Post date: March 19, 2020
*Stretches and yawns, folds up long-winter-napping blanket, sweeps a little dust off the shelves of this old storage shed with a heavy wire brush, and checks the rickety floorboards, walls, and ceiling for leaks and critter holes. It smells a little stale, but she’s relieved that nothing’s rotting. Looks through the old stuff, lingering on memories and meaning they sometimes hold. Discards the stuff she doesn’t need anymore, the stuff she’s outgrown, the stuff she doesn’t know why she put it here in the first place. She thinks she lost a few things that would have been nice to keep in the multiple moves from location to location, home to home, but it’s all right. It’s old stuff. The most important stuff is still here, the stuff that shows what she’s accomplished, and the stuff that makes other people feel recognized, remembered, loved. “I want to love this space again,” she says. “I want it to be more than a storage shed, full of knickknacks and potential collecting dust because there just isn’t enough room for it to breathe. This space…it just needs new life.”*
Oi, it’s been a while since I’ve blogged, since I’ve touched my author website. I was away in England last year, working on a Master of Science degree in Palaeoanthropology and Palaeolithic Archaeology at the University College London. It was an incredible experience, living overseas, and I wouldn’t trade my time and opportunity working on my Master’s for the world. All those years of writing fiction paid incredible dividends in a program where I was graded almost entirely on academic essays and a dissertation. Discovering how much I had developed in my writing capacity to meet the challenges of my course blew me away.
To anyone who has been waiting a long time for something important that they’ve hoped would happen in their lives, I hear you that the wait is painful, and sometimes the journey goes off in strange directions you never expected. Sometimes it isn’t straightforward figuring how to progress, and you find yourself a little lost where things are out of your control. But, as a girl who practiced writing fiction while she waited, attempting six rounds of graduate school applications in an eight-year stretch, and then managed to secure a distinction mark on her degree, I can attest to you that sometimes there are amazing reasons why we have to wait for things. Sometimes waiting, and growing in other ways, means we can have opportunity for the very best things and the best results in the end. I’m very grateful right now for God’s timetable for my life.
Watching The World Slow Down
It is still my dream as ever it was before to get my PhD someday, and to engage in a scientific career doing research and teaching. At the moment, I am teaching an archaeology course as an adjunct professor at a local university. It has been a great learning experience for me, and I love being able to do exactly what I’ve always wanted to do. With the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve also had the creative opportunity to prepare and adapt my teaching for remote learning the rest of the semester. I’ve enjoyed the challenge, and hope my students feel well cared for under the unique circumstances.
I’ve also enjoyed watching memes pop up all over social media, breaking the tension by finding humor in the chaos of “panic-shopping,” “the world shutting down,” and diverse and repeated emphasis on hygiene etiquette and social distancing. On social media, I joked that “I’d better go see all the shows on campuses before everything is cancelled.” (To which, a few hours after I bought tickets to local shows last Thursday and Friday–Little Shop of Horrors at BYU, and 1984 scheduled to be performed by the Aquilla Theater at UVU’s Noorda Center for the Arts–everything then got cancelled). I also joked that I was “digging a trench, putting on my pith helmet, stealth uniform, and filter mask, and pulling out my Cornoa Virus Battle Axe to protect the family stash of toilet paper. Am I a terrible person for thinking this all feels a bit adventurous? We all have different coping mechanisms, I guess. #CreativitySoothsConflict #ItWasADarkAndStormyNight #YouCanStillTellStoriesWhileSocialDistancing #StayHealthyAndSafe #LoveYouGuys.” (I enjoyed sharing this sentiment enough that I considered it blog-worthy, to record and share again).
The earthquake that hit Utah yesterday pushed the limits on my “sense of adventure.” I literally slept through it, and was woken up by my dad a few hours later telling me to help move 72-hour kit supplies we keep in a designated closet into the car. Then we backed the car out of the garage and parked it on the street for a couple of hours, so it wouldn’t get stuck behind a pinned garage door if the foundations of our house happened to crack in an aftershock. I did live in a tent in the wilderness of Kenya for six weeks for field school once upon a time, so I know I would be fine camping for a while under the most extreme circumstances if needed…but it would be nice not have to abandon the house. As far as I know, we didn’t feel anything else down in Utah County the rest of the day (and our house is just fine, which I’m very glad for).
At the same time, I’ve resonated with some of the peculiar heartbreak I’ve seen others express over mass cancelations regarding things I’d been looking forward to for many months. I feel particular empathy where others may have been carefully preparing for a long time to perform, teach, serve, complete an important turning point that required key timing, or share talents in other ways that took many months of dedicated work. But I also know well from personal experience that where God makes us wait, the disappointment of stagnation and underused potential will be swallowed up in the Savior’s Atoning sacrifice for our sorrows as well as our sins, and there are blessings for our valiance and sacrifice that always come with it.
