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The First Surfer



It must have begun with a stare
into the crashing water, a different eye
than any before, a version of the one
that scanned up a cragged rock face
before fitting a toe to a horseshoe crevice,
drying palms, straining for the next handhold.
Or the one who set bladed feet
atop a powdered peak, pointed
toward the downslope as a slow glide
accelerated into a fall. 

That’s how it must have been
that day on a somewhere beach,
the slip of cool grit between the toes
not satisfying enough, the breeze
seeming to quicken in gust on shore’s edge.
Driftwood worn smooth by tidal lapping,
musty, slivered in urchin spines.
Belly-down paddle through the shallows.
Wide-set hammerhead eyes
slashing through the deep. 

A breath of quiet must have followed—

the water column rises under the makeshift board,
the rider stands, balances, as if driven
by a sunken instinct surfacing inside. A seismic churn
sweeps into surf’s curled mouth,
and the rider breaches an unending tunnel,
one others would enter, chisel in hand,
to chip away the eddying swirls
that vanish as soon as they are carved.


Bryn Homuth
Near the Shores of Medicine Lake
August 9, 2013 

"Beach Scene"
Oil on Canvas - 1956
Henry E. Ford 


Ambler, No. 20 [On Townism]

For others when they seem to sit, as Dogs, Cats, or Lions, doe make unto their spine acute angles with their thigh, and acute to the thigh with their shank. — Sir T. Browne


The world is so small it consists merely of the self. Two cars were stuck at a green light this past week. Yes, I say “stuck” for they were certainly not stopped by any physical means or moral obligations. As a companion and I stood on the corner of 11th and Bluemont Avenue, we observed how dreadfully long the crosswalk was taking. After witnessing the light cycle through, it eventually occurred to us that the two cars on the west side of the intersection remained dormant despite the green light opposite them encouraging their progression. Ten seconds passed. No movement. Twenty seconds passed. Nothing. Thirty seconds passed, and (finally) the old man behind the northernmost car laid on his horn, shocking the two dead boys back to life as my friend and I both laughed at the boys and groaned at the whole situation. For after about ten seconds into the debacle we noticed that the reason neither boy pressed on the gas after the light turned green was because both heads were bowed in holy reverence and submission to their phones; their minds were so far removed from their present scenarios that their eyeballs may as well have been turned inwards so they could see nothing but themselves.

The phone is a monstrosity. It is a barbaric monstrosity. The surest way to know that a man is devolving is to look at the hundreds of undergrads on college campuses who lack more culture than any caveman with a club who would at least grunt, snort, or draw a picture. But too commonly the new barbarian will, with head down at his phone, fly into a pole or get hit by a bus before any sign of life is found. And the phone destroys culture because it makes the world very small. But, of course any sensible man knows that before the world can be big again it must be small. We cannot merely disregard towns, cities, states, and provinces before we wish the world to be big. Better if Buffalo, Wyoming is as big as Buffalo, New York than if the latter were nothing but an afterthought. If my 5-year-old self could make ten measly trees the size of Boise National Forest, imagine what that boy could do with Boise National Forest.


That crosswalk eventually lit our way onward, and we continued on to a park. Our mission was to go spy on a few houses we secretly envied for their quaintness, when suddenly the noise of a blaring trombone, crashing symbols and whirling wind instruments stirred in us no little curiosity. Toward the noise we headed, and we joined a good sized crowd with an average age of about sixty, listening intently to the noise performed by a traveling army band. It was perhaps a tad warm, but yet pleasant for a July evening in the central plains region. So we sat and listened as the band played songs that once made men giddy to rush off into war and face the music. An interlude of sorts graced the crowd with three jazz tunes. A man gave a delightful trombone solo during the first song, and he got so worked up, I wondered for half a second if he would meet the same fate as the unfortunate Mr. Krook of Dickens’ Bleak House.

The whole band returned, and we were again blessed with rousing songs that took the soul out of the body and placed it in a country, a community. I knew but one person in that crowd, but we were, at that moment, reflecting on one of the most spiritual of things, nationalism. It may be true that nationalism leads to conflict and competition. It may also be true that a lack of nationalism leads to one nation under self. If no respect or honor is left for a country by its inhabitants, the only sensible thing to do is to abolish it as a nation altogether. If no standards or culture exists within that nation, a lack of respect and honor will certainly follow, for a man must have an ideal to fight for, and it is just that ideal that is vanishing in the hoards of plugged in millenials who haunt our streets and shopping malls.


