Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Little lists

Reasons today was good:

-Early-morning runs.

-Having inside jokes with co-workers.

-The dryer actually worked and my laundry came out dry instead of damp. Wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles.


-The smell of spring in the air.

-English professors who like my work.

-Anna Akhmatova is still flawless

-A Russian professor who calls us (my roommates and I) the "Fab Four."

-Roommates who write me "I like you" poems.

-Rainy evenings.

Monday, March 30, 2015

i don't love you, but i always will

Because sometimes beautiful music and classic poetry go hand-in-hand.

"I cannot live with You" by Emily Dickinson

I cannot live with You -
It would be Life -
And Life is over there -
Behind the Shelf

The Sexton keeps the key to -
Putting up
Our Life - His Porcelain -
Like a Cup -

Discarded of the Housewife -
Quaint - or Broke -
A newer Sevres pleases -
Old Ones crack -

I could not die - with You -
For One must wait
To shut the Other's Gaze down -
You - could not -

And I - Could I stand by
And see You - freeze -
Without my Right of Frost -
Death's privilege?

Nor could I rise - with You -
Because Your Face
Would put out Jesus' -
That New Grace

Glow plain - and foreign
On my homesick eye -
Except that You than He
Shone closer by -

They'd judge Us - How -
For You - served Heaven - You know,
Or sought to -
I could not -

Because You saturated sight -
And I had no more eyes
For sordid excellence
As Paradise

And were You lost, I would be -
Though my name
Rang loudest
On the Heavenly fame -

And were You - saved -
And I - condemned to be
Where You were not
That self - were Hell to me -

So we must meet apart -
You there - I - here -
With just the Door ajar
That Oceans are - and Prayer -
And that White Sustenance -
Despair -

The song and poem might have been created two hundred years apart, but their message is the same.

"I don't love you, but I always will."

Thursday, March 26, 2015

and are we there yet?

It's been one of those weeks.

That makes it sound like it's been a terrible week. It hasn't, I promise. There has been a lot of good in this week.

But it's just been busybusybusybusybusy.

Like, one of those weeks where I don't even know what I ate.

I must have eaten something.

Then again, don't ask me what because I really can't remember.

All I know is that I spent waaaaaaaaaaaaaay too much time in the library this week.

Harold and I are in a relationship. But it's not a healthy one.

In fact, I think we're going to break up in a couple of weeks.

This is what you look like after 16 hours on campus. Yeah. Let's never do that ever again. 

Also, can we talk about how the library is doing all of these renovations after I leave? Where is the justice in that, people? I've done my time! I did my waiting! Twelve years of it! In Azkaban!

Look at BYU being all clever. I'm still mad, though.  Even the Monsters, Inc. reference cannot make me unmad at you, BYU. Why couldn't this south entrance have been created while I was on my mission instead of three weeks before I leave? Grr. 

(Okay, okay, it's not that dramatic. But I want an south door to the library and new carrels, too, thank you very much.)

Saturday, March 21, 2015

in the collar of grace

. . . so, this post is also about The Winter's Tale. But I'm doing another post because my previous one is sooooooooo long.

But this. This song is absolutely beautiful.

And it reminds me of Winter's Tale. 

I have no idea if the artist even knows about Winter's Tale. But it matches perfectly.

Here are the lyrics:

Makes things real
Makes things feel 
Feel alright. 

Makes things true
Things like you
You and I. 

Tonight, you arrested my mind 
When you came to my defense
With a knife
In the shape of your mouth 
In the form of your body 
With the wrath of a god
Oh, you stood by me 

Builds from scratch 
Doesn't have to relax
Doesn't need space
Long live the queen 
And I'll be the king 
In the collar of grace. 

Oh, tonight you arrested my mind 
When you came to my defense
With a knife
In the shape of your mouth 
In the form of your body 
With the wrath of a god
Oh, you stood by me 

I'm gonna yell it from the rooftops 
I'll wear a sign on my chest
That's the least I can do
It's the least I can do . . .

Tonight, you arrested my mind 
When you came to my defense
With a knife
In the shape of your mouth 
In the form of your body 
With the wrath of a god
Oh, you stood by me 
And I'll stand by my 

"Long live the queen, and I'll be the king in the collar of grace."

"It is required you do awake your faith."

I'll stand by my belief.

My belief in hope, wonder, and miracles.

"If this be magic, let it be an art as lawful as eating"

Today I saw BYU's production of Shakespeare's The Winter Tale.

I was unsure of what to expect--it's a hard play to produce, and I was worried that it wouldn't be what I was hoping for. Of course no production will be exactly how I imagine it should be. But BYU did an excellent job. There were things I had forgotten--like how long and complex the play is. And how terribly funny the character of Autolycus is (because he is both--terrible and funny). And how much I love the character of Paulina.

