Life inexorably moves forward. But forward movement does not always mean progress. One definition of progress is “advance or development toward a better, more complete, or more modern condition.” Movement in time will not automatically result in a better life but it does provide the space for progress. I have great hope for your life’s design by the end of 2017.

I use the word “hope” intentionally. It connotes longing with a personal quality, requires specificity, and implies a goal or desired outcome. Hope denotes a state of being that has not been realized but offers a clear picture of that state.

It is my hope and desire that 2017 will be a year when progress is made in the peripheral and concentric communities around you and your participation in them, not for your benefit alone but also for the common good of all.

It is my hope that, by the end of 2017, the design of your life will demonstrate progress resulting in a better, more complete life.

It is my hope that 2017 will usher in new strength of character for you in all those difficult moments when you have to make tough choices.

It is my hope that you will find renewed resolve in 2017 to courageously allow the sensitive side of your spirit freedom to give expression to feelings that may be hard to uncage.

It is my hope that you will discover richer, deeper meaning in relationships both near and far, long cherished and recently made, richly personal and distant though important.

It is my hope that you will discover a well of resources deep in your soul for living into the 2017 design for your life.

It is my hope that you will find freedom within a relationship with God through Jesus the Christ and not feel controlled or manipulated by him.

It is my hope that in being set free by God you will discover yourself in all your uniqueness, your richness, your reason for bing, your beauty, your personhood, your self.

It is my hope that progress in your life in 2017 means enhancing, refining, polishing who you are, and the 2017 design of your life will continue the progression toward completing the person you are meant to be—as my mom encouraged me, “Just be yourself, David.”

Just be yourself in 2017 and God will bless you, for it was his miracle of life that brought you into being—a unique human being.

Don’t Be Afraid

Posted: December 16, 2016 in Gay Life
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I Could call this little piece, “Visits From an Angel.” Instead, I choose “Don’t Be Afraid,” the words that were spoken by the angel on four occasions. Fear has been bandied about over the last year, sometimes loosely, sometimes manipulative, sometimes emotionally, and sometimes in earnest. 

As an older gay man, I’ve thought about fear, not so much for my physical safety, not in a life and death way, but in a deeply personal way as you will see when your read on.

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Don’t Be Afraid

The angels told Zechariah not to be afraid and told Joseph not to be afraid and told
Mary not to be afraid and the angel told the shepherds not to be afraid. We musn’t fear but face what is before us and rise to the ocassion. The result of such bold faith in the face of genuine, reasonable fear was that they received peace and joy.

Zechariah, a Jewish priest, was old, as was his wife Elizabeth. They were childless and img_0028past child bearing age. One day, while performing his priestly duties—it was the point in the ritual for the incense offering —an angel appeared to the side of the altar of incense. Zachariah was terrified, fear overwhelmed him. The angel said, “Do not be afraid,” and told him that. His wife Elizabeth would give birth to a son.

Joseph was encouraged to not be afraid to continue with his relationship with Mary even though she was pregnant before they had had intimate sexual intercourse. Such a situation was cause for divorcing her and her life would be ruined forever. Because she was pregnant before she and Joseph were married, it was assumed that she had had sex with another man. But the angel told Joseph not to be afraid of public opinion, neither directed toward Mary nor toward him. So, he courageously followed through on the angel’s encouragement. Mary gave birth to Jesus, the Son of God

Mary, a young girl of about 15 years of age, was perplexed when the angel told her she was going to have a baby. The angel went on to say, “Do not be afraid, Mary, because God has favored you.” The angel told her that she would bear a son who would be a king.

While filthy, uneducated shepherds were taking care of their sheep one night, they were terrified when an angel came to them. But the angel said, “Do not be afraid. I’m bringing you good news. The Jews’ Messiah is born and you can go see him!”

In four different situations surrounding the birth of Jesus, people were told to not be afraid—his uncle was in the middle of religious duty; his dad, faced with the news that his fiancé was pregnant, was gripped with fear of being shamed by her assumed irresponsibility; his mom, told by the angel she was going to give birth to a baby, was perplexed and undoubtedly fearful; and shepherds were taking care of their sheep in an open field in the middle of the night when suddenly there was an angel talking to them. When an angel came to each of them at different times, they all had reasons to be afraid. Yet, each time the angel said, “Dont be afraid.”

