Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Good Samaritan

Saturday I took my first trip to Billings.  Billings is 170 miles away and a three hour drive.  The day was beautiful and I filled it with errands and an Easter service.  As the sun began its journey towards the horizon, I loaded the last of my groceries into my car and turned toward the freeway.  As I turned onto the on ramp I noticed my car wasn't driving right and a strange noise came from underneath.  There was no shoulder until I was fully on the freeway so I kept driving until I could find a place to pull over.  A quick walk around my car revealed a flat tire.

I've never changed a tire.  I can hike with bears, but I've never changed a tire.  But that wasn't the biggest problem: it was 5 pm on the night before Easter and there would be no business open to get a new tire.  I was all dressed up from the Easter service.  I was three hours from home.    As the cars rushed by me at 80 miles an hour, I began to mull over the situation.  A large truck pulled up behind me and a man hopped out.  He wore a grease monkey's uniform with "Sean" stitched across the lapel.  Sean explained he had been headed the other way on the freeway, saw a car pulled over, got off, and came back up my way to see offer his help.  He worked for a local tire shop and was just headed back to the shop to end the day.  He'd been out on a house call that went five hours longer than it should have.  Sean put on my donut and then offered to take a look at the tire at the shop.  I followed him back where he determined the original tire was ruined.  He searched through all the used tires at the back and found one that fit my car.  He checked my rims, put on the new tire, and wished me well on my drive back to Gardiner.

In Luke chapter 10 Christ tells the parable of "The Good Samaritan" in response to the lawyer's question, "And who is my neighbor?"  I felt like the man in the story who was on a long journey and injured on the side of the road, unable to continue.  An unlikely man, a Samaritan, came to his rescue and took care of the injured stranger.  As I drove home I thought of the Savior's words to the lawyer as he closed his lesson, "Go, and do thou likewise."

Monday, April 18, 2011

"I Wanna Check You For Ticks"

No one likes mosquitoes.  I've seen people curse, swat, spray, itch, and find cover.  But ticks are much, much worse.  There is something absolutely creepy about a bug that buries its head in your flesh for an extended period of time to suck your blood.  And ticks don't tend to go for arms and legs.  No, adding insult to injury, ticks go for personal, private places and carry nasty diseases.  Here's a pretty basic description of ticks, courtesy of an entomologist at UC Davis, "Ticks are blood feeding external parasites of mammals, birds, and reptiles, throughout the world."  Just reading it makes the hair on the back of my neck prickle.

Ticks, like other bugs, go through several changes as they grow from larvae, to nymphs, to adults.  At each stage in the life cycle a tick feeds once on one host.  With each change they choose a progressively bigger host to feed on (lucky you and I). An adult female, after her final feeding, will then lay thousands of eggs.  More goosebumps prickling on my skin.  Ticks stand around on bushes and the tips of grass hanging on with two of their eight legs and waving the remaining six in the air so that they can easily grab onto a passing animal.  It might take them two years to complete a life cycle--only three meals in two years.  They can wait in the right place for months for an unlucky host to walk by.

This week I got up close and personal with a few ticks.  It began as just a normal office day.  Just after I arrived a friend rushed in and I confirmed for her there was a tick buried in the back of her neck, just below her hair.  A slow, steady pull with tweezers removed him and I took him outside to give him a chance to say his last words.  I didn't give him long to think of some.  A few minutes later she found a second tick buried in her hair with his head in her scalp.  Another slow pull with the tweezers and another trip to the guillotine outside.  I wish I had a great, happy ending for this story.  Yes, ticks are a marvel of natural adaptation and survival, but I still get the shivers when I think of little heads buried in sucking blood.  I was going to post a picture, but just seeing them magnified a hundred times gives me the creeps.  It's high season for ticks until at least June.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Voice

I heard it!  Walking out of work I heard the raucous trill of a red-winged blackbird.  These shiny birds, the males with their fiery red mantle, are possibly the most abundant native bird in the United States.  In Yellowstone, and many other places, they are the herald of spring.  Until my late teen years I thought red-winged blackbirds were birds of myth and legend.  The kind of bird that heroes went in search of to pull the magic red feather from the wing and take back to a witch or healer.  Do you remember the last time that a the unbelievable became possible for you?  I remember noticing this glossy bird in the backyard, looking it up in a book, and being delighted to learn that there really are red-winged blackbirds.  They still seem like a magical bird to me.  Their call isn't particularly beautiful, but it is unique to them.  It is beautiful because it is theirs, it cries of marshes and cattails, it announces a coming spring, and speaks of fulfilling a difficult quest.

This week I'm teaching a course certifying others to be guides.  It is incredibly rewarding to offer another person new tools, perspectives, and confidence.  Today we discussed the the importance of creativity and self-exploration.  At age eight each of us felt that we could run, dance, sing, and paint pretty well.  We were funny, smart, and good storytellers.  I asked a room of successful adults who could do these things today and I received only silence and lowered eyes.  What changes from eight to twenty-eight to fifty-eight?  Too often we come to believe that if our paintings aren't the most beautiful they are not good.  In a similar vein, if we are not the fastest runner, highest score in the class, or have the most beautiful voice we should be silent.  What a tragic loss!  Each voice matters because it is yours and what you have to say, sing, write--what you create--could only come from you.  That makes it beautiful.  I remember a quote that hung on a teacher's reading, "Use the talents you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best."  

It was snowing here in Gardiner this morning, but I don't mind.  Yesterday I heard the call that only a red-winged blackbird can make and his song is beautiful to me.  No one can speak of spring like a blackbird.