The Revenant: A Savage Grace

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As a child I felt the call of the wild.  Jack London’s book sat on my bedroom bookshelf and every so often I would take and read.  Or rather, I would drink it in, as I did all of my favorite books, living moment by moment Buck’s eerie transformation from favored pet in sunny Santa Clara to wolf fiend of the Arctic.  Why did I love the tale?  Its cruelty held no charms for me, but its stark beauty captivated me.

One day my friends and I found a small, hurt animal – mouse, bird, I no longer remember what.  When one girl wanted to rescue it I spoke frostily of the law of club and fang until she protested, “Well . . . jeepers!”  That gentle “jeepers” sank its fangs into my soul.  Why would a Christian girl love The Call of the Wild? I decided I had overdosed on wolfish creatures (“They were savages, all of them . . . ”) and read London no more.

This past Christmastide I heard an NPR review of Alejandro Iñárritu’s The Revenant and knew that I had to see it.  I had a professional motive, besides.  As a history professor specializing in the early nineteenth century, I did not want to be mauled by a student who had seen this film when I had not.  So, one fine Friday before the spring semester hit, I took myself to see The Revenant. Continue reading

H-Town Diary: The Pathways of November

I know it seems like civilization is falling to pieces, and that we cannot agree on anything, and that uncertainty can fill up a little too much real estate in your head.

And that even though Houston seems far away from Paris and Beirut and Tel Aviv, that things are so terrible all over, and that perhaps more turmoil is heading our way.  It seems that chaos and pain are as close as a television, or a radio, because in a way, they are.

But sometimes, you can have an adventure, take a break from the debates in our heads, and allow the people who are doing good take center stage, distract you from the tragic, take your breath away.  Fate can lead you upward—it does not always bring you to your knees.

This is what happened to me, in November, when so much pain was in Paris, Beirut, Tel Aviv, well, all over.

So first of all, the weather sent us a message:  that it can be cloudless and sunny and 65 in November, a reminder that we can’t mess up everything here on earth.  Sometimes, things are gorgeous and fantastic and we haven’t done a thing to deserve it.  But we are grateful for the gift.

So I turned off the talking heads, turned off my radio, accepted an invitation to remember that while terrorists get so much press, there are quiet deeds going on all around us in Houston, Texas, America, and we need to make sure those get enough air time to sustain us, let us breathe. Continue reading

Swashbucklers from a Southern Swamp, or, How an Ignorant Gardener Struck Gold

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The price couldn’t be beat.  I plunked down $2.50 for an unlabeled long-leafed bulb plant of some kind at a Houston Garden Center.  I took it home, put it in a pot, and plunked my new acquisition down on my new deck to see what it would do.  What it did was stay green.

And that was all.

Green is well enough, so I let my mystery plant be.  Occasionally I watered it.  A visiting friend from Louisiana, however, informed me that my long-leafed acquisition was a Louisiana iris, a flower that likes to grow in swamps.  It would not bloom until the springtime, she added. Continue reading

When Is a Boat More Than a Boat?: Noah’s Ark

Peter Leithart calls Noah’s ark a floating ziggurat. Nice. He notes these points of comparison found in the book The Tabernacle Pre-Figured by L. M. Morales.

Morales summarizes the evidence that the ark is to be understood as functioning like a temple, even if we can’t say that it is a temple: It is like the cosmic mountain that emerges from the waters; it is measured and set apart; it becomes a place of sacrifice; it is filled with animals. As Morales notes, the ark gradually ascends to heaven as the waters increase, life the ark above the highest mountains (159). There are multiple verbal connections between the ark-building project and the tabernacle-building later in the Pentateuch. The ark thus does what all temples are supposed to do—it joins heaven and earth.

People who know me probably won’t be surprised to find out that his blog post reminded me of something Augustine said.