Sunday, March 30, 2008
On Tuesday night/Wednesday morning (see post below), I flew to NY to be with the family. Peter came back from school, at the tail end of his glee club's Spring Break Atlantic Coast tour. Anika and her husband and kids came down from Syracuse, and Jacob, Rachel, Rebekah, Mom, and Dad stayed (for the most part) exactly where they were on Long Island. (The other siblings and nieces and nephews were with us, but primarily in heart.) And, with this crew (and some adopted others), we participated in an unprecedented number of cultural events in one whirlwind weekend of such beautiful greatness.
Friday, March 28
With family and friends in tow (and babysitters and niece and nephews at home), we drove into New York City to see a modern dance performance at Julliard. The draw? "Appalachian Spring," by Aaron Copland, our family's favorite piece of classical music, as choreographed by the famous Martha Graham. There were two additional pieces on the program--we're having trouble recalling their titles now--but Appalachian Spring was what we were there for. It was absolutely one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. And I felt like my love for the music all these years was justified. I knew, I guess, what I was doing when I started loving that piece. My mother gave my father a record of Appalachian Spring on their wedding night, and they have been playing the record since we were small. The piece is quintessential Americana, and it was written as a dance for eight people--a bride, a groom, a preacher, a pioneer woman, and four silly girls, dressed in light blue skirts with bonnets and frilly sleeves. The set was spare, with a Shaker rocking chair on stage right, for the women to sit in, stoically, happily, periodically. The bride and groom looked clean-faced and sunny. The pioneer woman never shook, never wavered, as she lifted her leg high above her head, as she comforted the bride after the preacher (a creepy, creepy guy who spent too much time with the silly-sleeved girls) seemed to reprimand her or the groom for something, for something. I sat in the front row between brothers Jacob and Peter, with Rebekah and Rachel and friend and friend, friend, friend to our left. It was beautiful to be there and, of course, we danced down the street on our way to the parked car, on our late-night way home.
Saturday, March 29
I. Sunday in the Park with George
In true Olson fashion, Mom and Dad needed to go down to DC for the day, so I took them to the airport at 5:30. After dropping them off, I slept in their bed on my mom's heating pad until 9:30, when I woke to rouse the crew and usher us all out the door. We drove and parked and subwayed for over an hour until we wound our into midtown and then, la, we were at the theatre. And we were going to see Sunday in the Park with George. My parents first saw a production of this in the mid-80s, when it came out. It has never been on Broadway, I don't think, though it won a Pulitzer Prize in the wake of its original off-Broadway production. It's a musical by Stephen Sondheim, with book by James Lapine (yes, the duo that wrote Into the Woods--the similarities were more obvious to me this time around), about the (fictional) life of impressionist artist George Seurat. My sister spearheaded the viewing, purchasing tickets for the whole family ("gifts," she said) and corralling enough of her friends and our loved ones to merit a group ticket discount. We sat in literally the last two rows high on the highest mezzanine, and we watched, trying hard (at least, Anika and I were trying hard) not to sing along. We've been listening to the original cast recording since 1986 or something, and Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters' performances are as much a part of my brain waves as--I don't know, as that creepy line from the New Testament recorded tapes we used to listen to as kids ("My name is Leee-juunnn. Legion means many. There were maaaan-y devils inside that man."). Or more. Since I know the musical better than I know the Star-Spangled Banner. And that is not hyperbole.
