Sunday, July 08, 2012

I Did Not Awake and Breathe in Life...

I had forgotten about this piece of writing, but I wrote it in 2004, about 2 months before I got married. I was in Grad school and was in great shape. I got up early one morning and took a ride on my road bike out to Utah Lake and back. When I got back, this is what I wrote. I still really like this piece...

I did not awake and breathe in life. No, it opened up and swallowed me whole, like the desert being rained upon without permission. I’m not sure if I began my day right or if it started me right. Perhaps they go together and I awoke to discover that I am usually just behind the joys that come from the early morning rise. Maybe the sun rises early for the same reason and we just miss it, which would explain why we see so many more sunsets that sunrises. Kind of like life. We see so many more “sunsets” in our lives than we see “sunrises.” Christ, the Son, did set in death, but the joy came not with death, but with the Son’s rising. This morning I felt joy, from the rising of the Spirit within me and it touched my senses, to remind me of things I have often forgotten.
            As a child, there were no mountains that the pink hues of the sunrise could play on. No soft pinks like the faded colors on your childhood blanket, or the brighter hues of the in vogue styles your mother of sixty years of age wears so well. The sun in rural Nebraska rose from pastel blue to orange flames burning across the fields and through the few trees that lined the fence rows. Yet at the lake here in my valley I could hear the same life that sung to me as a child. The red-winged blackbird, with its kong-ka-kree and the Western Meadowlark’s tune, which my mother tells me says, “Christina is a pretty little girl.” Of course her father told her that when she was a child, and her name just happens to be Christina so we never believed her, but if you listen closely, it does sound close, so I tell the same story another generation later. It is nice to be apart of a generational tale. In some way it connects me to a history of hard work, beauty, and life, which I long to be part of.
            The lake already carries the smell of moss, which is just getting started on taking over the banks and anything else it touches. The sun, glaring off the water still hasn’t been bright enough to brown it or dampen its smell, so the moss touches my nose as well. It’s not quite the smell you’d put in your home for freshness, or one you would put in soap to wash with, but it strangely awakens and freshens your mind just the same. Perhaps it is the memories it brings with it, of days spent laying on the banks of a small Nebraska pond, fishing, watching water striders, dragonflies dance, and watching life travel like clouds across the sky of a warm spring day.
            The cool air lays on my skin like a cold bath, but parts in pockets along the road and I feel the promise of the sun’s coming warmth. The cottonwoods are so tall and their leaves hang like sequence on a gown which is waiting to be moved by the body of the wind on nature’s dance floor. The water on the lake is so still near the banks. No wind has pushed waves from the bottom to the banks yet. Afar off I can see the small ripples of the wind trying to stir the bottom. I wonder why it always seems to start at the center, where the deeper water makes it work so hard just to break the mirror. Yet, close to me, there are rings which pierce the glass from below and remind me that life has awaken under and above, and that the ice that I walked on in January has melted. Only faith beyond what I have would carry me across that space now.
            There are few boats at dock so far. Mostly sailboats, which are at home in the spring with heavier winds and fewer motors to negotiate around. The sails lay limp on the masts, rolled and tied up. I believe they sleep longer on mornings such as this. There is a single boat a ways out on the lake, with a single man sitting almost motionless, probably awaiting a few moments of excitement when his line pulls his hands from his pockets and onto his reel. I think men like that must know something the rest of us don’t, or have been fooled by tales of their neighbor fishing rivals. It is hard to imagine that what he is going to catch is good enough to be for breakfast. Maybe he finds what I am finding on my bike, in his boat. Yes, that must be it.
            I see a large V move across the sky. It looks like a dark ribbon that a young girl lets loose into the wind, with one end slowly moving ahead of the other and then back again without ever losing its intended length. Across the road is a pair of mallard ducks, a male and female, larger than I have seen in a long while. These are real, wild mallards, not the mixed breeds that only appear as mallards at the local industrial park ponds. The ducks just landed under a willow tree and stand tall, looking at me and the green headed male almost intimidates me with his beauty. Well, not quite, but it is a majestic show which I respect.