An old man, in the middle of religious duty told his wife was to have a baby. A fiancé suddenly turns up pregnant. A teenager told she was going to have a baby who would be a king. Stinky smelly shepherds told to go see the Messiah of royal lineage being born as a baby.

Each of them were told to not be afraid of what lay ahead. Nor were they told to passively sit back and let come what may. Rather they were encouraged to take action, to move into the unknown, scary future, to anticipate its sweet goodness, to great it with joy.

A gay man in the shadows of life’s twilight, yet the brightness of life’s awakening, faces an aging body with a hungry heart. The vagaries of society has dealt a blow that sends a shiver of fear coursing through his body. The fear that life will pass him by without the pleasure of full and complete love gnaws at him. Is there a word from God, an angel to say, “Don’t be afraid; take the next step”?

For the uncle—his prayers would be answered and the angel promised joy for Zechariah and that “many will rejoice at the birth.”

For the dad—his fiancé would be spared humiliation and life-destroying accusations and give birth to a savior.

For the mother—she would be the mother of a special baby called Son of God.

For the shepherds—they were able to be of the first to worship the Jews’ long-awaite Messiah who would bring peace to the earth.

For the gay man—will he have days with full and complete love given and received?

The uncle, a religious leader, who blessed an apparent illegitimate birth—received joy.

The dad, in fear of humiliation—received peace.

The mother, a young teenager in the unsettledness of beginning adulthood—received joy.

The shepherds, on the fringe of polite society—received joy.

The gay man, fearful on the cultural fringe of society—will receive _______ .

Don’t be afraid.

Embrace the future

You will find peace and joy.

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Fear is worthy of our contemplation this Christmas season. These thoughts on fear  come from meditating on a study guided by my pastor during mid-week Bible study. The study prompted me to think about fears we face.

Is your fear that you might lose your job, that you can’t find a job and your retirement funds are almost depleted, that you’ll never be able to walk again, that your mom or dad or sister or brother or child may never speak to your again, that ___________ (put your fear in the blank)?

One of my fears that strongly stends out in the hours of my days is my fear that I will never have mutual and reciprocal love. This fear is accentuated by the brevity of life and quickly fleeting time. I fear ending life without the comfort, peace, and joy of having experienced such love. (This in no way detracts from the love I shared with Barbara my wife with whom I lived for 45 years. That is another blog post I’m working on. Stay tuned.)

Vive le Hand-holding!

Posted: December 12, 2016 in Uncategorized

img_1265Last night, just before drifting to sleep, I made the following note:

“I have a longing to touch and be touched, a desire for reciprocity, an act of mutuality. I have written in my journal about holding hands. As I reflect on hand-holding, I see it as a metaphor for something much deeper and more profound. I’m not thinking of something demonstratively sexual, though sexuality is a factor. What I’m talking about is something deeper and more spiritual.”

Reflecting on those late-night notes, I feel the need for illumination. After all, a thought at 11:00 p..m. looks different at 7:00 the next morning. So, I’ll expound upon hand-holding a little more.

Actually, I’m not talking about hand-holding per se. The spiritual side of hand-holding goes beyond intentional flesh to flesh touching. Holding hands is a deeper acknowledgment of the existence of another person then what’s experienced in a simple greeeting.

“Hi, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen you. How are you?”

“I’m find, and you”?

Holding hands has moved past such a greeting and has gone to a deeper level of mutual acknowledgement of existence. It’s like eye contact that goes deeper and lasts longer than casual acknowledgment of presence. It’s like saying “I see you, I really see you, and I want to know you more deeply,” but saying it with physical touch—”I like you being near me; your presence in my life is really important, so much so that I don’t want to let you go until I know you more deeply.”

This spiritual depth experienced in the lingering touch of hand-holding is not just one person declaring such deep personal feelings and desires to another person. Rather, there is a profound mutuality in hand-holding, an act of equal importance to both people. It ushers them into being vulnerable to each other. This reciprocity—an exchange of feelings, desires, respect, acceptance, and trust—is bound up in this touch of bare flesh on bare flesh. It demonstrates peace and trust and forgiveness each to the other. It declares that there is openness between the two people whose hands are clasped. It’s each acknowledging to the other that “I want to know you, and I want you to want to know me.”

