17 November 2012


There is so much more
brett dennen

11 November 2012

Where the world is.

I struggle sometimes, finding myself stuck in the space between the glorious, miraculous, heart-breakingly beautiful, incomprehensibly wonderful fullness of the world and the horrendous, tragic, painful, insensibly cruel side of the same. There is so much more than meets the eye. Everything seems so confused and clouded and complicated. And yet, starkly simple. At the core.

Most of the time, of course, I am just not thinking. I am just living. Trying to make my way through each day with a shred of dignity and, if I'm really lucky, something to feel good about. Something accomplished. I spend most of my time oblivious and drifting. Not reflecting and connecting the various threads of life and thought and emotion that pass through any given day.

But I can't ignore it all for long. Neither the overwhelming goodness and beauty I receive constantly from friends and strangers and family and the World and the Divine. That astonishing generosity and love that exists all around. In the giant bursts or in tiny, hidden corners. Nor the terrible, miserable realities that are constant and undeniable and truly unthinkable, unimaginable and all too real near and far and everywhere all at once. And I find I am not always prepared to hold it all within me. I vacillate from one extreme to the other. Crying tears of joy. Calling out curses to the anguish. Laughing. Laughing because there is nothing more to do--because it is ridiculous and tremendous and incoherent.

Mostly, my heart doesn't know exactly where to land. It is tugged and torn in two. Divided between the good and bad. The beautiful and the hideous. The hopeful and the hopeless.

 Hope. Or. Hopeless.

There I hang. Paralyzed. Wanting to reach for the joyous and the great. To fall firmly on the beautiful land of love, prettiness, kindness, generosity. Yet, I cannot turn my back on the hateful and the mean and the indifferent. Needing to look them square in the face and fight with all my heart. Yet I don't quite.

Instead I float. In the middle. Neither loving nor hating the world. NO! Both loving and hating the world. Despising and loving mankind more than I even know how. Discovering great leaps into a better world. Seeing the degradation and destruction we have caused. Unsure how to tie them together. How can they both exist, side by side? Contradicting and cancelling each other out. Why must there be a tragedy alongside every miracle? Is it necessary to accompany every gain with an equal and opposite loss? Somewhere. For someone. Are we just running in place... for every leap forward another stagger back? Is this inevitable? Can it ever end? Do we want it to? Enough? But really. really. ENOUGH!

That's where I always end up.

I believe there is hope. So, SO much hope.
If we want it. Really, really want it.
Enough to accept everything that comes with it.
Even the inconvenience. The sacrifice.
Because there has to be sacrifice.

Yes, I believe there is hope.
And we can choose it.
Or not.

I guess that's why it's hope.
There is no guarantee.
There is no promise.
Instead, endless and never-ending

06 November 2012

A confession of joy

Remember when I said I wasn't as excited about the election this year??

I was kind of wrong!!! I guess I didn't know how I would actually feel until.....

OBAMA WON!!!!!! 

And I could not be more excited. Hopeful. Happy!

I hope that in the next four years we will see some important changes in our country. And I hope, as I said before, that we can all come together and work peacefully to make our country a better place for all of us!


05 November 2012


I keep thinking back to 4 years ago. The first time I voted. When I read everything everywhere and after careful thought and preparation, I felt excited and certain about who I should vote for. I was so thrilled to take part in this democratic election ritual.

And I remember when President Obama won. I remember I was in the computer lab in the library typing up some paper, when suddenly there was a shout from somewhere in the foyer. Someone rejoicing. And then the word spread like fire throughout the library and whispers exploded in joy or disappointment. I remember my pride: in my country, my fellow citizens, in people in general. For making what was, in my opinion, the best decision. I remember recognizing that this was a historic moment in our country's history. And it proved me wrong in some of my doubts about the goodness and pureness of people's intentions and views.

In short, I was ecstatic. Full of hope and optimism for the future.

So, things haven't gone quite as planned. I'm not as intense about my feelings in the election this year. I still support President Obama. But maybe with a little less enthusiasm.

Not because I actually think he has been a terrible President like some people. Or because I am less certain about which candidate I support. I am just as sure who I want to win. And I think that Obama has done some good, though certainly he has not been perfect.

Still, I am not so enthused. I am excited to vote. I am grateful for this privilege to express my voice about who will lead my country. I am not unaware of how blessed we are to have the right to participate in the election of our leaders and to express our hopes, fears, disappointments and discontents. It's a great thing.

Only, the difference this time is that I am less hopeful about our attitude as citizens. And the election season hatefulness has not encouraged me much.

I remember how much President Bush was raked over the coals during his Presidency. I guess I thought that was just because people were so completely unhappy with him. I didn't expect the same negativity to continue almost without missing a beat into a new presidency.

I don't pretend that there are not reasons to complain and find fault. In fact, that's my very point. There always will be. There always have been. Unfortunately, if that is where we continue to focus, I truly believe that we will never be satisfied. We will never progress. There will never be real, meaningful change in our nation.

So, I will vote. And I will hope and pray for (what I consider) a favorable outcome in the elections.

But what I want, more than anything, is peacefulness. Helpfulness. No matter what happens, I hope I can do my best to be an asset to my country. I hope my voice can spread hope and love and joy. I hope that even if I disagree with some ideas, that I will find solutions. I hope that we as a nation can gripe a little less and change a little more.

As my mom always taught me, "Be a problem solver!"

Her advice never goes out of style.

Happy voting! Be safe out there!

Oh, and also this:

22 October 2012

LATEST UPDATE: Loss of reasoning abilities and moderation sweep country

Recently, there have been increased incidence of what are known as "hearing malfunctions" among United States citizens. From West to East and North to South, no population seems to be immune to this malfunction, and reports of it are increasing daily. Strangely enough, when this disorder occurs people across the country are listening to the same words at the same time, yet, despite written transcripts and the ability to replay the exact words, there is increasing disagreement on what is actually being said.

This is just one symptom of a frightening epidemic of what some are starting to refer to "Partisanitis." The affects are quite tragic, leaving victims seething and seizing in overblown fits of rage, indignation and childishness. And scariest of all is that the infected actually believe themselves to be in an increased state of awareness and accuracy--when faced with real facts and rational thinking "Partisanisia" seems to set in and only a very limited and selective portion of the world population, history and reality in general seems able to enter the affected minds. All other views are categorized as cruel, stupid, unrealistic, ridiculous and even evil.

