The garden took most of the work, but the flowerbeds - by the gate, the side of the house, and the backyard - had equal weight. With big weed patches, my mother often got irritated and told me to just use a hoe or shovel. But unless the ground was soft, my weight didn't drive the shovel down far, and I always used the hoe with caution, afraid of severing worms in their dark earth beds. For years I half-convinced myself that no corn actually grew in the garden, since both the plants and the weeds looked exactly the same to me. I pulled with my fingers crossed that I wouldn't get in trouble for yanking up corn. I always preferred the flower beds to the garden.
My favorite place to weed was the flowerbed against the side of my abuelita's house, in the backyard. The road was hidden by the house, blocking out the sounds of everything but the breeze rubbing the forsythia bush against the fence, the magpies' wings rustling where they lined the rain gutters, and the occasional distant tapping of the woodpecker that my mother hated and my brother kept trying to kill.
I hated the dry, hard dirt, where the plants broke off at the surface and left the roots still firmly entrenched. Sometimes I scrabbled at the dirt with my fingers, trying to dig enough to catch the root, and others I just left it, knowing next week it would be tall again. But after a rainfall, or when the hose had been left running at the top of the hill, the soil breathed in the water and its muscles relaxed and loosened. Only a slight tug at the base of the weed was needed to break it free from the soil, some dirt still clinging to the stringy roots. The sun beat down on my hair piled on top of my head, the numerous bobby pins holding it in place, and my exposed neck. When I finished, my hair would be hot and dry to the touch, like a dryer sheet. I always worked barefoot, my toes curled in dirt and stained from the grass, and I never wore gloves, letting my fingers sink into the earth to pry the weeds loose. Every crease in my fingers filled with dirt, and my fingernails looked brown-tipped. Even for thistles, I would not wear gloves. I coated my hands with wet dirt, washing them in a cool layer of brown, and pulled the stinging stalks with as few fingers as possible. A few stinging nettles always ended up in my fingers, and I'd pull my fingers back just before I instinctively stuck them in my mouth to ease the pain. Instead I'd rub the ache away in the soothing dirt and then continue weeding.
I remember my knees and hands pressing into the cool, damp soil, which gave way and made a hollow for me; the hot dry air on my skin, drying the mud into a layer that cracked and crumbled when I stood and stretched to ease the ache in the small of my back and the joints of my knees; the blended scent of snapdragons and fresh cut grass and the water from the hose and the dirt under my nails. And sometimes I miss it.
I have 4 math credits thanks to a concurrent enrollment class I took in high school. I wanted to get all of my college math over with before even entering college. I thought my plan would work.
After deciding that I will work somewhere else for a few years (anything but waitressing and janitorial work--I'm afraid of waitressing and I've already done janitorial), I told Travis my plan and he just blinked at me. He couldn't understand why I would let one math class and a math test get in my way of teaching. He doesn't have a clue; he's usually right.
I used my birthday money to order a stupid study guide for the test ONLY BECAUSE I read "Real-Life Education" by Pres. Henry B. Eyring (Apr. 2009 New Era). Peace and confidence eliminated my fear (or disguised it--whichever it was, I'm grateful). For all students struggling to make it through, this article is a must-read. It was a direct answer to my prayer and I only wish I had read it years ago.
Well, maybe I'll be able to compute students' grades without a calculator after this ordeal. Or figure a tip at a restaurant. Is it normal to be clueless when it comes to logical, statistical thinking? If only I were Emily Martin with English and math aptitude.
P.S. Sister Morgan, I'll send you an autographed copy of Thoreau's Walden if you crop my face out of the picture at the top of this blog.
“Is that bad?” I asked.
“Well, if you get a little older and you’re still single, you may just consider that ‘falling head-over-heels in love’ is not the most important thing when it comes to marriage. Remember the Powells’ daughter?”
Mindy Powell had gone on several dates with a particular young man. He was a steady, kind-hearted guy, but he was balding in his mid-twenties and a little overweight. She cut things off because she felt zero romantic feelings toward him. After fifteen or so years, she was thirty-seven and still single. This guy was still single as well, and he was still interested. So she married him. She married him because she knew he would make a good husband and father, and she didn’t see any other options coming around anytime soon. “And they are very happy,” Mom concluded.
“Yeah, I know, but…”
“But,” my mom cut in, “at twenty years old, I think falling in love is something you can want.”
She poured in another can of tomato sauce.
“Mom, were you in love with Dad when you guys got married? Or were you thinking, ‘Man, he’s 27 and I’m only 19, and I really don’t want to do this, but he is really strong in the gospel, so I guess I better’?”
She laughed and turned to pick up the cutting board covered in sliced zucchini. She slid the zucchini rounds into the skillet. “No, Kaitlin, that’s not how it happened. I was very in love with Dad.”
