The Beauty of the Swamp

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Quite serendipitously, you might say, The Pea Pod — the-small A-frame cabin by the wetland — became ours last August. It came into view in an internet search for an affordable lake or river-front property within easy driving distance from the metro area.

cabin IMG_6563Before stepping foot on the property we thought it was on a small lake, not a swamp on outskirts of the Silvan Shores Association. We immediately fell in love with the quiet serenity of the place and the simplicity of the wood cabin.

We soon learned that some of the Silvan Shores folks gather regularly at the association’s clubhouse at 10 A.M for coffee and conversation. Although we’ve chosen the Pea Pod by the wetland as a full retreat from all things civilized, we want to be good neighbors, and it’s a chance to meet others and pick their knowledge who who to call for various homeowner matters. At our first coffee hour Kay and I introduce ourselves by name and by the property’s location next to ‘the wetland’ just north of Turtle Lake.

Oh! You mean ‘the swamp’!” says Judy. We all have a good laugh.

Call it what you will — swamp, wetland, or marsh (remember Sydney Lanier’s “The Marshes of Glynn”?) — , the little cat-tailed not-quite pond with the trumpeter swans, great blue herons, mallards, loons, and beavers next to the equally unenviable cabin is its own sacred place for two peas in a pod.

This morning, eight months months after the ‘wetland’ turned into a ‘swamp’, I wake with the morning sun and see the beauty of the wetland other folks don’t get to see. Oh, they too might have a fat robin making her nest in the oak tree outside their patio doors, but they don’t experience dawn next to the beaver lodge and the loons paddling by in plain sight while the mallards, wood ducks, and the buffleheads greet the day with play near the wetland’s far side.

We prefer the wetland to the five lakes of the association. There are no boats here on the swamp. No motors to disturb the silence. No water-skiers. No anglers. No noisy humans. Within days the Trumpeter Swans will break the silence. The only oars on the water belong to the waterfowl and the flat tail of the beavers. It’s an uncivilized place that reminds us of the incivility of civilization and the beauty of nature’s frailty and glory.

  • Gordon C. Stewart at the Swamp, April 29, 2018.

A Presidents’ Day Reflection

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Other writing has pushed Views from the Edge to the back burner lately, and when I do start a post here, it feels like yada-yada-yada. John Buchanan’s Hold to the Good piece on Presidents’ Day  is more than yada-yada-yada. It moves the discussion to higher ground.

via Presidents’ Day

Let Down in Minnesota

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We’re not going to the Super Bowl — again — this year. But there’s a mostly proud and wonky history here in Minnesota. In politics, think Hubert Humphrey, Floyd V. Olsen, Walter Mondale, Gene McCarthy, Jesse Ventura, Michelle Bachmann, Al Franken, and Amy Klobuchar. In sports, think the Minneapolis Lakers and the North Stars before they left the Land of 10,000 Lakes to become bigger fish in Dallas and L.A., Harmon Killebrew, Jim Kaat, Kirby Puckett, Rod Carew, Kevin Garnett, Paul Molitor . . .  and last, but by no means least, remember the name Minnesotans are still trying to forget: Shawn Chambers who gave up one of the most famous goals in all of hockey history in game two of the Stanley Cup Finals in 1991.

After the Minnesota Vikings did a Shawn Chambers in the NFC Conference Championship game that would have put them in the Super Bowl, I remembered Gene Wilder’s mocking Green Bay Packers’ grin and heard his Packers taunt.

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Grumpy Old Men

I’m a Philadelphian transplanted in Minnesota, still learning how the game is played here. I love my adopted State and today I’m still a little grumpy about the loss to the Eagles and having to be nice to them.

 

Although it will be the the Eagles who will fly into Minneapolis for the Super Bowl we Minnesotan thought belonged to us, I have no desire to return to my native Philadelphia.

 

Nope! In an hour or two, I’ll head north to the cabin. No ice hockey. No ice fishing. No football. No TV. No cell phone. No internet. Just a warm fire and a book in the woods next to the wetland where the eagles soar and the owl perches in the oak tree, reminding me that I’m dust and to dust I shall return.

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  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, January 23, 2018.

 

Grandpa, what’s a shutdown?

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Elijah with Grandpa: “I don’t like that, Grandpa!”

Watching the news last night, Elijah was worried.

Grandpa! What’s a shutdown?

Well, Elijah, let me think. You’re just eight-months old. Let’s try this. If your Mom decided not to feed you anymore, that would be a shutdown.

Mom’s not going to feed me anymore? Mom and I were on the NEWS?

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Elijah with Mom

No, no, Mom’s not going to shutdown your feeding. She loves you very much. I’m just saying that’s what a shutdown is like.

So, who’s being shutdown?

The government.

What’s a government?

It’s what keeps us together in a democracy.

What’s a democracy?

Actually, I mis-spoke. We’re not a democracy. We’re a democratic Republic, a representative democracy. We govern ourselves by electing people to represent us in Congress and the Presidency.

