Sunday, July 20, 2014

It's a dangerous business...

After considerably longer than it should have taken, I am down to reading aloud the final two chapters of the Lord of the Rings to my daughter, Sarah.  We began our journey well over a year ago and Tom Bombadil and Ring Wraiths are distant memories.  All that remains is taking care of business in the Shire and then goodbyes on the shore.  I am certain tears will ensue as we approach the end – as they did when I finished reading to my son.  They will be mine.

I don’t know why I buy in so much.  I read the books first in high school – now more than thirty years past.  As an awkward and insecure young man, there was something in the story that held sway against a seemingly dead-end future.  More than just an adventure, the books drew me into a world that where the lines were cleanly cut.  In our fallen world, we struggle with decisions, not knowing what the ‘right’ thing to do is.  We get caught up in keeping up appearances.  We set aside higher ideals for the mundane – often because we’re just worn out at the end of the day. 

In Middle-Earth, the air was bright and clean – or dark and nasty.  The valiant are noble and strong – or the enemy is slothful and cruel.  Orcs are much cleverer in this world.  Wizards are not always who they seem to be.  Sometimes those who wander really are lost.  In our world, we fight against friction and time.  I’ve been at it so long now, that I have pretty well forgotten what it is like to be young.  To be uninhibited and my only business was one of play.  I’m grown up.  It kind of slipped up on me while I was busy making money and making plans. My own idea of adventure slowly faded away.

I remember standing on top of the hill behind my parents’ home with a Sony Walkman clipped on my belt.  I was listening to the soundtrack to the animated feature ‘The Return of the King’, which did a passable job of capturing the ethos of Middle-Earth.  That particular hill faces south and offers a majestic panorama of the valley I called home and the surrounding mountains.  To the east, the mountains trailed off into the unknown.  I distinctly recall (rather pitifully and) winsomely gazing in that direction and wondering what lay off that way and thinking it would be my great adventure.  To a young man struggling with self-doubt, those hills might have been a thousand miles away.   The thoughts of bigger and better things were clouded and mysterious. 

If you were to Google-Earth that hill top now and pan about 11 miles to the east, you would find my home.  We are tucked on another hill that – to the west – looks back toward my childhood home.  Just over the hills.  In winter, I fight to get in (and out) through the snow.  In summer the weeds take over and mowing is a chore.  But at night in the winter, with no light for miles, the milky-way wheels overhead and fills the sky.  In summer, blackberries drop by the handfuls into buckets and tomato sandwiches are divine.  Snakes are waiting under the rocks and fall leaves wrap us in a coat of many-colors.  Spring smells as it should – clean and inviting.  It says come outside. 

Frodo and Sam are eternal.  They live in the hearts of those that love true ideals and the idea that hard things are worth doing.  The years have not been for naught.  Here in the woods and the fields, I can find them living still.  This adventure is well underway. 

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