Thursday, July 09, 2009
From the Earth to the Moon, and To . . .
Forty years ago this week, many of us were holding our collective breath.
We were counting down, a phrase still new back then (10, 9, 8, 7 . . . 2, 1, blastoff!), counting down the days and hours until the utterly amazing yet long predicted conclusion of the Apollo 11 mission, splashing down in the Pacific Ocean.
From the Atlantic coast of Florida, where Jules Verne had “launched” his moon shot in an 1865 novel, Ohio native Neil Armstrong (and Purdue University grad), Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins rode the mighty Saturn IV-B booster rocket that carried the Command Module and Lunar Module, Columbia and Eagle, into Earth orbit, on to the Moon, and ultimately to Armstrong and Aldrin landing in Mare Tranquillitatis, the “Sea of Tranquility,” which Armstrong named Tranquility Base on July 20, 1969.
When Armstrong, an Eagle Scout, says that he said “a” in that first transmission from the surface of another heavenly body, “One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind,” I believe him. The radio signal was spotty, the TV picture more so, but given that less than ten years before this was all just a wild tale told by 19th century French novelists and 20th century American science fiction writers, they did pretty well.
I don’t recall Walter Cronkite saying much about poor picture quality. We were watching on a 12 inch black and white set with rabbit ears, Channel 2 in Chicago, where we sat on a back porch of a three story brownstone on the South Side hoping for a breeze while praying for the astronauts.
My ninth birthday was coming up in a month, and it turns out about a mile away, the future Michelle Obama was watching the same unfolding drama on a similar porch hoping for a cool breese on a warm Chicago night. (Barack was watching from Hawaii, his ninth birthday right around the corner, but it wasn’t after his bedtime as we all waited for someone to come down the ladder of the LEM.)
Robert Heinlein sat in with Uncle Walter, a name I recalled from having recently read “Space Cadet” (yeah, yeah, laugh if you must, but go back and read it – what a book, what a story); the night spurred me to want to read more of Heinlein’s work.
Engineers, explorers, scientists, pilots, politicians, even writers . . . how many people, of whatever age, watching that night, were inspired by the awe and wonder and complexity of what the moon landing meant, to go on and attempt and achieve something they couldn’t have imagined before July 20, 1969?
We haven’t been back to the lunar surface, not to leave human bootprints, since 1972 and Apollo 17. There are many earthly challenges that evoke the phrase “if we could put a man on the moon, why can’t we . . .”
And I have to admit I’m one of those who thinks, when that’s said, “. . . put someone on the moon again?” There’s a multiplier effect of the dollars spent on an effort like the Apollo program, but it’s the multiplier effect on dreams and vision that pays the real benefit down the line.
I hope we go back in my lifetime, and I salute this week our fellow Buckeye, Neil Armstrong, and all the thousands who stitched the spacesuit gloves and hammered the bolts for Grumman and drove the trailers at Canaveral, in the vast effort that put him, and us, on the doorstep of the cosmos.
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; if you called him a space cadet, you would not be the first. Tell him a tale of science fiction or fact at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow Knapsack @Twitter.com.
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Notes From My Knapsack 8-6-09
Few Dollars, Careful Decisions, Timeless Implications
With massive budget cuts slicing through the infrastructure of Ohio this way and that, and with almost that random a pattern, it’s hard to know what impact to bemoan or be bothered by first.
Human services, cuts that reduce the ability of agencies like Job and Family Services to protect children, rebuild families, or aid recently unemployed persons, those really hurt. Mental health seems to be kicked to the curb big time, even though untreated mental illness sure seems to be a major cause of many other issues that end up with the state and counties and communities spending major dollars whether they want to or not (jail, for one).
Developmentally disabled folk, both children and adults, have a marvelous group of people working for their interests here in Licking County, but they’ve been short the allocation they need to fully support everyone they would like since before electric lights became all the rage.
And education receiving actual cuts, not just “as adjusted for inflation” reductions, seems like the cruelest cut of all. The only way to create the jobs that we need in manufacturing and engineering, to start building and making and crafting actual things again is to support education, and not just youth warehousing, either.
But it’s the sweeping, devastating cuts to the Ohio Historical Society that I want to talk about in the space I’m offered here, not because I think the social services above or the library services not even mentioned here are less important, but because I worry that OHS has so many fewer advocates than any other public purpose on the chopping block. You will no doubt hear more about the Licking County Historical Society and the budget impacts from the county commissioners reduction than you will about OHS, even though the latter owns four major properties in this county.
