Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Today was an excellent day for facefinding in the clouds. This is something that I dearly love to do! Since I was a kid it has been very natural for me to see extra images in some of the things I look at. I suppose it's brain wiring.
I was thinking about this characteristic on my daily walk to work, and I found myself sucked back to my childhood. I saw in my mind, as if I were standing in the just-for-formal-visits front room of the house I grew up in, the enormously tall tulip tree across the street behind the neighbors' house. Its branches looked like a big head in profile. It reminded me of my mom when her hair was very short. And there were two smaller heads below it on either side.
I spent a lot of time with those three when I had to practice the piano. I sat so many hours of each week on that little bench in that room, with no one for company but the Steinway grand, music books, my elementary and middle school anxieties, and my imagination. I would stare out and up at them and wonder what it was like for a bird to sit casually on one of their noses so ridiculously high above the ground. The possibility, even, seemed preposterous and wonderful. The wind would make those tree people sway sometimes, and fidget, and thrash around very animatedly, and whisper. Sometimes they were still. Sometimes they were silhouetted and dark, and sometimes they shone, glimmering, in the sunlight. I watched them converse and interact with each other. I couldn't ever make out what they were saying of course, they being on the other side of the window and so far away and up. But even the distance and the glass separating them from me couldn't buffer the feelings and personalities that my imagination drew out from them. They were interesting and special.
I can remember a couple of occasions as a kid trying to draw the faces I saw in the trees and clouds and such. It was very frustrating (because it was impossible). I would get very excited by how remarkably just like an old lady with shiny beady eyes those branches looked like, and think it was too coincidental and rare a picture to not try to record it with pencil and paper. My attempts never worked even a little bit. I think the reason is this: in every instance, the face I see is a magical thing made of shadows and subtleties and layers of shapes and spots of light--and a transient cognitive connection which my eyes and imagination tripped across--and no scribble onto paper or attempt to delineate and define and shape what I am seeing would ever come close to conveying it. I eventually began to realize that if there are remarkably facelike faces all over the place outside, and that if I look at one long enough I can sometimes see a few more in its place, I should probably stop being so surprised. But I still love it. I really think magic is a core element in all of this. It's a sensation that is so personal, bright, ethereal and strange.
The hills and red rock formations of Utah are especially crowded with faces and figures, to the point where sometimes I can hardly see the landscape as such at all. It's more like a teeming mass of characters jostling each other in order to be noticed by me. It's only sometimes though; only if I really let my brain get into it and too involved to think about or notice much else. I have always enjoyed meeting people and things in the sky and trees and rocks around me. At this point in my life, though, it's so much better because I'm a happier and healthier person, and so also, therefore, are my perceptions and observations. I see things everywhere and think a lot about what I'm looking at, but it's like my environment and I are on warmer terms now, and the sights I see and the thoughts I think have lost so much of their sinister and gloomy tint. Walking outside today, it felt like my eyes and the world were having a lively conversation.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Some photos taken with my Supersampler camera at Bryce Canyon.
Cheeky little ground squirrel!
It was fun.
How I Survive The Frozen Desolate Wasteland Tundra of the Northernmost Nether-regions of the MTC Bookstore
My job at the MTC Bookstore is fun. I get to work with other girls that are funny and cool, and interact with a three-and-a-half hour flow of rather goofy and often awkward boys, many of whom are also funny and cool, and who pose no actual social opportunity or challenge to me whatsoever. Plus, having attended high school and some college in Utah, I recognize old acquaintances and friends, not to mention acquaintances and friends from Connecticut, and family members. I enjoy working with these strange betagged individuals who very enthusiastically want to purchase the exact poundage of bulk candy that, with their 40% missionary discount and what currently remains of their $6 weekly Blue Card allotment, they can afford.
