By the shore of Gitchee Gumee

I remember how my dad, years ago, sometimes began to recite “By the shore of Gitchee Gumee/ By the shining big sea water/ At the doorway of his wigwam/ In the pleasant summer morning…” I’d always wanted to read this epic. Now I have.

I just finished reading The Song of Hiawatha, the epic poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. According to my journal, one moon passed during my sporadic reading. I always have three or four books in process, so I am not displeased with the time I took to read it. Especially is this true because of the various notes I took. Reading one of the celebrated masters of American poetry, I thoroughly enjoyed the story, even as part of my brain was trying to figure out what he was doing from a technical standpoint.

Longfellow has a rhythm pleasing to the ear. Throughout the twenty-three cantos, Longfellow keeps up the steady beat (for some reason, Sonny Bono’s “The Beat Goes On” comes to mind), if you will, of the trochaic tetrameter. Thinking out loud, here, I wonder if that foot/meter combination would have been familiar to Native American ears. I haven’t been near a Wacipi or anything lately, so I don’t know, but with the story, it works, in my opinion. Not that my opinion means anything. Also, I think this would be difficult to keep up that rhythm for such a lengthy poem, but, then again, I’m not him.

Longfellow’s use of repetition is enjoyable. When, in the introduction, Gitche Manito tells the nations,

“I have given you bear and bison,

I have given you roe and reindeer,

I have given you brant and beaver”

the trio of “I have given you” lines serve to emphasize Gitche Manito’s rule of the created order. Then, the sounds of the animal names repeat in each line. And, while the rhyme is not common throughout the epic, here, in the introduction, the reader may appreciate the lines ending in “hunt in”, “fish in”, and “bison”.

Not only in this opening canto, but especially here, I appreciate the various “lessons”. This appreciation may not be universal throughout the epic, but I should think the following lines would share wide appeal, perhaps as much now, as any other time since their writing:

“I am weary of your quarrels,

“Weary of your wars and bloodsheds,

“Weary of your prayers for vengeance,

“Of your wranglings and dissensions;

“All your strength is in your union,

“All your danger is in discord;

“Therefore be at peace henceforward

“And as brothers live together.”

How this universal peace is achieved is another matter, but in this world of sin and sickness, it is a lofty hope and goal. Ironically, perhaps, it would not be longer than 15 years after this was published that the white men of these United States of America were fighting among themselves in the War between the States.

Longfellow’s opinions and reflections, via Hiawatha, on death and on life, on friends and on foes, on memory and on vision, and in courtship and community, are certainly food for thought. Less like a snack, they are, and more like a feast. More I could write, but I will not.

By the shore of Gitchee Gumee

But how do we reach the youth?

I heartily recommend this article. And, please read the end notes. Thanks to Chris Ames for sharing this on Scott Aniol’s Religious Affections.

As God would have it, I read the article linked above on the same day I was reminded of the unusual (to my way of thinking) age segregation of the children in my home town of Huron, SD. Apparently, one elementary school (school center) has Kindergarten through 3rd, another is a center for the 4th and 5th grades, and, if I recall correctly, the middle school is for 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students. Undoubtedly, good reasons have been put forth for this arrangement, and I am not now disposed to dispute the underlying assumptions. Still, I find the juxtaposition rather curious.

Getting back to the article, Pastor T.David Gordon writes about the question of how to keep our youth in the church, and whether we are asking the right question. The article, and the issue, is not about inter-generational ministry, but rather, about an increasing conformity to Jesus Christ as a community of believers.

As a side note, I appreciate that Gordon is a Presbyterian quoting Luther, lest these ideas of conservatism be misconstrued as modern fancies or Baptist eccentricities.

But how do we reach the youth?

Borrowing Spring

March may prove this day to be a brief window in the wall of winter. However brief, it was welcome. This afternoon, I looked less like the tire company’s icon made out of squishy white tires, and more like a normal guy with a gnome beard. The air was too warm, and the wind too still,  to need the extra insulation of my coveralls. Indeed, although the thermometer hovered around 20 degrees above zero, Fahrenheit, I saw melting snow on many of the flat sun spaces around me. Today was like the 7th-inning stretch in the game of baseball. A little break, a little hope, a little mood-booster, and winter will continue come February.

