I think everyone needs hero’s.  Someone they look up to that inspires them and awakens them to dreams and desires in their heart that would lie dormant otherwise.  These people help us to link the gap between humanity and Divinity.  They cause us to see beyond what we would consider looking for and to try for what might otherwise be considered unattainable.  My hero is Bill Mason — a famous canoeist, painter and “environmentalist” (before that started to be a big thing.)  I have watched his film “Waterwalker” on NFB.ca about 50 times.  If you ask me why I love him so, I couldn’t even begin to explain it.  There are scenes I will watch a thousand times in that movie and it will always bring me to tears.  I’m not ashamed to say it, even though it makes no rational, worldly, logical sense whatsoever.

At the end of Waterwalker, Bill Mason is sitting by candlelight in his tent talking about faith and fear and he makes the statement “Sometimes I think we have forgotten how to walk on water.”  That statement alone holds myriads of meanings and possibilities for me.  In my life there have been so many times when I have almost given up- where hopelessness and fear – rejection and abandonment – illness and depression were more than seemed bearable.  Sometimes you need to face external life threats and “natural” dangers so that you are no longer able to see and hear the internal fears and threats.  Sometimes you have to be in a place where life and death are starkly obvious to eliminate the darkness and choking hazards of a toxic inner life.  People who haven’t had to deal with the demons of depression, abuse and trauma have no idea what it is like to need these outside “markers” of life and death.  Those markers set a concrete standard for reality; a physical measure of danger and safety.  I will lay in my tent at night and measure my fear of a bear against the fears of my past and then sleep like a baby.  I will grasp and claw my way along the wall of a canyon trail to reach a waterfall, glancing down every so often at the empty space below me– heart hammering in my chest — and feel the loosening grip of the night terrors I experienced while recovering from PTSD associated with childhood trauma.  Standing on a mountain of solid Canadian shield rock with Lake Superior thundering below me — I glance up at beacon of light slowly fanning out from the lighthouse above me and I think about what it means to feel truly safe and to have a beacon.  During the course of recovering and putting the past behind me, I have found many of these “beacons” and Bill Mason is one of a few whom I have clung to.  Over the years I have tried to emulate his gentleness, his respect for nature and his faith — in my own small ways.

In our farmhouse, here in the prairies and cornfields of southeast South Dakota, I have a painting of Cascade Falls on lake Superior.  It is a reproduction of a painting done by Bill Mason.  For years I have told myself that before I die, I want to visit that falls.  I want to see it with my own eyes.  It doesn’t matter why it is so important to me, but it is.  Last week I was able to take that trip:  A trip to the one of the most remote shorelines in the world.  Lake Superior is a cold and dangerous lake – an inland sea – and not one I would paddle in an open canoe.  Should a person tip over in the water, they have less than 10 minutes before losing function of their arms and legs.  In an hour you would die from hypothermia.  The solution was a water taxi from Heron Bay to Cascade River in Pukaskwa National Park, Canada.  We were scheduled to leave on Monday morning at 5 a.m. But a storm blew in the night before churning the big lake into a writhing, heaving white and green monster.  We stayed over at Neys Provincial Park and took a day to explore the beaches there.  The fog and rain created a surreal environment and the historical significance of the area made it a great place to lay over and explore.

The Chosen Rose


come into my garden” at dusk she whispers

fervent twilight prayers moves tenderly

through gates of steel takes his hand in hers


upon smooth stones with bare feet tread

softly down the perfumed path amongst

blossoms radiant white and glowing crimson red


would you choose one?” she bids him seek

his fingers graze silken petals growing blushed

dew drop tear bejewels her wondering cheek


chosen rose he longs to hold her gently clasps

whence pierced by beauties thorns withdraws

open palm from stabbing pain involuntarily gasps


doleful gaze beckons he follow further still

beyond the bed of roses into an orchard fair

wiser for his wounds and yet she captivates his will


beneath the weighted boughs of fruit abundant sweet

branches break with harvest ripe remaining out of reach

stirs desire to pluck and taste what neither dares to eat


in fullness life expectancy “is it good?” she breathes

nectar from her lips first kiss his heart lies siege

allure of joy transcendent hunger fruitfulness intrigues


sudden ache as he recalls the garden of the first

where banished two share fruit forbidden and he toils

for it is written “all your days the ground is cursed”


