was in bad taste, not because he blew his head off—he had that right; we fought a war in heaven over his rights—but because he blew pieces of his brains all over the stairs for his wife to find when she woke up.

In Italy, I have trailed my fingers across the marble of a Michelangelo statue and felt so animated. I cried the same tears over the deep colors of a Rembrandt as I cried in 1960 Monterey, CA over a Crosby, Stills, & Nash concert. I have planted vegetables and flowers and watched them grow and ridden a horse to the tops of mountains behind the grand Tetons. I have tasted blood in my mouth during childbirth and buried two husbands—one in the ground, one in my heart. In Turkey, I lay on a midnight balcony to catch a breeze and watched two men below me play an all night game of chess in a perfectly round pool of light from the street lamp. I have listened to a Dylan song that suddenly helped me make sense of a confused moment. In Greece, I have felt under my feet the same smooth stone path that Paul walked in sandals to preach the gospel. I sat on cool benches in a chapel where John is rumored to have taken Mary after the crucifixion. I’ve jumped out of a plane and turned somersaults before the chute opened. On a black horse, I’ve chased a fox across snowdrifts, and I've heard the fall elk bugle in Harriman Park. I’ve watched my granddaughter laugh and dance as she blew bubbles that turned into rainbows and floated down on her hair.

I can’t stuff experience into negative and positive categories—except fear and snakes. Life is complicated and worth it—though I admit I go back and forth on that one—but what does it all mean? Do we live so we can have eternal life? Why? I don’t have any doubts about God. I know He is real and near, though often I don’t understand Him.

I doubt me. What if I don’t want eternal life? What if I don’t feel like I’ve got what it takes for eternal living? Eternity is a long time.

I have seen much beauty and know a few truths. I’ve been through great miracles, and I have paid for them—but not like the Savior paid. I can’t even comprehend what He did, which, I hope, is some kind of proof it’s all worth it. This is what I hang on to when the fog sets in.



Evacuate the rap of flip, zip,
I’m-so-hip one-liners.
Empty telephone wires
that never connect.

Rattle, zero prattle
Slappy, dappy madness—
Cell phones instead of ears
Replace being awake.

Let me have a break and back
Off, Jack. Eat the clich├ęs
That say stop and desist.
Give it up. Enough.

Let me breathe
You deep into my brain.
See you laughing at 9 am on a Sunday.
Watch you pull apart a cinnamon bun.

Licking sticky fingers
Dipping fried bananas into huckleberry jam
as you tell me a long story
of motorcycle rides through Lolo pass.



Hey, New York. I scanned the skies and TV monitor for all you back east people. Times Square looked so great. I kept looking for your faces. They flipped to J. Brothers too many times(ugga), but I knew you were there in that 02 degree weather. We miss all of you.


On the Lighter Side--True Story (except for "minus 30)

OK, I just have to tell someone this: Yesterday, I was sort of drowning (as you see from last post), but I was so busy writing in my journal to keep from jumping up and screaming every obscenity I know, and some I've forgotten, from the back porch that I was only vaguely aware of Cat (who hasn't got a 'real' name yet) running up and down the stairs and furiously round and round the kitchen. I thought Patch was chasing her because he does that when he's bored, but I looked up once (when the noise got a little out of control), and he was sitting by me watching the kitchen intently.
The noise IS unusual at this point, and somewhere far in the back of my mind I'm thinking of a discussion I had with Jacob on Monday about the woman in Ammon who was almost robbed recently. A man, posing as a book sales person (how dare he), shoved a gun in her ribs, tied her up, then started grabbing computers, video games, etc. and piling them by her front door. But, someone honks a car horn outside, so this guy runs out without taking any of the stuff. (What an idiot. I swear the IQ of thieves is dropping daily.) Her kids find her tied up when they get home from school--how traumatic for them. So, Jacob and I are discussing visits to locksmiths, since, let's face it, I'm never going to remember the safe place where I've hidden the key to unlock my 22, and because for some reason I've always wanted to shoot a thief (now, no gasping, please--just in the arm or leg). It's a secret dream of mine because HOW DARE THEY? I paid for my stuff, and no one, not even PresElect Obama is going to take it--unless I say so! But, hey, I'm busy writing my book to stay off the blog, like Matt Esq suggested I do, so who cares about creepo, probably meth-induced robberies, right?

