Monday, October 20, 2014

Storm Mountain

That title sounds dark and foreboding, but it's really just the name of the campground. We love this place! Some of the trees are bare by now, but many are still holding on to their vibrant leaves. Such pretty colors and such surprising contrasts!
Tiny Abe, across a meadow
Slightly-less-tiny Abe, across another meadow
Why was this baby so wide-eyed and awestruck, you may be wondering?
It was because someone (Sebby, to be precise) had given her this big, dangerous-looking stick.
Oh, she was so happy about it.
She carried it everywhere. They would not be parted.
She kept clasping it to her bosom…
And kissing it! Oh, dear and beloved pointy stick.
Twin sliders…
and huggers.
Some attempts at jumping.
Malachi with some bright leaves.
Malachi with a branch poking into his head.
Boy and stump.
Oh, these boys!
Ah, that's better.
Playing. Bright trees.
More playing. Leaf shower!
The older boys took Marigold to the car ahead of the rest of us, and when I got there and opened up the back door, there she was, still buckled into her stroller, sitting in the trunk! I was so surprised! The boys thought it was SO hilarious, they laughed practically all the way home. Goldie, too, was quite pleased with herself and the ensuing silliness.

Saturday, October 18, 2014


I've been thinking a lot about my dad lately. I'm not sure why. Actually, I do know why: it's because our friends from down the street just had their sweet little three-month-old baby pass away, so I suppose all of us in the neighborhood have been thinking about death and resurrection more than usual. (As if I need any more encouragement to be pensive and thoughtful in the Fall!) It's been five and a half years now since Dad died. But grief is such a strange, incomprehensible thing, isn't it? With my dad, I've always felt like I should restrain my sadness for his sake, because he was so ready to be free of his body, moving on. With baby Tommy, I feel restrained because he's not mine to grieve.

Leslie Norris has it right, of course:
If I were young I could
     Make eager grief of this grave
And let the warm sorrow come
     And cover me like a wave,
The cathartic tears ease out
That soothe the constricted heart. 
It would be over and done –
     A romantic memory made
Out of this drift of rain
     And the passive part I played
But spontaneous youth is gone;
The moved heart is a stone… 
So I'll not denounce this death
     Nor embitter the ordinary air
With blown words that my breath
     Is now too small to wear.
Sufficient that he is gone;
The great man dies alone…
And yet I've also been thinking about memorials; about remembering and making real those things, and people, who are sliding ever more to the past. Wondering how to do it. How much to do it. I've always had such a horror of being overly sentimental, or of coming across as shallow or trite in the things that matter to me so deeply. But this article has made me think a lot about the power of simplicity in grief. Speaking of the little roadside memorials you sometimes see at the site of traffic accidents, it says:
…They testify to a deep human need for memorials. It is a new form of folk art, and it is extremely conventionalized in its expression. For one thing, its repertoire of forms and materials is very narrow: crosses, flowers, handwritten signs, and heartbreakingly, in the case of a child, stuffed animals. There is very little else, and no striving for originality. Their creators look for widely-understood symbols, and they yearn for resolution and closure…In a way, these anonymous roadside sculptors understand what many contemporary artists do not: that monuments, because they are public art forms, must be legible. And this requires a great degree of convention…Not long ago it was fashionable to sneer at such things…But true momumentality has everything to do with simplicity…
And I think it's true. You learn it in poetry: how the simple details say so much more than the sweeping pronouncements. True, they have to be honestly put forth, not manipulative (unlike stuff like this, which is almost a whole photo-genre in itself), but transparent allegory serves such a useful purpose: as that article says, it "uses interlocking symbols to comment on the things we care about"– and those symbols don't have to be less meaningful for being common: The fallen leaf. The soaring bird. The rain.

So I guess I'm allowing myself, these days, to think about those simple things, and let them form part of Dad's "memorial" in my head, whether or not they are powerful enough or all-encompassing enough to truly, adequately, "memorialize" him. I'm trying to let myself explore what space he left here, whether or not it was "too soon" for him to leave it. Thinking about things I have almost forgotten, things I wish he could be here for, things I wish I knew about him. Why did he love that e.e. cummings poem he had printed and posted above his desk? When and why did he start the book of photographs he took of Timpanogos from his office window, spanning years and years, in every light, in every season? I wish when he had asked me what I meant in my poems, I had tried talking about it instead of insisting that it couldn't be quantified. I wish I could hear what he thought of Sebby making speakers and Malachi playing astronaut. I wish I could see him eskimo-kiss with little Goldie. I wish I could ask him to tell me more about his parents, or about his job. It is strange to think how little I really know about what he thought and who he was.

