College Caroler

 

The songster carols every morn

To welcome in the day newborn

As day’s first light and sunbright rays

Enter my room through branchy maze

And weave around my window shades

To stripe my floor in bright cascades.

 

And now as evening falls, again

I hear that happy song begin,

A lullaby to close the day

And bid the sun to go away

Until the moon has come and gone,

Then to return with break of dawn.


Note:  Listening to a little songbird singing outside my dorm room window one morning and evening this past week inspired me to write this short tribute.  After months of silence during my time at school, the birds have suddenly emerged and begun to carol everywhere on campus.  I would have expected them to be active in the late summer and fall, not in the middle of winter with snow and freezing temperatures, but who can know the mind of a bird?

George & The Werewolf

George climbed higher towards the apex of the mesa. Stopping at a bend in the rocky upwards path, he sat down stiffly on a nearby rock, and, shaded from the sun by a brambly tree, took a long gulp of water from his flask. Then, reaching down, he tightened the laces on his left shoe, hoping to reduce the chance of further blistering on his heel.

Sitting back again, George surveyed the landscape. From his perch halfway up the steep face of the mesa, he could see rocky mountains on all sides, towering to lazy peaks above his head—he was scaling the baby peak of the bunch, the child surrounded by its bigger siblings. But, George thought, It holds a secret its older brothers do not. Rising, George shouldered his pack once again, and resumed his slow climb. Keeping out of the sunlight was impossible on this climb, though he had a large hat, khaki pants, and a long-sleeved shirt on to protect his skin from roasting.

But it was hot. Sweat evaporated at the arid, high elevation, and a pin-pricking needle-like sensation was the only indication that he was expending sweat to cool himself. He needed to reach the top soon—it would be unbearable come nightfall, and also cold. In addition, George did not know what creatures might come out at night. He had seen deer tracks earlier on his climb, but no deer were foolish enough to venture this high. More recently, he had seen a set of bootprints appear—and only a day or two old. This baffled him, and he felt an anxiety at the uncertainty. Who might this other person be?

George’s guide had not made it—after the first week, when the sun-browned native had become weakened and quickly sickened, George had stopped and set up camp and cared for the man—soaking a rag in cool water and laying it to the man’s forehead. But it was not enough—the man had died. And now George was alone. There was no point but to continue; so after improvising a burial for the loyal guide, George had continued on. But a dread had been slowly building in his heart—what had begun as a grand adventure, here at the end, had become almost dreamlike—and dark.

The sun was lowering, until it finally was only partly peeking over the mountaintops, catching its last glimpse of George, bidding him good night. For his part, George found a secluded crevice beneath an overhang of rock and set up a simple camp for the night—a wood fire assembled from a bone-dry tree he hacked to pieces with a hatchet.

As George arranged the logs for the fire, he thought of how hardy this tree must have been to withstand the harshness of the wild. He even felt a strange sympathy for the tree as it began to crackle and burn. The tree, clinging so fiercely to life, sending its roots deep, around and between and across the rock, finding a way to subsist on the scant light and water it received.

Being alone made George strangely introspective. It was worrisome, slightly, how much thought he was giving a simple tree. He reiterated the truth to himself, for the sake of his sanity: he needed a fire to cook his food, provide warmth, and potentially ward off the creatures of the night, and the tree was the closest available source of fuel; so he had to use it. That was all.

The meal was simple—a dry biscuit, heated slightly, as well as warm soup from a can. He was trying to conserve his supplies, in case his quest took longer than expected. Finishing his meal, he unrolled his sleeping bag and climbed inside. It was going to be a chilly night—not cold, but uncomfortably chilly. A strong breeze blew fitfully along the side of the mesa, threatening at times to snuff out George’s fire. However, George placed a few larger rocks around the windward side of his fire, and it flickered more brightly, then crawled back into his bag.

George’s sleep was wakeful and dark. About midnight, he was startled awake by a guttural howl. Rolling instinctively towards his bag, he pulled out his revolver and squinted out from his crevice in the rocks—he knew the sound well. It was a werewolf.

