Tuesday, March 06, 2012

journaling

Tonight I was looking for some old pictures in preparation for a YW lesson. Instead, I found a tattered poem that I had copied down years ago--it's framed on the wall of my grandmother's home in Rexburg, Idaho, and I can't recall ever walking past it without stopping to read it since I noticed it was there.  And I've never looked at the Tetons out of the east-facing windows without thinking of it.

The poem was written by a friend of my grandfather's after his death.  Unlike my mom's father, who has always been a huge part of my life, I've never met my dad's father; he died in a rock-climbing accident in the Grand Tetons the summer before I was born.  I've heard bits and pieces about him, and I've gathered a picture of what he must have been like over the course of family dinners in the house that he and his family built by hand in the Idaho desert.  One day when I was a grad student I climbed to the top of the BYU library, found his typewritten master's thesis, and sat down on the floor in the middle of the stacks and read it cover to cover.  Another time I unfolded a manilla envelope containing his unpublished Western and read it through.  Once when I was very sick with early pregnancy and was sent upstairs to take a nap at my grandmother's home,  I noticed a collection of articles and clippings about him on the bedside table and stayed awake reading those instead. And I've read Hugh Nibley's address (over and over and over) given at his funeral.  I don't know very much about him and I wish I knew more.  I've always worried about asking because I didn't want to bring up painful memories surrounding his death.

But I love this poem.  I remember the summer that I wrote it down; it's the one where I was obsessed with the idea of being an architect and it's written on a sheet of graph paper that I was using to draw blueprints.  It's torn and been retaped because I carried it around for awhile until I had it memorized before carefully sliding it in between plastic sheet protectors.  When I found it again tonight, I thought about recopying it into my journal, and realized...this blog is my journal, not the neglected volumes that I used to write in every day and now pick up sporadically and try to frantically fill in the details of the last few years.

So here it is.

The View
    for Don Decker

At the edge of the desert
where lava gives way to Plano
farms and the wind drifts pure
sand in the lee we chose
the graveyard, pumped water
ninety feet to keep it green.

It's only waste land--nothing
to erode the county tax.
Besides, it's easy digging, no need
to give up more than half a day
if death comes during harvest or just
before planting time.

Lizards bask blue sides
all summer.  Winters, black-tailed
jacks play hide-and-seek
with owls.  The backdrop lava outcrop
forms a natural monument.
As for the view

you can see the Tetons Resurrection
Morning and know exactly where you are.

--Donnell Hunter

5 comments:

Robin V said...

Wow. That really is a beautiful poem; thanks for sharing.

Mary Beth said...

I have never read that poem. Thank you so much for posting it here. I'm almost in tears typing this. Thank you, Rachael.

Elise said...

Ditto on MB's whole comment. Thank you for voicing everything I have always thought and wanted to know about Grandpa Don.

Jen said...

This is gorgeous. No wonder you've carried it with you all these years.

Anonymous said...

There are very few bad memories, and none that you need to worry about digging up.

When my brothers and I went to the cemetery to dig dad's grave, we were met by several brothers from the ward who came to help. Not just to help us but also to help themselves by doing something to say good-bye. At first 2 or 3 could dig, but as the hole deepened, only one man could shovel and the others leaned on shovels and supervised and traded "Don Decker" stories.

The hole ended much deeper than it needed to be and eventually we stopped while we could still get out. I think I remember jests about dad not being able to get out on resurrection morn. They were not unkind or out of place. It is a warm and happy memory.

Digging a grave, building a casket, even dressing the body are a blessing to those left behind.

I do miss him and look forward to you meeting him again.

Love you,
dad

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