It sounds like the beginning of a joke on a Laughy Taffy wrapper, right? Well it’s not. Ernest Hemingway and His Holiness the Dalai Lama really do have something in common. They have both been to the remote Wood River Valley, a small yet wealthy area in central Idaho.
What these two men did there, however, contrasts sharply. Hemingway had a house in Ketchum, a small town in the valley, which is where he put a shotgun to his head in 1961. The Dalai Lama, in 2005, visited Sun Valley, another small town, to “bring his message of compassion to Sun Valley during the anniversary of 9/11” (Idaho Mountain Express). (more…)
The desert west of town is a lonely expanse of volcanic fissures, sage, and shotgun shells. My wife Avery and I ventured out here to walk the labyrinth, a piece of land art designed by Scott Samuelson, her former professor.(more…)
“Stalking is a game played in the actual present.” —Annie Dillard
I often go for walks during my lunch breaks, and when I do, I’m usually reading. I learned this method of multi-tasking as an English major with more books to read in one semester than I could stuff in my backpack. Now that I’ve graduated and gotten a “grown-up job,” I have to fit reading in whenever I can. “Read-walking,” as I call it, allows me to get some fresh air, exercise, and a daily dose of good storytelling. (more…)
As a boy I collected butterflies. I hunted them, killed them, and mounted them in an impressive display case. I knew their names, their habitats, their habits. Over 100 species. Unhappily, worms destroyed my entire collection. I see now that my youthful intention had been to capture the butterflies’ beautiful essence. I have outgrown my need to capture butterflies. I am content to view them alive and free, awed by their living beauty.
Working in the yard one day I watched my son Brian, then 9 (now 26), chasing a butterfly with a homemade pillowcase net. “I caught it!” he exclaimed. I held my breath as he peered into the net to examine his prize. He soon released the butterfly to live another day. A smile of wonder lingered on his face. I breathed a relieved sigh to see him possess the maturity I had lacked at his age. I had taught…
From a distance, Badger Mountain looks like a barren pile of dirt crowned with cell phone towers. There are no waterfalls, cliffs, or forests—not even a single tree. Yet there is beauty here, and life in abundance, but you have to let go of your expectations of beauty to really see it.(more…)
The auditorium of the old Rexburg Tabernacle is packed. Everyone here has come to hear Tim Ballard speak, the man who founded Operation Underground Railroad, a non-profit devoted to liberating child sex slaves. O.U.R. jump teams travel to countries like Colombia and Haiti, pose as buyers for sex slaves, and organize big deals with local sex traffickers. At the right moment, local police burst in with weapons drawn, arresting traffickers and O.U.R. team members. The traffickers are taken to jail, the teams are released, and the rescued children are placed in reputable care. It’s as intense as any sting Hollywood could contrive, but this is completely real, dangerous, and far more rewarding.(more…)
For several months, my wife has been trying to get me to read an essay called “The Solution to World Poverty,” which appeared in The New York Times Magazine in 1999. The author, Peter Singer, presents the idea that if we don’t give all our surplus money to help people in need, we are not living an ethical lifestyle.
I put off reading the essay because I knew it would make me uncomfortable. I was nervous to assume responsibility for whatever knowledge it might contain. Finally, I read it at work during a recent lunch break, and I was right. It challenged me in ways that I’m still working through. (more…)