darkness falls covers all with the shade of night

song of dove floats on chill breeze trembling damp

blades of dew drenched grass shine in pale moon light


naught shall be their reprieve from heat of fiery needs

her rescue and his burning thirst drive them to the deep

heart of secret garden to a cistern where she pleads


will you remove this seal?” haunting pools in her eyes

danger cracks precious pride with task he should not risk

from covered well echo sounds of distant child’s cries


wavers he upon that place casting glance toward open gate

to break the seal might save the child who mourns within the pit

thirst once slaked the stone removed would still seal his fate


for beauty would I dare to bleed and mystery never cease

to labor though my life in ardent sweat be steeped

nor from this battle shall I flee while tears ravage they peace


yet should I open now this well pursue the one that’s lost

my thirst abated too therein but sadly ne’er return again

what would you that I do for you at such a grievous cost?


for lest our love in Eden grew it simply can not be

that blood nor sweat nor tears would cease

nor set the garden of they heart from thorns and toil free


many years I’ve wandered in this garden questioning

was this place not glorious and worthy of inhabiting and

asked I not for anyone to banish pain or wholeness bring


others too have come and gone their absence still I grieve

’twas not from thorns sweat of brow or battle fierce they fled

when strength proved not enough did they make haste to leave


love grows roses without thorns gives to eat from any tree

a fountain there bursts forth with life and we shall thirst no more

love not strength brings this to pass.


Will you stay with me?”



Rivers and Relationships

“Sometimes, if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge and lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known.” ~ Pooh’s Little Instruction Book inspired by A.A. Milne


Henry David Thoreau wrote that “A lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature. It is earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.” I wholly agree with Thoreau’s observation but I love a river! If a lake lets you measure the depth of your nature, it is a river that defines it. If a lake is the earth’s eye – her rivers are her voice.

Much of my childhood was shaped playing in the bends and under the bridges of Little Turtle creek in the heart of South Dakota. I watched her swell in the Spring rains, engulfing the old wooden bridge on the dirt road south of our farm. I watched her dwindle away- tired and subdued in summers when the heat and droughts took hold. Season after season I wandered there, inhaling the fragrant blossoms of the wild prairie roses wafting on the evening breeze. I tried my best to catch crawdads and build small rafts out of twigs and leaves. Mostly I listened. I would listen as the voice of the creek would gurgle and coo poetically beneath me while I watched from the iron rails of the bridge. The river was speaking life to the gentle rolling prairie hills. Speaking life – and peace – to me.

Since that time I have grown more and more fond of rivers. To my mind, there is nothing more blessed than the babble of a brook. Nothing is more calming than the cool caress of a creek on hot, dusty, bare feet or a dry spirit.

It is one thing to sit near a river or stream or to wade in and out of it or to fish from its banks. It is quite another to pledge yourself to her in the form of a canoe trip. I never perceived how very much like relating to people is like relating to a river until I went canoeing. Each time I set my canoe into the current of a new river, that “ka-sploosh” sound signals something in my heart: Anticipation. A tinge of worry. A commitment to trust. An understanding to cooperate. Hesitation. Decision. Exuberance. It’s all there, mixed up and churning like the waters in the path of my oar as I point the bow downstream and wait to see how the partnership will play out.

Rivers and Relationships: It’s a perfect metaphor actually. As I pause to consider it, God used it Himself in a book He wrote about a River of Life. New rivers and new relationships pose many questions. Will they be good to me? Will the current be strong or gentle? Can the river carry me and all my stuff or will I have to portage a lot? Will it be rocky underneath the waters – or smooth? You can never guess. One thing is certain though; once you “put in” there is no turning back. Only in the end will you be able to answer those questions. As the relationship between you and the river (or person, or God) evolves along its course you will find your nature being redefined and shaped. You will learn how much you can love and what you love most. You will discover the degree of respect you brought with you to the experience. Your fears will be uncovered. Before all is said and done, you might wonder to yourself, “Do I really need this?” But if you abandon her– will you return again? Will you love more than you fear?