I left the play this evening basking in that after-theater glow, fresh tears on my face.

Because Winter's Tale always makes me cry.

The Winter's Tale is one of my favorite Shakespeare plays. Most people haven't heard of it. And if they have/if they have seen it, they have usually one of two reactions. They either love it or are really confused by it.

I fall into the camp that absolutely loves it.

In fact, I don't think I've met anyone who loves it as much as I do.

Once I explain the plot to people (or once they see the play after I give it a glowing recommendation), they often look at me sheepishly, as though they feel bad that they don't like it as much as I do. It's like giving someone my favorite Ukrainian treat (halva), and then they don't have the heart to tell me that they thought it was, well, kind of weird.

I don't blame people for thinking the plot strange. Because it is a very complex plot. And honestly, it is kind of weird. It doesn't fit nicely into either the comedy or tragedy. It's more of a tragi-comedy . . . one of Shakespeare's romances, if we want to get all scholarly. The first and second halves of the play seem completely different from each other. There is an element of magic realism in the play, not to mention the seeming absurdity of a king who seems to go from reason to madness in a millisecond. And, it has Shakespeare's most bizarre stage cue ("Exit, pursued by a bear").

So, why do I love it so much? What is it about this seemingly crazy play that I love so dearly?

Part of it has to do that it feels like a fairy tale (and you know how much I love fairy tales). Another reason is that it has two of my favorite female characters in Shakespeare--Queen Hermione and Paulina. I love Queen Hermione for her dignity, grace, and quiet confidence. And I love Paulina for her sass, straightforwardness, and courage. Another reason I love this play is because my Shakespeare professor loved this play and so we studied it in-depth. That means that I understand the symbols. And boy, are there so many symbols in this play. And so many themes. Deep themes of forgiveness, grace, renewal, and trust.

These are themes that Shakespeare was reflecting on when he wrote the play toward the end of his life. These are concepts--and realities!--he wanted so badly in his own life. Reconciliation. Mercy. Hope. Miracles.

And they are realities we want in our own lives, too.

Because sometimes . . . sometimes things seem so bleak and hopeless. Sometimes we feel like we have either completely ruined our own lives, or else we are innocently suffering because of the unfair actions and decisions of others. And some time or another, all of us are going to find ourselves in both of those camps.

And so I say we need to hear stories of miracles. Of faith and of wonder. To believe that even in the depths of winter, the promise of spring is still there. "Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise."

Can I share with you my favorite part of the play? (Like you have a choice. I mean, you do. You always do. But let's be real.)

It is the very last scene. I know, I know. I'm telling the ending before you even know what the play is about. So let's do a recap, shall we?

Basically, Leontes is the king of Sicilia. Hermione is his queen. They are expecting a second child. Polixenes the king of Bohemia. Leontes and Polixenes are best friends. Polixenes is going back to Bohemia, but Leontes doesn't want him to go, so he asks Hermione to entreat him to stay. Hermione does, and Polixenes decides to stay for a little while longer.

And Leontes gets jealous. Terribly jealous. Murderously jealous.

He thinks that Polixenes and Hermione have been going behind his back, and suddenly--out of a foundation of absolutely nothing--believes that Hermione is pregnant with Polixenes's child, not his.

So, he tries to kill Polixenes (who barely escapes back to Bohemia), arrests his innocent wife on charges of adultery and treason, banishes his newborn baby daughter, and refuses to listen to reason or the truth, believing that his skewed perception is the truth. Even when the oracle of Apollo says that Hermione is innocent and Leontes wrong, Leontes refuses to believe it, saying that it is "falsehood."

And when he says that, the floodgates open. Violently.

Immediately, their four-year-old son dies, Hermione dies upon hearing that news, and King Leontes is suddenly awakened to his guilt and that he "believed too much my own suspicion."

He tries to pray to the gods, asking for restitution, but it's too late . . . and Paulina, Queen Hermione's noblewoman, tells him so. She chews him out, in the truest Shakespearean fashion. And even though the king's noblemen tell her to stop tormenting the king so much with her true words, the king realizes that Paulina is right, and he vows to do somehow repent, even if there is no hope for him or the kingdom.

If the play ended there, it would be a tragedy. It would end as a commentary on how our pride, skewed perceptions, and bad decisions harm others. It would be something akin to Othello, and we'd leave the theater wondering if there was any hope for humanity.

But there is still so much left to the play.