The epidemic is characterized by the following symptoms:

First, the disease seems to start with a slight eye problem, wherein everything begins to look not just black and white, but actually distinct shades of red and blue. Interestingly enough, personal opinion strongly influences the side affects of the afflicted patients. Depending on ideas and feelings of the patient, either red or blue begins to produce extreme feelings of anger, resentment and distrust. It is also associated with emotional outbursts and unreasonable characterizations of people and ideas associated with the unfavorable color.

Next comes the earlier mentioned hearing malfunctions. These are directly related to the color associations. When a person or group is associated with the upsetting color, everything said is understood by the affected mind as an evil attempt to destroy lives--often the patient believes the words are a direct affront to their personal well-being and value system. On the other hand, when a person associated with the other, favorable color speaks, there is a feeling of calm, approval and support. This feeling may be produced at times through actual evidence, but is generally founded on nothing more than vague statements that cannot be tried, proven or substantiated in reality. As, in fact, are the upsetting statements.

However, the most disgraceful and tragic side affect of Partisanitis occurs when the infected persons begin, as if driven and unable to control themselves, to attempt to spread their disease to as wide an audience as possible. This takes the form of unpleasant and often embarrassing statements strewn across social media sites, sickeningly falsified data published in advertisements and across the news, internet and posted on bumper-stickers, and much more. People speak as though there were no alternative perspective and as though those associated with the negatively perceived color were actually devil possessed and seeking the demise of the entire human population. Or at least certain populations deemed important by the affected persons.

All inhabitants of the United States are encouraged to be on guard for signs of Partisanitis in themselves and those they know. It is suggested that when these disturbing behaviors are observed that they be ignored and the person displaying them pitied. While Partisanitis tells the victims of the disease otherwise, it should be stated that there is no secret plot by any person currently seeking to be elected as President of the United States to overthrow the government, wreck the lives of all humans and destroy the world. And while those suffering from the affects of this ailment will try to convince you that one color-associated person or another is actually, as one patient of partisanitis put it, "hiding your true motive to make America weak and vulnerable," these are the ramblings of sick minds.

Unaffected citizens are asked to calmly review facts, make logical and reasonable decisions, discuss issues and listen to the views of other unaffected, rational people with respect and dignity. It is not advisable, under any circumstances, to attempt a reasonable, rational or logical discussion with any person suffering from Partisanistis. There is no cure except for what can be called an "epiphany" of reason that takes place within the patient. These are rare and miraculous but do occur in some more evolved patients. In the meantime, we must be patient and hope that by the end of November our families, friends and associates will be restored to their normal selves, as is often the case (though sadly, some of the infected are irredeemable even outside of election season).

Be careful out there!

Experts are still debating the actual diagnosis of Partisanitis.
It has not been officially recognized by the  AMA.
However, due to high and increasing incidence the author wishes to bring 
the matter to the attention of the innocent.

It should also be mentioned that the author is 
to her own moments of Partisanitis.
She also does find it encouraging and beautiful that many people
have become interested and involved in the election process.
She only wished they would be more civil.
And less disgusting.
Ya know?

17 October 2012

Avoiding. But not giving up.

Every few days I look at my blog, as if to see if by some miracle something has been mysteriously posted there without my knowledge. (hope hope hope)

But alas, nothing new has appeared. And while I have felt increasingly guilty for my neglectfulness (why? how? I am accountable to no one for this blog... and yet...), I have been avoiding it. The truth is, every time I consider writing I either feel suddenly void of anything worthwhile (SPELLING WORD!!.. for my 4th graders) or have too many half-developed, unconnected semi-thoughts running through my mind to decide what I should actually put into a post. My last few (and far between) posts have reflected this dearth of inspiration and I am really quite ready to replace them with something more interesting, thoughtful and important. There are unlimited possibilities to solve this dilemma, but I am either too lazy or too dull to make them work of late.

I am trying to do better.

For now I will just share this:

'Cause even the stars they burn 
Some even fall to the earth 
We've got a lot to learn 
God knows we're worth it 
No, I won't give up 

I don't wanna be someone who walks away so easily 
I'm here to stay and make the difference that I can make 
Our differences they do a lot to teach us how to use 
The tools and gifts we got yeah, we got a lot at stake 
And in the end, you're still my friend at least we did intend 
For us to work we didn't break, we didn't burn 
We had to learn how to bend without the world caving in 
I had to learn what I've got, and what I'm not 
And who I am 

I won't give up on us 
Even if the skies get rough 
I'm giving you all my love 
I'm still looking up 
Still looking up.

Gorgeous words. Beautiful. I am feeling the need to get up and get moving. To do more. To be more. This song reminds me of the hope there is in the world. The never-ending supply of loveliness. The strength and depth of the human spirit. And I can always use that.


16 September 2012

A little of nothing

I should say something. I guess. Because it has been so long. Or because there are so many things to say (as usual). Or because I just want to.

And yet, despite all of that, about the only things I have to comment on are:

  1. Teaching is really hard. Some days I feel okay about it. Some days I wish I had the internet set up at my apartment so I could start looking for a new gig.
  2. I finally read the Hunger Games series, and despite a complete lack of confidence that I would be very impressed, I actually really enjoyed the books. They were interesting, well written and thought provoking. They were written for a young audience, obviously (though sometimes the gore was a bit much. I know, I'm sensitive.). So on a Young Adult Fiction scale from about a Twilight to a Harry Potter, they rank about a 7. Not bad at all. And I do recommend them to anyone who has held out like me. Worth the read.
  3. As you may have guessed from #1, I am now in a new apartment. On my own. I really like it, though I am still not entirely moved in or unpacked. The biggest problem is cockroaches. I think I pretty much took care of that with some Raid Bug Barrier, but the thought of these prehistoric (are they really?) beasts has interrupted my normal life quite a bit. I have terrible thoughts of them crawling on my clothes and cups and plates and spoons which makes it hard for me to use or touch anything without compulsively washing the object and my hands repeatedly. I imagine the creatures waiting until my eyes are closed to crawl out of hidden spaces and walk on me during my sleep. I can't stand too near the sink when I wash my face, in case they sneak out of the drain or from the cupboards under the sink while I have my eyes tight shut to keep the soap out (even though I always check under there first), thus I get a lot of water on the floor trying to get the water to my face from more than an arms length away. I blast scalding water down the drain anytime I am going to take a shower, just as a precaution. When I get home I open the door from a good distance back and make a sweeping appraisal to make sure it's alright to enter. If I need to turn a light on I always look at the switch first to make sure there isn't a bug on the wall. And I don't enter any space without the lights. I will not be taken by surprise. I keep every drained closed at all times and periodically spay things with an extra layer of bug spray so that it never has the opportunity to wear off. If anything moves of makes a shadow I jump and flinch. And even though I haven't found any cockroaches dead or alive for several days, I open cupboards and move plates and bags and boxes slowly and from safe distances, to give myself time to run, if necessary. I hope to be able to relax again... someday.
  4. I am feeling guilty about all the people I owe phone calls. I know it's not really new and I am generally bad at keeping in touch, but I have been especially guilty of this since I got back from Spain. Please forgive me.
  5. I want to hike to Romero Pools. Soon.
There are probably more important things I should add, but since right now I should be planning what I am going to teach my class tomorrow, that's all for now, folks. I really love you a lot if you are still reading this abandoned blog :)

20 August 2012

Time tricks

I told myself I needed to apply to jobs before I left Spain. Before I traveled. Before I got home. I wanted to be prepared. I wanted to be responsible. And I didn't really believe it would make any difference anyway.