If it is to be supposed that a smaller world is necessarily a better world, it is to be supposed that smaller things are necessarily to be disregarded. A man from Ladysmith, Wisconsin has very little to do with any Ladies or Smiths in his town if he is mentally residing in Hollywood or New York. It is, of course, not an evil to imagine oneself somewhere else. The entire concept of planning is founded on the notion of “being elsewhere.” But the evil exists in Ladysmith looking more like Hollywood, and the Ladies and Smiths from Ladysmith looking more and more like Beyoncés and Biebers. That “every town in America is exactly the same” is certainly not true, but it is becoming more true. It is becoming more likely that a man can be at the exact same diner whether he is in Americus, Georgia or Americus, Kansas.

And a one world government would be about as desirable as having nothing but Beyoncés and Biebers running around. The tendency in America is to do nothing but stress individuality until we have nothing but conformity. The problem, of course, is that the individuality crusade is preached on the false ideal that they are open to all opinions, and that any conformity at all is a horrid evil. But individuality that is absolutely open-minded is like anarchy; it is chaos, and it will last about thirteen minutes before someone sets a trend or a fad. And conformity is to be sought if conformity is the morally correct way to live. It should not be looked down upon; it should be embraced that, say, all ministers in Hawthorne, Nevada wear black veils across their face or that in Marked Tree, Arkansas all the trees have Rosalind’s name written on them.

Above all, the songs which brought me back to my childhood, when this cantankerous country was in my mind equally loved by all, also brought back the patriotism I once had but recently lost. “America the Beautiful” was played, and I could not help, in my cynicism, to comment on the way home that it is a shame America is no longer beautiful. My compatriot reminded me that it still is, one just cannot see it anymore. Indeed, she was right. There is beauty in this land, and it is not found in Hollywood or New York but in Valentine, Nebraska and Atoka, Tennessee. It is good and all that our country and states have a song, but I say our cities and towns should have a song. The problem with our world is that it is so small no one can have a proper adventure; it is so small only the big things matter, but when only the big things matter, they eventually become very small in size. What we need is for townspeople to go back to being townspeople — to walking up and down main street and talking about town as if it is the world. And these inhabitants may be unaware of the recent Hollywood divorce that has taken place, but they will be aware of the scandal across the street. Maybe when town rivalries grow so fierce; when the inhabitants of Henderson, Kentucky cross the Ohio and attack Mt. Vernon, Indiana; when the battle is at its bleakest, and Mt. Vernon’s flag is barely seen through the haze of smoke and darkening skies, that a lone lifer from Mt. Vernon will pen a song in its honor. When the battle is over and Mt. Vernon has their independence, sons will once again be named Vernon. And all will be right with the world, for it is found in Mt. Vernon.

Sam Snow,
Written at the Ole Midshipman,
Manhattan, Kansas,
Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

Transcribed by Adam the Scribe,
Saturday, August 2nd, 2014

Painting: “A Battle”
By Jacques Courtois
Oil on Canvas, 1655-1670


HOBBLER No. 2 [On the Gift of One’s Body]

 I am reminded these days of how much I take for granted.

I am reminded, when I wake in the morning, to stop and savor that first full, deep, expansive breath, perhaps accompanied by a slight coolness if drawn quickly enough. To enjoy the stretch of one’s chest, bowing out as the lungs coax the ribs’ widening. Or the ability to interact freely with one’s environment—stooping to examine the low, craning to view the obscured, straining to grasp the out-of-reach. These simple joys may differ from person to person, and are so numerous that it is difficult to maintain awareness amidst the blur of the day; at best, when my senses are most attuned, I am sure I recall only a fraction of them. 

Recently, the summation of some two months of radiating nerve pain (properly: radiculopathy) arrived in a diagnosis of a herniated disc in my lower back. After some weeks of physical therapy, I’ve finally started to return to normalcy.

When we experience a bad cut, deep bruise, or any of the wounds that we can actually watch as they heal—the cut coagulating and sealing itself, the bruise darkening, yellowing, shrinking—its easy to become used to the rapidity and visibility of those processes. But in those injuries that manifest themselves internally, those that slowly creep upon a person until some (or several) aspect(s) of their lifestyle must be discarded or rearranged, patience and resolve become far less attainable. Such has been the case for me, but despite the despair that occasionally worms into my consciousness, these months of slight suffering have invited me to consider, for the first real time in my life, how extraordinary God’s construction of our flesh really is. 

