A Familiar and Pleasing Shape


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This morning as I was walking Faulkner, a white rock caught my eye, embedded where it was in the red clay beside the road. There were lots of other white rocks around it, but this one needed a closer look. Faulkner was pulling on the leash, but I stooped down and extracted this nearly whole artifact from its resting place.

A wave of childhood excitement went through me. More than 30 years ago, lazy summer days were often spent searching the plowed fields after rain for these ancient clues to previous civilizations. We called them arrowheads, or spearheads if they were bigger, but I think some generally more appropriate terms are used now (points?…not sure). My younger brothers and I became skilled at finding them, quickly recognizing important contour details even if only a small part was exposed. A bit of competition developed between us about it. I remember requiring them to distance themselves from me because I could simultaneously search three rows while going at a brisk pace; I didn’t want them finding any arrowheads in my rows.

Years later, while enjoying family vacations at Edisto Beach and other coastal locations, another treasure hunt of sorts developed as we started to find sharks’ teeth. Of course, this too became a game to see who could find the most and biggest. While finding the teeth easily, I kept noticing a familiar sensation. I soon realized that the same recognition skills that applied to finding arrowheads were remanifesting themselves in the hunt for fossilized sharks’ teeth. Places in my brain that had been rather unstimulated for years were suddenly functioning quite readily.

This might seem like an obvious and rather unremarkable connection. After all, both items in question are basically triangular. Surprisingly, though, the peremeter shape of the objects is not the primary usefulness in detecting either one. There are plenty of rocks whose basic shape is triangular, but the first glance from an arrowhead hunter is enough to dismiss them. And there are very many shell fragments scattered between the surf and the dune line that are both the right shape and size of sharks’ teeth. Again, most of them never need to be picked up to determine their nature. Something else is crucial: they both share the same type of cross section.

Looking directly at the sharp end, you see the shallow opposite convex bulges, providing thickness to the “flat” sides of tooth or arrowhead. It is this signature shape that the prepared human eye notices among the fields of debris, even when not viewed end-on or edge-on. Such a surface obviously does something different with light than flat or concave or even round pieces do, and that difference defines excitement in the find.

Lately, riding down the road, my attention is regularly diverted, involuntarily, to other vehicles, sometimes five or six lanes away…vehicles on whose roofs are strapped kayaks. And I’ve sensed an odd familiarity about this diversion, like it’s been going on longer than it has. Whether they are some of the ubiquitous Perception models, or a rare appearance of a Boreal Design or Seda boat, the feeling is there, familiar and pleasing.

That arrowhead I found this morning told the reason why: The dirt-stained undersurface and the rain-washed upper side, the hull and deck of ancient ammunition, holding in balance the point and edge, ready to pierce prey or enemy. You ever look at a kayak directly head on? That’s the shape!…holding in balance where the paddler is and where the paddler wants to be, ready to pierce boredom, or bureaucracy, or flabbiness, or overcrowding, or finish line.

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Published in: on May 29, 2007 at 9:14 pm  Comments (3)  

Paddling.3


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It was a perfect day to be on the water, or anywhere outside, for that matter.

When I concluded my time there and was loaded back on the Titan, I drove south through Pickens, a place I lived for five years recently. From there I went on to Easley and met some friends at Skin’s Hotdogs for an unplanned reunion that was a blessing. I had two all the way and chocolate milk. I noticed a sign on the wall there showing all the current locations of Skin’s, and there are two new ones added since I lived in the area. I had been to all nine locations; now I’m two behind. Well, now I have a reason to go to Cornelia, Georgia.

Photo by Paul Hutchison

Published in: on May 26, 2007 at 9:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

Paddling.2


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Here I am checking how the 700 tracks backward. The building in the background is the office and visitor center for Table Rock State Park.

Photo by Paul Hutchison

Published in: on May 26, 2007 at 8:48 pm  Leave a Comment  

Paddling


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Nearly noon at Table Rock State Park.