In the back of my mind I had a plan. I would relax. Re-adjust. Unpack. And slowly dip my toes into working. Maybe I'd start part-time. I'd work at Bookmans and revel in the calm bookstore atmosphere, traipsing around between the bookshelves full of delightful used old books. I'd love it. And it would be relaxing and low-key. And I would just take it easy. Or something.

Little did I know that something else awaited me. A crazy whirlwind that would leave me less than 8 hours difference between the time my plane landed back home and the time I had to to work the next day. Little did I know that from that first day on I would be swamped with paperwork, planning, organizing,  preparing and arranging. Little did I know that being an elementary school teacher would put me in over my head more than I have ever been before. And I am in way over my head.

But I'm glad that's the way it turned out. I never saw myself as a 4th grade teacher. And I am not sure if I do even now. Yet, that's what I am, for the time being. And for the last three weeks I have been thrown into the midst of a new world. A world where everything is so simple and yet so unbearably complex all at once. Where every day there is something new. There is constantly something fabulously sweet or beautiful or valuable. And also something so utterly frustrating and incomprehensibly ridiculous I don't know how I am going to stand it. I reach the end of each day exhausted. I am asking everyone questions. I am searching for new answers and solutions, learning something I thought I knew all over again. Seeing everything from a new angle and trying to figure out what that means and how to deal with it.

And mostly, since I got back home, just 3 weeks ago, I am wondering why the days are shorter than ever before. How time seems to run out so quickly and why there is never never time for everything. Not nearly.

Of course, that really shouldn't surprise me. Time has always been the greatest trickster. So, I guess nothing is new after all. It's all just the same story over and over again.

And it's good to be back.

26 July 2012

and miles to go...

I have a great deal to say, but I won't say much.. just now.

Only that most of my goodbyes have been said. My things are (almost) packed. Time is running short. And in just two days I will be boarding a plane bound for Tucson, AZ, blowing kisses to Spain, and feeling the tug of that piece my heart that is linked to this land forever.

Right now I feel the restlessness of wanting to jump ahead into the next phase of life awaiting me back home. And the heartache of having already completed (perhaps) another chapter in this little story of mine, and letting it go. And the fear of being in between--never really knowing what lies ahead or comes next. On the threshold, and somewhat in the dark.

But it's all beautiful. And I am happy. And grateful, too. Because I know that I am blessed, beyond what I could ever, ever deserve. 

And because tonight there is a warm summer storm blowing through Madrid, with fat globs-of-rain drops and silver flashing, sky cutting, bright-light lightning and deep, long rumblings of thunder. And it is too perfect. A summer storm. The kind of farewell I wouldn't have known to ask for, but that is exactly what I want.

So, thank you--for this time. For the things I've seen and experienced; the good and the bad. The places I have been, the things I have learned, all I have gained, even what I have lost. And, of course and most of all, for the people. Thank you forever for the friends, the family, the special souls who are, in truth, the greatest, most rewarding part of it all.

If I've (re)learned anything in Spain it is how much the people in my life mean to me. Those friends I have found here, the dear and wonderful people who have been there for me at home. This time has given me a greater understanding of the essential part these incredible people play in my life. And of just how grateful I should be. More than I am, I know. And more than I could say in a billion words, not to mention these few measly paragraphs.

But, anyway, what I really want to say now is, this it is. The end has come. It's been swell, Spain. And you know I'll miss you. I really will.

Hasta luego.
Nos vemos.
for now.

19 June 2012

On your mark... Get set...

Let the travels begin!

Wish me luck, adventures and serenity (because I'm a little nervous!! in addition to very excited!!).

First stop: Roma

PS. Please send good luck vibes
that I won't forget to charge my camera battery.
That's the WORST!
(Well, you know, of the
safe and alive
kind of problems.)

13 June 2012

Belief in everyone

How much do most of us really know about other people's beliefs? How often do we generalize, stereotype and hold prejudices against certain groups of people for the things the believe, or don't believe in (or that we think they believe)?

If you ask me, too often. And it's sad.

On the blog FIXES from the New York Times, David Bornstein dedicated the latest article to an organization working to improve interfaith relations and dialogue. The Interfaith Youth Corps (IFYC) works with college students to "develop greater respect, comfort and appreciation for one another and their traditions." Bornstein, and the founders of IFYC, believe that in the United States we have embraced many forms of diversity and multiculturalism--we talk freely about race, sexual orientation, gender and ethnicity--but talking about people's cherished believes is still a sticking point. It's heated, taboo and often conversation on faith lacks real understanding, openness and respect.

I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (as most of you probably know). A Mormon. And that does define certain aspects of my life, my character and my worldviews. But I am still a unique person with a personal set of values and experiences and ideas, some of which relate to my religion and some of which do not. Like most people.

The thing is, when I know someone personally I usually have no problem with him or her and others don't seem to have a problem with me either, whatever our differences in faith (and other beliefs for that matter). On a personal and individual basis it doesn't seem like much of a problem to talk to, relate to or even have close relationships and friendships with people who believe differently. I have rarely experienced prejudice, intolerance or unkindness directly (though that is not true for all people, unfortunately). In my experiences, most people are able to talk to and respect individuals, but then can easily turn around and speak about other faiths, religious practices and beliefs in derogatory, limited and sometimes quite ignorant ways.

Where I see this most blatantly, is in the media (though among peers, coworkers, students, etc it happens too). In politics, of course, but also in TV shows and movies, religion and religious people are usually presented in very stereotypical ways. As a group of semi-ubiquitous characters with the occasional distressed questioner/doubter/outsider. But the reality isn't that way. As Bornstein says, "The worst thing society can do is to continue what it’s doing today: allowing attitudes to be shaped by the shrillest voices, the voices of intolerance, political expedience and xenophobia. 'If we don’t talk openly about faith and bring people from different traditions together, we forfeit the conversation to people who are happy to build barriers.'”

