Reason #2: Why I Love This City – My Own Little Testament.

Mormon Pioneer Cemetary
I excitedly walked among my ancestors today. Not necessarily ‘mine’ but those who made coming to this city a possibility. I’ve heard stories about their lives, their families, their trials, ever since I can remember. I took pictures of their headstones. Pictures of those who lead me, taught me, fought for me, and sacrificed everything for me.

I’m sure they didn’t know they were fighting for me. They probably thought they were fighting for themselves, for their own freedom.   Silly people. But it is because of their efforts that I am here visiting their tombs, feeling free to be me, not hiding, not diminishing anything about me, just whole-heartedly me.

As I stand among them, I can’t help but wonder about those whose spirit resides far above but bones rest below. Do they take an occasional glance down to look upon all those that were affected by their decisions?   Do they look at us as one large group and find themselves amazed, inspired at the repercussions of their own quiet leaps of faith or do they look at us one by one?

If they do look at us one by one, do they notice the small, white haired woman quietly sitting in front of her television? While next to her naps her white-haired husband, with a book resting on his chest? A woman, like them, that had no intention of taking on the world, but simply wanted to live her life in a manner that let her live it truthfully, with purpose and fulfillment?

Do those looking down know that because of what they did, giving up their comfortable lives, giving up everything to travel across a continent in order to create this place, do they know how it changed this woman and this woman’s children and her children’s children?

Telling you about the multitude of lives affected by each heroic, forgotten individual is an impossible task. So let me just start with that small, white-haired lady.   Except I think I’ll start when she was much younger. When she was a mom barely 23 with two children under the age of 5 and more on their way. Although her fight was different from those who sold all they had and risked their lives and family for a life outside the norm–quieter-I imagine. For her, it was just as exhausting and difficult – because it was one long, continuous, relentless, lonely fight.

She, alone, dragged and battled her reluctant children week after week, year after year, to this church created by those ancestors. She taught her children the importance of its teachings and never relented. Had she not done that, she wouldn’t have helped them find direction within the confusion of the world. The world that tells you to go this way, than that way, over here and then cris-cross to back over there. A world that says destructive means of coping are fun and anything fun is worth doing, but leaves out the ugly consequences. She wouldn’t have known how to give them the ability to look beyond this world, find truth and thus, save them from themselves. And had she not done that, one less person would be occupying this place. Which may not mean anything to the multitudes, but it means everything to that one person and that one person’s descendents and to that white-haired lady.

She wasn’t firm about most things. Except, of course, about what had she had been taught by two 19 year-old boys. Those ideas, those teachings, were wholeheartedly accepted and were a constant presence in her home.   She made sure her children knew those teachings as well.

Some of the children went on to find out for themselves if what she heard was true. Some blindly followed. Some believed, but liked the chaos of the world better. Some just didn’t care whether it was true or not.

One child in particular found the world an exceptionally confusing place. So many choices, so many different directions to go for a girl who didn’t know what she wanted or where she wanted to go. What does a girl like that do when she is surrounded by so much and no one to show her the way? I suppose she begins by taking the closest, easiest path, the loudest path that seems to be the quickest way to fill her empty holes of wanting more out of life, more success, more love, more peace, more self-worth but not knowing how to get there.

The paths that were the easiest were actually only distractions. And distractions never get you anywhere except to a dead end. And although she was warned about distractions, she wasn’t sure about her intended path and so often couldn’t differentiate between the two.

So she aimlessly set out, following this distraction and that–staying out all night, experimenting with unhealthy habits, unhealthy relationships, surely there was something/someone out there who could fill her holes?

Nope, just another dead-end.

And then after too many dead ends, too many uncertainties too many wondering if she were finally on her way and then discovering it was only another distraction, she recognized she wasn’t any further than she had been when she set out so long ago.   Except that the holes, now, were larger and had reached beyond her borders and had become other’s holes as well. She wanted more. Knew more was out there but still didn’t know how to get it, didn’t know where to find it. Life was just as confusing to a woman who doesn’t know herself as it is to a girl who doesn’t know herself.

The day she opened her eyes was the day she decided she was tired of the chase. Tired of going in circles. Tired of the holes that seemed impossible to fill. How was life so easy for others and yet so confusing for her?   With no hope for anything better she ended it with a distraction.

