Dear Diary, 5 Jun 2008
When I was a child it was different. My superstitions. But I didn’t know it was different then until I saw my own daughter as a child, when I saw in her imagination the things I’ve forgotten, what my own appetites have made me forget… I try to remember when she was just a baby, how sometimes she would wake up laughing. I want to remember this because it reminds me of when I was a little girl, when I too sometimes woke up laughing, something I find hard to do now… It’s a curious thing-faith. I’ve always believed we must come to God as children, but maybe it’s not with a child’s faith, for a child must learn of this world through experience, and at first what they believe is what they don’t see doesn’t exist… I’m not sure when I lost my faith, but I know when it was regained. Perhaps I lost my faith when I learned nothing I saw in this world existed without it, and I regained my faith seeing my daughter’s laughter, for it reminded me of what I had already learned without pain…
Dear Diary, 20 Jun 2008
I haven’t written in 15 days. I actually haven’t written in a diary for years. I decided to start this one the day she went in. Now that she’s half way through her 30 day sentence I will write what my mind has pondered in free moments… Alice is no longer a child, no longer the daughter that awakened laughing. Maybe when she gets out she’ll complete school and become a teacher like she promised. Maybe she’ll stay away from that boyfriend of hers. I’ve forgiven him for convincing her to steal from my father’s house, but he’s too old and they need to stay away from each other, even if he is in the hospital… Sometimes I find it hard to believe we are basically good. But maybe we are. We just do bad things, things that we know separate us from God. And these choices we’ve made, and the acts that arise from them, become justified fears, and fear is the death of faith, our purpose… I have many fears now. Fears for my daughter. Because sometimes we do bad things for good purposes. As a woman I know this, and that is why I know we cannot justify our faith. Our faith justifies us… I hope she makes the right choice. I know she still loves him.
Dear Diary, 21 Jun 2008
There are numerous lives coinciding with mine. How significant is my faith? She was my seventh child, my youngest. Her birthday is tomorrow. Yesterday I visited her for the first time in the detention center and she told me she wanted to wear them again. The clothes I make. She never liked to sew, though I taught all my daughters well, and when I began making clothes for the community after my husband became secretary she slowly began to disappear more and more from our circle… That’s when she met him, at the train station-she didn’t want to stay with us to mourn and wandered off by herself, wearing clothes I hadn’t made. I saw him with her, over by the tracks as the train was coming. The heat created ripples in the air above the hot iron rails and a warm wind was blowing, the hills green to the north of the river valley and the town, the Milk River in the distance, running high after the rains we received that year, and the train coming into the station looking like a metal haze in the heat… That was the first time I saw him and it was only a glimpse, but I saw him through the passengers waiting for the train (as they milled before my view, their numerous lives as significant as mine, each of them believing in something, even if only it was what they hoped was waiting for them with the coming train… and just as them I have numerous wills, not all good or evil, shades of desires I have learned of through experience, some out of want for truth and some out of habit, both causing me to forget the imaginations of my childhood-what I feared my daughter would forget when I saw her with that boy), passengers I paid not attention to, just as they didn’t me, for we don’t pay attention to others for either good or evil until our desires meet-only then do we have faith in their existence… I saw him give her something, and I probably wouldn’t have remembered what he looked like except that he smiled when he gave it to her, to Alice, my daughter, and I wasn’t really afraid until then, until I saw him smile, because I never really saw the natives smile… It was tobacco. He gave her a leather pouch of tobacco, and his name was Larry… I try not to judge just as we try not to mix with the outside world because it is part of our beliefs, our faith. Our families settled here over a hundred years ago. I have relatives in South Dakota and Canada, but most of them are here, in Northern Montana. With our growth we have several daughter colonies now, and my husband became secretary of one when Alice was still a child. That’s when I began to sew for the community. I’ve always enjoyed making clothes, and I try to make them colorful, unlike our Amish sisters, so that the women have patterned kupf-ti’echle (head covers) and