Reading about IFYC, I love the idea. It is true that we are only going continue increasing in diversity and we need to know how to deal with that. David D. Putnam, a political scientist who studies diversity and community, says it clearly: “It’s not just the presence of diversity in your neighborhood [that is important]. You’ve got to actually be doing things with other people in which you have a personal attachment. Diversity is hard, not easy.”

So IFYC helps push this  along by starting interfaith service projects, discussions and activities based on common values. As one Muslim student from Georgetown University explained, "Interfaith work isn’t about watering down our religion and coming to some consensus about things. . . . It’s about building relationships so we can together serve others.”

In the world we live in today, it is important to recognize that no one person, group or religion can succeed alone. If we want to make better communities, nations and ultimately a better world it means working together. And that has nothing to do with being in agreement, whether it is religion, politics or otherwise. There will always be differences. Always. It means knowing how to understand, respect and work with others in productive ways. It means being open to new ideas and it means knowing how to see people as individuals with value, no matter what their background.

One student said,  “it’s important to remind [students] that they don’t have to speak for their whole religion. They’re just there to talk about their faith or beliefs in a personal way.” What more can any of us do? What more can we expect from our neighbors and friends and acquaintances? And why don't we do more of that?

Recently I met a girl, a friend of a friend, while on a trip. She and I started a conversation in which we talked a little about our religious beliefs. She's Catholic and, as I said, I'm Mormon. We talked about things that were important to us about our faiths. We discussed why we choose to practice our religions. In all, it was a wonderful experience for me and I gained a great deal of respect for her and her personal faith. One thing she said to me, as we were talking, that stood out then and even more now, was, "Why is it so hard to talk about religion?" She said it was often uncomfortable to discuss faith among friends and acquaintances, and I have to say, I agree with her. And it shouldn't be that way.

If we want to gain greater love and respect for others, we have to be willing to share as well as to listen. And do so with openness and respect. As I said before, in my experience when religion is brought up I have rarely, if ever, had a negative experience. But it is true that it is often a topic we tiptoe around. Lets not! For most of us, our faith (whatever form it takes) is important to us, and there is nothing wrong with talking about it!

Interfaith travel... you've gotta try it! :)

11 June 2012

Advise me, dear people.

Away I Go!
Next Wednesday I leave Spain for a few weeks of pure adventuring! I'm heading to Italy and France (and maybe squeezing in a bit of Greece...) and then back to Northern Spain. I'll be spending the greater part of my time traversing Italy. I have some things planned and I'm quite excited. But for those of you with some traveling under your belts, any suggestions?? Places I can't miss, great food to try, nice hostels, travel secrets, etc. Anything you've got! I'm trusting in your expertise :)

Mil gracias!

08 June 2012

How nightmares become reality

This morning I couldn't find my hairbrush, which is weird, since I am usually so organized and tidy and have everything in its place. (Former roommates, no comments please!) Then I saw it sitting on the table. As I went to grab it, I yanked my hand back with sudden shock as my brain recalculated the situation--comb/scissors/hair/disaster!! Turns out, instead of a green hair comb it was my green-handled pair of scissors. Even first thing in the morning, that's the kind of detail you can't let yourself overlook!

Now, hopefully I am not so spacey that I would actually try to comb my hair with a pair of scissors. But the experience was especially disconcerting because I had just woken up from a strange dream... like most dreams, I guess.... Last night in my dream I got this really great new job (I have no idea what it was, but in my dream, I was thrilled.). Unfortunately the next day I was certain I was going to get fired because somehow I had a really horrible haircut, and I didn't know how it happened. I just remember trying to hide my lopsided bangs from my boss, as we were talking face to face, knowing all along that I was doomed!

I hope that I will ever get fired from a job over my haircut (or wake up someday looking like a preschooler mistook my head for an art project. Or like I confused my hairbrush with a pair of scissors... who does that?), but still, the coincidence of having a hair "nightmare" and then brush with disaster seemed like kind of a freaky coincidence.

Even freakier, I also dreamed this week that I went home to see a friend who was getting married. We were on our way for me to meet the fiance when my friend commented that she had just met his other wife, who was "super nice." "Oh, so he's divorced?" I asked. "No." My friend replied, giving me a puzzled look, completely unphased by the fact that she was about to enter into matrimony with an already married man. In fact, no one in my dream seemed the least bit concerned with the situation. It was like everyone had suddenly gone crazy. I was the only sane one left. I knew I had to take things into my own hands! I met the guy, and he seemed nice enough. And I thought to my(dream)self, "He's a sweet guy. It's a pity I'm going to have to ruin his wedding. I hope my friends don't hate me forever for this!" I had no plan, but I had my certainty--THIS WEDDING MUST BE DESTROYED!

Dreams.... to be honest, I hope most of mine never come true!

02 June 2012


This photo is a representation of my feelings about June, but was not, however, actually taken in June. Give me a break. It's only been two days!

It's June. I love June. There are many reasons I could give, but in all honesty I love it most of all because June is my birthday month. I have no special claim on the month, I know. There are lots of people with June birthdays. Yet, I always feel like it is my month. A month of beautiful things, hopes and wishes and fresh starts.

This June, in twenty-five days, I will turn 25.

The thing is, I am really happy to turn 25. Some people make me feel like 25 is a big deal--I should feel "old," or worried about what I have (and have not) accomplished or where I am going or when I will get married or have kids, etc. And I confess, those thoughts cross my mind from time to time. From that point of view there is a lot someone could point to as "not enough." I don't have a great job, a husband or kids, a boyfriend, a master's degree. I'm not in school and in three weeks I won't have a job any more either. I am still not sure what I want to do with my life or where I will end up. But I am content. I'm happy. I have thought things over and I feel fantastic about my life thus far. That's not to say that there aren't a lot more things I want to do and that there isn't a LOT of progress I want to make, but so what? I'm working on it.