I had to answer these questions for myself at the end of last summer. If canoeing is my metaphor for relationships then there are a lot of actual events that happened to me on rivers bearing an uncanny resemblance to my personal relationships.

I’ve sat on a lot of river banks pulling stickers out of my bare feet. Sometimes the river is possessive and she punishes you for trying to get out.

I’ve waded waist deep next to my canoe trying to sneak by a bull in the river, or around a log jam. Obstacles are almost a given.

I have lamented the prospect of endless portages, my heart sinking to the riverbed with each sickening grind of rocks or sand dragging my canoe to a standstill on the river bottom. In some relationships you end up doing all the work!

I have had to claw my way up the steep bank of a river, dazed and dehydrated, to walk half a mile through a desert and ask to be rescued. In utter exhaustion and with resignation I watched while a Native American cowboy, smoking a cigar, hauled my canoes out of a river, up a 15 foot embankment with a lariat rope. It wasn’t the rivers fault. I knew I couldn’t go any further. Sometimes you just aren’t aware what you are getting into.

I’ve been flipped out of my canoe by rivers. I’ve been run aground. I’ve cursed her coldness and her heat. Her shallowness and her unpredictability.

And I have tried to cut a lot of deals with God in my tent at night.

August 2007; Big Sioux River

“Dear God, Don’t you listen to the weather forecasts? It was supposed to be clear and mild tonight! Zero percent chance of precipitation. I checked on that before I left home! So why this sudden storm– (lightening bolt explodes a tree on the riverbank opposite of us) Wow that was close!!! You know I like thunder and lightening but this is insane. We’re going to die out here. I’m sure You noticed we are lying at the edge of the water next to a large metal canoe under a tall tree? Ok. That was disrespectful. I’m sorry. Please don’t smite us with lightening. I promise I’ll live better. I’m sorry for all of that stuff I said to You earlier about not meddling in my life. please meddle! Get us out of here alive and I’ll be more respectful?”

July 2007; Cheyenne River

“Dear God, Please forgive me for canoeing on the Cheyenne River. I know it’s July and it’s always warm, but 114 F? C’mon? There’s no shade out here! Yes, I suppose I did see all of the dead trees at the river’s edge before we put in. I’m so tired from portaging. Yes. I guess the water seemed a bit shallow and warm when we launched. I just thought it would get better once we got going. Remember earlier when the sand flies were tearing our skin off? Is that some kind of new plague? And now the wind is so violent it is flattening the sides of my tent into my face. If the wind wasn’t howling so, perhaps that other sound wouldn’t be so terrifying… what is that? Coyotes for one.. but something else. Another sound, like a woman screaming or crying is piercing the dark. I know it’s a mountain lion. Please get me out of this God-forsaken place! I’m sorry I’m so stubborn. I should have paid attention to the warning signs – the smell of burnt earth filled my nostrils when I stepped out of the Jeep this morning. I hesitated. But I should have turned back. I should have swallowed my pride and respected this land and this river more. I wasn’t prepared. Forgive my stupidity. Please get my children and I out of here safely? Please deliver us. Save our lives.”

September 2007; Voyageurs National Park

“Dear God, I’m sorry to bug You about this again, but I’m sure I saw bear poop when we were hiking earlier. Could You please keep the bears out of our camp and away from my tent? I know earlier today my friend said “thank you” to Mother Nature for the beautiful day that we had. I thought it was a beautiful day too but I didn’t say thanks to You at all. That was rude. I’m sorry about that. Please keep the bears from bothering us and I promise I’ll be more grateful.”

After sharing my canoe misadventures with our neighbor, he laughed and shook his head in wonder and disbelief before telling me, “I don’t think God wants you to go canoeing.”

I thought about that for a while. It did seem like everything was against it. No canoeing?

I guess the rivers would still be there. I could see them and listen to their voices but not have to take the real risks. Relationships with rivers… well, relationships involve risk. Period. I knew what I wouldn’t miss but what would I miss?   What could I possibly not live without?

