Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Yesterday afternoon, in the sunshine, my older son spread the camping canopy over the weeds in the backyard to dry.

The canopy is a large piece of plastic--a tarp that fits over a roof-like framework of aluminum poles. We use it on camping trips to shelter our cooking and eating area from the sun and the rain. Kris and his friends had set the thing up at a Saturday barbecue--an all-afternoon, all-evening party for a large group of friends. They got rained on, and the canopy was wet when it was packed up and returned to our house. So we spread it out to dry in the sunshine before putting it away in the attic.

Spreading it out is the easy part. Folding it to the right size and cramming it neatly into the zippered bag that also holds the poles is more difficult, which is why, I suppose, the canopy was still out there on the grass when it got dark. Fireflies were out, and mosquitos, too, when I decided I would bring the thing back indoors, even if I had to do it by myself.

I got some help from Kurt (the younger son), but as we folded the tarp in halves and then quarters, I could feel drops of water on the underside. Too late, I said, the dew came up. We'll have to wait until tomorrow to get it thoroughly dry in the sunshine.

The dew came up. I'm not sure I know what this means or why this happens. From childhood I remember that the toes of my canvas PF Flyers would get soaked as I walked through the grass to get my bicycle out of the garage early on a summer morning. As an adult, I learned while camping that dry towels left on the clothesline overnight would be damp in the morning. All this is related to dew, something about water condensing when surface temperatures drop. It's a natural condition, but unless I'm camping or dealing with camping equipment, the dew coming up is not a phenomenon that affects my life, unlike, say, the network being down, or the internet being slow. Or even a thunderstorm blowing out the power for two minutes, or twenty.

Still, I like the phrase--the dew came up. But does it come up? The water comes from the air and the term for the formation of dew is dewfall. I just now learned more about all this by looking up dew at Wikipedia. There's not much to know, but the photos on the site--dew on a blade of grass, dew on spider webs--are beautiful: small, tender things supporting the weight of clear drops of water. Surface tension on the dewdrops makes them glisten and seem to move, even in a still photograph.

There are no pretty pictures of dew drops on a bright green plastic canopy. This morning, the canopy in the backyard is covered in puddles, not dew. It rained during the night and early this morning. With rain and thundershowers in the weather forecast for the next several days, getting this thing dry on both sides is going to take timing, and I suspect there are mosquitos laying eggs in those puddles right this moment. I can't see it happening, but I will feel the effects, just as I could not see the dewfall but felt the drops of water.

I prefer the dew to the mosquitos.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

New and different

One of my favorite exchanges in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice comes while Elizabeth Bennet is dancing with Mr. Darcy at the Netherfield ball. The conversation is about conversation and the need to make an effort at it, since as Elizabeth observes,
"It would look odd to be entirely silent for half an hour together." Then Elizabeth supplies an explanation for why she and Darcy may prefer to talk as little as possible while dancing together.

"We are each of us of an unsocial, taciturn disposition, unwilling to speak, unless we expect to say something that will amaze the whole room, and be handed down to posterity with all the eclat of a proverb."

Darcy replies, "This is no very striking resemblance of your own character, I am sure. . . . How near it may be to mine, I cannot pretend to say."

Darcy's protest is polite, but ironic. Elizabeth's conversation is full of clever, original remarks, and she knows it. What she doesn't know is that Darcy finds this quality startlingly attractive.

I would classify myself as one of Elizabeth Bennet's unsocial, taciturn individuals--timid about speaking unless I've got something original and insightful to say. That's my excuse for two-and-a-half months of silence from the Perverse Lutheran. Despite beginning several posts, I've had nothing to say that would amaze the entire room, much less please myself.

I write because I want to find a new way to say something, because I want to test the truth for myself and find a new connection with it. I am looking for original insight, but even in summer's abundance of sunshine, I'm leaning towards the writer of Ecclesiastes' view of things: there is nothing new under the sun. (Ecc. 1:9). Or Shakespeare's view--the same idea with an original twist: "There is nothing left remarkable/Beneath the visiting moon." (Antony and Cleopatra, IV.xiii.60) Cleopatra says this shortly before she dies.

As for the Preacher behind the book of Ecclesiastes--well, I'd have to read the durn book to comment on where he goes in the eleven chapters that follow his declaration that "what has been is what will be." I have no objections to reading Ecclesiastes, but stopping to do so now would probably keep me from finishing this post. I'm skipping to the end of the book: "Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil."

Secret? That's a word I heard in church this morning, in the Gospel reading:

"So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. (Matthew 10:26)

So God will ferret out every secret thing and will show these hidden things in a new light when they are brought to judgment. It's probably not theologically correct to describe God as taciturn and unsocial, but apparently the Creator likes to astound everyone in the room with amazing new views of stuff that is now hidden. Hey, being God, she can't help it.

Is that where Elizabeth Bennet and I get it from? Yes, there's some vanity, some false pride, maybe some prejudice, in having to discover everything for yourself There is vanity in thinking you can think what others have not thought, or that you can at least put a new twist on it. But I'm thinking the desire to do this could be part of what Paul described as being "dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus." (Rom. 6:11--the second lesson this morning)

A new creation!