dresses that add to their beauty, their simple beauty, for that’s how I was raised… Our beliefs as Hutterites are based on the Book of Acts. Though we’ve advanced with the modern world and embraced some of its technology (unlike the Amish), our faith requires us to share our possessions with one another. We live together as a community. Our profits are shared, and we eat together as one… I’ve heard there are Jewish communities like ours, in Israel. They call such communities a Kibbutz. I suppose like them, like people in those Jewish communities, I’ve often wondered what it is like outside our society, but my fears of it were realized when Alice met that Indian boy at the train station. It was last summer, and she had just turned fifteen… We were there for a coffin-my uncle had died. The funeral was to be later that day. Larry was there to catch the eastern train. He was going to a ranch for the summer to tend to horses. I sent one of Alice’s older brothers over, once I saw them together, once I saw him give her that tobacco, but I didn’t speak to her about it until after the funeral… The funeral was for my mother’s younger brother. My uncle was living with her then-when my mother died. I was four years old at the time, but I remember when it happened. I remember seeing my mother fall before the stove as I sat in the kitchen doorway playing with a spoon and pan. They say it was an aneurysm and that she died instantly, but all I remember was I wasn’t scared when she fell. I continued playing for a while, I suppose in my child’s mind figuring my mother was taking a nap because of the heat, because of the heat that came with working in the kitchen, and I wasn’t scared until I walked over to her and saw her eyes, when I saw that her eyes didn’t respond to mine. I became very afraid then, and it was my uncle that answered my cries… I guess we’re persuaded to believe in things. Like the stories I read for the first time when I was Alice’s age-I remember they persuaded me to believe, and I thought it more beautiful, more artful, when a story persuaded me to feel something without my being aware of it, and though I didn’t admit it to myself, I wanted to be persuaded to believe because I wanted to feel… They call this suspension of disbelief, and I guess life is just like to stories we entertain ourselves with, except that we’re more afraid. After my mother died I became more afraid, and ever since that time when I was four years old I’ve lived with it, the fear of death. I suppose because I can’t be persuaded to believe in it. This world is more tangible, even though my faith tells me we are bounded by the physical laws of this world merely for the suspension of disbelief in our own existence, and beyond this material world, which gives us faith in our bodily existence, we learn to know of other things because we feel them, and we have to make choices about this as we grow older… One morning I waited up for Alice without reproach (this after that summer she met Larry at the train station, after my uncle’s funeral), and over a cup of coffee she told me why she liked to be with him. She said she liked talking to him because he listened. We weren’t arguing then, and she told me this quietly as she held her coffee cup in both hands, the light beginning to pour in the kitchen window though it was before sunrise. We spoke in Hutterisch, our native dialect. Only sometimes did she break out in English recalling how she spoke to Larry, and she didn’t use formal German, the German taught her in school, except when we began arguing. We didn’t argue until I said how I felt, how perhaps she liked to talk to him because she wasn’t supposed to talk to him, and that he listened to her because he wasn’t supposed to listen. I hardly ever scream at my children, but in the argument that ensued I screamed at Alice. Her coffee cup spilled in the process, as she quickly ran to her room with her sisters. I stayed in the kitchen and cleaned the spill… I suppose there’s deception in truth, in the situations it’s placed in. What my daughter said was true. It wasn’t a lie that it’s nice to talk to someone who listens, but what made her angry when I questioned her about it that morning was that she knew it was a truth replacing another truth. She knew what she was doing was forbidden, which was really why she was doing it… How easily the truth becomes our faith, and how subtly our faith changes! Alice believed what she said, just as I believed what I said, and the existence of the truth depended on our faith at the moment… There are numerous lives coinciding with my own. With as many wills to go with them. How significant was my faith? Alice believed in Larry. And I was old enough to know I should have forbidden her nothing. It was my own fears that forbid her. My own fears of what she would feel… It makes me happy she wants to wear them again. It makes me happy she wants to wear my clothes.