And for little Tommy, too, I'm allowing myself some sentimentality, for all I didn't earn it by truly knowing or loving him while he was here. I'm watching the light on the mountains, the abbreviated flare and fade of the gold sunsets, and letting them remind me of hardship, and separation, and the hollow spaces that sometimes take years to soften and fill in.

I'll end with Leslie Norris, again; this from his poem "Autumn Elegy":
September. The small summer hangs its suns
On the chestnuts, and the world bends slowly
Out of the year. On tiles of the low barns
The lingering swallows rest in this timely 
Warmth, collecting it. Standing in the garden,
I too feel its generosity; but would not leave.
Time, time to lock the heart. Nothing is sudden
In Autumn, yet the long, ceremonial passion of 
The year's death comes quickly enough
As form veins shut on the sluggish blood
And the numberless protestations of the leaf
Are mapped on the air… 
                               Yet, if I stare
Unmoved at the flaunting, silent 
Agony in the country before a resonant
Wind anneals it, I am not diminished, it is not
That I do not see well, do not exult,
But that I remember again what 
Young men of my own time died
In the Spring of their living and could not turn
To this…
                             Now as the trees burn 
In the beginning glory of Autumn
I sing for all green deaths as I remember
In their broken Mays, and turn
The years back for them, every red September.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Canyon leaves

What with one thing and another, I was afraid we'd basically missed Fall in the mountains this year. There were some cool, rainy days where all the trees looked dull and I thought maybe the leaves would all turn brown and fall early. But then the sun came out again, it got warm, and to our great delight, there was still plenty of Fall beauty to be found. If we can manage it, we'll be out playing in the leaves again this week and hopefully next, because we know how fast all this will be gone!
It was the most perfect Fall weather!
What an obliging 12-year-old Abe is, posing for pictures. I think he has learned that if he just goes where I tell him and smiles at me, it will all be over a lot faster. He's so handsome!
As is this Sebby-boy! He posed for pictures too…but only when I could find him. Which wasn't often.
Lovely bright colors. I love it when the leaves on the ground are still vibrant and soft.
Some leaf fights may or may not have occurred. Daisy has never laughed so much in her life. (Except, of course, for every night when she and Junie are supposed to be asleep in bed…)
Lovely Daisy-girl.
We brought picnic foods, of course.
Girls waiting nervously to be bombarded with leaves
Goldie was the busiest busybody in the world. She insisted on walking up hill and down dale, falling every couple seconds because the ground underneath the leaves was rocky and uneven. She bloodied both knees and had scrapes on her hands and all up and down her shins, but she still didn't want anyone to carry her or hold her or otherwise obstruct her absolute free movement from place to place. Of course, she also turned accusing and betrayed eyes on whoever was nearest whenever she fell down, so I guess she had the best of both worlds.
At least she looked cute while doing it.
My little matchers. How they love to match. People often ask me if they're twins (despite the height difference), although if they were twins, they probably wouldn't LIKE to match.
They are such friends. I'm so glad.
They did manage to contain Marigold for a few moments and get her to walk with them.
This was all well and good as long as Goldie persisted in thinking it was a hilarious joke.
And then she grudgingly permitted herself to be assisted up a hill by Daisy, by means of Daisy saying "Walk, walk, walk," with her in a jolly voice.
But Goldie soon shook off her fetters and began, again, to roam free.
Always turning up where you least expected her!
And here is darling Miss Junie. Last time we were here, she was just like Goldie was this time—wiggle-y, free-ranging, tough, independent, and MAD MAD MAD at any attempts to contain her. Now she is mostly just a delight.
Abraham was the best and most powerful of the leaf-throwers, so everyone wanted to gather by him and stand in the leaf-rain.
But the girls made their own valiant efforts too.
Even little Goldie, who, when she saw everyone else throwing leaves, tried to join in.
My Malachi. What would I do without him?
I love this picture. A leaf-waterfall and a sunlight-waterfall, spilling down over the same rock!
Seb, looking sly about something.
How I love these leafy little elves of mine!