Another Day Dawns

Out beyond the back of the house,
past the dark shapes of roofs
and the rising of black branches–
elm and maple and oak and a solitary pine–
the tall steel skeleton of the radio tower
stretches its stark lines into the air,
spanning the shift from orange to rose
to the still soft blue of lingering night,
out past all of that,
comes the coloring of another dawn.

This sun will rise on the just and the unjust,
bring blessing on both good and evil,
and misfortune as well.
There will be both storm and calm,
scorching and freezing,
loss and gain,
birth and death.

With each breath,
I will embrace the challenges
and face the blessings
that have been prepared for me.
And in my resting,
will try to lie down a better man
than the day found me.

H. Arnett

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Living Waters

It was semi-warm yesterday but rather breezy which usually means it doesn’t really feel all that warm. But by mid-afternoon, the skies had pretty much cleared and so it looked warmer. Sometimes, the way things look can make things seem better. Things seemed so much better by 3:30, I decided to head out to the Cowley Lake Waterfall.

Since I’d already been out to the waterfall three or four times before and had never seen any water falling, I expected this trip to be the same. That was okay by me; it’s a really pretty area and Layla and I would enjoy the hiking. Layla is our rescued French Brittany Spaniel and Friendly Neighborhood mix and she loves to be outside. She always loves the rare opportunities she has had to be outside, unconfined and untethered. Besides, my brother Paul was here for the weekend and he’s never seen the Cowley Lake Waterfall, with or without water.

After we parked the car and Layla had made the necessary preparations for continuation, we continuated. Much to my surprise, I heard water falling. Sure enough, when we had made our way past the shroud of brush and branches, we could see water spilling over the north edge of the stone lip and streaming down onto the ground thirty feet below the crest of the falls.

We made our way down the bouldered trail to a lower vantage point. Water tumbled over and around the boulders, stones and rocks, streaming its way downstream, twisting around exposed roots and into the chutes. Silver ripples and reflecting edges showed the ledges of a few flat boulders. The smooth flat of deeper pools downstream gleamed in the afternoon sun as the creek moved from the shadows into the light.

We stood beneath old sycamores and young saplings, looking up at the cascade of water and the lichen covered edges of exposed bedrock. The sounds and sights of powerful waters pouring into the deep pool and pushing into the seams was both soothing and stirring. I have to admit, a waterfall with water falling over it is even more impressive than a dry one.

It is a similar difference with a Christian in whom the Spirit of God truly lives and moves.

H. Arnett

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A Familiar Story

I got a call from an old friend of mine Tuesday evening. He was planning on passing through the area and asked if I’d be available for a while Wednesday evening to visit. “Well, yeah,” I told him. “If you’re willing to drive a bit out of your way, I’d love to see you.”

And so it was that I spent a couple of hours as the day faded yesterday, reminiscing and remembering and doing a bit of catching up.

I’ve heard people talk for years about how it is with good friends, how it doesn’t matter how long it’s been since you talked, you just seem to pick up right where you left off and move on. Yep, it was like that.

It was both familiar and reassuring to see him sitting on the couch, talking about people we both knew from long ago. “Do you remember so-and-so?” he’d ask and we’d take off on another old familiar path rambling off from Memory Lane. We shared memories about old folks and kids we’d known when we were growing up. We swapped stories about stuff that was going on in our lives now. We told jokes and even discussed a news item or two. The conversation continued as I took him on a tour of the Cowley Campus.

He was as impressed as I had been on my first tour. I took him into the Brown Center and showed him our theatre. It still impresses me every time I look at it; it’s not what you’d expect to find on a small college campus in southern Kansas. Paul admired some of the pictures of the seventy-plus annual Queens of Arkalala. As we were walking through Galle-Johnson, he noticed the clean walls and shiny floors and commented, “Boy, you sure have some good custodians here, don’t you?” I cheerfully agreed. Indeed we do. We have all sorts of good people here in Ark City.

I showed him my office and introduced him to one of my colleagues who was working late. We chatted for a few minutes and then headed back out to the car. “Well,” he drawled, “reckon I better be getting on my way.”

We sat outside the house for a few more minutes, then shook hands and said our goodbyes. I don’t know when I’ll see him again but I do know it will be good when I do. Won’t matter if it’s next week, next year or next century. We’ll be glad to see each other. There’ll be a comforting familiarity and we’ll both have big grins on our faces. We’ll embrace one another and be thankful for the privilege of association. We won’t worry about who’s got what or who can get there the fastest. We’ll just be glad to be together.

Kind of sounds like heaven, doesn’t it?

H. Arnett

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A Bit of Progress

I wake this morning
well before dawning,
caught in thoughts
that must have walked
through my dreaming:

work, mostly,
judging by the jumbling
going on at the moment
of my waking.

There is a certain amount
of taking and giving
in this living of choices,
listening to others’ voices
and hoping
to make the best
even of bad situations.

It is possible,
so I’ve heard,
that there are things
too easily taken for granted,
and people as well
sometimes slip
into that category.

I do know
that four months of limping,
of gimping up and down steps,
has left me with a new appreciation
of good knees,
even though I haven’t
had a pair of those
since God knows when.