OK, so I get up around midnight to hunt through my kitchen for some chocolate, and right there--between me and the kitchen--is not a thief but a mouse. Now, mice are not like snakes with me (a dead snake on my rug would have had me dialing 911), but I'm gagging, and this mouse looks like it's just faking dead. I don't want to pick it up because what if it starts squirming. The thought makes me gag twice, but I also don't want the cat throwing it up in the air again, and Patch is moving through my legs to sniff. And where did it come from anyway? I'm sure I've been "mouse-free" for years even though I know this is impossible when one lives in the middle of trees by a river, for hecks sake. But, I'M NOT PICKING THIS MOUSE UP! ... Yet, I have to get to the kitchen. Suddenly, I'm laughing hysterically, doubled over the back of the couch, because this is sort of a gift from God--the death of a rodent--to break my depression. Get it? It's so symbolic and I'm laughing so hard at myself that now I have to go to the bathroom, which means I have to pass the mouse, so I might as well pick it up, since I don't dare go upstairs and leave this dead thing down here with Patch and Cat, who sits by my feet, looking indignant, like, "Hey, I brought you a Christmas present and you dare laugh?" (I'm trying for the world's longest sentences, though I'll never beat Henry James.)

So, I edge by, carefully watching for signs of movement, wanting to call my mother, for some reason, to ask what to do, but she is terrified of mice and once stood on a kitchen chair until my dad got home because one was under our sink, and it's now past midnight for hecks sake. I grab almost a full roll of paper towels, but that's not enough, so I pad them into an old cloth towel I won't mind throwing away, while the whole time, I'm screaming at Patch and Cat to stay by me: "Don't you dare go near that mouse, or you'll be as dead as he (or she) is," but that's the problem--is this mouse dead or a great Hollywood actor in disguise? I mean his legs (I'm sure it's a "he" now, since who else would dare interrupt my depression in the middle of the night. Females know instinctively that we all work it out on our own. They quietly sympathize, then leave us alone, bless their hearts. And, no fair jumping on that sexist remark) are sticking straight up, and his eyes are closed, but...who knows? So, I loosely cover him with a mountain of "stuff," and gingerly gather him up--because I swear if he's faking it and starts moving around, I'll throw him and towels and run for Canada, which means he could land stuck on the ceiling and stay there clear through Christmas (remember, it's past midnight, and I'm not thinking too clearly, nor would you under said circumstances).

Now, I'm carrying him--with my head turned sideways--convinced he's suffocated by if he truly wasn't dead--and head for the garbage can; but wait, I can't leave him in a can inside my house! But, how can I put him down to find shoes because he could still be faking death and suddenly run out from underneath the towels? I mean who knows? There’s been a lot of fake stuff happen in my life. So, I open the garage door, with two fingers, my head still turned sideways, and walk out in the snow to throw a dead rodent into my garbage can-- whose lid is frozen shut. I kick the can hard with my bare feet and bang my shoulder against it, because I'm not putting this mouse down for anything. And do you know how stinkin' cold it is here? Minus 30 without wind-chill (slightly exaggerated for effect). I finally run clear to the fence behind the shed and throw him--towels and all--into the big gully, and on my frozen run back, I'm wondering, "Is that littering?" which my dad taught us never to do.

I LOVE CAT. She is now playing with the colored lights that swirl around my floor from the crystals hanging from the windows (like in Pollyanna). She is truly one of the Great Females in my life right now. She's resting. I'm saving the rest of the mice (such as there is) for Em to catch, so she won't ever be bored living here in Ice City.