Dear Diary, 22 Jun 2008
The purpose of evil is to make you believe in something that isn’t true, namely in it, and evil triumphs when it becomes true because you believe it… I spoke to Alice about Larry for the first time after she met him at the train station, after the funeral. She showed me the tobacco he’d given her as a gift, and I wanted to know what he’d said to her. Alice was reluctant to give any information, and it was only later that I discovered the note he gave her with the tobacco, in the clothes she wore. Her birthday had just been a week before. I had made her a dress, a dress she refused to wear. I found the note when I found the dress scattered among other things she no longer wanted. I guess this was soon after their first fight-Alice and Larry-for she had cried for almost a whole day without telling me the cause of her tears, but I assumed it was because of a letter she’d received. That’s when I went looking through her things… I suppose I would have worried more at first, when they first met at the train station, if it weren’t for the distraction of the funeral. I hadn’t seen my uncle since Alice was born. He left us after my mother died. I remember hearing him arguing with my father the night of her funeral, about money. I listened from the stairs (my father didn’t really know how to put me to bed properly yet), and though I didn’t know what they were arguing about, in my child’s mind I knew he was leaving us. I remember I wanted to cry and alert them of my presence, but I didn’t. I was holding a wooden man my uncle had made for my birthday. His arms and legs turned on hinges, and if you pulled a string above the man’s head they would move. I remember dangling the wooden man by the string and listening quietly as my father and uncle argued. Though their raised voices scared me, I had seen my mother buried that day and had no more tears… I didn’t know it was money, but I learned this later, after my uncle left us. I suppose he never liked it there, living in my father’s home, but my grandparents (my mother’s father and mother) had died in a mysterious un-solved fire before I was born (my grandfather had been imprisoned during World War I because of his pacifism and I’d heard stories of the persecution when we were fighting the Nazis), and my uncle had no desire to marry from another community and start his own house, though I heard when I was older that among the women he had prospects. Whenever my uncle became the subject of conversation, my father would quickly end our discussion by saying my uncle was lazy and would come to a bad end. Of course this didn’t stop us from discussing him from time to time (my older sisters heard all kinds of stories brought back from town), and as I grew old enough to venture into town I too sometimes heard stories about my uncle, how he had taken a wife, a divorced woman, and had moved into her sister’s house in one of the villages to the south just outside of Box Elder. They weren’t to stay there long, however, for he planned to enlist in the Air Force… My father mentioned this sometimes when he talked about my uncle, how he wanted to be in the Air Force and fly planes. I remember before my father cleaned out his room, there were stacks of books and magazines, all on airplanes, and his walls had posters of them, and hanging from the ceiling were the ones he built from kits bought in town, money my father said was wasted. His childhood hero had been Billy Mitchell, who he read about in books about airpower and war, books that fascinated him because he wasn’t supposed to be reading them. I remember sometimes he would let me play with them, his model planes, when I ventured in his room, and I suppose that’s why he built that wooden man for me… Some of my earliest memories are images of peering into his room. At that age, an age before words, his room was wonderful. Sometimes he would pick me up so I could touch his creations dangling from the ceiling, and he would listen to the words I tried to form touching them. This I also remember (I don’t know how), but I believe he talked to me like he understood. Somehow I remember having conversations with my uncle, among the suspended airplanes… I kept nothing from my mother then. My father gave her things to my sisters and I, and when I was older I received the worn hand mirror she used to comb her hair, the same mirror I’ve used for my own hair now for many years, but when she died I kept nothing from her, not even the memory of her scent when I nursed. The wooden man my uncle made I kept close to me for a long time, and I didn’t share it with my siblings. I kept it hidden until I was no longer a little girl, until the string broke and I was too old to play with such things. When Alice was born I found it among the stored boxes of my older children and I knotted a new string to the old one, so that Alice could play with it, just as I did, and maybe he was supposed to see her with it-my uncle. She sat in his wheelchair and held it, the toy he had made, and just like with me he talked to her as she played with it. He talked to her like he understood… That seems like a long time ago now. Years have passed since that chance meeting at the hospital, and now he is dead and Alice has become a young woman, and now I’ve begun to fear she will have the same look in her eyes, that same look of regret (that same look I saw in my mother’s eyes), that I saw in his eyes then, that last time I saw him alive… He didn’t get to enlist in the Air Force. The argument he had with my father before he left was about