To want to hold hands with someone is a desire to reach out to them in a deeper level than spoken language. If the reach for a hand is met with an extended hand, a deeper conversation of mutual touch has been engaged. This is true when considering hand-holding between lovers or with friends.

The language of hand-holding is not reserved for youth, although it is a significant experience of youths discovering each other’s deeeper realities. It is a natural language of human interaction regardless of age. As spoken language holds the potential for mutual understanding of the head and heart, so hand-holding grasps the potential for communication of the soul.

Vive le hand-holding!

I would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment if your so inclined. 

The beginning of…

Posted: November 10, 2016 in Uncategorized

(You might want to read yesterday’s post titled “The day after…” if you haven’t already read it, before reading “The beginning of…” )

“The beginning of…” is one of several phrases we use when on the threshold of momentous change. That phrase often, though not always, embodies hope. Where there is hope there is life. Without hope the quality of—and often the desire for—life diminishes. Hope gives life vitality. Within the Christian context, hope is inextricably connected to faith. In a letter titled “Hebrews” in Christian scripture, the author writes, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).

The New York Times described that hope as glee for some people and grief for others. There are many things people hope for in the beginning of the new president’s tenure. It is apparent that many people hope for change. The President Elect has promised to fulfill that hope. I hope for other things. Yet before I can hope, before I can experience the joy of life, I grieve for the loss of a once hoped for future, a grief many people share with me.

Grief cannot be rushed. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ seminal work On Death and Dying (1969) identifies five stages of grief—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance—through which one passes anytime they experience loss. All five stages are experienced when one grieves even though one may move through one or more stages quickly.

Some of us who are experiencing loss in this election cycle may need more time than others to grieve. If you are not feeling loss but rather are elated, please give space and time to us who grieve. We must move through the process, don’t rush us.

I admit I first dealt with denial, a feeling that it couldn’t happen, surely something is going to reverse the election. I’m now still angry that the country I once loved now feeels like one that doesn’t want me and people like me or even people like the worshipping friends with whom I sang hymns and offered prayers last Sunday. America was once my country, but now I feel that at least half of it says that Hispanics, transsexuals, African-Americans, gays, disadvantaged, and marginalized people are not wanted. I echo Jeff Chu’s words: “Join me in my tears if you want. I’d really like that.”

Some of you reading this will want to be quick with words about “God is still on his throne,” or “not everyone believes everything the President Elect has said.” If that is true, why did you vote for him, or why did he say those things? This isn’t a game in which we say things we don’t believe to garner votes from people who don’t believe them. By so doing many people have been hurt. (Take notice of the spontaneous public marches and rallys last night.)

As I deal with my grief and lament my loss, I see a glimmer of hope through my tears. I hope…
…that the disquiet injected into the campaign will moderate,
…that grief and loss some people experience will not be ridiculed or spoken of lightly by those who glee,
…that cooler heads will prevail,
…that hurt and anger will transition into reparative action,
…that America will move forward into the greatness of a bright future,
…that there will be a day when America will not pine for an unrecoverable yesteryear, and
…that there will be the day when American will be future oriented once again.

All of this is complicated so don’t throw out cliches willy-nilly. Such words generally don’t help the people they are targeted toward. A greeting-card philosophy may be appreciated but not so helpful. What helps is when someone who voted for the President Elect sits down beside someone who voted for the other major candidate, puts an arm around them, and enters into their pain. When that happens there’s hope—there’s life.

One more quote from Jeff Chu: “The failure to love your neighbor comes in a multitude of forms. It’s complicated, yet so devastatingly simple.”

As a Christ follower, I know there’s hope in Jesus. So I’ll work through my grief. Be patient with me—or offer a tear with me. In the meantime, look for hope wherever you can find it—for in hope there is life.

The day after…

Posted: November 9, 2016 in Uncategorized

The day after…. How often do we use that phrase. When we encounter momentous events in our lives, those experiences that have the potential to dramatically change life in all its various manifestations, The phrase the day after… often becomes part of the legacy of the event. And so it is with the presidential election of 2016.

I woke up this morning the day after the election. I had slept in because, last night, I had stayed up late waiting for the complete counting of votes in states where the race was close. I came fully awake quickly. We now have a President Trump in waiting, or so I heard on NPR. Although I had stayed up late, I had retired before the announcement was made and a candidate had conceded.

