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July 18, 2005

Blogging from Tucson

From the wonders of Manatees, Dolphins, Leatherbacks, Hawksbills, loons, alligators, tricolor herons. . .

From the turquoise of water that is beyond the description of water, water never meant to look like heaven and promising the gates thereof,

From bridges spanning mangrove islands filled with yet more gators, salt-water crocodiles, and a panoply of birds and animals you cannot begin to imagine. . .

from black bears and Flordia panther, from ghost orchid and spider lily and alligator glad,

To Saguaro, ocotillo, barrel cactus, and desert palms,

road runner, coyote, javelina, rattlesnake, and best of all (and I'm not joking her because I love them) scorpions,

from the humid to the dry.

In a single day I return from the wealth of Florida and emerge into the wealth of the desert. The sere beauty, the austere and lovely surroundings that allow for no miscalculation, no mistake.

I'm hoping that during this brief stay I will be able to take in San Xavier del Bac--aka "The White Dove of the Desert."

God is very, very good indeed and He has blessed me beyond blessing with the riches He has showered on me in the last few days. More later, but now, to enjoy the desert sunset--sure to be completely different from tht of the ocean, but enchanting, beautiful, wonderful all the same.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 8:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 19, 2005

Thunderstorm over the Santa Catalina Mountains

My hotel room here looks out over the Santa Catalina Mountains, a golf course, and some desert set-pieces that punctuate the artificial (and irresponisible) green.

Last night I watched as the heavens played out a magnificent thunderstorm--lightning as I have never seen it before, even though I live in the lightning capital of the world. Huge jagged bolts that tore apart the night sky and light up the mountains in glorious silhouette. Unimaginably beautiful--to see a saguaro highlighted against the sky. Beautiful.

This morning I walked around seeing what the desert had to offer for the waking person. Rabbits, lizards, and a few other fast-moving ground things. But most wonder of all--a cactus wren in its nest and an unidentified owl high in the tree. La Paloma (the name of the resort) certainly has a home here as well.

Please join me in giving great thanks for all that the Lord has shared with me on these two trips. They have been utlimately restorativeo--to the point where tomorrow or the next day I may be writing about the categorical imperative or the Discourse on Method. Yes, my brain has recovered, ever so little.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 8:29 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 22, 2005

The Forgotten

This little film has a couple of really nice jolts, an interesting plot that cooks along, and a very heartening "message." I'm not usually keen on such transparent vehicles for a message, but given that I like the message as much as I do, I can forgive this film for it.

The downside is that the acting isn't all that great, but it isn't so terrible as to be intrusive most of the time.

The plot: A woman who has lost her son discovers that little-by-little all the things that remind her of him are vanishing and all the people around her are forgetting him: his oftentimes babysitter, the father of one of her son's friends, her own husband. Is she going insane, or has she been insane all along and has she invented this child as the result of having miscarried a child? The question hovers over the first half of the film.

It is resolved in the seond half very satisfyingly with the ultimate message that nothing stands in the way of a mother's love--nothing. It was one of those movies that touched a biblical strain in me as I thought of the passage, "Though a mother forsake her child, I will not abandon you." If this is the strength and the passion of mere human love, what then is divine love? Also (and this may be me merely projecting) it seemed to me that there was a strong pro-life strain in the film. The ultimate message seemed to be that there is an indissoluble link between a mother and a child--something that would give one pause were one to consider trying to dissolve it.

A good movie, some very strong language from time to time, but otherwise probably okay for all older teens and recommended for all adults.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 11:57 AM | Comments (0)

Struggling Against Birth

At times it seems that I kick against the goad when it comes to God. There's one metaphor for you. But let's go to Nicodemus and take our substantive metaphor. Jesus says, "Unless a man be born again of water and the spirit. . ."

At times it seems that I struggle against being born. What I need to do is relax (surrender) and cooperate. But let's face it--the womb is a comfortable, sensual place. No child in his right mind would choose to be born over staying in this warm, comfortable, quiet, intimate space. Well, that's probably not true of children. They are ready for the world. But as adults many of us have had enough of it to think that an additional decade or two suspended in an amniotic sac doesn't sound like so terrible a prospect.

That's the way it is with my spiritual life from time to time. For example, I can feel the movement of the spirit within me, coaxing me toward birth and renewal. But the "womb" of the world, the lure of what I know, the delights of the senses keep me pinned here. And pinned is exactly the right metaphor as well. So long as I cling to all the admitted delights of the world, I am pinned as a butterfly is pinned in a collect--beautiful, perhaps, but inert and dead. I am suspended without life.