(By the way, this is written long before the actual figures and decisions will be made, most of which will be finalized and irrevocable, for this year at least, by the time you see these words on newsprint.)
Given that the emotionally distraught, the mentally disabled, the immediately hungry and hopeless must be served first, where does that leave a state entity like OHS?
In my next “Knapsack” column, I want to ask you to join me in a “blank sheet of paper” walk through the question of what a state absolutely must have and still be worth calling a state with a history and a story worth telling.
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; if Ohio was burning down, what history would you grab on the way out the door? Tell him about your choice of an armload at email@example.com or follow Knapsack @Twitter.com.
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Notes From My Knapsack 8-13-09
Picking Up and Preserving the Pieces
When I try to think through a “blank sheet of paper” assessment for an Ohio Historical Society budget, asking “what absolutely must be done, even in trying times?” the list I come up with goes like this:
The state archive has to be protected; the documents and papers and books and pictures that make up the primary sources of the Ohio story have to be preserved. Ironically, not allowing access to them might help preservation a bit, and the state does not require that OHS have certain visiting hours, just that there are certain public records they are legally and duty bound to protect.
So there too, no library hours to speak of . . . well, three hours on Sunday afternoon. But the humidity is kept under control, the lights kept dim, and the archival boxes of acid-free cardboard sit on their shelves.
Properties must be preserved for future generations – when I’ve done student groups and class field trips out at Flint Ridge and Great Circle, I would always remind them that the Ohio Historical Society exists to 1) preserve, and 2) present the story of Ohio for the people of Ohio. I’m a big believer in 2), but if you don’t do 1) then you won’t have anything to present.
That means mowing, snow plowing, and roof repair, plus a little security to make sure no one snuck in a basement window of a historic building or interpretive museum. There would need to be some landscape architectural oversight of earthen and semi-buried structures.
And for all the treasures of the past that turn up on a near daily basis even as excavation and construction continue on a slower basis, you need a few archaeologists to help figure out what’s been found, and what to do to preserve, which is to say stabilize the locations that often don’t look like anything from the side of the road.
The scary part for people like me is that my back of the envelope calculations say that doing just that much, the least they absolutely must do, probably maxes out the best case scenario of what they can expect in state government grants and aid.
To do anything more by way of restoration, education, or recreational educational activities, may take us beyond the budget dollars from the state and also beyond what local supporters can raise (nickles). Seriously, how many golf events and raffles and car shows and 50/50s can one area support?
Bill Laidlaw, OHS executive director, and local leaders here in Licking County helped to show how a new model of partnership could help keep properties owned by OHS open. The Licking County Convention and Visitors Bureau, and The Ohio State University’s Newark Campus’ Newark Earthworks Center have helped maintain much of the educational and interpretive programming at Great Circle Earthworks. Getting that museum renovated, renewed, and shared with LCCVB staff means that a tourist attraction closed for some five years is now open and greeting visitors from around the world. When the pace quickened, and Flint Ridge looked on the verge of closure (already having a newer, up to date museum), the Licking Valley Heritage Society jumped into the gap and is holding things together.
You will hear more in the coming weeks about the next “Newark Earthworks Day,” October 17, which will come at the end of a remarkable week of pilgrimage, with a party of walkers making their way on foot from Chillicothe’s ancient mounds and embankments and Hopewell Culture National Historical Park, some 75 miles by road and 60 miles as the thunderbird flies to the Newark Earthworks. Much is being held together, if only by careful application of metaphorical and actual duct tape.
People from around the world are coming, have been coming, will come. How shall we greet them? And for coming generations who will be on the scene someday to assess how we have cared for our past and theirs (which will include us!), how will they look back on our stewardship?
There are no easy answers, but much to be discussed, let alone plenty to be done.
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; if you have ideas for how to preserve and present Ohio’s past into the future, tell him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow Knapsack @Twitter.com.
Faith Works 7-11-09
Uploading Your Life To Reliable Storage Media
Fourth of July week wrapped up with a Ferris wheel ride and a last corn dog (there'll be more of those in August).
It didn't wrap up with a bang, those having come earlier in the week, and truth be told, I don't take pictures of fireworks. They never even remotely do anything for me – films of them, almost, but still not quite.