A few things that help me feel great about this coming landmark:

  1. It really is about the journey, not the destination. Cliché but true. Even though I haven't accomplished any great and wonderful things yet (and maybe I never will) and even though the things I have done have been small, they have been important to me. I have chosen my path the best I could according to my goals and values and dreams, even though I often did so without knowing where I would end up. Of course there is more I could have done and things I missed along the way. But in all, I have had more than my fair share of loveliness so far in life. And I am so very grateful.
  2. Being single doesn't scare me. It used to. But the older I get and the more dating (and dating-like) experiences I have, the more I realize that I am completely okay being on my own. I want to get married and have a family. But if that doesn't come along, or if it takes a long time, I am not worried. I have plenty to do in the meantime. I am happy and I am never lacking wonderful people in my life who are there for me when I need them. So while I will be overjoyed if/when the right person comes along, I am in no rush, and I'm not worried about it. (at least right now)
  3. My life is full of incredible blessings. And most of them have come in the form of truly wonderful people. My family and friends fill my life with joy and security and hope. They lift me up and they believe in me. I am not worried about disappointing them or letting them down, because they have proven to me that they are there for me no matter what. I know I can trust them.
  4. Life is unexpected, unsettling and completely wonderful. Life cannot be planned. It will always surprise you. There are great moments and difficult ones, but so far the balance in my life has always tilted towards astonishingly beautiful. I know that I can trust God to lead me where I need to go and to provide not only everything I need, but also many unforeseeable and completely breathtaking moments along the way.
  5. I don't want my life to be the same as anyone else's, so I have no need to compare my life to other people's.
  6. I decided a few years ago that I won't feel old until I'm at least 60. So don't expect me to freak out when I turn 30 or 40 or 50 either. These days, that's young! I have no intention of wasting valuable time worrying about my age. I can't go backwards, I can only go forwards. As long as I am enjoying life and making progress I don't see why it matters how old I am anyway!
So, happy birthday month to me (and a bunch of other fabulous people too!!!). I am hoping to really love my last few weeks being 24. And anyone with advice for how to make the coming year even better, fire away!

A happy June to one and all!

ps. all that said,
I reserve the right to feel
nervous and freaked out and self conscious and like my life is out of control
at any given moment.
It happens.
But in general, I feel great!

24 May 2012

When my students asked me

the definition of foster I excitedly told them that to foster is to...
encourage or promote the development of (something, typically something regarded as good). To cherish, raise up, nurture...*

thinking they were extra engaged in the article we were reading and interested in learning some new vocabulary. Yay for English! They actually care!

Then one of them said "Oh cool. I was just wondering because there's this band called Foster the People."

Yeah, really? Too bad, "foster the minds of Spanish youth learning English" doesn't have quite the same ring to it. Then maybe they'd listen to me too. Maybe.**

It's okay though, because Foster the People really does make good music. And now my students are practically guaranteed to remember at least one word we learned this year! Success!

Anyway, I haven't been as diligent about posting music this week as I originally intended (shocking I know). But I ran into this lovely song, "Ruby," by, have you guessed?? Why yes, that one group.. something akin to Encourage the Human Race, or was it, oh yeah! Foster the People. Yeah, them. Anyway, I love the song. And I thought I'd also add an acoustic version of some FosterthePeople favorites from NPR's Tiny Desk Concert series. If you're anything like my students (and me), you'll love it!

What else should I be listening to friends? I need your expertise!

*well, I'm sure I said something like that
because when you're an English teacher you're expected to know the exact definition of 
at any given moment.
And if you don't, you make one up.
Definition via

**Also, that class are actually excellent students,
 the little smarties!

Soundtrack only, please

Florence + the Machine. 

Yep. Not much to say. I love her voice, her sound, her spunk and her dance moves. I also like this new song.

As for the movie.... well, I'm not completely sold*. But the music? YES PLEASE!

*To be fair
I'm kind of a movie skeptic.
It's just that so many mainstream movies these days are
well, mediocre.
Or just plain crappy.

And that from someone who really 
LOVES movies
(when they're good)!

21 May 2012

Something beautiful

I've been listening to some new (to me) music lately that I really enjoy. So this week I'll share a few songs/artists with you, my dear friends. Maybe you already know them, maybe not. Either way I hope you enjoy listening! Also, please feel free to share some of your own favorites too (new or old, really)!!! I'm in a new music mode. I'm bored of my current tunes and looking for something fresh. So, first up:

 Paloma Faith

The other day I randomly came across the Paloma Faith's single "Picking up the Pieces" from her album "Fall to Grace" coming out next week. She's rather quirky, and has a strong, unique voice. Her songs are fairly upbeat but also soulful. I like the retro feel of the music and her voice (and her costumes/hair/makeup). In all, I quite enjoy her and her songs. Hope you do too!!  Here are a couple to try out...

20 May 2012

If only everything were this easy!

"If you believe that earth’s natural resources are limitless, which maybe was excusable 100 years ago but is the height of ignorance now,  or that “technology will fix it” or that we can simply go mine them in outer space with Newt Gingrich, I guess none of this worries you. But if you believe in reality, and you’d like that to be a place that your kids get to enjoy, this is a big deal."

Today I read a NYTimes article called We Could Be Heroes. Intriguing, right? Who doesn't want to be a hero? So, what's the key? Essentially, the article is about a very simple, immediate way in which we can influence the world, particularly climate change, increasing greenhouse gases, diminishing land, forests, flora (and with it the loss of and endangerment of many species), etc. Can you guess what it is? The simple, small change we can make TODAY that could make the kind of difference in the world that new technologies, research, electric cars and renewable energy sources can't begin to match (at least for the time being)?

Yep. EATING LESS (or no) MEAT.

Okay, I know what you're thinking. This is one of my pet subjects. I am always harping on about the pros of vegetarianism (which isn't actually even necessarily what the article is promoting). But it's true. Read the article.  Read what I posted here about a myriad of other reasons to make the switch (or read Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. Great book.). But whatever you do, please at least consider the way you are eating and the affects your daily consumption has on your life, the planet, our future and the future of our children. It's at least worth giving a little thought! Especially since I can promise from experience, eating less or no meat truly is EASY! It takes a little extra thought, especially at first, and maybe some adjustment. But today there are so many options available to us that avoiding meat is no biggie in terms of sacrifice. Yet it can have a huge influence when it comes to impact!

16 May 2012

This is happiness.

Even in the early mornings now I can leave the house in short sleeves and sandals, and it feels great, like being in heaven I think.

Summer has officially arrived in Spain.

It's strange because only a week or so ago I was wearing my coat and boots and worried every day about being cold or getting rained on. Now, I'm contentedly ignoring my sweaters and tights, cheerily embracing the dresses and skirts and t-shirts I can wear without all those stifling cold weather accessories that have accompanied everything I've worn since November. In the mornings I wake up to sunlight, and the sky stays lit up until after 9pm, when it slowly fades into a soft, warm dusk. I've stripped the blankets from my bed and am leaving the windows open now while I sleep, because it's warm enough that you need a bit of breeze, even at night. It's like someone just snapped her fingers and set a great change in motion-- the goddess of all things warm and glorious! And I'm just thrilled. Overjoyed! By the way the sun beats down hard on my skin. By the greenness of the trees. The bright bursts of red and yellow and purple and white that peek out of unsuspected corners where flowers are flourishing, emitting their delicious freshness into the surrounding air, making me stop in my tracks sometimes, just to breathe. Yum!

