Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Woman Of My Dreams

The woman of my dreams. . . hmmmm. . . I can only imagine what you are thinking in this particular moment as you read this title. Perhaps there are a number of questions floating through your mind: What is the woman of his dreams (what characteristics and attributes does she exhibit)? Who is the woman of his dreams (is it someone famous used as a model for such a woman or a real, everyday individual that he actually knows)? Has he found the woman of his dreams (Has he become acquainted with this woman, is he friends with this woman, is he dating this woman)? How has the woman of his dreams responded to him (is she indifferent to him, has she rejected him, is she flirtatious with him, has she fallen for him)? Is he going to write about the woman of his dreams (is it simply an ideal that he is going to write about--not an actual person, but the attributes and characteristics of what he would like most in a woman)? Does the woman of his dreams exist? and etc. Well, pick whichever one intrigues you the most and brace yourself. . .
The woman of my dreams of which I write is none of these, but is literally the woman of my dream (my apologies to all of you with inquiring minds that really wanted to know. . .). I awoke a couple of days ago from an interesting dream. The truth of the matter is that the dream itself was nothing unrealistic or out of the ordinary--probably a dream that most people would promptly forget by mid-morning. But it was precisely the dream's simplicity that struck me; that, and the fact that this particular woman mentioned that she was from a town which I had never heard of before but upon awaking knew that it must exist, so I looked up Sjöviken, Sweden and sure enough it is a small community on the eastern shore of Sweden, not too far from Sundsvall. So, "who cares?", one may ask. I will make the connection for you later.
I enjoy creative writing, whether it be poetry, short stories, tales, or what have you. Finding time, inspiration, and the right language and structure to write can be daunting. I saw in this dream an opportunity to write.

Kvinnan Från Sjövik *

In the phantasmagoric realm of sleep
I saw myself descending down a steep
And winding street with houses bright
In Skandinavisk style,
Which led to such an awe-inspired sight
That words, too weak, would defile
The sacredness of such a view.

Happiness enveloped my whole being,
Rejuvenated by this moment, freeing
All the discord one may hold inside.
I walked, face to the sky,
Exulting in a moment oft denied
By worldly cares that oft belie
The sacred nature of our souls.

My friends walked onward, leaving me behind,
A simple soul left lonely to unwind
Within the thriving summer air.
I looked out t’ward the sea—
A tranquil bay reflecting the sun’s glare
Made my heart dance inside of me
Some strange diverting jig.

And in this moment who should then appear
But some fair maiden with her hiking gear,
Petite and healthy, on a stroll,
Backpacking as travelers do
Through foreign streets, picturesque and beautiful,
Experiencing something new.
We caught each other’s glance.

Walking onward, side by side, we spoke
Of treasures the world hides beneath its cloak
And all we’ve hidden deep within
Our hearts and in our minds.
It seemed to me with her all life begins
To unfold mysteries we find
Too simple to ignore.

But as is oft the case with sudden dreams
The light of sleep unraveled at its seems—
To morning silence I awoke.
To bring her back, ah please!
What torture my unconsciousness evokes
To dream up one who lives beside the seas
On Sweden’s central shores.
The last words that I heard her speak:
“Jag bor I sjövik”**

--Brett Hall
August 24, 2009

*Kvinnan från Sjövik (Swedish: The woman from Sjövik)
** Jag bor i Sjövik (Swedish: I live in Sjövik)

Alright, so you are probably wondering why the sudden jump to the poem and why the poem ends abruptly. . . well, it is just like a dream--it materializes suddenly and just as quickly ends. So, why write of this and why the fascination? Let me explain a little.
Several years ago I had many young nieces and nephews who would often visit my parents' home. Those of you who know me well are familiar with some trolls that I have purchased from norway. As a form of entertainment I used to gather around my nieces and nephews who were interested at the moment and take my trolls and offer troll stories. The kids would line up on the edge of a bed and I would take a chair facing them and with trolls in hand would begin some fantastical tale or another as if the trolls were speaking themselves (I'd use specific voices for each troll and pounce the troll around as if he were real and speaking to the kids--I know, I know, many of you are terrified of the trolls and have a hard time believing that I would subject my nieces and nephews to such scary creatures, but that is a learned response, and the kids were actually endeared to the trolls and would beg me for troll stories when they saw me). I made up several troll stories on the spot and the kids would often give suggestions as to what the story should be about (my nieces particularly enjoyed stories that involved princesses and berries). I even purchased trolls for each of my nieces and nephews one Christmas and wrote them their own stories to go with the troll. But I digress. The point is, during this time period I also wrote a number of "folktales" which I didn't share with my nieces and nephews as they did not fit their age range at the time. My dream having come across a woman from Sjöviken, Sweden reminded me of one such tale that I placed in a nearby location: Sundsvall. Needless to say, here is the tale:

