by Verl Holmes
I've never felt qualified to write a devotional essay, but for whatever reason this afternoon, I found myself responding to our son, Chris' current effort in Atlanta. As I wrote, I began to know that I was on a roll, and I imagine I will use it for a future project, when I get around to sorting the photos from our 2016 travel to Northern Italy, Switzerland and Austria. But as I felt my own emotional response to reading Chris' piece and my response to it, I decided to share it with you - the congregation of First Congregational Church.
I read the current devotional from our son, Chris, one of the team of ministers at First Presbyterian, Atlanta this morning. He took his inspiration from passages in Job (39:13-25) and found beauty in the story there of the ostrich’s disinterest in its offspring, charging the reader to find beauty in all things, even in difficult times. You can read his devotional here.
I will make no effort to disguise the pride I feel for the accomplishments of our baby son, or to imagine that I am in any way objective about it. But we share our writing and musings from time to time, and today his piece spawned this response:
Chris, your work today inspired these memories from times past.
In 2016, Mom and I spent two weeks or so in Northern Italy, mostly hiking the Dolomites and exploring the sights in Central Europe. I hope you and Jenelle will someday walk the paths we took with our guide, Gary Scott, an Aussie by birth, but a citizen of the world by his own choice. Every morning from Monday through Friday, he took us on a new and different climb inspired by his perception of what the weather might bring to the new day. With him and a dozen or so fellow travelers, we tramped through the mountains and alongside streams that ran through the extravagant beauty of the Southern Alps.
As you know, your mother and I are strong-willed people, task-oriented accomplishers of goals. So if we start a hike in the woods, our goal is to finish it. That's what you do when you start something. You get on with it; you get it done.
Gary's approach to hiking was not the complete opposite of ours, but he frequently reminded us that we were not out to win a race. "Take your time. Let the mountains speak to you," he admonished us more than once. We wondered if he feared losing a pair of 60-somethings to the elements from over-exertion. We were just trying to keep up with the 80-somethings who didn’t set speed records, but never stopped. Privately, we referred to them as the Eveready Bunnies.
Today I would give almost anything to have the opportunity to stroll that path beside the stream, through the shaded belly of two adjoining mountains. Listen to the sound of cowbells clanging somewhere up ahead and then the curious expressions of a field full of Hereford cattle clanging, gamboling, and snorting at the two-legged intruders.
We explored the narrow footpaths worn between pale granite spires where the ghosts of opposing armies from Italy and the Austro-Hungarian Empire lobbed cannon balls at each other for three years, 1915-1918. (The Italians finally prevailed, but the conquered citizens of the picturesque alpine villages have never adopted their language.)
As we paid for coffee and pastries one of those mornings, the chopping sound of helicopters drew our attention upward and a company of Italian soldiers jumped from their idling whirlybirds and ran for cover before starting maneuvers, playing war games, rappelling on the sheer sides of the dramatic Dolomiti. They wore designer camo uniforms and might have just come from an opening in Milan where the title of the fashion show hearkened the new look for stylish military men.
Your admonition to savor the beauty and creativity around us is well-heard these days. Mom and I, you and Jenelle, and everybody else are surrounded by macro and micro terrors every day. But this morning there was fresh snow on the mountain here and two inches in Woodland Park two weeks' shy of Fathers Day.
June snow reminds us who's in charge.