Did all those people die? Did they get shutdown?

No, Elijah, they’re the ones who are threatening to shutdown the government.

Why, Grandpa?

Because they’ve forgotten why they’re there. They’re confusing government with a sandbox. It’s not. The government belongs to the American people. They’re acting like kindergarteners throwing sand at each other in the kindergarten sandbox. If they keep doing this, there’s be no sand left. The sandbox itself will be gone. It’ll all be shut down.

I don’t like that, Grandpa, and I don’t like the way you’re talking. You’re making fun of kindergarteners!

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Kindergarteners working together in the sandbox

You’re right, Elijah, I shouldn’t make fun of kindergarteners. Kindergarteners are better than that. They’re adults. They’re not acting like children. If they acted like children, we might be better off. Like the psalmist said,

Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants
You have ordained strength,
Because of Your enemies,
That You may silence the enemy and the avenger. (Psalm 82:3)

Thanks, Grandpa. I like the psalmist. Will their Moms shut them down if they shut down the government?

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, January 19, 2018.

IS THERE LIFE WITHOUT COMPUTERS?

Cabin life is nice when I can get it, but Marilyn Armstrong’s wonky SERENDIPITY sense of reality (SCROLL DOWN) did it again this morning. It brought me to my senses with a chuckle.

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Author David McCullough at manual typewriter

Only David McCullough with his manual typewriter is exempt. David does all his writing from his trusty manual typewriter. No word processor cutting, pasting, erasing.

I’m no David McCullough! Neither is Marilyn. But only one of us is forthright about the computer addiction.

Marilyn and I have never met face-to-face. We became “friends” through the blogosphere. But I did meet David McCullough years ago while hosting him as Moderator of the Westminster Town Hall Forum. Wise. Genuinely self-effacing. Humble. And wise in an “old-fashioned” sort of way.

Enjoy Marilyn’s lovely post,

Gordon

Serendipity - Seeking Intelligent Life on Earth

You see stuff online — Facebook mostly — about “could you live in this lovely (log cabin) house (in the middle of really nowhere) without WiFi? And everyone says “Oh sure! I could live in that great little house — in the middle of a huge woods by a cold lake where the nearest shopping center is 50 miles on dirt roads — forever without so much as a VOIP phone.

Sure you could. NOT.

I know I couldn’t and wouldn’t even want to try. Because that’s not life or at least not my life.

There was a time when I could imagine a life without computers. I think that was before I owned a computer, before every house everywhere had one or many computers. Before every single thing in the house got “connected” and computerized in some way. Before your toilet got so smart you have to argue with…

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New Year’s Gift from the Lutherans

The First Quarter 2018 Issue of Currents in Theology and Mission published today a review of Be Still!. Currents is the quarterly theological journal of the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago and Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa. Click Book Reviews for the review by Edward F. (Ted) Campbell, McCormick Theological Seminary Professor of Old Testament Emeritus.

ELCA-Logo-VerticalThanks to Currents in Theology and Mission editors Craig Nessan (Wartburg Theological Seminary) and Kathleen Billman (Lutheran Theological Seminary at Chicago), and “Book Reviews” editors Ralph Klein, Troy Troftgruben, and Craig Nessen for featuring Be Still! as the first among Currents‘ “Book Reviews” for the First Quarter 2018.

Prayers for grace, peace, stillness, and for small victories of “prophetic” madness over collective madness in 2018.

  • Gordon C. Stewart,  Chaska, MN, December 29, 2017.

 

Seasons Greetings

This Christmas Eve we write to thank you for reading Views from the Edge and to share with our readers this Seasons Greetings letter and photos sent to those nearest and dearest to us.happy-holidays

Dear Friends,

2017 brought into our lives two new grandsons, Elijah (7 mos.) and Calvin (one mo.) and the joy that comes with the innocence of children. Fortunately for us, Kristin (with Elijah), and Andrew and Alice (with Calvin) live 20 minutes from Chaska. We only wish we could shower the same affection on outstate grandkids Jack (17), Amelia (14) KY, and Ruby (4) CA, and sons John (CA) and Doug (NYC, VT) and their spouses, Jen and Jason.

Other notable events?

These two news events have long-lasting importance: 1) Last January’s publication of Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness (click the link), Gordon’s collection of essays, and 2) August’s moment of temporary insanity when we raided our retirement funds to buy a small four-season A-Frame on a wetland two and a half hours north in Minnesota.

Buying the cabin while we grow closer to buying the farm felt a bit foolish. But, hey, we got the impulse, acted on it, and are loving the simplicity of rough-cut pine, wildlife (trumpeter swans, beaver, deer, skunks, and owls), and total isolation from all electronic distractions. We build a fire in the wood stove, break out a book, write what we feel like writing, take naps, and walk Barclay (Cavalier King Charles Spaniel now 4 yrs. old) down the dirt road to see what’s happening. It’s a simpler life that we savor as novel and precious.

