Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Just a Mere Whiff.

Everyone has smelled the good-earth smell after a rain, but for some reason, smells of other kinds are making memories explode inside my head in the past summer.

Early in the summer, when the weather was getting hotter, I would come back from my run and enter the woods where our house stands. The humid, leafy, musky odor of the woods could make me stop and lift my nose and breathe in deeply like a wolf. I thought of my days wandering the woods as a child at summer camp, sweating and discovering...and being fascinated with a child's horror at bugs and beasties I'd never seen before. It is the smell of discovery, is the woods.

This morning I went out for a bicycle ride instead of a run (I hurt a tendon somehow and am resting it) and caught the smell of a brackish pond laden with lily pads and cattails. Most people would find that smell objectionable, but it took me right back to my teenage field-wandering dreamdays, when I would walk for hours, examining plants, bugs, weather and silence. I had a few special spots that no one knew of but myself, where I would crouch down for hours and watch things happen around me. The smell of a still pond is to me the scent of peaceful solitude, the kind in which a storm might arise but mean me no harm...

There is an alfalfa field about a half mile away. So far the farmer has gotten three harvests of good, rich hay off it, and he just mowed it down again to dry in the pre-autumn cooling sunshine. It smells different from regular hay...it almost smells more nutritious, like the smell of soup and bread instead of only bread, which is pleasant enough. Long ago I helped a friend bring in such a harvest. It was all-day hard work, loading the bales onto the wagon and off-loading them into the barn. We sweated liberally, and bits of hay got everywhere and stuck fast to our skin. Afterwards we fell into her pool, an above-ground affair, the bits giving up and floating to the surface, our skin drinking in the coolness and shedding heat into the water. It was wonderful, and afterwards I slept like the earth. To this day, the scent of alfalfa hay brings back to the vision of fat, content horses, honking geese, and a feeling of readiness for cold weather.

Scent is like a library to an aging person. There are so many yet to experience, yet so many to return to like old friends. And when one least expects it, they are found again, and can be savored and enjoyed. Hopefully, we can pass on the appreciation of them to the young so as to add to their fond memories.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Her First Day of College.

Today was Meg's first day of college.

Well, sort of. She's really still in high school, but she's taking a Latin class because the high school doesn't offer one. This morning she headed off to school and then, about a half hour later we received a frenzied telephone call: "My class starts today! It's not tomorrow, it's today! I need to be picked up at 11:40!" She hadn't got her books yet, so we parked at the University bookstore, where she found her books in the basement annex. We paid for them amid the crowds of college students who were just now getting to that errand, perhaps after their first class. I told the middle-aged cashier that my check was probably alot better than theirs. She cracked a knowing grin.

I dropped Meg off at the building we'd checked out a few days before, after asking if she wanted my cell phone, just in case. She declined it and marched bravely into the crowd, into Recitation Hall.

Had a few errands to do on campus, so I'd be picking her up after class in about an hour. I'd prayed that the day would go well, for it hadn't started well. She's been trying to get over a disappointment with a friend and was still discouraged about it, and her class schedule at school had been botched, so she was called into the office and accused of truancy. Fortunately that was soon straightened out, but it left her wondering what more could go wrong.

After class I found her at the appointed place.

"How did it go?"
"Oh, OK-- but it sure was weird: I got into the class and everyone was sitting there absolutely silent!"
I started to laugh.
"Yeah, so I sat down and the silence was so deafening that I finally decided I had to break it, so I went into my bag with the express purpose of loosening a piece of Velcro in there. Rrrriiip! But even then, nobody said anything. Finally a couple of girls started to whisper to each other! I decided to label everyone who came in. I got through three: a "lawyer", a "politician", and a "hit man". Then the teacher came in."
"A hit man??"
"Yeah. The "lawyer" was a girl; she had blond hair in a ponytail, glasses and a crisp, exact way of talking."
"What's the teacher like?" I asked, snorting.
"Oh, the teacher is a young gal who I think is a grad student. She had us all introduce ourselves and give our majors and say why we were taking Latin. Everyone was so quiet about it. When she got to me I decided I'd be loud! And I told them I was only a high school senior but wanted to take Latin because I am interested in languages. Most of the others were there becuase they thought it would be an easy class, or because they wanted to be lawyers."
"How did the teacher react to that?"
"Well, she thought it was cool that I wanted to study languages. But what was funny was that there was this one guy who must have been a senior, or old enough to be a senior. He'd just changed his major and was starting practically all over again. And you know, he looked as scared as I felt!"

Monday, August 07, 2006

Sit! Stay!

Had a recent conversation with a girl who is embroiled in alot of teen drama that she wants no part of and which has hurt her personally. The situation is complicated and involves a good deal of ungodly gossip. She is very angry and has felt like what would work best is to punch everyone out. Only problem is that she doesn't know what all the facts of the matter are, and she can't find them out without sinning herself. Plus, she is so angry that she knows it is likely she'd do some damage.

I told her to chill.

"Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path." Proverbs 3:5,6

The natural and understandable tendency of most people, when their world goes wrong and they are the bearing the brunt of hurt, is to immediately try to do something to get to the bottom of the situation and resolve it. It's as simple as going to the drug store for aspirin when you have a headache. But in the Kingdom, that isn't the way it goes all the time. Certainly there are some things that need to be done if you know you have sinned against someone else. But if you are hurt, and angry about it, and have not sinned, then it's just possible that it is an opportunity for God to be glorified by your doing nothing at all.

Deuteronomy 3:22 "Do not be afraid of them; the LORD your God himself will fight for you."

Have you ever tried to untie a knot in a young child's shoe with their foot still in it? Often the child will try to "help", which invariably impedes the whole process. You have to keep pushing the child's hand gently aside, and they are not often content with your help. The process takes quite a while, depending on the will of the child involved. In the same way, our efforts to rush about to put things right affects God's plan in the same way. It takes much less time if we let Him do the necessary work in the hearts of others and in circumstances, and are still with the expectation that He will solve the problem.

Said this girl to me: "How do I know when it will be time to do something?" I told her that she would know because she would be able to act with the strength of the Spirit: with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. As long as she was angry and torn up inside, it would not be time for her to act. But when it was, it would be like the Lord removing His arm preventing her from acting: opportunity would present itself, and she would know exactly what to do, and she would be able to proceeed in full peace and self-control. I told her that the ability to recognise the signs of when the Lord would have us act, and when He would not are abilities that are freakishly rare in girls of her age-- but that if she could cultivate a spirit of watching and waiting, she might just master it at an early age.

May it be so not only for her, but also for me, and for you too.