Friday, November 25, 2011

one of my favorites

Have I posted my favorite poem before?  Well, here it is.  I was thinking about it last night as I reflected on my life and how much reason I have to be grateful.


St. John tells how, at Cana’s wedding feast,
The water-pots poured wine in such amount
That by his sober count
There were a hundred gallons at the least.

It made no earthly sense, unless to show
How whatsoever love elects to bless
Brims to a sweet excess
That can without depletion overflow.

Which is to say that what love sees is true;
That this world’s fullness is not made but found.
Life hungers to abound
And pour its plenty out for such as you.

Now, if your loves will lend an ear to mine,
I toast you both, good son and dear new daughter.
May you not lack for water,
And may that water smack of Cana’s wine.

~ Richard Wilbur, born 1921, American poet and translator, and U. S. Poet Laureate, 1987-1988

Friday, August 19, 2011


Barren soul-desert,
neglected, parched
scabby heart
clean, dry cracks of once-mud

somehow, flowers:
still sun-hungry,
persistent roots
in search of Water

I pick up my shovel - 
the work is refreshing.

Only now
comes the sound of Rain.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


I've written that word on a lot of boxes in the past few days.  My family is moving from the Bay Area back to Provo, and that means dawn-till-dusk packing this week with my Mom and Dad.  (Ben and Joe are at scout camp and Coby mostly reads a book about Greek Myths.)  It's fun, hard work, with lots of built-in nostalgia.  I found all my old journals in my bedroom and got a kick out of flipping through.  My mom unearthed an awesome and nonsensical story my little brothers and I had written three summers ago, each of us adding a word at a time, as well as a gorgeous poem she wrote soon after we arrived in Livermore.  She's a brilliant poet, if you didn't know.  Maybe I'll type up those treasures in a later post.

I've been thinking about this time of year, four years ago, when we made the reverse move, from Utah to CA.  It seems like a lifetime ago.  I was about to enter my Junior year of high school.  For me, the move represented very tangibly a transition we all experience: leaving behind the happy, safe world of childhood.  Life becomes harder-darker-scarier, more complicated, less carefree.

And, I optimistically maintain, more beautiful.  Difficulty, while it makes living less comfortable, makes it more meaningful.  The contrast gained from "opposition in all things" makes the light brighter, or at least more recognizable or more significant.  I have a lot of my heart tied up in this concept, but I don't have the time or the desire to pick apart my heart right now.  Plus, there are bathrooms that need to be boxed up.

P.S.   Guess how many boxes it took to pack up the kitchen?  Twenty five!  Twenty Five!!!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Beautiful Family

I could make a pretty deep Venn-diagram for the two sides of my family.  It would have a lot written in each part.  The two sides of my family share so many things: both are big but tight-knit.  Both love to have fun.  I come right in the middle of the cousin line-up on both sides.  Both have strong family cultures formed by strong, bright parents (who are my grandparents), and carried on by more strong, bright parents (my aunts, uncles, and my mom and dad), and instilled in more strong, bright people (my cousins, from the ones who are starting their own gorgeous little families to the ones who are being potty-trained). 
Family is such a beautiful thing.  And when I say strong, and bright, I mean it.  I am surrounded by people who are strong.  They don't have easy-breezy lives but they live with such tenacity, such strength for each other.  This week, at the family reunion for my mom's side of the family, I have felt keenly the silver threads that connect us -- connect us to one another and to the other side of the veil. 
And I have felt these people's brightness.  Both sides of my family, in fact, are loaded with people who are extremely smart.  But even more significantly, they are light-bright.  They have the shining power of faith and love and hope in their lives. It's such an exquisite thing to be a part of.
It feels unfair -- why do I get such light-filled, happy nests of love to be raised in, while there are so many who don't?  It is something I don't understand - makes my heart hurt - but I do know that I am inexpressibly grateful for my families, and that I believe in families.  So much, that makes my heart hurt too.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Sea of Green

I went into the middle of a field yesterday.  I don't know if I've ever been in such an open space in my life.  You know how some people have a phobia of open spaces?  They would have been terrified
I was on this country road and I realized that the barbed-wire fence along the road had ended and there was just this big ol' mass of green vastness there for the taking.  So I timidly took a few steps out into it.  Once I started it kept pulling me in.  Soon I had run/interpretive danced into the middle of it all, with the wind blowing ripples through the blades all around.  It really does feel kind of like being out far into the ocean.
I swam my way to a fence on the other side, next to which there was this old roadster buggy-thing all rusted and forgotten.  It was cool.  The sun was getting close to the western horizon, so I hurried back through the field to the road to the car to home.  To my relief, the whole experience didn't even leave me with a tick.
Oh!  And, on my way back to the car I noticed some friendly Black-Eyed Susans, which I took home with me and put in a vase in the kitchen.  