16 years pass. Remember that banished baby daughter? Well, her name is Perdita, and she's been found and raised by shepherds on the shores of Bohemia, and grown into a beautiful, graceful girl who has caught the eye of Florizel, Prince of Bohemia, who just so happens to be Polixenes's son (convenient, right? I know.). It's the annual sheep-shearing festival, and Florizel and Perdita (who is the queen of the sheep-shearing festival) are in love. Deeply in love. And Florizel's father knows about it and is not happy that his son is courting a shepherdess. So, king Polixenes breaks up the sheep-shearing festival, forbids his son to marry Perdita, and threatens to kill both Perdita and the old shepherd (her surrogate father).

Sooooo, we're back to the angry kings. Great.

But Florizel won't take no for an answer, so he and Perdita decide to run away--to Sicilia, of all places. The old shepherd finds out, tells king Polixenes, and find the young couple in the court of king Leontes, who has been grieving for the last 16 years . . . since he has lost everyone dear to him, after all. Anyway, there's a lot of misunderstanding and frustration until the old shepherd takes out the letter and locket that were with baby Perdita when he found her--and it's discovered that she is the lost princess. Which is great for many reasons. One, she and Florizel can officially get married without Polixenes freaking out that she isn't a princess. But more importantly, Leontes and his daughter are reunited and the kingdom has an heir again.

Are you still with me? (It's complicated, I know.)

Again, the play could end there. And this time it would be beautiful and bittersweet.

But, there's more. And it all adds up to my favorite scene. The last scene.

It is absolutely transcendent.

It takes place in a chapel, where Paulina unveils a statue to King Leontes and Perdita. The statue is of the dead Queen Hermione. Both Leontes and Perdita are entranced by its likeness to Queen Hermione, and they want to touch it. Paulina stops them from touching it, saying that the paint is not yet dry. Leontes and Perdita continue to look at the statue—it obviously pains Leontes to look at his wife and remember what he did to her, their family, and the kingdom. 

Paulina asks him, “Shall I draw the curtain?” an invitation to close the curtain, to end the torture . . . but also to end the magic. Leontes decides to keep the curtain open, look at the statue of Hermione, and by doing so, shows that this “affliction” is necessary—he is facing up to what he did to Hermione . . . he is facing the past.

As Leontes and Perdita look at the statue, Paulina says that she could make the statue do more—even make it seem as though it could come to life . . . but only if they believe: 

Either forbear,
Quit presently the chapel, or resolve you
For more amazement. If you can behold it,
I’ll make the statue move indeed, descend
And take you by the hand; but then you’ll think—
Which I protest against—I am assisted
By wicked powers.

What you can make her do,
I am content to look on: what to speak,
I am content to hear; for ‘tis as easy
To make her speak as move.

It is required
You do awake your faith. Then all stand still;
On: those that think it is unlawful business
I am about, let them depart.
Music, awake her; strike!
‘Tis time; descend; be stone no more; approach;
Strike all that look upon with marvel. Come,
I’ll fill your grave up: stir, nay, come away,
Bequeath to death your numbness, for from him
Dear life redeems you.

With these words, Hermione comes back to life. She turns from stone into a living woman, and she finds herself in her husband’s arms:

O, she’s warm!
If this be magic, let it be an art
Lawful as eating.

There is so much even in these lines. There is so much I could talk about—the symbolism between Hermione’s “resurrection” and Jarius’ daughter, the line “it is required you do awake your faith,” King Leontes’ exclamation: “O, she’s warm!” There is so much beauty in this scene—a beautiful scene of reconciliation. Of healing. Of a family being reunited. 

Where is the mercy? Where is the grace? It’s right here. 

Some people don’t particularly like this scene. It is too fantastical and they think that Leontes doesn’t deserve this reconciliation.

Guess what?

He doesn’t.

And neither do we.

We don’t really deserve anything. If life was about what we deserved and didn’t deserve, we’d all be a lot worse for wear, I think. Because, in the end, we don’t want what we “deserve.”

We want mercy.

We want redemption.

And we want forgiveness.

I think that’s one reason I love this scene from A Winter’s Tale so much. It seems ridiculous—a statue coming to life (or—perhaps even more ridiculous—a queen deciding to return to her husband and daughter after being so deeply hurt). But, this scene is the epitome of transcendent grace. Grace we don’t deserve. But grace that is possible through divine love. 

I love that Shakespeare lets us decide if Queen Hermione was really a stone statue turned into a living woman, or if Paulina kept her in hiding 16 years, keeping her alive with the hope that one day Perdita would be found and the family and kingdom could be restored. 

This time, I preferred the latter explanation. 

But even as I was walking out of the Pardoe Theater, I heard someone behind me say, 

"I liked how this production made it seem more magical. I don't like the idea of Paulina keeping Queen Hermione in hiding for 16 years. I don't like the deception." 

