March is my least favorite month of the year. Winter is winding down, but rarely leaves quietly. It’s often cold, but also wet and windy—the worst weather conditions—and even as it warms, the white snow turns dingy gray and black, uncovering a winter’s worth of dirt and debris:
Why should the robin be the harbinger of Spring?
Why watch for flowers?
The tulip and the thrush borrow beauty from the sun;
tug their strength up from the dark earth.
Stronger still, and darker, is the crow.
Songbirds ride the North Wind south;
flowers hang their heads and retreat beneath the snow.
The crow remains.
Feathers ruffed, dark eye glaring sidelong, he stoops;
picks bits of hide and hair from the cold pavement.
A lean meal this Christmas, but Easter comes,
and Nature’s bounty blooming black from the snow.
A stiffened ear; the rack and ripe entrails—
the crow consumes all, makes ready the house for the Master’s arrival.
He waits, black as the cloth, preaching his monosyllable, fasting.Poem, a Day Late (February 7, 2008)
As a general rule, I don’t shovel after March 1.* Invariably we get snow in March (and even April), which means that while our neighbors’ driveways still have nice straight edges and clear entry points, ours is a lumpy and treacherous mix of snow, slush, and refreeze.
When the blustery weather finally breaks (temporarily, of course), we see our first serious warm-up and venture out for a walk around the neighborhood. The curbs and gutters run with miniature rivers and rapids; last autumn’s soggy leaves and twigs form dams creating shallow pools for passing cars to splash through, and the storm sewers roar and rumble. The plowed snow along the road melts from the bottom up, creating shelves of ice that crunch and give way beneath our boots. With no talls weeds to hide it, litter appears — the soggy remains of last fall’s lunch someone tossed out the car window before the first snow. And then, after a couple days and maybe a good, hard rain, the mud forms.
In July of 2019, our family caravanned with friends from Michigan out to Glacier National Park to camp and hike and see the sites. It was a wonderful trip, and for the first time, Brendan’s fiancée (now wife) Becky joined us as well.
One of the characteristics of our family that Becky had to adjust to is the constant crackle of wordplay, sarcasm, and verbal violence dealt out among our members. I remember distinctly the first shot I fired across her bow at the dinner table during one of our first few visits with her. She took it well, with a wry smile and a very deliberate “Wow.”—as in, “Okay, so it’s like that now.”
This is not about that, however. This is about the first real shot she fired back.
We were standing around the firepit at the campground at Glacier, and Brendan was complimenting something he had eaten with Becky’s family: venison meat sticks, I think. I was standing just behind Becky, and as Brendan gushed, I stooped to rest my chin on Becky’s shoulder and gave her my best sideways puppy-dog eyes to indicate how much her future father-in-law would appreciate such delicacies.
She took evasive action, as one might in such a circumstance, and with the same wry smile, said, “You know, you’re basically Bruno in human form.”
I opened my mouth to reply, then closed it again.
Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.Philippians 4:6-7
I am writing this column from my parents’ log house in rural Michigan. Yesterday our Airedale Bruno and I drove 12 hours to get here. Half the time I listened to the news on Minnesota and Wisconsin Public Radio.
Public radio is in frustrating entity for me, and this long drive was no exception. On one hand, they interviewed interesting people about compelling topics and told wonderful stories that kept me awake and alert all morning and into the afternoon. On the other hand, nearly every story was presented with a left-leaning worldliness and a persistent godless optimism, as though this past year (and the previous three) were truly unprecedented and hellish, but now the right people with the right ideas, wielding power in the right way, can finally fix everything. Nearly all of the interviews were political, some were explicitly pagan—and none mentioned God in any meaningful way, except to reference the road not taken.
This is the divide that concerns me in our society. This is the fundamental, irreconcilable issue upon which there can be no compromise: Either God is real and created the universe and humanity according to His law and purpose, or He didn’t. Both views have profound implications on how we live together in this world.
One of the best and most trying aspects of owning an Airedale “puppy” is Bruno’s relentless desire for affection and affirmation. In our household we joke that I finally have someone else who shares my primary love languages: physical touch and words of affirmation. If that’s true, I know now why I drive my wife and children as crazy as I do. As a little pup, this constant desire to be in contact with us and praised by us was adorable—less so when a fifty-pound dog (however young) piles into the back of your knees on the stairs, when he circles your feet while you are carrying groceries or sits on them while you are walking.
And sometimes I get impatient, forgetting he is not quite ten months old, and wish he would “move!” “get back!” or “go lay down!”
A week or so back I came home from work, and Bruno was waiting at the top of the stairs above our split-level front door, sitting lopsided on one hip with his big front paws on the first step down so he could better see who was coming. As I came up, he came down, making it nearly impossible to pass, and I told him to get back. He followed at my knee, nosed my hands as I sat to take off my shoes, then licked my pant leg. Continue reading
It’s been a heck of a spring so far. I’ve been buried in work, not to mention snow and unexpected auto repairs. Jodi and I are like ships passing much of the time, except morning prayer, which we’ve managed to maintain. I’ve missed as many of the kids’ activities as I’ve made in the past month, but I see them in while I run, stop to stop, dropping them off and picking them up.
And Bruno waits at the top of the stairs, watching for someone to come in and up, casually stretching, closer and closer, straining for a pet or a pat, hoping for a walk or a car ride at least.
It’s go, go, go as the school year winds down—but this week has been something else entirely. Continue reading