The world is awake! And everyone knows it. They're emerging from hibernation. Families are out together on walks, in parks, sitting on benches, talking on street corners. Neighbors sit on their front porches in the evenings, just because. From my bedroom window I can hear the screams and laughter of children playing in the streets bellow. People everywhere are running and biking and walking with their sweethearts (or their dogs), taking in every minute of extended sunlight!

Oh glory, how I love it!

06 May 2012

It takes me back

I don't quite remember how I stumbled upon the video of Bon Iver performing a cover of Bonníe Raitt's "I can't make you love me." His version is beautiful in its own right, but in the end I had to go back to the original. Gorgeous! (Adele's version is pretty too, by the way.)

The thing is, listening to this song takes me back in time. For some reason I was suddenly overcome by a memory of sitting in the backseat of my grandparent's car with my sister. We were driving to a swimming pool in Albuquerque while there on a visit. Maybe I was 8. The truth is, it's fuzzy and hazy and unfinished. I don't know if the song was playing on the radio, or a CD, or goodness, probably a cassette tape! while were driving. Or maybe some other Bonnie Raitt song. I can't say, but it's strange the way a lost memory can submerge like that, for no apparent reason. But beautiful too. I love it.

And it made me think about other favorite songs we used to listen to in the car when I was little. There were many-- but here are few songs that really stand out in my memory from ages 3-6 or so, when we used to drive half an hour across town to visit my (other) grandparents. At the moment I remember these specifically...

The Judds...

And Eric Clapton.. this is still one of my favorite songs..

Plus a Disney cassette
with "Zip-i-dee doo dah" and "We are Siamese if you please," etc. , etc.
that we must have played 3 million times! 
It will forever remind me of winding roads and fields of flowers
 from summer visits to the White Mountains.
But I'll spare you....

Thanks for indulging me in this blast from the past. Does anyone else have any songs that just can't be separated from your childhood?

26 April 2012

Shall we dance?

I'm not a dancer, though my mother was, and because of that I imagine that the ability should be lurking somewhere in my genes, just waiting to be released. That one day I will step out onto a dance floor and nothing but beauty and grace will flow from my limbs; they will work together with the music and I will be transformed. Someday....

Dancing with Carlos, I almost felt it was possible.

Have you ever danced with someone who really knows how to dance? It's like you're moving without even knowing how. Somehow he's leading and following, sort of, and then, despite yourself, suddenly you're dancing. It's something magical, possessed only by a really, truly good dancer. And I guess that's kind of rare.

Carlos taught me to dance: bachata, merengue, a little bit of salsa. He took me dancing and he gave lessons to a group of us on a couple of evenings in the Center for Young Adults in Alcalá. When the rest of us danced together we all fumbled with our feet and started on the wrong beat and struggled to maintain the rhythm. But when I danced with Carlos it all made sense--the music, the movement, the turns--it was natural. Light, free, smooth, flowing. And pretty. While the rest of are just awkward and overly self-aware, when Carlos dances he looks graceful and beautiful and poised. Effortless.

On Tuesday I danced with Carlos for the last time. Today he left for Manchester, England, where he will serve a 2 year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am happy for him. He will teach and serve and learn, and speak English! He will grow and do much good. But I have to confess that, selfishly, I'm a bit disappointed to have reached the end of our dancing days, few though they were to begin with.

I guess what I'm really saying is, I'm in the market for a new dance teacher. One who not only knows how to dance, but who can transform his partner into a dancer by the sheer grace of his movement.

And no, I wouldn't mind if he happens be very handsome.

And maybe a little bit tall.

25 April 2012

I'll turn it off!

Just as soon as I get these few pending "things" out of the way, I will turn off my computer, finally.

  • First, this graduation speech. I guess it is a bit outdated (from 2008), but I saw someone post it, and the message is relevant now... whether you're a recent graduate or not. It's insightful, funny and basically an admonition to live life fully and meaningfully.
  • Next: food. I was reading about brilliant ways people are bringing fresh produce and other healthy food options to "food deserts." Food deserts aren't literal deserts, but instead locations (such as in urban areas or very rural settings) that are devoid of supermarkets and thus lack adequate access to healthy foods and fresh produce. With the many issues facing Americans health-wise (obesity, heart problems, etc.) many people are working hard to make fresh food accessible in these areas. I think it is fantastic. My one qualm is that food habits also need to be broken--selling the food is the first and most important step, but if people have lived their whole lives without healthy options, chances are they might also lack some knowledge about what the best choices are and how to prepare these food items. Maybe a thought for the future.
  • While I was reading the article about food deserts, I also happened across this article about ways we can make food production safer, healthier and more sustainable. It has some great ideas! (Can you tell I LOVE FOOD!)
  • Also, this is our President:

18 April 2012

The moment:

Suddenly the boys I've ordered across the room, in a final attempt to deter their note passing with the girls in the classroom next door (through a very inconvenient sliding door connecting the two classes), seem more suspicious than usual. They have all starting humming a familiar song that I can't quite place my finger on. This is when I notice the sliding door moving slightly, apparently on its own. Then I catch it, the boys are humming "mission impossible." One of them has crawled all the way across the room on all fours and is attempting to slide the note under the door.

That's when I realize: It's all one big joke. For them, my every attempt at order and authority is a game they are trying to beat. They already know I'm harmless.


I am reading a book right now* in which, amongst many other things, a woman starts teaching high school, but is not a certified teacher. And boy can I relate to her:

"My first day [teaching high school] had gone as smoothly as anybody could reasonably hope--no revolts, no crises major or minor. Still, I couldn't put a finger on what it was, but standing in front of a roomful of high school students seemed to use up a ferocious amount of energy. It made me think of those dancers in white boots and miniskirts who used to work bars in the sixties, trying desperately to entertain, flailing around like there was no tomorrow."

Yep. That's about right.

*the book is Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver,
if you wan to check it out.

ps. not all of my classes are like that.
and I have actually learned to love teaching.
but then there are those moments...
I'm not sure if I want to laugh or scream.

15 April 2012

Right now

I can't stop listening...

I don't love you....

but I always will.

12 April 2012

I feel GREAT!