Consider the staggering number of provisions with which our Lord outfitted our bodies for healing. The fact that our physical existences can be so compromised and eventually return to a state of equilibrium is astounding, especially considering how highly we regard medical professionals today. Now, in no way do I mean to discount or critique modern medicine. Instead, I seek only to marvel anew at our regenerative capability, which, in all its intricacy, is but a grain of sand in comparison to the other infinite traits of our Creator.

Certainly, there are those maladies from which such recovery is not possible. Romans 6:23 reminds us that “the wages of sin is death,” and with sin an inescapable reality while on this Earth, we all meet an end eventually. We are, being time-bound for the present, destined to wither away in some respect until a timeless kingdom becomes our eternal inheritance. While we Christians look forward to that ultimate gift of our spiritual bodies, I think it’s still important to value the less grand but still significant gift of our mortal selves. There are those whose human ‘walk’ is not a walk at all, but a limp, a crawl, or even a life of immobility. Rejoice in knowing that one day, God’s children will be freed from those hindrances, and be thankful for the moments you live without them. Perhaps the silver lining of what I’ve experienced is that each time I enjoy a run through a park, an afternoon on a tennis court, or a swim in a lake, I will enjoy it in a way that might have remained unavailable to me, had I not sustained this injury. I hope that these words, in part, make that kind of joy available (or nearer to available) for you.


B. L. Homuth
Lying on my couch, in the dawn of a muggy morning
August 4, 2014

"Sad Inheritance"
Oil on Canvas - 1900
Joaquin Sorolla 


Philosophical Infants


We live in a time of innocence, philosophically speaking. We are not innocent because we live before discovery, but rather we are innocent because we live after the discovery that everything is meaningless. However, we live sufficiently after this discovery to allow its ramifications to wear off. We are thus infants in a philosophical world that has lost all reason to raise us.
As best as I can tell it happened something like what befell the generations on the island of St. Anne. The ship full of immigrants bound for somewhere most rudely crashed upon her virgin coast. The parentage of the group quickly took to making an effort at survival while the children played with crabs on the beach. Times were harsh, what with storms, disease, and starvation. Little time was taken for the leisurely intellectual life. Essential knowledge was gained on tidal patterns, edible sea urchins (by trial and error), and the relative buoyancy of the four indigenous tree species found on the isle. Really I don't think the deficiency was purposeful and I'm not here to point the proverbial finger, but it was during these dramatic years of distracting ocean-side living that the neglect took place. This "Thingy Magnus" was the lack of that generation passing down the knowledge that the world is round! As generation succeeded generation the homeland became a distant tale of lore, and when the great teacher Jacamo Sr. proposed the world's end lay just beyond the horizon, only the crazy of crazies rafted any great distance from the island for fear of encountering the beasts that breathed in and out the water. Yes, eventually a rather pricy yacht (with an extraordinarily nice sound system) appeared on that very horizon and brought news of civilization. Needless to say, at this juncture, the inhabitants of St. Anne were forced to reconsider their presuppositions.
Anyway, the story of St. Anne seems to fit Bill quite nicely for the current predicament. For, we live in the Ironic Era where anchors on networks like Monocle 24 (which I enjoy rather largely) can make comments of "having great fun with the idea of creation being an issue in the US" without having fun at their own dirth of meaning in the use of words. The great philosophical pursuits of the 19th and 20th centuries to prove meaninglessness in the end have gone into the history tombs. No longer are people being warned against suicide(1) by the teachers who know the ramifications of what they are about to propose. The great battle of epistemology and metaphysics raged for years and people paid dearly with blood and sweat. However, a victor was declared in the halls of academia and the swords (metaphorical though without definition) were put away. Meaninglessness had won and was securely ensconced in its tower. Now that that little scuffle was taken care of everyone got back to making up life. Generations have continued with a very listless passing of this philosophical information (meaninglessness is a terrible motivator) as pretend life in entertainment and environment has created sufficient hills on which to die. The Ironic Era gives adequate security in the assumption that someone probably has secured through rigorous mental deductions these presuppositions upon which I base my life.  I can move on to worrying about local produce, urbanization trends, and water sport!
I can't say I have been biting my nails, in fact I just clipped them, but I get this feeling when walking down the halls, walks, and isles of my era that I may look up one day to see that yacht on the horizon or will it be a warship?
Phillip Tippin
Mostly on the farm
Sedgwick, KS
Shipwreck on a Rocky Coast
Wijnand Nuyen
Oil on Canvas, 1837
(1) Schaeffer, Francis A. The God who is there / Francis A. Schaeffer. -30th anniversary ed. Chicago: Inter-Varsity Press. 1968. pg. 38.

