The following is from a journal entry in which I attempted to express one of my home-places. I have visited there every year of my life, but have not, until recently, tried to figure out what it all means:
December 18, 2008
How do I put it into words? A bumpy pasture with this, its nether end, littered with rusted machinery and construction materials. I-beams, and tires, and telephone poles. Four cement bridge spans lie parallel to one another, each with its unique collection on top. The first has just a few boards. The second has what appear to be rusted-out power tools, the metal tracks off a track-hoe, and a tower of short 4-by-4’s. The third has more stacked beams, a set of wheels, and metal piping – maybe it used to be a portable cow pen? This last has more rusty tools, a mound of old PVC pipe, and me. For there are few dry places on a Florida morning, particularly places that are both dry and sunny. And so, rather than sit in the wet grass or a shady porch, I am come here. There were cows here when I first came. They mistrusted me, I think, at first, then forgot me and wandered away.
I do not think that stranger’s eye could find much of beauty here. Grass covers the uneven sand like some scabby rash on dry skin. Brown weeds and old wires spring up together from the rotting corpses of telephone poles. Long-stationary semi-trailers stand against a background of leggy pines which lost all their lower limbs in a fire several years back. Under the overhanging edges of the cement spans, beauty berry bushes bend sickly branches, and behind me, hidden in a the glory of the sun, is a rotting barn and a dead mulberry tree. But the air is full of bird sounds, and even a half-dea orange tree has good fruit hanging among the thin leaves and Spanish moss on its living half.
We talked, in one of my classes last semester, of how joy and pain are inextricably linked, of how we recognize what is ugly because we know what is beautiful. So that the things that are broken, the things that hurt us are always hearkening back to the things that are whole, to healing. And all of the beautiful things are weighed with the recognition that they must end, that they are not all that is in the world.
Redemption. If there was not the possibility of redemption, could we feel that things are so far from right? If we had no notion of what a living tree looked like, would we recognize the dead trees as dead? In some sense, then, the things that bring pain must also bring hope. All is not right, but we know that because all has not always been wrong. Nor, I believe, will it continue wrong forever.