The Maiden at Sundsvall

Once long ago, in the coastal town of Sundsvall, there lived a young woman who would look upon the sea and dream up stories and songs within her head. She would arise early each morning and stumble through the darkness from her cottage to her favorite spot upon the coast—a large boulder which she would climb atop and view the rising of the sun as the morning waves would gently summon it from sleep with their rhythmic lapping upon the rocks below. She would attend to her duties by day, but always she set aside time enough to return to the boulder before sunset and view the evening hues as the sun descended beneath the forested hills that lay inland.
The young woman’s beauty was no secret, yet her character was greater still which caused all the young men throughout the region to swoon at the mention of her name. She was modest and showed her love for friends and family both in word and deed. She was unaware of the effect that she had upon men as most were too shy to approach her or to express how they truly felt. Thus, she continued on her daily course of life dreaming and reflecting upon the joys which surrounded her—the simple pleasures of nature and family.
One morning, as she ascended the boulder in the morning twilight, she was surprised at the sight of a figure sitting in the darkness. Startled, she froze upon the ledge staring at the man who sat motionless looking out upon the vast ocean to the emerald horizon. After a moment’s hesitation she resumed her course and sat next to the man. Neither spoke as they peered out upon the blissful scene. The sky began to illuminate and the shadows of the distant clouds were outlined with rose-colored hues and silver reflections. Alas, the first rays of the morning sun shot across the water, skipping back and forth upon the waves in route to the couple’s vision. The waves beneath the precipice rumbled to and fro with a delightful ditty and the morning birds took flight from the bosom of the sea.
“It is a glorious scene and a harmonious sound that awakens the earth to a new day,” said the man.
“Indeed, it refreshes the soul and makes life worth living,” she responded.
They sat for some time beneath the morning clouds chatting upon the scene and upon life whereupon it was revealed that he was an aspiring composer. He looked upon the beauty of the morning dawn and the beauty of the woman’s nature as the world around them sung in exultation.
“I should like to capture your beauty and this scene within the notes of a grand symphony, whereupon this moment may be immortalized in my composition, if you will allow me to do so,” he softly said. She consented and they met each morning thereafter to enjoy the dawning of the day, to discuss life, and for the young man to drink of the inspiration which would move him to compose his masterpiece. He was very skilled in various instruments and would play one for her each morning upon the boulder, shewing forth his progress, and indeed it was lovely.
On the very evening which the young woman met this man she returned to the boulder to ponder upon her labor for the day and upon life as she would enjoy the inspiring scenes of nature at the day’s end. The long afternoon shadows stretched far across the earth and all the world seemed to glitter and shine with the spectacular evening hues. She began to ascend the boulder wherein she would take in the scene as a whole and with the parting of the sun call the day complete. As she reached the top she noticed a man, different from the first, sitting atop her prized location. What a strange surprise she beheld! Bewilderedly, she finished her ascent and sat next to the man, both staring out upon the forested hills, which extended endlessly inland. The evening birds took flight from their nests and the leaves sparkled as they fluttered in the wind quickly eclipsing the evening sunlight. The treetops swayed in a tireless dance and the sky was aflame from the burning clouds. The sun wrapped itself in the bosom of the earth and the light faded into the perpetual darkness.
“It is a wondrous spectacle to behold when in the earth’s bosom the sun doth fold,” said the man.
“Indeed, it rejuvenates the mind and make life complete,” she responded.
They sat for some time beneath the evening stars chatting upon the scene and upon life whereupon it was revealed that he was an aspiring poet. He looked upon the beauty of the evening mist and the beauty of the woman’s nature as the world around them gracefully embraced the shadows.
“I should like to capture your beauty and this scene within the words of an epic poem, whereupon this moment may be canonized in my composition, if you will allow me to do so,” he softly said. She consented and they met each evening thereafter to enjoy the closing of the day, to discuss life, and for the young man to drink of the inspiration which would move him to write his masterpiece. He was very skilled with words and would recite for her each evening upon the boulder, shewing forth his progress, and indeed it was lovely.
So it was that each man continued to meet with the maiden upon the boulder at their respective hours. The first man composed such soothing music which brought peace and tranquility to her soul, and the second man wrote such beautiful poetry which brought excitement and joy to her heart. After some time, the two men desired to marry the young maiden, and each increased his efforts to woo her.
They both would present to her the depths of their minds in the respective mediums that they used. Each would state that they would produce the most elegant and beautiful works for her and indeed they showered her with the greatest pieces of music and poetry that she had ever experienced. She thought that both men were great and wonderfully talented which left her all the more confused as to who she should marry. As a result, she asked the two men not to join her for the next few weeks upon the boulder in the morning or in the evening so that she could be alone in those tranquil scenes and ponder upon their propositions. The two men agreed and alone sat the maiden each morning for the rising of the sun and each evening for its setting.
Early one morning during this time a third man appeared upon the boulder. He said nothing as she climbed the boulder’s height and neither spoke as they watched the sunrise and enjoyed the whispers of nature. The sky was ablaze when the young lady arose to return to her daily chores. She returned in the evening to view the sunset and to her surprise the man was still stalwartly sitting upon the precipice. Once more they sat in silence viewing the setting sun and enjoying the silent sounds of nature’s voice. The stars appeared one by one until thousands of them littered the sky. The young woman arose to return home for the night and the man, still sitting, asked, “What is it you have been thinking about?” The maiden sat back down and explained how the composer and the poet produced such great things from their minds which they gave to her and how beautiful their works were and how she could not decide who she would marry.
“Do you perhaps compose music or write poetry?” The man asked.
“O no,” the maiden responded. “I would love to learn how to produce such beautiful things but the men have only produced them for me.”
“I see,” said the man. “Then I shall teach you to both compose and write the things of your mind and heart so that you too may produce such beautiful works.”
The third man and the maiden met each morning and each evening upon the boulder to greet and bid farewell to the sun, to enjoy the soft voice of nature, to discuss life and to learn how to compose and write the things of the maiden’s heart and mind. Before long she too produced the most peaceful compositions and the most beautiful poems. Once more the fair woman sat upon the boulder as Sundsvall singing her songs and making up her stories as she listened to the morning waves summon the sun from sleep and as she felt the evening wind blow the day beneath the forested hills. The vibrant hues and the soft tones of the world about her were peaceful and inspiring. The wind brought with it a chill that was warmed by her husband’s embrace and hers was a feeling of happiness.