The Brief Time Paradigm

My wife and I were having a discussion just the other night as to the awkward situations that may arise when living to an excess of nine hundred years, as noted in Genesis. Just consider beginnging childbirth after, say, the centennial mark and continuing for the next six hundred years. What would dating entail? When would one reach their prime? When would aging become apparent or the mind begin to wane? What could you remember about fifty when you were seven hundred and forty two? How good could one become at pingpong? The thought of still having kids alongside your great-great-great-great-grandaughter and the confusion of relational relativity of a first cousin sixteen times removed began to boggle the mind, as it were. We came to, I think, the only plausible view. The situations most likely felt extremely normal. In this respect, I suggest our root problem is in viewing life within. and the inability to throw off, our certain  "brief time" paradigm.
The vision flashed upon my mind during this conversation leading to a new appreciation of “paradigm." Not an approbation of the current paradigm, but the natural recognition of paradigm as a concept, of pattern that is typical and strangely defined. For, our length of days is just that. The endless line of eighty year blips in the current "brief time paradigm" is not a natural phenomenon at all but rather one decreed (Gen. 6). Not only so, but life's specific brevity was determined for good reason. One must only stop to ponder the wickedness of the heart growing and manifesting itself in greater ways for hundreds of years. However, paradigms by decree may leave other paradigms open to the heart, though not to the will. This is why I can so easily conceptualize throwing off this natural life arc mentally, but remain completely fixed physically. This is not an animal trait; it is an image trait, I suspect.
May I bring it down to a smaller scale? As a ball in the hand helps one contemplate the globe, maybe a smaller dimensional paradigm will help one better recognize his own. 
The scene is played out over and again. The father makes all manner of gesticulations to induce the toddler to give the faintest hint of pleasantries for one moment to tap the screen and capture blissful childhood. A Great batch of relatives gather on the porch in merriment with arms around shoulders and children upon knees to gaze into the flashbulb. The wedding party, in sparkling and immaculate regalia, look in admiration at the loving couple lost in each others' eyes. Click, click and the paradigm ends. The toddler realizes the sippy cup in the stroller and begins a wailing cry. Cousin Frank shoves Andrew off the porch precipitating a bloody nose while an argument breaks out over where to eat dinner. The best man flirts drunkenly with the sister of the bride, the bride and groom bicker in the car as their bills have simply become joint deductions on the tax return. The people are in the photo and we are outside the ruse. In brilliant luster, the smiles can be held for a moment. It is a fleeting image but as real a moment as this life of ours. The slogans of the fitness brochure, the resort amenity list, or the woman’s internet profile are doing their very best to make you smile for the picture of life. The smile is hard to hold. The sin is hard to hold. We take the photo, we can even edit a video, but God must cut the paradigm short at six score years. 
This ability to recognize the paradigm and place one’s self outside its reach, if only in the mind, should not surprise as eternity resides in the heart. However, as with many of the most obvious aspects of the heart, there is an Unwillingness to recognize an unnatural brevity because of the requirement to recognize the one who could decree such a paradigm. This leads to problematically accepting paradigm as not just typical but natural.
Please don’t misunderstand what I am trying to say. People through any means possible will pursue the elongation of life, but they are pursuing the length of what they see as “natural” physical life and not a change in decree. However, the attempts have been extremely unsuccessful to do anything more than get the mean of the population slightly closer to the set limit. For this reason, the focus switches to trying to fit all of life (and the afterlife) into the “natural” 80+ years. As has been noted by J.P., retirement is the real heaven to the world. Nine hundred years of physical, sexual, emotional, and aesthetic experience are being systematically condensed in the modern world to match the heart that looks on at the photograph of our lives. Rather than 900 years seeming strange to experience childhood, marriage, parenting, work, and beauty, the years are being met head on with the brief time paradigm.
Oh, but how the heart runs wild when immortality is brought to light and the brevity recognized as paradigm decreed (by necessity) and not normal by creation (in light of re-creation). This is just another example of reality in which I stand by discovery, not iteration.
Phillip Tippin
Looking out on the Amur Maples
Newton, KS

Portrait of an Old Man in a Scarlet
Edward Atkinson Homel
Oil on Canvas, 1881
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