flying lessons, money for flying lessons. He wanted to join the Forest Service and become a pilot putting out forest fires. He hoped to get his flying hours in and pay for the rest of his schooling. Then his goal was to be commissioned and fly planes for the military… The accident put him in a wheelchair, and his wife was killed. Just outside of Missoula, on their way to a job interview for the Forest Service, a tire blew out and they went off the road, their car overturning. His wife was sleeping at the time, and when he regained consciousness still strapped in by his seatbelt, it looked as if she’d never woke up. It was near Dead Man’s Curve on the road through the mountains, a road I’ve only driven once in my lifetime, but I still remember how hard it is to tell sometimes, to tell whether you’re going up or going down going around each curve… They were using his wife’s money to move there, just outside of Missoula. My father never gave him the money they argued about, a share of the profits from the work that year, profits my uncle believed he’d earned. My father never believed it was his to take, especially to join the military, which our faith objects… And so my uncle never got to fly. He never got to walk again either. He remained living with his sister-in-law, and with the meager social security after the settlement money was squandered, he began to have to sell things, sell things he didn’t want to sell. He was on dialysis after the accident as well, which is how we met at the hospital. He went there every other week… I guess I was distracted that day at the train station because I was thinking about something I was given once. I was thinking of the toy my uncle had given me for my birthday, a toy that’s gone through many strings… My uncle thought he was being judged for leaving, and sometimes feeling judged makes you do things you normally wouldn’t do. It was lie-this judgment. He could have always returned, but his pride wouldn’t allow him, what he had left of himself wouldn’t allow that, and I can understand that, I can understand that like how he talked to me when I was a little girl… I never did talk to him again, after the day at the hospital, Alice newborn and in his eyes regret. Years passed and he did what he had to do. His sister-in-law moved to Missoula about when Alice started to school and that’s where he died, in his sleep, of an aneurysm like my mother… It’s been a year now since I made her that dress and it is her birthday again. She is sixteen. I went to see her today, to see Alice to give her something, and as I looked for a gift for her it reminded me of when she was little, how she would sometimes take things within her reach and then give them to me, how we spent hours together like that, and it reminded me of what it was to have faith again in giving. And so I gave her what my heart led me to give her. I gave her my mother’s mirror… The note I found in Alice’s clothes was a simple one, the note Larry wrote for Alice to go with the tobacco. It read: Give this to the earth. She will understand you…
Dear Diary, 30 Jun 2008
The Lord chastens those He loves. Perhaps I didn’t have enough love for Alice. Perhaps my love weakened. My faith weakened. Perhaps I had only more fears. And I sensed less love around to have faith in… Being our youngest, we weren’t as strict with her. I don’t know why. Besides fear maybe it was because we were growing older and the other children, Alice’s older siblings, had just worn us out. It was easier just to forbid her but then not take the energy to enforce the consequences when she did something forbidden. I suppose too it was something else, something subtle, but then I suppose all acquired knowledge is acquired subtly, and then there are just more ways now, more ways to gather information, to know what really doesn’t need to be known… We have a computer in the house. As secretary, my husband has to keep financial records, files easier kept electronically, so we’ve had a computer for several years, since Alice was little. We put parental controls on the Internet, but we allowed Alice to use it as I child, as a learning tool. We thought it would be good for her… There’s a certain indolence in learning things, in meditation. In its best sense it is the reward of faith, of fulfilling a purpose-clarity. These moments pass, if only an instant of thought, but we remember what we felt after they happen, faintly, and then the trial becomes our patience, patience in what our faith reminds us of and gives us hope for, for in clarity we realize everything is a test, a test of our love… Faith gives us hope, and hope allows us to trust, and if we can trust we can love. We must have faith in love in order to love, and our trial is if our patience endures. Moments of indolence when I can reflect on this allow me to sometimes understand maybe what heaven is like, after a hard day’s work and a faith fed on the evidence of sin-a state of limitless patience… Perhaps we allowed Alice too much indolence. An indolence spent on knowledge and not on understanding, for the former is merely a tool to acquire the latter, and it’s a crooked tool at that. We also had a radio we used to listen to weather reports, and by the time Alice turned teen sometimes I’d find the radio missing in the kitchen and discover it up in the hayloft where Alice would go after supper, after evening church service. She listened to a station that came in from Chinook, to songs that girls her age in town listened to, songs they sang to, and not like the songs we sang at church service, not