Although Season’s Greetings normally steer clear of things political, we would be untrue to ourselves without commenting on the over-riding fact of daily life since January 20. Elijah calls the president “You-Know-Who” because we refuse to name him except in blog posts of conversations between Elijah and Grandpa about what faith calls for in the face of greed and collective madness. The cover of Be Still! — Vincent van Gogh’s, Prisoners Exercising, painted during his time in Saint-Paul asylum in Saint-Rémy — could not have been better chosen.

We count ourselves among the fortunate who have family and dear friends whose love and kindness keep our spirits focused on justice, mercy, and humility. We are so grateful for your friendship, and wish you and yours the very best of life in the Second Year of the You-Know-Who Era. Fortunately, God’s patience is longer than ours, but, as California Governor Jerry Brown said recently about climate change denial, so is God’s wrath. 😳

In the belief and hope that the cries in the wilderness count and that Love wins,

Seasons Blessings and Happy New Year,

Gordon and Kay

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Cabin

Andrew and Calvin

Andrew and Calvin

Gordon and Kay

Kay and Gordon

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Cabin wetland

Kristin and E

Kristin and Elijah

  • Gordon and Kay Stewart, Chaska, MN, Dec. 24, 2017.

The Light Shines in the Darkness

“Hold to the Good” once again speaks clearly what so many of us are feeling as Christmas nears. Thank you, John Buchanan and Marilynne Robinson. By all means, hold to the good, hold to the light the darkness cannot overcome.

Hold to the Good

I’m finding it difficult to be hopeful this Christmas. The slow, steady, daily attacks on what I hold dear and what I cherish about my country are eroding my spirit, even the week before Christmas.

My government is….
– loosening regulations designed to protect my grandchildren from the effects of environmental degradation,
– lifting restrictions on mining and drilling that will endanger wildlife and reduce the precious areas of stunning national beauty every president before this one, all the way back to Theodore Roosevelt, regarded as national treasures to be protected and preserved,
-alienating long-time traditional allies, asserting “America First” at the expense of the welfare of all people and all nations,
– turning away from empirical science about climate change and human responsibility for global warming which the vast majority of scientists, and even the Pentagon, regard as real threats to life on our planet,
-attacking any information it…

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The Paradox of Parables

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After finishing daily readings of Be Still! during Advent, Craig Nessen, Academic Dean and Professor of Contextual Theology at the Wartburg Theological Seminary, Dubuque, IA, posted a lovely five-star review of Be Still! on Amazon.

Parables to Transform the Ordinary into the Extraordinary

This book conveys challenging messages about the meaning of faith through reflections on the events of the day. The author writes with an economy of precise, colorful language to tell parables which transform the ordinary into the extraordinary. This is a timely message about the public vocation of the Christian movement to address this time of collective madness.The author assists the reader to remain centered in core convictions for living in resistance and hope.

Would be excellent for personal study, devotions, or group discussion!

The best of lives are humble. They don’t promote themselves. They don’t hawk their own goods. Authorship is its own kind of curse: self-promotion, self-deception, and the narcissistic illusion that you and your work are very, very important. It’s very un-Christ-like.

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James J. Tissot, “Pardoning of the Good Thief” (1886-1894)

But perhaps you will forgive me as Christ forgave the thief from the cross, though, unlike the thief, I know what I’m doing: growing the sins and sorrows whose doom is secured and assured in the meekness of the child of Bethlehem and man of Golgotha.

No more let sins and sorrows grow
Nor thorns infest the ground
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found
Far as the curse is found
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

Maybe in spite of the author’s sin and by the grace of God and people like Craig Nessan,  “Be Still! may become for someone else “parables to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary.”

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With thanks to Craig Nessan,

Blessings and Peace,

Gordon, Chaska, MN, December 23, 2017.

 

A Reckoning for Older Men

When sin — I call it ‘sin’ but, if you use some other word without a religious ring to it, you know what I mean — becomes the prevailing topic from which we cannot break away, it feels good to take a break from the news, and from ourselves.

So we pass along Lloyd Omdahl’s column “Reckoning has arrived for older men” in the Nov. 27 Grand Forks Herald in hopes it might bring a chuckle at some point, but also knowing that some people think any sort of chuckle on this topic is downright sinful.

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Lloyd Omdahl

94 year-old Lloyd Omdahl, the man with the twinkle in his eyes,  served as Lieutenant Governor of North Dakota and is professor emeritus of  political science at the University of North Dakota. He continues to write a weekly column for The Grand Forks Herald. His former student, Gary Severson, brought this column to our attention today as a comment on Views from the Edge‘s morning post.

In case you missed it the first time, here’s the link: “Reckoning has arrived for older men“. Sexual harassment is not funny. It’s ugly. It’s sinful. Even so, if you can’t find a laugh somewhere in Lloyd’s column, take a nap, take a walk, or see a priest, rabbi, imam, or guru, and, by all means, go back and read Norman Cousins before you’re taken by a stroke.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, November 30, 2017.