She had seen how the world worked and how she reacted to it. She was sure the above scenario is how it would have been had she not listened to her mother’s words. But she did. She trusted. And because she trusted, she occasionally felt a presence–something so close that she was sure it was within her. A presence that gave her peace when she was distraught, direction when she was overwhelmed, clarity when she was confused. The presence faintly told her, “You matter.”   And for those moments, her holes were filled.

She liked that presence. She had more peace, confidence; she felt more acceptance, unconditional love when it was around. She wanted more of it. She wanted to know more about it. She welcomed the presence but wasn’t willing to blindly obey. Where is the independence, the intelligence in blind obedience? No one was going to tell her how to think. So she continued to be skeptical, she questioned, she tested, she watched.   And although the presence was welcomed, it was kept at a distance.

At first, it was hard to put into practice what the teachers who knew the presence better than she, taught.   Too many fun distractions. Too many sacrifices. Too many cannots and shouldn’ts and shoulds and too much insistence for additional effort.   It was exhausting, physically as well as mentally.

But she wanted that presence with her. She had tried many other ways to keep it near but in order to stay it demanded trust.   It demanded action. It demanded growth. It demanded that she welcome it not at a distance but whole-heartedly. It demanded she actively try those things the teachers spoke about. And so she did try those things. Sometimes, to her amazement, her additional action, her trust, created better things and her holes weren’t so large. Sometimes she wasn’t sure it worked at all. But even when she felt nothing, saw no immediate reward, upon looking back, to her amazement, it seemed to have all come together after all.

As time when on, the shouldnts and shoulds weren’t so hard anymore, because obeying the shoulds and shouldnts made the presence happy. She felt it. And so it made her happy and thus the shoulds and shouldnts became a part of her. And with that, the presence became more of a companion, a friend, a trusted advisor and was with her continuously instead of occasionally. Its once faint voice that whispered, ‘You matter’, became a strong voice that insisted, ‘You are powerful and strong. Your worth is immeasurable. I am always here with you and you are loved beyond the stars.”

This gave her peace, self-worth and gratitude. Thus, she was able to let go of those inner things that kept her afraid and stagnate and empty. The presence gave her strength, which allowed her to ignore the distractions. Thus, she found her place, her success and she was able to fill her own holes.

She thought that as her life came together, with the help of the presence, it was much like a puzzle.   She thought, like most people, that her puzzle looked fairly easy and estimated it should be put together in one afternoon. They never do. They won’t be rushed. They are always completed one piece at a time.

By putting her puzzle together, she learned that sometimes, it’s just a waste of time to search and search for that one right piece. Instead, she should just let go, change sections, and when the puzzle was ready for that one piece, it would show itself. She discovered that all pieces are eventually found, if not on the table, then on the floor, or underneath a chair.

Sometimes a passerby picks up that stupid piece and effortlessly puts it in the correct place, then casually walks away, oblivious of the quiet but magnificent act.   Although she was usually glad the search was over, she found it quite frustrating at how difficult and time consuming the search had been. Frustrated that it seemed so easy for the passerby, yet so difficult for her.   Frustrated that she could no longer claim full ownership of doing the puzzle by herself.

Upon completion, she let it sit upon the table and shamelessly admired it. She knew it really wasn’t the beauty of the puzzle she was admiring, rather, the effort she had put into each piece–remembering how each came together, the particularly tough areas. It was hard work and she wasn’t going to just throw it back in the box.   It had challenged her, stumped her, frustrated her, exhausted her patience and left her, at times, despairing if she would ever see its completion.

That was the puzzle. Parts of her life–her quiet, unassuming life. Did it matter to many? Out of millions, that lone life could have been considered insignificant. Not even noticeable, but only if you are looking at that number as a whole. The presence isn’t looking at the whole, he is looking at each one. So to him, did that one white haired- ladies actions matter? That can be nothing but a resounding yes. Because each life is unique and each life matters to that presence as if his own happiness lies with each. “For who does not leave the 99 and go after the one?”

And so standing in front of the statues of those long passed, for me had much meaning, filled me with gratitude. They were heroes. Quiet, unassuming, courageous, amazing people who, one by one, gave that white-haired lady her life and thus, mine.

And so I send that white-haired lady the pictures of each tombstone, with the heading, “Before they were just stories, but now that I have walked among them, I hope like me, you see solid evidence of heroic lives lived.”