like every evening at Gebet… Besides using the computer and listening to the radio, I suspect Alice also started watching the things on TV, this probably not too long before meeting Larry, after she started high school. Alice was the first of our children to go beyond the eighth grade, and with it we allowed her to be influenced too much by her peers, peers outside our colony. And I suppose looking back on it now, with what was going on when it happened, I don’t know when exactly we lost that distinction, when I lost faith in the distinction between myself and the outside world… I know I always wanted a cell phone. I don’t know why, but when I saw them advertised I wanted one, just a basic one, one without a camera. And so I convinced my husband to get us one, before a family vacation to Glacier National Park, the reasoning being we might need it for emergencies (roadside assistance for a flat tire for instance). It came in the mail not long after my uncle’s funeral, after Larry returned from that eastern ranch, just before our trip… I suppose the trial of our patience is desire-Time’s lessons on desire. So easily our faith shifts to the substance that is merely evidence of what is unseen! At Lehr yesterday the minister spoke of the Israelites wandering in the wilderness. He spoke of the staff of snakes Moses used to heal the people-how God used the very thing that made them sick (due to loss of faith) as a symbol they had to look to and have faith in to be healed. Our minister used this story, the story of the staff used now as a symbol by physicians, to interpret the meaning of faith, and how absurd we are to believe the things of this world matter to God, who can make a snake a symbol of healing, and use the idols of our day for His own mysterious purposes. He turned the water into wine… Yet still how easily we stray to our golden calves because our suspension of disbelief only goes so far, so far as our desires in this world distract us, and what we learn with that in time. I wanted that cell phone, and for a time I had faith in it. I had faith it would bring me happiness… It was on the trip to Glacier that the cell phone was broken, but I wasn’t sad when I discovered it was broken because when it happened I saw something in Alice that made me realize she wasn’t a little girl anymore. I saw something on that trip that made me realize the patience of her own faith… I could see her questioning us, but I’m not sure when it happened. There just came a day when she no longer just saw us as her parents. She saw us as people, and she began questioning her role from our past. And because of the technology we so easily put our faith into, the distinction of our past blended with what she came to know listening to the radio and using the computer, what she came to know of what in our past we chose to separate ourselves from because of our faith. I could see her questioning it because she was at that age where you sense hypocrisy in tradition and you don’t know how to react to it. She because to question why we separated ourselves as a community and shared our possessions, yet we still had to compete, we still had to compete with the outside market to profit from our farming and livestock. We still needed money to grow and expand, and where did this money come from if not from capital, from the land we possessed? I suppose that’s when the distinction blurred, that’s when she lost faith in the distinction between herself and where she came from, between herself and the outside world, and she went looking, she went looking for something else… My husband forbade Alice to see Larry after the police came questioning about a shooting. A boy had been shot in an argument outside a bar in Big Sandy, and witnesses said Larry had been involved and that Alice might have been with him at the time. This was perhaps a month or so after the train station, when Larry came back to Havre on the weekends and saw Alice without her telling us. I had my suspicions, but I was afraid to confront Alice, and I was afraid to tell my husband because of what would happen when he confronted her. When the police came, it confirmed my suspicions she was seeing Larry, but I became more afraid when she came to me after they left with the gun. Larry had given it to her after the argument, tossing the magazine of bullets into the Milk River. He took the next train back to the ranch he was working, and I suppose that’s when he sent her the letter that made her weep for the better part of the day, and what inspired me to look through her things to find the note with the tobacco. She had seen the boy shot, and when the police came she confided in me because she was scared and didn’t know what to do with the empty gun. The boy hadn’t been killed. In fact, the police were still looking for him to identify it was Larry that shot him. Apparently he didn’t want to talk to the police, and without a gun they really didn’t have a case. That night after she showed it to me, where she hid it in the grain elevator, we buried the gun out of the view of the colony buildings, on land that wasn’t plowed. I remember seeing clearly because the moon was bright. We could see each other as we buried it. I never told my husband, and up until we drove to Glacier he believed Alice was abiding what he had forbidden and wasn’t seeing Larry. It wasn’t until the Farm Boss called with an inventory question that he discovered there was a ring back tone on the cell phone… Larry was nineteen when he met Alice. He hadn’t really been in trouble with the law until