--Brett Hall
December 26, 2000

Needless to say, I wrote several tales based upon the Scandinavian style of folklore between the years 1999 and 2002. I think that I need to take up this form of creative writing once again. What do you think?

Monday, August 24, 2009

My Garden and A Community Garden Ready To Go!!!

My labors in my yard have had a mixed result. My garden continues to flourish as I am now beginning to have many of the plants produce. Unfortunately, the grass in my backyard has not been doing well. It was all dead when I moved in and I immediately began watering to bring it back. The result: it came back patchy and full of weeds. As a result, I have decided to start over. I have stopped watering, allowing the grass to die and I will tear it up and reseed. I think that it will be for the best in the long run. Expensive, yes, but in the end I think it will be worth it.
I have already spent several hours tearing up some of the lawn to extend/create a new garden. This can be seen in the photo with my garden towards the back and the dirt in rows at the forefront (last photo on this posting). This new section of the garden is designed for "community" use (or in other words, any friends who are interested may plant whatever they like--just let me know how many rows you would like, purchase your seed, and come on over and plant what you like). Please let me know as soon as possible if you would like to use some of the land and we can work out the details (you may want to research Fall crops; all you need to do is plant, fertilize, and occasionally weed your section--give me the watering schedule you would like and I will take care of the day-to-day maintenance).
The photographs above are of the following:
Photo #1: Herb Garden (from left to right, back to front): Basil, Sage, Rosemary, Oregano, Dill, Parsley, Thyme, Chives, Mint.
Photo #2: Main Garden: Yellow Squash
Photo #3: Main Garden: Butternut Squash
Photo #4: Main Garden: Lima Bean
Photo #5: Main Garden: Tomato
Photo #6: Main Garden: Corn (and other plants in the background)
Photo #7: Perimeter: Grapes (Already planted before I moved in)
Photo #8: Main Garden: Pepper
Photo #9: Main Garden: Beets
Photo #10: Main Garden/Community Garden: The full main garden is seen in the background/the furrows of the unplanted, developed land that others (such as yourself, if you like) may use to have your own garden space).

