That Side Was Made For You and Me

A big, forbidding steel gate like

a Federal Prison on rollers in

the neighborhood stands guard

at the entrance to the narrow way

 

which leads to the prize of sixty-one

feet north and south out of the thou-

sands and thousands of miles of shore-

line of The Big Lake. The gate and the

 

straight and narrow way and the stairs

and the sixty-one feet are the only things

the sixty-two neighbors have to share.

If there had been one less neighbor,

 

every house in the neighborhood

could have gotten its own twelve inch-

es of sandy frontage six feet deep with

glorious sand along The Big Lake, but

 

as it is, each house is entitled to elev-

en point eight inches. And even though

they are neighbors they get real possess-

ive over their less than one foot of front-

 

age. The neighbors placed a really big

Keep Out/Private Property sign on the

big, forbidding, steel gate with the heavy-

duty lock. They have to give the comb-

 

ination to the big, heavy-duty lock to

the neighbors if they pay their dues,

even if they complain a lot about each

other taking up way too much space

 

and encroaching upon their eleven point

eight inches. On the other side of the sign,

it doesn’t say anything. That’s the side

Woody Guthrie would have liked: “As I went

 

walking I saw a sign there and on the sign it

said, ‘No Trespassing,’ but on the other

side it didn’t say nothing. That side was

made for you and me.” God looked at the

 

gate and the big, heavy-duty lock and

the sign that proclaimed Keep Out/Private

Property and listened to the squabbling

in the neighborhood and said, “I shall

 

cause the waters to rise and I shall

take back all the sand on the beach

so they won’t have eleven point

eight inches six feet deep of my

 

beach over which to fight. They

can stand in the cold water of

The Big Lake for as long as they

can stand it.” And God said,

 

“I, too, like the other side of that

sign. This beach, this sand and

this land were made for you and

me.” Woody looked over and

 

strummed a G chord and the angels

all sang the anthem America should

have made its own: “This Land Was

Made For You and Me.”

A Conservative News Show

A conservative news show interviewed

“authorities” about all the kids from

failed Latin American states

 

rushing across the U.S. border from Mexico.

So, evangelical Reverend So and So,

in a moment of utter

 

compassion, said, “Send them back after

a warm meal or two.” Did anyone wonder

how familiar the good reverend

 

was with the Gospels? Then a commercial

for starving, hair-lipped, little, black

kids came on. Perhaps it’s

 

fine to send a few bucks over there as long

as the hair-lipped, little, black kids

stayed there and not here.

 

Now that is the kind of jingoist, xenophobe,

nativist compassion any individual-salvation-

in-Jesus-Christ evangelical could love.

A Fisher’s Journey

He grew up pan fishing in Kentucky

ponds graduating to large mouth in

small lakes, and, once in a while, when

invited on a bass boat, to the long, snak-

ing bodies of water created by the Tenn-

essee Valley Authority.

 

The owner of the sleek, expensive boat,

imitating Roland Martin, eagerly tossed

fish in the well as if competing in an imagin-

ary bass tournament.

 

His favorite fishing as a teenager was for

small mouths with his buddies in streams

while avoiding water moccasins, fortunate-

ly, too cold to move fast in the spring water.

It was then he learned catch and release, if

for no other reason, it would be a hassle cart-

ing fish long dead home; besides, the boys

had no cooler.

 

In Michigan he learned to fly fish from an

old man who took him up north to fish the

fly only section of the Pere Marquette, the

Pine and North Branch and Holy Waters

of the Au Sable and who gave him a

named and numbered bamboo rod and

a couple old reels.

 

Colorado fly fishing became the way, a

journey of grace and beauty in the mount-

ain streams and remote lakes accessible

only by a several mile hike among the

mountain lions and brown bears. He

loved making his own flies during the

winter and learning all about the various

life cycles of flies emerging on the water.

His son made flies also.

 

Once, while back in Michigan, a guide,

a friend of his wife’s family, took him

out for an early steelhead run. He had

brought a fly rod, but the guide handed

him a spinning rod and said, “Go for it.”

 

Knowing spin casting well from his youth,

he easily caught a nice fish and was about

to release it back so the fish could finish

the cycle of life, end its life voluntarily and

offer itself to beavers, black bears, coyote

and fox who would fertilize the Michigan

land and trees with steelhead DNA.

 

The guide wanted to take the fish home,

clean it, put it in his freezer and eat it later

in the summer, perhaps at a family picnic.

How do you say no to the guide? It was his

rod and reel not to mention the boat.

Continuing the 4th of July Celebration on the 5th.

