Sunday, December 30, 2007

there she goes a-wanderlusting again

Claire gave me a wonderful book for Christmas: A Year in the World: Journeys of a Passionate Traveller by Frances Mayes. (If that name sounds familiar, that's probably because she also wrote Under the Tuscan Sun.) By now I am pretty much dying to go to Portugal, and I would just love to go back to Andalucía, this time taking it in at my own leisurely pace and without thirty American students as traveling companions. Only Portugal and Andalucía? you may ask. Well, those are the only two chapters I have read so far. I suspect that, by the end of the book, I will be dreaming also of Scotland and Turkey and Morocco and all the other marvelous places that will just be begging me to visit them once I have glimpsed their beauty and unique vitality in Mayes' descriptions and narratives.

My latest musical obsession is Sigur Rós. Unfortunately, I did not stick with my Icelandic class last semester, so I do not understand their lyrics or song titles. I don't even know how to pronounce their name. Sometimes I like to think of it as "sugar rush", though I know that is not quite right. There is a song of theirs called "Ný Batterí", which I often refer to as "new battery". I hope that that does not offend them. Anyway, I really like their music. You probably know that I like Björk's music a lot, and you may or may not know of my affinity for Emiliana Torrini's. Years ago I enjoyed reading Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth, and I have long been fascinated by geothermal phenomena. Basically, what I am trying to say is that I think that I would like Iceland. A lot. Like maybe enough to live there for a while?

Have you seen the indexed blog? If not, then you should. The boiled-down diagrams are clever, witty, understated, and often spot-on. I particularly liked this recent post. I have a passport; the question is, do I have enough of the other two?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

bring it on, jack frost

We are expecting some wintry weather out here in Utah-land. I have been checking the severe weather alerts regularly, in part because I am concerned about the road and atmospheric conditions since I am supposed to fly out on Thursday, and in part because I am mildly obsessed with the weather. Every time I get to the end of the National Weather Service statement, I read "gusty southwest winds" as "gutsy southwest winds". I think that that's just what we need: weather with a bit of spunk. That's right, cold front, you show 'em who's controlling the thermometer around here. Snow clouds, do your thing and don't you let anybody try to stop you!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

notes from sunday school

A few weeks ago I found myself drawing diagrams in my notebook during Sunday school. It was right after Thanksgiving, and the teacher had opened the lesson by inviting a handful of volunteers to share something that they were grateful for. It was a lovely day, and the first thing that came to mind was that I was grateful for sunshine and blue skies. I did not raise my hand to share this, because immediately my mind began following the intricate paths that every once in a while lead it to something fruitful. It went like this: I started thinking about why I am grateful for sunshine and blue skies. First came the obvious: sunshine means light and warmth, which not only allow us to see and keep us from freezing, but also help plants to grow. The sun is the ultimate life preserver, as far as our physical world goes. Blue skies are a little more difficult, since there is nothing inherent in them that keeps us alive. I do, however, find some sort of inarticulable inspiration in their color and depth. Additionally, I am one of those people whose emotions happen to be rather closely tied to atmospheric conditions. Several rainy days or long periods of cloud cover can get me pretty low. This is why I must not move somewhere like Seattle or Ithaca. On the other hand, when I am feeling a little off, sometimes a bright, blue, sunshiny day is enough to put a smile on my face.

Soon I was looking for more specific reasons as to why I find something so simple as a sunny day so wonderful. Where does this joy, that seems to be encapsulated in a sun-brightened, endless blue sky, come from? It occurred to me that, ultimately, it must come from God, since He created the sky and the sun. My mind then journeyed back to Cusco, where I sat in class one morning in June of this year and, when asked something about the difference between traditional Andean polytheism and Judeo-Christian monotheism, I replied that, in a way, I did not find them all that different. Indigenous beliefs in the Andean region hold natural elements like the sun (inti), the moon (quilla), and the mountains (apus) to be gods. In a strict monothestic view, worship of a mountain, for instance, would be considered idolatry. Without going so far as addressing prayers to Mother Earth (Pachamama), however, I believe that we can and ought to recognize the mark of divinity in the mountains, the forests, the stars, in the earth and the sky themselves. When I gaze at the snowcapped Wasatch mountains while I wait at the bus stop, I see God, because those mountains are a product of His creative power. I tried to express this to my teacher, but I had not sufficient time to adequately articulate the thoughts that were forming just then. Although I think that she got the gist of it, I was still unsatisfied with my incomplete explanation.

Months later, in a Sunday school classroom in Provo, it somehow became clear how I might illustrate what I had been trying to say: why immanence makes sense to me. So this is what I drew in my notebook:

As I was thinking more on this topic, this Book of Mormon scripture was recalled to my mind:
But Alma said unto him: Thou hast had signs enough; will ye tempt your God? Will ye say, Show unto me a sign, when ye have the testimony of all these thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets? The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator. (Alma 30:44, emphasis added)
I remember teaching this section in gospel doctrine class during the summer after my freshman year at BYU, and while preparing for the lesson I had scribbled in my notes "organic chemistry denotes that there is a God." Which reminds me of a time earlier this year when that same notebook where I drew those diagrams you see above, was witness to some musings of mine about organic chemistry and syntax trees. Maybe another day I'll post that one.

Sunday, December 9, 2007


I was first introduced to Billy Collins (his poetry, not the man himself) by Claire about two and a half years ago. We would read aloud from Sailing Alone Around the Room and I remember being captivated by the way that he could form such vivid images with his words. "Forgetfulness", ironically, is the poem that seems to stick with me more than any other. It might have been the first one that I ever heard, but I cannot remember for sure. While forming my amazon wish list so that Santa won't have to guess which world music albums and poetry books I would like, I searched Wikipedia for a list of all of Billy Collins' published collections. In the "external links" section I found this. Amazing. Brilliant. And, as you might have guessed from this post's title, Inspiring.

Saturday, December 8, 2007


The other day in class, my teacher asked us what we were planning on doing after finishing our degrees: go on for a PhD, teach in public schools, etc. I said that I was going to open a chocolate shop. My teacher responded with an interested and not discouraging "really?" to which I replied, "maybe." And then my classmate exclaimed, "You should! Because I like chocolate." What more reason do I need?