On this “the day after,” I admit to feelings of despair, of fear. How did we get to this place where we, the American people, elected (not by a popular vote, which the president elect did not receive, but by the archaic electoral college process) a president who has demonstrated…
…misogyny (women are sex objects to be used),
…bigotry that treads on religious freedom (ban all Muslims),
…unkindness toward strangers and foreigners in our midst (a position antithetical to Christian scriptural teachings of gracious hospitality),
…a limited vocabulary compensated for by using crass, course, language
…a desire to protect us—with a wall, by withdrawing from decades old alliances and treaties, and by crushing foreign states with our power,
…a personality of a self-centered power grabber (rather than being meek and humble, which is a life-principle highly valued in the teachings of all world religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity, to name four),
…an attitude like a schoolyard bully, steps over—perhaps, more often, on—minorities, gays, immigrants, and other marginalized populations, and
…a lack of integrity by failing to give the electorate a path—including specific actions and resources to actualize them—toward realizing the broad visions he has promised for healthcare for all people, providing living wages for all people, withdrawing from the world and building hedges of protection. How will he turn brush strokes into details? (Example: Based on his rhetoric of creating many jobs and raising wages, he has yet to provide specific real-life examples where increased wealth of large corporations and wealthy people will result in someone(s) who is(are) out of work becoming self-sufficient in a job(s) that provides a wage that is life sustaining.).

This will be our leader. We will look up to him to guide our country in a progressive posture of growth and development. He will represent us in international relationships. He is the model of a leader our children will emulate.

He will be our President!

This is The day after… and, it is The beginning of…. Therein is hope—yes, even in our President Elect’s four-year term of office. Let’s talk about hope—tomorrow.

Election Day

Posted: November 8, 2016 in Uncategorized

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This is Election Day, an end to a circus that has monopolized mind and body through the strenuous months of campaign rhetoric and bombastic television commercials. I haven’t a clue to the outcome. There is a general feeling that whoever achieves victory in the presidential race will be fighting an uphill battle during their tenure regardless of the results of the congressional campaigns.

To mark this day, James and Gabe envited Betsy and me to breakfast. I’m waiting for them in the condominium community room. After we eat, we will go as a group to vote. Election Day for James is like Christmas. Like a little kid waiting for Christmas morning, his excitement has been building over the months leading up to today. During the election season, he gathered friends in the community room to watch the debates with him. He hangs on every word of political pundits, not as the sole source of information on ballot choices, but to discover how other people view his choices, which have come through much personal research. He knows who he will vote for. It’s the strategy of politics that intrigues him like a game of chess. He is energized by politics. I think he pines for the day when he was part of the process.

LATER
We voted—James, Gabe, Betsy and myself. Though the line was about 20-25 minutes long, waiting with friends made it fun. It was indeed good to see people voting. Most people we saw were pleasant, even with smiles. I saw or greeted several other friends and acquaintances during the process—Bob, who owns the Washington Ave. Post Grocery and Coffee Bar; Jarred, who is president of the Downtown Neighborhood Association and lives in my condominium, The Annex; Patrick, my neighbor in the condo next to mine; Lisa, who recently moved away from The Annex; and others I know by sight and greet but whose names do not have enough velcro to stick in my head. Being part of the democratic process is indeed a privilege—regardless of which squares you colored in on your ballot.

After voting, I left them at the polling place before they were through voting and ready to leave. I told Gabe I had a 10 o’clock appointment and walked on to the Downtown Barbershop for my bi-weekly haircut. As I walked along, gratefulness for my country welled up within me. Though America may have flaws, it’s a grand and glorious experiment in democracy, the land of the free and the brave—and may it ever be.

It is not unusual for me to experience sudden emotion at unexpected moments. The emotion can be prompted by thoughts as I lie in bed waiting for sleep to take me away; by something I see during my walks through the city, or on TV, or in printed media; or perhaps by a random thought that does not have a particular source nor is attributed to anything specific but just appears.

Yet all of these powerful emotional moments—not to be confused with either depression or euphoria—are often rooted in a response to a pleasant or satisfying memory or in a feeling of a desired state either being achieved or an intense yearing for that achievement. These breast-filling emotions that bring both pleasure and tears are good feelings.

