Mysterious Salt Lake City

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This was the reunion weekend, but I had other things I wanted to do.

Decades ago, DH and I heard about the Gilgal Sculptural Garden, a place of visionary bizarreness conceived and built by a devout Mormon by the name of Thomas Battersby Child, Jr.

Thomas Battersby Child, Jr.
Thomas Battersby Child, Jr., 1888-1963

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Back then the garden was still private property, though the owners were not sure what to do with it.  People knew about the garden: if they were polite, they visited on the one day a week the garden was officially open.  Perhaps more often they trespassed, on the theory that they “weren’t doing any harm.”  The garden is now an official city park, but mostly taken care of by volunteers gardeners and the non-profit Friends of Gilgal Garden.  People still trespass, some still vandalize, and a fair number of visitors still think they “do no harm” by climbing on the sculptures for their fun snapshots.

Perhaps the most famous sculpture is the Joseph Smith sphinx:

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Speculations?

Well, at the center of Mormon belief is a connection to ancient Egypt civilization and its writing system (Joseph Smith claimed to have translated the Book of Abraham from a papyrus scroll he obtained in 1835).  Joseph Smith was also a Freemason, and according to scholars, the “Old Charges” (Freemason origin documents) claim lineage from Egypt as the birthplace of the art of masonry (or mystery).

So . . . .  Was Mr. Child a Freemason as well as a mason?  It was a moment of idle curiosity on my part as I made my way around the garden and saw the carved quotation:  “After me cometh a Builder.  Tell him I too have known.”  The line is from The Palace, a poem by Rudyard Kipling published in 1902.  And Rudyard Kipling was a Freemason.  In the poem, he used the language and imagery of Freemasonry — and masonry — to explore his feelings about his place in the community of artists past and present.  As I said, a moment of idle curiosity . . . .  It is enough that Thomas Battersby Child had his visions, and was brave enough to set those visions in stone for posterity.

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Remembrance, and Moving On

A couple of years ago I wrote about the the end of a friendship — as slow as I was to acknowledge it, I finally had that moment of letting go.   Two months ago, Martha wrote me a long letter, something by way of apology/explanation, though in fact not quite either.  One phone call, one letter, thirteen years.  And this is how I know I have let go:  it did not really matter.  Not the letter, not the contents.  The questions I asked myself — was it something I did, why was I not worthy, could I have changed anything — those questions and the sadness were long gone, liberated two-and-a-half years ago by the simple act of “delete contact.”

We have our medical school reunion in a month.  Martha says we will see each other then; I think not.  My wonderful therapist has a different take on this: the meeting would be a closure for Martha — letting her know that it is OK for her to stop feeling guilty about me, to stop feeling guilty that I am not one of “her people.”  She too can let it be.

In the winter of our 4th year in medical school, one of The Amigas had her daughter.  The day Martha told me Caitlin had the baby was the day I found out that (1) she had been pregnant, and (2) she married the father of the baby many months ago.  On that day (yes, slow to catch on) I knew I was not a friend and had never been.   Today, from the sidelines of co-chairmanship, I am an observer of this group of middle-aged women who have managed to remain friends for almost 30 years.  They have known about all the major events in each other’s lives, they have bitched and shared and celebrated together through the years, and this fall, they will gather again to bitch and share and celebrate.   I wish them the best of times.

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Bucket List: Going-to-the-Sun Road

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Going-to-the-Sun Road, Glacier National Park

Many years ago I worked for the National Park Service as a summer historian on a HABS/HAER project in New York City.  When we were finished, the project leader gave me a signed copy of  America’s National Park Roads and Parkways:  Drawings from the Historic American Engineering Record  (Timothy Davis, Todd A. Croteau, Christopher H. Marston, and Eric DeLony).  It is a beautiful book, full of detailed drawings and plans for some of the most amazing engineering projects anywhere in America.  Over the years, DH would lift the book out every now and then and peruse the drawings.  Someday, we would visit Glacier National Park, and in particular, go on the Going-to-the-Sun Road (his bucket list).  I always assumed it would be in a car.

A week ago, on the last day of our seven-day Tandem Bicycle Tour of Glacier National Park, we rode 43 miles of the Going-to-the-Sun Road.  Bucket list indeed!  We were on the road by 7:30 AM on a cool clear morning, and 2.5 hours later (it was uphill and we are slow!) we made it to Logan Pass.  The parking lot was packed, and a very friendly motorcyclist took us under his wings and offered to let us park the tandem by his motorcycle, on the theory that the only difference between our two wheels and his two wheels was the engine :-))  But then we spotted the bike racks, so we didn’t need him to keep an eye on the Chipmunkmobile after all.  After the requisite Logan Pass/Continental Divide photographs, we began the spectacular 45-minute descent.  I do not have a head for heights at the best of times, and I was gripping the handlebars so tightly my fingers were cramping.  But the scenery!!  A couple of drivers ignored the 25 MPH speed limit on a very narrow and twisty road and passed us; one did it so that he could zip over to the very next lookout point, a couple of hundred yards down the road, to take that Special Picture . . . .

I don’t think I can tour the Going-to-the-Sun Road in a car, ever.  I saw it from a bike, the ride was a challenge, and it was perfect.

And now, I have bike jersey envy:

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Going-to-the-Sun bike jersey, from Glacier Cyclery.

Procrastination

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A Little Old Lady (my Mom) lived here.  Years before she died, the 12-foot vertical blinds started to shed slats.  She stopped opening the blinds because as soon as she did so, another slat (or two or three) would fall down.  And my parents dutifully left the fallen slats in a neat pile at the bottom of the windows so that my brother, who promised he would reinstall them, would know which slats went where.

This went on for a couple of decades.