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Live and Laugh

I think it was my dad who taught me to laugh at myself.  I am convinced that this skill is absolutely essential. 
This morning I was remembering a particularly embarrassing experience from a month or so ago.  You know how sometimes those memories fling themselves at you without warning?  It's amazing to me how much of a reaction is produced from a simple memory, but there I was, cringing inside. 
I found myself laughing.  Here I am, weeks later, and there's not a thing I can do about my month-old tactlessness.  But I can laugh.  I can log away whatever information might be helpful in the future, spread out my arms and let out a full-breathed laugh to the Montana sky while I squelch through the mud in my running shoes.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Fortunate Rediscovery

You know how sometimes you forget about something and rediscover it later?  Like a cute pair of shoes that was buried in the back of your closet, or a favorite recipe you haven't made in a while?  In church two days ago someone quoted a talk by Elder Uchtdorf.  I had forgotten about the talk, but it's one of my favorites.  Reading it was like talking to an old friend.  It's about the Love of God.  Read it, if you want.  Here. 

Friday, June 17, 2011

those two

This morning my two older brothers came over and helped me move the boxes containing most of my material possessions into the attic.  (The other portion of my stuff is in a large suitcase that will be heading to Montana with me.)
Those two.  They are so incredible.
I have this picture on my bulletin board (now in the attic) of the three of us.  In the photo I'm probably less than a year old.  I'm propped up on four-year-old-Wayne's lap and toddler-Nate has my tiny little hand in his.  It's one of my favorite things to look at.  We're in front of a pink bush.
After moving my stuff, we went to lunch together.  (I'm leaving tomorrow and Wayne is off to Argentina on Monday.)  It was the best thing ever to spend a couple hours just talking to them and laughing with them.  We were raised on one wavelength; the same things make us laugh and we don't have to explain them to each other.  We can talk about stupid things or deep things; quote Youtube or discuss the world and why families are so important.
I don't have time to do this post justice, but a blog post could never capture the magnificence of my brothers anyway.  I'm indescribably grateful for them.

Monday, June 6, 2011

wind is my favorite

If I had to choose one day from my life to represent perfect weather, I might pick today.  It was neither hot nor cold; perfect for wearing cropped jeans and a cardigan.  The sun was shining but there were clouds and dust in the air that made the light soft.  
But the best part of all was the wind.  The breeze was not timid, but not overbearing.  It danced, whispering through my fingers and gently tugging at the wisps of hair outside my braid.  I love how wind can be so powerful or so gentle.  I love how it seems to have a personality; the way it woos and wanes.  I love how it touches my face and takes the air I just breathed away, off to somewhere else.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

my cup runneth over

David was really on to something when he came up with that image (Psalm 23).  There's only so much gratitude, hope, love, that a heart can hold.  I have a thimble, and God gives me an ocean.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Violin Lessons

Last semester, I had a few experiences in my violin lessons that felt like personal parables.

I started studying with a new teacher in January (my previous teacher broke his shoulder on New Year's Day and needed to drop some students).  At my first lesson, we discussed the repertoire I'd be learning that semester.  The conversation went something like this:
Professor Woods said, "I want you to learn the Tchaikovsky violin concerto".
"Are you sure you think I can do that?"  
"I know you can.  As humans, we sometimes put ourselves in boxes.  We construct ceilings for ourselves.  This week, I don't want you to stress out, but I'm asking you to bust through the ceiling.  Be smart, effective, and creative.  See how much is possible.  I want you to memorize the first two pages by your next lesson."
I didn't think it was realistic.  (Have you heard the Tchaikovsky violin concerto?)  But I decided to exert the faith necessary to give it a try.  I removed my ceilings of doubt and went to the library to check out the music. I listened to the part all week and practiced as efficiently as I could.  I enjoyed my practicing immensely that week.  By my next lesson, I had the first two pages memorized.  And it was a more solid, dynamic, musical memory than I'd ever had before.