While the thinning of crowds at restaurants and movie theaters (many of which have now closed their doors in caution, starting this week) really does delight my inner introvert. All sympathetic nerd-culture memes aside, I can also appreciate the eeriness of widespread closures regarding major social attractions like Disneyland; conferences and conventions of various sorts; educational, family, and tourist spots like museums; reduced shop hours, and limits set on the number of people invited to stay or gather at various facilities. It’s a little strange not being able to visit the temples of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or gather with my church congregation on Sundays. Nevertheless, I feel calm.
I marvel at the initiative so many are taking to utilize the capacities of our modern social media technology in the absolute best light right now. Though I’ve witnessed expressions of angst and consternation as well, there is light streaming in its strength (quite literally) as people seek more to counsel and comfort each other in wisdom and patience, to boost connection by teaching, enriching, learning, and spreading delight to wide audiences from remote epicenters. That sense of being on a strange, daring, and marvelous adventure persists more than anything else for me. I’m especially grateful that so many are taking precautions to slow the spread of the virus and keep public health manageable.
I spent this past Sunday discussing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with my family, which included my parents, uncle, sister, and brother-in-law in the comfortable confines of our family home. It was lovely to have a space where we shared our testimonies with each other on this personal level. I’m grateful that I haven’t experienced any loss of loved ones or friends under the circumstances, and that our house still stands physically firm after the quakes yesterday. But my heart mourns and prays for those who are ill, and for those who have lost people or seen damage to their property during this time of keen awareness of others around the world. I have also seen social media posts from many who are anxious about lost wages, and lost or delayed opportunities of various kinds resulting from the mass closures. I wish there was more I could do to help with those things. But I pray for those friends who are feeling the weight, fear, and frustration regarding uncertainty about the future at this time as well. I hope we’re all able to find the peace that we need.
One of my favorite scriptures comes from the Doctrine and Covenants section 58. Many years ago when I was feeling uncertain about my future, it seemed as though significant time began to pass me by without bearing the fruit of various progress, growth, and fulfillment I had hoped for. I asked my cousin to give me a priesthood blessing. Through that blessing I was reminded that the Lord many times does not give us answers about what to do next because there are many paths of our own choosing that we can take that are worthwhile. I was directed to ponder the words of this particular scripture, in conjunction with other counsel and blessings pronounced upon me with priesthood authority. Verses 3-4 read: “Ye cannot behold with your natural eyes, for the present time, the design of your God concerning those things which shall come hereafter, and the glory which shall follow after much tribulation. For after much tribulation come the blessings. Wherefore the day cometh that ye shall be crowned with much glory; the hour is not yet, but is nigh at hand.”
On the bright side, I think it’s beautiful in many ways how the pandemic has pushed the world to step back, slow down, strengthen in-person bonds with a few; to disconnect from the formerly fast-paced bustle of life and tend to families and children more personally; and to discover how to draw close to others, share talents, share comfort, and spread light in creative ways through social distancing. What a peculiar, sacred, and marvelous time this is.
Breaking My Hiatus from Blogging
Returning to the mundane story of this blog’s history and latest incarnation, my Slithers of Thought blog is seven years old this year, (2013 being the year of the oldest posts I’ve kept). I’ve beat this drum many times in past posts (and I may or may not have pruned out most of them in this most recent blog incarnation), but I’ve struggled with figuring out what I want to do—really want to do—with blogging on my author platform for the many years I’ve been online. I wanted to reboot, to start fresh, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to completely dispense of everything I’d posted in the past.
I pulled my blog entirely for about a year while I was in the UK, keeping the files stored on my computer after I moved from WordPress.org on Bluehost to a low-budget home at WordPress.com. I felt like there was a lot of clutter: a lot of “three day sales,” some thought-posts I wasn’t so fond of, and a lot of foreground static about “goals,” “announcements,” and “updates” in an effort to portray diligence at my craft.
To be frank, I think mere updates about my writing progress are boring. I would much rather share actual things I’ve been working on than say that I’ve managed to write another thousand words today, and I’ve been rejected by two magazines this week, accepted by one more, etc. It is the least-interesting content to post on a space where my guests enter, willing to slow down, to explore my house, to look for longer thoughts and discussions to read; to figure out who I am, what I do, what I care about, and what I create. My compromise has been some serious pruning with fresh eyes after a year, condensing my original content from years past (somewhere around 300+ posts) down to around 120 original posts that I find have aged well and are most worthwhile for people to visit again.