Anyway, it was beautiful. So beautiful, to see it on stage, surrounded by these people I love. The performances weren't as great as Patinkin's and Peters' (but whose are? they're the best), but I did cry. Anika was cutting onions next to me. No, the themes--I kept wondering--why did these themes resonate with me when I was seven? ten? twelve? sixteen? Seurat loses a woman he loves because he cannot focus on her, can only concentrate and work on his painting, on seeing and creating. And she loves him for his genius and his vision, but she is trying to become a better person--to learn to read, to be able to focus, to make good decisions--and she is trying to be loved in a real, human way. Maybe the piece is about a detachment I always toyed with. I'm not really a tortured genius, but I do have desires sometimes to don lab coat and poke at people, prod them and exploit their humanity (via writing mostly), rather than meaningfully interact with them. Maybe I felt that from when I was a child, or maybe I saw that in my brilliant siblings, or maybe I just felt the truth of that--that that's a tension that sometimes, awfully, sometimes happens. But mostly, I think, mostly now, I feel like the woman's character. I dated a composer, a music composer, and I wondered what it would be like to be forever with a man who thought more easily and fully about chord structure and tonality than about me. I loved him for his brilliance of course. For his genius. Everybody does. But we would listen to romantic music, and I would think, "This is beautiful. I wonder if he is thinking of me." And I would look at him, and I would know that he wasn't. Maybe it wasn't his just his love for music--maybe he just didn't love me that much or that way--and this is a possibility I'm willing to accept. But still, I wondered about it, about a life like that, attached to a genius who, in order to produce, would need to hide in a corner--literally, in a dark corner--and not talk, not be interrupted, not see me or us or our children. But then, after that, after all that, or intermittently throughout it, would pull out this beautiful, incomparable, inexplicable moment of genius. The music of genius. And he would keep working, trying always to produce something more beautiful, more true, more lucrative, more genius. And I would try to make dinner and keep the kids from being always dirty and always fighting.
I have lived with genius(es). Daily, it can mean trouble. But good goo--what a world we would have without genius. The woman, Dot, says all the insightful things in the musical, actually. And, at one point, she says this: "But most, George, of all. But most of all. I love your painting."
II. The Harvard Glee Club
It's true. My brother Peter is in the Harvard Glee Club. He and his friend, another LDS freshman, showed up at our house Friday afternoon, with tuxes in tow. They came with us to Appalachian Spring, to Sunday in the Park with George, to the cheap (but satisfying) Chinese restaurant we frequented after the show, and then, la, it was their chance on stage. Or in nave, as the case was. We went to St. Bart's and watched them sing with the 60-ish other boys of the Harvard Glee Club. Tuxes with tails, Harvard fight songs, and a tall, tall Episcopalian church on a Saturday night make for a funny time (and some unwitting similarities to movies like Chariots of Fire). And Peter came down afterwards, so happy, so invigorated by his fist-pumping and the glory of the tone of these sixty earnest men. And it was a delight to see Harvard doing what Harvard does best--be great.
That's it. Then we wandered back to the subway, back through a number of subway transfers, and we danced and waited and missed trains, and then walked through the midnight of empty streets in Queens and drove our way home. I went to bed with my family and friends still up and talking, drinking hot apple cider and eating such good chocolate. It was a nice background for my prayers.
- the birthday of Reija!
- grading 28 3000-word term papers
- some sleep
- a rock-paper-scissors tournament (best two of three) that I lost, alas
- making and helping to decorate approx. 60 cupcakes and 60 miniature cupcakes
- Melville's hosting of a one-hour cupcake/birthday party for Reija, with lovely guests and tulip-ed/tiered cupcake display
- missing the Friday midnight deadline for my journal work
- some sleep
- a Saturday (early) morning temple session with roommates
- a breakfast at Southern Kitchen with roommates, at which we all ordered biscuits and gravy and the original hot chocolate with sprinkles (among other things)
- getting an extension on my journal work (blessed ABCW)
- a lovely trip to the park
- realizing that our friends hiking in Yosemite were going to be late to visit us
- beginning to copyedit and bluebook four journal articles (approximately 200 pages of legal academic text)
- temporarily "stealing" three folding tables and sixteen folding chairs from the institute (thank you, thank you, BC and JS)
- realizing that our friends hiking/backpacking in Yosemite still hadn't contacted us and were going to be really late visiting us
- calling the park rangers at Yosemite
- a late-night Saturday trip to Safeway, in which, as expected, I saw other Mormons (in this case, three)
- some sleep
- the birthday of Michelle!
