Hiking, or The Reason to Abuse a Left Knee

A few years ago, my wife decided to give me a birthday present in the form of abandonment in the wilderness. To be clear, this was what I wanted. My version of a vacation is fairly Spartan. Give me a sleeping bag, a hammock, a tarp, and some basic necessities, and leave me to wander. This is distinctly different from my mother’s version of camping, which involves things with agitators—a washing machine, a hot tub, and cable television, for example.

My sweet wife dropped me off at Cosby Campground, where Cosby Creek churns down a mountain gully in fresh cascades of whitewater. The trail from there to Low Gap averages a thirteen percent grade. I was newly thirty-two years old. Surely sixty additional pounds up a mountain posed no problem.

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Lifeblood by Rote

1.

Three blue-distant hummocks mark southeast
If you stand atop the neighborhood
Imagining a compass rose
Limned in ink against the sky.

Hung below their bellies is a dark,
Horned buttress, clearer in its nearness.
The closer hill looks clean against
The wildness of its far-off brother,

Hunkered like a preacher with
A prophet weeping at his back.

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A Big Day of Small Things

Last Friday night, we held our first Foundling House brick-and-mortar event—a dinner and concert called Echo Hill, featuring the talents of Eric Peters, Janna Barber, Palmer Gregg, Ben Bannister, Bill Wolf, and Lorraine Furtner, plus an excellent feast by Sullivan’s.

This project had been more than six months in the making. The idea always seemed to be floating around in the back of my mind that we shouldn’t limit ourselves to virtual reception of art, to interaction by proxy. That kind of distance relationship, at least where art is concerned, suffers from a fan-based mentality. Good poems, stories, and songs drift into the territory of hagiography—that glowing writing full of miracles and merit that surrounds the saints of old. If we add the personal context of presence, our work takes on different and perhaps more holistic meaning*. I had mentioned the possibility of an event to our writers’ group multiple times, trying to gauge interest and, on a more subliminal level, hoping that if I talked about it enough, I would figure out how to pull it off.

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The Ministry of Reminder

“All I ever get for Christmas is blue.”

—Over the Rhine

This past year, my dear wife and a number of my friends spent extended time away from social media due to the surplus of vitriol surrounding the election. It simply grew to be too much for some folks. Alas, for business reasons, I could not leave Facebook. I wanted to. I found myself desiring social media abstinence even more leading up to Christmas.

I confess, I abhor the onslaught of all those picture-perfect, iPhone-filtered snapshots of families doing Christmas-y things: sitting down to a feast, having a party, opening gifts, ice skating, decorating trees, decorating houses, decorating pets. You might call me a Scrooge, but I promise, it’s not that. My daughter asked me what I wanted for Christmas this year. Amongst a couple ideas of things I could actually use (a new keyboard rig would be nice, but it’s not going to happen yet), I realized what I really wanted was to be able to spend the time focusing on Christ and his coming. I wanted Advent at the forefront of our thoughts. If we as a family arrived at Christmas Day and found ourselves regretting ill-spent time pondering things other than the miraculous, time-shattering coming of Jesus, then I would be faced only with the relative vapidity of everything without Christ. Gifts, decorations, food—all things pale in light of the mystery of what C. S. Lewis called the One True Myth, the great mystery of Jesus’ coming.

Now, before you flush this little confession from your mind like so much kitsch, hear me out.

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Fir Tree

With broken wrist:
You lay on the floor,
Belly full of iron grit.

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