Even if we have to pay back this day during a fickle March or April, it was a good day to breathe. Thanks to God!

Borrowing Spring

The New Titans

I saw a line of Titans.

They marched in single file

Across the snow-packed field

And carried a load meanwhile.


Their task is Herculean

And silent as a ghost.

Their work is hardly seen,

But they serve a thankful host.


As stately as the redwoods,

Yet babes in terms of time,

A pathway for the current,

Their worth to us is prime.


We give of our resources

To keep the gift of light;

The power of a Tesla,

The magic of the night.

The New Titans

An SBC prof and a fundy pulpit (reblogged from mpriley)

Some of the readers of “From DandelionEnd” will, no doubt, see the link below as so much intramural noise. Still, I appreciated both the main post and the many gracious words of the various commenters. Thank you, Pastor Riley, and others, for your thoughtful articulation of consequential ideas.

An SBC prof and a fundy pulpit (reblogged from mpriley)

By the sound of it

I am odd in many ways. Just ask my children, my close friends, and of course, my beloved wife. Almost all of my jokes are corny. I usually prefer function to fashion. And so on, ad nauseum.

However, one of my favorite oddities is reading the dictionary. That’s right. You saw what I wrote. I enjoy Reading the dictionary, like starting at the top of one page, reading all the entries in the left column, moving to the right column, reading that from top to bottom, and then repeating this ritual on the next page. It’s too time consuming for normal life, so I don’t do that as much as I did when I was in school. I’d look up some word in a book I was reading for an assignment, or try to double-check I was using the right word for a paper. On my way to the word in question, I’d be flipping the pages, and either a wood etching would catch my eye, or a pattern of related words would be listed, one right after the other.

It isn’t just learning new words for new ideas, new words for old ideas, old words for new ideas, or old words for old ideas that fascinates me. It is the sound, the music, and the rhythm of the words. Indeed, I often come across words in my reading (oh?) that are like a mouse in a harlequin outfit running across the inside of a white bathtub.  Work with me, here. What I mean is, certain words not only get my attention, but beckon more investigation. The sound of a word rolling off the tongue can also be like an expert tasting a fine brandy, causing contemplation, comparison, and appreciation.

Just the other day, I came across a few good words I’ve been meaning to share.

The first word, “saturnine“, was hiding in the middle of Charlotte Bronte’s “Jane Eyre”. I doubt I would have considered reading “Jane Eyre” were it not for G.K. Chesterton’s recommendation in “Twelve Types”. At any rate, “saturnine” tastes like a good chocolate, and it is pleasing to my American ears. The word does not sound like it means, though. It sounds so fluid, so chic, so…so…something a person would want. Far from it. It’s an adjective, and it means, “slow and gloomy”, as in “a saturnine temperament”.

Here’s another one from the near context: “preternatural“. Bronte writes, “the chin was sustained by the same principle, in a position of almost preternatural erectness”. Preternatural is a word I might have been able to figure out by the prefix, but I looked it up, just to be certain. Anyway, if you’re still reading, it means, “beyond what is normal or natural” (example given is ‘autumn had arrived with preternatural speed’).

But, by far, the word most pleasing from the recent reading and note taking was lugubrious. Say that a couple times, right? It’s like oil on a pig. It just kind of gets away from a person. I picked up our copy of “Main Street”, by Sinclair Lewis, and read a few chapters the other day. Lewis is describing the reaction of Carol Kennicott, a wife just home from her honeymoon, as she surveys the house she would be sharing with her new husband, and he writes, “she was conscious of dinginess, lugbriousness, and airlessness, but she insisted, ‘I’ll make it jolly.’ “ Lewis must have enjoyed this word, too, because just a paragraph above this sentence, he writes about a “lugubrious bay window”. Lugubrious means “mournful or disposed to gloom; dismal”. It sounds like a depressing place.

Saturnine. Preternatural. Lugubrious. All good words. I didn’t get to read through the dictionary to find them, but then, reading the books has been enjoyable too. Try this, some time (if you’re still reading): Try reading a poem or a book out loud. Add different voices. Your neighbors might think you’re weird. Maybe they already do. Any children in your life will love it, though.