- a lovely birthday morning for Michelle
- calling the mothers of our friends missing in Yosemite
- teaching Relief Society about fruit (fruit in the scriptures/fruits of the gospel/Christ as "firstfruits") with the help of Ashli, our resident sage/arborist
- exchanging phone calls with the park rangers at Yosemite, as they found our friends' car and began to make flyers and search plans
- making 10 lbs of mashed potatoes, 16 cups of apple juice-rosemary-cream chicken gravy, 12 lbs of chicken, one pan of roasted garlic cauliflower
- finally hearing from the missing friends (no longer missing!), who'd gotten lost in the ice and snow and who'd fallen down an icy mountain but were, in all long-term ways, fine
- overseeing the making of 5 lbs of sweet potatoes, fruit trays, tomato wedges, 2 lbs of asparagus
- eating the most unbelievable oatmeal-date scones
- eating such beautiful torte-type desserts and pear-ginger pie
- chatting with such delightful people
- 100% avoiding doing the dishes (thanks, JW and BC and KT)
- a trip to Emeryville to rescue a returned (and tired) hiker
- a late-night tour of campus and Palm Drive
- some sleep
- a breakfast of more scones, bananas, English muffins
- the beautiful half-shade of a Palo Alto morning
- a rock-paper-scissors tournament (best two of three in best three out of five) that I totally won
- lunch for four from Pluto's
- a lovely, perfect trip to the park
- some experimental explorations with Woody, a plastic figurine with a parachute
- a night tour of campus
- a failed trip to The Counter
- a typically marginally successful trip to Wahoo's
- a typically mad rush to the airport
- eating in a booth (man, I love booths)
- some wrong turns back to the parking lot
- a midnight return to Melville
- missing even the extended deadline for my journal work
- some sleep
- a 4:30 am wake-up to finish my journal bluebooking and copyediting
- the grading of 156 finals (well, only two questions of the final)
- the giving of 28 final grades
- meeting my noon grading deadline (thank goodness)
- more trying to finish my journal bluebooking and copyediting
- a lunch of leftovers (such great leftovers)
- more trying to finish my journal bluebooking and copyediting
- a dinner of leftovers (SUCH great leftovers)
- super fast and wild packing
- a late-night trip to the airport (ah, RM and JW--thank you)
- some practice flirting with the ticket agent, who told me he would "work [his] magic" to get me out of a middle seat
- unexpectedly landing in an empty row on a 100% full plane (note: practice flirting may have paid off)
- finishing my journal bluebooking and copyediting at 1 am, PDT, approximately 30,000 feet over the earth
- stretching out on my empty row and, with coat as cover, getting some sleep
- an early am arrival in NY
- hugging my cute and late-to-school family
- an early am uploading of my journal bluebooking and copyediting (finally, finally, unbelievably done!) (ish)
- and then, Wednesday morning, finally, some recuperative, happy, post-end-of-quarter sleep in my sister Rachel's soft and brightly colored bed.
Monday, March 17, 2008
Finally, the final final.
I wanted to say.
(And now I'm off to find a binder to put my notes in and then to Legislation and beyond.)
Friday, March 14, 2008
- Fancy Free (Robbins' first piece of choreography or, at least, his first professional one) was about three sailors on shore leave in NYC during WWII. Of course they meet two girls--not enough girls--and try to dance and vie for the female attention. The women like it, then they don't, then they do, then, you know, they don't. And the men find themselves chasing a third--the blue-dressed girl posing so coyly to the right here (see photo). This ballet inspired, apparently, the WWII movie-musical On the Town (a movie I borrowed more than once from the Sayville Public Library, back in the day, liking it, of course, for its white and bright depiction of WWII homefront culture, which I always love, but also for its presentation of a female paleontologist, one of the female leads, which I thought was probably pretty hip and cutting-edge for a film from that era) and was Jerome Robbins' first collaboration with Leonard Bernstein, a collaboration that turned out, pretty quickly, to be a good idea.
