Run away!

Blarney. Pure blarney… (Sort of like the idle thoughts following…)

…I mean the stuff that’s been passing for thinking in the various campaigns and in some of my social circles as folks unpack the baggage the campaigns and newscasts carry.

I think I’m beginning to understand why writers such as Stephen King have drawn my interest. “The Stand” made a huge impact on me when I read it long years ago. I still get the shivers thinking about it. I’m reading Dostoevsky’s “Brothers Karamazov” at present. He’s a lot more subtle, but the shivers are there, too.

I think we should be exposing ourselves to this side of things. We’re too busy running away from dealing with the complicated effects of evil in my neck of the woods.

Writers of King’s ilk bring evil to the fore, feed insomnia and anxiety by plunging us into horrific situations in their writing. Granted, that isn’t necessary for those who have been through (or died in) one of the latest series of slaughters on any one of the continents you care to name. For those of us, though, who are a bit removed from recent tragedies or simply turn off the nearest mass-media appliance to avoid the news, writers such as King may bring a balance (if we read their stuff).

Art can do that, although it doesn’t have to be as bald as a horror novel or a television series about the walking undead. Good art reminds us, even the most glorious stuff, of the other side of the coin. With beauty comes ugliness. With peace comes war. With good comes evil. With every landscape, there is a cliffside somewhere. With every bucolic view, a predator lurks. For every Pollyanna there is a Cassandra.

(Oh. To be fair, reverse the order in the last few sentences.)

And, good art reminds of the complexity of the problem. There are no shortcuts when someone opens fire and you’re in the crosshairs, accidentally or otherwise.

I don’t want to make too much of it, though. To tip too far to the negative gives positive tinkerers too much traction. And, far be it from me to make someone more anxious than they need to be.

Suffice it to say that ignorance is just a step away from anesthesia. Fortunately, at least if everything works correctly, anesthesia bends back to consciousness. The question of evil is the same way. It can be pushed away, but it will always bend back.

We can try to run away from dealing with the problem of evil. But the track is circular. We won’t succeed. It’s a part of what it means to be human.

So, running away won’t help, I guess. The faster you veer away from it, the quicker you’ll come round to the problem… again. And, when you get sleepy, lose interest, or pretend that things are hunky-dory, someone will throw  in a spoiler for the latest gore fest your way.


I couldn’t be more distant from the gun violence in a major urban area. That was brought home listening to a sterling public radio interview this morning about violence in Chicago. Kids are dying before they reach their teen years.

It set me to boiling. Violence is a plague. Guns extend the range of violence. People die.

Here, in my bustling little town, a group of high-schoolers gather for a team photo and I’m there worrying about the old batteries in a aged flash whose on/off switch wore out long ago.

That’s a far cry from the woman who opens her home to 50 kids with issues and ticks off recent deaths of kids she knows,. kids who will won’t be in any group photos any more.

The arguments over the rights to own guns and other types of shouting matches in our present political reality will not get to the heart of the matter.

But, the person who opens a home, naively, at first, finds out that there is one more safe haven. Other homes, churches, schools, and other locations become safe (as much as is possible) havens, where young and old are invited to put violence aside and explore other options to resolve issues.

The woman in Chicago, the youth worker in a court system in Iowa, the choir director in a small church, a teacher in a classroom, the proprietor of the local coffee shop, each is making connections with others, and it is those connections that offer ways to reduce the violence.

Alienation, soul-sickness are at the root of the violence that ends life. The woman in Chicago gets it. So should we all. I hope I can be part of what it takes to offer alternatives.

Winter’s coming

Tomorrow, the first winter storm is scheduled for northwest Iowa. Goodie. Time to find the snow shovel. Goodie. Time to start thinking about making  sure I avoid black ice when I’m walking (and driving). Goodie.

One consolation: the wood stove. Love that style of heat.

A little early

Six female wild turkeys strolled past the front doors of Alton Presbyterian after the service this morning. I haven’t a clue to where they were headed. They sauntered down the sidewalk east and turned north at the alley.

Most likely they were headed to cover near the Floyd River.

Folks commented that they were late for church and a little early for Thanksgiving.

From warm to cold

What a weird day this has been. This morning, 7 a.m., the temperature was in the 60s and conditions very humid. Walked the six blocks or so to work in shirtsleeves, knowing that the forecast was for a cooling down.

Cool down it did. By noon, walking home, I wished I had brought a sweater or a light coat.

By evening and the women’s soccer game, where I was to capture images for our little weekly, the wind was whistling from the west and the temperature was down to the upper 30s.

By then, though, I’d figured out that the day was going to end on the cold side. I layered up and watched a 1-0 battle with stocking cap, gloves, hoodie and jacket.

Now, it’s later in the evening, and I’m warming my bones around our wood stove.

What a weird day this has been.

Time change

I caught a sunrise moment.

Morning’s shadow shrouded the near back yard, the bare birch and deepened the evergreen.

The neighbor’s trees glowed with the rising sun, the gold fired by its light.

Then, sun rising, light glancing in, the evergreens glowed, top down.

And one of the few birch leaves left spiraled to earth.

Great, still, morning minutes.