To have and have not

So a couple of weekends ago, I ventured down to Cubriver, Idaho for my cousin’s wedding reception. Cubriver is a sort of suburb of Preston, and yet it isn’t, because this description makes Preston sound like a metropolis, which, of course it is not. But Cubriver is even more rustic. As soon as I walked into the gymnasium in the stake center where the reception was being held, my uncle assigned me to the table by the entrance where all of the guests sign that cute little guest book that the bride and groom may look over a time or two before shelving it away forever.
Kira and Mark’s book had black paper on one side and white paper on the other. White gel pens lay beside the black paper, and black gel pens lay beside the white. “This will be easy enough,” I thought. Just sit and smile pleasantly as the gentle country folk come through the door.
The guests soon began to filter in. I assumed the prepared smile and welcomed them to the festivity. Their response to me was a look full of skepticism. Certainly, my American Eagle skirt and Gap blouse did not blend in with the homespun cotton dresses that appeared to have come from a 1950s catalogue. As the first lady leaned over to sign the book, my smile slowly shrunk as I watched her pick up the white pen and attempt to sign the white paper. “Darn thing!” she said. “That’s not gonna work!” She then put the white pen to the black paper and, seeing a much more satisfying result, let out a soft triumphant exclamation and proceeded to the receiving line.
My eyes followed her and I chuckled to myself. The woman was older; her sense was probably weakening, I thought. As I refocused my attention to the book, however, my smile quickly vanished. A younger woman, followed by her overalled husband, was trying in exasperation to sign the white paper with the white pen. This had to be a joke. Again, she found success in her second attempt to sign the book, this time on the black paper. Cubriver resident after Cubriver resident entered and attempted to sign in this very same manner. My smile grew more fake with the arrival of every guest, for soon, its only errand was to disguise my profound shock. I found myself chanting inside my head, “White to black! White to black! Black to white! Black to white!” I was mentally cheering on each new guest, hoping that they would grasp this concept, but nearly every one of them failed me. I felt sorry for them. If they did not the logic to do so simplistic a task, what did they have?

Then I remembered.

Earlier that day, after having watched three poorly made films on the Hallmark Channel with my aging grandmother, my body screamed for fresh air. I donned my sweater and tennis shoes and jaunted towards the river a short distance from the house. As I entered the thicket surrounding the river and emerged near the river’s edge, the first noise I sensed was a profound hush. It was a deeper, more complex hush than mere quiet. Slowly, the elements of the hush began to take shape within my ears. The wind orchestrated it all; it wove through the tree branches, played with the weeds, and softly rode on the river’s back. The branches let out a soft cracking in response. The weeds contributed a shuffle as each strand of grass shimmied and shook against its neighbor. And the river--- The river sang the melody. Its surface wrinkled gently under the soft pressure of the moving air, and it sang a song infused with a beauty all its own. The melody was in a higher register than its accompaniment, higher and loftier and humbling. I listened and watched more keenly than ever before, and I felt ashamed that I had not arrived on the scene earlier. Prior to this experience, I had taken on the perspective that the world sort of put on a show for me whenever I decided to arrive. In reality, that “show” is constant. The elements are always making music, and when I do choose to attend, they graciously accept me into their world, which is the only world worth being a part of. It is a world of simplicity, of careful harmony, of singular beauty. How much of this splendor did I miss out on as I was sitting on a cushioned couch, my eyes fixed on men and women in a man-made box?
I left this haven with great reluctance, but I walked out in reverence for the intricacies of God’s creations. I had never before appreciated them as I did then.

But the people of Cubriver had.


Kaitlin said...

So I realize now that the first couple of paragraphs are pretty boring. Sorry about that.

Natorade said...

Great images. I totally can relate being as my grandmother was from a forsaken town in New Mexico called Raton. I can still see the shaking hands of Glen and Gladys trying to sign with the white pen. (Names are fictitious)

iBo said...

is your grandma fictitious too then? :p

I liked your musical imagery Kaitlin it really put me there. Good job posting on the blog, and welcome aboard :).

sorry i'd write more but i just got up from bed and my brain is still asleep.

Julie M said...

That was a beautiful post, especially your last description. I think I liked your insight to "the show" the best. I think we all kind of have that thinking that things don't begin until we arrive. But really things are moving all the time--with or without us. Beautiful.

Em & Ev said...

I love the part when you describe the sounds made by the wind and the river. I could totally see and hear it!

Sky said...

I agree. It's difficult to get sound exactly right in any essay. And I like the idea also that "the show is constant." It doesn't wait for us to show up to raise the curtain and begin. (Nice to see you posting.)

Shani said...

This essay took me back to living in Tennessee, where in 3rd grade they sent me to speech therapy because I didn't have a southern accent (my parents are from Utah, and made sure I didn't pick up the accent). Some days I would look at the people around me and wonder where the connections weren't happening in their brains... but many of them had a simplicity of life that is rarely found in today's high-tech, high-paced world. I really miss sitting out in the Tennessee woods and listening in on nature's show.

Chan said...

I thought the first part was funny, and the second part beautiful, both image and meaning.

Sarachel said...

Somehow I missed this post until just now. Beautiful. Nice to hear from you, Kaitlin.