Lesson #1:  Don't put yourself in a box.  Bust through the ceiling!  Our self-imposed constraints are fearful, mortal constructions.  God sees no limits on our possibilities.  

A few weeks into the semester, Professor Woods told me that my left hand needed work.  He wanted me to change my "handblock", which means that I'd have to spend at least a couple weeks playing nothing but the most basic scales and exercises.  It was a big deal.  It could take a long time for the new muscle-memory to assimilate into my playing.  I remember asking him,
"Do you promise that if I do this, it will eventually help my playing?"
"Annie, you've got to trust me.  I promise that if you make this change, it will be worth it.  Your intonation will improve, your vibrato will "ping" more, and you'll be able to play fast passages with more agility."
In retrospect it seems like a small change, but it took a lot of trust to go back to square one.  I remember telling God, "Okay, this is a decision I'm making, to exert the faith necessary to change this.  Please help me.  Please bless that it will be worth it."
It was tedious at first.  I could feel different hand and finger muscles working.  I practiced in front of a mirror all the time to make sure my wrist was in the proper place.  After a couple weeks, I graduated from scales back to my repertoire.  By the end of the semester, playing the violin was noticeably easier.  The Tchaikovsky fell under my fingers.  Even fast runs and double-stops were clean and in tune.  This simple (although not necessarily easy) change had made a big difference in my playing.

Lesson #2: Small changes, when thoughtfully chosen and diligently implemented, can lead to life-changing blessings in our lives.  I can feel Heavenly Father saying, "Annie, I promise that if you make this change, you'll be closer to me.  You'll have more peace, more stillness, more happiness in your life.  Trust me."

Both of these lessons have root in the same principle, one I have learned before and will continue to learn as long as I live:  Trusting God is worth it.  He sees us for who we truly are, and can guide us perfectly because He's not limited like we are by our fearful, mortal misconceptions of ourselves.  We are His children.

No Regrets

I feel a bit like I am in no-man's-land.  I am 97.2% sure I want to change my major, after two fun, full, and fruitful years in the violin performance program.  I love the music program.  I have made incredible friends, developed meaningful relationships with faculty, accrued interesting and useful knowledge, loved playing in ensembles, and improved drastically as a  musician.  But I don't want a career in professional music.  I see myself as a mom with a part-time violin studio, and I'd love to play in a local orchestra.  The point is: I already have the necessary experience for what I want.  
So I'm taking a leap of faith and forging out into the realm of (probably) Neuroscience.  But that's not what this post is about.  

This post is about why I have absolutely zero regrets about spending two full years on my minor.

In addition to all the reasons I listed above for loving the music program, the study (and attempt at mastery) of the violin has taught me a lot about life.  The hours I've spent in the practice rooms with my violin have taught me diligence, patience, creativity, persistence, discernment, and appreciation for beauty.  Playing in string quartets has shown me the thrill of contributing as part of a unified group to create something lovely.  Perfecting and performing masterpieces has given me satisfaction and gratitude.  And there is nothing as exhilarating as being part of an ocean of magnificent, orchestral sound. 

Thoughts on Hell

I once read an idea quoted from a Buddhist teacher, something like, "Hell is wanting to be somewhere different from where you are; wishing that reality was different."  
I've thought a lot about that.  
It's true; there is something miserable and stifling about refusing to accept the situation you are in.  And there is something serene, humbling, heavenly, about living this moment, whatever it is, with openness and curiosity.
This is a skill I want to cultivate.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Good Listening

I listened to Russel M. Nelson's most recent conference talk this morning and was lifted.  It's a gorgeous talk.  If you want to read or listen to it, here it is:

Elder Nelson - Face the Future with Faith

Sunday, May 8, 2011

This Rain makes me feel like I'm in Ireland or something, not Utah

Life is good, but it's not easy.  It would be lame if it were easy.  In fact, if it were easy, it probably wouldn't be nearly as good.  But enough circular mumbling.  Some of the things that made my life good this week:

1)  Riding my bike.  The weather suddenly decided to be Spring, and I celebrated by turning to bike transportation as the easiest and most fun way to get around.  Rode to yoga class with good friends, rode to my brother's house to visit, rode to the temple, rode to the park for a soccer practice, etc.  It was fantastic.  My favorite thing is how the wind whooshes on my skin when I'm riding downhill.