My Blogging Philosophy
I like the story reviews I’ve done in the past, along with write-ups about visiting others at their author signings, and the like. These reviews are still valuable to other authors, other people. I’ve kept as many of those posts from past years as I could manage on this blog. I think featuring other authors’ work forges connections of mutual support and respect, while inviting you lovely people who visit to discover new stories. This is content that I hope to continue to include when I can, though it will probably remain occasional for now.
What I really enjoy most is the prospect of creating things to share with you who come to read. I also enjoy sharing my religious perspectives and experiences in ways that are appropriate for a public space. I feel a lot of God’s love in everything that I do, from science, to writing, to general everyday experiences and human interactions. While some things are too personal to share on a blog, I think many of my experiences and perspectives as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints would provide valuable content, and it would be a good exercise of my writing skills. I also find nothing at odds between this and my horror author persona.
I intend to write another blog post discussing this, in update to something I wrote in 2013 about the subject. There is great wisdom in understanding and navigating media choices, and this I full-heartedly promote. We should all seek and find worthwhile media which is best for our souls, with keen awareness of the physiological-emotional-psychological experiences these can induce. We should be strict with ourselves on what we consume, and aware of the ways in which the things we take into our minds impact our mood, our thoughts, our spirituality, and ultimately, our ability to be emotionally available and have healthy regard for others.
I have grown fond of addressing horror in my flavor of writing. This includes things that I find complex, sad, frightening, disturbing, or even visceral to an extent. I find that writing about some of these things helps me understand human nature better, helps me figure out how to discuss what I would otherwise find difficult to discuss. And it allows me to show others that I can be real with them and a strength to them about the darkness in our world, in a space where I have complete control. I also see a lovely potential there to resonate with people’s humanity on a deep level, and to throw the hope of good triumphing over evil, despite harrowing circumstances or consequences, into greater contrast in many ways.
Blogs certainly evolve as the keeper develops their voice, and their brand, and all that. Many people start blogs, and abandon them. While it sounds sad, I think that’s healthy. Our interests change over time. Our skills grow. It’s nice to shed old content, themes, or ideas that no longer suit us in favor of a blank page filled with new potential. I’ve had multiple blogs before Slithers of Thought. I have some free, hidden ones where I try out different features, and different kinds of concepts about blogging (such as, what would it be like to blog a book or a serial?) Blogs are fun. Creating one fresh, and approching well-worn turf in a fresh way, is freeing.
I have seen others mention lately how they would love to blog, and read more blogs, during these interesting times. It’s rewarding to practice my creative writing muscles in new ways, and it’s extremely rewarding in particular sharing story content with you. I’ll try making this blog into a little bit more of a free-writing space. Boring announcements may still happen from time to time, but I’ll try keeping those to a relevant minimum.
Go Forth and Blog, Create, Connect, Record
You might consider starting a blog yourself, or engage in other social-distancing opportunities to share your light and love for the potential greatness of humanity in your own cozy, unhurried space on the web. Or find other non-virtual ways to share your voice and your light for your family and friends to see. Or, find a personal space to journal, for yourself and your posterity, to cope and process the challenges of these times.
We are prolifically symbolic beings. We possess marvelously dexterous mechanisms for multi-generational retention, communication, and adaptation of knowledge in the service of problem-solving, remembrance, inner growth, and storytelling. These mechanisms delight, strengthen, connect, coordinate, and enlighten us across oceans, eons, and circumstances. They link us to one another beyond the confines of biology and natural barriers alone.
These are defining qualities of our human natures, which are at least as old in an Earthly sense as our species has walked the world. These are also defining qualities of our eternal human natures, from our pre-mortal sphere, that make us children of a loving, powerful, and all-seeing God. A God who knows and numbers every elemental atom and living form, from the crust to the core, across a multitude of worlds and systems beyond our current comprehension. A God who, in the midst of all these things, sees every tear that slips down our cheeks during our mortal sojourn. A God who reminds us through loving calls, by a Still Small Voice more assuring and persistent than any chaos will ever last, that His love for us and the welfare of our souls is boundless and eternal, and everything is still in His hands.
Don’t be afraid to be a little messy sometimes in your creative expressions and record-keeping. To express creatively is human, and not confined to the “professional” realm of comparison. Learning is a life-long process in all things, and you can always adapt what you share, or how you share your voice.
*Slides heavy box out from under a workbench and heaves it onto the counter. What in the world did I put in here, rocks? Oh no, its just Grandma Gretchen’s old bones… And by old bones, I mean the fossil Calicothere collection she stole from Al Capone, who stole it from the Fargone University’s museum paleo expedition to the American Southwest in the 1920s because the bones were premineralized with gold. She never did give these back to the museum…and I’ve heard stories they’re cursed…”*