“Really? I mean, are you just saying that? Because I really want to know.”
“Of course I was. Really. And I still am.”
“Yeah, but is it the same as it was then?”
“No.” She stuck her pinky in the sauce and tasted it. “No, the love is different now.” Then, as she tossed in a few shakes of basil and oregano, Mom explained how love changes. She explained that when you go through broken transmissions and miscarriages and super tight budgets and six kids with a person, your love changes. It gets deeper. It goes beyond the twitterpation of young love.
“But we still go on a date every week.” She let her head rest on her shoulder and smiled, looking into the sauce. “And I still catch my breath a little from this excitement I get when I see his car coming down the road.” She laughed then, a quiet, private laugh that had had memories behind it.
Later, after the vegetable lasagna was eaten, I was finishing up the dishes and saw my dad’s car approaching the driveway.
“Dad’s home!”Mom looked out the window. “See? I felt a little rush of something when you said that.” She patted me on the back then turned and walked over to kiss Dad as he came up the stairs.
Sometimes I say dumb things.
Example 1: A few weeks ago, Brad and I were at the Pharmacy to pick up a lotion prescription for Brad, and when the Pharmacist put Brad’s name and information in the computer, she noticed there was an “Emily Goodsell” in the computer too. She said, “Oh, there’s an Emily Goodsell also. Is she your mom?” I was so excited that someone knew I existed that I quickly and excitedly said, “NO! Sister!”
Oh, how stupid. Then Brad had to explain that I’m actually his wife. And since I couldn’t stop laughing, Brad sent me away to get groceries. Yes, I’d say that was dumb.
Example 2: Today we spoke in church, and I mentioned that I’m from Rupert. After church, a guy from the ward approached us, and here’s where I get really dumb.
Man: Do you have a sister who is a lot older than you?
Me: I have one who is five years older than me.
Man: Hmm. I don’t know. My best friend from high school married a girl from Rupert, and I guess I was just somehow hoping she’d be your sister. I don’t even know her maiden name…or her first name.
Me: Well, if you ever figure out her name, I’m sure I know her. Rupert is pretty small.
Man: Yeah. All I know is her husband’s name. It’s Luke Wait.
Me: Really? That’s weird. That’s my brother-in-law’s name.
OH! STUPID! That’s who he was talking about.
In Iceland when pufflings learn to fly, they jump off a high cliff. If they're lucky, they flutter into safe ocean. Too often, though, they confuse the shimmering lights of the city with the moon's reflection on the water, and they dive into a sea of hungry cats and dogs.
If I jump, where will I land? I've planned ahead for my entire life. I had my ninth birthday party planned three months before my birthday. In fifth grade I learned the magic of list-making on dry erase boards. Since then, I've planned every hour of my day and sketched out goals months in advance. I'm supposedly "commencing" the next part of my life. My parents, in-laws, and teachers act so excited about my graduation, but I just don't know what to feel excited about. Jason and I don't even have jobs, let alone professions. I'm not a mom, so I have no reason to be a homemaker. Thanks to student teaching, I feel like I've sentenced myself to the public school system. I don't know where I even want to land, and without a goal in mind, how can I jump?
Instead I am the goldfinch. I busy myself with dishes and emails, read fairytales, and avoid thinking. I search for new apartments looking for a place to belong as the new "graduated" us. I go through the motions of applying for jobs, but I might not get one. And if I do, will I sign a contract binding myself to it?
I can't name my fear. I don't know what I'm doing. I don't feel like growing up unless it's to be a mom, and that's at least 9 months away. And what can you do in 9 months anyway? You can't sign a contract.
Yep. Yes. Spring Break. It’s like I coughed up a huge glob of yellow phlegm, BYU-I bureaucracy and can breathe for a minute. It’s like looking around in sunlight after coming out of a damp cave. Though I can see why many run back into the cave (Plato), since I’m looking at some muffin crumbs and dead flies that need vacuumed up. Today, I should be like Julie’s Cardinal, busy cleaning and tying off all the loose ends—like taxes, etc.—to prepare for the next onslaught of larger . . .”busy-ness?” —the "business" of living (funny, I never noticed how that word “business” was put together, and is this “living”? I don’t think so). Chan fixed the latest vacuum that I threw into my vacuum graveyard last week: He’d pulled it to the front porch where I sat back on my heels and watched him go over the same knobs and hoses I had already looked at earlier before I tossed it into the garage next to the other three dead vacuums. Already bored, I’d watched Cat sneak through the weeds and remembered the dead mouse I’d hid earlier under the very rug we were kneeling on. Cat brings all her gifts to the front porch and drops them as offerings. She loves me.