From fireworks to parades to street fairs to quiet time on the porch at home, I had plenty of photographs that did do something for me, and there are relatives and friends across the country (and even a couple overseas) who want to see something of the Lad and the Lovely Wife and possibly even me, at least if it's an amusing shot of me peeling potatoes.
Like much of the earth's mammalian population, I'm on Facebook now, have been for some months, and I'll say that their photo album feature is fast and easy, the latter being a very important quality for me. We just got a digital camera last August, and it took a while to figure out how to send photos other than as email attachments (hint: not a good way to make yourself popular, even with people who want the pics), and I've fiddled around with a number of online album sites.
So late last Sunday night I'm uploading digital photos from my camera to my laptop, and then picking through the hundreds I shot for those dozens that would go into an album where even my non-FB friends and family (some folks haven't gone there, believe it or not) could see them and download them if they were of a mind to.
And it occurred to me: do these pictures really exist? OK, that's the philosophy major way of putting it, but maybe I could say it this way: how real are these shots, anyhow?
They were electronically shown on a mini-monitor on the back of the camera, showed up in thumbnail shots on my hard drive that I clicked and slid over onto a menu screen that turned them into in-betweeny sized images on my web browser at a certain page, where you could click on them and make them bigger.
At no point had the captured image hit chemically treated plastic film and made layers change color, or been projected onto sensitized paper and slowly revealed itself as a print awash in a pan of fluid.
In that sense, pictures are real. They aren't, of course – Errol Morris, the essayist and Academy Award winning documentary film maker, has made a career out of helping us understand how film and photographs bend and shape the truth – but they are tangible and actual . . . and preservable.
True, you can run across a box of old photos at an estate sale, separated from those who know the faces and can put names on them, and my dad has spent years telling family members "please, please, put names on the photos you have" out of frustration from how many pictures he's been given with more missing names than known ones.
They are still around, though, in drawers and trunks and chests, and capture a bit of something. Digital photographs, now, are everywhere and yet . . . nowhere. If my hard drive crashes, the website is deleted, and there's no backup file anywhere, it will be as if I had never taken the picture at all. Ever.
And if I back up the folders from my laptop onto a flashdrive, but years from now the program that "reads" the 1s and 0s is no longer around, the digital artifact may itself be unreadable, and the picture is just as gone.
Reliable data storage. That's what we are so often looking for: the knowledge that our most precious memories and images are fixed somewhere, with someone, in a way that can't vanish in a sudden flame or degrade into dust, silica or silt.
Where, we ask, can we look for a secure home that will endure, beyond fire and damp and earthquake and . . . because somehow, we are more sure that we exist now, if there is some way in which we have a stake, a place in that which endures.
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; tell him about the picture that preserves you, or that you keep close to your heart, at email@example.com, or follow Knapsack @Twitter.com.
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Faith Works 7-18-09
There's a Ditch On Both Sides Of the Road
No getting around it, especially in the formerly damp parts of Licking County, where horsedrawn scrapers and steampowered tractors often dug drainage ditches that still go deep alongside the modern paved roadway.
If you don't watch yourself on a warm summer day, you can slowly swerve off to one side, and if your tire catches a sharp edge of pavement, and you correct poorly, you can jam your car right down into a ditch that even a Hummer would have trouble getting out of.
What would be even more embarrassing is if you do catch yourself ka-thumping off the road on your right, over correct with the steering wheel, and suddenly jerk across the oncoming lane, only to fall into the opposite ditch.
It's fairly common to find ditches on both sides of the road, although you usually are only close to one or the other . . . if you're equally spaced between the ditches, you're right over the yellow line, which has its own hazards.
Traveling the road of faith has some tendencies you have to watch in the same way you need to tend carefully to your steering on certain roads.
On one hand is the possibility of authoritarianism, of subjecting your understanding to one person or particular view in such a way that you lose all your critical faculties. The standard definition of a cult is when the new adherent turns all their decision making over to an authority figure, or their representative. When a parent comes to the door and asks "can I talk to my daughter?" the answer "I won't speak to you, Mother, unless Brother Ruprecht says I can" tells Mom to call the deprogrammer.
That's what happens in the ditch of authoritarianism, but many of us drive closer to that edge than others. In practice, most of us need to acknowledge that we aren't the first people to travel in this direction, and there are those who have gone before us and travel with us now who have valuable experience.
Listening to authorities, and even letting some of our life choices be guided by something other than how we feel (heart, stomach, lower) at the moment, is not a bad thing in and of itself.
