(OPENING DISCLAIMER: If you’d like to read why I’m out here, here’s a talk I gave before I left: https://webloomsage.wordpress.com/2016/10/30/my-farewell-talk/ If at any point you’d like to stop receiving these lil’ e-mails or if you know someone who isn’t on the list and wants to be, I will add & take away as requested. :  ) I know that not everyone here is religious, & I’ll do all I can to put disclaimers for anything like that. Trying my best here!)

No, I’d never heard of it, either! That’s what made me doubly jazzed. The Kluges, the family we did gardening & gophering for (I referred to it as Whack-a-Mole, but it was actually Whack-a-Gopher.), had us over for dinner again. Sister Kluge is a curator/collector of antiques (in a very legitimate way– NOT a packrat– her house is immaculate), as well as a creative craftswoman. Her entire house is painted a variety of colors, every wall complementing the other somehow & leading the eye in a pleasing & open way. We bonded quite a bit over discussing her technique; she based a lot of the scheme off a carpet she liked. Quite astute of her to notice that carpet designs often have a way of combining a large variety of colors without visually bombarding. Then, when I noticed all her beautiful clothes & furniture from the 1900s (which was used in her son’s wedding!), I thought to mention one of my personal favorite (& rather obscure) films, Somewhere in Time. Sister Kluge just happened to be a huge INSITE (International Somewhere in Time Enthusiast, for those out of the know), & has participated in the yearly fan gatherings at Mackinac Island. Ahh… see, this is why a lot of my favorite people at my home ward are the Relief Society sisters– they tend to get me more, phbft.
This time over, Sister Kluge had us begin dinnertime by carrying a gorgeous (and blessedly light) chest her mother owned out of the garage, & then she served us a first-time concoction of hers called “white salad”. She asked us to guess what was in it, & I was able to figure out the apples. The rest of the ingredients were cauliflower (which came pre-chopped, sold as “cauliflower rice”), a type of water chestnut, feta cheese, & Craisins™. I actually quite enjoyed it, but I had to admit that even for me, the feta cheese kind of overpowered. She asked me what I thought… I enthusiastically expressed how well all the unique elements came together, then sheepishly gave my two cents about cutting back just a bit on feta so every thing could be tasted, & she actually was remarkably pleased by my feed / food / fedback! Whew.
&… not only that, but right after my brave input over this brave food, Sister Kluge asked me what other instruments I happened to play. As I began to go through my odd, informal acquaintances with… all manner of music-maker… she snuck downstairs & pulled out a dulcimer, & something yet to be uncovered in a rather slender black case with an armstrap. Sister Kluge said she was most interested in seeing what I could do with whatever it was that was yet to be unearthed in this baggy. (The case is roughly the shape of a baton or even a clarinet– not something I would expect to contain a stringed instrument.) The McNally Strumstick™ looks like something in-between a shamisen (as it has three strings) & a banjo. &… it was Love at First Sight[reading]. The frets are positioned in such a way that absolutely any place you place a finger down sounds, to use a Rey’ term, floss. Both Brother & Sister Kluge seemed absolutely over-the-moon to be hearing this instrument played. As far as Sister Kluge can remember, she acquired it back in the ’80s or ’90s simply for the wood quality, & always yearned for someone to play it. She clapped her hands together & exclaimed, “See just how much you’ve been able to do with this, in just five minutes? Do you want it?” I couldn’t even look up; I just kept looking at the fretboard. I laughed nervously & said, “You can’t just ASK that question, Sister Kluge!”
She insisted, & I promised that I would never let this sonorous stick sit in silence, & use such powers only for good… for, as we all know, with great power comes great responsibility.
Oof, the amount of blessings I’ve been getting have been kind of overwhelming, & the past few e-mails have honestly made me feel very tiny as I’ve tried my best to plainly explain what’s been happening to & for us, knowing full well that the blessings really pale in comparison to whatever we’ve been doing.
