Monday, May 4

An Autobiography in Five Things

For my Creative Writing class, we were instructed to write an autobiography of ourselves though five things. Some kind of conflict was to be included. Since I dedicated a great deal of time to writing about these things, I thought I'd share them with you. Lots of writing for you, easy blog post for me. Win-win. 

Journal – My Day-to-day Life

I have 33 of them, all numbered, all capturing the mostly day-to-day, mundane pieces of my life from the age of 13 to almost 24. I cringe when I read what I wrote even just a year ago from a well-worn #31, it’s binding taped repeatedly, it’s pages stained with hot chocolate or salsa and crumpled from traveling all over with me. Here’s a greasy stain from lunch on this page. Here’s where my daughter scribbled a trail of drawings over eight pages when she managed to get the cap off a pen. My writing sounds horrendous to me. I try too hard or not hard enough. I like the way my handwriting looks except I hate the way it trails off like a crooked path as I am falling asleep. I am often complimented on the overall neatness of my penmanship. With ten plus years of daily practice, my handwriting better be flawless. I never write “dear diary” at the risk of sounding too corny. Sometimes when I read back what I wrote I feel like I’m reading the words of someone else. Is this really an accurate representation of my life? I wonder.

Temples – My Present

They’re everywhere in Utah. Honestly, they’re my favorite part about it. Especially seeing a handful scattered in the valley at night, like glowing white crystals. Our closest one back home is two hours away—in Boston. Here, you can be there in two minutes. I don’t have many favorites about Utah. It’s actually harder for me to say that as it’s spring now and the prettiest time to be in Utah. But even that prettiness is false to me. Almost all of the trees here are planted. The blossomed trees are beautiful by requirement. They didn’t occur naturally like my New England forests. They had to be watered and cared for. They aren’t resilient like ours. At least the mountains are green for now. They look like mossy slabs of rock to me. They are sharp, jagged cutouts in the sky, not soft, protective, comforting like the blue-green of my mountains. Most of the year, it is dreary here for me. The brown of the landscape bores me. The mountains alone do not impress me. The first time I saw the valley at night, the endless lights awed me. The sky looked bigger, but the longer I’ve stayed here, the smaller it makes me feel. The stars that gleam through breaks in the dark treetops at home are just as brilliant and I feel more significant there. Every moment in the quiet woods is my own. Here, I am forced to share those moments with all the people of the valley. I long for my shady, wet, green home. I sound like an amphibian and maybe I am one. No, I’m more like a turtle. Able to go on land as I please, but preferring to be in the water. But not in those brown, dusty, treeless lakes like they have here. I’m talking clear blue water, wooded islands, all surrounded by a fringe of greenery. Sure, the House of the Lord is a bit of a drive. But the Church is true there, too. And I think the scenery is infinitely better.

Paints – My Gift

I was born with an automatic connection to art. It wasn’t something I asked for or even something I initially wanted. In fifth grade I was embarrassed when my class rated me as “most artistic.” “Who cares about being an artist?” I said aloud. It’s more of a hobby than a profession. It’s just a talent that I randomly ended up with. “Olivia gets artistic abilities because—no reason.” Maybe there is a reason I got it, but right now it’s purely for my own pleasure. In high school, it was flattering. At least I got a superlative. And it’s better than “goofiest laugh” or “most changed since middle school” or “tallest” (though I did get voted shortest girl in middle school—fortunately I slightly surpassed someone by high school). Brushing color on a canvas serves as an outlet for me. It’s my reward for accomplishing everything else. I think about how much I’d like to work on a project when the kids are finally both asleep, but there’s always more important things to do when I finally have a moment to myself. Sometimes I give in anyway, and stay up far too late finishing a landscape I’ve wanted to work on for weeks. I used to sit outside on a grassy hill overlooking the ocean and sketch the landscape then fill it in with watercolors and a brush that felt delicate in my fingers. I miss that. Then I walk into the kitchen, pull my elbow-length rubber gloves on, and begin washing the dishes. Because clean dishes are more important.

The Ocean – My Thing

I have always felt an unusual possessiveness toward it, and specifically the Atlantic. It is mine. I tried to narrow down this feeling to a specific piece of it—a smooth rock or piece of sea glass. But those don’t sufficiently sum it up for me. It’s the whole thing that I love. I know I do not own it, but I try to. It’s a part of me—of my childhood. Back then I used to pretend I was a mermaid and play in the tide pools and imagine entire stories about my mermaid life. My brothers and I would dig in the soft gray sand and wade in the water competing to find the first sand dollar of the day. Some summers we would find starfish, of all the colors found in a sunset. Purples, pinks, oranges. My hair looks better there. The salty air and water leave it feeling more gritty and wild and I love that. The humidity leaves my skin dewy and beautiful. I much prefer the feeling to being dried out like a fish skeleton, left out in the sun to turn into a crisp. Foxes peek out of the bushes all over the place like spies, which, upon being seen, dart back into the safety of the woods. There are rabbits and deer, too. It’s kind of magical to catch glimpses of these woodland creatures with the swooshing sound of the waves in the background. I even love the rocks there. They are all shades of black, blue, gray—even green. And they are smooth. Each one is a heavy egg in my hand. My family has a private beach in Kittery, Maine. It’s not ours but not many people know about it and I suspect we have seen every inch of it. On the property, there are old forts from some war all over the place that kids climb on and stick their gum on and probably drink in after hours. One summer, my family super-glued pennies with our birth years on them to the fort in a secret spot. We also glued some to an outcropping of rocks that always peeks out of the waves, even at high tide. We watched the pennies fall off one by one over the months and wondered if the order was some sign of who would die first.

Fishing pole – My Past

My Grandpa French took all of us. Every grandchild went a dozen times at least. Most of us went much more than that. There were countless casts thrown, bobbers broken, branches caught, lines snapped, lures re-tied. I think most of us preferred using bait. It’s easier to master, and gives a person some quiet time to look at the water and reflect. We went most often to the lake or on a lily-laden pond, sometimes in his silver rowboat. He taught us to fly fish, but not all of us (me) got the hang of it so easily. I think I feared too greatly the stories told of Aunt Carolyn or Dianne getting hooked by one of the other sisters in the ear or eyebrow. Which was it? Either way, I was so scared of that happening to me that my fly fishing efforts were only half-hearted. Fly tying though was another story. Every time we caught a fish, grandpa was quick to pull out his camera and take a photo of us holding our catch by the jaw, its prickly teeth making tiny imprints in our fingers. Unless it was too big or too small, it came home with us. We are avid fish eaters in my family. We fight over who gets to eat the crispy tail. One time I caught one of those chains that people hook their fish to and leave anchored on the edge of shore so their fish stay fresh. When I hooked it, I thought I must have caught a shark it fought so hard (we were at a pond). It turned out I had caught six beautiful river trout. In one go. I was so proud (though let’s be honest, luck had played a bigger role than skill). Almost every favorite memory of my childhood happened at a pond, river, lake, or ocean. Since moving to Utah, I can count the number of times I’ve been on one hand. I can’t blame Utah for that, but it’s just not the same here. It’s so very, very different. I wish my grandpa were still alive. Maybe he could have visited us here and taken my kids and me. If only I could go back to my childhood and take them with me.

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