I have a saying, “My mother gave me life and then saved my life”. But she could not have done it without those going before her”

 

Salt Lake Cemetary

In Response to Poetry

Kings English 2

The King’s English Bookstore

The first time I entered the quaint bookstore was with the intent to meet up with a newly discovered writing group.  I sat next to two women I had decided were going to be my new best friends.  That is until they pulled out their poetry.  Ugh!  My eyes rolled.

After the meeting, the small talk began.  My two distant acquaintances approached me and welcomed me to the group.  As we chatted, one of them made an off-hand comment,  “One of these days we’ll have you writing poetry.”  I politely smiled, but in my head….Yeah, that’ll NEVER happen.

I had no interest in poetry, thought it was pretentious, obscure and took way too much effort to try to make sense of. Just say it! Why hide the meaning(s)? Tell me a story; a clear, to the point, understandable story!

But after being inundated with poetry – once a week for 4 years, I found my self becoming curiouser and curiouser and the closed mind began to creak open. Sometimes, I even allowed the thought, that I could be making poetry harder than it needs to be, rumble around instead of  swatting it away.

I sat silently, week after week, my face a blank, as my writing compatriots read their poems about the intricacies of a leaf swirling down a drain, the sensuality of preparing risotto and historical recollections of an abusive father narrated in admiration.  I came to realize that I too had stories to tell, things I wanted to say, ideas to convey.  But these things, if written in a large story, would dissolve.  No one would even know they were there.  How could I convey my ideas and make them be heard and understood?

Many, many evenings later, while we, the writing group, recited our stories around a dull light, something happened which caused me  to want to push my prejudice aside, stop standing on the side-line and join in.  This tiny moment of ten very different people, coming together, sharing the same space and lifting one another needed to be recorded.  I would do that in a poem.

I would like to suggest that the reason I went against my belief of poetry being a loathsome thing is because… I was put under a spell.  It’s true.  You see it was one of those inspiring nights when the imagination and creativity were flowing through all of us as we sat bunched together, in the small living room of one of our member’s homes.  The lights were dim with only a fireplace to read by as we snacked on cheese and nuts and tea, (don’t ever forget the tea in this group.)  By the end of the night, my defenses were down.  I could no longer resist.  And so at midnight, I drove home with this, my first poem swirling in my head.

 

 

 The Writing Group

I sit with mind alterers, bamboozlers, mesmerizers

They tell stories, wax poetic

The narration begins

the ghost of a dolphin swims into the room

it jumps, then dives

the story concludes

the dolphin exits

its eternal smile

rests upon us all

Then parents

long deceased appear

Staring lovingly upon their child

taking his turn at an ode to his past

7 colors of a sunset blaze in the desert sky

our source of light

while joined

in a dim room

A bejeweled lifeless beetle

swirls amidst water and leaves

until it disappears down its bygone drain

A man named JC

Trampled flowers

Coffee drinking bears

Porcelain talking dolls

46 Crayons

Beginners color

Trying to find the lines

Experience paints

crossing in, out and around the lines

Each reader creating their picture

Their original work of art

Strangers revealing their most intimate parts

Articulate beings

Dogged by a whispering, unsettling voice that demands

Express this!

Create that!

For you are unfulfilled unless!

After my first piece, I repented heavily of my stubborn ways.    I discovered that writing  poetry actually helped me define my writing into a more compact form.  It’s amazing!  I’ve discovered it actually tells a story in half the time of any other type of narration.  Uses much more depth, more meaning, more visuals and can do it as if it were a song.

When my poem was on paper, and when I could do no more, I read it to the writing group.

While reading, my voice didn’t shake, nor did my hands, I just couldn’t breathe.  Literally, I could not catch my breath. And then, because my nervousness was so obvious, it made me even more self-conscious/nervous.

I don’t know why I was so nervous.  Well, actually, I do. In regards to poetry, a  couple of women in this writing group are frikking amazing.  Actually, they’re all really good with poetry but one woman in particular.  Her writing is so amazing that she received a grant for a poetry study with someone,  I think he was a Poet Laureate,  don’t ask me for details.  It’s poetry.  I wasn’t following it at the time.  I just know it was something/someone big because when she announced her prize, the room filled with gasps and aww’s. I went with it.