But nearly every day
for the last week-and-a-half
has brought some measure of improvement.

And even when we fall short of “good,”
“better” should always yield
a certain amount of gratitude.

H. Arnett

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A Mid-Winter’s Storm

I heard the sound of thunder last night, after I’d turned out all the lights and gone to bed. At first I wasn’t sure, thought it might be the sounds of a freight train starting to move out after holding for a while on the rails a quarter-mile away. Even when I’d heard it a couple more times, I wasn’t sure. But then there came a slightly louder rumble and I was convinced; it was thunder.

I got up to see if it was raining. That’s something you do when it’s been a bit of a dry spell.

The dog trotted down the hall with me as I walked to the front door and flipped on the outside light. I could see the dark dampness of the driveway and a shine on the car. I looked up the street and could see that although things looked wet, there was no sign of rain falling through the glow of streetlights and porchlights. It might have been misting but I could see that it was definitely not raining hard. Layla and I headed back to bed: hers on the floor and mine not on the floor.

I wasn’t hoping for a downpour but I did think a good slow rain all night might be a pretty good thing. A bit of a banking up for spring, a replenishing of the deeper needs of the soil.

I woke this morning to a faint pale blue breaking just above the trees and a hint of light rising in the east. There was the least hint of pink already starting to show. A clear day dawning after the storm. I thought about thunder and wondered how dry it has to be before the rumbling of a storm seems like a good thing. Many a blessing has come in the midst of things we usually run from and even a bright day’s forming may bring trouble of some sort.

When we look beyond the day to the One who has made it, we may find grace and give thanks for all that He has made.

H. Arnett

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Night Vision

A tangerine moon rose above the trees.
Leafless branches teased the edges of the night,
rising against the light,
stretching black lace against the rising.

We saw our breath in the low glow,
stretching and curling in soft rolls
then vanishing into the chill.

We sat for a while,
waiting for some sense,
waiting to rise from the shadows,
waiting for that pale light
to rise above the night
and bring something like understanding.

She reached her hand
over to mine
and I felt its warmth
against the thin line of my skin
and was reminded again
that it is not understanding
we need
so much as it is the reassurance
that we do not walk alone
amidst the cold stones
and long nights of this world.

I looked up beyond the glowing of the moon
and saw stars stretching beyond vision,
beyond understanding,
yet barely reaching
the threshold of faith.

H. Arnett

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A Fine Memory

I would not describe my father as a stern man, but he was definitely strict. He had very clear ideas about what was wrong and right and on which side he stood. I learned early on the great value of complying with his expectations in regard to moral behavior. Well, in fact, in regard to all types of behavior. He was opposed to all forms of conduct which conflicted with the teachings of scripture but he particularly hated lying. There was no matter of such little consequence that it was okay to lie.

In spite of my clear recollection of his strictness, I can only recall a single incident when he actually spanked me. I was twelve and it was barely deserved but deserved nonetheless. My only explanation for my perception of his strictness and the low volume of recall on specific incidents is that I must have learned the notion of compliance at such an early age that those voluminous abuses were phased or fazed from memory.

There was one glorious exception, though, when I was nine years old.

It was the summer of ’64, about the month of June, I believe but possibly July. Perhaps the zenith of my entire life in terms of significant accomplishment.

That afternoon, I was fishing by myself at the pond. It was northeast of the house, maybe a tenth of a mile away. Using Dad’s old bait-casting reel, I caught a three-pound catfish. I was both delirious with joy and terrified when I pulled that fish out of the pond. It was nearly two-feet long and twice as big as any fish I’d ever seen before. I drug him through the grass up to the old brick house and put him in a washtub and filled it with water. Dad was not home at the time but when he got home, he was quite impressed. Dad loved to fish and hunt and to see that his nine-year-old kid had caught a fish like that appear to please him as nothing else I had ever done.

That night, in spite of being the smallest kid on the field, I hit a double in a Little League game at Elkton. He was pretty pleased about that, too. But, he also learned something at the game about which he was not pleased.

When we got home, I went out back to the washtub to admire my fish some more. Dad followed me over. After a minute of admiration, he said, very quietly, “Malcolm Oates told me tonight that you have to be ten years old to play Little League.”

My heart sank like a brick in a bucket of oatmeal, really thin oatmeal. I’m sure he heard me gulp. “Did you lie about how old you were when you signed up?” I answered palely, “Yes, sir,” and waited to hear the sound of him unbuckling his belt. I heard nothing.

We both stood there for another three days or thirty seconds, I’m still not sure which. Then he said, “That sure is some fish,” and turned and walked off into the house, whistling softly.

I’m still not sure what it was that prompted him to forego his absolute inflexible practice of due compensation for crimes committed. For the rest of my life, though, I will believe that he just could not bring himself to end such a glorious day as that with anything other than letting us both go to bed with far better memories.

Ever since then, I have been pretty well aware that there is a time for justice and a time for mercy. Also, I’ve never lied about my age since then and I can still remember the image of us both standing by that old tub, that catfish suspended in the water, tail touching one side and his whiskers touching the other. And the sight of that baseball going clear over the second baseman’s head.

H. Arnett

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