- In the Night, in which three pairs of lovers each dance a love duet under a moon and a starry sky, before they take the stage together for a final scene of meeting, greeting, and, before too long, whisking away with their loved one for places they'd prefer to be. The nocturnes were played by a solo pianist. (Is that necessarily true? Are nocturnes necessarily solos for piano?) It was, actually, super lovely. The three couples were choreographed to represent different kinds/stages of loves: the first was a young couple, eager and happy; the second, an older, more mature couple, representing a more stable, restrained, and consistent love (though this was sometimes a little hard for me to discern in the dancing, except that their costumes were brown and gold, much more staid-ish than the grey and lavender of the young couple--I got that: older couple, drabbier colors; younger couple: prettier stuff); the final couple wore black and a sort of rusty reddish color--they were kind of a fiery pair, passionate and temperamental, who reconcile eventually when the female dancer kneels before the proud lover and with both hands, lightly touches his waist, his thighs, his knees, his feet, finally resting her head and her arms on the ground before him. Powerful stuff, I tell you. (Powerful if, as the program noted, problematic. I wasn't worried too much about the woman's offering as problematic--women make mistakes and need forgiveness too, yes?--mostly because in all, it was super, super beautiful.)
- The final piece was West Side Story, which was moving and great, but perhaps primarily because we were watching the most famous and cool moves from the movie performed live and on stage. Jerome Robbins choreographed the movie and then reproduced some of the dances for that Jerome Robbins revue that was on Broadway in the 1990s (Jerome Robbins Broadway, I think), so this was authentic (and hot) stuff. There were the Jets and the Sharks, greased hair and tees, snapping and fighting and leaping. It was a thirty-minute version without dialogue but--are you ready?--with singing. The dancers--some of them--sang. The program had a very interesting little article about the process of coaching the dancers, classically trained in the art of restrained movement, to become vocal performers, to feel confident even making vocal noise on stage (one dancer said that it was fun to speak without having to feel guilty that someone might hear her). A few of the numbers ("Something Coming," "Somewhere," maybe more) had professional singers in the wings singing in place of the dancers, but the chorus numbers were all dancer-singers (again, just the ballet's company dancers, not musical theatre special hires), as well as numbers like "Cool," "Puerto Rico," and probably whatever else there was. Anyway, it was--it was lovely. And when it was over, we clapped and clapped, and I didn't feel strained, even, by the three curtain calls.
Monday, March 10, 2008
*This is the second result on a Google image search for "krista hero's cape" (no internal quotation marks). There were no results for "krista 'hero's cape.'" (I wonder if there will be now. Hm.)*
(Also: This entry reminds me of one of my favorite words--"winningest." Winningest. As in, the coach with the winningest season is Coach Taylor. The first time I heard it was on some sports show, and I felt like while all of us English types were off arguing about the that/which distinction, the sports aficionados had been playing our game and making some competitive headway. Winningest. And the athletes say we use half-dollar words. So great!)
P.S. Don't neglect the post I posted yesterday re the scriptures. (I'm afraid that posting today will make it seem like the one I posted yesterday is somehow no longer important to me, is outmoded. Just one example of blogger fright.) I'm hoping for some comments, any comments that might move the ball forward. The Book of Mormon is true, yeah? And truth is one eternal whole? Let's do some exegesis, folks. A little textual interpretation. Make both judges and scriptorians proud.
Saturday, March 08, 2008
2 Nephi 2:5I'm just beginning to wonder, but what I'm wondering is if there's significance in the difference between "men" (or "all men") of 2 Nephi 2:5 and the "he" that shows up in the second half of Alma 29:5. So maybe we as men (as in the human race) have, generally, been instructed sufficiently to know good from evil. (Perhaps via the commandments, maybe? Prophetic revelation and instruction throughout time?) And, too, we've been confronted with good and evil (see TV). But it is he (the individual, an individual) who knows the difference between good and evil that will have according to his desires. Only those of us who have actually internalized the lessons of right and wrong, of commandments, etc., will get what it is we want, whether that be ultimately good or bad.
And men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil. And the law is given unto men. And by the law no flesh is justified; or, by the law men are cut off. Yea, by the temporal law they were cut off; and also, by the spiritual law they perish from that which is good, and become miserable forever.
Yea, and I know that good and evil have come before all men; he that knoweth not good from evil is blameless; but he that knoweth good and evil, to him it is given according to his desires, whether he desireth good or evil, life or death, joy or remorse of conscience.
