Saturday, August 23, 2014

Life Together

No one talked much.
The gathering held no demands.
Men sat around the fire waiting for nothing but expecting and already receiving the reward for being there. As the laughter and shouts of children played in the distance, their fathers and their father’s friends considered in conversation and in silence the glory of their lives.

As each man arrived that evening the satisfaction intensified within the circle. Everyone knew their place and their place was here. To belong means that you become less of yourself but more than you could be alone. So, everyone became more and more and each man could sense it.

Those absent were mentioned and missed yet all was complete. It was complete for it was not the first, but one, of several such occasions. Every event is as complete as an event can be. They are memories in the making—some better than others and none contrivable.

So we sat together.

The fire danced before us masterful and bright; warming our legs and keeping us mindful of mystery. For a few moments we considered this phenomenon of light and heat and energy confined within a circle of stone and maintained with split wood, leaves and twigs. We spoke of it as magical, as an ethereal form constantly restructuring itself. 

The conversation moved further into creation as a breeze caressed the trees. We heard a sound and someone pronounced it to be an owl’s call. There is silence built into owl wings, another explained and somehow the conversation turned to the fact that everyone is known by some part of their story more than by their name. Then we soared. The stars were shining and the sky was ours. The stories came easy, of fish caught and trails hiked. We laughed knowing and relating and appreciating every detail. Tipped canoes, gathered wood, timber frames and back country camping.   
We brought some of the past back into the present, considered it, and then acted as if it went away and returned back to its own place. But it didn’t, it stayed there with us as it always does, as it always has.

One of the men read from a book; from part of a story somewhere in the middle. We sat in the middle of our own story listening. The historic fiction was close to home. We laughed at the realism and lauded the author, a favorite of the group. And considered how magnificent and normal all stories are.

Then, another ritual began. Iron skillets were carefully placed in the fire. The spoonful’s of lard swirled on the super-heated surface and then evened out in an invisible pool and prepared to answer the battered catfish with a sizzle. Those who tended the iron pans did so by lantern and flashlight. Glimpses of brown perfection assuring that the heat and turning had been naturally and properly timed.

Hushpuppies, unknown to many but well known here, were also part of the evening fare landing in men’s laps on the cheapest of paper plates.
So we sat and ate together.

The fish was fried, white-flake perfection; the taste amplified by the sense of place.  
The men ate with the satisfaction of the company they were keeping and the work they had come from and the conversations that continued. 

We reveled in the simplicity of our thought, our food, and our friendship. This was one evening, a block of hours, an increment of life well lived. 

Responsibility rightly drew some away earlier but we all got home late smelling of wood smoke.  
Lying in bed thinking of the morrow, of the future where we would carry the riches of this night and all of its memory; feeling and knowing that if we were no different at least the difference had been maintained, making us more of who we are or guaranteeing it.

We are formed by these events; they contribute to our person and shape us. Each man contributes to how we should or should not be. Their words, we echo or discard.

We discover and then subliminally imitate—expression and humor, concern and importance.
We are brothers born of God finding our way together; as it should be.

For some, we are imitating our fathers. They too sat around open fires without agenda.
The presence of other men in their lives—shaping—all together telling their stories until they all become one of our own; recollected and shared.

God must delight in such men who can talk of Him in such a place and at such a time. He is in their thoughts as naturally as His presence is known. And they know.

They know that He is the reason for their delight; all these image-bearers imitating the Trinity in love and laughter and communion as they enjoyed the three-tiered world of the heavens, the earth and the seas by eating fish under the stars. 

 What is man that You are mindful of him,
 And the son of man that You visit him?
 For You have made him a little lower than the angels,
 And You have crowned him with glory and honor. 
 You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands;
 You have put all things under his feet,


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