True life lies beyond the sphere of the merely sensual. It lies within the realm of the spirit living with but not in the world. My struggle against birth is the fight of the Old Man to retain what is his "birthright." My struggle to be born is the struggle of the man renewed in Christ, the New Man, to claim the proper birthright of the one Risen from the Dead.

And all that it requires is surrender, to struggle to supress the urge to stay in the warm amniotic sac of the world and to allow myself to be born again to my true heritage--to my place in the body of Christ. That is the struggle that is what I go through daily--to choose myself and the world, or to choose my place in Christ's body and my spiritual heritage. God knows it is difficult, that is why many of us have been given so much practice in a lifetime. But the world is a more beautiful, more wonderful place when you have entered the new birth and can see more clearly our Father and our Brother in all that is around us.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 11:58 AM | Comments (0)

July 23, 2005

A Garden Plot

A Garden Plot

On paper I ordained my garden grid
neat and sqaure and true, laid out with no
vanishing point, t-square perfect, a grim
mathematician's dream of order. And so
I went out to the real garden--neither wide
nor true, squared with no boundaries I could
see, rough, rocky, low, unkempt--and I tried
to set my level straight upon the ground.
With stakes and twine I pinned the garden's frame,
here I hit a pebble and so moved the stake,
for a tree the line bowed out there, a claim
from a neighbor moved a line, a stream made
a jog, and so it continued until
I had the whole laid out--to no avail--
my grid, a wrecked rhombus, skewed in untilled
soil, shaped by Earth, not by hand, not the plot
I had plotted but one completed by
hands unseen. My vision of a perfect
garden plot came undone, and with it me.
I stand, unmade by my own attempt to
make, and delighted with the design that
moves beyond my own meager means and ways.
What can I find in this design? Can I
come to better know the hand that formed it
the mind that made it? Can I come to love
what I could not see 'til I failed in my
design? Can I give myself over to
another, grander designer--a new
lover who will love me to perfection--
who I cannot see and do not know? Only
if I abandone plumb and t-square, only
if I give Him the chance to shape me as
His secret garden, His perfected love.
Only if I abandon me among
the garden paths, amid the perfections
I had no hand in making--I strive so
hard to see. Here among the lilies and
the irises, amid the willows, oaks
and maples. Here alone may I again
find the me the Maker made me to be.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 2:58 PM | Comments (0)

Why I Love the Dry Tortugas

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And yes, for many reasons, this is likely to be the best picture you see of me on this site.

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The view of Fort Jefferson--the place of incarceration of Dr. Samuel Mudd, unjustly railroaded into prison for setting John Wilkes Booth's leg and released after helping tend a yellow fever epidemic in the Fort. Certainly the acts of a traitorous coward.

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What you can see without ever entering the water. (From the moat walk around the fort.)

Posted by Steven Riddle at 4:16 PM | Comments (0)

A Sample of the Flora and Fauna of My Trip

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The flower above and the friend below were both experiences to be savored at Corkscrew Swamp--an Audubon preserve.

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Said friend is heralded by this plant--appropriately enough called Alligator flag. Throughout the swamp we found them with these regular, even perforations. They were so perfect that it seemed unlikely to be caused by a browsing insect. I thought perhaps they functioned like the slits in banana leaves. Alas, I know too little about this mystery to help you resolve it.

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And the friend below brought to me courtesy of a short side-trip to Estero, Florida--the Koreshan Settlement.

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Posted by Steven Riddle at 4:31 PM | Comments (0)

And some Flora and Scenes from the Desert

My Javelina pictures did not come out as well as I would have liked and the Coyotes were downright dreadful. Got a lot of great spiny lizards, but figured you might enjoy these more.

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And the lovely San Xavier del Bac, presently undergoing restoration.

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And to RC if he happens to drop by--I promise never, never, never to do this again. For one thing it is entirely too much effort--but I'll work really hard to reduce server strain.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 5:14 PM | Comments (3)

For Julie, by Request--but not the Spiny Lizard

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Sorry. Not the spiny lizard, but I thought you might prefer one in focus. I'm still sorting through the spiny lizard photos with some hope that I might find one that isn't all blurred out.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 6:40 PM | Comments (1)

One Last Image

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In a private communication one reader was surprised at how much I had liked Key West and how poetic I had waxed over it. Well, this little photo will give you a sense of why. That was the view from my hotel room. Three days after Dennis and sea and sky have returned to where they started. In other pictures the swirls of sea and sky reflect one another with the same apparent flatness. I cannot say enough about the water and its color. As soon as I can reasonably well capture it, I will likely substitute it for my background on this site. Problem has been that there has been no good way to capture it well.

Well, good night all.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 6:45 PM | Comments (2)