*Items not photographed include the following:
--from the Main Garden: Radish, Carrot, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Basil, Dill, Chives, Lettuce, Spinach, Lavender, Watermelon.
--from Side Gardens: Strawberries, Blackberries, Raspberries, Tarragon, Basil, Squash, Cucumber.
--from Perimeter Fruit Trees: Lemon, Valencia Orange, Mandarin Orange, Avocado, Apple, Pear, Apricot, Peach.
--from New Garden: This garden is not photographed but is located in the north-east corner (the main garden is located on the western wall). I have just planted various crops in this location--will have to see what actually germinates.
--Potted: Flowers.

**Please let me know ASAP if you would like to use a portion of the community garden.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Age of Vicarious Living

. . . And it suddenly struck me,
Sitting downstairs in the midnight hour--
Silence. . .
A sudden Shriek in the distance--
A train whining in the darkness,
Pushing along a predetermined route.
Silence. . .
A sudden epiphany shrieking through my mind--
It is all around me

Tached. . .

Vicariously living on a shelf,
Within a screen,
Through a speaker. . .

Living someone else's lyrics,
Watching someone else's life,
Reading someone else's thoughts. . .

A consumer nation
Recycling originality--
Seemingly new,
Regrettably old.
We've sacrificed the best of us--
Mere convenience.
Comatose in a sheltered sphere,
Living Vicariously. . .

--Brett Hall
August 19, 2009

Monday, August 17, 2009

Favorite 2009 Album Releases

2009 is a good year for artists that I like coming out with albums--there is a lot of new music that I enjoy (or will soon be enjoying--some albums will be released in the next few months). Needless to say, here is a sampling of the bands that are releasing new albums in 2009 (I've featured both a-ha and Kings of Convenience before, so I've included different songs on this list--scroll back a few posts to listen to my favorite songs off of their new albums):

Regina Specktor's "Eet" from the new album "Far":

Røyksopp's "You Don't Have a Clue" from the new album "Junior":

Imogen Heap's "First Train Home" from the new album "Ellipse":

A-ha's "The Bandstand" from the new album "Foot of the Mountain":

Kings of Convenience's "Boat Behind" from the new album "Declaration of Dependence":

Ingrid Michaelson's "Maybe" from the new album "Everybody":

The Whitest Boy Alive's "Courage" from the new album "Rules":

Peter, Bjorn, and John's "Nothing to Worry About" from the new album "Living Thing":

The Radio Dept.'s "David" from the new album "Clinging to a Scheme":

The Decemberists' "The Hazards of Love, Part 1" from the new album "The Hazards of Love":

Fever Ray's "Triangle Walks" from the new album "Fever"

*Furthermore, there is a new band called "Bad Lieutenant" coming out with an album in October that I am really excited about--I can't find any of their music as of yet so I am not sure if it is any good, but the band is made up of New Order/Joy Division's Bernard Sumner and Stephen Morris, Blur's Alex James, Phil Cunningham, and Jake Evans. The album is called "Never Cry Another Tear". New Order is one of my all-time favorite bands and Blur is a great band as well, so I am super excited to find out what kind of sound they are going to produce. 2009--ah, what a great year for new albums!!!

Monday, August 10, 2009

One Hour

"One hour, can't you wake and wait with me?"
He speaks in gentle tones to sleeping friends,
"Come watch with me." On this all life depends.
And yet alone he kneels beside a tree.
One hour, is it so hard? And yet they sleep.
No man on earth or heaven bears to see
The weight of worlds of sin and misery
That through each pore this blood-letting now seeps.
One hour, how easily we condemn
Disciples who could not remain awake
Though the whole earth within this moment quakes--
In doing so, our own lives we condemn.
One hour, moment of weakness when we sin--
We too asleep have failed Christ once again.