Photo by Paul Hutchison

Published in: on May 26, 2007 at 8:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

Mountain Laurel


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Down at lake elevation, where this photo was taken, the Mountain Laurel was beautiful, but not as full and widespread as higher up the hill. The peak of Table Rock is 3124′ above sea level, roughly 1600′ higher than this photo location.

Published in: on May 26, 2007 at 8:20 pm  Leave a Comment  

Body Challenge, Spirit Challenge


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This is a photo of Table Rock, a mountain in northern Pickens County, South Carolina. On Thursday I went with my monthly hiking group to the top. It’s a vigorous climb, very steep in places, but providing natural beauty each step of the 3-mile-plus hike (one way). It has become tradition that the Table Rock trail conclude our hiking season each year. The vistas from the top of the cliffs are breathtaking, worth the challenging effort of getting there.

As people with stressful lives, this kind of regularly scheduled encounter with the outdoors really helps to alleviate the squeeze that professional life tightens daily — sometimes hourly — around us. We need to see the Eastern Fence Lizard with the growing-back tail, to hear the Common Raven doing vocal impressions from it’s crazy-ancient imagination, to feel the heavy weight and sharp spines of the cone of a Mountain Pine.

Along the way we were almost constantly surrounded with blossoming Mountain Laurel, as full and white as I have seen them. Many other spring-blooming flowers were there, too, including Flame Azalea, Indian Pink, a very aromatic wild rose (Virginia Rose?), and a pink azalea that is probably either Pinxter Flower or Mountain Azalea. There are so many plants and insects I still have to learn!

It was a very refreshing day. And anytime you add in some Frisbee activity, friendly conversation, and Mexican food for supper, the world seems manageable again, at least for a while.

After spending the night in one of the old park cabins, and after a great breakfast that one of our hikers cooked, I crossed scenic SC Highway 11 to try the Q700X on one of the lakes. QCC did a great job with this design; it’s a joy to paddle. I spent some time exploring the corners and coves while one of the other hikers took some photos and did some reading in the shade of Smooth Alder trees. (Thanks for the pictures and for the help reloading the kayak on the Titan.)

And thanks to the whole group for the small mobile community we have. Stay in touch during the interim. I hope you can all make it to the September blueberries.

Published in: on May 26, 2007 at 5:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

Meantime, 5-24-7

Since previously posting here I’ve had a week full of church-related details to expedite. Much of it has involved preparations for an upcoming youth retreat that I am leading. This will be an exciting and fresh four days of focusing on the life and teaching of Jesus and the subsequent application of such in the very daily lives of the teenagers and adults who are participating. The theme of the retreat is The Water of God.

The beautifully balanced life of Jesus was constantly dealing with some aspect of water, whether it was crossing the Sea of Galilee with his disciples, teaching from a boat near the lakeshore, directing his friends how to catch better hauls of fish, turning water into wine, stepping into the Jordan River for baptism, walking across the surface of the sea, asking a woman who came to the well for a drink, or crying divine tears when his friend Lazarus had died. In an arid part of the world, water was a crucial part of the ministry of Jesus. And he offered himself as living water to any who accept. This will be the basis for our teaching sessions together at the retreat.

It is going to be so much fun interacting with the fifty or so people who will be attending. Four churches are represented, and the connections made across congregational lines should be profound for some of the kids. I’ve gotten a lot closer to the college students who are my worship leaders and musicians during these months of preparation, and all the adults are having a blast putting this thing together. I love it when creative people permit themselves to BE themselves, expressing the glory and delightful absurdity of joyful living in an overly serious world.

Tonight, when my longer-than-usual Bible study session was over, I came home and washed my truck. It needed it — still heavily crusted with bugs from the Wisconsin trip — but I mainly did it because I wanted to see what it was like to wash a truck at 10:30 at night. When the sun comes up, I’ll find out if it was a good idea.

I like the way water makes things clean again.

Published in: on May 24, 2007 at 1:25 am  Leave a Comment