Sunday, August 24, 2008

School mode note to self

School started a few days ago and I wonder again, what have I gotten myself in for?

Enormous reading loads from books with names like Herodotus, A History of Knowledge, Greek Lives and Reformed Dogmatics. Multiple assignments weekly. Teachers who specify things like "don't be shallow," "I expect you to contribute; if you're shy, get over it" and "you are responsible to know everything I say in this class." Presentations 10 minutes long, 5 minutes of questioning following. Choir sessions where the right notes won't come out no matter what. Sometimes I think my head can't possibly get around half of what is expected, and I want to be completely immature and complain about these tasks; after all, there are so many things I would rather be doing than memorizing dates and practicing geometry and finding out how to put latin words into perfect passive conjunctive! Yup.

So. Why am I doing all this?

Because when I'm not groveling in my self-pitying mode, I know how much of a gift all this is. I remember that knowledge is worth the effort it takes to pursue it. I see the goals, quavering off somewhere in the future, that I am working for... I want to be able to give to someone else, all my life, and this is all in preparation for that. Because so many people have sacrificed and are sacrificing for me to learn what I am studying now.

Forget the headaches and the tears as I frustrate over assigned reading and supplemental reading and online reading and handouts and the school handbook, and hands and eyes sore from taking notes in class and penciling notes in books and typing on the computer, correcting and re-typing. Forget the less-than-satisfactory grades scrawled across the difficult test. Remember mornings in class with 40 friends with fresh notebooks and open books discussing what they have learned and expect to be asked about. Remember standing to sing or pray with the professor and the voices that have learned to harmonize. Remember the excitement of that professor as he gives to you what he so clearly loves. Remember the long-worked for nod of approval and brief "Well done" at recitation. Remember being asked to Sunday dinner, laughter at freshman creative sketches, and going to ice cream to celebrate the final math exam being over.

Whether I am able to complete my tasks perfectly, we shall see. My skeptic little brain doubts it. What is left for me is to give faithfully to this vocation. Con-fidence.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

creative sketch

The Power Line

It carries electricity across my grandpa’s property. In a wide swath it goes through cedars and firs and hemlock, dipping and rising over hills, a row of silver skeletons heading toward the Canadian border. The legs are braced with dozens of steel shafts, and the short, bent arms hold up the wires.

The wires perpetually hum, carrying voices and lights north and south, connecting the far parts of the earth. Hidden in long, twisted cables that drag low the lines between the great structures, the weight of that power pulls at the insulators. And it pulls us closer.

We grab the flat metal framework, warm from sunlight, and pull ourselves up on the lowest crossbars. The leaning legs are tall, and the supports aren’t close enough together to monkey-bar up; the heads of the bolts stick out on this side, but their knobs are too far apart for footholds. I stare up at mathematical shafts intersecting between me and the sun, T-ing and X-ing steadily upward. Bracing feet and arms against opposite angles, we inch slowly higher, the narrow shanks hard against back or shoulder or palm the only forces we can feel. The air seems still, but between the bars of this tower I can see trees moving at the edge of the woods.

One arm caught fast around the upright at my left, I hang powerless. I am on a web turned steel, perfect and grey, planned and purposeful, catching the light across this corner of Grandpa’s land.

I wrote this in Rhetoric class a few months ago.