Friday, March 8, 2013

Yesterday I walked to my old mission companion's house along a road built on a ridge. The houses are gigantic and stand, facing out like sentinels, guarding a valley of other, equally-gigantic houses... and yet, as I walked and stared at them, the space felt so empty and void of life.

 Last week I was walking each day through the chaos of Barrio Lujan in Reconquista--barefooted, sticky-handed children climbing trees or slingshotting birds or throwing rocks at stray dogs, teenagers smoking on the corner, blasting raggaeton or playing spirited games of soccer, grandparents sitting in lawn chairs sipping mate and grumbling about the teenagers. I remember what Sister Ayala said, somewhat cynically, as she led us through all the commotion to her house: “we are never short on kids or dogs.”

 Now, I stare at these neighborhoods and I think, “where are the kids? where are the dogs? where is the dirt?” I know there are kids because my dad told me that we have at least an entire schoolbus of kindergarteners in our little housing complex alone. But why don’t I ever see them and how is it that we so successfully keep our children cooped up? Is something oppressive happening?

Thursday, May 5, 2011


I cannot explain why on some days more than others the smallest moments or the most fleeting impressions will burn themselves into my mind. Then, on other days, nothing seems to stick.

I am reading Gilead. It is becoming a favorite. This quote seems to connect: "It is a strange thing, after all, to be able to return to a moment when it can hardly be said to have any reality at all, even in its passing. A moment is such a slight thing, I mean, that its abiding is a most gracious reprieve."

Last summer I went down to Moab for a few days and slept out under the stars and hiked through arches and went swimming in the colorado river. It was a nice trip from beginning to end, but for some reason I remember just a few random moments most vividly. I remember the tanned middle-aged woman crouched over by her mini-van in the parking lot by the trailhead stuffing  bright woolly blue socks into her hiking shoes. And I remember our waitress at the Pancake Haus. A tall, slender, Asian woman with just a hint of an accent. She had the most gruesome pink scar that crawled through her tank top from the bottom of her neck a good way down her shoulder and that looked like some strange Paleozoic fossil sprawled across her flesh.

Today is another one of those days. Here are a couple images that are sticking:

1. A girl in bright turquoise pants and giant sunglasses sitting on her front steps reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

2. A small crowd of people standing frozen on the sidewalk, arrested by some sight at the top of the hill. By the way they were just standing there, you might have thought someone was about to jump off of a building, or that some crazed, windblown preacher was up there shouting a sermon about hellfire or something. But I followed their eyes and finally determined that they were just watching a swarm of bees. They were hard to see at first, but it was quite a swarm-- buzzing and humming madly around their hive. I was glad that so many people were stopping to watch. It reminded me of that time--two springs ago--when I came by a young man crouched on the sidewalk observing a writhing pile of ants. insects can be fascinating.

3. All those red tulips. A sea of them. Pressed against the chain-link fence.

3. An elderly couple, crouched and ancient-looking, both wearing white nose strips for some reason, standing in their front yard surveying as an older man, perhaps a son, mows their lawn. The man mowing was not young himself, maybe 60.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


When your roommate is in love, you should always read to her from The Song of Solomon when you are getting ready for bed and need to read your scriptures.

Saturday, March 5, 2011


I will bow and be simple,
I will bow and be free,
I will bow and be humble,
Yea, bow like the willow tree.

I will bow, this is the token,
I will wear the easy yoke,
I will bow and will be broken,
Yea, I'll fall upon the rock.

This hymn recently came back to me. I learned it while I was staying with the Quakers. Sometimes in the evening after we had finished our chores for the day, we would retire to "the chapel," which was really a big room on the second story of the barn with high windows and lots of books and musical instruments, and we would read or sing together. One night I pulled out my little pocket-sized hymnal, and Joanna pulled out a few of their own hymn books and we shared our favorites. This one is simple (fittingly) and it fills me with all sorts of nostalgia.

Speaking of nostalgia, I also came across this trailer recently and was immediately swept away, back into the high sand mountains of the Atacama, back into the never-ending gray-brown, back to Arica and to the comfortable lulling rhythms of the Spanish language. I still miss it sometimes. 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Looking back

Today I stumbled back into some old online journals that have been tucked deep away in the dusty corners of the internet. I spent too long reading over them. But instead of feeling embarrassed I felt oddly connected to the Brooke of 4, 5, 6 years ago. I liked that girl, and some of her words still resonated with me. Like this bit I wrote on religious identity almost 4 years ago now:

 Sometimes I am startled by identity. Startled that anyone has an identity. How did I get trapped (pulled? embraced?) into mine? How is this who I am? By birth I suppose. And by choice too. But how much of the choice part has to do with the birth part? I don't know the answer. It is an interesting thing.  I do not regret it or resent it. I find it rich and fascinating, if not a little strange.

Sometimes I am caught off guard by the peculiar language that surrounds me. It is so familiar, and yet at times it becomes so foreign. People say: holy ghost. the spirit. high priest. Like: salt shaker. laundromat. earmuffs.
Sometimes it makes me feel ancient. Sometimes it feels like a glorious game or an epic play I am a part of, where we all believe in the mystic and the impossible and the bizarre. And then sometimes I embrace it all, with my whole heart. not ironically. not bitterly. not partially—because in the end it is an inextricable part of me and I would feel too false to deny it.
Sometimes, though, I feel estranged.

The question remains: how to reconcile the estranged parts (of which there are many) with the core instinctively familiar all-embracing parts?

I am still working on that, and do feel like I have made some progress in the last 4 years. but life still feels like a very large exercise of reconciling, balancing out, working through impossible paradoxes... Opposition in all things I suppose.

Good night.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Scrap Paper Poetry


The scent of rat office equals p.
We then eat 991 tacos.
Love, aggression,
by an evening port O and P plied the rocks.

The value of land and port.
The hours worked.
Stand nations of scent!
Ours is the coffee.


This is what I did in relief society today.
I am particularly fond of the last two lines. I like to see it as a call to revolution.
In fact, if you read it right--that's what the entire poem is about. Very appropriate considering current events in Egypt.
Down with the rat office! 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


I have been running. I never had the patience for it before. But right now there is something so satisfying about working my way up through longer and longer runs, listening to the steady rhythm of sneakers hitting concrete, learning to endure a little bit of pain and discomfort. I am learning that in life sometimes you have to just sit with your pain too. There is no way around it. It doesn't just disappear. You can't pretend it away as soon as it surfaces.  So it is good to learn to endure.

Some days are warmer, and some are still biting cold. February likes to surprise you. Yesterday I went running outside and it was warm enough that after about half a mile I had to scrunch up my sleeves. Not an hour later I walked to campus in a blustering sleet storm. I had no hat or hood with me so I had to tie my scarf around my head or else I was afraid that my ears would freeze and fall off.

I still have heavy boots but they are getting lighter. I like the new Decemberists album. I've had June Hymn on repeat the last couple of days. It makes me long for springtime. There is something so lovely and constant and comforting about the seasons--about flower bulbs leaping to life and shooting through the ground after a long and frozen sleep. Flower bulbs really know something about endurance.