History sometimes pivots on moments

I’ve long been convinced of the power of story. Annie Dillard, Hunter Thompson. Flannery O’Connor. Herman Melville. These authors and others have heavily influenced how I look at the world.

I was reminded today, thanks to a reference to the web site http://time.com/4381471/july-4-moments-change-america/, that there are moments upon which history turns. I took a spin through the list and was reminded of the power of a single story on the path of a nation.

At some point, the old clothes are changed for something new.

I don’t want to overstate, for history is changed by more than the moment, but culture builds to a point of change, and a single event can remove the last obstruction to a course of action that takes our lives in a different direction.

Here, in northwest Iowa, I’m on the lookout for the event that will signal a sharp turn in a number of areas: a deep cultural acceptance of diversity, the emergence of a strong, ethical citizen journalism, permaculture over annual cropping, to name just a few.

In future years, someone will be able to pick out the moment in which a significant shift happens.

Whether it will be legislative action, a change in language usage, the evolution of gender, technological advance, an acceptance that the human DNA includes all colors, changes in sport and popular expressions of culture, the emergence of new global political entities or the evolution of law and order, there will be points in which our history will pivot. It’s an exciting, sobering, sometimes scary notion that we’re part of slow swells that will one day break in directions that have been building for years.

A late snow

Friday’s sheet of snow,

tightly furled around the yard,

is now rumpled

as a muscular sun

pours its rays.

Blizzard pieces drop like rain

from frosted evergreens

Busy squirrels dimple,

intent on trails between trees

while hungry ferals stalk.

No greater love

Cantus presented a wonderful a capella concert at our little college in Orange City last night. In a chapel with great acoustics, the eight singers presented pitch-perfect, emotional pieces that touched the range of sacrifices by people in the armed services. It wasn’t sugar-coated, either. It was honest, gut-wrenching at times. Too, a few of the numbers made me smile and the audience chuckle.

The group presents a song a month on Soundcloud, the latest “Wondrous Love.” It gives a taste of how the group blends. If you click on this link, you may get something else. They post new songs regularly. The clip of their “No Greater Love” tour presents the event well.

One comment from one member of the group (I was so enthralled I didn’t note the individual. Sorry.) sticks with me. I paraphrase: What would our country be like if we all adopted the brotherhood, the desire to serve, the leadership exhibited, the camaraderie of those who invested part of their lives in the armed forces? The comment might have overstated, to some degree, but the kernel of that thought has stuck with me in an uncertain time.

Then, too, I’m in a group studying Galatians and Paul’s missive to the Galatian believers. Christ’s love is sufficient, even the pinnacle of what can be accomplished. As the Cantus concert and “Wondrous Love” clip hints, this idea still lives.



Near several towering evergreens,

the bare, squat crabapple,

practically shorn of all fruit

by agile, marauding squirrels,

cares little.

Its small whips

shine in the brightening sun

and dance in a warm wind

signalling spring.