At the end of September I flew back out to BYU to attend a conference for LDS lawyers. The conference, while inspiring and worthwhile in its own right, really served as a plausible excuse to visit Utah, attend General Conference, and see lots of family. Coming on the heels of a Goodwin-side reunion over the summer, you'd think that another trip out west would produce diminishing returns.
And you'd be very wrong. The trip was an almost endless string of uncommon pleasures, not least of which was the fellowship of good people, both new and familiar.
I have found my people in the J. Reuben Clark Law Society, surely one of the brightest and most faithful groups of saints to be had anywhere in the church. I came away from the two-day conference actually inspired about being a lawyer--no mean feat--and proud to be associated with such kind and dedicated men and women. The highlight of the conference was an early morning hike to sing hymns and watch the sunrise up at Stewart Falls.
Provo Canyon in the fall was more beautiful than I'd remembered. I've been away too long.
The other great feature of the trip was the opportunity to see so many uncles, aunts and cousins, some of whom I hadn't seen in the better part of a decade. My trip had the good fortune to coincide with a visit from my Mom, giving occasion for a Jan family mini-reunion with all the Broughs and Hsus.
[Pictured below: Jennifer, Brittany, Brian, Me, Jessica, Mish, and Jacob]
Cementing the trip as a Very Good Thing, I managed to snag tickets to two sessions of General Conference. A year ago Mish and I tried to get into conference on stand-by, but ended up in a wing of the conference center reserved for trouble-makers. This year we cleaned up our act and watched conference from the balcony. As usual, Mish was good, stoic company.
Saturday evening I managed to get a hold of my Uncle Bob between business trips, giving us the chance to catch up against the backdrop of Priesthood Session. I hadn't seen my uncle in almost twelve years, so it was very good to hear how he, my Aunt Liz, and all my Goodwin cousins were doing. Uncle Bob is my Dad's only sibling, so it was very good to see him.
I was only in town for about three days, but what a wonderful trip. A guy could get used to this.
Last year K. got me an iPod for my birthday, and it's probably no coincidence that I started training for my first marathon a few weeks later. Running is a lonely, grueling business, and it helps to have something to distract you from the next four hills and how the fourth one makes you want to retch. I actually made a 4-hour playlist for the St. George Marathon, but I'm proud to say that I crossed the finish line well before "Chariots of Fire" and "Eye of the Tiger" were scheduled to give me that final inspirational boost. Since then, I've been compiling my own mental list of go-to running songs, the ones I turn to when the road calls for heroic measures. Here are the ones that I keep coming back to:
1. "Grounds for Divorce" by Elbow. If Elbow cut more tracks like this, they would probably have all our money by now. From verse one, word one, is there anything in this song that doesn't make you want to pound the pavement? From the bluesy call-and-response between singer and band to the heavy sway of the beat, each verse just builds and builds until, good gravy, here comes that hook (wait for it, you'll know when you get there) and that's it, we're knee deep, and you're stomping on the face of the world.
2. "No You Girls" by Franz Ferdinand. When you hear that opening guitar riff, take a deep breath and lunge forward. Never mind the nicotine aftertaste of the lyrics--keep a steady pace into the bridge. When the singer asks, "Do you never wonder," the correct response ("No. No No NO!") should be punctuated with escalating air drums into the chorus and--Wham!--what's that icy thrill shooting through your arms and chest? That's Scottish post-punk, getting it done.
3. "Flathead" by The Fratellis. Two-thirds through a 15-mile run, this jangly piece of froth kicked on just as I was cresting a hill. My legs got light and my head started floating and for the first time in my life I knew what a runner's high was supposed to feel like. Three minutes later the song was over and the next hill dropped me back into reality like a pair of lead Nikes, but there was no denying the feeling. Maybe it's just conditioning, but now whenever I hear this song my stride gets easy and the next thing you know, I'm smiling.
4. "The Crane Wife 3" by The Decemberists. It's funny what songs do or don't lend themselves to distance running. Take "Mirror in the Bathroom" by the English Beat. The bass line is fast and relentless, but therein lies the problem--the song sets an unsustainable pace that, when paired with a steep incline, is more likely to discourage than invigorate. Compare that to The Decemberists' most perfect song, which takes things steady and slow until, before you know it, you're soaring.
