Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Horror of the Alaskan Bush

God, how terrible and beautiful is your creation. I blinked off the sleep and stood by the door of the sturdy cabin and listened intently. Had the terror of the night drawn away or was it waiting in the fog, waiting for me to escape my relative safety and leave myself vulnerable to its insatiable appetite for blood. Should I trust the silence. Should I trust the peaceful foggy stillness. Should I venture into the dew-soaked grasses where the most persistent, horrible, blood-thirsty, predator lies – more horrible and deadly than any monster detailed in the annals of human history, waiting to let my blood, waiting to pierce my flesh and pull the very life from my veins with its relentless attacks. The tracks of the Alaskan Brown Bear and the wolf could be found within a hundred yards of where I stood but their threat, their hunger paled in comparison to this death-dealer, this creature of the lowlands, the pilot of the night, whose incessant song of conquest could be heard throughout the world from swamp to subway, from taxi to tundra and most places between. I opened the door a crack and stepped into the morning. Dew hung heavily in the grass and willow branches and soaked me as I crept through and then it began. Hearing the low hum I bolted to the outhouse and was assailed heavily, blood flowing, as one more generation of the horrible mosquito fulfilled its destiny and mine.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Solid Weekend of Life's Ups and Downs

This weekend was a real trip. It began Friday afternoon when I found out from my son that he wasn’t going to be visiting our home (he resides with his mother and has for the past year) as planned because he wanted to hang out with his step-sister, her boyfriend, and another girl. I understand being a teen. I understand where our relationship is on his list of priorities but understanding doesn’t make a Dad’s desire to relate to his son, face-to-face, any less powerful. I did feel dejected. We’ve only been able to connect for about 14 hours in the past 6 mos. (partly because of our busy schedules but more so because of a breakdown in our relationship. I strive to get around it but I’m not quite sure he’s ready to move away from it yet.)

The next big news was a rumor that my 14 ½ yr. old daughter was going to send me a letter requesting my permission to also move to her mom’s home. I expected it from my son last year because we don’t see eye to eye on many things and one is materialism. He has more in common with his mother in this respect. I did not expect that my daughter would want to leave her friends, her little brothers and sister, and me for anything. I don’t fault her for wanting to get to know her mom in a deeper way but it still hurts to think of her not being in our household on a regular basis. So it was just a rumor and nothing more at that point so I put it out of my mind.

Saturday morning I got up early, awoke my daughter Sydney, and we hurriedly dressed, grabbed a bite of breakfast, and hit the road. Our trip to Pentwater to pick up Sophia was to be a great opportunity to connect with Sydney mono a mono and also let her add some hours of driving education (just got her learner’s permit). At 15 Sydney and I are settling into a better relationship. We had the normal difficulties faced by parents of teenage girls but some were exacerbated by wounds that Sydney received prior to my coming into the picture and also by my complete inability to understand the learning difficulties Sydney faced for the first 9 years of our relationship. I was an idiot with expectations set much to high and inadvertently overlooked Sydney’s true gifts in my zeal to teach her to be like other kids. With that behind us we grow closer each day and I sense the tension has all but disappeared. The tension had formed and shaped the dialogue between her and I for all that time and it is like walking into a newly found berry patch with fruit hanging ripe and delicious now that it has been lifted. We both have found freedom in expressing ourselves to each other in the trust that has blossomed out of the dead limbs of stress.

We had a nice visit, Sydney and I, conversing lightly of car models and colors and home sites and terrain. As we approached a hill just north of Hesperia I noticed a dark figure in the road and found it to be a very beautiful cow grazing lazily from one side of the road to the next. She was a deep, dark red with no white showing anywhere and I supposed her to be mostly shorthorn in breed but betraying some dairy breed by the large extruding hips prominent in the Guernsey or Holstein breed. I pulled over on the shoulder as I neared the cow and saw 3 lively girls milling about in a yard near where the cow was grazing. A long-forgotten memory of my sisters in the same situation as these young ladies filled my head. I had stood in a bedroom on the wide white-painted baseboard, holding tight to a window sill, and shouted at the girls through a screened window, being but a toddler at the time. My sisters’ safety was my main concern as I watched them bewilderedly trying to keep the cow from getting on the road. The girls in the present picture had already given up and were just hoping beyond hope that the cow wouldn’t get hit by a passing car while they watched. I asked them if they’d like me to herd the cow into the yard for them and they’d squealed, “If you’d like to”. Their father was working. As I moved the cow toward a barnyard gate (requiring some darting around and moving how I hadn’t moved in years) their mother and two more toddler girls appeared from a back door of their house. The mother and I got the cow into the barnyard after not a little huffing, puffing, and sweating. I returned to the trip and after an hour or so of continued light conversation with Sydney, arrived at West Michigan Camp.

I was not prepared for the flood of the Holy Spirit that was to meet me as I approached the pavilion where the young people and staff had assembled for the closing ceremonies. We were right on time and after greeting some friends we joined in the worship which was spirit-filled and brought the closing to a Holiness one does not experience many times on a Saturday afternoon after rising early, driving 3 hours and chasing a healthy beef cow. Sophia was saddened at having to leave her friends for another year and soon was sleeping in the front passenger seat. I chose to sit in the back to help restrain the urge to give Sydney constant instruction. We had both agreed she could drive on the return trip to gain experience and work toward her required 50 hours of driving time prior to obtaining her driver’s license.

I’m not going to comment on the drive home but lets just say we arrived in one piece and I’ll measure the trail and pay for the beans we drove over in the farmer’s field. West Michigan, please forgive us but where does a young driver begin?

Upon arrival the weekend turned even more bittersweet. My daughters disappeared to their rooms and my wife handed me a letter that Sophia had sent from camp. At 14 ½ she is more mature than many her own age and often as mature as some adults I know. Her letter was sweet but left my mouth dry and a lump in my throat. She wants to move to her mother’s house. Her mother recently won custody of Sophia’s 9 yr. old sister from the second marriage. Her mother is in a third marriage which has seemed to be going well for quite awhile but recently has shown some levels of stress. The court case is not final for the custody battle so I made a deal with Sophia. If her mother retains custody of the 9 yr. old I would give her my blessing and we’d enrole her in a high school in her mother’s school district. If she failed to retain custody we would revisit our custody arrangement to allow Sophia more visitation time so she could get to know her mother. When Sophia presented her request as “We’ve had 14 ½ yrs. to grow together and there isn’t much time before I’ll be too busy as an adult to really get to know my mom” I really had no argument as long as she’ll be in a stable environment. I was very impressed at the thought and love that went behind the letter she wrote me. It honors me so much to be able to call her my daughter and I thank God for the chance to be with her for the rest of the summer. I pray I can continue to have a close bond with her throughout the rest of her young adult life and look forward to the grandchildren she promises to bring to visit someday.
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