It made me smile. 

Because it's our choice. We decide what to believe. 

But I think that's why I like the explanation of Hermione being in hiding for 16 years. 

Because it was her choice. 

Her choice to forgive. 

Her choice to heal. 

And her choice to come back. 

"You will burn, and you will burn out; you will be healed and come back again." --Dostoevsky, Brothers Karamazov. 

And so, watching the family be reconciled, I wept. I cried at this expression of love, grace, and healing. And walking back home, with the true spring all around me and blossoms littering the sidewalk and finding their way into my hair--like a crown of May--I felt the March sunshine touch my heart. 

Winter is over. A "sad tale's best for winter." 

But winter is over. 

And spring is in the air. 

And filling my heart. 

A heart that had turned to stone for a time. To protect herself. 

But now "dear life redeems me."

And it is glorious, beautiful, and a real thing to feel in this terribly false world.  

The reconciliation scene in The Winter's Tale might seem impossible. And maybe, on our own, it is. Because if we are so consumed by our own pity, pain, and pride, then we’ll never look out—reach out—and find that others are reaching toward us. Maybe, it really is required for us to “awaken our faith.” To believe that this can happen. Because if we don’t believe, it never will—our own pride will crush any possibility of hope, any possibility of mercy.

But I choose to believe.

I choose light.

I choose hope. 

And I choose love. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

first you dream.

"Put your hand on your heart," 
the old man said. 
"Inside you, there is a power, 
there are ideas, 
thoughts that no one else has ever thought of,
there is the strength to love, 
purely and intensely, 
and to have someone love you back--
there is the power to make people happy, 
and to make people laugh--
it's full compliments, 
and the power to change lives and futures. 
Don't forget that power, 
and don't ever give up on it." -- atticus

 [these pictures are blurry. but they capture a moment. a beautiful moment of expectation, achievement and joy. pure undiluted excitement and joy.]

Yesterday was a good day. Just a very, very good day. Spring is here in Provo. There is hope in the air. And spring in my soul. 

Did you know there is a pink blossom tree right by our stairwell? I don't know what kind of tree it is exactly. Maybe an American Redbud. But right now it is a pink blossom tree. And I love it. 

[hello there, pink blossom tree.]

The real spring is here. And there are so many possibilities. Spinning arrows. Doors opening. Life. Life in all of its forms. 

[the look of a dreamer.]

Because you know what? Life--real life--can be frightening. It can be suffocating. 

But it is also glorious. Glorious, beautiful, and real. 

As Emily Dickinson said, the "soul should always stand ajar, ready to welcome the ecstatic experience." 

Because you never know when that ecstatic experience will come. 

Be ready to catch and embrace it. 

song of the day: "first you dream," audra mcdonald 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

"Can you describe this?" And I answered, "Yes, I can."

I have been falling in love with the words of Anna Akhmatova.

For those who don't know, Anna Akhmatova was a poet in the Soviet Union. She lived through Stalin's purges and the Great Terror of the 1930s. 

And she refused to be silent. 

Oh, Anna. How to describe Anna? I feel like my words don't do justice to her resilience, grace, and strength. (But if you do want to read a beautiful, stunning post on Anna Akhmatova, you should read Em's blog post about her here.)

But, if there is anything I will say, I will say that Anna Akhmatova was strong. Oh, was she ever strong. 

She had everything taken from her. Her son was arrested and sent to the Gulag. Her husband was killed. Many of her closest friends were also arrested and executed.

But she refused to give up. And she refused to run away. 

About a month ago, I decided to write about Anna Akhmatova for my Soviet history class. I decided that I needed to study a resilient woman. I needed to study her life in depth. And so I chose Anna. 

I haven't been disappointed. 

Can I share with you a few of her poems that I love? There is just so much emotion in them. So much raw emotion and strength. They were both written during the 1930s. During that time when so much innocent blood was spilled and so many lives were destroyed. 

This one was written in 1933, and talks about the blood spilled by the Bolsheviks: 

Wild honey smells like freedom, 
Dust--like a ray of sun, 
Like violets--a young maid's mouth, 
And gold--like nothing. 
The flowers of the mignonette smell like water, 
And like an apple--love. 
But we learned once and for all
That blood only smells like blood . . . 

And in vain the vice-regent of Rome 
Washed his hands before all the people, 
Urged on by the ominous shouts of the rabble; 
And the Scottish queen 
In vain washed the spattered red drops
From her slender palms
In the stifling gloom of the king's home . . . 

I don't know why this poem resonates so deeply with me. "But we learned once and for all/That blood only smells like blood." That line. It gives me chills. Especially after learning so much about Soviet history the past couple months. The quotas. The prisons. The show trials. The blood. How do we let ourselves lose our humanity? "Blood only smells like blood." 