By the sound of it, reading (even the dictionary) can be a lot of fun. You ought to try reading that way, some time, like when you’re done wasting your time reading this blathering, unending blog post. Hey, you owe yourself. Especially since you can never get back the time you took reading this.

By the sound of it

Going home again

It is true that one cannot truly go home again. Indeed, one never steps in the same river twice, as the old saying goes. At the same time, I’m not sure I need to do so, nor even want to do so. That being said, traveling to, and visiting in, one’s home town and one’s former home can be an invigorating and enjoyable experience.  And, I don’t mean a trip down memory lane, exactly. It depends, in part, on the fellow travelers that accompany one’s trip.

This last weekend, I had the privilege and opportunity for visiting my mother for an extended stay. Regrettably, it was a mixed blessing, as my beloved Sharon stayed home with one of our dear sons. He was ill. My mom celebrated her 85th birthday, itself an opportunity for joy. Visiting her, and visiting with others of my immediate family was cause for good memories in other ways, though. Meeting with some of her long-time acquaintances helped me appreciate another face of who she has been, and is, and then, watching her unwrap and delight in her gifts was delight for myself and my boys who are turning into men in their own right.

After the more public celebration, my mother invited us over to the house (to the “home place”, if we had been outside of town) for some games. After settling in at the hotel, we joyfully accepted her invitation. It was fun to relax with, and re-learn, the old Parker Brothers’ game of PIT, the card game that imitates the grain market. You have the various grains, like flax, and wheat, and corn (seven suits in all), and then you have the bull and the bear. The bear is always bad, and we always try to get rid of it (but never to Grandma, a.k.a. “Mom”). The bull can be good, if a player has at least eight cards of that particular grain, but bad, if someone else gets “a corner” on whatever grain they have gathered.

So games and a light lunch with hot tea was part of the visit, but also a little history, a little bit of “investigation” and a little curiosity satisfied. Mom was trying to rid herself of a few extra books, and “free books”, especially “inherited books”, is like waving cheese in front of a mouse. Duh. What’s not to like, especially when the browsing and selection of said books comes with a back story from me, or my mother? But the location of said books was an equal delight, I think, to the males of the next generation, or so it seemed.

For the books, and a lot of other cool artifacts and items in storage, were (and are) located in my old bedroom on the front porch. Now, the thing about my old bedroom that is particularly unusual is the height of the platform on which my former mattress formerly rested. During Christmas break one year, one of my brothers and I (okay, mostly my brother) built a loft bed in my room with dad’s blessing and financial assistance for the materials. The room has a nine-foot ceiling, and the floor of the room is about eight feet by sixteen feet . (Just a guess.) Putting a bed in that space took up a lot of real estate, but with the bed space above the closet and the dresser, well, hey, I could live in style, baby! I had room for a desk, and a bean bag, and some African violets (although, I can’t remember what I had on the one wall across from the book shelf or whether I had plants, even). My bed was, in any case, between 18 to 24 inches below the ceiling, and when I was lying on my mattress, waiting to go to sleep, or first thing upon awakening from sleep, my nose was probably less than ten inches from the ceiling. Access to the loft was by rope ladder secured to the joists by a couple of threaded eye bolts. Yup.

Seeing that room, that bed, and games with their Grandma through the eyes of my boys was priceless. Memories of simpler times mixed with shared experiences of three generations. “A good time was had by all”. It was with determination that we rose from the PIT game with smiling faces, put on our “wraps”, and bid my mother good night until church the next day.

After checking out of our hotel room, and before shared breakfast with more family the next day, I drove east and west and north and south through town, highlighting the airport, the old swimming pool, the sledding hill, the old horse pasture about three blocks from our house, and the noted absence of the cigar store with its requisite wooden Indian (among other sights). Whether they were truly interested or just humored me, I don’t know, but the boys continued to ask questions about our whereabouts. Finally, before heading to breakfast with my brother and his family, we stopped by the giant Pheasant so I could take a quick photo of them for posterity (and for those absent).

No, I can’t go home again, because the place is always changing. But so am I. Like an old friend, there is mutual admiration and appreciation of that change. Home and I, we recognized each other, and it was good.

Going home again