The group of thirty people, mostly men, a few women, and one lone boy standing off by himself, shuffled their feet to hold back the morning cold while they gathered at the base of the trail leading up the mountain. From their vantage point, everything in existence appeared to be up, and in reality, they were right. The mountain ahead was not significantly steep, but the trail was narrow and held many twists and turns, so getting lost was a real danger. The air was crisp, and the beauty of the mountain was stunning; striking rock formations of red and beige surrounded by dark green trees of massive proportions, interrupted by an occasional deep blue twisting line. It should have been a painting; maybe it was.
Coming down the escalator to the terminal’s ground floor I could see the rain falling hard against the massive windows that made up the wall on the east side of the building. Outside, standing curbside waiting for the shuttle bus that would take me to the rental car facility; I came into personal contact with the cold, wet and very windy night. It was not cold enough to turn the rain into snow, but it was cold enough that it did not matter. After a long day of waiting, hurrying, dragging bags, stuffing overhead bins, and eating pretzels, I was tired and not looking forward to the 45 minute drive to my hotel. Still, real food and a warm bed was sufficient motivation to keep me moving.
I was moderately wet by the time I found myself in the driver’s seat of a foreign made “full sized” car. If this was a full sized car, I could not imagine how small a compact could be. Once I had located the lights switch, wipers, programed the GPS system, and adjusted the mirrors I was ready to go. I was driving in one of those states in the east where they did not know what a Bots Dot, or a reflector on the road was, or even reflective paint. On the pot hole filled road leading to the highway, I was having too much trouble distinguishing my lane from the one to my right or left; fortunately it was late and not too many cars were on the road. My lack of clarity was beginning to unnerve me, not to mention twice the harsh voice on the GPS box had informed me that it was recalculating my route because I had missed a turn.
Gnomes tend to be odd little creatures by any standard one wishes to measure against. For instance, their classified name: Gnome. It starts with a letter that is silent; one doesn’t pronounce the “G” so why even use it? Odd I would say. Then their bodies are out of proportion. Their feet are much too large given their height, or they are too short for their large, flat feet. Their heads are also large, and are flat on top. Not just less rounded, but flat, like a rectangular shaped pancake with grey fuzzy hair on top. Of course they have stubby fingers, big knees, awkward legs and beady eyes, which rounds out the entirely odd package. But then again, none of us are perfect; are we? Given all that could be considered less-than-beautiful about a Gnome, they still remain positive in their view of life and the world, a testimate to their ability to see the greater good in almost anything.
I own an old manual typewriter, similar to what you might see when visiting the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C. Weighing at least 10 pounds, it comes in its own grey/green carrying case, proudly baring the name, Smith-Corona on a black and chrome nameplate. Inside is a beautiful instrument of mechanical artwork, operated solely by using the knowledge and creativity stored inside the human brain, and the strength of a pounding finger or two. For a writer going into battle against a stubborn book, it can be a brutal as the axe, or subtle as a fine blade. It doesn’t need a wall plug, internet or IT technician to operate, yet its simplicity is vastly outgunned in speed, agility, and brainpower of a modern computer. The typewriter is a beautiful metaphor to life.
This year we vacationed in Oregon and Washington, anxious to experience the perfection of the Cascade Mountains, the unmatched beauty of the many rivers and lakes, and the grandeur of the Puget Sound. It would be a road trip for just my wife and me. We had purposely planned to be unplanned, granting ourselves the unusual gift of freedom to stop when we wanted, to wander off course as the urge prompted, and to be free from the chains of a schedule. When we left our home heading north the sunroof was open, the music was loud and our smiles were broad. We were on vacation.
Is it just me, or does the world want more out of us, but continues to offer less in return? Are we paying more for what was a free service only a few years ago? Flying is a perfect example of the negative change in the cost to value relationship of so many services or products we use. Flying used to be a luxurious form of transportation: good food, free movies, and big suitcases – a pampered existence for a few exciting hours. Now, you pay extra to bring clothes to your destination, unless you can squeeze them into a lunchbox sized carryon; if you are hungry, then bring your own food, and if you want entertainment, bring a credit card. The cost is up and the value is down. When I was young, ice cream was sold in a 4-quart container; we called it a gallon of ice cream. Now, since the makers of the ice cream have grown weary of raising prices, they have decreased the amount sold to 3.5 quarts. Since when is 3.5 quarts equal to a gallon? Everywhere, we are asked to pay more, and offered less in return – except in our transactions with God. His cost has stayed the same, and His value has not tarnished. His gifts are free and the value is immeasurable. Yet, even with a cost to value relationship so tilted in our favor, the darkness in this world wins too often, so we believers need to do more. The amount of pain, sickness, and hurt; the abandonment of all things Christian by governments big and small, and the stress of living in uncertain economic and political times, calls us to do more. We, who believe in God, must dig deeper to help those who do not know how, or where to dig. We need to sharpen our spoons.
This German folk tune, later sung by a host of musicians including Peter, Paul, and Mary, asks a very good question in its title; “Where have all the flowers gone?” Throughout the song, the songwriter misplaces a multitude of people and things – I used to sing this song in my eighth grade German class. Listening to the tune brought back a memory of the last time I “lost” my keys. All of us have lost our keys, books, wallet or purse, only to find the missing artifact in some obvious place a few moments, or hours later. We are amazed to think that we could have overlooked during our frantic search a set of keys sitting on the kitchen table. Could the keys have become invisible for two hours, and then just reappeared? Is there a wormhole to a distant universe in my kitchen? Or maybe, when we lose, or temporarily misplace something, it is because we have forgotten where ‘it’ came from and how to find ‘it’ once it has become missing?
I had just finished reading a book, one of those political thrillers where one tough good guy overcomes a government of corruption (if it were only true), so I was searching for my next book to read. I wanted a book with more action, but at the same time historically significant and spiritually/emotionally fulfilling. I wanted my next good read to matter. Most importantly, I wanted to learn something important. Like many of us, I read the first sentence of the first chapter to get an idea of the story. Here is what I found.
Kaizer, our 100 pound lap-dog, can suck the negativity and anger right out of anyone, his enthusiasm for life fills a room when he enters it; as does his enormous head, long and lean body, and huge feet. His tail can be compared to nuclear energy; it is meant for good, but when it’s near a coffee table where any breakables are on display – the incredible force of his nonstop, speed-of-light tail can only leave destruction and heartache behind. He is one of two dogs whose home we share (note the implied ownership – they hold the mortgage and have never made a payment), and without them our home seems empty and too quiet. Kaizer is a good dog (and Harley – so are you).
My bride shifted her leg, just a little, but enough so that my foot no longer touched hers. That was enough to bring me from a deep slumber into a semi-conscious state where dreams appear real, and reality flickers like a candle on a dark night. We were spooning, cuddled together under clean sheets and a down comforter, perfectly matched as two spoons in drawer. She was warm, radiating a soft fire that kept the winter chill from invading our bed. She says that I am like a heater, always good to keep the bed warm, but it is she who brings warmth. My knees touch the inside of her thighs, and my left hand rests gently on her hip. I feel her body rise with every breath, and I hear the soft melody of air caressing her lips. But my foot is no longer in contact with hers and that causes a ripple in my happiness, so without my asking or prompting, my left foot moves the two inches needed to find her. And then, having accomplished its goal my foot can be at peace again.