Tag Archives: Spirituality

Courage at Twilight: Unvisitable

The men of the Church assigned to see to her welfare told Dad she could not be visited. As the lay leader of the congregation, Dad bore responsibility for the welfare of every member of the congregation, whether they wanted to participate in the Church or not.  “What does ‘unvisitable’ mean?” he queried.  Apparently, “unvisitable” meant she did not want anyone from the Church to visit her.  For Dad, the deeper questions were “Why is she unvisitable?  What is happening in her life to distance her from the Church and from people.”  Sitting at his desk in the law department of Johnson & Johnson, pondering over this unvisitable Church member.  A thought pressed itself irresistibly onto his mind: Call her. Now.  Having learned to never put off a prompting, he picked up the phone and called her.  “Sandy?  This is your bishop.  I’m coming over right now,” and did not wait for a protest.  He found Sandy living in squalor and disrepair, and terribly depressed and overwhelmed.  The trees and shrubs had overgrown the house and porch.  The front stairs had fallen away from the porch, and the mailman could not deliver the mail.  Stacks of newspapers filled the rooms and hallways, with only narrow trails from place to place.  She had not read them yet, she explained.  The window frames had been painted while open, and remained stuck open, even in winter, when she shoved crumpled newspapers against the screens for insulation.  “I will help you,” Dad promised, and he spent the next year helping Sandy transform her living space, which in turn transformed her life.  He suggested she start her reading with the next day’s edition, and emptied the house of newspapers and trash, taking many loads to the dump.  He cut out the trees and pulled out the shrubs, planting new ones.  He cut the windows free of old paint so they could be open or shut with the season.  He jacked up the stairs and put rock and new cement under them.  He repaired all the plumbing.  He painted all the walls.  Mom asked him once, “Why don’t you involve the other men of the Church instead of doing all this work yourself?”  And he explained that descending en masse to fix the house was all fine and well, but would not fix the occupant.  She needed frequent, regular visits of encouragement, acceptance, and assistance.  In the course of that year, Sandy began to smile, and to converse, and to return to Church.  She and Mom became friends, sometimes hopping on the train to New York City for Broadway’s “two-for” matinees.  In telling the story four decades later, Dad was clear it was not to boast, but to teach me this lesson: No one is unvisitable.  We just need to ask the Savior how to do it, and He will show us the way.  To God, all persons have equal worth, and we can be his hands in reaching out to the unreachable.  No one is unvisitable.

(Photo from lily pond at Island Lake in the high Uintah mountains, 2007.)



Prayer Rock by Laura Baker

Prayer has never come easy for me.  I avoid it, put it off, wander in my thoughts, cut it short.  Yet, I pray every day, because I have been told to, all my life.  It’s what I should do, they said.  I also pray because I want to believe that someone is listening and caring and responding.  But really I pray because I cannot deny a subtle, loving presence that abides and sustains when I am prayerful.  Prayerful through formal kneeling prayers as well as daily mindfulness.

For a family activity, we had each child choose a special rock from our faux riverbed, a rock to paint.  Laura (now 20) painted this rock when she was a young girl.  She gave it to me: a present for dad.  I keep it on my nightstand where I see it every morning and every night.  I call it my prayer rock.  I reminds me to bend my knee and bow my head, in humility, in gratitude, in desperate supplication, in recognition of the divine.

I offer to you two short poems on prayer.  Fitful, imperfect, but sincere prayer.


Do you pray morning and night? they asked.

I wondered, Do I?

I pray all the day long.
My life is a prayer.
Living is a prayer–
a sacred expression of dreams, frustrations, loves, and straining efforts;
a reaching out to the One who can reveal the mysteries hidden deep within;
a cry of faith and despair, of struggle and the hope of victory;
an ever truer reconciliation of heaven and earth.

Yes, I pray.


I am here, and
I am listening.

The Dance

Rabbit Lane-Laura

My family’s favorite event of the year is Tooele’s Festival of the Old West, combining a gem and mineral show, a mountain man rendezvous, and an Indian pow-wow.  I give the children a small allowance, and they bring some money of their own, to buy polished rocks or beads, a bag of marbles or a medicine pouch, a rubber-band gun or second-hand knife, and always a homemade cream soda and fry bread.  “Fire in the hole!” precedes the boom of the real cannon that blasts arm-loads of candy for children to scamper at.  Men and women walk around in period clothing–my kids always chuckle at the man with the deer-skin breaches not quite concealing his butt-cheeks.  And then the drum beats begin, and the chanting.  The Native Americans have begun their dance competition.  Exiting the back door of the gem and mineral show one year, we saw a young American Indian man dressing in his fancy regalia in preparation for the competition.  His father helped him with the clasps and ties that held in place the flowing regalia, which abounded with feathers and shells and bells.  I wrote this poem to express my overwhelming impressions of this boy connecting powerfully with his peoples’ at once glorious and painful past, with his attenuated but clinging culture, and with the spiritual reality of his ancestors.  (This poem relates to Chapter 7: Turtle Lodge on the Rabbit Lane: Memoir page of this blog, and also to the poem House of Offering on the Rabbit Lane: Poems page of this blog.)


Shell open.  Tailgate down.
A boy,
in bright-beaded leathers,
in spirit feathers,
for the dance.
Father inspected, breathing deep:
satisfied and proud;
You are ready.

The drum beats the hour,
the moment,
of the dance;
a summons:
the movement of feet
pressing the ground in
a rhythmic communion
of flesh and earth,
of spirits;
the movement of arms and wings,
like the offering
in red birch smoke.
Earth and sky recede.
Light and darkness combine.
There is only him,
with the drum,
with the song,
with the dance—
his dance.

They come to him, then,
and lift him up
in flight
through the heavens:
with warm wrinkled eyes;
their hair flowing in long gray strands,
like wispy rain clouds
above the parched plains.
singing the ancestral song,
turning above and beneath,
swirling around and through,
joining him, becoming one,
bringing him tenderly
down to earth and sky as
his feet press the ground
to the last drum beat.

He walks, then,
back to the tailgate,
the world
before him,
He waits, then,
to dance again
the dance.