When I was a kid, I spent most of my time in the parallel reality of my imagination. Which I could access most powerful by means of either a) the scriptures or b) my bicycle.
The scriptures were amazing to me, better than any other books because they contained world after world after world with no clear dividing lines. During sacrament meetings, I would stare at the maps and move from place to place and era to era in them, or else flip through the verses looking for scraggly-thin, intense, long-bearded prophets like Elijah and Abinadi (who were so caught up in God they didn't seem to experience ordinary fear) and for clever, long-sighted women like Rebekah and Abigail who could feel what was coming and change it with their words.
On my bicycle, I was both free and potent. I'd ride across the school grounds and up a hill and imagine myself somewhere in the middle of Asia where the people looked like me. My bicycle was my steed, then, and I wore a turban and carried a sword and led my troops over plateaus and steppes and then stopped to eat by rivers on fertile farmland.
This is almost, but not quite, a normal way for a Mormon boy in Utah to grow up in the mid-late 1980s and early 1990s when I was there. I mean, I'll bet there were plenty of Mormon boys around me whose imaginations were best unlocked by the scriptures and their bikes, but I'll also bet they were thinking about Nephi instead of Elijah, and about wearing cowboy hats instead of turbans. The difference is pretty subtle, I think, but somehow has meant a lot to me. I'm still, in many senses, an untypically typical Mormon boy.
Which may explain why the current Everyday Mormon Writer combination of Nick Stephen's "The Garden Gate" and Jake Balser's "Beginning Ghazal" means so much to me. There's something that just feels natural to me about seeing two Mormons explore one of the stories we Latter-day Saints value most by borrowing old Iranian motifs and forms. And yet--I don't think I ever would have expected to see it. Never would have expected to see two grown-up Mormon boys, each within a few years of my own age, letting their imaginations mix Sunday School with styles from lands in the middle of Asia.
I know there are plenty of troubles in this world of ours...but it's a fun time to be alive.