Sometimes I think it is the beauty that keeps me coming back for more. More often I think it is the suspense. Not knowing how things will turn out or what I will have in me to face the good and the bad is the essence of adventure.

How could I pass up the opportunity to share a moment of delight with my daughter as we turn a bend in the Vermillion river and set a herd of deer to flight? Oh how I would miss the beauty of fall leaves on the Cottonwood trees convening overhead, making a narrow tunnel where we paddled on Brule creek. There was also the majestic sight of a bald eagle as it soared effortlessly ahead of our canoe on the Big Sioux River. The surprise of witnessing the currents power as it reshaped the landscape right before our eyes when an entire river bank – ten feet high- broke off and fell into the river creating a tidal wave behind us that crashed on the opposite shore. There was the velvet dome of night sky arching overhead, bejeweled with stars that we pondered in silence while a driftwood fire kept the autumn chill out of the air. And as harsh as she was, there was no prettier sunrise than on the Cheyenne river: The glint of morning sun coloring her waters a shade of rose opulence scintillating into the rugged bluffs of the Reservation. I can’t imagine not having had the thrill of watching horses stampeding next to us on the high bluffs of the Cheyenne and curiously looking down at us as we played in a pool of water and ate our lunch. No, I could never believe that God didn’t want me to canoe. Nor could I believe that He would not want us to take the risks that relating involves. “There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal… The only place outside Heaven where you can be safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.” (C.S. Lewis)

In any instance when I choose to be safe rather than to let my heart risk loving someone that may or may not care for me, I have chosen a facet of hell. Following rivers has taught me that we choose our heavens and our hells right here. Right now. Every time we turn out back on someone who has wanted or needed our love because we were too afraid to work it out – we forfeit some part of heaven. How do we know what we have chosen so far?   Have we been patient, kind, forgiving, fair, honest, full of faith? Have we hoped, believed and endured ‘through every circumstance’? (NLT 1 Cor. 13:7)

In all of the relationships where I have loved and lost perhaps the blame falls to me. I know in every case it was because of some fear on my part that I drove them to finally “quit” me. I became their Cheyenne River. My heart was as cracked and parched as Little Turtle creek in a drought year.

I have struggled so much to be loved. Now I wish only that I had all that I needed inside me to be able to love without being loved in return. I would be braver. And more gentle. I would never give up. There’s no doubt that I could have tried harder to work things out. I’m not sure I could if the other person no longer wants things to work , but I did try to leave it open ended. Somehow I tried to communicate that a loss of relationship would break my heart. Sometimes with words and often in streams of tears, I have tried to say, “You’re beautiful – You’re amazing.” I wanted you to know it. I’m sorry if you didn’t. Song writer Patty Griffin wrote, “You can’t make somebody see, with the simple words you say — all their beauty that’s inside. Sometimes they just walk away…”

If they walk away, then there is nothing more, for this time, that can be done about it. I carry them in my heart though. My life, all my years and friendships stretch out before me like the twisting, winding ribbon of a great river. Indeed, each of our lives is a river; flowing into the river of Life and on still further into the great ocean of God’s mercy and grace. All things will become one. We will know all, be known by all, and be reconciled to all. Every voice will be joined in one chorus without fear. But we must “put in” here and now. Doing our best and striving towards that shining horizon.

“Each of us here today will at one time in our lives look upon a loved one who is in need and ask the same question, “We are willing to help Lord, but what – if anything – is needed?” though it’s true we can seldom help those closest to us.   Either we don’ t know what part of ourselves to give or more often than not the part we have to give is not wanted. And so it is those we live with and should know who elude us. But we can still love them. We can love completely without complete understanding.” (from the movie, “A River Runs Through It”

“Maybe fear can vanish before love. Oh God, don’t let this love be denied. Cause I know the river is deep. I found out the currents are tricky. And I know that the river is wide and oh, the currents are strong. And I could lose every dream I dreamt that I could carry with me. But I will reach the other side. Please don’t let me have to wait too long.” (Rich Mullins~”The River”)

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Conversation with an X therapist

My apologies in advance for the profanity and cynicism in this post.  I wrote it a long time ago and I post it now because I think others will relate to it and I want them to know that it is possible to move past this.  It’s not a good place to be.

