Sunday, June 29, 2008

It's a Lovely Day in the Neighborhood

A few words about friends:

(1) I am extremely loyal. Absurdly so, even when friends don't return my calls, alienate my other friends, treat me like a therapist, kick me in the ribs, etc.

(2) As I get older, it occurs to me that I should be spending less of my effort in Oaksian "hanging out" and more time focusing on one "special friend" than desiring a circle of people around me. (Do I find this the ideal because I have a large family of siblings that I enjoy?)

(3) I need to learn how to make friends, not just acquaintances. I give precedent to those "old friends" without ever keeping up with the people I met in last year's ward, for example.

(4) Breaking-up with friends is hard. You can't just break up--one side just peters away from the other side. Would a "state of the relationship" or DTR-type speech make it easier to just peel away a friend who is damaging and/or time-draining? How do you break up with someone that you don't enjoy spending time with besides just ignore them?

Not being a Jedi master of relationship relationships, this friend relationship thing seems pretty hard. Wish I had learned this in 3rd grade.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Why We Write.

My would suspect... taken in part from my inscape interview, but probably forward for my book.

There have always been poets. There is something about the human language that lends itself to bursts of short, tight, aesthetically-evocative works of literature. Sometimes these expressions take the form of songs, sometimes prayers, but in whatever form they take, since there has been language there have been poets. A wonderful thing happened and poetry became popular. Then a terrible thing happened and poetry became unpopular. And yet, I think that there are no fewer poets than before.

It’s a funny thing, using that word poet. Most of the people I know who write poetry, even those who have been long-published and professional, shy away from calling themselves a poet. There’s something of a sigma to it, like suddenly you’re this self-absorbed pseudo-intellectual lurching about like Meyerburg from Cold Comfort Farm. It’s easier to admit that you go to Star Trek conventions than let average people know you write poetry—because there’s a lot of bad poetry out there. It’s so “easy” to write poetry that everyone does it and so “difficult” to read that no one does that.

There is no incentive, in the modern world, to write poetry. You don’t get boys doing it (although I have heard boys claim they can pick up girls through poetry); you don’t make money with it; it doesn’t make you popular—even if you’re on top of your game there will probably be only a handful of people who care about what you’re writing and many of them will be interested only because, frankly, they wish they were at the top instead of you. I don’t know this because I’m at the top—I know this because I’ve felt this way about those up there.

So why do I do it? I like words and I like images and I like poetry. I like the neat little bundles that I can tie things all up in and those little bundles are so port able. I can carry a poem around in my head a lot easier than a personal essay or a novel. Sometimes those ideas end up back in essays or short stories, but usually they fit best in the highly concentrated form of a poem. In the end, that’s why I write poetry: it’s a surprisingly efficient way to figure out the world.

And that’s why I figure that despite the cultural currents against writing poetry, I think there are still a good clump of poets, yet. Poetry, like any art, is something that those who make it just instinctively do. It bugs me when I hear people ask famous poets how they write, where they write, what kind of pens they use when the write. It’s never struck me particularly that it’s about the writing instrument, but more of a way of thinking about things in those little packages. You have to read a lot. You have to think a lot. You have to write a lot. It’s just the way in which you encounter the world and you can’t change the way you think, not easily. There are always people who think about the world in tight, wordish ways and there always will be. There will always be

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Maddening Beauty

Rilke remarked about Rome, there is beauty here because there is beauty everywhere.

I wish I were still in Europe. How can that be? Why do I wish I was there? Provo is beautiful, the remarkable green on the mountains from the wet spring, sunny every day, windful and full of sweet scents on the air for those of us blessed with no allergies and a fondness for sandbar willow and globe fallow. Do I think that if I were in Europe, my grandma wouldn't have died? She was 96 years old, and after nearly a century, death is not unexpected. In fact, since my birthday 3 years ago, when she fell and broke her hip, we knew this was coming. She had told us who was and who certainly was not to play the organ at her funeral, divided up all the major peices of furature and the silver, commented on how she was just waiting to die. And still, when she died it was not beautiful. She was alternatively unconscious--they make these little doses of morphine now--or hysterical, throwing tandrums, raving that she wasn't ready to die. What more is there to wait for?

My mom has a theory. There's really nothing to be done, in the long run, for someone in labor. You give her medicine, you hold her hand, you try to make her comfortable, but in the end, it's an indeligatible chore. It's one of those few things that you just go through alone. Death is still scary, even for my grandma, having been on acquaintance with death for so long. That shakes me, because I've always thought that between my worldly admiration of Marcus Aurelius and the Stoics on one hand and my abiding faith in the literal Christian resurrection on the other I would be immune to fear of death. Now it seems, TV series finales notwithstanding. everyone's afraid.

My family's coming out. All of us haven't been together at one time since the informal family reunion of my return from the mission. I'm already thinking about games with my nephew, talking with my sisters. My brother and I rode our bikes to the movie theater, like we were 10 years old again. We had a big Costco cake and Sees chocolates--it's been my dad's birthday, too-- with my mom's siblings. I told them all about my trip to Europe and I've promised them a slide show when they've come back with their children's families for the funeral. The funeral will be Monday at 11:00, but we ought to plan on it taking all day.

We've been keeping the house clean for my mom. Small comfort, considering she's been orphaned and lost the person with whom she was spending, easily, three hours a day. But I remember once whining about chores after Grandpa died and she cracking, "My dad just died," when I asked why she was being so strict. We keep the house clean, even spot-cleaned the carpet, my brother mowed the front lawn, she arrainges everything with her siblings, and us Hedengren siblings watch multiple episodes of Law and Order, go shopping for appliances, eat leftover cake. My grandma's little sister, of course, has been notified.

And in this is there any beauty? It's no dramatic tragedy, nothing quintessential. I half wish it were, but it's the way life is, all planning and preparing and advice and unexpected expenses, just as for every vista and art-induced stupor I had to register at hostels, find the bus to the inconvinent Ryanair airport, buy coughdrops from a drugstore. I spent a lot more time looking at my feet on the sidewalk than gothic spires against a sky. That's just the way it is and just the way everything is.

I'm here and I'm glad to be here, long-bath lazy and moms-credit-card comforable. It's not beautiful, this day-to-day business of death and waiting for death, but it's no less beautiful than any other vista on life. That's another way of saying, it's just as beautiful. It's beautiful. I don't need these Roman skis and trees.

It doesn't hurt to see them, but I don't need it.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Grandfatherland

I´m in Stockholm. It´s corny, but yeah, this feels like home, kind of. The trees, the water, the buildings... We went to Hedengrens book shop and when I told the lady working there that my name was Hedengren, she made sure I had plenty of free bookmarks and bags. Nice people. But why have this attachment to Sweden when:

รค) my kinsfolk are actually Swedes from Vaasa Finland, not Stockholm at all and

b) I´m not entirely Swedish, but I have no deep drive to go to Denmark or Wales.

Huh. And yet this is very much like how, I suspect, Jews feel coming to Jerusalem. Everyone here looks like me. The historical recreationist apocraphary in the old town had my same blue-grey eyes, hair like my sister. Everyone goes around so nice and easy. It´s beautiful.