Every day at the Bookstore sees its fluctuations in customer flow. Although some days are busier than average and some are slower, each day sees at least some really dead time in the store and at least one or two thronging rushes during my shift. I assume this has to do with the missionaries' class and lunch schedules. During the dead times, extreme boredom and brain damage from lack of stimulation sometimes becomes a real danger. The most dangerous of registers to be working during these hard barren times of stimulatory famine is the North register. There are six registers in the store: two at the South, two at the Service Desk, and two at the North. Usually, however, only five employees work at a time, so you're on your own at the North. When I walk in and see I will be assigned to the North for the week, I resign myself to being neglected and isolated for the next five workdays and mentally start building up a store of potential Self-Preservational Entertainment Tactics (SPET). I just made up the acronym SPET, I admit, but I plan on using it from now on. I like it because it sounds like a cowboy's awesome and grammatically incorrect past-tense version of spit. "That idiot boy jes gone an' spet crost my boots one too many times."
Anyway. Most of the other cashiers resort to reading the Ensign or Book of Mormon, making grocery lists, etc. when they are at the North desk. Or they stare at something somewhere and look catatonic. I do the staring thing sometimes, especially when I'm really tired or a little bit grumpy for some reason. But that behavior is not conducive to a successfully survived day at the North. One major problem with the North is that it has no unique, special reasons for existence assigned to it. The Service desk is the only place where you can order a T shirt, get something laminated, buy a watch, etc. The South desk is the only place you can pick up the pictures you ordered or or the scriptures you had your name embossed onto. The North register, though, is at a small desk tucked away at the far end of the store where very little is likely to occur. The most exciting thing that happens is when an Elder manages to neglect the big stop sign on the photo kiosk that warns against sticking a mini SD card into the regular SD card slot without a card adapter, and goes ahead and sticks a mini SD card into the regular SD card slot without a card adapter. Then his card slips down the machine's gullet and gets lodged there, and Leonard must be paged to come out and use various skinny metal tools to cajole and maneuver it back out. Other than that though, there is little life at the North. In fact I sometimes refer to it as the Frozen Desolate Wasteland Tundra of the Northernmost Nether-regions, or some variation of that phrase.
So I often find it necessary during those weeks to reach out across the vastness of empty space that exists between me and the other desks and seek interactive connection with my fellow cashiers. The activities with which I choose to accomplish this vary. Sometimes it's playing this little game with Heather that is essentially peek-a-boo with the inclusion of grumpy faces, mirrors, and using the bodies of the people in the store to block eye contact and then poking our heads out again like three-year-olds. Sometimes I stage-whisper to other people and try to find the perfect number of decibels so they hear their name but missionaries' heads don't whip around. My efforts in the interactive regard very often take the form of poems, notes, threats, or doodles, written or drawn onto receipt paper. I roll them into scrolls and tie them with a rubber band most commonly, though sometimes they take the form of flimsy and not-flightworthy airplanes, or wadded up paper cannonballs launched in a haphazard trajectory from a rubber band sling. Anyway, then I quite dangerously and bravely slink away from my assigned post momentarily and go throw my message at some unsuspecting coworker. Often I hit them from behind while their back is turned. I also totally miss with some frequency. I then typically turn around, and, with an innocent smile and my hands hanging clasped neatly in front of me, walk calmly back to my register. I always ignore any comments or inquisitions for explanation. Then I sit and fidget on my stool feeling pleased with my tiny escapades.
We got a new employee a couple of weeks ago. This caused a minor stir among us cashiers, because he is a boy, and we are all girls. This new guy, Jared, actually already worked his last day on Saturday, having received his own mission call. We'll see him again though, in a month when he reports. I interacted very little with him, as we never worked the same desk. Basically he made weird faces at me sometimes across the store and wore his ugliest tie on Saturday per my request after hearing its hideosity described. We have also engaged in desk-to-desk rubber band warfare, in which I believe with confidence that I was the victor. One time I even gave him a receipt scroll that hit him on the arm. Gloria said she would buy me candy if I wrote him a poem. Here is basically what it said:
Now that you work at the MTC Bookstore,
It's probably best that you know what you're in for.
First, it is known that from time to time
I write dumb receipt notes that usually rhyme.
Don't ever offend the dog Sunny the Ninja
She can be very fierce and quite willing to injure.