This is me screaming---Clear to Japan--Blood Essay

Kylie asked why I’m screaming. I'm answering her on a different blog.
Kylie, you sweet innocent, I’m screaming because I've tried to catch up on the WC blog, I wrote replies, tried to patch up hurt fingers, change subjects, track down "Anonymous" (which I misspelled twice, but will never do so again), told WC assistants, in the most subtle way possible, that I'm glad everyone is homesick when they go home because home is behind us and ahead of us, NOT down here in this hell-hole of a life, but Julie said it better, so no one even talked to me but you, and Britt, Katie, Crystal, and Julie, Jami, Travis, Anona, Chan, and Matt (who said over e-mail at midnight, “Why don’t you just take a vacation from the blog and go write another book?")--which is, I guess, quite a lot of people talking to me, but it doesn’t feel like anyone because ... I, myself, am whining too much to feel the Spirit, which IS the only real comfort and peace we have. And no matter what anyone says to you, or promises you, or whatever they DON’T say to you, that is the absolute truth, because the Lord is the only One who can fill up emptiness.

But, here’s the kicker: He can’t give us peace when there’s no room at the Inn—when we’re too filled up already with resentment, or anger, or fear, or pain—and your incessant whining brought me face-to-face with my own pain, and I just want it all to go away, just like you do.

I want to crawl into a closet and sit, hugging my knees with my head down, until it melts away or thrashes itself to death against my bedroom window. I remember Chan saying "[when the memories hit too hard], use the Atonement," but I can’t right now, because my children are in pain—real pain, which I can’t even talk about. And because it snowed again--heavy.

So, I'm adding to the deep, sick, crap-sorrow-—claustrophobia, because now I can’t drive down my lane to help my 90-yr-old parents hang lights on their tree--because they’re sitting there too tired after dragging the tree in from the garage--even though I’ve driven round and round my driveway to pack down the snow, and Jacob and J. shoveled out my truck, so I could get down my lane, IT SNOWED AGAIN—-GET IT? DO YOU GET THAT because it’s important to me that you understand--it will always snow again. And twenty years ago, I could have taken a shovel and gleefully thrown snow clear over the roof, clear to Japan, but now I’m stuck here because it snowed again.

And Patch won’t eat because he gets depressed when I’m depressed, and so I’m saying, “Look, Patch, this can of dog food says Top-Sirloin Flavored... and Prime Cuts. “Umm, yum, yum,” and then I’m thinking, well, yeah, sure, someone offered you Prime Cuts once--over an altar--and it wasn’t real; it was a lie, and then I realize I’m comparing Jim to DOG FOOD, which does momentarily make me laugh, because sometimes it feels so good to hate him—-even at Christmas when we’re supposed to forgive everyone--especially when he should be here with a snow blower, or at his grandchildren’s basketball games, or helping my parents (whom he loved, and yet still broke my father’s heart when he just...left, without a backward glance, and, damn, I can’t fix it, because I’m not enough. I’m not a strong son-in-law, who can shovel snow off my dad’s roof), and, also, Jim should be with me right now wrapping presents to send to Turner in Slovakia or Parker in Mexico, or to Beau-—damn you, Jim, damn you clear to the hottest hell-—to Beau and Megan, and to Jason-—he should be anywhere but in a nice new house with a "Nice" new women, when my family is still sealed to him! Ahhhhhhhh...some days I think I will break in half. Yes, Kylie, this is me screaming, though I’m writing it on another blog, so you’ll never hear it, so you won’t catch this disease, this fear of the future from me.

And who can blame him for leaving since I am an angry, insane person and always sad? I can't even stand to be around me. I would have left me also. I did leave me. It was all too sad.

But, that’s not true. It’s literally not true. I’m looking at pictures of myself before Jim (Megan sneaked these pics out of Randy’s Minnesota house last summer, just for me), and I’m laughing and light and I remember—though it gets more vague—that life tasted so sweet and how I was glad to see the morning, even excited. ...so, what in the holy hell happened?