            It is funny how some smells seem to form a wall and the space in between, like a room of memories. I ride through one, a smell of new hay, not more than a couple of weeks from its first cut of the year. It has grabbed the smell of silage from the farm next to it and sends it my way, like adding bacon to the smell of pancakes for breakfast. Odd, I know, but it feels the same. My grandpa Teichert’s ranch smelled like that. I remember my family’s vacations to his home and how much anticipation we felt before getting there. There were large round hay bales that would serve as our gym and free flowing wells that had that same smell of moss as the lake, but tasted much fresher. The nights spent upstairs sleeping on the foldout bed and watching the stars through the large windows across the room were calm even with the occasional trains passing on the tracks which were within 200 feet of the house. Most of all, the excitement of riding horses with Grandpa was what kept us awake most of the nights before and during our visits. It was fun to be farmers and ranchers all on the same day. Now, the ranch is someone else’s and I pass it fondly sometimes on a long bike ride, or while on a leisurely drive. It still sits there on the Benjamin road, fittingly, right past the small cemetery on the hill.
            At this time of morning people are beginning to stir, ready themselves, and leave for their daily activities. It’s Monday morning. I know because yesterday was Sunday, not because it shows on people’s faces, although if I were close enough I suppose it might show on some. There is an older lady on her porch, still dressed in a red, flower pattern nightgown. Her hair is long and graying and mostly just unorganized as it lays across her face, arms, and into her lap. It must warm her in the absence of the sun’s rays, which haven’t yet touched her porch. The lights of the house are all still off, so it appears, and she is finishing her morning smoke. I smell it just enough to know her pleasure.
            A car pulls out and passes me. I can hear it from behind me. It is in no hurry, but I doubt it goes very fast from the sound or look of it. Or perhaps the riders are in no hurry. Neither look at me as it passes, but I see the man driving and know he is delivering the woman on his right to her work. She is overdressed for his standards (based on his appearance). There is no apparent talking within as she looks blankly ahead. It reminds me of the many early mornings my parents have spent waking us kids, preparing breakfast, and getting us off to school as they themselves go to work for a full day’s load of stress connected to the promise of a paycheck, which keeps the family fed and growing. My parent’s sacrifice must be the greatest miracle of all. I wonder what the woman in the now passed car is thinking, who her kids are, and if they know how much she loves them. If they could see her eyes as I just did through her out-of-date glasses, but timely manifestation of love, they might.
            Before long I am almost back to town. The gas station is starting to buzz with cars filing up. I imagine some of them without gas, having emptied their tanks on a Sunday drive, but without a Sunday fill up, for different reasons including religious. A man in an old leather jacket and an even older truck gasses up. He is still trying to wake up. I almost want to stop and get a donut and hot chocolate with him just to let him know that his early routine is worth his effort. He certainly doesn’t look like he is anticipating his day with much joy. I, on the other hand am suddenly filled with gratitude. I climb the overpass and realize how healthy I feel, with a strong back, full lungs, and fit legs, and a spirit which is revitalized each day by the anticipation of doing what I love to do.
            Behind me, a rude horn and voice lets me know someone’s dissatisfaction with my path in the road. I look in their window as they pass me and know for certainty that the sun has not risen in that man’s day, or probably in his life. Unfortunate, how much he misses. I wonder if he had a beautiful woman call him early to see if her were still sleeping. He does not smile like it. I wish him a better day in a whisper to myself.
            I thought about so many things while riding today. My soul arose with the sun. It was a reuniting of my spirit with my body, like a resurrection, which brings so much joy. Finally at home, I smile, put my bike away, and work towards a shower. The water is so warm, and if my roommate weren’t sleeping, I would sing. I guess that’s the only down side to the early morning rise…less singing. That’s ok, because…

There is sunshine in my soul today, more glorious and bright than glows in any earthly sky, for Jesus is my light. There is music in my soul today, a carol to my King, and Jesus listening can hear the songs I cannot sing. There is springtime in my soul today, for when the Lord is near, the dove of peace sings in my heart, the flow’rs of grace appear. There is gladness in my soul today, and hope and praise and love, for blessings which he gives me now, for joys “laid up” above. Oh there’s sunshine, blessed sunshine when the peaceful happy moments roll. When Jesus shows his smiling face, there is sunshine in the soul.

            Soon, I am showered, dressed, and clean shaven. I feel my face, and smile…there is so much to anticipate in life, so much to joy to feel. Maybe I do not need the faith I thought to walk on water and cross that space between where the sun rises and the sun sets. Maybe I already walk on it. If Christ rises to me and calls me by name in the early morning, holding his hand out to me, I will not sink into the waves, but will stay above to awaken to the warmth and joy of the rising sun. Maybe not maybe, but for sure.
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