Conversation with an X-therapist:

Me: “I have a hard time with relationships.”

Him: “I guess it all comes down to that ‘T’ word.”

(long pause)

Me: (venturing a guess) “Try harder?”

He laughs.

Him: No not “try harder”. TRUST.

Well that didn’t work out. (He got sued for his counseling “practices” but not by me.   Instead, I wrote scathing journal entries about it and quit therapy.)

May 14, 2001

The “Double Bind”. Damned if you do. Damned if you don’t. How many times have I found myself in that predicament? People put me in this bind. I put myself in it. And I believe God puts me in it. And from there… the bottom line is trust?

I trust no one. I don’t trust what’s said to me and I don’t trust what I hear. I don’t trust what I think and I don’t trust what I know. Nothing and no one can be trusted. Nothing and no one is safe:

Not me.

Not you.

Not God.

I can only do what I know how to do – do it as much and as hard as I can, and that is all I can trust to be “true”. My performance.

And of course it has to be perfect.

Do you hear my anger? It’s there in the words I scream when my performance is challenged. What if what I can do for you is not good enough?

So I rage: “Is it perfect now?! Is it?! Because I want it to be fucking perfect!”

Oh if you could taste the venom behind those words.

It is NEVER perfect.

It is always a struggle.

I am so tired.

P3222803mar 2013 d2And2more_fused

My Favorite Poem


*This has to be the best thing that was ever written by anyone.  Ever.  I am sure I’ve read it a 1000 times.

The Shulammite by Jacob Fichman

You are the Shulammite.

A bird forgotten in a vineyard;

a heart that flowered in a desolate land.

And lost among the spicebearing mountains,

heartsick, you seek your lover.

Are you so overwrought because

your brothers shamed you?

So hurt because the shepherds sneered at you?

You only, with your innocent charm, like a sword,

split the heart of the world.

You are loved.

Sunday School

I’ve heard all about You.

I know the things you do.

They preached it from the pulpit

And way back in Sunday School.

How awesome You are…

Worlds exist at Your command

How powerful and righteous –

Life and Death are in Your hand.

Perfect judge of right and wrong,

Victorious reigning King.

Mighty Lord of Heaven and earth

Whose eyes miss not a thing.

The singers, they sang, “Holy! Holy!”

And the preacher pled, “Repent!”

And all of us, sick-hearted, broke-

Grew shame faced; learned to lament.

Oh God, it’s true – I should believe.

You’re who they say You are.

Still I long to find a place where Fear

No more my thoughts can mar.

A place where bruised reeds

Are not crushed.

A place where churning souls,

Sad cries are hushed.

Well, I’ve never seen this on a flannel board

Or heard it taught during VBS;

But when I picture Jesus, He holds me

Like a lamb close to His chest.

He never says I don’t belong or asks me

First to pass some test.

He simply, gently pulls me close and whispers,

“Come here, child.

Come find your rest..”




August 2000


(My response to someone commenting on my lack of ability to make eye contact.)

Please don’t look at me.

I’m not what you think you see.

There’s less here than you can believe.

I can’t look at you.

My eyes might not lie…

They might just reveal

that thing my soul needs most

To conceal.

Over there.  Not here.

Here is too close.

Look where I’m looking –

There’s your safe place.

Watch me from a distance

While I guard this space.

I know that you feel like

You’re missing something now –

But there is nothing to miss.

There is nothing where

You would look anyhow.

It is best this way.

Perhaps you will imagine well.

Better, it is, for you to believe

There was something there–

Than to look and see

There was nothing at all!

And if you looked and you saw

There was nothing to see –

Don’t you see?

That is why I hide.