The last time I visited Dad, I decided it was time to take care of the blinds.  More slats had fallen since Mom died 3 1/2 years ago, to the point that the HOA cited Dad for having gaps in the blinds clearly visible from the street.  I brought curtain panels that DH’s Mom had made for our first house 25 years ago, figuring that those curtains could not possibly look any worse than gap-toothed vertical blinds.  DH and I installed the red-and-yellow floral curtains first — and not a moment too soon.  A few more slats fell and then the blinds refused to slide at all, but luckily they stalled on either side of the curtains so that it all looks intentional.

Feeling inspired, we tackled the other set of windows.  Until a week ago, the windows at the right had the green-and-pink curtains only on the bottom, while the top had two large pieces of cardboard.  Yup, cardboard.  For FIFTEEN YEARS sort of cardboard.  I always thought it strange that my OCD mother did not make curtains for both windows.

I found the two brand-new curtain panels in her linen closet: she had indeed made enough curtains, but didn’t hang them at the top.

Well, of course Mom did not put them up — she needed my brother to do that for her.  And he procrastinated, and procrastinated, and at some point, my mother gave up.  She lived with the cardboard for all those years because my brother could not spare 15 minutes out of his day.  The “deferred maintenance” list grows every time I visit: the non-existent weather-stripping on the patio door, the leaky shower head, the leaky tub faucet, the toilet that no longer flushes, the bathroom sink that does not drain, the washer tub that fills between use, the kitchen faucet broken since last summer.  Dad doesn’t live there any more, but I know Mom knows about the list.  And the slats continue to fall.

What is procrastination?  It is one way of saying “fuck you” to the world: my time is more important than you.  Not just your time, or your needs, but YOU the person.

I am due for another visit in October, and I bought TWO return tickets.  One for a return in 2 weeks, the other for a return in 3 days . . . .  because if the kitchen faucet still isn’t fixed (it has been a year since I pointed it out to my brother, and the only other sink downstairs is the one that does not drain), I really was going to go home early.  I’ll be damned if I am going to keep listening to Mom complaining.

To Be Grateful

A morning bike ride along our not-so-mighty but very scenic river, and this:

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#AdriStrong

One of the privileges of being a stoker on the tandem is that I can look around and enjoy the scenery, or on this particular day, look down.  A little girl in Arizona with Ewing’s sarcoma, a distillation of hope and courage in a small painted rock.  I brought it home, and as I was meant to do, I took a picture.  As I was also meant to do but didn’t, I did not post the picture (I am not on social media) not did I hide the rock again.  It is on its way to a dear friend in Texas who knows a thing or two about battling cancer.  She assures me the rock will continue its journey, and a little girl will too.

Knitting for the Winter: St. Brigid

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St. Brigid tunic

Pattern:   St. Brigid by Alice Starmore, from the original 1997 edition.

Yarn:  Malabrigo, worsted weight, in “shocking pink.”  I bought a 10-pack from a fellow Raveler, hoarded it for close to a decade, and finally decided that St. Brigid was a worthy project.  Being kettle-dyed, there are colour variations that resulted in a band of darker pink across the lower chest.  Oh well.

Modifications:  The original pattern called for Alice Starmore’s Scottish Heather (a DK weight yarn) knitted up into a very generous 45 (or 48) inch pullover.  So, modifications included decreasing the number of cable patterns across to finish at around 38 inches, but the same number of vertical repeats because I wanted to make a tunic.  I didn’t use Chart A, but substituted 2 x 3 ribs at the sides of body and sleeves.  I think the ribs made for easier and neater increases and decreases.  The sleeves were meant to be 3/4, but stretched with blocking to wrist length.  I didn’t want the original collar (I think it is overwhelming), so I made the neck opening square, framed with simple 3 x 3 cables.  I made the body slightly A-line with increases “hidden” within the purl stitches between individual cables.  Finally, I knitted the tunic top-down in-the-round.

Thoughts:  My all-time favorite cable pattern!  She-whose-name-must-not-be-spoken is THE master.

The Three of Us

My medical school preceptors considered me a rather mediocre student; it was not necessarily a wrong assessment.  I kept my head down, I made no waves, I just wanted to be done . . . .  because being lower than whale dung really sucks.  Other students were much more savvy: look eager, ask lots of questions (especially ones you know the answers), flatter the attendings.  Get good evaluations, and you are on your way to the rest of your life.  

The rest of my life did not follow, but it is many years later now, and it is a reunion year.  The alumni reunion coordinator had no volunteers to be our class co-chairs, so I thought, “Why not?”  Why not, indeed.  This is not altruism, it is an experiment on myself:  I have time, I want to know if this could be my personal Creative Morning, and I am curious how my former classmates define success. 

I wrote a reunion letter so inspiring that am tempted to go to the reunion!  And then, the coordinator gets not one, not two, but three more volunteers:

The three of us are willing to be the co-chairs for the upcoming class of ’93 reunion. None of us have a whole lot of time . . .  blah blah blah . . . 

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Well gosh.  The Three of Us and Bisy Backson, all in one!  

The coordinator has sent my inspirational reunion letter on to The Three of Us, and is sure that they will “connect” with me.  She is so optimistic — but I suppose she has to be to deal with medical alumni. 

I am back remembering the day I realized that The Three of Us (or rather, The Six of Us, of which The Three of Us was a subset) and I had never been friends.  These women were a clique back then, and they remain a clique now.  And of course, the core truth of a clique is that while you-the-outsider can clearly identify them as the clique, they do not identify you as anything because they never think about you at all.  On that day I remember my truth: “How stupid am I?”

But there is hope yet for my inner Opie: the memories are vivid, but they no longer sting.  And that is very good news indeed because I am, of course, on tenterhooks waiting to see whether I will be noticed by The Three of Us Bisy Backsons!

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Tenter frames, Otterburn Mill, Northumberland