We just came through a town in eastern Washington that I honestly believe was named Beaver Pocket. As in, the pockets of a beaver. Which would probably contain berries or twigs or something (yes, I’m avoiding the obvious possible sexual innuendo, because I know how degenerate most of you are and you can fill in the blanks yourselves, you filthy perverts). After waiting twenty minutes in a line of seven-year-olds to get into the one unisex restroom in Beaver Pocket’s sole gas station, we’re heading back out on the road to Bellingham.
Back to The Road, which, as you may imagine, pleases me to no small extent. Flying at a whopping 70 MPH (Dad’s driving) past abandoned barns and power lines that are connected to nothing and little snow banks and massive, cropless fields waiting for the spring is reinvigorating. Actually, “reinvigorating” is inaccurate: this is invigorating. This is primal. Odd as it is, and as naturally as I take to densely urban environments, I love this land. There’s something visceral about it.
After about three hours, the landscape looks simultaneously self-replicating in its sameness and infinitely variable. Each patch of naked, leafless trees is so similar-looking to the last one that you start to notice subtle differences: odd numbers of branches, leaning to one side or the other, pointing to your destination like a roadsign from God.
I think the most interesting thing about a trip like this are the different churches you pass. There’s a First Presbyterian church by my brother’s apartment in Spokane that looks like it could’ve been copied from a 17th century German chapel. This thing was almost medieval; it had spires that looked like you could practically imagine Schubert composing from (or Gandalf and Sauron dueling, depending on your primary nerderies).
I’m always taken aback that someone decided to build that building, to fund it and design it and create it, in the sole name of worship. Some people say that faith isn’t worth anything, but they’re not using the word right. This comes down to my neophyte dabbling in post-structuralism and the importance of semantics (as opposed to Symantec, my employer, who in no way approves of or endorses these ramblings), especially when discussing something like faith. When someone says that they “know” this or that, they don’t. They do not have knowledge of it. What they have is knowledge of their faith in it. Some people (especially that obnoxious woman in my critical theory class who thinks that everyone hates Jesus when really we just hate her) think that refusing to equate belief with knowledge is some kind of nihilism—or worse, solipsism—that will surely bring about the downfall of the foundations of our Christian nation.
But you know what I’m really thankful for? The fact that we don’t live in a Christian nation. Or a Muslim nation, or an agnostic nation, or a Jewish nation (although I’ll make it to Israel one day out of sheer force of will). Several of the founding fathers were atheists or agnostics (but please don’t confuse those two; more on that later, I’m sure), and Thomas Jefferson wrote his own Bible. And contemporary American Christians, especially the ones that fall under the fundamentalist/evangelical umbrella (ella ella), are so vastly different in theology than the hard Calvinist Puritans that “first” got here.
So you know what’s a great way to start a list of things for which one is thankful? With a little bit of national pride.
My immediate family and I (yes, I include myself in this) are the only Mormons that will be in attendance at the Bellingham gathering. No one else that will be there is particularly religious, and several of them out-and-out reject faith. I don’t blame them; any of you that know much about me are surely aware of my constant battles with myself regarding faith (I generally struggle keeping them to myself…sorry about that). This will surely be an incredibly contentious weekend; several members of my extended family are Crusaders of Righteous Liberal Indignation, while others would break into a Costco three days early to get the new Anne Coulter book. My immediate family generally finds ourselves in the middle of these things, and so we’re going to relegated to tension-deflaters and bridge-rebuilders.
And what I love is that I’m able to put something like this out into the ether of cyberspace and more or less sign my name to it and not have to live in fear that men in black hoods will come and get me in the night (also, being white makes me a lot less suspicious to the government, but that’s a different set of lists). I live in a country wherein I am able to believe what I want.
And now: a formal, completely unordered list of things for which I have become grateful (or more grateful) during this calendar year.
Jeans that fit.
Sam's visit and overwhelming support.
7 AM Bon Jovi hair.
Nic and Katie.
The pursuit thereof.
How I Met Your Mother.
Buying Corb Lund a beer.
The reassurance that that I’m a terrific judge of character.
Dodging massive bullets.
Gingerbread men designed to look at least partially like me.
The makers of gingerbread men designed to look at least partially like me.
The Twilight Singers’ Powder Burns, Blackberry Belle, and Twilite as Played by the Twilight Singers.
The good people at City Church for being so kind and supportive to me during some dark times.
Sweet potato cannelloni.
Tentative road trips.
Morphine (the band, not the drug)
Morphine (hell, who am I kidding, the drug’s pretty awesome)
Rachel Getting Married.
Shit, I know a lot of Katie/Caities.
A really good That’s What She Said.
Being able to do a really solid Kermit impression.
Getting called “babe” at 3 AM.
Seeing John Doe and Robert Earl Keen with a growler of black lager, a delicious dinner, and a fine companion.
Knowing that I’m missed several states away.
Playing Prince songs and getting a very sincere compliment.
Ronda Walker and her support, be it academic, musical, or personal.
Ditto for Karin, Christa, Daniel, John, Mark, Stephen, Robert, and the rest of the absolutely, mind-blowingly incredible English department at UVU.
My Bluebird microphone, with which I write songs about you.
The opportunity to get published and share something overwhelmingly personal with a group of strangers.
Shannon, the real “Gail.”
Amazon’s free two-day shipping.
Red apple tea.
Double Stuf Oreos.
30 Rock and twin beds.
Sons of Anarchy for reminding me what a man does when he has principles.
Scott and his willingness to get himself a Doctorate of Divinity online in order to perform what was almost my wedding.
Last-second good judgment.
Other people being happy.
Kisses on the cheek.
Poorly but earnestly installed door knobs.
David Mazzuchelli’s Asterios Polyp.
Martha, my most adamant and steadfast supporter and newest friend.
Amy Winehouse’s newfound sobriety. Not joking.
“Do justice, and let the skies fall.”
Oasis’ What’s the Story, Morning Glory?
Brown tights (not on me, though).
Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Coming back from things.
A Serious Man and the intense crisis of conscience it caused (and resolved).
Arrogant Bastard ale, which always makes me feel more manly.
Raspberry pomegranate green tea, which always brings me back down from the Arrogant Bastard.
Lachelle’s unwavering concern for my happiness.
The perception of good friends.
Dave Alvin’s King of California.
1999 Honda Accords.
Laura and Adam.
You coming back around.
My brother Corey.
My sister Kelly and her husband Nathan.
My brother Robby.
My aunt Holly.
My nephew Emery.
R.E.M.’s Automatic for the People.
The inspiration that comes from being adored.
The inspiration that comes from adoring.
King of the Hill.
Knowing that a text will surely be awaiting me in the morning.
And you. I’m grateful for you. All of you. Anyone that reads this and nods in recognition or sighs in agreement. Anyone that has taken the time out of a busy day to read any of my prolific blathering, these thoughts that are so globally unimportant to anyone but me. Some of you have been there for a lot of this and can even sense how rough things were for a while, and I’m grateful for your love, support, comments, compliments, constructive criticisms, less-than-constructive-criticisms, ad hominem attacks, music recommendations, book recommendations, movie recommendations, and anything else that you’ve given me.