The other poem which has deeply affected me is her Requiem. This cycle of poems is . . . there's not a proper word in English to describe it. But it is extraordinary. Simply exquisite. She tells her story of losing her son to the NKVD and then waiting in line outside the prison walls of Leningrad--waiting for hours, days, months, years--for something--anything--some kind of information about his fate. But this poem isn't just about her. It is about all of those women in Leningrad. It is their story. She gives voice to the voiceless so that history will not forget. 

And Requiem beautifully captures the despair of the time. The anguish. The grief of a nation and of the women of this nation. But there is also an element of hope Requiem. A sense of dignity. The promise that she will not give up, so that history will remember. Evidence that the human spirit cannot be crushed. And it is incredible. 

Here are some of my favorite parts of Requiem

Instead of a Preface

In the terrible years of the Yezhov terror, I spent seventeen months in the prison lines of Leningrad. Once, someone "recognized" me. Then a woman with bluish lips standing behind me, who, of course, had never heard me called by name before, woke up from the stupor to which everyone had succumbed and whispered in my ear (everyone spoke in whispers there): 
"Can you describe this?" 
And I answered, "Yes, I can." 
Then something that looked like a smile passed over what had once been her face. 

The Sentence

And the stone word fell 
On my still-living breast. 
Never mind, I was ready. 
I will manage somehow. 

Today I have so much to do: 
I must kill memory once and for all, 
I must turn my soul to stone, 
I must learn to live again--

Unless . . . Summer's ardent rustling
Is like a festival outside my window. 
For a long time I've foreseen this 
Brilliant day, deserted house. 

Epilogue I 

I learned how faces fall, 
How terror darts from under eyelids, 
How suffering traces lines
Of stiff cuneiform on cheeks, 
How locks of ashen-blonde or black 
Turn silver suddenly, 
Smiles fade on submissive lips
And fear trembles in a dry laugh. 
I pray not for myself alone, 
But for all those who stood there with me
In cruel cold, and in July's heat, 
At that blind, red wall. 

Her words are powerful. Powerful, real, and stunning. She speaks for all the women--the mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, and others--who stand by that brick wall at Kretsy Prison, waiting, hoping, praying for some news . . . even if it is the worst news. 

Because that not knowing is the worst of all. 

But she wrote so that the world would know. 

I've studied a lot of poets in my life. But I think . . . I think that if I could write like anyone, I would choose to write like Anna Akhmatova. 

Living with Russian majors

. . . means that sometimes you get pictures like this in your fridge:

Nothing says roomie love like creepy pictures of Russian writers in the fridge.

And yes, we've been finding his face everywhere. The pantry, the bathroom.

Yeah. Yeah, it gives me nightmares, too.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Sisters. My sisters.

Today is International Women's Day.

I love this day. For many reasons.

One, I love the chance to celebrate womanhood and sisterhood. A chance to celebrate, simply because I am a woman? Sign me up. I always love a reason to party.

But in all seriousness, I am all for celebrating the women in my life and women who have influenced me. I am surrounded by so many incredible women in my life. It is one of the greatest blessings of my life--to know so many incredible, strong, bright, ambitious, kind, beautiful, intelligent women. Women I call my sisters and friends.

Two, celebrations with fresh flowers are always a good idea. Always, always.

Three, Women's Day reminds me of Ukraine. It reminds me of the first International Women's Day I ever truly celebrated. I remember walking the streets of Kharkov, wishing the women around us a Happy Women's Day, and receiving well-wishes from those we passed. I remember getting bright yellow flowers from people on the street, and I remember this general air of freshness and happiness--a spot of spring amidst the grey apartment buildings around us.

Women's Day reminds me of the strength of the women of Ukraine.

They are resilient.
They are beautiful.
They are blunt.
They are dignified.
They are phenomenal.

Phenomenal women.

I met so many women on the streets of Ukraine. And they are all my sisters. My beautiful, strong, incredible sisters. I still am humbled that I was able to live with them for a period of my life. They taught me so much. They let me into their lives. And in return, they touched my own life in ways that I cannot even begin to repay.

Because when a woman lets you into her life, she will give you her heart.

Can I tell you a story? It is a story I had forgotten about until recently. It is a story from Ukraine. A mission story. (I know, I know. I talk about my mission all of the time. I can't help it. Truly, I can't. You can take a girl out of the mission, but you can't take the mission out of the girl. Story of my life.)