Too, if there are those of us who, for whatever reason, missed the lessons that "all men" received--the general lessons of good from evil, the lessons of the prophets and the commandments--and, as individuals, are truly ignorant of the specific iterations of difference between good and evil, then we will be blameless. (Note: That's really not appropriately a "we" sort of statement. Twenty-seven years of regular church attendance, daily scripture study, being prayerfully parented and righteously roommated means that a lot of the right v. wrong stuff I, like "men" in general, have learned. I'm trying to be on board.)
Or something? Other thoughts? Counter thoughts? Asides?
Tuesday, March 04, 2008
I believe that transparency is the way we love.
My freshman year of college I lived on the first floor of a large, all-girls dormitory. Across the hall lived two girls—Krista and Anna. Krista was the salutatorian of her high school in Oregon. She always spoke in a baby voice and she loved princesses. Her roommate, Anna, was a very small girl. She looked very much like a thirteen-year-old boy, as the old people she later worked with at a senior citizens’ center told her. In high school, Anna was a very shy girl. A very shy girl, who had no friends. So she decided that, when she came to college, she was going to like people and be social.
Anna quickly became the center of our floor. Our leader and our resident sage. One day, I was talking with her about my life—as we all did because she was the coolest girl on the floor—probably about some boy I was trying to negotiate, and she said, offhandedly and knowingly, “You can’t love someone if you can’t talk to them.” She said it like I agreed with her, like I already knew that was true. And I remember nodding. “Yup, so true.”
But over the years, I’ve remembered that and thought about it. What Anna was saying was kind of audacious. She was saying, you can’t love someone, if you can’t talk to them. You can’t love someone, if you can’t talk to them.
I think this means at least two things: One, it certainly means that if you find yourself unable to say things that are meaningful to you to another person, then you probably don’t love that person. That an inability or a reluctance to say things to someone else is a sign of deeper troubles. But two, I think this means something else, something harder. I think it means that if we don’t talk to people, if we don’t say meaningful things to them, if we don’t have the ability or the capacity to communicate how we feel and what we think, then we are not doing the work of loving. We are not loving.
There are people who disagree with me about this. They say that they are able to show their love for people in ways other than by talking, by being really good at body language, or something. And it’s true that we do communicate a lot of things by what we do and how we act, apart from the words that we say. But I say this: you may be very good at body language, but the person you’re loving might not be. And talking is so cheap (economically speaking). It might be, it turns out, an issue of least-cost avoiding.
For instance, in Brian Greene’s book The Elegant Universe, he says (apparently, according to an erstwhile boyfriend) that one of the ways we know that we are living in at least four dimensions is that there are at least four things you have to tell someone in order to successfully arrange a meeting with them. You have to tell them where to be longitudinally, latitudinally, altitudinally (how far up from the earth), and at what time. For example, meet me at the corner of 24th and Broadway, on the third floor, on Tuesday at 3.
You could, it’s true, try to communicate all of these things via body language. OR, or you could just say: hey, let’s meet at the corner of 24th and Broadway, on the third floor, on Tuesday. Talking is a low-cost way of communicating and it allows a level of specificity and fluidity that body language does not. But the point is this: if we don’t communicate these things, if we can’t communicate them, then we won’t end up where we want to be with the people we want to be there.
What I’m arguing for is transparency. I think we have a responsibility, the necessity, to be as transparent as we can be in at least our personal relationships with people. We can’t love someone, if we aren’t telling them what we’re thinking and how we feel about it. We aren’t loving them if we aren’t telling them those things. And we aren’t making it possible for them to love us, if we aren’t trying to make it easier for them to tell us what matters to them, if we aren’t trying to make it easier for them to be transparent.
I do want to recognize that we are all bad at this. We are all bad at this. You are bad at it, and I am certainly bad at it. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: if talking were law school, we’d all—all—be in the lowest tier.