You can pretend there were

Great and Beautiful things–

If you could see them–


Harrold’s Horses

“The tragedy of life is what dies inside a man while he lives.” ~ Albert Schweitzer

Horses of Dawn-Shadow_hlight-A_Pin light_PE4_250-SHO-DOE

July 4, 2001

I know an old cowboy. His blue eyes sparkle when he talks to me. “Where’ve you been girl?” I stare at the ground, knowing there are no words to describe the barren places I’ve occupied lately. “Why don’t you come ride with me sometime?” he says. The sun hurts my eyes as we stand outside in the parking lot of the farm supply store. I hesitate and shift a bag of chicken feed from one hip to the other trying to formulate a response. He’s the kind of person that wouldn’t understand not wanting to live, so I agree to go on the pretense of not wanting to have to explain not living.

The next day I am standing next to one of the tallest horses I’ve ever had the privilege to ride. Her name is Cheetah. Running a soft brush over her sleek muscular body I start to anticipate the ride. Harrold and I pass the afternoon on horseback, riding through fields of tall prairie grass, meandering through dry creek beds, galloping up steep embankments. I feel the saddle creaking beneath me and a sheen of sweat darkens the mares’ necks in the summer heat. We pull our horses beneath the shade of a mulberry tree and pause there to pick the ripe sun-warmed fruit. The sweet, sticky juice stains my fingers and lips. From Cheetah’s back I can reach the dark purple berries. They are perfect and delicious.

In the months that follow, I let Harrold’s horses carry me through my own personal “valley of the shadow of death.” Harrold follows me through that valley. I think he knew all along that I needed an escort out of that dark and formidable place. I think he knew I needed a fire lit under me and that Cheetah had it in her to light it.

“Horses get bored just like people” Harrold tells me.

So we drive cattle and take rides down by the river. We go out for long moon-lit walks after dark in the snow or take treks through the hilly pastures, winding our way over fallen trees and splashing through small streams. The older horses get ridden when we need to break the “green” ones as we pony them through plowed fields and knee high lavender blossoms of alfalfa. Our favorite thing to do though, is to let our horses run.

We have raced the mares a time or two before. I can feel Cheetah pulling at the bit of her bridle when Harrold’s mare, Sugar, gets a few paces ahead of her. That’s’ my cue.

“Harrold, this mare sure feels good today.” I hint.

He looks at me with a knowing wink, and tips his head in the direction of the road ahead of us. “What’dya say? From here to that driveway up there?”

I fix my eyes on the spot indicated and reply, “You’re on!” and I swear Cheetah knows what we are talking about because immediately she starts prancing, her body tense and her hind legs coiling up beneath her like springs.

On Harrold’s count of three we “GO!” and our horses bolt like lightening. The mares are neck and neck at first. I never even kick Cheetah in the sides… I just lean forward and let her run. When Sugar starts to pull ahead by about a half of a horse length, I lay on Cheetah’s neck; still not kicking her but gently pulling my legs in tight to her sides. I use my voice to encourage her. “C’mon Cheetah, Come on!” “Let’s go girl- they’re beating us!” She seems to catch the fervency in my voice and I feel her stretch her neck out and her whole body is flattening lower to the ground. We are flying and the thunder of her hooves and surge of muscle beneath me are exhilarating. In a flash she has pulled ahead of Harrold on Sugar and we win our back road derby. We stroke our mares on the neck and walk them to cool down.

On the slow ride back to the ranch Harrold looks at me and Cheetah with admiration and says, “Boy that mare’s got a lotta want. Look how proud she is!”

I know. I can feel how she carries herself. Her head is curled around like a swan and her feet step high and light with this little bounce that wasn’t there before.

“I told you she feels good today,” I remind Harrold.

He nods and smiles. He knows it’s more than that.

“It’s easy to run races when you’ve got the want. Lots of people try to live without that,” he says, “but not me. I can’t live like that.”