On a mission, you meet people from all walks of life. One night my companion and I were going to a woman's home to share a message about faith and to invite her to come to church with us that Sunday. We had met with this woman before. We knew her story. And she had let us into her life . . . and she had told us everything--her past, her hopes, her dreams, her fears. She trusted us; she loved us because we honestly cared for her. And even though she had had a very colorful past, she loved us because we had hope for her. We saw her potential. And she could feel that.

Anyway, one night when we were at Vika's, and she had invited a friend to come listen to us. Her friend was also far from perfect (to put it nicely), but I was struck that Vika had invited her friend to listen to us. I'm going to quote straight from my journal to tell the rest of the story, because I feel it tells it better than I could retell it:

"On Tuesday we met with Vika again. Her friend Tatyana was there. And we were able to have a nice discussion about Alma 32 and faith. But what struck me most about this meeting was the symbolism. Vika and Tatyana are both pretty greshni (sinful). Tatyana is living with someone who isn't her husband, and Vika has done that too, at points in her life.

"And this meeting reminded me of how the Savior had dinner at publicans' and sinners' homes. And how adulteresses would lay down and cry at His feet, wiping His feet with their long, sleek hair. How He was at ease with the saint and the sinner--because He loved them. We're all greshni (sinful) before God--whether adulteresses or apostles. But we are all invited to come unto Him. He turns none away.

"I was grateful for a deeper insight into His life tonight--me, sitting on a broken couch in inner-city Kharkov, Ukraine, dining with adulteresses."

Why do I tell this story on Women's Day? I'm not entirely sure, to be honest. Because it reminds me of Ukraine? Perhaps. It does remind me of the many women that I met there and that I continue to meet. The women who are striving. The women who are hurting. The women who fall and the women who succeed. All of us.

But I also feel like there is a deeper connection here, something that I am still trying to put my finger on.

I think it has something to do with sisters.

And something to do with love.

For these women--all of the women I met in Ukraine--all of the women I associate with--they are my sisters. There is a bond in womanhood. A strength in sisterhood.

And my sisters are beautiful. Glorious. Phenomenal. Imperfect. But extraordinary.

And still we rise.

So, my dear sisters. Happy Women's Day. С днём женщин! I would buy you all flowers if I could. But I do wish you success, happiness, health, love, and hope for the future. 

С праздником, дорогие сёстры!

Happy Women's Day, my dear, dear sisters. 

I love you. 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The sound of silence

"The life of every being has some vast emptiness in it. Unspeakable, grievous. There is a field in the middle of my wood where no one goes. It is the heart of my loneliness. I go there to dance and be quiet. And I love the intensity of its silence. You must know every contour of your emptiness before you can know who you wish to invite in." -- Taisia Kitaiskaia

Sometimes I think we are too afraid of quietness. Of being still. Of being alone.

There is a difference between being alone and being lonely.

But we needn't be afraid of being alone with ourselves. To know our ins and outs. To know the intensity of silence.

We need to become aware of our life's flow.

The essence of what makes us be.

"the sound of silence" simon and garfunkel.  

Friday, March 6, 2015

handsome sturdy husbands build handsome sturdy walls

Sometimes, you're listening to your music playlist on shuffle.

And sometimes, random songs come on that you had forgotten even existed.

And those songs remind you of the important questions in life.

Like, "should I marry Kocoum?"

These are the questions that keep me up at night.

Questions of the soul.

[and please, PLEASE read this post with all of the sarcasm that you can muster. i know that the internet doesn't do justice to sarcasm. but oh, this is dripping with it.]

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Post-script to my last post

That sounds funny: "post-script to my last post." But that's what it is. Ha.

Sometimes I write poetry. And sometimes it's really bad. Because I've learned that it is hard to write good poetry, and though we all fancy ourselves poets at sometime or another (particularly when we're lovestruck, lovesick, and/or heartbroken), really good poems are few and far between.

So I'm not saying that the poetry I'm posting below is any good. But I do think it goes along perfectly with Eve--because these two poems were inspired by her story.

So. Here they are. Take them for what they're worth.

 Adam and Eve, Brian Kershisnik 

Eve's Song 
I chose this.
The sweat-streaked brow,
the pain-stained heart,
the bruised heel.

I chose this.
The wisdom-grown mind,
the joy-filled soul,
the vict'ry over hell.

Daughter of Eve 
To leave Eden alone
was not my wish--
to face dearth without his hand,
choosing experience without covering.

But I chose to partake.
My choice
to know--
to feel--
to taste--
joy and sorrow
good and evil
love and desertion.

There is power in nakedness.
A stark beauty
in being made wise
as former things are stripped away--
made bare
made holy
made new.

She Will Find, Brian Kershisnik 

The Joy of Our Redemption

I've been thinking a lot about Eve the past couple weeks. Actually, I've been thinking about her and studying her story deeply over the past year as I've contemplated her story and how a correct understanding of the Fall and of Eve's role in the Fall helps us understand ourselves. Understanding Adam and Eve is crucial to understanding who we are as sons and daughters of God.