What I am talking about is not something that is unhealthy or to be considered pathological. Rather it is an embracing of feelings that are real. They are my feelings; I own them. And I search for meaning within them that enriches my life.

I say they are not pathological because these emotional moments—and the time spent seeking understanding of, in, and throuh them—do not consume every aspect of my life. They are not an everpresent part of my waking hours. And though they do put me to sleep at times, I do not search for them as a quest for an aphrodisiac for peaceful sleep.

These moments arrive unexpectedly. I do not search for them; they come to me as oneimg_2204 did when I squatted on my haunches by the Mississippi River to better hear the wash from the barge that just passed lap against the cobblestone wharf. A memory from Vung Tao, Vietnam washed over me. I could almost hear the waves from the South China Sea crash against the rocks a stone’s throw away from the small tourist cabin as my son was conceived. My wife Barbara and I were in Vietnam developing a ministry to students and, on this ocassion, were gathered with other mission personnel on an annual retreat.

Emotion swept over me as I squated by the Mississippi river. While the gift of a son, and the joy and pride and admiration I have in him 45 years later, was bundled with the waves against the rocky shore. The ripples—from the passing tugboat and barges it pushed—making a sound on the cobblestones, though diminutive compared to the crashing waves at Vung Tau, became the catalyst for unexpected chest-filling emotion that brought tears. I stood up, walked on down the river toward Eads Bridge with a thankful heart for emotions.

I could describe other unexpected washes of emotion that give significance to a life lived. However, exciting ones are those unexpected emotional moments that suddenly envelope me when the life I have yet to live, a desired state yet to be achieved, becomes vividly experienced through thought or vision. That might raise an eyebrow; I’m 76 years old. But as I see it, that’s what it means to be alive. Being alive is having a desired state yet to be achieved. My freedom from plying a trade or responding in ministry fashion to needs around me affords time for reflection. But such reflection on past experience issues into future desires, which include filling time with meaning, discovering richness in diverse friendships, and finding companionship with one of similar heart and mind.

Unexpected though pleasant emotions give meaning to the past, bring beauty to the moment and expectancy for tomorrow.

Life Portrait

Posted: August 23, 2016 in Uncategorized

This post was written on Monday, August 22.

My portrait on the 76th anniversary of my birth is a new one, never before seen or described. Today is the day after my my birthday and I feel no older than I did the day before my birthday. Birthdays are signposts on a journey. They are not the journey.

We have other signposts we plant along our life’s road-trip—days we were graduated from various educational institutions, moments of spiritual epiphanies, and significant moments along relationship roads to name a few. Some of these mark a past moment engendering present reflection. Others mark annual progress which we call anniversaries. Reflective in nature, these annual mile-markers also look toward the future. They are markers—not prescriptions but descriptions. They do not define us as much as provide bits and pieces to aid in describing who we are.

We are much more than descriptions of a moment in time. My graduation from a school—elementary school, high school, college, university, graduate school—describes an accomplishment I’ve made but does not define me; I am much more than a high school or university graduate, or holder of a graduate degree. I have had moments of spiritual ecstasies and encounters with the Spirit of God, but I am more than a spiritual being. I was a principle partner in a wedding that began a marriage lasting 45 years, but I am more than a wedding day or the acknowledgement of it in annual celebrations that lasted until Barbara’s death in 2012. Earlier this month, August 13, 2016, to be exact, I recognized the third year anniversary of the day I began the process of bringing the world into my truth as a gay man; I am more than that descriptor. Yesterday, I marked the 76th year of my life on earth, but that day was a description and not a definition; I am more than a seventy-six-year-old man.

Markers in life help us take account of where we’ve been and map a road for the future, but we are much more than any one of our markers. I venture to say that we are more than the combination of all of the markers—the anniversaries we celebrate and the events the celebrations commemorate—along life’s road. I am more than a university graduate with multiple degrees who is a gay man, has experienced the life-giving grace of God through Jesus the Christ, was married for 45 years to Barbara, and has celebrated 76 years as a human being. There are many more markers along the road I’ve walked that I could add, but no matter how many I add I will still be describing who I am, not defining. The definition of David Wigger is far more than the descriptors.

