The Road Winds Around

The Road Winds Around

The road winds around through time —
a gray concrete ribbon now,
edged with yellow and white lines.
But before now, then,
then there was a land between two rivers —
inhospitable high forested hills–
stopped the glacier eons ago.
The narrow lands in the valleys curve around the next hill;
the banks of the meandering stream
that connects the two rivers
are the only flat lands
until Ohio.

Deer and bear and Native Iroquois carved out the first path —
the leaves and dirt compacted and hardened by the feet of
animals, wild and domestic; people, wild and domestic.
The route was never chosen, never drawn on paper;
it just became.
Horses picked the easiest way up the high hill;
moccasins chose the slowest curve for walking downhill;
wagons took the flattest way along the stream’s flood plain.
And year after year, as the trees grew and changed colors and dropped their leaves,
the path grew and changed
into a road.

As the road grew wider and harder,
an inn appeared on a long slow curve, where water was plentiful.
The land was flat and spacious for carriages and wagons and horses.
At thirty miles between the towns,
it was a pleasant stopping point between two arduous rides.
Farms dotted the road in between the ridges and woodlands;
sheep proliferated on the hilltops,
cows lived in the narrow valleys
where barns were wedged
between the hills.

Even the industrial era —
coal mines and the discovery of oil —
did not bring more traffic to the hills and curves of the road.
Rather, the oil barons and the coal companies used barges
to float the precious cargo
up and down the rivers to Pittsburgh.
When barges no longer sufficed,
railroads were built on the flat river banks
for the transport
of black rock and black gold.

The surroundings were home
to coal, oil, and gravel,
and the road was macadam,
until Mr. Ford’s Folly was assured.
In 1935, workless men were put to work
laying asphalt over the macadam;
the steam engines and rollers puffing and belching
to get to the top of the hills with picturesque names:
Tin Can Hill, Clearcut Ridge, McFeeter’s Knob,
String Bean Bluff…

The inn, vacant for years, burned to the ground in the thirties,
and a small filling station took its place.
The flood plain by the creek held picnic tables
for families traveling in their new cars.
Family farms were handed down to the next generation of farmers,
never wealthy, but never hungry;
self-reliant but good neighbors;
taciturn, but full of life;
independent, but willing to serve.

And then the era of speed flashed
upon the road–
a lightning bolt in a summer storm.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike,
the first high-speed road of its kind,
opened for business in 1940,
and moved those cars and trucks
across the Blue Ridge Mountains,
linking Philadelphia, Harrisburg, and Pittsburgh.
Seven abandoned railroad tunnels were used for going, not over,
but through those mountains.
Cars and trucks traveling ever faster,
left hills and curves behind in favor of straight, wide, and flat.

There was no straight, wide, or flat
on the road between two rivers.
No.
The road winds around
between hills, valleys, trees and farms,
and is left in the dust of the modern world of speed,
instant indulgence, and time saved.
Those who have chosen that mostly peaceful life
are mostly happy with their choice.
The restless have moved on;
the educated children have moved away
to bigger cities, better jobs, faster lives.
The straight, wide, flat roads bring them home to visit,
only to leave again and again.
Those who stay have chosen place over pace,
paucity over plenty,
peace over prosperity,
people over public.

But some stay who haven’t chosen. Poverty limits them, lack of education limits them, the hills limit them.

Just as the hills keep away hurry,
the hills isolate and divide
those who stay on purpose
and those who are left
in the dust.

The road winds around through time,
telling its story to those
who will take the time
to listen.

IMG_1559

 

This is actually taken from a novel I’m writing. I’d be glad for comments.

 

On Organizing One’s World

Slipshod or Precise?

Messy or Neat?

Planned or Random?

Just what DOES your dining room table look like? Yes, I know, the only excuse for a messy dining room table is tax time… and ahem, yes, it’s soon upon us.

messy tableYes this is what the dining room table usually looks like. I thought about cleaning it off just for this photo shoot. But that would be putting a better face on me and my organizational skills than I deserve, and it might put undue pressure on you, the reader, to look around at your own house and wonder why you don’t measure up.

We usually eat at this table so (except at tax time) it can’t be too filled with junk. But I do admit that some evenings I have shoved stuff to the side just to make room for two plates. Sighs loudly. 