There is power in knowing who we are.

There is power in knowing our past.

The Mother of All Living, by Al Young 

And Eve is at the beginning of all of our stories. She is the one who made the courageous, faithful decision to enter mortality. (And I know that this is a different perspective of Eve and the Fall than most people have--and it can be difficult to understand. But I am grateful for restored views of the doctrine of the Fall. The doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that the Fall was necessary and that Adam and Eve are to be honored for deciding to partake of the fruit. If you have any questions, send me a message and I'd be happy to talk about it.)

Last week, I had the opportunity to present about Eve and how perceptions of Eve affect Mormon women. While there, I had the chance to meet Camille Fronk Olson (whom I deeply admire) and who has written extensively about Eve and other biblical women. It was wonderful to just talk with her (if only for a little bit) about the importance of Eve in the plan of God, and how she is a remarkable role model and example for women and men today.

I also had the opportunity to give a Relief Society lesson at church today about Eve. And it was a wonderful opportunity for me to share what I've learned about Eve this past year. Like I mentioned above, a correct understanding of ourselves and our past empowers and enlightens us. And so I feel like sharing a few quotes, scriptures, and epiphanies about Eve and the Fall which have helped me on my journey to understanding this incredible woman.

Necessity of the Fall: 
2 Nephi 2:14-25 (all of it, but particularly verses 16, 22-25):
v. 16 "Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other.
v.22-25 "And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.
And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin.
But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.
Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy."

Moses 5:10-12
"And in that day Adam blessed God and was filled, and began to prophesy concerning all the families of the earth, saying: Blessed be the name of God, for because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God.
And Eve, his wife, heard all these things and was glad, saying: Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient.
And Adam and Eve blessed the name of God, and they made all things known unto their sons and their daughters.

Elder Russell M. Nelson:
"Their bodies of flesh and bone were made in the express image of God's. In that state of innocence, they were not yet mortal. They could have no children, were not subject to death, and could have lived in Eden's garden forever. Thus we might speak of the Creation in terms of paradisaical creation. If that state had persisted, you and I would still be stranded among the heavenly host as unborn sons and daughters of God. The great plan [. . .] would have been frustrated. [. . . ] Should they eat from the 'tree of knowledge of good and evil,' their bodies would change; mortality and eventual death would come upon them. But partaking of that fruit was prerequisite to their parenthood. [. . .] While I do not fully understand all the biochemistry involved, I do know that their physical bodies did change; blood began to circulate in their bodies. Adam and Eve thereby became mortal. [. . .] Accordingly, we could speak of the fall of Adam in terms of a mortal creation because 'Adam fell that men might be.'"

Joseph Fielding Smith:
"Adam and Eve did the very thing the Lord intended them to do. If we had the original record we would see the purpose of the Fall clearly stated and its necessity explained."

Elder Russell M. Nelson:
"We and all mankind are forever blessed because of Eve's great courage and wisdom. By partaking of the fruit first, she did what needed to be done. Adam was wise enough to do likewise."

Adam and Eve as Equal Companions 
Genesis 2:18--"And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him."
There is a lot of misunderstanding of what "help meet" means. There is a negative connotation--like Eve was made as an afterthought. However, looking at the definition of "help meet" illuminates the text. The Oxford English Dictionary describes "help meet" as "even with or equal to." The Hebrew definition is even more enlightening. The Hebrew word for "help meet" comes from two words--ezer, meaning "to save, to rescue," and has the meaning of something majestic, strong, and powerful; and k'enegdo, which means "equal." Unfortunately, words are lost in translation, but imagine if we read the Genesis text like this: "And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a majestic, saving power, equal with him, to be his companion." I think it is glorious. (For more information about the Hebrew definitions, see Beverley Campbell, "Mother Eve, Mentor for Today's Woman: A Heritage of Honor.")

Moses 6:9--"In the image of his [God's] own body, male and female, created he them, and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created and became living souls in the land upon the footstool of God." (emphasis added--but the connotation that Adam is not only a first name, but can also be used to describe Adam and Eve as a couple.)

Elder Bruce R. McConkie:
"Christ and Mary, Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, and a host of mighty men and equally glorious women comprised that group of 'the noble and great ones,' to whom the Lord Jesus said: 'We will go down, for there is space there ,and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell."

President Ezra Taft Benson:
"In the beginning, God placed a woman in a companion role with the priesthood. . . . She was to act in partnership with him."