I am still exploring the depth within and finding things about myself I never knew existed. I don’t want this “fleshing out” of who I am to stop. Some of these discoveries are filled with joy and excitement about new strengths and the flexing of dormant mental, spiritual, and emotional muscles.

Sometimes the discovery of something about myself I had not known before is tinged with fear and takes me to the edge where I feel vulnerable. There are discoveries about myself that are unpleasant. That unpleasantness is opportunity for growth. Growth doesn’t take place in comfort but in discomfort. So whether new discoveries about myself are pleasant and welcoming or fearful and disarming, they are all good.

I look forward to new experiences when I can plant another marker on my pilgrimage. Perhaps this new marker will be of such import that it becomes an annual celebration, an anniversary like a irthday. Whatever it becomes, it will add another descriptor to further fill in my portrait, which is yet unfinished, but always emerging.

Should I present a definition of David Wigger it would begin with “A creature of God that God made in his image…”

Living in the Deep Places

Posted: August 8, 2016 in Uncategorized
I wrote about deep places when I first described myself on this blog as a gay man a year ago (August 6, 2015) in a post titled Deep Places . To continue the theme of deep places a year later, I believe we experience life more fully by living more deeply.

When I began the journey of entering into the fuller truth of who I am, part of that reality, which I had heretofore pushed aside, was that I am gay. This did not mean a change from who I was, rather it was a fuller picture of who I am. In the afore mentioned post, I brought that dimension of myself into public view to add to everything else people already knew about me. Therefore, I’m no different than I was, just more fully known. That truth came out of the deep places in my life.

I am discovering that I am returning to those deep, sacred places more often after having opened them to the public. They are no longer secret, though no less deep and sacred. The door once opened cannot be closed. I have discovered that living with a door open to the deep places in my life has brought freedom greater than any thing I have ever experienced.

Concomitant with opening this once dark and fearful space to the light of public scrutiny was a public affirmation of Truth (Jesus the Christ) in my life. My daily walk with Jesus has been more conversational while at the same time multidimensional, from casual to formal—Friend, Saviour, Lord, of the godhead One, Confidant.

I have discovered that having once opened the door to the deep places in my life, I am unable to return to daily living without meaningfully incorporating that space. The deep places follow me. I cannot ignore bringing conversations into those deep places while shallowness and superficiality become an effort to sustain.

The deep places in my life were once a basement filled with dusty floors and cobwebbed corners due to the absence of life. I opened the door wide last year, swept the floor, cleaned the walls, and invited you and many other people to enter. I now find myself walking into that space daily. It has become a peaceful place even though there are still nooks and crannies, rooms behind doors yet to be cleaned. I find that, as a result of making my life transparent in this one area, my sexuality, I am able to live more vulnerably in other many areas. I am growing daily and becoming more cognitively and spiritually engaged with reality. Life has a forward energy that is breeding a vibrant self-esteem, which produces confidence and eagerness about engagement.

I don’t hold on to my feelings, my fears of what people think, and other anxieties—my own perceptions of life and the way I had lived. It’s a radical change from the life of anxiety and fear that truth, which I had kept hidden, would escape and people would know the real me. Truth cannot now escape because it has been set free.

We develop models for our lives in forms that make sense to us. I had built my life on the model of a home. Various places in our homes are designed for certain functions of living. We have space that is personal and private (bedrooms), there areas for entertainment where we invite guests (living rooms, family rooms, patios, great rooms, etc.), and there are areas that are storage areas (dusty, cobwebbed basement closets). That was the model I had for my life. I had personal space and I had areas of my life into which I invited people. Then there was the basement closet, which was closed and locked and I kept the key with me, secure at all times.

That basement closet,  that deep place in my life, has now been opened. By opening it, I have discovered that it is no longer as deep as it once was. Not only does the open door allow light to enter, I have also found a window that had been obscured to block out curious eyes from observing what I did in my deep places. Upon opening the window, fresh winds blow through the once closed up, locked space, and light sweeps across it to meet the light from the open door.

Just because the deep place is now open—and even has a window—does not imply that it is shallow. This place inside me is still deeply spiritual, deeply challenging, and deeply personal. Yes, it’s personal space into which I have invited people to come and sit awhile.

If you would like to engage in conversation about deep places, please leave a comment by clicking the lasso at the top. If you would like to connect with me off the blog, go to the Let’s Talk page. I look forward to our conversations.