Warning: talking about religion!
Makes me think about one of my absolute favorite scriptures, which at once makes me feel very tiny & also enormously, tremendously loved: “& now, in the first place, He hath created you, & granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto Him. & secondly, He doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, He doth immediately bless you; & therefore he hath paid you. & ye are still indebted unto hint, & are, & will be, forever & ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast?” I hope that when I’m counting these blessings, I’m not coming off as I’m boasting of myself— I’m really trying to put a spotlight on the magnificent amenities of these people I’m so humbled to meet– who truly reflect the pure love & light of Jesus Christ.
… I guess while I’m here in this bracket, I’ll gush a little bit about this Sunday! It was a Fast Sunday, which means that I didn’t have any food or water for two meals in a row, & dedicated that time to God to come closer to Him & rely on Him through prayer. It’s always helped me receive answers, feel comfort, & know that He is truly mindful of every one. It’s one of the ways I’ve found out for myself of the reality of a loving & personally invested Heavenly Father.
As a missionary, Sundays are a bit of a marathon, & the amount we’re asked to do is more or less impossible on an empty stomach… even moreso, the Summer Sun™ rules over Grantsville with a fiery fist of fury. & without a bit of moisture in the atmosphere (I kind of feel like the superhero Frozone trying to pull moisture out of the air during a heavy building fire.), it can be difficult to keep your stamina up-n’-at-’em. Near the very beginning of the day– we were attending an early morning Stake Meeting before church actually started– I got that tell-tale sign that I was in for a magilla of migraine headaches. I get a lil’ floating, pulsing light that just gets brighter & brighter until it obscures just about everything in my vision. :  ) It is very unpleasant.
But, completely miraculously, after the pulsing portent passed, I was able to pace my energy & get that added strength & power that I’ve always found in fasting… not an inkling of a migraine headache for the entire 6+ hours of church sessions we attended! Thank you, Heavenly Father! & then I downed, like, enough water to fill up that one Chinese Brother. You know, from that story book, The 12 Chinese Brothers? It’s a lot.
Done, thank you for your understanding!
A lot of Utahns take vacations to Hawai’i. Because why wouldn’t they? One of the people in church & his wife spoke stirringly about their experience the week prior at church in Hawai’i. In specific, they spoke of hearing the entire church congregation stand after closing to sing Aloha ‘Oe (which you might recall from last mass-mail!) to a departing missionary. As these two noticed me nodding as they spoke, they asked me if I knew what they were talking about. Some folks behind me interjected, “I think he wants to play it for us!” So I did, & almost cried. I think that was the overall concensus in the room.
One of the people jokingly warned me, saying, “Now, don’t you expect that when you leave Utah, Elder!” I grinned & said, “Hey, you never know– I have high hopes that my very last ward will sing it for me.” So I’m just speaking that out right now– somehow, however unheard of, my last day in Utah will include Aloha ‘Oe…
… being sung by a whole bunch of people who have no clue what they’re singing. It will be the best.
To relay a few more service opportunities, even today, right after our Zone Activity, we were asked by the coordinator if we could help lift two pianos out of a house & into a storage unit. I couldn’t stop saying “Lift where you stand,” (church reference) because I’m a dork. Also, I was the only one in a white shirt. For the previously stated reason. We helped a family re-sort through a heavy massacre of 72-hour-kits (emergency food storage) that the father said was ravaged by “rats”. So turns out, rats can be 10-year-old humans with a MIGHTY NEED for the hidden candy in these kits.
The family wanted to pray with us before we started, & the mother actually cried a bit in the prayer while thanking God for us, which I wasn’t expecting. The dad, on the other hand, was too busy being low-key (not so low-key) mad at his children for their ruining of months of preparation. He kept throwing out sarcastic jokes & mumbling to himself (“I wonder why the Lord punished you so you’d have to waste your time doing this…”), while we tried our best to redirect him to seeing how blessed WE felt to be able to help.