If I could just see it clearly, once, just understand a little of it....

And sometimes I just want to crawl in his bed and lay my head up under his chin or hear his voice because I can’t remember what it sounded like, but I remember it made me feel safe and warm—sometimes. And sometimes it made me feel like I had already died.

And the point is that no one can help you, and I don’t want help because I HAVE TO GET OUT OF THIS CRAP-HOLE MYSELF—and Heavenly Father is the only One who can really help. But, how the hell can He get through so much pain before it suffocates me, squeezes me until my bones break like brittle little mice bones. And I hear a line in my head from English Patient where the Count says, “Every night I cut out my heart, but by morning it grows back again.”

What I wanted to say to those groaning WC assistants was this: Wait to whine until you hit real trials. I know they seem big now, but they’re not, and how you handle these small ones will help you get through the big ones. You’re whining because your parents gave your room to your brother? Wait to whine until you’re 61, and you don’t go to church because some idiot speaker will say, “Everyone (she actually held her breath, anticipating the joy she’d bring to the congregation), now... close your eyes and remember your best Christmas.” And you innocently close your eyes because this is church, right? And Church should be safe, right? But you suddenly see a roomful of laughing children, a tall husband who can fight lions and tigers and bears oh my, and a big tree dripping with drippy ornaments made by the kids (which now sit in someone else’s garage, who doesn’t recognize which childish paper Mache is which, nor does she care). And because the tears wouldn’t stop gushing, you leave through the side door, embarrassed, but knowing now that Christmas can be lethal, and maybe it will be until you die.

Wait to whine until you wake up with eyes that hurt before you even open them. Wait until you have to take half the morning to re frame the day in terms of eternities, so you don’t look ahead and just see days of waking to no one--gray, quiet-quietness, where not even temples help-- before you can pull on clothes and drag yourself to a hostile place where friends used to be. Wait until you wake up to what you never thought would be your life because you wanted so much—-you, who raced a palomino horse down the Iona hill chasing rabbits through sagebrush, sure you would be empress of the universe someday; you dreamed so high that this can’t possibly be true—-THIS is the dream--I’ve disappeared already and only my shadow drifts around this house-—it’s ethereal. I’m not solid, but blend in with the chairs and tables. I’m a ghost before I’m dead. How incredibly strange, and it’s cold, so cold that my warmest blanket can’t get my blood moving again.

But, it’s not a dream, and you have to reach down and drag up from nowhere more strength and courage and spit and brassy grit because this stupid cat and dog are sitting at your feet looking up, as if to say, “Well, hey, you’re all we have, and--such as you are--you’re enough, so... what’s your problem?”

Therefore, I will turn my whole body towards the pain to disarm it, so it can kill me--face it, you wimp, you gutless wonder of a wispy wimp-—and feel it until you can’t feel any more, because it can’t kill you because nothing ever dies, and isn’t that the great irony? I am fighting an unreal battle—-a total illusion. ... I’m tilting at windmills, and right now, I don’t know if that’s painfully hilarious or heart breaking. Nope. I’m smiling. It’s funny. But, wow, what a waste of energy.

So, today, I thank the gods and God the Father that “after great pain, a formal feeling comes” and “Peace comes dropping slow,” so I can go take pictures of the snow as it falls on the river, the six-inch tufts on my deck posts, the bird and deer tracks, and it will be a good again-—for a while. I don’t know how, but the trees and river, and Patch chasing a squirrel, spraying up powder, will make it good again, so I can breathe-—because ...where else is there to go?

My biggest fear all my life has been that I would die before I died, and that is the actual battle I’m fighting through. How strange. And how stupid! Did I know this before? If I did, I wouldn’t have chosen it. Tanner Stellmon, in all your arguments about free agency, I think whoever chose this is either a total masochist or someone who had false grandiose illusions about her own strength. It wasn't moi. I just can't be that stupid. Right?

I’m going now...going to Innisfree to take pictures of shadows on the snow. (Count them—-four prepositions in that last sentence).


Dying is as constant as living

Cool green shade
slides across the river.
Even mosquitoes are sleeping.

But bats zip in the nights,
blind, like military jets
heading straight for warm blood.


"The Times they are a Changin'" (Bob Dylan)

I'm not going to say anything about the politics of the situation because I know my political views are different from others. Politics aside I'm looking at the big picture. Sister Morgan summed it up best with her Facebook status:

"Sharon Morgan is crying because she saw race riots in person, and now for the first time in 38 years, she feels proud of her country again."

Amen. Amen.

"Yes We Can."
"Yes We Did."
"Change has come to America."

All of these phrases marked tonight, which I would say is one of the more historic moments in the history that I have witnessed. Though it's not saying much it still says something. In my lifetime I have witnessed things like the Tuesday morning of Sept. 11, 2001. I remember coming in through the door after seminary, and shock as I stood next to my dad, eyes glued to the TV as the last of the twin towers fell to the ground, thousands of pounds of concrete peeling downwards. I knew then that the world would end. All chaos was about to be unleashed upon the nations of the world because people out there were evil enough to throw planes into buildings. And for what? What a contrast today is to that day. Two different Tuesdays.

I'm Canadian. Though American politics is fun to watch and follow, it really is like watching a sport to me. I follow it the same way I would follow a favorite sports team--slightly detached and rooting for a team that really doesn't mean much. That's not to say the issues aren't important, but they don't affect me directly because I'm not American. Sad truth though is that having spent the last five years in America, I know more about what's going on here than back at home. The issues here have more relevance (if not relative importance) to the issues at home.

Today, I saw a million people gather in a place that was the site of racial riots 40 years ago to support a new President. I saw in the smiles of the anonymous million waiting for President Obama to make his acceptance speech, the shadow of hundreds of years of civil rights atrocities and injustices lift from the face of America. I saw in the hugs of jubilation that differences can bring us together: history doesn't have to dictate the future. I saw in their tears the visual expression of the hope that I felt.

I'm not a very optimistic person. I'm a person that loses faith in humanity more and more as I get older, but tonight it was different. In those people's expressions I felt hope, I felt hope in humanity because I knew that America had gone a long way to overcome it's own past. America elected an African-American man to be its president.

I don't know how long this hope I feel will last, but I know that at for at least one night, I can be proud of the human race again. Ivor Lee

Well said, Ivor. This win was breathtaking; I am overjoyed, but probably for different reasons from those of my friends and colleagues.
No one could say McCain isn’t a sincere man after listening to his gracious concession speech. But, as the Prime Minister of England just said, “This day will go down as one of the most significant days in history.” I do not think people realize yet what has happened.