On the fifth of July, the humidity

dropped below

middle earth, a cooling breeze

blew west off the

big lake, over the dune embrac-

ing the couple as

they sat on their porch waving

to those who strolled

by on their way up the dune

to get a view of the

lake. As they sat there, they

laughed recalling

the 98 degree Fahrenheit/ 85 %

humidity 2012

Fourth of July when they broke

camp in the evening

and headed back home in the dark.

They took a deep breath

and smiled. The Chocolate Lab

heard the left-over

fireworks finally free to boom

among the dunes

and over the lake after burning

a hole all day long in

the pockets of last night’s revelers.

The dog begged

to go inside just as the breeze stop-

ped and the

mosquitoes, smelling blood, arrived.

Once inside, the dog

fell sound asleep on his bed between

his parents who sat

watching old BBC comedies on PBS.

Soon, they would go to bed.

 

Fear on the Fourth

Fear on the Fourth, disguised with more fireworks than in recent years, feeds the fear to dull the reality of growing violence here, there, everywhere? Explosions far away sound like somebody running his hand up and down the siding of the house diabolically playing a washboard for those cowering inside waiting helplessly for what comes next. Explosions much closer like thunder a second or two after the lightning strike through the roof dropping burning embers on the heads of those within. The big Chocolate Lab crouches on his bed panting for all he is worth. Loud noises aren’t comforting to dogs, even hundred and five-pound ones. Loud noises bode ill — will. Explosions aren’t for celebrating even on the Fourth. Explosions are about death and dismemberment, suffering and suffocating, losing limbs and life. Explosions aren’t about freedom and bravery no matter how many explosives are set off on the Fourth to make it seem that way. The light display is a spectacular obscenity of our fascination and glorification of the brutality and the utter banality that resides within our hearts that allows for and bows down before the golden calf of war. And all because we are all so, so scared, scared of our very own shadows. We don’t understand that, but dogs, apparently, do.

Frantic To Have Fun On The Fourth

Frantic to have fun at the beach

on the Fourth,

revelers stop on the way

to purchase a fifth for each

and bunch of beer

before hitting the beach,

tailgating all the way

out the

road named Ottawa Beach.

The sun is out; temperature rising;

soon the pale, white skin

would be tenderizing.

Cars line up with boats on trailers;

people anxious to back them in

and quickly become sailors.

As he drives past, he can see the

future and all in reverse:

people heading east away from

the beach;

sunburned bodies, a really big thirst;

boaters beyond blitzed impatiently

waiting in line for each

boat to maneuver onto trailers and up

the ramp out onto the street.

But sailors fall in and boats slip off

and cars back too far into the surf.

He imagines every kind of curse

being flung from husbands to

wives and wives to others

and he’s glad he had his druthers.

High and dry, he sits in serenity

in his green, leather chair, pen in hand;

glad he’s sober, not sunburned just tan

and feet clean of sand.

Perhaps he’ll celebrate

the Fourth without

fifth on the sixth.

In the Sixties

In the sixties,

he cut his teeth

on Jesus’ Sermon

on the Mount and

what it meant for

civil rights and

Viet Nam.

 

In the seventies,

he preached

social justice to

college kids,

increasingly,

more interested

in chemical

escape than

changing the

world.

 

In the eighties

and nineties,

he took the

message to

the parish

with mixed,

but hopeful,

results among

the gray heads.

 

In the two

thousands, he

wondered where

all the marching,

protesting, cajoling,

affirming and

witnessing to Jesus

had gone.

 

And now in retirement,

after his morning jog, he

sips a cup of gourmet

coffee, clicks his crowns

and recalls the adage,

“We aren’t called to

to success, just

faithfulness.”

 

In light of all the

political back-peddling,

SCOTUS,

all the racism

crawling out from

under the rocks,

all the hate

on display everyday,

he hears the voice

of Jesus, “Well

done, thou good

and

faithful servant.”

He almost could

cry in his gourmet

coffee.

 

As He Thinks About It

As he thinks about it, it seems

we live in an I-It culture so strange –

corporations

are people, people are

things,

all is quantified, objects abound,

consuming reigns:

This way happiness brings?

Not on your life: “Get out of my way.”

as evidenced minute by minute

on every highway.

Road rage behind the aluminum and

plastic shield, I-It does not happiness

bring.

He doesn’t think for a minute

living an I-Thou life

is easy.

Instead of having compassion,

he finds that he

just gets angry,

which, he thinks, over the

long haul,

isn’t much good for

me, thee or anybodeeee.

Finding grace in mundane,

everyday events,

ah, that’s the goal,

he thinks to himself,

but, all too often, he finds

himself

muttering,

“Stop the world;

just let me fall in the

White Rabbit’s hole

in Alice’s Wonderland

or perhaps to fly with

Peter Pan.”