Sabbath
By Marvin Payne

Had a very nice Sabbath yesterday. In my church calling, I get to choose which youths will give talks in sacrament meeting. It was Mother’s Day, so I chose a young woman to whom I had said, “I want you to talk because I know you have a terrific mom.” Put that way, and recognizing the truth in what I’d said, she assented cheerfully. After church, the mom gave me a hug of thanks, which helped make my Sabbath “a delight,” which is what the Lord told Isaiah we should make of the Sabbath.

(Our own Mother’s Day celebration at home centered around a gaudy chocolate cheesecake (GCC) that I bought late Saturday night on my way home from a gig. The bakery part of the store was closed and dark, with only one lady still in it, mopping the floor. The GCC, with two or three lesser offerings, looked lonely on the shelf. I called out to the lady, just kidding around, “Hey, where are all the cakes that say ‘Mother’ on them?” She stood up straight and said, “I could write ‘Mother’ on one of those.” So I slid out the GCC and she put the mop down and squeezed out “Mommy” ((because that’s what we actually call her)) onto the cake in pink frosting. I told her I wouldn’t let anybody at the check stand see it ((our corner store is a total party late on Saturday nights)) because if I did, there would be a run on the bakery. Our Mother’s Day Sabbath was a delight.)

Today, Monday, I took a trip to Bountiful with my friend and frequent collaborator, Steven Kapp Pperry. In the land of Bountiful, (how about that-both a literary and a scriptural allusion in just two lines) Barry Gibbons mastered the commercial-release CD of our “bluegrass” re-telling of the prodigal son story called “Take the Mountain Down.” The process of “mastering” involves boosting and cutting various frequencies in the music in order to be kind to everybody’s speakers, and making all the songs to have consistent volume in order to be kind to everybody’s brains. With most pop music, this means squishing all the music and then turning it up so that there are no soft parts, just loud parts. This is so the people who are around when the CD is playing don’t actually have to listen, liberating their brains to do other things, like to operate the person’s feet on the dance floor, or to regulate the chewing of their gum.

The “mastered” songs come into their ears as though their ears were mouths and the songs were very long carrots of precisely the same cylindrical proportions from one end to the other, not unlike broomsticks.

Brother Gibbons, master masterer, didn’t broomstick our songs. He just squished them enough for all the band members to feel a little more friendly toward one another, which was, I think, consistent with all their various dispositions. Our songs are still carrots with a bit of shape, a small end to begin with that will get you accustomed to the increasing substance as you make your way through, all the way to a bit of green, having munched through more than one little cling-on (this is not a Star Trek character) of good, wholesome dirt.

It was a good day’s work, my main task having been simply to remain awake.

I don’t much mind Mondays, really. It’s always kind of a new start, symbolically, another chance at getting at least the mundane things right. Because that’s what it’s mainly for. “Monday.” “Mundane.” Hmmm…. No, “mundane” comes from a Latin root that means “world.” So “mundane” is worldly, thin, maybe noisy, but temporary. But you have to admit it sounds a lot like “Monday.”     

We don’t have a word “tuesdane” to describe things. Maybe because Tuesday is seldom all that different from Monday. Tuesday almost doesn’t have an identity of its own. It’s not Wednesday, which is the heart of the week (or the summit, if you’re thinking of a week as something to get over). It’s not like Thursday, which always feels like “Friday Eve.” And it’s certainly not Friday, for which we are all encouraged to thank God, and to celebrate by attending a restaurant of that name which is, more than anything else it might also be, “mundane.” One could even reasonably argue that the word that goes just beyond “mundane” ought to be “fridane.”     

Poor Tuesday. My little children used to ask when we were going to Disneyland, when we were going to buy a boat, when we were going to fix the kitchen floor so marbles wouldn’t always roll immediately to one corner. They dreaded hearing me answer cheerfully, “Oh, I think we’ll do that a week from Tuesday.” Which meant, in our family, “probably never.”

It was a phrase that had the same value as “We’ll see,” which, as we had our kids repeat back to us, meant “We don’t yet have enough information to make a firm decision,” but which they all knew really meant “Never.”  (I saw a funny cartoon taped to a gun display at Van Wagenen’s Pawn Shop: There was a business executive standing by his desk, holding a phone and looking at a calendar. He says into the phone, “No, I can’t meet Tuesday. How about never? Would never work for you?”)   

Then finally there’s Saturday. It’s your day. No school, usually no work, just your day. Unless you live in a house, or have a yard, or own a car, or eat food. Then the day is claimed by your house, your yard, your car, or the grocery store. Of course, there are lots of fun things you can do, but you have to do them really fast, and it makes you tired. Maybe as tired as all the running around through the other days of the week, Mundane through Fridane. Still, I’m glad there’s a Saturday in every week.

And I’m just as glad there aren’t two of them, which is what many people who don’t “make the Sabbath a delight” have every week. Two Saturdays, and no Sunday.

I can’t wrap this column without a journal entry from August of 2003.

“My kids are just as noisy as a derailing circus train. A lot of their noise is fun. Some is not. I think there are a couple of things about noise that are not so good. One is, it hurts Dad’s ears. The other thing might be worse, though. When you’re making a lot of noise, it’s hard to hear things.     

“In Alpine (my town), there used to be more space between the houses and the mountains than there is now. There were dirt roads and trails that wound among the sage and through oak thickets, some stretches bridged with trees. Kids used to ride dirt bikes along those foothills, missing everything that was good about that land except the bumps. I felt sorry for them as I ran every day along those paths. I thought I heard so much more, felt much more, of what the wild country had to say than if I were riding a bike. Then one evening I had some hard thinking to do and I walked those same paths. I was astounded at how much I had missed, how much I could suddenly hear, how much I could see, and feel when I walked instead of ran. Then, on another evening, I needed not so much to think as to pray. I walked out there and held still. For a long time. And I found myself wondering how I’d ever heard or seen or felt anything out there before, now that I was holding still instead of walking. I realized that merely moving through that beauty, at any pace, had blurred everything.     

“We just took the kids to the mountains that overlook Zion Canyon from the north. They are almost six and almost three. Not the mountains, the kids. The mountains are old enough that there’s a tree growing on them that was tall when Moroni walked the earth. And the mountain had already eroded into a fiery fan of yellow and orange spines many millennia before that pine cone sank into its skin.     

“We hiked to an Alpine pond with glowing trout moored among its mosses, and for once it seemed right to my kids to be quiet. We only whispered as we hiked, and sometimes we just stood and listened to the wind breath and the birds chitter. They loved it. It was reverence they could feel. We settled in a pine grove near the canyon rim and quietly considered another grove, bees humming, sweet birds singing. Shafts of light filled with loving looks and holy words.”

It was the Sabbath day. It was a delight.

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