So I confess to being a disorderly, organized person. An ex-librarian for goodness sakes, and now a secretary! Files must be in alphabetical order, but the desk is often messy. I go in fits and starts. Stuff collects until I can’t stand it and then I go on a binge of organizing and throwing away, shredding, filing… Last year as we took tax stuff to our new accountant, I was rather nervous that in one of those binges, I had shredded important documents that she would need.

Indexing! said the librarian. Organization! 

And so, in an effort to start 2017 in good form and Organize My World (starting with paperwork) I’ve cleaned and re-organized the kitchen cabinet, my clothes closet, my nightstand, and I am seriously working on my own attitude toward busy-ness. I’m reading Ordering Your Private World by Gordon MacDonald (which has been on my unread bookshelf for four years now…) and it is speaking to me loud and clear.

MacDonald’s book is definitely about one’s private world, which is the heart of our moral compass, our self-esteem, our values, our conversations with God, our souls. Yet I can’t help but think if our outer worlds are messy, it must, in part, reflect our inner world.

“For me the appropriate metaphor for the inner spiritual center is a garden, a place of potential peace and tranquility. This garden is a place where the  Spirit of God comes to make self-disclosure, to share wisdom, to give affirmation or rebuke, to provide encouragement, and to give direction and guidance. When this garden is in proper order, it is a quiet place, and there is an absence of busyness, of defiling noise, of confusion.

The inner garden is a delicate place, and if not properly maintained it will be quickly overrun by intrusive undergrowth. God does not often walk in disordered gardens…”

garden statue
And in the next chapter, he continues the garden metaphor…

“Few of us can appreciate the terrible conspiracy of noise there is about us, noise that denies us the silence and solitude we need for this cultivation of the inner garden. It would not be hard to believe that the archenemy of God has conspired to surround us at every conceivable point in our lives with the interfering noises of civilization that, when left unmuffled, usually drown out the voice of God. Those who walk with God will tell you plainly, God does not ordinarily shout to make Himself heard.”

(My copy of this book was published in 1985 — way before the electronic revolution changed the type and amount of noise in our lives).

I long for simplicity — an end to clutter — both in my outer and inner worlds. I long to get rid of paper, unnecessary choices that complicate life, and I long to be the type of person who puts everything away in the correct place when I’m finished with it… Or, at least remember where I put it so I don’t have to spend twenty minutes searching for it.

“God does not ordinarily shout to make Himself heard…” That bears repeating, doesn’t it? And the still small voice is hard to hear when distraction, busy-ness, and clutter fill your heart, your mind, and your life.

Clean your house — and while you are cleaning, pray.

Weed your garden — and while you are weeding, listen to the birdsong.

Read your bible — and while you are reading, think on who He is and how to best honor Him in your life.

And for goodness sakes, clean off that dining room table — and while you are organizing, sing.

Ordinary Days : a letter to my future self

light behind the storm clouds
Dear You,
Remember that rainy September day?
The cloud-filled sky and the freedom
from the sun’s tyranny?
No need to finish up summer today.

You gave yourself permission
to bake bread and make
a long slow simmering stew,
pore over knitting patterns
and write a poem to the future you.

You wanted to write in longhand
(not that there’s anything wrong with Pages or Word
or an online thesaurus)
but a letter deserves a pen.
There was that old found notebook and
There was your old found self in the pages.

Gardens you have planted — elsewhere.
Prayers that have been answered — somewhere.
Wisps of words you loved — written there.
Lists of books to read that now,
here in the present future,
were read in the long ago past.

And there was that quote from Chesterton
about the best book he never wrote…
You’ve written yours.
Begun in one life, finished in another.
It changed and grew with you
as you changed and grew.
Mais plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.

Blue sky behind gray clouds
Have you been grateful for your two lives—
three or four, really if it comes to that—
Have you been grateful for the sameness of those lives—
the sky, the stars, the seasons, the circles, the cycles?
for that sameness enables us to see
the unpredictable unexpecteds
the extraordinary exquisiteness
the glorious graces
of those ordinary days
that make unordinary lives.


Like every book I never wrote, it is by far the best book I have ever written.
–G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man