Monday, September 19, 2011


Woke up this morning from dreams, various dreams, that featured creative, stimulating joint work and play. I think they were responses to a remarkable and generous email from my son Sam, a senior history major at Utah State University, currently studying the history of the French Revolution with a student of Robert Darnton.

Sam wrote:

I wandered into the special collections in the basement of our wonderful library, fumbling with my words and sweating - nervous from the cleanliness and order of the place. The lady at the desk helped me learn how to fill out a request form (I'd assumed it was like the bank where deposit slips are just formalities that the teller always fills out for you - incidentally if you still fill them out prior to a transaction, you are living in 18th century France) and checked my backpack into a locker. You can't take notes with pens, so I put them away and borrowed a pencil. After waiting for two minutes I was handed a fresh copy of the Fall 2011 edition of the journal "Dialogue - A Journal of Mormon Thought." I sat and read for 30 minutes. I enjoyed seeing Scott Abbott written across the top of each page, with the title "Immortal for Quite Some Time" next to it. The narrative jumps right to the point with a series of breathtaking sentences about Uncle John. Letters from his mission follow, with Dad's feelings and emotions and confusion and logic pouring through the pages. The most piercing letter was a long apology John made to Grandma and Grandpa about how he hadn't lived up to the abilities he had, but was lazy and confrontational for no reason. Dad's desire to talk to John, to talk about all the things they never talked about, to love honestly and let all the familial formalities we cling to drop to the ground and just be there for each other made me shake and almost cry. And it just ends, leaving me in the spotless basement next to a king's throne of a chair with a huge beehive carved into the top of it and a display of the skull of Old Ephraim - the biggest bear on record in Utah. It just leaves me alone, so connected to Dad and wanting so much more. . . .

The Dialogue essay is part two of a series, part one published in the Spring 2011 volume, part three to appear next year, part four still to be submitted. [Links to ugly but readable versions of the first two parts HERE.]

Sam read a conversation I had with my brother John, a written conversation based on letters he wrote and my thoughts as I read them. We couldn't have a spoken conversation because John died 20 years ago.

But Sam and I can have conversations; and we're both hungry for them. His response and my surprised and grateful counter-response have me thinking, in my dreams and again this morning, about why I write.

I write to figure things out, to deepen my response to things and to people. I write because I want to enter into conversation with readers. I want, as Sam wrote, to be connected . . . and wanting so much more.

Especially with my children. With my partner Lyn. With friends.

Wanting so much more.

1 comment:

michael morrow said...

I read your writing instead of mine because yours makes me less nauseous...I dont write, only unless I do...but lately, without a professor making demands on me I read your stuff...your stuff keeps me connected to love of writing...and keeps me from losing fear of stage fright...