How shall Integrity face Oppression? What shall Honesty do in the face of Deception, Decency in the face of Insult, Self-Defense before Blows? How shall Desert and Accomplishment meet Despising, Detraction, and Lies? What shall Virtue do to meet Brute Force? There are so many answers and so contradictory; and such differences for those on the one hand who meet questions similar to this once a year or once a decade, and those who face them hourly and daily.
I may have mentioned being on a walk a while back and coming upon what I thought were two cats along the side of my path. It turned out to be a cat and an opossum; just standing there like they were sharing some gossip. I couldn’t believe it.
Tonight as I was walking out around dusk, (and while I’m at this point in the day, isn’t crepuscule a word that should be on the same list as moist and phlegm and lugubrious?) an enormous raccoon comes walking out of the tall grass accompanied by a deer. They walked onto the middle of the sidewalk, stopped to observe my approach, and then turned together and walked back through the grass into the woods.
This is just what I need, woodland creatures making me feel inadequate and out of place.
It’s as if these wildly different animals are figuring out something that those of us with shared language skills cannot.
A dear friend of mine and I were recently discussing some of the surprising educational blessings we received in high school in Hutchinson, Kansas. The music program was exceptional, with some truly dedicated teachers. (Thank you Jim Swiggart and Mike … the rest “Reciting The Hollow Men”
When the crops were under cover on the Wayne farm near Pittsford in Vermont, when the winter wood was cut and the first light snow lay on the ground, Joseph Wayne went to the wing-back chair by the fireplace late one afternoon and stood before his father. These two men were alike. Each had a large nose and high, hard cheekbones; both faces seemed made of some material harder and more durable than flesh, a stony substance that did not easily change. Joseph’s beard was black and silky, still thin enough so that the shadowy outline of his chin showed through. The old man’s beard was long and white. He touched it here and there with exploring fingers, turned the ends neatly under out of harm’s way. A moment passed before the old man realized that his son was beside him. He raised his eyes, old and knowing and placid eyes and very blue. Joseph’s eyes were as blue, but they were fierce and curious with youth. Now that he had come before his father, Joseph hesitated to stand to his new heresy.
This is about high-country geology and a Rocky Mountain regional geologist. I raise that semaphore here at the start so no one will feel misled by an opening passage in which a slim young woman who is not in any sense a geologist steps down from a train in Rawlins Wyoming, in order to go north by stagecoach into country that was still very much the Old West. She arrived in the autumn of 1905, when she was twenty-three. Her hair was so blond it looked white. In Massachusetts, a few months before, she had graduated from Wellesley College and had been awarded a Phi Beta Kappa key, which now hung from a chain around her neck. Her field was classical studies. In addition to her skill in Latin and Greek, she could handle a horse expertly, but never had she made a journey into a region so remote as the one that lay before her.
The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected.