My wife and I are celebrating our 33 wedding anniversary up on the North Shore. We went on a hike this morning up the river at Gooseberry Falls State Park. It drizzled and rained most of the time we were out but the temperature was a pleasant 35 degrees. We hiked on top of snow that was mostly two feet deep. Along some of the wooden walkways, the snow had melted on either side where people had not walked this winter. So the wooden boards on the right and the left were free of snow while the middle was an elevated path of snow. Occasionally one of our feet would break through and we would sink in the snow to beyond our knees. Gooseberry has five waterfalls. I tried and tried to take pictures, for it is an interesting sight to see the rushing water through large gaps in the snow that earlier had been totally encapsulated with snow. How does snow cover a rushing waterfall? Someday I hope to be on the North Shore during a heavy snow fall so I can see. This past winter was particularly cold. Maybe the waterfalls all froze. Maybe they always freeze.
I wish I could more fully appreciate the beauty of nature. My mother and my grandfather were great nature appreciators. My grandfather was a preacher, the type of preacher that novelists always write about. Though he was true to his wife, his life did not match up with what he preached. He was not a kind man. He held grudges and held many in contempt. But he was a great appreciator. He loved good music. Long before rock-n-roll, he had some impressive speakers on his hi-fi. From them, Mozart, and Chopin, and Vivaldi could be heard as they ought to be heard, at full volume. He also loved good food and good wine and good brandy. And nature.
He was not impressed with the woman my father chose to marry. She was a farm girl, the daughter of a ne’re-do-well farmer, a farmer who would help every other farmer in the area, but never got around to taking care of his own farm. My father met my mother after he returned from the War. He was a student at Wheaton College, as was my mother. They married right after my father graduated. My mother took a break from college. She only had a semester to go. She always meant to go back. But money was always tight and so was time. My grandfather had great respect for education. He would not allow himself not to buy any book that he thought an educated religious person should have. Though he read whatever book he purchased, I don’t believe he was an appreciator of good books for he had some books in his library that I think, if there was a purgatory, they would be obligatory reading there.
But I remember visiting my grandparents as a kid where they had a cabin in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. My mom and dad and myself were all in the back of his Mercedes Benz while my grandfather was loudly exclaiming the beauties of the setting sun. My grandmother was in the front seat doing her best not to be annoyed, so she and my father were deep in conversation about somebody somewhere who did something, or other. But my mother quietly expressed her agreement. I thought my grandfather was hard of hearing but he heard my mom. He stopped the car and ordered her into the front seat. My grandmother happily came back with my father and myself. And Grandpa and Mom spent the rest of the trip exuding over whatever they saw around the next bend of the road.
I think I learned from my grandfather to be an appreciator. Like him, I can’t tolerate music at a low volume. I do enjoy Vivaldi, but the Chicago Symphony has nothing on Linda Ronstadt. Among my great composers are Cat Stevens and Keith Green.
My grandfather bought me my first Chronicle of Narnia. I’m still a great appreciator of C.S. Lewis. I used to read his book, “Till We Have Faces” every year. The last time I read it, I was in a bit of a melancholy time in my life. “What’s wrong?” people would ask me. “I don’t know,” I’d say. I think it’s the book I’m reading.”
But as I’ve gotten older, I can’t read like I used to. Either I get fidgety, or I start falling asleep. So I hike, or bike, or cross country ski. When my body moves, my brain moves.
Which is what happened today. While hiking I was working on a unified theory of the Bible. What does the Israelite annihilation of the Canaanites, the proposed sacrifice of Isaac, the trials of Job, and “His merciful kindness endureth forever,” have in common? What do Judas and the Mary who Jesus met outside the tomb have in common? What does the prohibition against boiling a kid in its mother’s milk have in common with, “And every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head?” I think I’m on track to figuring out the first question. I think I know the answer to the second. But I need more information about kid boiling to figure out the answer to the third question.
I do wish I could be like my mother and grandfather and appreciate nature as it ought to be appreciated. But I very much appreciate being out of doors. It helps me think. It helps me with questions. And sometimes with answers. Which I appreciate.
I appreciate good questions.
Even more, I appreciate good answers.