Rummaging through my purse for keys that afternoon, I’d danced sideways to avoid squashing the mouse any flatter than it already was. But, I was running fast to check on Mom and Dad before Ivor came to cook. They’re very old and in the process of dying. (Funny how we’re all caught up in that same process.) So, I’d thrown a rug over the mouse rather than call for help from Emily. After all, even though Cat makes it clear she doesn’t belong to anyone, I bought her at Petco as company for Patch after Megan’s old Australian Sheppard wandered off in the trees to die, and since I paid for her shots, I feel responsible for any presents she brings us no matter how bloody and disgusting. I was wondering how thin mice bones must be when Chan pulled loose a hose high up on the vacuum handle. He thumped out two piles of cat fur, dust, strings, and twisted hair clips, and then looked over at me. Wow. I was impressed and a little embarrassed—just a twitch—a slim nudge of feeling silly.
“Well, Chan, I just think vacuums should suck up bowling balls like they do on TV.”
“That’s showing suction power. It’s not showing what can fit through a small hose. Sister Morgan, do not throw anything else away unless Jacob or I look at it first.”
So, I have a working vacuum cleaner sitting over there in the corner.
I wonder—constantly— what’s important? If the Lord cares about the drop of a sparrow, then nothing is small (except maybe cynicism and making fun of people). We get to choose the “good, better, and best,” except sometimes the “good” squeezes out all the air from our lungs.
There’s another dead mouse on the porch this morning. I know it’s out there because last night, after the rain, the moon came out, and I saw it. I was out late, walking under the trees, thinking about all the people who leave, mostly thinking about Miriam, who’d been trying to say goodbye earlier in the day, while I busied myself with cleaning up Mill Hollow sandwiches. (I don’t do “good byes” very well.) Miriam has worked at the Center for a long time, but she’d only recently allowed me to see her heart. I admitted to the moon that I will miss her. I thought about Katie, leaving—too soon—on a mission, and Meghan, who would march tomorrow and who is trying hard not to stress out over not finding a job. I thought about Nate, and how we walk, everyday, among Gods and Goddesses and seldom realize the blessings. Ahhhhhg.
The mouse was a recent kill; Cat hadn’t had enough time to take off its head. But, I was too tired to go in for a wad of paper towels or use the shovel, so I tipped dirt out of a flowerpot, turned it upside down, and covered the mouse. Then, I stuck a big rock on top, so Patch wouldn’t drag it out and play with it. I don’t happen to think that playing with dead mice is a healthy activity for a small dog. So, this morning, since I've already missed watching Meghan getting handed her diploma, I’ll go clean up the mouse, maybe even wash the blood off the porch, but I’m not going to vacuum today. I’m walking out to explore the dried riverbed for buried treasure, listen to the seagulls screeching at each other, and then I’m going to drive to a National Finals Rodeo in Pocatello, and watch real cowboys and well-bred, highly trained horses ALL NIGHT LONG. Some days we just have to grab the “best” right out of the sky while we still can. I love Cardinals also, for the same reason Julie does, but today I’m going to be a silly, fluttering goldfinch.
On that note, I have resolved to read, write, eat, sleep, hike, walk, do yoga, and spend exorbitant amounts of time in the library, my sanctuary. Sigh.
I haven't been writing very much. Too much school and applications and interviews and nonsense that seems to suck the time away from the more meaningful aspects of my life. Although some could argue visa-versa. But I can't seem to strike upon what it is that I am suppose to be writing about. Usually it comes so easily, so naturally. I know what it is that I am suppose to write about, and I write about it until it's raw. Then we move on. But right now, I can't seem to identify it. Any ideas Sis. Morgan?
You always say to write from the front of your life. But what if I can't tell what's at the front right now? I feel I've dwelt too much on the past, and the middle is kind of blah. I'm I just not seeing what I am suppose to be seeing? Maybe I need to read some Annie Dillard. Ah, but then my tone will sound too much like her and what's the point of trying match her tone. This always happens when I read her. Maybe I need to go sit in the mountains and meditate. That would work probably, but it looks like it's going to rain, and as much as meditating in the rain sounds romantic it's really not. (I think Chan explored that idea once upon a time).
I've watched my Cardinal birds for about an hour, just thinking and watching and thinking. They are my favorite birds who come to our feeder. I think I like them because they don't waste. The house and goldfinches will fly up to the feeder and pick out the sunflower seeds that they like and throw the rest of the ground. It kind of looks like it's raining black pebbles. But then the Cardinals show up and they clean everything up. They eat what falls on the ground, and when they are at the feeder I only see broken shells fall from it. Good birds.
Anyway, none of this is revised, or even properly punctuated (though I am thoroughly thorough when I grade my students' papers, thanks to working there). It’s not clever or imaginative, but I thought I should tell you that I love and miss you.