To be continued by Joseph…

This is part 1 in a 4-part series.

Back to School

Stepping out into the cold, Emilia shoved her gloved hands into her coat pockets and scrunched further into her scarf.  The silence surprised her.  No one was out on the university’s sidewalks in the early evening dark.  No cars, no doors, no shoes, no animals, no leaves sounded around her.  The world felt muffled in a thick layer of cold quiet.  Even when a car did roll by, it too seemed muted and distant.  The night was beautiful in its unusualness.  Emilia smiled and would have stayed outside a little longer to enjoy the wintry wonder of the silence, but she was shivering and already late for her normal suppertime.

As she entered the warm cafeteria, Emilia fumbled in her pocket and pulled out her ID.  She smiled and said hello to the worker at the front desk.  When she held out her ID for him to swipe, he waved it away.  “Go ahead.  The system’s down,” he explained.  In the cafeteria, the workers were already wiping down tables and stacking chairs as Emilia cut up her slice of ham.  Her meal seemed to take forever thanks to a whistle-like beep every thirty seconds.  Was a fire alarm battery going out?  Should she be concerned?  No one else reacted, so neither did she.  Did it really take her a minute and a half (three beeps) to cut up a slice of ham?  Probably so, she admitted a little reluctantly.

Finishing up her meal, she left the cafeteria and stopped by one of the many public restrooms on the way back to her dorm.  The beeping from the cafeteria was mimicked here by a softer, electric beeping that was less concerning but still annoying.  How can there be four soap dispensers and still no soap?

Back in her dorm room, whose deceitful thermostat read eighty degrees, Emilia kept her coat and scarf on, hoping that either she or the room would warm up.  She also hoped the showers would be hot.  After all, this was college life after the Christmas holidays, the day before classes resumed.  Even the little things are successes on days like this, and not to be taken for granted.  Everything would be back to normal in a day or two.  Or wait.  Emilia’s phone chimed, and she saw an alert from the campus police about an armed robbery.  Well, that wasn’t particularly normal or reassuring.  But at least she was inside for the night, and apparently the university warning system was functioning.  Good to know.

Resolute in a New Year

2017 was considered to be a terrible year by many. However, while most point to the election of our latest chief of state, or the end of Net Neutrality, or even the death of Hugh Hefner and other American entertainment icons to back up this statement, very few people look beyond surface level news to what is actually going on; then again, there might be a reason for that:

  1. Mexico: as of October 2017, there were 20,878 reported murders. This averages out to 69 reported murders per day. (ref)
  2. Venezuelan President urges population to eat rabbits to try and counter waves of starvation sweeping through his country. (ref)
  3. Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia consolidates power by jailing political opponents and confiscating their assets. (ref)
  4. European Union begins legal action against Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic for closing their borders to Muslim migrants from the Middle East. (ref)
  5. Hurricane Maria batters Puerto Rico, destroying massive amounts of infrastructure (ref)

Certainly, 2017 was a hard year for many -both on a global scale, but also through the various troubles and heartaches of everyday life; however, does this mean we look with hope that 2018 will be easier? Less destructive? Certainly that is something good to strive for, but it should not be the pinnacle of our hopes.  After all, Jesus said, “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet” (Matt 24.6). While the human reaction to the troubles of life is often fear and anxiety, Jesus states that these are not the correct responses. Addressing this very issue, Paul describes the mindset that all Christians should strive for in there lives: “[…]When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (2:1-2). Christ was the star that Paul sought to orbit. Did this mean that Paul did not suffer or watch others suffer? Certainly not, but it did shape his view of suffering -suffering in light of a future where all things are made new. It enabled him to love others genuinely and selflessly, even as Christ loves him, and meant that all circumstances, however painful, were not outside the control of his heavenly father and were not without purpose. Christ at the center will shape our ability to love those who hate us, comfort those who are suffering, have compassion on those who are wandering, and feed those who are hungry. May Paul’s words be in our hearts and prayers in this coming year: “I […] know nothing […] except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (2:2)