Senses

Posted: July 21, 2016 in Uncategorized

The vibrancy with which life is lived when young becomes dulled with age. The senses lose their depth and timber and resonance over time. They become flat and one dimensional, and without feeling and spirit. This flatness of perceiving the world influences everything about living.

I sensed the truth of this in the summer of 2013 while on a nostalgic visit to a small central Texas town where I lived during my preteen years. This small town was built on a railroad (or the railroad routed through the small town just because it was there), which was not so much a demarcation line separating people in the town as it was a symbol of commerce. Most of the locomotives had been converted to diesel fuel for the energy needed to move the behemoths with their long tails that stretched sometimes for a hundred lengths or more. I remember a few of the last “pufferbellies” (steam locomotives) with the smoke puffing high into the wind as they passed through town. Ocassionally a train would pause long enough to drop off and pick up cars filled with cotton, the primary commodity of the area’s agriculture; cattle were primarily transported by truck. All of this, of course is the remembrance of a once preteen boy.

But one memory that is not just nostalgia but is deeply rooted in real sensory experience and brings back those idyllic childhood days is the smell of the wooden creosote soaked ties that fills the nostril with a pungent stinging odor. I loved the smell when, riding my bike from home to the shops and stores that lined Main Street, I would cross the tracks and inhale that wonderful perfume of the railroad.

Bpatist Church where my dad was pastor

I said this has something to do with a visit back to that small town from which I had moved with my family in the fall of 1952—and it does. While on that trip, I drove around the small town trying to match my memory with the places I used to haunt. Such was not entirely possible because my rambling about town then was on a bike, now it’s inside a hermetically sealed car.

I crossed the tracks. They looked not unlike they did when I rode my bike across them 60 years before. I drove on trying to cover as much of the town as I could. I went by the school. The two schools in the town, the elementary and senior high stood next to each other. I remember my last year in town. We kids walked from temporary school buildings, relics of WWII, which we had been using following a fire that had consumed the old elementary building, to a brand new building. It was a proud day. When I saw it on this trip 60 years later, it wasn’t so new anymore. I had to update the mental image of that place.

Texas Ranger Station

Not only did I have to update mental images—all that was left of the hospital was a chimney, the Texas Ranger Station was a nondescript motel, the tired old bank now looked prosperous, the movie theater no longer existed—but I also had to recalibrate the color palette of the town. At the end of June—perhaps that has something to do with the color—the grass was brown; the trees, though they were alive with leaves, looked brown; the streets were dusty brown; the railroad ties, once shiny black and creosote soaked, had turned a gray-brown.

And that brings me back to the one bit of nostalgia that was as vivid to my nostrils as my 11-year-old boy’s experience remembers it. I was ready to drive out of the town and on to Fort Worth and Dallas for more nostalgic visits. I had stopped in at the bank and talked with the president (I’ve had a checking account at that bank for over 60 years). I had been by the church where my dad pastured a loving, vibrant congregation. I had to cross the railroad one last time to get to Main. Streeet, which was also the highway out of town. As I approached the tracks crossing the street in front of me, I had a sudden urge to see if crossing the tracks still smelled the same. I pushed the button and the window slowly sunk into the door and immediately the hot dry air pushed the cool, clean conditioned air away somewhere. The tires rumbled across the tracks and for a second I thought I smelled creosote, but I wasn’t satisfied.

I pulled off to the side of the street, raised the window so my dog Paco, who was with me, wouldn’t decide to jump out, and walked back toward the railroad. Sure enough, even though the ties were old and dry and dust covered I could smell it. I walked on. When I got to the tracks, I wondered why I wasn’t riding my bike, I looked down the street toward “home” (1949-1952) and saw the heat rising in wavy lines above the asphalt.

About that time, a boy came flying past me, bumped over the tracks and sped on down the street. I looked behind me to see if Lowell was following him, but of course he wasn’t. Lowell would be 75 years old by now. I had crossed the tracks by this time and walked a space longer before turning back to rescue my dog from the quickly rising temperature in the car.

I walked through the pungent smells experienced by an 11-year-old-boy and was suddenly aware that it wasn’t only the smells that had been conjured up from the past but it was a boyhood of the 1950s that had come to life.