--Brett Hall

I have been pondering a little upon the atonement as of late (not nearly as much as I should be, but it is on my mind). The atonement of Jesus Christ is obviously something that I understand very little concerning, yet to my life--to all of our lives--it is everything. The prophet Alma simplifies the atonement into a beautiful explanation, which when I read and really think about what it is saying, it truly brings tears to my eyes. Speaking of Christ before he was even born, Alma states: "And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people. And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities. Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me." (Alma 7: 11-13). Read that again slowly, and think upon each phrase, each word, and think upon your own life experiences--each heartache, pain, or negative response that you have ever had and think upon Christ. I cannot speak for you, but for myself, there have been times when the suffering has completely isolated me from all else--an intense feeling of alone coupled with the pain--the feeling that nobody else in this moment could possibly know or understand my feelings, yet I have erred. It is exactly in those moments in times past that I have fallen upon my knees in prayer and received that succor through the Spirit. I do not understand how, but I know that Christ suffered the exact feelings that I have suffered. I am never alone and my pain is never unique. How many times have I been on my knees when the Spirit has whispered peace to my heart and mind, reminding me that my Savior understands perfectly having experienced what I am experiencing acutely. It amazes me that this includes all physical pain, mental anguish, emotional suffering, any negative feeling or response that is imaginable (and perhaps many of which are unimaginable). It is truly incredible! This includes not only the sufferings that we have brought upon ourselves, but the sufferings that have been placed upon us with no explanation as to why. The scope of the atonement is truly beyond comprehension. It covers the intense sufferings of cancer patients, the unknowable sufferings of mental patients, the most horrific accidents, but also covers the pain of a sliver or the feeling of sadness one feels when a friend is moving away. There is no emotion or feeling that Christ has not experienced through the atonement--he knows exactly how we feel. How grateful I am for this knowledge. What a comfort it provides knowing at any time I can find solace upon my knees as I petition the Lord for relief (or at least understanding--after all, sometimes the pain remains but the burden is lighter knowing that Christ understands perfectly).
And then there is sin. How often I have read the account of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane and the apostles who were so exhausted that they could not stay awake in support of the Savior. Alone, Christ faced the challenge--truly alone. How often have I thought, "one hour--could I stay awake but one more hour if I were there? An hour isn't much time in the grand scheme of things." But the rebuke comes to my mind, how many times throughout the course of my life have I not been faithful to the savior for but an hour? Couldn't I endure the temptation but for one hour? The atonement covers our sins as well. The most heinous of sins can be forgiven through the atonement (it is not a simple confession, and would require a truly mighty change of heart but it is possible) as can the seemingly simple sins of everyday life. How often have I failed in an hour by saying an unkind word or failing to act upon the promptings of the spirit, or neglecting the commandments? What happened in that hour? How grateful I am that Christ is merciful--to know that if I humble myself with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, I can be forgiven. I have felt extreme anguish on account of my sins, knowing that I have been the cause of another's suffering (i.e. Christ) and I have also felt the exquisite joy that comes through repentance and the feeling of being redeemed, forgiven, and made whole. I know that the atonement is real--I have experienced it on countless occasions in my life and I am ever indebted to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for offering up himself on my behalf. How thankful I am for such a knowledge and for having had such experiences.
Such topics are generally not the subject of my blogs but for some reason I feel compelled to write this tonight--perhaps for my own benefit.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Santa Rosa Island