On my last day in London, on Easter, I had the terrible stomach cramps. The I think I might pass out/throw up in the middle of the street kind. So I picked up some Ibuprofen at the drug store and popped my usual 2 pills*. After about 45 minutes I was feeling fantastic! Really perfectly, wonderful! I commented to my friend that these pills really did their job! I was thrilled.

It wasn't until just now when I looked in my medicine cabinet at the ibuprofen I had brought with me from the US that I realized that the pills I took in London are double the dose of my normal medication (200mg to the usual 100). So... oops. hehe.

But if you happen to be wondering, taking the equivalent of 4 ibuprofen IS effective for pain relief. You will feel spectacular. Though I don't know if it is necessarily advisable on a regular basis. Still, thank goodness for those pills or I would probably have spent my last day in London writhing in pain.

God bless the beautiful UK!
(and her double dose drugs!)

*just in case you're worried:
the box said I could take 2 of the double duty English ibuprofen,
so I probably won't die.

11 April 2012


They say that if you rinse your hair in cold water after a shower it will be shinier.

The thing is, when I tried it I realized is that I have no chance whatsoever of holding up under torture. I can't even handle standing in a cold shower for three seconds.

Why that was the thought that came to my mind, I'm not sure, but I couldn't get the image of Jennifer Garner in her TV series Alias out of my mind. Do you remember that show? I used to watch it with my mom and I remember enjoying it. Now, reflecting back (with my vague and possibly inaccurate memories of the show) I can't quite recall the appeal. In fact, in recent years I have become exceptionally averse to most forms of violence on TV or in movies. I make exceptions when I feel the film or documentary has a particularly important and thoughtful message, but I at times find myself repulsed by action films and super-hero movies. To me they seem so careless; so crude and ugly and sad. Often these films seem to trivialize the real effects of violence, conflict and war. They tend to paint good and evil in clear opposition to one another; everything is black and white. Sometimes we even want people to die, or we don't think twice when there are people left injured or killed on the sidelines. For me it's all rather sickening.

I can't recall exactly when or why my view of these depictions started changing. Probably about the time I went to college and just a small piece of the protective bubble of privilege I have always lived within lifted to show me something of what reality looks like outside of my own little world. And the more I read and see and learn the less entertaining violence becomes and the more upsetting it is, even if it is just "pretend." Because I know that often these films are nonchalantly depicting horrors that really happen. Or if not, they are showing violence in such a casual manner that it seems like a slap in the face to every man, woman and child who has truly suffered--whether it be from war or genocide, rape or domestic abuse, or any act of hatred or anger or meanness. It doesn't seem funny or entertaining or glamorous anymore. It turns my stomach and makes me morn for the society we live in that can turn a blind eye to real suffering and then, for financial gain, use stories of violence as a form of entertainment.

I know sometimes I take things too far. I can be a stick-in-the-mud and read too much into things. But I think sometimes, too, we don't read enough into things. We don't think enough about what we see and hear and read and learn. We disconnect from reality and let ourselves pretend that everything is well. And lets be honest, we all know it's not. I promise, teaching a teenagers is a great way to be reminded yourself of how gloomy things can potential be (the little downers!). Yet in truth I am really hopeful for the world and for society. Even though I am disappointed that the progress and advances in our societies have often only led to more destructive weapons and wars; to new kinds of dominance and oppression; to greater disparities between the rich and the poor.

But I don't think it has to be that way. I don't think we are destined to be hateful and selfish and violent. We have a choice and I believe that we can, and I hope that we will, change for the better. It comes down to the decisions we make and the way we choose to see the world and those we share it with. It comes down to how much we are willing to change and adapt in the name of the better good. I think in some ways we are going to be forced to change in the near future. But I hope we will also choose to change because we care about the world we live in and we see others as equally valuable as ourselves.

Anyway, that's what the kind of thing you think when you freeze your brain in the shower in the hopes of shinier hair. It's dangerous business.

09 April 2012

WICKED in London

I melted.

(Just a taste... not from the show I saw.. obviously I guess....)

I have been listening to the Wicked soundtrack since my friend Jessica gave it to me my freshman year of college. Seeing the show in person, in the front row, in London was almost unbearably amazing! I cried.

I don't think my life will ever be the same.

29 March 2012

Skewed perceptions

Today I somehow found my way to this article/photo essay about celebrity moms feeding their babies in public, in various forms. What was shocking to me was that many people are "offended" by images of breastfeeding women.


To me this is so skewed and twisted it is hardly comprehensible. Today we live in a culture which has turned women's bodies into sexual objects, and then so normalized this objectified, sexualized image that when we see nearly nude women in magazines and movies and television we hardly think twice. Yet, somehow an image of a woman feeding and nourishing her child in the way nature intended is unsettling. Am I the only one who sees a problem with this situation?

Maybe having spent time in cultures where public breast feeding is completely normal and common place, or knowing the some of the benefits mother and child can receive from breastfeeding, or the impact that breastfeeding can have for children and families in developing nations, or knowing women who would love to breastfeed but are unable to has changed my perspective. In our culture I know it isn't common to see a mother openly breastfeeding. What I don't know is why. I am offended, if we want to talk about offensive things, that we as a society hardly say a word when scantily clad women are posted on every magazine cover and make appearances in practically every film and TV series, often in demeaning and horrifyingly objectified ways, and then turn around and act as though we've never been so shocked when a woman happens to expose her breast in order to feed her child. It's beyond me!

Breastfeeding is awesome. And while not all moms can breastfeed and there are also many other good options for feeding babies today, there is no reason for this weird cultural taboo against a beautiful act of motherhood!

28 March 2012

The view from here.

Every once in awhile I have a split second of insight. For one small second I catch a glimpse of just how much there is in this world that is completely beyond me--that I have never felt or seen or understood.

And it is actually rather frightening.

Today I spoke with a woman I sometimes see here in Azuqueca. Her name is Laura. I met her outside the supermarket, where she works... asking the shoppers for money as they enter or exit. Laura has a daughter who will turn two this week. She wants to buy her a small birthday cake, but she doesn't know if she can.

After I talking to Laura for a few minutes I turned to leave and suddenly I felt the distance between her daily life and my understanding of what it is to be in that position. I realized, in that instance, that I had absolutely no way of comprehending what it would be like to be a mother, without a stable job, trying to support her family from day to day, not even certain I would have enough money to buy my little girl a cake for her birthday. Nothing in my life experience has compared with that. None of my cares have ever approximated those of Laura, or of so many other people who struggle to get by. I have felt empathy, perhaps. I have felt love or sorrow or pain for the people when I've seen them or heard their stories, but none of that is anything like being in such a position personally. Not even close.