then. When he was sixteen he was arrested for poaching and served a couple of days, and after we buried the gun no cops came to question us again about the shooting in Big Sandy. Convincing Alice to steal from us was his second offense. Since he was in the hospital my husband didn’t press charges, but he allowed Alice to serve her thirty days. He thought this would shame Larry for persuading Alice to steal from her own family, and make Alice look at him differently. But I think that was part of the problem-Alice already saw Larry differently, and everything my husband did merely put them in comparison. I even think she really had no choice. Despite the fact she was choosing between her father’s rules and a young man she loved, she was still choosing her father, even when she followed the young man… Alice told me some of his beliefs-Larry’s Chippewa beliefs. Their church services are not like ours. She said the men sing around hot coals inside a tepee, pouring water over the coals to create smoke. The temperature sometimes rose above 200 degrees, and that’s when in a trance she said Larry could hear it-he could hear the eagle scream. Tobacco was sacred in their beliefs, and so was the eagle, its feather a religious object, and when you heard the eagle scream you could also hear the women singing, women who during the service weren’t allowed to sing… Their minister was a medicine man. Larry’s uncle was one, and he shared with Alice soon after they met that his uncle had to move the location of their church service recently because of evil spirits. Larry said a red glow appeared from the smoke around someone with an evil spirit, and when that happened the service had to be moved. He said it happened when someone wept with the spirits. Larry’s uncle had warned him to never do that, to never weep with the spirits because it stirred them up, and he had never been comfortable asking his uncle what happened, what happened when the spirits were stirred up. I’ve wept countless tears for Alice. But I am not ashamed of them because I know I must weep for her. It is all my faith allows me now, my fears allow me, feeding upon fears-a mother’s sadness… Larry didn’t get hurt until he tried to run from the cops. Alice was with him, but luckily she wasn’t hurt. After breaking into my father’s home and barn in broad daylight (Alice knew the men would be out in the fields and the women at our house canning that day), Larry convinced her to escape with him. He hoped to use what they stole to fund their flight. It was mostly some farm equipment and tools. His cousin’s wife cousin lived in Deer Park, just north of Spokane, and he planned to take Alice there to live while they saved up money for their own place. They didn’t make it to Deer Park, however, or they would have made it, if the truck hadn’t of overheated in Idaho just outside of Coeur D’Alene. Near the lake they had to pull over on the side of the road to let it cool down, and as Larry was adding water to the radiator, a cop pulled up behind them… I don’t know why we try to run, run from what we owe, even though we know with time it will eventually catch up to us, but Larry decided to try to run. The truck was smoking by then, and at high speed with low visibility on a back road off the highway, he lost control, breaking his ankle when the truck submerged in the water below the road’s embankment. The police had to rescue them from drowning… Alice wasn’t the one who put the ring back tone on the cell phone, and she didn’t use the phone to talk to Larry like my husband accused, but when my husband pulled off the road beyond the weeping walls near Logan’s Pass to confront her about it, after getting the call from the Farm Boss, she lied to him and said she did. After it came in the mail (my husband and I got on the Internet and ordered it), in a moment of indolence, I began to play with the phone’s features. It was too tempting not to, and I remember I only hesitated for a moment when I ordered that ring back tone. It felt so easy pushing the buttons, like I wasn’t doing anything wrong, even when it asked me to accept the charges for the features I was toying around with. I wasn’t even sure what I had paid for, not until my husband got that call and the Farm Boss said he ought to know some girl named Fergie was singing on the line while he was waiting for my husband to pick up. I remember my husband was very quiet at first, after Alice lied and admitted to using the phone. It wasn’t until later, while we were hiking the trail to Avalanche Lake, when the cell phone broke, that he told Alice she could not live with us if she was to see Larry after that. I think he was still so angry he just didn’t remember the cell phone was in his back pocket, and when he sat down on a rock to rest, the screen cracked. I wasn’t really that upset. I knew we signed up for an insurance plan… Alice responded quietly to my husband’s threats. She never made eye contact with me during the confrontation, though I wanted her to look at me. And that’s when I realized she was no longer a little girl, that she had found her own faith and the patience for it to endure, even when it meant telling a lie and denying what she knew was true… She had brought the tobacco with her, the tobacco Larry gave her at the train station, and before we left the park that day I saw what she did with it. I watched her… All things are pure to those that are pure. Because it is not the things of this world that make us impure, but the purity of our faith in what made them as evidence. It is not what I