5. "Superstition" by Stevie Wonder. A true classic (which is to say, I am ashamed to think that there was ever a time when I didn't know this song). I could talk about how much I love the way Stevie Wonder lays one riff on top of another, from the drums all the way up to those awesome horns, but all you really need to know about "Superstition" is in Stevie Wonder's 1973 performance on Sesame Street:
See that kid at the top of the stairs at the 4:10 mark? That's me running to this song. You and me, kid. Rock on.
--"Experimental Film" by They Might Be Giants. Who knew TMBG could rock so hard?
--"O Valencia!" by the Decemberists. We know how this tragedy will play out, but the beat is all about that initial thrill of running away.
--"Call Me" by Blondie. Interesting counterpoint to "Mirror in the Bathroom," with a relentless beat just fast enough to make the hill seem worth the climb.
--"King of Spain" by Moxy Fruvous. OK, I just wanted to throw this one on the end. This is what having fun sounds like.
When I left for college, "home" was an hour from the Pacific ocean. Since then, each of the last four moves has been a move further east until, now, at last, I live about 90 minutes from the Atlantic. This place has been good to us, and it has been good for our kids to set down some roots, but I miss my family and miss the grand landscape of the West. As you may guess, then, last month's family reunion in Utah was many kinds of wonderful.
Big thanks go to Tiff and Kyle for allowing their condo to serve as the principal refugee camp. We got there in time for a little Father's Day grilling.
After performing our carnivorous duty, Mom and Dad's demands for a three-generation talent show were met with singing, dancing (tango and freestyle), piano, guitar, heavy lifting, and Bryce's attempt to get his eyes more than half open (he succeeded, but only just). Monday was for hanging out, lunch with old friends, and preening for family pictures. We were a fine looking bunch, but you will have to take my word for it until we receive digital copies. How about it, Science?
Tuesday we took an extended family trip through the Salt Lake Temple, which was beautiful and memorable. Many thanks to Koosh, Mish, and Bob for generously allowing themselves to be drafted into babysitting duty--we really appreciated you making the trip possible. We capped off the day with a visit to an old friend of my parents, who hooked us up with some backyard pony rides: I don't know what's going on here--I think Nora and cousin Erik are planning an elaborate mischief.
In the middle of the week we took visits to Welfare Square, the Humanitarian Center, Temple Square and the observation deck at the Church Office Building. It was great to see some of facilities out of which flow the global work of the Church. I came away understanding a little better the methods and scope of our efforts to do good in all the world.
The last few days of the week were spent largely outdoors, first on a hike up Big Cottonwood Canyon, and then on an overnight trip to Bryce Canyon. With an unusually snowy spring, Cottonwood was fresh and beautiful. Mish put pet turtle Teancum on a leash and let him get a big taste of freedom. From the look of this picture, Erik also enjoyed riding on Teancum's back: The water at Donut Falls was glacier-cold, but just about everyone dipped their toes in it. When we got back from the falls, there was just enough time to engage in a fun new family tradition--Iron Chef. The surprise ingredients were black beans, avocado, cornbread mix and tofu. With three teams competing, everyone stunned each other with their creativity. I couldn't stop snitching from the competition.
The drive down to Bryce Canyon was a little long for a day trip, but full of the awesome landscape I remember. Bryce itself was breathtaking.
Everyone agreed that the hike down into the canyon was well worth it: However, the kids were less enthusiastic about the 2-mile, 550 foot ascent out of the canyon. They are turning into real hikers, but I'm still going with the "Before" picture: That night the whole family joined us for foil dinners, baked apples, and s'mores. The next morning I managed to squeeze in a memorable sunrise run along the canyon rim, and returned to find the camp overrun by adorable two-headed monsters: We finished out the week visiting K's sister in west Orem, affording me the opportunity to look up our old home. It was still there, looking very much the same: Ian, Johnny and Aiden capitalized on their shared love of Pokemon.
One of the best parts about the trip was meeting three new nephews (Charlie and Alex from my side, Lucas from K's side. Here's K with the latter.
I should mention before wrapping up that all four of the kids behaved surprisingly well on both plane rides, helped immeasurably by Delta's personalized television screens. The trip back was tiring but mostly painless, and our arrival at home was met with gigantic vegetables. I cannot stress enough how wonderful it was to see everyone. Like our garden, it pleases me more and more to see how the little family our parents started continues to bear fruit.