Because I was so new to the experience of poetry, and those in the room were so advanced,  I worried how my poem would be received.  It was so simple in comparison to theirs.  Would they call me out?  Laugh at my lame attempt?  Give me a condescending pat on the head?

At the end and to my relief, they didn’t call my bluff.  They didn’t laugh, and in fact, they were very kind and gifted me with high praise.  I’m not sure if the praise was given because the poem was about them, or they feared my, ‘just short of having a panic attack’, nervousness would turn into a full on ambulance ride, or, if they just liked it.  I decided not to over analyze and go with the latter.

So to make a short story very long,  I wrote in the previous blog about how some writings speak to me as if requesting a response.  Below is my response to those writers/bloggers of poetry, artists of the written word  whose works speak to me.

A Writing Review On A Poet Laureate By…A Person With No Writing Authority Whatsoever.

Thank you Billy Collins

Billy Collins

I picked up your book at the library.

The one with the black bear on the cover.

A friend from my writing group suggested it.

He is a writing genius so I could not doubt.

 

I’ve never really liked poetry. Too flowery,

too clouded in obscure words,

meanings so deftly hidden that one cannot understand them

without a book of translations.

 

Often too dark, too hopeless,

she doesn’t love me, the world is a cruel place,

I shall kill myself ‘

Zzzzzzzzz!

 

As I said, I picked up your book and began reading.

My excitement bounded from heart to head

from lips to eyes as I perused through.

Your writings are simple!

 

I don’t mean kindergarten simple, rather concise, clear, understandably simple.

I found myself smiling, often.

Sometimes, the smile was from the joy of reading your poem,

other times, simply from the joy of being able to actually follow a poem.

 

Your stories; so intimate, personal, revealing so much about you, your day.

It made me think I knew you, that I too would enjoy sitting out in my garden,

the sun pleasantly shining down upon me

while enjoying a book of poetry from long ago.

 

I shut your book, lost in your pleasant scene.

But the Bumblebees caught my eye as they buzzed around the Black-Eyed Susans;

the hummingbird distracted me as well, as it zipped past my head

on the way to a delicious meal of Zinnia nectar.

 

Then the vision was lost. I looked around, back in my world,

no blue hydrangeas here. And no one who would actually enjoy

a thick book of poetry about stone walls with no windows.

Ah, I had been mesmerized.

 

But wait, I said to myself.

I often misinterpret poetry, reading along thinking

it’s a story about a wonderful mountain scene when actually

it’s a story about the death of a new bride

or something completely dark and opposing.

 

Was I misinterpreting your writings as well?

Was the dry humor actually condescending observations

made by a man who thinks too highly of his ability to put words to paper?

I’m sure you’ve heard of men becoming that after a time of too much fame, too much praise.

 

The last thought could only be fleeting though as I reread

and as I rediscovered that indeed,

your writings were simply what they were.

 

With my expression of why now explained,

I end with the intent of this writing in the first place

which is to thank you.

Thank you for giving me the gift of the joy of reading poetry.

The Alone

Sometimes a story, a poem just hits you, smack dab across the head. It reaches into your temporal lobe and says, “Hey, listen to this. It’s as if you wrote it. But it’s using someone else’s language!”
Sometimes that story, that poem, talks to you and stirs within you a desire to talk back. This is one I want to talk back to. I want to tell the author, as if we were old friends and as if she understood the nuances of my life, how this poem fired off a reminder of how much I love writing and how I have a sudden need to start doing it again.

Ann WJ White

I work in my garden, alone,
But for bees that communicate 
Satisfaction with my efforts. 

The neighbors whisper and watch, 
Looking for an error, a stagger, 
Never once caring for more than gossip. 

I live alone in a house of people, 
Never noticed, never seen, 
The dust is my intimate friend. 

I watch the sunset from my window, 
Its golden light illuminating my 
Loneliness, I wish and dream. 

I had a friend once, 
He as golden as the sun. 
He left like all the others, without a storm. 

He was beautiful, rich, 
Filled with ideas to make the world better. 
As my world collapsed in tears, he left. 

Gold sunshine will return at sunset, 
Not always there, but returning 
To give me a kiss of hope. 

The neighbors will talk, and 
I will freeze Like a rabbit before the fox. 
Let them talk, I am deaf to them now.

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Jump For Joy! What a Great , positive experience!

JUMP FOR JOY! Photo Project

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