He pauses. Then he looks at me squarely in the eyes, like only a cowboy can, and says “and neither will you.”


grace hitops

“There is nothing so good for the inside of a man as the outside of a horse.” ~Ronald Reagan


“When God wanted to create the horse, He said to the South wind, ‘I want to make a creature of you.  Condense.’ And the Wind condensed.”  ~ Emir Abd-el-Kader

Building Joy


About 10 years ago my life nearly ended over a catastrophic outcome of a counseling relationship.  (Another person being counseled by this same individual actually sued them and won the lawsuit.  I couldn’t pursue the same course due to my overwhelming feelings of abandonment and betrayal about what this Christian counselor had done.)  In the middle of the fall-out I met another individual who became a very good friend.  He rescued me from the dysfunction of that former relationship.  He filled a place of a father and loved and supported me through a long and painful recovery.  He remains a close friend of our family to this day.  But it hasn’t always been easy!  This person challenges me on a level that I could have never anticipated.  In the summer of 2006 during a tour of Nebraska I made the following entry into my travel journal:

July 14, 2006

Traveling with a person who has Asperger’s is a little like trying to outrun a tornado.  You aren’t supposed to even try!  The whirlwind of words and queries, the incessant swirl of chaos and randomness of direction which pushes the conversation at once here and then again over there, the impulsivity and distraction sweeping across my mind in a twisting cloud of loose connections and illogical conclusions.  I don’t know weather to laugh or cry.  I suppose we are all an enigma of certain proportions to others but I really can’t figure out what makes him tick.  There are no roads through his wilderness and the wind is free to play.

We’ve covered a good part of Nebraska and I keep turning up the stereo in the suburban hoping to drown out the roar of the cyclone in the seat next to me.  The words of the song playing on a CD suddenly strike a chord in my heart. As I listen I can feel my eyes cloud over with emotion.  “If I can hold on through the tears and the laughter… will it be beautiful?  Or just a beautiful disaster?”  On the basis of previous relationship trauma and attachment issues, I have awarded myself a PhD in predicting relationship failures (PHD=Perpetually Horrified of Desertion).

Wow.  Relationships are so complicated!

Hmmm.  I laugh to myself a little when I write that word:  wow.

He says it all the time.  “Wow.”

It doesn’t matter much to me what it is: a dead tree.  A leaning barn.  A gray sky.  The name of a roadside gas station.  Ants on an empty pizza box.  A blade of grass.  The hills of Nebraska that have seemed monotonously repetitious for the past 3 days.   Rocks, chocolate, coffee, chips, sand, brick roads… Anything and everything seems to elicit the expression, “wow”.

For some reason it angers me.  I don’t want to stop for another picture.  Food doesn’t taste that good.  We’ve seen sunsets better than this one.  Why am I so angry?!

Anger.  That’s a complex thing.  I think it’s him, always “ooh-ing” and “ah-ing” over every little trivial thing.  But it’s not.

It’s me.

I’m angry because I’ve become so disenchanted.  I’ve lost my sense of “wow”.  Where did it go?  Why did everything used to enthrall me and now nothing does?  I’m sorry because I used to love so much and now – ?   Now I do what I think I would have done when I used to love.

I want back what he seems to have retained despite all of his struggles to communicate and structure the world around him.  I want the child-like sense of wonder that compels him to stop tearing down camp to kneel and investigate a busy colony of ants blazing their own trails across last nights picnic table. I want to feel desire again; to be awed by grass and clouds and tiny insects and LIFE.

We make camp at lake Calamus, and I repent of my cynicism as the world is baptized in the golden glow of the setting sun.  Running on the beach, catching turtles and photographing the moon over the Sandhills I begin to accept and appreciate that whirlwinds can not be put on a course.  After all, God appeared to Job in a whirlwind – and if it is a form that God can take perhaps I should try to hear Him speaking to me from within my own personal cyclone.  There are other moments that will clear the way for joy and celebration:  Hiking around Willow lake, savoring chocolate covered cherries in the Omaha Old market, putting up hay at our farm, tearing down an old shed, poking around the river bluffs for fossils, stuffing our faces with pizza on the way out of Pierce, coming to a screeching stop to get a photograph of a broken windmill or a shaded lane flanked by cottonwood trees.

At the end of the day, the cumulative effect of these moments of joy is powerful.  Like tiny leaks in a massive dam or streaks of sunshine that manage to peep through a storm gray steel sky – joy comes – penetrating my fortress of unfeeling.  Knocking at my door of safety.  Beckoning me to pull back the deadbolt of mistrust.