Email From My Dad

I sat down to write you the morning email and found myself 15 minutes later perusing through news stories that, though interesting, really didn’t affect me at all. The obvious entertainment???????? stories of the celebrities mansions, loves, wayward lives and children, etc,

or the IRS failure to answer taxpayers questions, (40% of calls go unanswered)……….it is a big thing to keep my interest piqued enough by what ever means (news, entertainment, yada, yad) necessary to get me to glance at the ad for the coffee maker or the 50 something singles in my area. I know that a lot of false advertising takes place because 1. No coffee can taste that good, and 2. Some of those 50 something singles that look that good have stayed single for the 3 years they have been on the ad. Surely, a few of them would become attached.

I usually find myself no better off from having read the news and often the way it makes me feel is much more important. A little gloomier perhaps, a bit more down„maybe I need that cup of coffee to pick me up, that new car would be nice. I can see me now at the dream retirement beach resort, all buff like the old dude with the canoe sipping on that cup of coffee because of my retirement plan with the investment company that was advertised along with the news stories of the crappy economy and the bus crash. Throw in a few solar lights (which I did buy, they are great, but 3 months later I still see them on my screen) a new barbque grill, (I may have to forego the retirement beach resort) I begin to want some more news, entertainment…..advertising….to make me feel, what, lack? I lack what is shown on the screen presented in such a way that I feel a bit unfulfilled unless I have “that”.

Where is God in all this? He is everywhere, but my attention to that “stuff” diminishes my ability to perceive His presence. If my attention is focused on Him, then I will hear that chord in my ear, (brokenness, yielding, surrender) I need to find 6 strings. I will have a great day because of Who I walk with, and so will you.

Love Always and Peace
Dad, GBO

(These sorts of emails are almost a daily occurrence from my dad. He’s an ex-farmer, retired prison guard, wonderful wonderful person.)

True Story

My commute to work is 41 miles of two-lane ranch-to-market roads, recently full of oilfield traffic. With the advent of fracking, oil has returned to the Panhandle of Texas in force, giving my generation a taste of an economy that hasn’t existed here since my grandparents’ days. In the past year alone, 15 drilling rigs have been installed that I can see from the road. Fleets of trucks enter and exit the highway from quickly constructed dirt roads that arrive out of coulee canyons, caprock breaks, and land that hasn’t been aerated since before the Dust Bowl. The commute has become treacherous in ways we habituated drivers don’t recognize.

The other day while I was teaching, a report came in that there had been a fatal accident along my route. The highway was closed. The detour was a 60 mile trip back into town. There was a considerable amount of grumbling in our hallways. Enough so that the administration allowed us to leave early for the inconvenience.

The next morning on my way to work, I passed the scene of the wreck. Bits of tires strewn in the ditch for a couple hundred yards. Unrecognizable bits of plastic and steel and glass sparkling in the narrow shoulders. My lane scorched where one of the vehicles burst into flame. On a curve at the bottom of a hill. A pickup attempted to pass going around a corner, frustrated at the slow moving transport traffic, cursing the impediment and shifting to a lower gear. The driver in my lane, the one whose vehicle scorched my path, the divet in the asphalt that clicked my tires as I passed the scene, never saw it. This one without fault is the one who died.

I like to think that I’ve imagined all my escape routes in the event that someone drives into my lane, but there is no escape at this point. There isn’t. I cannot conceive one single exit.

THEY DO NOT HAPPEN NOW, the sandstorms of my childhood, when the western
distance ochred, and the square emptied, and long before the big wind hit,
you could taste the dust on your tongue, could feel the earth under you—and
even something in you—seem to loosen slightly. Soon tumbleweeds began to
skip and nimble by, a dust devil flickered firelessly in the vacant lot
across the street from our house, and birds began rocketing past with their
wings shut as if they’d been flung. Worse than snow, worse than ice, a bad
sandstorm shrinks the world to the slit of your eyes, lifting from the
fields an inchoate creaturely mass that claws at any exposed skin as if the
dust remembered what it was, which is what you are—alive, alive—and sought
return. They do not happen now, whether because of what we’ve learned or
because the earth itself has changed. Yet I can close my eyes and see all
the trees tugging at their roots as if to unfasten themselves from the
earth. I can hear the long-gone howl, more awful for its being mute.

- Christian Wiman, My Bright Abyss (

A couple of years ago, we had the worst drought in our local history. Which
was the worst drought in a long, storied history of droughts. We had three
inches of rain the entire year and over a month of 100+ degree days.
Everything died. The city of Amarillo had to cut down half of the trees in
our oldest park. Trees that had survived the Dust Bowl.

Now our springs, which are typically windy, carry all of the dust that was
turned loose in that drought. In the past 2 weeks we’ve had 6 or 7 dust
storms, or haboobs which the Weather Channel has unfortunately taken to
calling them. I know there are dust storms in other parts of the world, but
I think ours are particular. The result of our region’s inherent pride,
folly, arrogance, hard-scrabble pragmatism, loyalty. I wish we had a word
that had sprung from our own tongue. But then again, people around here don’t
talk much.

I’m grateful that Wiman grew up around here.

An Embarrassment by Wendell Berry

“Do you want to ask
the blessing?”

"No. If you do,
go ahead.”

He went ahead:
his prayer dressed up

in Sunday clothes
rose a few feet

and dropped with a soft

If a lonely soul
did ever cry out

in company its true
outcry to God,

it would be as though
at a sedate party
a man suddenly
removed his clothes

and took his wife
passionately into his arms.

Click through to hear it read.

"An Embarrassment" by Wendell Berry from Leavings. © Counterpoint, 2010. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)