I was listening to a TED talk yesterday by Jessica Jackey, the co-founder of Kiva. She talked about her introduction to poverty and her journey to beginning this online micro-lending system that has now provided over $25 million in loans to entrepreneurs in developing countries. She talked about what it meant to her to actually know the people who we call "poor." Talking to them, being friends with them, she saw them as individuals. And not only suffering individuals, but individuals who had every bit as much life and love and joy and sorrow and intelligence and hope as anyone else. And as much variety too. She wants us to see "the poor" not just as them--those who need our help--some ambiguous group, distant from us--if not in space, in their very being they are distant to us... different--but as true human beings and individuals.

I think she's right. I think we need to know who these "poor" people are, what they think, what they dream and what they know on a personal basis. That is why grassroots development and community based projects, though small, often are the most effective. They are not led by people from far away who see developing nations from a distance and as a conglomeration of people who, though important and even loved, are part of one large problem to be solved. It is easy to see things that way. But I believe that we will never achieve real change while we continue to treat poverty and development as a group issue to be solved by the outside. That kind of development has proven itself misled and wasteful at best. Because really, without being in the situation yourself, however much you have seen or studied, you don't know what it is like.

But I am not just thinking in terms of poverty and development. I am thinking of the myriad of ways in which we fail to understand each other. Not because we don't try or because we aren't compassionate enough or we don't listen enough (though these things happen too, at least for me at times). Rather, because there are limits to how much we can understand about others, ever. A perfect example comes from a close friend of mine. She expressed to me once her frustration in the fact that, though she was able to share so much with her husband and was closer to him than basically anyone else, there were still divides. There are still things that can't be shared and understood fully between these two people whose lives and future are now one. They are still separate beings with different ideas and thoughts and perspectives. Love, marriage, dedication, intimacy, time--none of it was enough to close that gap entirely.

Perhaps all of this is circulating through my mind now because I just finished reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. It is a story about and told by Christopher--a 15-year old mathematical genius with a form of autism (though he never uses the word or explains the exact nature of his "behavioral problems" in the book). The book is highly acclaimed, and I add my own positive review. Because it is funny and smart and interesting and captivating. But also because it does something akin to taking you inside the mind of another person. Inside a mind which is complex and beautiful and completely distinct from my own mind. And while reading I was blown away by this trip into another mind and another way of seeing and understanding the world. To an extent I felt I could share Christopher's view of the world. Yet, there is a limit. For example, I was shocked by the way in which he literally observes everything, as he frequently mentions. I tried for just a moment to notice everything around me while walking on the street today, and it was dizzying. I couldn't do it. It was impossible for me to even begin to see the world as this boy might.

There is always a gap. There is always some level of distance between the life, thoughts, experiences of one person and that which any other person can ever connect to and comprehend. That's nothing new. We have all felt those moments of disconnect. Even with those we are closest to. It can be hard. It can sometimes make us feel lonely or frustrated or strange.

But I think sometimes we also forget. We forget that we don't understand. We don't get other people. And with the majority of the people in our lives we barely skim the surface of their actual being. What does that mean? I don't know. A lot of things I guess. But most of all, I suppose for me it means (as I should know by now) that I need to be more vigilant in questioning my assumptions and my judgments. I need to do my best to know people well, and give them the benefit of the doubt. And also, I need to be grateful for every joy and blessing I have. Because I will never know how grateful I should be.. because I will never know what it is like not to have all I have. And I will never know what it is like not to be me.

And it's weird.

22 March 2012


"Later Lin understood about her grandmother not wanting to think about the past. Auntie, Grandmother's sister, told Lin how the old woman had been raped and left for dead, cut at the neck. Auntie said she found her, the woman's long hair red with blood all about her neck and shoulders. Auntie grabbed her and lifted her. 'You! Sister, wake up! You are breathing!' Auntie yelled. By some miracle, the artery was not cut, even though Grandmother thought she was dead, wished she was, and lay back weak and limp, but she was yelled into life by a woman almost too thin to have a voice.
"[I]t was why Grandmother always wore one of her two scarves. It was why here eyes saw only as far back as they would; not far. . . .
"Lin buried her head against her great-aunt's chest. 'Is it human?' Lin asked. 'To do that. Is it human?'
". . .'Yes. I think it is human. There is so much to a human.'
'Does it have to be?'
'I don't know.' She braided the child's hair. 'But that's enough for now. There's only so much a girl can hear.' Just then there was a gunshot in the distance.
"Later, when they were down in the reddish sand by the water, she held Lin and said, 'I'm sorry.' Crying.
"Lin studied her face, to see what she meant. She looked at her fine nose, her cheek that seemed dented, her eyes. Lin said, 'I know. You're sorry about humans.'
"Auntie nodded, hiding her face."

-Linda Hogan, The People of the Whale

I can barely begin to explain the beauty and the tragedy and the redemption of The People of the Whale. Reading it at times was like being inside the minds and hearts of people both magnificent as well as deeply wounded. This passage sums up one of the overarching themes of the book: the capacity for humans to hurt, torture, lie, and kill--each other, other creatures, nature, society--anything and everything around them. The depths of disgrace to which they can succumb when they are not whole; when they are lost and afraid and have traded in their hearts for a sense of personal survival or desire. It is tragic and terrible.

I too have questioned the ugliness that exists within humanity and even lamented being a part of a race with such a capacity for cruelty; so fallible; so easily broken and twisted and led astray.

And yet.

In life, in this world, (and in The People of the Whale) alongside every act of disgrace there is also beauty. For every broken soul there are others working to rebuild; to strengthen; to teach. Just as the world is full of hatred and woundedness, it is also ripe with compassion and healing. And the horrors and glories of humanity are mingled together and twisted into our histories and our lives in ways that cannot be easily separated and explained. It is all too complex. Too intertwined. Too deeply connected in every aspect of life and our very beings. I wonder if it is even possible to delve deep enough into the human heart and spirit to comprehend the disparate halves of our being and the incongruencies of goodness and evil that are among us and within us.

Really and truly, "There is so much to a human." Beautiful and terrible. Miraculous and sorrowful. I don't really know what else to say about that. I don't know how to accept it, to live with it, to assimilate that reality into my understanding of the world. But I see it, constantly. And I know it is part of me too; that I contain both good and evil; that I have beauty, but also brokenness. In the end I just hope that we can find ways to bring all of that together; that we can heal those parts of us all that have suffered and unify our goodness and compassion and love. I think it is possible. I pray it is.

image: Linda Hogan