Sunday, May 24, 2009

Horrors! or the time the cookies came out flesh-colored

This afternoon I found my mind filled with a delicious vision of little round shortbread cookies with pale pinkish-orange frosting. Perfectly formed. Delicately adorned. Perhaps a hint of almond tucked in there somewhere.

Like we humans are often inclined to do with beautiful visions, I decided to try my best to convert it to reality.

So, after a dinner of mozzarella sticks from Charlie's and some salad, Bubs and I combined two recipes (because the dream I held in my mind more approximately resembled something halfway between sugar cookies and shortbread cookies) and did a test run to see how a couple turned out. After perfecting the technique, the rest of the baking process went quite smoothly. As the final batch was cooking, I began to whip up some buttercream frosting, a special delight to which my mother had always treated us for birthdays and special occasions. Though she employed time-saving strategies in many areas of homemaking, she would only stoop to store-bought frosting in the most dire of circumstances.

Pinkish-orange, my mind automatically began to work out the colors. Well, orange is red and yellow. And pink of course only needs red food coloring. But I don't want to add too much red, because it will overpower the yellow. A ratio of two drops of yellow to one of red seemed to be drawing out the appropriate hue.

But as I mixed, I began to feel overcome by the sicky-sweet pastel pansiness of the frosting. I needed to tone it down a little bit. If you add the opposite color on the color wheel, it will mute the original color... I recalled. GREEN.

I carefully added one (1) drop of green food coloring. Tentatively I stirred it in. As the color became uniform, the shade started to look familiar, but not in an entirely appealing manner. It looked like something... with dismay, I realized what it resembled: skin. Yes, it looked like skin. Human flesh. My beautiful frosting had turned a peachy, band-aid, crayola crayon skin-color. A cliche Caucasian tone.

I held a spoonful of it up next to my hand. The frosting was actually quite a bit lighter. So Crayola lies, pushes an unrealistic standard of race, I thought, wondering if I could get it to match my own, since hey we're already well past disgusting with this color.

I added a few more drops of red here, some yellow there, (even a couple more green, so it didn't turn out pure Oompa Loompa). Seriously, it was much more difficult than you might think. After what seemed like twelve thousand drops, I think I got it pretttttty close in the end.

So now there are two dozen cookies plastered with a thin layer of my own outer membrane, sitting - no - practically quivering on our table. YUMMY.

Flesh of my flesh. Indeed.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Don't Even Care

It doesn't matter that I'm twenty-five. It doesn't matter that I am a civil engineer. It doesn't matter that I'm a hard core feminist. It doesn't matter that the rear neighbors can see directly in, since we don't actually have any blinds. I don't even care.

There are few things in life that compare to spinning atop the hardwood floors in a swirly twirly poufy flowy white skirt.

And I am doing just that.

I guess I'm just lucky sometimes. To be doing exactly what it is that I want to be doing.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


I get off the train at Harvard, the top of my throat clenching itself into a tight fist. I am still wheeling my luggage. I haven't even gone to the bathroom after my flight. For some reason this is the first and only thing I want to do now that I'm back in Boston.

I walk along the familiar brick sidewalk in a cloud of my own consciousness, only dimly aware of the people, cyclists, autos. 'I could turn back now. I could pretend it is not real,' I think to myself. But my feet are moving, almost of their own accord - it is for this reason they move forward: to make it real. Cool spring foliage brushes by my forehead as evening begins its descent. I think of death, how the force of it sometimes doesn't even fully hit you until you see that body there, lying in the open casket. Hollow shell of the person, the memories that you loved and still love. And then you want to be with people who understand.

I am at a bus stop in San Francisco when Rachel calls me. "Did you hear about our church?" she asks. "No, what happened?" Lauren and I are on our way to Bay to Breakers. "It burned to the ground."

I imagine the flames and smoke and feel hollow inside, exposed. My sorrow surprises me. My relationship with this religion is not, has never been pretty. I do not feel like I belong here. I feel that even the act of saying what I truly think would make a lot of people uncomfortable. I fear they would worry about my salvation, my faith, my testimony.

Two weeks prior, I help to clean the chapel. As my hands care for that building, I find them filled with love, as they move deliberately over the windows, the pews, the exterior, setting things in order, tidying, preparing it for worship the next day. I imagine the hands that crafted it, decades ago, remember all the people who have worshiped in it since then. Savor the love that I feel after wiping down those windows and vacuuming those upholstered pews. I am grateful for the chance to cleanse, to perform this simple action which has apparently taken on ritual meaning for me. But then I go in to church the next day, curl up on the floor in the kitchen, and want to cry at the distance I feel between myself and others or perhaps the god they worship.

But I am reaching out. Overall, I am.