If you swerve too sharply away from the side of authority, you can quickly find a couple of wheels hanging out over the ditch of uncertainty. The default mode for most of us finite, limited, tangibly restricted human beings is to say "who knows" to most questions . . . but when we answer "who can know, anyhow?" there's a ditch that becomes an abyss beneath you.
Staying up on the solid road, a certain amount of uncertainty can actually support not only the pavement, but a solid layer of humility. "I don't know" is a good answer for many of us more often than we use it, even when we are speaking of subjects where our knowledge is great, but our wisdom may be limited.
There's a ditch on either side of the road, and you don't want to put yourself in either of them. You need to be in the correct lane, and most religious traditions help to lay out for you the rules of the road by explaining where they drive.
Some faith communities stay right up against the white line, nudging into authoritarian practices that they feel give their congregation coherence and clear direction. Others encourage questioning almost to a fault, with their uncertainty beyond a few bright lines being the very ground they traverse.
There are those who say they'd rather be in the ditch on their side of the road than traveling down the wrong lane. My sense is that we're all called to stay heading in the direction we believe God is calling us, and that none of us should ever settle into the ditch, let alone the valley of shadow.
Or as my grandmother would say "A mind stuck open is as useless as a mind that's stuck shut," which matches nicely with what Groucho almost said – "A perfect church wouldn't take me."
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; tell him about the road you're traveling at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow Knapsack @Twitter.com.
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Faith Works 7-25-09
That Which Divides Us May Bring Us Together
The last hundred years have certainly seen a shift among Christians in general, in de-emphasizing doctrinal differences.
Time was that you could make a Calvinism joke around Methodists, or crack wise about Arminians around Presbyterians, and people would smile and nod, while a few would hope for a stinging rebuttal of the errors in the other group's beliefs.
Now, if you make a smart remark around a roomful of Presbyterians about Calvinists, they not only won't take offense, they won't know what you're talking about. Catholics are generally not thrilled about making jokes about popes (ask them for a couple, and you'll hear some good ones, but you don't get to tell them); make a sardonic comment about works righteousness or that darn German monk, Brother Martin , and it'll fall right flat on the ground.
My point is that within living memory, those sorts of remarks would get a general response because that was the sort of thing that you would hear in preaching. Non-Presbys would take shots at predestination, non-Methodists would snipe at either having bishops you voted for or for having bishops at all, non-Episcopalians would snark over the crazy outfits their clergy wore on the altar, and non-Baptists would snicker over all that darn water sloshing around their sanctuaries.
It's hard to argue that anyone wants to go back to the days when pastors and congregations built themselves up by tearing separated brothers and sisters down, in preaching and teaching. On the other hand, I think we go backwards in some ways when from the point of view of most people both inside and outside of our churches, their main takeaway is "what's the difference?"
Can celebrating our differences actually draw us together? Well, if we really have nothing that makes us distinctive, we should merge tomorrow. No one thinks that is likely, for reasons bureaucratic but also theological ones. If there are places and settings where further organic unity should be practiced, I think that we can do that best if we understand how we became separate expressions in the first place.
And in large part, I don't see God calling out for more organizational union, but the call for unity in purpose and ministry starts in John, chapter 17, and echoes into the world today in many ways.
What our differences preserve are varieties of gifts that should ultimately bless the oneness of spirit that is our proper inheritance. So . . . I love the expression of the Catholic church in sacramental practices that remind believers how all of creation can be a vessel of the divine. I love how Calvinism, Presbyterian or Baptist, turns our often unwilling hearts to the glory of God being larger than everyday logic. I love how the Society of Friends teaches us in what the world calls "Quaker worship" that silence is filled with more meanings than words can often provide. I love how the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints shows us what a vital and joyful awareness and closeness to God the Father can look like.
I love how The Episcopal Church lives out the awful mystery of what faith-filled democracy looks like in practice (and how their Anglican roots gave us the English language at its best). I love how the United Methodist Church holds high and low styles of worship, liberal and fundamentalist strands together in a relative lack of tension, on both the local and wider level. I love how the Church of the Brethren keeps washing feet, even when it would be so easy to take this one little tradition and put it on the curio shelf. I love how the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) manages to take so many elements of these other churches seriously, but little of it all literally. I love how the Assemblies of God manages to maintain a strong identity and unity in the Holy Spirit while having almost no visible structure at all. I love how the United Church of Christ shows that you can have multiple mergers and still not appreciably change the genial atmosphere of congregational life in multiple strands. I love the Southern Baptist Convention because they told me I should!