But the Pulitzer Prize winning author Annie Dillard says that there is no such thing as talent (except in the fields of music, mathematics, and chess—and if you have such a gift, you’d know it by now). She says that we like to believe that people are born with innate talents because we like to think that the amazing things they do are easy for them, “that Rembrandt painted because he ‘had to’.” She says: “We want to believe all these nonsensical things in order to get ourselves off the hook.”
Loving people is hard work. Talking to people is hard work. Transparency is hard work. But valuing transparency, working towards transparency, is the stuff of loving. That’s the clarion call: transparency! Transparency. It’s the way we invite people around us to be where we are. It’s the way we end up where we want to be with the people we want to be there. Transparency is the way we love.
Monday, March 03, 2008
Mothers who know do less. They permit less of what will not bear good fruit eternally. They allow less media in their homes, less distraction, less activity that draws their children away from their home. Mothers who know are willing to live on less and consume less of the world's goods in order to spend more time with their children—more time eating together, more time working together, more time reading together, more time talking, laughing, singing, and exemplifying. These mothers choose carefully and do not try to choose it all. Their goal is to prepare a rising generation of children who will take the gospel of Jesus Christ into the entire world. Their goal is to prepare future fathers and mothers who will be builders of the Lord's kingdom for the next 50 years. That is influence; that is power.
Sister Julie B. Beck, "Mothers Who Know," October 2007 http://lds.org/conference/talk/display/0,5232,23-1-775-27,00.htmlI have thought about this passage from Sister Beck's talk about every week--maybe more, maybe less--since I read it in the weeks after General Conference. (Though I attended all four sessions of conference, it's true--I was asleep when she gave it the first time.)
I bought these last month at Nordstrom Rack, and I wear them, um, almost every day. (They are, as a consequence, wearing out already. They were not meant to be worn this regularly, I'd imagine. Or to walk the daily parking-lot-past-construction-site-to-school route I take. In February rains.)
Mothers who know consume less. Mothers who know--they reduce, reuse, recycle. They control their appetites. They buy fewer things, make do with fewer things. They don't, probably, probably not, spend Friday evenings looking at their shoes instead of at the faces of the friends they're playing board games with. (It doesn't happen a lot, but it does happen.)
I am not yet a mother, but as Sister Beck said yesterday, this single life is a time to take care of one room (and/or sharing the chores in the rest of the house) and one life to prepare for the time when I'll take care of many rooms and many lives. (Jazz fingers.)
Mothers who know consume less, and I spent twenty minutes--or more--searching online to find a picture of those shoes just so I could post them on my blog. (Not necessarily an act of consumption, but an act of only marginal productive returns.)
I know that Sis. Beck is not issuing a call to asceticism. She's issuing a call for restraint, for lower materialistic standards, for reflection and redress and, to invoke an Austenian allusion, retrenchment. ("You must retrench." Name the book/movie.) And this is something that I, in my new/burgeoning Palo Alto/law school aesthetic need to heed. Hear. Adhere to.
Do all twenty-somethings go through this? Do all/most twenty-somethings, maybe females, married or not, hit their mid- to upper-twenties and find themselves having scaled up into serious materialism and a life in which "retail therapy" has (a) lost much of its stigma and (b) seems to have actual therapeutic effects? This is where I am right now, ish. Ish, of course. (The sometimes reality of my money situation and President Benson's talk on pride are checks on this process, of course, as well as my reluctance to embrace a fashion-frenzied lifestyle my parents--and I, in my saner moments--always eschewed.) I guess my question is (this blog post is rambly, you may have noticed) this: what's the deal? Why is this materialism effective/affecting me? What's its hold, its appeal? Why does it even gain traction? Beauty? Self-improvement? A desire to be thought pretty and to be around pretty things? Straight up pride? Hm. Hm. Hm.
I will continue to think about this. I will go home tonight, make the "Frrrozen Hot Chocolate" I've been ogling all weekend (http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/109560), and I will think about consuming less, as I drink my daiquiri-smooth, made-with six-pieces-of-gourmet-melted-chocolate-and-whipped-cream (today, cool whip) frozen hot chocolate.
But I will drink it slowly, and I will think for a looong time. (You think, too?)