A small group of us gather to plant: peas, zucchini, lettuce, tomatoes, radishes, cucumbers. There are little beds behind the building, filled with rich, dark soil. Earthworms. Dreams. Gardening has always possessed a magical power for me. We meet on Saturdays or early evenings to prepare the soil, plant the seeds, set the bricks in straight lines along the edge. We take turns watering on days the rain doesn't fall. We are hoping for a good harvest this year.

I come around the bend and the chapel appears in front of me, my church, with its windows boarded up, its roof sunken in, charred wood littering the grass. Around it a chain link fence has been erected. And there, in the middle of the sidewalk, the tears begin to tumble from my eyes. Tears of a dozen other sorrows spilling forth, released, multiplied, by this tangible loss. With a shift and a sigh, the world positions itself so that I am facing the front of the building. The beautiful round window is smashed, patches of sky and cloud gaping through. Luggage and bags fall at my feet, and my eyes move over and over the metal letters fastened to the bricks, spelling "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints."

I have and have had friends, good friends, dear friends, old lovers who are uncomfortable by this aspect of my being. They are delightfully progressive, care about all the things I care about, fight for the things I fight for. They are happy to work alongside me to make the world a better place. And they truly care for me, love me, so they put up with this weird and embarrassing religious stuff. But I actually think that some would prefer this facet of my life did not even exist. Cannot, do not want to understand what it means to me, why I grapple with such heavy, often distasteful matters. Why I torment myself. I cannot answer their wonderings, since I hardly know myself. And yet these feelings remind me.

Though at times I have failed to acknowledge it to others or even to myself, this religion is more than the anxiousness it often causes me, the unresolved questions which may remain so until I die. It more than unequal treatment of homosexuals, women, people of color. How can it be so? How can I live every day in this paradox? Sometimes I do not know. And yet, there is something deeper there. Something I hope for, FEEL, at an instinctive level. Reflections of eternal hopes for a kinder world, for better, more virtuous and loving selves. Of transformation. Of grace. To me, the most beautiful parts of it are those which parallel ancient truths, which bring new light and insight to already meaningful tradition. Of course there are cultural influences which are outdated, which are only slowly beginning to change. Of course there are things that don't really make sense.

This religion, though, I cannot get rid of it. It cannot get rid of me. This messy, awkward, often painful, beautiful, hopeful, rewarding, entity. More than a culture, but not easily or neatly extricated from the culture. Learning to love this religion in all of its imperfections has involved me learning to love myself, even the embarrassing, awkward, unfortunate sides that I would prefer to hide forever. Things I would prefer never existed. And yet here I am. In spite of it all. Shining. Carrying something bursting and brilliant behind my heart. What that something is, I cannot say. I don't "know" that the church is "true" any more than I know whether there is a god or where we go when we die or where dreams or thoughts come from.

Hope. I think that is the thing that I carry.

I sleep. My flight back to Boston is in a couple of hours. In dreams I return to the site of the building. It is just as the pictures on show: hollow, darkened, gaping wide. I don't give the building more than a glance though. The garden we had planted behind the chapel, tender little shoots, quiet little hopes, that is what I hurry to see, certain it has been buried by ash, crushed by gallons of water or falling debris. I round the corner, and those very same forces I'd feared would destroy the garden have nurtured it beyond comprehension. The plants have grown to several times their natural size, overnight. The pea plants tower over me, curling up towards heaven, green, strong, rising from these dark, steaming ashes. I awaken, know in my heart there's no way it could be real, but let the imagery linger anyway as I pack up and head to the airport.

A young mother is walking with her two little girls. "And that is where the chapel was. And that is where the gym was." She notices me and asks if this had been my church. I just nod, still crying, and she says "I am so sorry. Oh no, now I am going to cry too. This is where my husband and I met." She begins to cry as well, and then we just hug. Two total strangers, embracing on the sidewalk in front of a burnt-out church as the two little girls look on awkwardly. Who knew?

We WILL transcend racism, sexism, homophobia. We'll carry on beautiful traditions, embark on frightening new journeys. We will learn to embrace ourselves and everyone in this spinning chaotic ball of water and land and wonder. I feel more Mormon than I ever have before. This sorrow, this love, this solidarity - all surprise me, overwhelm me.

We, humanity, will become whole. We will learn to reach out and create heaven for ourselves. Well, I hope so. I hope.

And that is what is different now. I am a Mormon. And I hope.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Sometimes... seems like every friend will move on.

I just listen to one song over and over, because it makes me feel more sad. Because its words are not even true.

How defiant
how human
to reach out and touch once more.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

God Forbid

This song has been trapped in my head lately.

We can be so quick to judge sometimes. Who knows what we'd do in a similar situation? Who can say? God forbid you ever had to walk a mile in their shoes. Then you really might know what it's like.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Not What You'd Expect

So I am walking back from the grocery store and a car pulls up to the stoplight, windows down, radio blasting, driven by a badass bald dude.

The artist he was listening to: Sarah McLachlan.

AHHHHHH it made me feel so tender inside I thought I would die.