Monday, July 24, 2006

Escaping the Insanity

The news hasn’t changed much overnight. According to this morning’s Kansas City Star Israel is punching deeper into Lebanon and Syria is now willing to accept a settlement with Israel. They’ll give Israel peace if Israel gives them the Golan Heights. It’s like playing “Let’s Make a Deal” with the devil. This has me in a reflective mood this morning, in need of some solitude to escape the insantity. The news of the past week has worn me down. I need to be in a quiet place, far away from the cacophony of coming from the world’s newsrooms. While I’m not going to be able to get down the turnpike to my favorite reflecting place, I am able to do so in my heart and mind. To that end I’m re-running something I wrote on one of my daily trips down the turnpike some years ago.

I hope, as much as is possible, it takes you to a quieter, safer place as well.

Reflections at Mile Marker 109, Kansas Turnpike
Phil Dillon
© 2002 Phil Dillon

It’s the cusp of dawn. I’m chasing Orion’s Belt and bull-haulers down the Kansas Turnpike. At mile marker 109, about a furlong or two south of the cattle pens, I stop.

The occasional rush of southbound traffic breaks the dawn silence. Like a general poised in his appointed place, I review the early morning parade. Saints and scoundrels, gospel singers and politicians, truckers, ranchers, engineers, doctors, lawyers, accountants, mothers, fathers, children, all pass by. Problems and opportunities wind their way down the highway with them.

I touch the highway sign. Mile marker 109. I feel the bits of rust creeping up on the metal. It’s man-made, temporal, placed on the edge of the eternal. It speaks. “This is where you are.” It speaks of commerce and progress passing by. It speaks of cattle and concept drawings on their journeys past a solitary milepost planted on the edge of eternity.

I turn, take a step, and cast my gaze across the prairie. Like the storied astronaut of my youth, that one small step transports me from one world to another. Thoughts pass by. Some pass quietly, humming like the Toyotas and Fords on the highway. Others I hear in the distance. Their low, grinding hums become roars as they draw near, like the Peterbilts and Kenworths hauling their precious cargoes from Chicago to Dallas or the Twin Cities to San Antonio.

While the darkness has not yet surrendered to the day, there are hints of color along the rim of the eastern sky. I sense that they carry the faint whisper of an announcement of the millennium to come. The ageless ritual proceeds, moment by moment. Light overcomes the darkness. The unbroken sky and the endless sea of grass now join together in a hymn of praise. The morning breeze caresses the tallgrass. The blades of grass, in turn, wave gently to and fro, worshippers caught up in the glory of this moment.

Thoughts glide effortlessly through the air, then stop to gently kiss the earth. The earth gratefully receives the kiss from above and pleads, “Maranatha…..Maranatha.”

A hawk circles above, wings outstretched, reaching for an unseen spire. As he circles, the dawn sun touches him, revealing his priestly robes and eyes of fire.

I sense that I’ve entered a great cathedral. I’m overwhelmed by my own smallness. I fear. The hawk descends slowly, gracefully and speaks. “You are indeed small. But, fear not. You’re known…..You’re known. This is where you are. Mile marker 109. This is the place where the line between now and forever is drawn. Here you own nothing, but are given the grace to be a part of everything. The language of the world you left is ownership. The language here is stewardship. This is the place where “moth and rust do not corrupt.

His appointed ministry complete, he now lays hold of the morning currents and moves effortlessly off to the east.

I feel the warmth of a tear as it drifts slowly down my cheek. My epiphany’s complete. I turn back and take another small step, returning to the world I left moments before. I take my place in line with my fellow travelers, the builders and dreamers, the movers and shakers, the commerce and the concepts. Our daily procession has taken us past this place…..mile marker 109.

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The Kansas Flint Hills


Guy said...

How easy it is to get bogged down in the hustle, bustle, and insanity of daily life. Sometimes it seems as if I, all too willingly, use that same insanity as an escape from the reality of everyday living.

Thanks so much for this gentle reminder that I too, need a mile marker 109, complete with soaring hawk, in my life.

Doubting Thomas said...

A beautiful reflection, especially the part on owning nothing but being graced to be part of everything. It's amazing what deeply religious feelings the prairie can inspire in us.

Phil Dillon, Prairie Apologist said...

Doubting Thomas

I tried posting a comment on your blog, but wasn't able to.

Thanks for your gracious comment. I read some of your reflections and find them uplifting as well.