Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Promises To Keep

Yes, I do realize that it's been a while since I posted anything. I've been told that it's a cardinal rule to NEVER apologize for posting delays. I'm not entirely sure why that is, though. Perhaps it's to avoid the presumption that people really care whether you post or not!

Now, if you've been reading this blog out of some misguided sense of obligation, you're probably grateful for my lackluster commitment to blogging as of late.

But if you've actually been reading this blog because you actually want to hear from me, well, all I can say is, well, it's a Brand New Year! I make no resolutions or promises, but I haven't given up just yet.

Anyway, maybe we'll start with just a little bit of catch-up. The first half of December I spent in extremely cold and snowy Utah, and it was filled with all the regular pre-holiday fun gatherings and lunches and dinners and vicious card games and the occasional holiday-themed movie. (This year it was "A Christmas Carol" with Jim Carey, a great movie, and which for reasons I'm not entirely sure of, I got to see for free.) Oh, yeah, and we got some work done, as well.

I was about to categorize my work these days in about three main areas, but I'm finding that kind of difficult. Once I approach a dozen "main areas" then I suppose it can't rightly be called a category and it's just a hat I wear. But the main things that have taken up my time of late are the continued production of Polygamy: What Love Is This, as well as maintaining the streaming video website for that program and the other websites as well. I'm also embarking on a new video project, which has some raw material in the form of about 4 hours of compelling interviews with former Mormon missionaries (and who are now part of a Christian band known as "Adam's Road".) Those interviews, in their raw format, are viewable at

Another thing I've gotten to do more of lately is interact with seekers, both via phone and email. Some of them contact us through our church's website, and others through the Polygamy TV program. Since 2008, the church's overall web visibility had greatly diminished with the departure of the video ministry, so our active involvement in helping struggling seekers had all but disappeared. It was, in fact, one of the things I most mourned the loss of, so it's been gratifying to get opportunities to engage in that again. It's also very sobering, to be back in touch with some of the very deep hurts of people who are struggling with Mormonism.

The last half of December I spent in the Pacific Northwest, which was considerably warmer, and not much snow (not a bad thing in my book.) As is always the case when I'm home, there's never enough time to do all you want to do and see all those whom you want to see. A couple of days of unwinding before Christmas, and suddenly the holiday is upon us. And then right after Christmas, my parents and I headed for Netarts, an out-of-the-way little village on the Oregon Coast, where we spent a week overlooking an ocean that was alternately calm and stormy. On calm days we got out and took short hikes and walked on the beach; on stormy days we played dominoes and watched the Lord of the Rings trilogy and read by the fire. It was great.

I like to take drives along the windy roads through the rain forests that spread across the northern Oregon Coast. I keep passing by these dirt roads slinking off into the deep woods, and I have to resist the urge to stop and explore each one. (Most of them are private property!) But more than anything, I love walking the trails through those woods...dark, drippy, green winding paths through moss-covered hemlock and sitka spruce, carpets of green ferns, occasional spectacular ocean vistas of massive waves pounding on the rocky capes as far as the eye can see. That is my idea of heaven.

It always brings to mind a quatrain from an old Robert Frost poem, which I first encountered when one of my junior high English teachers, who had apparently been suckered into teaching English against his will, put it up on the classroom bulletin board just in time to make a good show for Parent's Night. If memory serves, I think he attributed it not to Frost but to some guy named Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Anyway, this English teacher wasn't the sharpest knife in the drawer. I of course had no idea of any of that at the time; to me it was just an intriguing bit of iambic pentameter that I never forgot, and that even at the tender age of 14, brought to mind my favorite hikes in Oregon:

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep
But I have promises to keep;
And miles to go before I sleep

And miles to go before I sleep.

Those lines still go through my mind as I soak in the views and smells and sensations of those forests. I find myself daydreaming about living in a cabin, stuck away at the end of one of those dirt roads that disappear into the lovely, dark and deep woods. (Preferably with an ocean view on the other end.) Then I find myself wondering, what would have to happen to make that dream a reality? Is there some way I could support myself enough to live in some quiet beach house tucked away in a shady glen? Some place I could read or write by a crackling fire, or sip a cup of Rwandan coffee while watching the breakers pound on the shore below? Is that dream feasible, short of winning the lottery? Is it worthwhile?

It's not a new dream. For as long as I can remember, my visits to Netarts are plagued with that ache of wishful thinking. A couple months ago I wrote about a concept called saudade, a Portuguese word meaning an undefined, unfulfilled longing. I become reacquainted with saudade with each visit to the Oregon Coast. I've done my fair share of traveling around the world and seen a lot of places I wouldn't mind living. But nothing has ever drawn me so constantly and repeatedly as this place.

For years, I think I was the only one who felt this way. Sadly, however, it's been "discovered" and now housing costs are reflecting that reality. Favorite old greasy spoons that served clam chowder and grilled cheeses sandwiches to customers sitting at a worn-out diner counter are now upscale restaurants aspiring to multiple Michelin stars. Empty, green hillsides overlooking lonely beaches have now become cluttered with million-dollar homes with huge picture windows.

But...there are still dungeness crab in the bay, and clams along the shoreline. The tide still scours the beach clean every 12 hours. The grey mist still gives Cape Lookout a mysterious, otherworldly apsect on a rainy day. There's still no place like it. My heart still skips a beat when we make that left turn onto Crab Avenue after the long drive from home, and behold Netarts Bay. And it still makes me sad every time I leave.

The ocean view may be lovely, the woods may be dark and deep. But for now, all I can do is pause briefly to enjoy what has to be God's favorite handiwork. Then I have to move on. I've got a job to do, promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.

Octopus Tree Trail, Cape Meares State Park.

1 comment:

  1. Not only the place but a favorite poem! You took me on a journey into heaven! That's what we all yearn for--the place of rest, creativity, enjoyment although in this world we know it's a brief respite from the hard work at hand. Loved the picture to go along with your incredible description.
    I'm so glad that the online discussions are picking up and that your ministry is ongoing. We are so fortunate to have you with us, Scott. Your gifts are indispensible!

    Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening
    Robert Frost

    Whose woods these are I think I know.
    His house is in the village though;
    He will not see me stopping here
    To watch his woods fill up with snow.

    My little horse must think it queer
    To stop without a farmhouse near
    Between the woods and frozen lake
    The darkest evening of the year.

    He gives his harness bells a shake
    To ask if there is some mistake.
    The only other sound's the sweep
    Of easy wind and downy flake.

    The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
    But I have promises to keep,
    And miles to go before I sleep,
    And miles to go before I sleep.