28 February 2010

more faith, less hope: an apology and a sermon from brother revell

Every day I have between 4 and 6 hours of good energy--enough to do some dishes, fold some laundry, teach some classes, and then collapse on the couch.  A few hours later, I can sometimes muster 2 to 3 hours more of low energy to help kids with homework, make a simple dinner, read stories, and put kids to bed.  Sometimes, thanks to a laptop I can use in bed or on the couch, I write some things and send them to publishers.  Sometimes, if I budget well, I can go to a party or take a child shopping for a birthday present.  The bard says how I too often feel here, as if he had already read the Elizabethan DSM-IV:

When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes, 
   I all alone beweep my outcast state, 
And trouble deaf Heaven with my bootless cries, 
   And look upon myself, and curse my fate, 
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope, 
   Featur'd like him, like him with friends possess'd, 
Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope, 
   With what I most enjoy contented least: 

I've been under this energy constraint for the past five years, and sporadically before that for my whole life, when I've had episodes of depression.  It's held me back from doing things I want to, and know I can, do, kept me from consistently putting in the hours required to do everything I'd like.  Every day I hope it will change.  I plan on things changing in the future while feeling frustrated with the present.  Today I want to assess the damage that too much hope has done to my life, to my relationships with my children, my poems, and my world, and to make a shift from hopefulness to faithfulness.

A few years ago, in poetry workshop with the amazing poet and teacher Donald Revell, he taught us that we should have more faith and less hope in our poems.  His reasoning goes like this:  you can't write poems hoping that someone else will love them, or that they'll win a prize or adulation because you have no control over the way other people respond to you or your loved ones, and because the reward of external approbation is never big enough make it worth spending time doing things you don't love.  You can write poems that you love and send them out in the world with your faith.  Some misunderstood poets, like Emily Dickinson, have eventually become better understood. I love Dickinson because she loved her poems so much, and wrote them believing (as opposed to hoping) that others would love them, too.  And they did.  Eventually.  After she was dead.  And that's because she wrote poems she loved.  Which doesn't ever guarantee that someone else will love them.  Only that their author loves them.  Which is enough.  Should be enough.  And because her poems didn't receive love until she was buried in her beloved earth.  Dickinson says:

This is my letter to the world,
That never wrote to me,-- 
The simple news that Nature told, 
With tender majesty. 
Her message is committed 
To hands I cannot see; 
For love of her, sweet countrymen,
Judge tenderly of me! 

(I love how much Dickinson loved the world.  Loving the world makes good poems.)

During Don's lesson, I had a major parenting epiphany.  This statement about hope and faith holds true for children as well as poems.  I realized then that I had not been displaying a full acceptance of my children.  Instead of reveling in their unique presence, I spent too much time correcting, hoping for change and improvement.  This was a huge mistake that robbed me and them of the full measure of love and joy we could have had then.  Here's apology number one: To my children, especially the oldest two, for not backing you with full faith earlier in your lives.  

Apology number two:  I'm sorry world.  I haven't loved you enough.  I have wished you to be different, not lived in you enough.  I want to change.  Here's what Brother Revell says about the world in his poem "My Mojave":
A perfect circle falls Onto white imperfections. (Consider the black road, How it seems white the entire Length of a sunshine day.)  Or I could say Shadows and mirage Compensate the world,  Completing its changes With no change.
Mormon doctrine, the one I was raised with from the day of my birth, has (what seems to me in my fuzzy understanding of Western Christina Traditions) a less dualistic view of heaven and earth, body and spirit, than many Christian traditions.  The earth and our bodies are not so much fallen states as they are stops on a journey.  Every Mormon knows this scripture by heart from the second book of Nephi:  Adam fell that men [and women] might be.  Men [and women] are that they might have joy.  And here's what what we sing as small children:

Whenever I hear the song of a bird,
Or look at the blue, blue sky,
Whenever I feel the rain on my face,
Or the wind as it rushes by, 
Whenever I touch a velvet rose
Or walk by a lilac tree,
I'm glad that I live in this beautiful world,
Heavenly Father created for me.

Children, world, poems, Brother Revell says:

I'm not needed
Like wings in a storm,  
And God is the storm.   
But I need you.  
I love you better and better, live in you more and more.

24 February 2010


My friend Courtney from Seattle (now Portland) who used to sing with Seattle Experimental Opera sent me a message on Sunday night to see if I wanted to get together while she was in town and meet her good friends, Rachel and David, who are starting the magazine Edible Wasatch in our lovely Deseret.  

Do I want to meet some folks trying to promote more local food in Utah?  Heck yeah.  

So we had dinner at Rooster, which they kindly kept open late for us, and had wonderful conversation about food, photos, music, Utah, etc., etc.  And I got to see Courtney after more than ten years, who has always been one of the coolest, smartest, foodiest people I know(plus she looks like a beautiful Modigliani, wears sandalwood oil and excellent jewelry and clothes).

It was the perfect happy antidote to this cold grey end of season.

23 February 2010

cardiothoracic & publicity shot

A new poem in Free Verse.  Don't be too grossed out.  I sometimes write poems about pretty things, though I happen to think that veins and needles and organs are really beautiful.  After finishing two books about trees and flowers, I just completed a little chapbook about surgery, diagnosis, doctors, patients and the weirdness of healing/treating/ministering.

My student Caitlin, a talented photographer, took some photos of me yesterday for my book cover.  Here's one of them.  I think it's the coolest one, but not the one I'll use for the book.  My students liked the ones where I looked happy the best.


10 February 2010

Super Pressed Tofu

Does anyone know where to procure this stuff in the Provo area?  Bittman claims it will obliterate your need for non-industrially raised white chicken meat, which we never buy because we would need a second mortgage on our house to fit it into our budget.  I'm loving tofu right now, and had the best tofu of my life at Rooster last night.  (Andy and Simy:  please put these on your menu permanently).  

We ate our fantastic tofu with shitake chicken, ginger/peanut/spinach dumplings, and Thai hot wings, with La Donna Smith, an improviser extraordinaire from Birmingham and an appreciative eater.  Seems like all of the experimental composers/improvisers, etc. that Christian hosts in Provo really appreciate the gustatory pleasures of our town.  I don't know if they're just being gracious, or if the food is really good around here these days.  It's definitely better than when we first moved here seven years ago.  It could also be that these artists, who were marginalized for at least half of their lives and many of whom still exist on what I imagine to be pretty slim margins despite attaining international renown in their fields, still appreciate a good meal.