January, 1995. “Today, I went for a walk. I was searching for something and I needed to release the tension that comes whenever I think about the abuse. I found what I was looking for in a scrubby, dense Palo Verde. Two saguaros, each a foot high, grew in its shade. It was a nurse tree.

In the desert, the shade provided by nurse trees gives moisture to germinating seeds. Desert soil is thin, rocky and sparse in nutrients. The debris from the trees and other plants which grow underneath their limbs enrich the soil. Those few, square feet of shade become a sanctuary, an entire microenvironment of plants and animals.

One of the saguaros was near the trunk of the palo verde. Years of slow growth from now it will push through an embrace of spiny branches to tower over the tree the way an adolescent boy, on his way to becoming a man, does his mother. At that time, the intimate arrangement of tree and cactus may seem haphazard unless the observer understands their history. It is the safety provided by the Palo Verde that enables the saguaro to grow.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Where are the Answers?

October 12, 2010

If you follow my blogs, you might conclude I have problems with consistency but let me assure you there is nothing wrong with my intentions—which is why I’d love see an entire catalog of pithy and entertaining writing on this blogsite. It’s not there, of course, and writing-wise, I don’t have a lot to show for the last 10 months except a couple of articles about a friend, Grant Greenhalgh, who is 93 and was a business partner of Spencer W. Kimball in the Gila Valley.

I’ve been in the creative doldrums. This means avoidance, horror, frozen fingers hovering over the keyboard. It means brain-body disconnect. The thoughts stop at my wrists. But I finally understand something that happened to one of my sons in the seventh grade. I was at work when his art teacher called. “Your son told me he can’t do today’s assignment because his hand is paralyzed,” she said.

“What?” You never tell a doctor, particularly a gynecologist whose knowledge is about things below the belt, that her son’s hand is paralyzed. It starts an entire cascade of catastrophies: ruptured aneurysms; esoteric kinds of epilepsy; scorpion stings . . .

I was racing through possibilities when she said “Here, you better talk to him.”

“Mom, my hand won’t move.” His voice was strong and clear. No mumbling or stuttering.
This was the salesman son, the one who could get a telephone pole to spring for fundraiser chocolate bars for the peewee soccer team. Was this a salespitch? His mouth moved. He articulated speech. He was oriented to time, place and person.

“Which hand?”

“The right one. Uhmmm.” He grunted. “I’m trying to make it move,” he said and it was the faintest uptick of hopefulness in his voice that gave him away.

“You have to do your assignment.”

The teacher returned to the line. “I’ve never seen this one before,” she said and couldn’t hold back. “I’m sorry.” She was laughing.

But enough about consistency, intentions and writer’s block: it’s an incurable disease that occasionally goes into remission. The fact is I am intimidated by the blank page and its requirement for honesty and impeccable truth. Once in print my ideas are no longer only mine.

Which brings me to the real issue of today’s blog which is my own timid entry into a new arena of debate and comment.

I want truth. I want big chunks of truth that are not distorted by prevailing winds of commentary and media bias. Where is it?

I ask for feedback. Am I wrong in my perception that there is new sprung viciousness and deceit in many of our news sources which apparently care little for the honesty I fuss so much about? Am I right to be appalled by the legislative thuggery of our government? By an arrogant assault on my intelligence and concern about my country?

I want honest answers about the critical mass of poverty without having to get degrees in Economics and Sociology. I worry about those people who can’t read or don’t read, who make emotional decisions before they make informed decisions because they don’t know how to become or care to be informed.

Regarding recent legislation, does the hope of an end result really justify the means to get there? Isn’t this a dangerous philosophical position because it ruthlessly jeopardizes tradition, principle, dignity and values?

I realize I am being vague and abstract. It is because I don’t want to make a mistake, to transmit bad information or err in my reportage. And, perhaps I have been overly influenced by a book I am reading, The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil, by Philip Zimbardo. Even so, I highly recommend it, and suggest, should you decide to read this book about our vulnerabilities to situation and peer influence, that you also read verse 4 of section 89 of the Doctrine and Covenants, which is a prophetic utterance about our time. In consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days . . .


  1. This from "the salesman" son,

    I don't think anyone bought it that my hand wouldn't work. Sometimes, you're right, the blank page presents an insurmountable task worthy of Everest explorers. I face the same sort of doldrums as I write about Rachel, but I found a release... It was to bypass my paralyzed hand(s) all together and use the microphone on my headset to tell the stories I would tell Rachel and Jimmy in the basement the week before she passed away.

    I've retold the stories of dragons, butterflies, apple trees, magic wands and fun summer days. But I'm not trying to hijack your post.

  2. Thanks anonymous son who has discovered bypass surgery for writer's block. I'm glad you are recording those stories. They are treasures. Love you, Mom

  3. My two cents regarding truth and the world we live in - I agree. Our job is to try to discern truth through all the muck, or something as close to truth as we can get. I prize freedom over everything else because I believe God prizes freedom for us over everything else (you know, that sticky free agency business). So anything that limits freedom makes me suspicious. Much of what passes for "help" these days actually enslaves people. And no, then ends do not justify the means. They never have.

    I can't speak to writer's block. I seem to have it all the time. Someone said (and I forgot who), "I only write when I'm inspired. And I am inspired every morning at 8:00 am." I don't know. It's all difficult.

  4. Rene, It was a pleasure to see you again, and listen to your intriguing scene at Daytimers.
    Truth - it seems that it should be cut and dried, black and white. But after a few years of living on earth I've found there is only one source of truth, Our Father in Heaven. Too many decide to interpret that truth for their own purpose, and then twist it into unrecognizable junk or worse yet harmfully toxic propaganda.
    Regarding Block - I tried to use a voice recognition program - so that I wouldn't have to do as much typing. Hah! It may work for some, but for me I find I think better when my fingers are pounding it out on the keys - even if I have to cut, paste, delete and rewrite.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts,
    Margaret Turley

  5. Martha, I love what you said about prizing freedom because God prizes freedom for us - it is a necessary platform for agency. THanks for your thoughts.

  6. Frankly, regarding word recognition programs, I've never really liked thinking out loud.

  7. Rene,
    I love your writing! Miss having you at our meetings down here.

    Writers block is very frustrating, isn't it. I've noticed that when I FORCE myself to write (I usually promise myself rewards for doing this--like a bowl of ice cream or to read the next chapter of that book I'm loving) that after 20-40 minutes of writing a bunch of nothing that is going to get trashed, something eventually starts to come out of that nothing. I think it's worked everytime. It's the sitting down and working through the sludge that's hard (especially as busy women, we consider our time much better spent doing other, more "productive" things.)

    Can't wait to read more from you.

  8. As one suffering writer's block right now--I say, "Thanks." I actually sat down to write and did what a blocked writer always does--read your post! Somehow knowing someone else understands the paralyzing fear of the white page helps.

  9. I loved this post, Rene! I am so grateful for the knowledge we have of what truth is. There is less and less of it in the outside world these days...I agree with you.

    hope you are doing well,
    kari pike