2)  My friends.  I have realized how opulently blessed I am in the realm of friends.  Heavenly Father has really placed some first-rate people in my circle of acquaintance.

3)  Tulips.

4)  Sonatas.  Something about playing beautiful music in a small-ensemble setting just makes me so joy-filled.  Tonight I went over to a friend's house to play some sonatas.  He sight-read a bunch of Mozart amazingly well and we just played together for an hour or so.  It wasn't polished or perfect, but it was fun, and just the boost I needed.

Monday, April 25, 2011


This morning, the light filtered hopefully through tiny droplets of rain as I ran and listened to Guster.
That album ("Keep it Together") has done a lot for me.  I was remembering this time of year two years ago.  I was about to graduate from high school, and my grandpa was in the final weeks of dying of brain cancer.
Every Monday after school I'd drive to Berkeley for violin lessons and youth orchestra.  The trip took an hour.  I'd get in my car, talk to God out loud for a while, then listen to Guster.
Those songs still hold for me a kind of peace or catharsis.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


My aunt Josie and her kids dropped by this afternoon.  They wished my luck on my final performance jury.We stood on the sunny front step and talked.  Olive climbed on the stair railing.  Gabe made us laugh.  We talked about the books we want to read.  Raya tossed Saul's hat onto the front lawn. 
The whole visit lasted probably no more than ten minutes, but it was easily the best ten minutes of my day. Isn't family the best?

Monday, March 14, 2011


Sometimes I think that after we die, we will fully understand how exquisite it was to have a body.  This vehicle of bones and flesh that walks us around and smells our roses is no small miracle.  I'm sure I will miss the touch of a breeze on my arms, the texture of bread in my mouth, the warmth of another human's hand.  I will probably long for a sense of gravity, groundedness, mass.  Earth beneath my feet.  All the verbage:  running, dancing, shouting, singing, swimming, lunging, digging, rolling, walking, climbing, resting, playing.  I will wish to feel the fullness of a laugh in my belly, the excitement of attraction, and the wetness of tears on my face.

And I think I will miss the pain.  There is something so very real and mortal and exhilarating about suffering.  Sharpness, sting, ache, burn, soreness, bruise.  They are somehow important. 

The deep kind of sorrow that seems to tunnel holes through my soul - will I feel that when I'm just made of spirit?  Or the experience of hearing a mournful melody or seeing a breathtaking vista - something so beautiful that it actually hurts, as if a river of clear water is coursing through my heart.  Will I feel that?

I don't know.  But what I do know is that being alive is exquisite.  I want to feel every itch and sun ray, jump in more puddles, and weep through the heartbreaks ahead.  I want to get to the end of mortality and feel like I lived.

Friday, February 11, 2011

sentence about a phenomenon I love:

On the occasional bright winter morning, when there's no snow on the ground but the temperature is low enough for frost to stay crystallized, it looks like the grass has been scattered with diamonds.

Friday, January 21, 2011

among my favorite places

My bed.  I can't get over the fact that night after night, I get to crawl under the covers and snuggle up in the sheets, lost in blankety bliss.  My roommates think I'm crazy, ("You guys, we get to go to BED now!!!") but climbing in bed never ceases to delight me. 

The stair well.  We music majors spend hours practicing, usually in the practice rooms on the second floor of the Harris Fine Arts Building.  It's a level below the ground.  No windows.  (As an aside - if I ever become overwhelmingly rich, I'm going to build a practice-room structure with lots of windows for aspiring music students at BYU.)  Anyway, the lack of windows is ameliorated by my new favorite practice spot: the stairwell.  It's a level below even the practice rooms.  Concrete, high ceilings, and endlessly flattering acoustics.  Everything sounds good down there.

The backyard passage.  See, my brothers live on the street parallel to mine.  Walk out my back door, through thirty feet of unkempt wilderness, and I arrive at the back door of two of my top five favorite people ever.  But don't let me get going on them, it'll take at least a separate post.  Probably two.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

the world is delightful

Winter pressed in like a hug
while I walked home in the dark
with a friend