Nature of the Transgression 
Elder Dallin H. Oaks: "For reasons that have not been revealed, this transition, or 'fall,' could not happen without a transgression--an exercise of moral agency amounting to a willful breaking of a law. [. . .] It was Eve who first transgressed the limits of Eden in order to initiate the conditions of mortality. Her act, whatever its nature, was formally a transgression but eternally a glorious necessity to open the doorway toward eternal life. Adam showed his wisdom by doing the same. And thus Eve and 'Adam fell that men might be.'"

Elder Joseph Fielding Smith:
"I never speak of the part Eve took in this fall as a sin, nor do I accuse Adam of a sin. [. . .] There was a transgression of the law, but not a sin . . . for it was something that Adam and Eve had to do!"

Elder Boyd K. Packer:
"The Fall came by transgression of a law, but there was no sin connected with it. There is a difference between transgression and sin. Both always bring consequences. While it may not be sin to step off a roof, in doing so, you become subject to the law of gravity and consequences will follow. [. . .] The fall of man was made from the presence of God to this mortal life."

Elder John A. Widstoe:
"The eternal power of choice was respected by the Lord himself. [. . .] It really converts the command into a warning, as much as to say, if you do this thing, you will bring upon yourself a certain punishment, but do it if you choose. [. . .] The Lord had warned Adam and Eve of the hard battle with earth conditions if they chose to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He would not subject his son and daughter to hardship and death of their bodies unless it be of their own choice. They must choose for themselves. They chose wisely, in accord with the heavenly law of love for others."

"Glorious Mother Eve" 
Doctrine and Covenants 138: 38-39--"Among the great and mighty ones who were assembled in this vast congregation were Father Adam, the Ancient of Days and father of all,
And our glorious Mother Eve, with many of her faithful daughters who had lived through the ages and worshiped the true and living God."

Beverley Campbell: "Eve, first woman of earthly creation, companion of Adam, and mother and matriarch of the human race, is honored by Latter-day Saints as one of the most important, righteous, and heroic of all the human family. Eve's supreme gift to mankind, the opportunity of life on this earth, resulted from her choice to become mortal."

Sheri Dew:
Eve "made the most courageous decision any woman has ever made and with Adam opened the way for us to progress. She set an example of womanhood for men to respect and women to follow, modeling the characteristics with which we as women have been endowed: heroic faith, a keen sensitivity to the Spirit, an abhorrence of evil, and complete selflessness. Like the Savior, 'who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,' Eve, for the joy of helping initiate the human family, endured the Fall. She loved us enough to help lead us."

Sarah Kimball:
Eve is to be giving "reverent honor for taking the initiative to partake of the fruit."

Emmeline B. Wells:
"We are taught that Eve was the first to sin. Well, she was simply more progressive than Adam. She did not want to live in the beautiful garden for ever, and be nobody--not able even to make her own aprons."

Eve as Example: 
President Henry B. Eyring:
"By revelation, Eve recognized the way home to God. She knew that the Atonement of Jesus Christ made eternal life possible in families. She was sure, as you can be, that as she kept her covenants with her Heavenly Father, the Redeemer and the Holy Ghost would see her and her family through whatever sorrows and disappointments would come. She knew she could trust in Them."

Elder John A. Widstoe:
"In life all must choose at times. Sometimes, two possibilities are good; neither is evil. Usually, however, one is of greater import than the other. When in doubt, each must choose that which concerns the good of others--the greater law--rather than that which chiefly benefits ourselves--the lesser law. The greater must be chosen whether it be law or thing. That was the choice made in Eden."

Anyway, there is good sampling of some of the quotes I've found about Eve and the Fall. Of course there is so much more, and if any of you would like to talk more about this, I would love to. It's something I'm passionate about, if you couldn't tell. :)

I think one reason I love Eve's story so much is because her story is our story. Of course, none of us will have to make the decision of leaving Eden to become mortal. That was Adam and Eve's choice. That was the hardest choice Eve ever had to make. (And it must have been terrifying to her not knowing if Adam would make the same choice to leave Eden and choose to be with her--I can only imagine her fear.)

But, each of us will have those crossroads in our lives where we have to choose between staying in our figurative Edens . . . or stepping out into that dark, scary, unknown world without knowing exactly what is ahead of us. And in those moments, we can look to Eve as an example of faith and agency. She sacrificed Eden for something better--she sacrificed Eden for a chance to work out her own salvation. And that is beautiful to me.

The Joy of Our Redemption, by Al Young

[For more reading on this subject, I recommend Beverley Campbell's Eve and the Choice Made in Eden, Camille Fronk Olson's Women of the Old Testament, Beverley Campbell's "Mother Eve, Mentor for Today's Woman: A Heritage of Honor, and Valerie Hudson Cassler's "The Two Trees.")