Saturday, April 18, 2009

The great American stay-cation.

About six years ago my bro and I grabbed a couple last adventures together just before he shipped off on his two-year LDS mission to Pennsylvania.

Adventure #1: We drove off to California on two hours' notice just to catch a concert in Pomona (this was boring Marie trying to pack an entire lifetime's spontaneity into a single weekend to compensate for being such a dull teenager).

Adventure #2: We snuck/sneaked/snook* into the LDS Church Archives and looked at an old journal we weren't strictly entitled to handle.

I know. Gasp. If this is the best I can do for rebellion, I should just pull my knobbly shawl around me and hobble into the sunset. Humor me -- I'm going somewhere with this.

Anyway, this Forbidden Journal we read through was the journal of our great-great grand uncle Moses Thatcher that he kept while on an 1883 LDS mission to the Crow Indians in Yellowstone. We were giggling (veeery quietly, of course!) as we sat in the Archives reading of Uncle Moses's meeting an Indian named Chief Two-Belly. Yes, you read that right: Chief Two-Belly. It was an interesting little book, but I was especially taken by one of Uncle Moses's rants. He marveled at the natural wonders of the Yellowstone area and then noted in frustration that many Amercians considered vacationing in such a place to be inferior and instead would continue to spend their life savings traveling to Europe and other distant places considered more Cultural or Historical or Important. Uncle Moses's opinions were of legendary strength.

Let it be said that I love to travel. If money and time were no consideration I would give the last layer of skin off the soles of my feet to visit the world's wonders and people. I feel very fortunate in the chances I've had to travel to far-off lands and that besides being fun and giving me occasional delightful feelings of superiority these experiences were educational, enriching. I'm also banking that the memory of my adventures will keep me sane one future day as I'm changing diaper #17,286.

(Yes, I just wrote that, and what's worse: I MEANT IT. Forgive me, Susan B. Anthony.)

But do you think there's something to Uncle Moses's rant? Is it possible for a modern person to be openminded and well-informed and world-wise and completely happy without wandering very far afield from their home?

The couple I stayed with in England were avid travellers. They had been to Australia, Greece, Italy, the United States, and many other places. "Holiday" for them always meant leaving England. I told them I really hoped to visit Scotland while I was there. Scotland? We've never been to Scotland. Why would a person want to visit Scotland?

There's an amazing rock formation on the border between Utah and Arizona. I've never visited it, and I don't know any other Utahns who have, either. However, it's famous in Germany. Germans will fly all the way to Utah just to visit that one rock formation.

Is it just that we crave novelty, or is it more than that? Can library card + curiosity + vivid imagination take a person wherever he needs to go intellectually? Or is there something vitally important that we absolutely can't get anywhere except on Mount Kilimanjaro or in the Valley of the Kings?**

I really really need you to tell me. Because it's spring, you see, and I've never been to Paris....

* Okay, we didn't have to SNEAK. We wanted to be sneaky, but really anyone can go in the Church Archives.

** If so, why am I sitting at this computer? Why are you sitting at your computer? We need to sell our computers and buy plane tickets!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Flight of the Easter* Vultures.

On my way to church Easter Sunday I saw ten deer. Happy Easter! they seemed to say as they paused all full of life and spring, a-fattening themselves on lush cemetery grass fed by the dead. I don't think the dead minded, except perhaps the ticklish dead.

On my post-church Easter Sunday walk through the city cemetery I saw that brightly-colored lollipops had been stuck in the ground around one headstone, like candy flowers. I walked over for a closer look and saw that enterprising ants had determined to not let all that sugar go to waste. Happy Easter! they seemed to say as they swarmed over the sweet engraved face of the baby girl, eating her treats. I don't think she minded -- those ants were pretty fun to watch.

On my way home from the cemetery I saw ten huge birds gliding in a whirlpool formation. I followed them as they drifted eastward, silver wing feathers shining the evening light. Noble eagles! I thought. What a glorious and inspiring Easter vision!** I eventually tracked them to two huge trees in the yard of a stately home. Vultures. The original ten vultures plus seven more of their vulturey friends. I'm not sure why seventeen vultures chose to ominously descend upon the richest part of the richest neighborhood in town, but I do hope that whatever individual at 1288 East 3rd Avenue is dead (physically or otherwise) provided a splendid Easter feast for those magnificent birds. I don't think he minded, whoever he was.***

The Moral (yes, my child -- everything has a moral):

The death of one feeds the life of another; all things in nature are types of Christ and his cause. He puzzled the faithful and scared away the faithless with his talk of cannibalism, but cannibalism is what he demands we believe in: every Sunday he puts us at the top of the spiritual food chain, lays himself down on the table, and dares us to believe that we eventually are what we eat. All death gives life, however undeserved. The purest death, offered as a gift, gives the purest life, however undeserved.

Jesus loves the deer and the ants and the vultures, and so he feeds them on you. But most of all he loves you, and so he feeds you on himself.

Happy Easter.

* So I missed the boat by a couple days: computer's still possessed. Apparently the universe wants me to spend more time taking walks through the cemetery and spend less time blogging about it.

** I still am occasionally guilty of confusing patriotism with religion -- embarrassing, but true. I tried to have it surgically removed, but it appears that they missed a bit.

*** 'Tis economical, if nothing else. You gotta sell your soul for a plot in that cemetery – far more costly than a stately home in the Avenues (these days you can't even give those away).