Except you're wrong, Ivor, when you say American politics don't affect you. What happens in this country is always global. The eyes of the world are always upon us. And, for many years, I've ducked my head because of that, wanting to clain I was Canadian, Irish, an alien from Mars. We have a constitution that says we will live under a true democracy—which means we are supposed to be a country who gaurentee human rights for every single child of God—whether that person is Jewish, Hispanic, White, Black, or Chinese. In case anyone forgot— Democracy is “for the people and by the people.” Yet, when I was your age, I saw that we spoke out of both sides of our mouths. We were the greatest of hypocrites. I saw Afro-Americans (what an ironic term) beaten by police and spit upon, humiliated by white people; whites who then walked home to eat family dinners as if they had just been swatting flies. I saw little girls with black hair and skin hide behind their mother's skirt when a caucasian came near them. I saw more than I could stomach--more than I wanted to see. And I can never forget it.
More importantly, I saw massive discrimination happening in a critical arena— minorities had to fight to get an education or even be admitted to our universities. No wonder so many just gave up. Is it possible that people in this country think this did not happen? I was ashamed to be an American for many years, as I witnessed abuse of authority (Nixon’s deceit; Clinton’s blatant and embarrassing immorality, Bush’s stupidity), our genocide in Vietnam as we protested genocides in other countries, our division and petty politics, our cruelty to each other as children shot other children. (How did you make it through your high schools without severe mental damage? Uhh, never mind. I take back that question.) There was no United in the United States I grew up in--except for a brief time under J.F. Kennedy (the first Catholic to be voted president), but he was assassinated, as was Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy shortly after.
Disillusioned with my country? That’s too mild a word. I have felt guilty, ashamed, angry, and embarrassed—and responsible for its condition—until the tragedy at Kent State when my feelings turned into a bitter cynicism, which I have tried to keep to myself (unsuccessfully) for many years.
The point, for me, is not so much the next four years: most people realize that whoever won (won? another ironic term) the presidency, whether it was McCain or Obama, would be extremely limited in what he could accomplish in the White House. We know the next president inherits a narrow isle, in which he can operate, from the presidency before him. Obama‘s presidency (or McCain’s if he had won) will succeed or fail by the choices he makes in his cabinet. If he surrounds himself with good, EDUCATED advisors, and if he listens to others and pays attention to what history has taught us (or not taught some of us), he may be able to pull us up a notch or two. And, in this area, maybe his inexperience will be an asset, since he will need to listen and learn. But, it’s naive of some to think that either McCain or Obama could fix what’s wrong with this country— either economically or politically, nor can they fix our relationships with foreign countries. We are in a mess that we ourselves have created. And it’s our value system that is at fault. Our heroes are movies stars and sports figures. We idolize the rich and despise the poor. We celebrate army tanks in our parades. We give away our right to privacy. And we do not respect each other. Blah Blah Blah.
But, last night I saw a shift in American values. I am elated about the historical change in the American people. For me, this signals the beginning of the end of racism and prejudice. (Dr. King only brought attention to our hypocrisy.) To me, this means other countries can finally view us as a place where EVERYONE does have a chance to pursue a dream and actually reach it. Maybe they will view us as a democracy again rather than a group of white skinheads—rich ego elitists. I have hope that in my next trip to Europe, I will not ridiculed for being from the USA. I saw young people filling Times Square; cameras showed them pouring out of dorm rooms at colleges celebrating their country for the first time in 35 years. Why? Because we all want to change. We want to be proud of our country. We want to be unified. I saw a long dry apathy blowing away in the wind.
I was in graduate school when President Kimball received the revelation that Afro-Americans could now receive the priesthood. You cannot imagine the pure joy flowing within the halls of an English Department where it was always difficult to reconcile a discriminatory ideology. I had such a hard time understanding how we were ALL children of God, when some of us—even though worthy— were denied full temple blessings. But, I knew the church was true, so I swallowed this paradox and kept my faith high anyway. When the revelation came through President Kimball (who prayed long and hard, because he was also troubled), my sister’s husband, who is anti-Mormon, said, “Of course, this decision was made. It was completely political. The church has to APPEAR to go along with the Civil Rights movement.” Soon after, at an LDS Conference, the Lord let us ALL understand the revelation was held back because WE were not ready to receive it. (And it’s true that many in the South left the church at that time because it was too hard for them to think of taking the sacrament sitting next to a colored person.)
If the American people can vote in an Afro-American, they may have no problem, someday, electing an L.D.S. president, which could never have happened before this. Those who have lived all their lives among the saints find this hard to believe, but it's true. It may not be Mitt Romney, but whomever (?) will have a chance.
I am overwhelmed, absolutely stunned, astounded—I cried and cried— not because I think Obama will lead us out of this mess—we will have to take responsibility for that—but simply because Americans finally grew up enough to elect someone without discriminating against race (maybe we can add gender later). Even just to see young people politically alive again makes history. And by the end of the week, everything I'm saying will be cliched. But, for me, right now, I finally understand patriotism.

However, a small bubble of cynicism still sits right under my ribs. I am still afraid that those who oppose the status quo will be assassinated and was glad to see the thick protective glass surrounding both candidates last night.
But, . . . Wow. It finally felt good to vote again.