Monday, May 7, 2007

“Dad, did you know that bees are great forecasters of coming rain? They don’t come out of their hive when we’re about to get wet weather.”

It’s the never-ending barrage of question/statements when your child develops their initial mastery of the English language and their reading skills flourish. First, the initial question. Then directly into the statement or trivia fact before you have a chance to respond.

“Dad, did you know that hawks are good predictors of heavy rainstorms? They go hunting just before the storm to catch mice and other small animals that are moving to higher ground.”

And regardless of the question/statement, it’s the innate parental responsibility to respond “No” to each question and “Wow, I didn’t know that,” following each statement. It’s the ritual, rite of passage and privilege when you’re

Looking Beyond the Horizon

“Dad, did you know that dandelions and tulips fold up their petals before a storm?”

“No, Leo, I didn’t know that. And do you know why they do that?”

Pause. Then a longer pause. And then the simple response. “It doesn’t say why they do that here in my book, Dad.”

What a wonderful season that summer is for the human soul. Radiant sunrises, followed by warm sunny days, followed by glorious sunsets, followed by crisp and clear nights. And then they are sprinkled with warm winds and refreshing rain showers so as to preserve the allure and magic of Nature’s grand symphonic and cyclic dance.

Petrichor, a rich and strong aroma emitted from the clay soil just before rain is about to fall, overwhelms the summer air. Aspen leaves lining the nearby woods gently yield upward while the darkened clouds surface on the horizon. It allows you just enough time to hurriedly cover the lake Lund and pull the delicate potted plants to a safer shelter. There are giggles among family members as you are unable to avoid the first downpour of the summer rains. Eventually drenched as you arrive to the safety of the roof’s overhang, you watch the summer storm roll in…and smile. Later huddled inside around a fire while the rain pounds on the roof and the world outside, you welcome the moment.

But what of those moments, my friend, when the storm cannot be anticipated and it is not at all welcomed?

This particular Morning Walk was initially intended to have a very different perspective with a humorous slant. The words were crafted months ago and put to rest. That is, until the tragedy erupted on the campus of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) in mid-April. As a university administrator/educator for the past 17 years, the horrific scenes that unfolded on this particular university campus eroded my previous words of that initial reflection to simple silliness and the images of those April days will weigh on my heart for some time. It was a storm that could not seem to be predicted by obvious means; they were acts that could never have been imagined to unfold in any community, large or small, across the United States.

But the storm enveloped the small community of Blacksburg, Virginia, just as it had tragically done so before in New York City, Columbine, Oklahoma City and Red Lake Falls, just to name a few. The news media continued to ask the question, “Did you know…?” And the only answer that university administrators, faculty and classmates could answer was “No.”

This most recent tragedy will perplex the collective mind and conscience of America for years to come. How could something so horrific ever come to fruition? And how could we have collectively and societally intervened before it was too late? Again, questions within the storm to which we humbly answer, “I just don’t know…”

But as horrific as the scenes have cast a shadow across the campus of Virginia Tech and the communal heart of this country, a larger shadow formed and continues to form. It is that entity of communal sorrow and grief, gently yielding to a deeper and united sense of compassion and hope. For although this particular storm could not be anticipated amidst its subtle hints, there is one aspect that will forever remain a certainty: the very fortitude of the generous human spirit. It will forever overshadow and outshine even Life’s most ominous tempest. For within that same humanity that is capable of such awful atrocities resides a spirit that desires to achieve such great good.

As you read this reflection, my friend, many more days now separate us from those painful days in April. For some, the emotional wounds are healing. And for some, it remains a daily struggle of reopening and rehealing of the very same wound. As we look to and beyond the horizon, we may or may not see the subtle conditions for a storm to be forming. But know this: Whether it is across this great country or right in our own backyard, those storm clouds on the horizon will always give way to radiant sunrises and glorious sunsets. For as the Virginia Tech school newspaper so eloquently stated, “We must remember who we were before all of this… we were and are strong…”

“Dad, did you know they have a groundhog in Pennsylvania that predicts whether or not we’ll have a longer winter?”

“No, I didn’t know that, Leo.”

Regardless of the length of the winter or the intensity of the tempest, my friend,the warm sunny days of summer will most assuredly return.


To be published in the Summer 2007 issue of LAKESTYLE magazine


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