And, to close an emphatically non-exhaustive list, I love how Lutherans celebrate such deep roots that still transplant so very well from place to place, even if it amuses me that so many of them seem to think Jesus grew up in a small village on the north edge of Bavaria, speaking flawless Deutsch.
There are none of these differences that I would happily see vanish into the mists of history. Few of them are necessary, little enough about these quirks finds a rootage in the Gospel, but there is a history and a reason why these qualities are so distinct in each communion.
If more of us knew what these variations were, and why, it might be that much more likely our stories can weave even more closely in the future.
Meanwhile, you can ask Msgr. Enke about that tunnel in his church's basement.
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; tell him about a different thing or two at email@example.com, or follow Knapsack @Twitter.com.
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Faith Works 8-1-09
The Arc of History Bends Towards Justice
Martin Luther King Jr. once said that "the arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice."
An arc, like a rainbow, spans a broad swath of sky, bends a wide bundle of light to cast a bright colorful shadow across the landscape. The story of the civil rights movement in America, the campaign against Hitler from lonely journalists in Munich to GIs and Russian infantrymen shaking hands across the Elbe, the journey from Goddard’s Massachusetts backyard (or even the Wright Brothers’ bicycle shop in Dayton) to the moon – 40 years ago last week! – these are what Hollywood screenwriters call “story arcs,” long tales with multiple subplots that draw you in and hold your interest.
The arc of Scripture . . . when we talk about the wisdom found in the Bible, the automatic reflection is on short, punchy phrases: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” “"Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it," “Come to me, all ye who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
(This time of year, I love the direct practical wisdom of Deuteronomy 23: 12-13; yes, I’ve been at camp the last few weeks.)
There are also the strictures and requirements that are quoted in a few words, some of which got quite a workout with some of the public admissions of political figures earlier this summer, many of which include the word “accursed.”
Those are the pithy aphorisms of Biblical wisdom, and they stick nicely in the memory.
For wise action, we have the examples from Scripture found in stories, “pericopes” in the technical language of Biblical studies. There’s the Good Samaritan in Luke 10, with its climactic question by Jesus of “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”
The story of Job plays out over 42 chapters, from temptation and torment to ambiguous vindication, anchored by Job 19: 25 “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.”
Even Solomon’s wisdom displayed in I Kings 3 requires a full narrative: just saying “cut the baby in half” doesn’t quite sum it up very well. You need the story in full.
So you have the phrases and the commandments, which carry one sort of wisdom, and the stories, which expand teaching and guidance beyond length to depth and breadth.
Where I think you really start to grapple with the wisdom, the deep knowledge of how God is speaking to you and to me in today, found in the Bible, is when you read across chapters and books and even from Old Testament to New, and follow the arc of not just history, but of wisdom, bending towards revelation.
During the summer season, the most unexpected folk pick up big, thick, heavy books. Michael Patterson and Danielle Steele and John Irving and Amy Tan can put out a paperback that looks like it would serve as a structural support for a small shed, and people still shell out for them and take ‘em to the beach.
Now, I know lots of beach reading titles don’t get read all the way through. But what about some Biblical beach reading, a long family epic that starts with a refugee family (Abram and Sarai out of Egypt, Joseph’s brothers heading back into it), meanders through temptation and redemption and a dramatic, tragic exit (Samson and Delilah), builds to a dynastic family struggling to maintain the family business with collateral relations often ending up collateral damage (Saul, David, Solomon, and then the two sets of heirs from their bashing their way to an ultimately bloody end), and then exile.
I haven’t even gotten you to Bethlehem and the innkeeper yet.
Is the Bible suitable beach reading? Why not? The plot and story and dialogue holds up next to most of what the revolving racks have on sale.
And the ending . . . well, the arc of the Bible is long, but bends towards . . . oh, I don’t want to spoil it for you.
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; tell him what devotional reading you hid in your magazine on vacation at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow Knapsack @Twitter.com.
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Faith Works 8-8-09
Flavors of the Summer Taste Sweeter Than Honey
“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!”
Psalm 34: 8 reminds us of the power of taste to speak to the deepest impulses of our heart.
I love this line from the Psalms because it clearly reminds us that the goodness of God, the doings of the Almighty are not just a matter for intellect and rationality.