eat or drink or even the things that I do that corrupt me, but my faith in what I eat or drink and the things that I do to give me happiness and loving them for their own sake, rather than in rejoicing and trembling realizing what gave them their true substance. No, it is not this world that has corrupted me. It is all the temporary things of this world that I’ve sometimes placed my faith in that have made me impure, that have made me afraid… On the trail back from Avalanche Lake, Alice lingered behind as we got close to the gorge. I remember hearing the sound of the running water through the trees so I knew we were close, this after hiking a long ways, and the sound of the water in the stillness of the forest made me happy because I knew we had made it back. But just as we were coming to it, where the stream from the lake ran down through the rocks (a shade of blue hard to describe, and clear in the deep pools along the shoreline), Alice lingered back among the cedars, tall and branching up high in the face of the sun, in the cool shadows there. From the dress I had made, a dress we had made her wear for the vacation, she took the pouch of tobacco Larry gave her. Since confessing to my husband (lying to him about the phone and Larry), her eyes had cast a vacant look and it was like she wasn’t even there. She wasn’t really with us as we hiked back the trail. She didn’t even notice me watching her… Avalanche Lake is fed by waterfalls. Five of them come down from the surrounding mountains from where the snow hasn’t melted. You can’t take a picture of it, to capture what you see, but on the long trail there I wasn’t really pondering how to describe it to people we would see once we returned. I have heard enough stories to know no one wants to hear them unless they’ve been there themselves. What I sensed as we walked the trail to the lake extended from what I felt since watching my daughter lie for me-I felt like a stranger… I fear Nature. I suppose because it is the substance of desire, and death is its cessation-strangely out of which new life forms-a mystery that only my faith understands. As I walked that trail with my family I felt like it merely tolerated me. The woods around me and the sounds that came with it merely tolerated my presence. But I didn’t belong there, and this feeling of being a stranger there just enhanced my guilt, the guilt over what my daughter did for me. I knew if I were alone on that trail without food or water, or hurt, that I would not survive very long, and though there were moments when the discomfort was forgotten and what I saw and heard around me brought wonder, I knew I was not one with it, that it was more like I was cast out into it, and that the Nature I had come to enjoy just tolerated me to the limits of my survival, my faith, and beyond those limits, the limits of which the rocks and trees around me sang as evidence to the Life that brought them forth, there was only silence, and death… Alice didn’t see me watching her from below the gorge. The rest of the family had gone on past the bridge, but Alice wasn’t really paying attention to us. She didn’t seem to care that we kept going, and she didn’t seem concerned if anyone was watching her. From the way she moved toward the stream’s shoreline she almost seemed happy, with that kind of happiness that graced your movements, unaware of itself and fearless, primal, like she was alone there by that stream and there was no one there to judge her… I didn’t call out to her. I just watched as she sat by the water. Even from a distance I could see what she did with it, see how she placed the tobacco Larry gave her in a pile on a large flat rock near a deep pool in the stream. And I don’t suppose she would have heard me even if I had called out. I was further down below, where the water moved swiftly through the rocks. My voice would have been lost in it. And so I didn’t call out to her. I just watched. I watched as she found a matchbook in her pocket… It burned for only a short time, the tobacco, the ashes of it blown into the running water, but the smoke lingered for a moment, caught in the wind, and for a moment I thought I could smell it. Then I guess one of the lit ashes flew too close to Alice, for she stood up quickly, like she was burned by it. But that’s not what frightened me. What frightened me was as she stood up a bird flew by her. It flew by her and towards me and then up into tall-branching cedars above, the flutter of its wings startling my heart. It frightened me so much that I was scared Alice had been alerted of my presence and so I quickly rejoined the rest of the family beyond the bridge… I never told Alice I saw what she did with the tobacco. Not until today when I went to see her in the detention center. She has five days left. Five days and she will be free to return to us. I noticed she had that look in her eyes today, the same look in her eyes she had when she returned to us that day by the stream. They no longer cast a vacant look. They lit up when she looked at you. She didn’t say anything when I told her, when I told her I was watching. She just had that look in her eyes… The Lord chastens those He loves. Maybe it is because only when we are chastened is our faith renewed-a faith that allows us to love. Maybe it is only when we lose our faith that we are punished, for we forget how to love. Clarity just comes when we are being corrected… Alice had that same look in her eyes today, that same look she had after offering the tobacco that day by the stream. They were eyes lit up by faith.
