Wednesday, December 31, 2008

the need for seasons, the need for change

This is a part of Joni Mitchell's, River:

But it don’t snow here
It stays pretty green
I’m going to make a lot of money
Then I’m going to quit this crazy scene
I wish I had a river
I could skate away on

Reminds me of Neil Diamond's, I am, I said:

L.A.'s fine, the sun shines most the time
And the feeling is "lay back"
Palm trees grow and rents are low
But you know I keep thinkin' about
Making my way back

Both lament southern California at the holidays. It's too green, too warm. There are other relationships that are troubling for these writers, human relationships, but it resonates that the trouble is set in the context of seasonal trouble. If the weather is not right, too dark, too cold, too warm, too different from what you remember, the whole world can get out of balance.

I felt this way all of my winters in Florida, 1983 - 1995. I wanted to be back in the Carolinas. I didn't want to be at the North Pole, but 40 degrees would have been nice. It was generally too warm to be Christmastime. It put me in a bad mood during the month of December, in a funk, that I struggle to pull out of these last 30 years. I get you Joni. I get you Neil. Mitchell's River has become a holiday classic. The irony means the there really is room for whatever change has come and is coming as the year comes to an end. If you don't feel great, don't pretend that you do. Maybe we don't need to pretend to be happy at the holidays if we are not. It doesn't mean you don't welcome the new year or the birth of a savior. There are viable justifications for having a tough time at the year's end.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Choose life as a difficult as it may be

Life is difficult, isn't it? I accept this as the true state of the world rather than a pessimistic outlook. Life is Good as the t-shirts say and so does God in Gen 1, but life is also difficult. If this premise is dealt with then there are two texts that are meaningful for reflection.

From Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet, p. 53
"People have (with the help of conventions) oriented all their solutions toward the easy and toward the easiest side of the easy; but it is clear that we must hold to what is difficult; everything alive holds to it, everything in Nature grows and defends itself in its own way and is characteristically and spontaneously itself, seeks at all costs to be so and against all opposition. We know little, but that we must hold to what is difficult is a certainty that will not forsake us; it is good to be solitary, for solitude is difficult; that something is difficult must be a reason the more for us to do it."

Deuteronomy 30:19b-20
Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestores, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Grin and Bear It

I wrote the piece below for Eagle's Nest Camp, a summer camp that formed me in the ball park of the shaping done to me by church and family.

Here's a poem I wrote for my blog,, and a reflection below. Picture is from Wikipedia--American Black Bear.

The Bear

not a care in the world
in the high grass
of a field
just up a hill
from the Little River Valley.
The blood red bear
pulsed and pumped
as I reared back from running
to watch the
as she loped away

When I was 16 it was the summer of 1991. I was a Junior Counselor at Eagle's Nest in Cabin 10. I was given the okay to go running in the early mornings so long as I was back in the cabin by the time the bell rang. I'll never forget the morning that I ran into a black bear. There's a trail that runs up hill off the trail that connects The New Lodge and The Sun Lodge. This trail that heads up hill is pretty close to the Rabbit Hole. At the top of that climb is a small clearing before the trail picks back up on the way to the swing, and turtle overlook, and to the power lines. Some of you might know just where I mean. If you don't, imagine the best of the property that starts to feel like ENC's gateway to the rest of Pisgah Forest.

I saw a bear just as I was cresting the hill. She was less than 50 feet away and running away from me, thankfully. I felt safe. I took a good look and emblazoned the image into my mind and onto my heart and then headed back down the hill in a hurry. I did not think I would be chased and I wasn't. The bear was doing her morning run and I was doing mine. No harm, no foul. The image remains as one of the pristine moments of my life--an encounter with something powerful and beautiful, quiet and almost surreal. It was one of the watershed runs of my young life and I think I still run trails to this day in the hopes of recapturing moments like that one half a life ago.

By the time we were walking from flag raising to breakfast, the rumor had spread among all 200 or so people in our little community. I can remember my feet sinking into the white quad rocks, but the rest of me was on cloud nine as I shared the information. Helen Waite was ecstatic. For her, it was no coincidence that I was a Natseeho and therefore it made perfect sense that I might have such a run-in with a blood red bear. I thought then, as I do to this day, that she hung the moon. The story was a centerpiece of Indian Village the following Sunday. Grant Bullard mentioned that he had recently seen bear scat up that way and in talking to a Pisgah Forest ranger, there was an estimate that there might be as few as five bears in Pisgah Forest from the ENC property all the way to 276. That's thousands of acres, so I guess I was pretty lucky to catch a glimpse of one. In case you are wondering, I am pretty sure the bear population has grown in that neck of the woods which is good news for bears and good news for us. More of us might get to see them!

This encounter with a bear is one among many memories of my nine summers at ENC that only grow more and more vivid as the years pass. If you have vivid memories of your time as a camper or a counselor you should write them down or tell them to a loved one. Thanks for reading mine.

George Linney is an ordained minister in the Ecumenical Baptist Church and a middle school teacher in Durham, NC. He was a camper and counselor at ENC from 1986-1993. He can be reached at

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

26 days til Christmas? No. Little River!

Christmas is great and all and He's coming in nine days. The saviour of the world is born, but what I want to write about is a necessary diversion--The Little River Trail Run. It's 26 days away and I wonder if I will be ready. My calves are hurting a lot each morning and keeping me from doing the hard workouts that I would like to do. I raced ten days ago and my calves are still hurting particularly in the mornings. I'm running most days, but I am afraid to go really fast. I've already missed three workouts. Oh dear, the need to be patient. I've learned the hard way before, don't run fast on little injuries that need their time to heal. That's how little injuries become big injuries and there goes a season of racing. I'll have to try and remain in an Advent posture--patient and waiting. Silly church, your always teaching me how to live the rest of life.