I woke up Monday morning at 3 a.m. in order to shower and to have everything ready to go when Maria showed up at 3:30 so we could be on our way to pick up Jake by 4 a.m. and head out to Ventura to catch our morning boat to Santa Rosa Island. Thus began our three day adventure. The boat ride out to the island was great. It was extremely windy, creating some nice swells at times that would crash into the bow of the boat and create a huge splash. It was all fun and good to watch for most of the passengers until we hit a patch that was really crazy and the waves began to splash over the sides of the boat. People scrambled to get inside. . . I, on the other hand, stood outside and got soaked--it was awesome! The salt spray from the sea gave me a small connection to my viking ancestors. I was giddy, and Maria said that I looked and acted like a little kid. It was a great way to start the trip!
Upon arriving at the island, we had to load our gear and ourselves into little motorboat rafts to be taken to the shore (the pier on the island is under construction). We landed, got our gear, listened to some speeches from the rangers on the island and then hiked to our campsite. After all was set up we took a little nap (Jake hadn't slept the night before) and then we went exploring the beach. The water seemed warm (for pacific ocean standards) when we arrived but by the evening it was quite cold. Once it was getting dark, we decided to go for a long walk (so I called it--Jake and Maria claim it was a hike).
Upon our return we cooked up dinner and found a new friend--a spotted skunk. It was a beautifully awesome little creature who was looking for some scraps left by campers. It is obvious that it has scavenged from humans in the past as it was fearless. I first saw it as I sat on the ground with my backpacking stove. It walked within a couple of feet of me. It scared the crap out of Jake, which I found quite hilarious--he was sitting at the picnic table when the skunk snuck up on him and sniffed at Jake's feet. Jake jumped up quickly and ran from the table--it was awesome! Maria and I got a good laugh out of Jake's reaction. Later, as I was alone at the table (Jake and Maria having gone off to wash their dishes) the skunk returned, hoped up on the table, sniffing around as I was eating--it new well enough not to touch my food--just sniffing for scraps the others may have left. I reached out to the skunk to see how close I could get--yeah, it wasn't scared at all--I could have pet the thing had I wanted to, but I refrained (you never know what disease a wild animal may be carrying).
Next morning we were going to go kayaking, but the winds were so intense that it was not a good idea (I can't recall the last time the wind blew so constant and hard as it did on this trip). With kayaking out for the morning, we settled on hiking through Lobo Canyon. It was a long but fun hike (14.5 miles round trip). I think that it shattered both Jake and Maria's previous distance for hiking, but I think that they liked it overall. We all had casualties of sorts from the excursion--Maria was extremely sore afterward, Jake strained a tendon, and I ended up with blisters on my feet. Upon our return we rested before making dinner, visiting with Jake's new best friend that we aptly named Jake-lyn (the spotted skunk), and then went down to the beach for the night, telling stories, enjoying the solitude, and the good company.
The next morning we went hiking up through an area called Torrey Pines. We thought of kayaking again, but the winds never ceased, making the conditions too dangerous for inexperienced kayakers (the rangers had told us the day that we arrived that a number of kayakers have died, being swept out to sea by the strong winds and strong currents. They pointed out a bend in the island and said that once you are swept beyond that point, it is game over--the next land mass the current will take you to is Antarctica. Needless to say, since conditions did not improve while we were on the island, we opted not to use my kayaks. I'm a bit bummed about that one, but there will be plenty of other opportunities to kayak. After hiking Torrey Pines, we returned, packed up our belongings and headed back to the beach, which we enjoyed until the boat returned to pick us up. The boat ride back took us to Santa Cruz Island where we saw one of the world's largest sea caves. It was so big that the ship we were on actually sailed into the cave--it was extremely awesome. Apparently, there are kayaking tours that go through the cave--I would love the opportunity to do that in the future. Overall, it was a great trip--I would certainly do it again.
As for rating it with other camping trips that I have recently taken--it is tied with my camping trip to San Simeon/Big Sur as the best camping trip of the year. If you get a chance to go to either location--do it!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

A Potpourri of Reflection

So, I am supposed to be out kayaking with Cynda at the moment but I somehow managed to tweak my neck/back this morning and can't really move effectively without intense pain shooting through my spine, hence, I am writing a blog instead of enjoying the outdoors. My only wish is that I am better by Monday morning as I am going camping with a few friends out on Santa Rosa Island--hiking, exploring, snorkeling, and kayaking among other things. I'm going regardless and I am engaging in everything that I had planned in spite of any pain. . . it is a good thing that the dream Liz had recently of me dying in a horrific accident took place at a construction site and not on the ocean kayaking with me throwing my back out, unable to row and drifting helplessly out to sea, never to return again! :)
I was reading recently through my old journal entries and discovered that the times in my life that I felt the most healthy and happy was when I had a nice balance among the physical, intellectual, spiritual, and social aspects of my life. Needless to say, I have neglected aspects of each of these over the past few years and am now determined to regain a proficiency in each category in order to advance my personal well-being.