Dear Diary, 1 Jul 2008
Alice wants to be baptized. Though she is not of age yet (typically we wait until between the ages of twenty and thirty), I’ve talked to my husband and we will allow her this once she gets out-as a symbol of her return to us. I am glad she wants this, but a part of me is still afraid. A part of me fears she’s not doing this for herself… It is a custom once a colony grows large enough that we began the process of creating a daughter colony. Obviously this takes much preparation and extensive financial planning, but once the necessary steps have been completed the movement into the daughter colony takes less than a day. The parent colony is split in half, each group, Group A and Group B, comprising about twenty to thirty families. Two pieces of paper are placed in a hat, and the group whose paper is drawn from the hat moves into the new daughter colony within 24 hours… I suppose it is the same with any change, with any choice we make towards repentance. It’s funny how we take credit for it, for something that took long preparation and planning-a series of variables woven into our experiences, which through the chain of cause and effect, brought us to that choice-a choice drawn from a hat. And that choice, that choice between if we stay where we’re at or go someplace new is not really granted us-it is granted to fate. We can really take credit for nothing. We’re just the rabbit at the magic show, and our choice really comes down to if that makes us angry or not… It’s been almost a year now, since we took that trip to Glacier Park, and over a year since Alice met Larry at the train station. The time between then and now, between since she lied for me and stole from us, merely brought Alice to the choice she’s making now… She could have drowned. She could have drowned when they submerged in the water running from the law. But maybe it was supposed to happen (the staleness of the lies she had to tell to be with Larry even after my husband warned her what would happen, when somehow what was once forbidden just becomes something you do-a habit you may even no longer enjoy, but that with time you identify with), and she had to almost die to find her faith again, a faith not founded in Larry… God grants our repentance only if we believe in it. That is the only choice we have to make, and our faith in that is always our way out of temptation. I’m just happy my tears have been answered, and that Alice wants to come home. She looked tired today, like she had been sick when she woke up this morning. She needs her mother. She gets out the day after the Fourth of July. I’m trying to wait patiently for her release…
Dear Diary, 16 Jul 2008
I received the postcard yesterday. The postcard from Alice with the eagle on it. She left with Larry a week ago, and this is the first I’ve heard from her… Alice never told me Larry came to see her before she got out. He came to see her the day before her release. I only found out after she left with him that he came to see her on crutches, even though he was walking fine when I saw him at the fireworks that night, before they were cancelled because of the storm… I suppose our nights are full of resolutions. Often before going to sleep I recount the day, evaluating the things that I have done and resolving to do this or that out of regret, but when day comes and I awake to the routines and desires that await me, the routines and desires that I have come to identify with, how quickly my resolutions fade away… Alice knew what awaited her here. I noticed that she noticed how everyone treated her once we brought her home, the way everyone quietly judged her. Strange how when she was seeing Larry secretly, unbeknownst to the colony, she was treated as an equal, but after the accident, after doing her time for stealing from us, after she stopped seeing Larry and returned to us, she was seen differently in the community. When she lied (even when she lied for me), she was righteous in our eyes, but the truth (even the truth of her repentance) only humbled her reputation. But maybe this was supposed to happen for this is how God sees fit to mold us, to mold our faith. She must have felt like a stranger here, just as I felt like a stranger that day on the trail when the bird flew by her… She still loved him. My daughter still loved Larry. She must have known that when he came to see her, when she saw him again, just as she must have known what had caused her morning sickness that day I came to visit her. And so when she returned she was living something she could no longer believe in, which really isn’t living at all. I saw it in how she sang at church service… They made it to Deer Park this time, from the return address on the postcard. Alice will have the baby there. Larry is planning to work for the Forest Service. Clean-up crews are needed after the fires in California this summer. He’s going to Big Sur to help. When he was seventeen he went down to New Orleans after the hurricane, so this isn’t the first time he’s done this. Apparently the government often contracts out labor from the local reservations… Alice didn’t write much in the postcard, the postcard with the eagle on it. She wrote to tell me not to be afraid, that she still had her faith, that she knew she was doing exactly what she was supposed to be doing and she was beginning to accept that, the mystery of it, that it was something she couldn’t change. She also promised to send pictures… I suppose now there is no reason for me to write in this diary. But maybe I didn’t write this for her, for Alice. I wrote it for myself, for my own forgiveness. For my own forgiveness as a mother… My daughter has found her purpose, her own patience. I know that now, and my faith rests on it. I am not afraid for her. I am not afraid for her as a mother. I am free…