After clearing the garage & sweeping up the sugar-dust debris, we asked for a return appointment. The next time we showed up, the father actually apologized to us for the grumpy state he was in, & as we weeded the backyard with him, we had a nice long conversation with us about the blessings of his life. *fistPUMP* Once again, weeding yards & pruning lives at the same time. So many gardening metaphors in the scriptures– I’m starting to see why.
Yesterday, we finished up a three-day splurge with a lady named Peggy who has, I believe, a basement stocked for the apocalypse. (Hey, she made the joke, too.) We seriously spent three whole service days coming back & lifting boxes & buckets full to the brim with sugars, salts, coconut oil, honey, agave (I didn’t know what that was, either.), rice, grains, spices, cereals, oatmeal, legumes, lentils, pastas, wines, ramen, shake powders, soup bases, smelling salts, pressure cookers, rice cookers, essential oils, doggy treats, dehydrated fruit slices, dehydrated peanut butter, powdered butters (I wish I still didn’t know what that was.), cartons of cream & milk… Elder Forsyth & I know where we’re gonna go when the world sets on fire. She said she thinks it won’t be for a long time before she needs help again… this time may never come to get to the “second step”… especially considering we are literally wall-to-wall & floor-to-ceiling with these buckets & boxes. But this first step was a delightful accomplishment in & of itself. Also, it made me think a little bit of that short story, The Cask of Amontillado. Like… I was going to bury myself under buckets of agave nectar, & not even know it was happening. :  ) Not a bad way to go. At least I was prepared, right?
We also spent a considerable amount of time raking out pond scum from that gorgeous wonderland I documented (fawsonfantasy)… the man who owns the property served his mission in Hawai’i, & his wife attended middle-school there. I think he enjoys cheesing me about not being quite as physically adept as my companion, & often made rather pointed jokes at me, but when he saw the large pile I’d accumulated, he actually was quiet & impressed. He said, in that same joking tone, “Okay, okay, that’s enough! You’re gonna kill yourself!” But the difference from before was I’d at least shown him I was working, despite not being quite as impressive a servile specimen as Elder Forsyth. 😉 We shall continue to comb up this kelp like eensy-weensy barbers until it’s kempt! Or… until we’re verklempt! One or the other.
You might recall me talking a little bit about a 14-year-old girl named Dakota who was recently adopted by her grandparents. One thing I know for a fact is how much she loves her grandfather. I think he might be the one person in the world that gives her belief in Good– & belief in herself. She apparently acts out in school (so much so that the principal said she didn’t want her there), & so, believe it or not, her grandfather attended every class of summer school with her to make sure she did well. & she did. He’s been a powerful force & a sure foundation for her… & I know it wasn’t easy for them to decide to take Dakota in, but they will truly make all the difference. It’s been hard for us to reach her in anywhere near as meaningful a way, & she has a difficult time understanding how any of this applies to her… so I felt like I needed to draw out my thousand-word thesis about… what all of this gobbledygook amounts to– why it matters. So that’s the first picture attached.
Other attachments include a very quick slo-mo (oxymoron but true) video of a sign along the road to one of our fishing mainstays (what a fishin’ mission…)– we were heading there with Isaac, & I’d recently thought I’d seen a sign for a fleeting instant with Isaac’s grandpa’s last name on it. I queried Isaac about it, & he explained that one of his aunts passed away young, & the Tayon family had adopted the highway in her honour. … As you all hopefully know at this point, I am passionate about garbage clean-up. I even wrote a SONG about Adopt-a-Highway. One of our wards back home had adopted a highway… but I’d never thought of someone adopting a highway on behalf of a loved one. Something about it just strikes me as particularly meaningful, given my thoughts on “cleaning up”. Makes me think of that famous quote about a life lived as a window-washer…
I also ordered a sandwich/friend & made a cookie pie. :  ) Yum.
You are great, you are awesome,
sKye (eLder sOnomura)

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