Don't be fooled by the cookies, "Marias"--I've tried them;
The picture's deceptive--there's no jam inside them!!
If you ever want chocolate milk, better be speedy
They go pretty fast cause we all are so greedy.
If you're obviously bored, Wayne often appears
To give you a task that WILL bore you to tears!
I know that these pointers won't help you much really
And this poem to you may seem stupid and silly
But my last tip is this: at the North, to survive,
You do any dumb thing to keep your brain alive!
The next day Gloria received a projectile receipt-wad missile that said:
I am bored.
I blame you.
Mostly I just miss you though.
Forlornly and Bored-to-deathedly,
So you see. There are ways of working through the deadly North Desk doldrums without succumbing to a coma. It just takes a little idiotic poetry and the ability to derive inordinate pleasure from throwing things at other people while bookstore customers and superior employees may or may not be watching you act dumb.
In closing, I would like to acknowledge that this was a long and rambly blog post about practically nothing, and I don't even feel too apologetic because you really didn't have to read it. Also, I would like to say that Sunny the Ninja Dog is a real ninja who is less than one inch long, but who is black as night with a little ninja mask and little ninja booties. She is generally possessed of a pleasant enough disposition, but has some killer instincts which sometimes cannot be denied manifestation in cold and sudden violence. She is very strong and swift and capable of much pain-infliction; just ask Gloria. Mostly she guards my extra coins or, more often lately, sticks with her booties (as well as some gratuitous-and-definitely-not-necessary scotch tape) to the side of my register's little screen thingy in order to intimidate customers who may be inclined towards monkey business.
Thank you to everyone for humoring my foolishness and rapscallionry with such long-suffering tolerance.
Okay that's all.
Saturday, June 6, 2009
I would like to write a little about Southern Utah.
During the few days we were camping there, one of the two teachers in the Liverpool group, named Michelle, proposed that we all write a phrase about how we felt about the place. On the day we went to Calf Creek, I ended up staying back while most of the group hiked up to Calf Creek Falls. I was feeling restless and couldn't draw. I watched little Hannah (my professor's 9-year-old daughter) make a drawing with a leaf, a kleenex, a graphite stick and an eraser. It was probably the most beautiful thing I saw that day in that beautiful place. I admit I was filled with envy, watching her easy movements and carefree, contemplative decision- and mark-making. It only took about two minutes and then she was done, and pleased. The drawing was lovely.
I wandered around a bit and then sat in the dirt to write some things down for Michelle's collaborative poem. After much struggling and scribbling, I had written about a page. This is what I had:
This place feels deep, like I'm walking on the surface of something that reaches very far down to places that can never be remembered or understood. The landscape here is more familiar to me than it once was, but coming here still makes me feel as though I've crossed over into a new and alien place, far removed from my home and unique in its personality. The feeling of strangeness and mystery seems only intensified when I notice a gambel oak or a magpie just like the ones at home, or I look up at night to find the familiar pattern of Cassiopeia looking back, and it occurs to me that home is only a few hours' drive away; I was there yesterday, and will return soon. How strange that places like this are so near, with many inhabitants that I recognize, yet whenever I come here I feel plucked out of life and put somewhere otherworldly and new.
Here is a place that one could come to love very deeply, where one could live and feel at home, but it could never be quantified, owned, or understood. The ancientness and strangeness and depth of it defy fathoming. It would not be possible to enhance or contribute to this landscape by any means that I possess. This sense that I am very small and alien here, and so limited in my capacity to understand, is not really a bad one. It is somewhat discomfiting to consider the scale of the landscape and its history that both surrounds and eludes me, but it is a special and awing thing to experience. It feels good to stand here on the surface of so much depth. Perhaps this is the best thing anyone can do in a place like this, whether inhabitant or visitor, staying for a moment or for a lifetime: stand on its dirt and let its beauty and strangeness fill you up and even change you; love the place for what it has offered for you to see, as well as for all that it won't ever show you. I love Southern Utah for both its beauties and its secrets. It fills me.