Despite this morning's anomaly with my neck/back, regarding my health I am feeling the best that I have in years (I dare say that I am actually in the best shape that I have been in since I had torn my achilles tendon and was in a cast for several months a couple of years ago--I finally feel comfortable running, even sprinting for the first time since the injury and have been running several miles consistently for the first time in years). Over the course of the past month I have managed to move from the sporadic exercising that I have been engaged in for the past few years to a consistent routine. Additionally, I have adopted a healthier diet and while results are always slow in coming, I've dropped about 5 pounds (about 10 pounds dropped since the beginning of the year) and while I am not really bulking up with muscle I am beginning to be more defined--Nice! I still have a long way to go to get rid of the little gut that I've got going, but I am confident with consistent exercise and diet I should be in great shape by next summer (I know that it is a long way off, but I'm looking at things realistically--lifestyle changes take longer to see results, but they are more effective in the long term than following diet or exercise fads that may reduce fat quickly but also has it return just as quickly--besides, I am more concerned with the health benefits--a healthy heart and body with which to engage in activities which I enjoy).
In addition to eating well and exercising at the gym, I would like to return to a more active lifestyle with friends--engaging in activities that may be social, fun, and exercise all combined together. For example, backpacking, hiking, biking, playing sports, kayaking (did I mention that I recently bought two kayaks for this purpose?), swimming, etc. Heck, I may even bite the bullet and take up dancing if anyone knows where a novice can take lessons (I've always said I would learn once I got married and my wife insisted that I learn). Needless to say, if anyone is game for engaging in such activities, please give me a call or fire off a text and we will get out and enjoy life!

I've never been a voracious reader though I do like to read (I guess that you could say that I read more than the average person but less than the average English teacher). I've been keeping abreast of the political landscape for the past several years, frequently reading articles posted at which provides multiple sources and perspectives on issues, so from the political perspective I feel that I am doing fine, but I have neglected pleasure reading, philosophical reading, and the likes as of late. As such, I really need to make a return to the great authors of the world. I've rediscovered Ibsen as of late, having recently attended a performance of Hedda Gabbler, watched a recorded performance of The Master Builder, and I am currently reading The Lady from the Sea, all of which are great works (there are some really interesting concepts presented in these plays that I would love to discuss with anyone who is interested but will refrain from blogging on them). But in addition to classic literature, I feel that I ought to broaden my horizons and step into some literature that I normally do not explore. I have just received an order from wherein I received a few books that people had mentioned in passing that I have thought to pick up: Anastasia had mentioned a book titled, The Road Less Travelled, Rachel had mentioned Remains of the Day, and a student some years ago mentioned Anthem so I now have a copy of each. Of course, I would like to add more, so if anybody has any recommendations for books of any kind, please leave a comment and I will be sure to order it and add it to my list of books to read.

I have a firm and abiding faith in Jesus Christ and his restored gospel, yet my spirituality tends to fluctuate from time to time. Sometimes I am really focused and have a good relationship with my Heavenly Father. Other times I am quite selfish, distant, and neglecting of things spiritual. Needless to say, I have been in a spiritual lull recently and need to break out of it. It all begins with my personal relationship with God--pondering, praying, and having a grateful heart. It then moves into the study of scripture. Next, focusing on exercising faith that produces action--actually living as a disciple of Christ had ought to live. These things build upon one another and strengthen one another. Ultimately temple service is the crowning achievement. I have a need of becoming truly worthy to attend the temple. I'm not talking about being able to answer temple recommend interview questions appropriately (though that is important), but speaking of one's own maturity and focus in relation to things spiritual. I've got to get back to that point before I visit the temple again.

I have great family and great friends--the best anyone could ever ask for, yet I neglect these relationships often times. Pardon me if I have seemed distant--I admittedly have been and for some time now. I'm not entirely sure as to why, but I have. . . my apologies. Part of me feels to take off on some solitary trip--perhaps if I starve myself socially I will be more engaged with people afterward. Conversely, perhaps I will be more solitary and distant afterward. . . hmm. . .