We can get stuck in “think and understand that the Lord is good,” with the logic of sermons and study guides the royal road to theological comprehension.
But in the Psalms, in Ezekiel, and in Revelations, we’re asked to relate to God’s teaching and lawgiving by flavor: “How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119: 103)
For my wife, the goodness of summer and a bit of the glory of God is in getting a big plate of sweet corn roasted on the grill right inside their own green husks, and a sliced garden fresh tomato fanned out red and juicy. Summer is not right and God is not secure in heaven until the corn and tomato dinner has taken place – but when those fresh flavors hit our palates, we get a feeling that encompasses our whole being that all’s right with the world.
“Taste and see.” The Lad is not always as thrilled with the vegetables that so excite his parents; Dad gets very excited each time the basil plants are ready to be whacked back and a pesto fest is the result. I know eating food grown in our own garden, product of this land and location, is both good for your nourishment and good for creation, taking in calories that took almost no fossil fuel investment to produce.
He, on the other hand, sees a vegetable paste, and wants nothing to do with it. Next, he knows, I’ll be trying to get him to like peas again, and that ain’t happenin’.
As parents, we know that an unexpected taste might jar the mouth, but we have experience and wisdom that helped us realize that this was indeed good. It will take time, and patience, but we know one of our jobs as parents is to not let him just stick with the three foods he likes right now – “taste, and see . . . this is good.”
Sharing our faith with others has much in common with trying to encourage a skeptical friend to try Thai food. We know what’s so right about a plate of pad thai, and we know our friend even likes spicy food, but they like spicy food with an order of refried beans on the side. Where are the refritos with these odd looking noodles, anyhow? “Taste, and see . . .”
You can’t just shove food into people’s mouths and expect them to go “yummo.” They have to choose to pick up a forkful, and chew with an open mind, and stomach.
To imagine the journey of faith as a banquet, a table set out (in the presence of mine enemies?), covered with both comfort food our grandmothers used to make, and strange delicacies that we’ve never heard of, let alone seen before – what might this image do for our spiritual growth.
Taste, and see. Don’t just take my word for it, or rely on your prejudices. Taste, and try for yourself, and after a fair interval, see how the flavor settles into your mouth and your mind and your life . . . until you find yourself asking for more.
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; tell him what tastes good to you this summer at email@example.com, or follow Knapsack @Twitter.com.
Tuesday, July 07, 2009
Notes From My Knapsack 7-9-09
Out Across the Hilltops
Some forty feet above Broadway, the Lad and I sat in a swinging bucket of a bench, waiting for the Ferris wheel operator to unload and load passengers right below our dangling feet.
The view around us gave a sense of what made this site worth selecting in 1805, to the pioneers who could not have imagined whiling away leisure hours sitting on a vast electrified circle turning as if by wizardry.
But this charmed circuit showed us, above the treetops, a leaf shrouded simulation of the wooded bowl where they stopped their ox carts and chopped down the first log of their lean-tos.
Straight ahead, Sugarloaf, just to the left of Broadway's indistinct line. Then clockwise around: College Hill, dipping into the saddle where Swasey Chapel sits, and rising to the prow of Prospect Hill, pushing Pearl Street into a broad curve.
Then looking over my shoulder, the breadth of Clear Run valley, the golf course of today invisible from that view; beyond, Alligator Mound ridge running as a north-south wall across the eastern horizon. Switching shoulders, Mount Parnassus to my behind-left, then a sweep across Raccoon Creek to Flower Pot Hill on the far side.
These six hills neatly define a bowl, cut by two watercourses and percolated with a chain of springs out of the south-facing layers that draw their flow down out of what becomes the Welsh Hills to the north.
A sharp glance down ("No rocking" a sign reminds us, which we did not need, paused at the peak of the cycle) and the modern lines and edges and electricity of Broadway and the street fair brings us back to Granville today.
Back down on the ground, we stroll back towards the food booths (Troop 65 fresh cut French fries, hooray!), and pause as we do each year under the traffic light at Broadway and Prospect. "You can't stand here any other time," he reminds me (annually), as we put our right foot on the survey disc and spin around three times.
Some friends walk by as we do this, and ask "is this some old tradition?" Yes, I answer, a new one we're trying to start! And they join in.
There's no place like home, there's no place like home . . . and here we are.
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; tell him a tale of home, lost and found, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow Knapsack @Twitter.com.