Friday, August 04, 2006

Ferns & Courage

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A special part of living in the north end of the Willamette Valley is the breathtaking beauty. A favorite place of mine is Silver Falls. The water cascades, falls, splashes, sprays throughout this State Park from a dozen waterfalls. Moss hangs from trees, lichen creeps glacially over the rocks year by year, the ferns spring up amidst wild flows, framing the fish leaping in the streams and rivers: fragile plants twisting up between the roots of mighty trees.

The ferns provide a primordial touch to the forest. Fronds stretch out to brush the dust from our feet, the fiddleheads slowly unfurl through the afternoon’s light, verdant from its passage through maple leaves. Most don’t notice the fern’s dual nature. They see the fronds and fiddleheads and miss the other half of this unusual life form. The prolathia.

Beneath the ferns are tiny plants, up to a half inch across and lying close to the ground, and they are the direct offspring of the ferns above them. They are the plants which grow from the spores dropped from the fronds dusting our feet.

The little plants are male and female and mix their genetic materials by dropping them into water droplets, producing sporphytes, seeds.

Weird isn’t? It is almost as if they are two species, alternating their generations, asexual and sexual reproduction, spores and seeds, moving through time, taking turns.


Ever watch The Red Green Show? It isn’t on the Public Broadcasting System any more, but it was a lot of fun while it lasted. There was a prayer that ended each episode, the prayer of the members of "Possum Lodge":

Dear Lord,
I’m a man,
and I’m sorry.
But I’ll change,
if I have to,
I guess.


I don’t understand women. My generalizations are often wrong when applied to specific women, but there are tendencies in the way women think, behave, live, that seem fairly consistent.

That is true of men also. Many women don’t understand men. That’s OK.

It’s almost as if we are separate species. Like ferns, we share who we are, but we are so different that an outside observer might mistake us for completely different creatures.

Men dominate. We tend to hold the higher positions of authority in everything from leading nations to leading card games. The hormones coursing through our veins push us to act. We take risks, we claim resources, we stake out territories. The biological advantage is that our families, our tribes, have greater chances for survival. A disadvantage is that it can get us killed.

Another disadvantage is that it results in unfair situations. Hormones do not reason out what is equitable, what our opponents need or desire, what is fair. We consider them only in bartering small concessions to our advantage.

All this posturing, and growling, and chest thumping often results in the subjectation of not only our opponents, but of the members of our tribes and families. Our partners. Our wives.

Women tend to use other methods to reach their goals. I prefer a particular method to be used on me. It is a subtle manipulation of my ego and topics of discussion so I might develop the idea of what is wanted, without my knowledge, it is all a part of her plan. (Though she doesn’t pull it off often... I think.) It is perfect when she lets me think it was all my idea. She hasn’t hormones that demand the chest-thumping recognition of who is smartest, most clever.

But subtleties are lost in many circumstances. There is another method I have known women to take that is stunning, one which thickens my throat, making it hard to swallow, moving my heart to an understanding of what is right, what is fair.

I know of two songs which explore two occaisions when women have used their own innocence, their own frailty, to shame the beasts which surround them into behaving as human beings.

One song is “Cueca Solo” by Sting.

There is a folk dance in Argentina. The cueca. It is a dance performed by couples at almost any occaision: parties, festivals, weddings.

It is a dance of beauty where scarves float between reaching hands, a dance of courtship and partnership shouting to the world that this is a couple. That here are two people who will dance through all their years as partners.

During the reign of General Pinochet thousands of people simply disappeared. They we snatched from streets and homes, parks and churches, and were tortured and raped and murdered. The military patrolled the streets. The police had absolute authority.

And the mothers, the wives, of the disappeared grieved. Their sorrow grew and grew until one day it found expression in the dance.

They walked to the police stations, to the gates of military bases, and began to dance. They held portraits of their husbands, of their sons, and danced the cueca... all alone. They pinned the photos of the loved ones to their blouses... and danced, alone, cueca solo, beneath the stony gazes of their oppressors.

Such bravery is incredible. It is breathtaking. It makes my heart ache to think of sorrow so deep that their own lives become a small thing, worth the risk in dancing the question: “Where is he?

There is a second song which makes me consider the magnificent beauty of femine bravery: “Miss Sarajevo” by U2.

In the midst of the death, and rape, and torture of the war in Bosnia, of an “ethnic cleansing” pitting “Christians” against “muslims,” a group of young women held a beauty pageant.

The song begins with a soft beat, strings rise in volume, and Bono’s voice begins asking questions:

Is there a time for keeping a distance
A time to turn your eyes away
Is there a time for keeping your head down
For getting on with your day

Is there a time for kohl and lipstick
A time for cutting hair
Is there a time for high street shopping
To find the right dress to wear

The parallelism of those words...

is there a time...

is there a time...

It brings Ecclesiastes to mind... that there is a time for everything. I listen to those words, wondering... The gentle melody, the rising strings, the lyrics, bring to mind the images of war, of explosions and men running with figures lying contorted on litters, of body bags and funerals.

And the lyrics swing around to gaze quietly, hopefully, at the simple silly ritual of a beauty pageant:

Here she comes
Heads turn around
Here she comes
To take her crown

I wonder at the odd juxtaposition of death and beauty, of terror and normalcy:

Is there a time to walk for cover
A time for kiss and tell
Is there a time for different colors
Different names you find it hard to spell

Is there a time for first communion
A time for east 17
Is there a time to turn to mecca
Is there a time to be a beauty queen

Here she comes
Beauty plays the crown
Here she comes
Surreal in her crown

And the music swings away from Bono’s soft questioning voice to Pavarotti’s tenor as it pierces through the melody and wisks me up and away from my mental images of death:

Dici che il fiume
trova la via al mare
E come il fiume
giungerai a me
Oltre i confini
e le terre assetate
Dici che come fiume
come fiume
L'amore giunger
E non so pi pregare
E nell'amore non so pi sperare
E quell'amore non so pi aspettare

I don’t understand the words, but the emotions are clear, needing no translation. I hear a voice which cries out for the beauty of the world, and it questions why men make things ugly. It sings of a love that flows through the boundaries of nations, a love strong enough to push aside such hatreds as that of Montagues and Capulets, “Christians” and “muslims.” It aches for things which flutter from the grasp of innocents lost in the fog of war.

My mind conjures up the images of green light filtering through shimmering leaves, of angry balls of fire rising from war-torn cities, of water falling from great heights, of an infant in my arms, and an infant lying in a horrifyingly small coffin (how is it that such things are ready for use!?!), of women in a beauty pagent asking not to be killed for trying to live a normal life, of ferns beneath giant cedars, and of the beauty of femine courage.


Seeker said...

These are the contrasts and conundrums of life that cause us to cling to the faithfulness of God.

jel said...


Judas Hate said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Judas Hate said...

Such beautiful imagery in your writing, as always.

This is a rough translation of the Italian in the song….

“You say that the river finds the way to the sea and as the river you will reach me beyond the borders and the thirsty lands. You say that like river as river the love to reach the love and I do not know devout to pray and in the love I do not know devout to hope and that love I do not know devout to wait for.”

I am thankful for you Will:-)


Judas Hate said...


The deleted comment was just me.

I listed the verse from Ecclesiastes, then noticed you already linked to it.

curious servant said...

Thanks JH. Interesting that I wrote about love flowing across boundaries of nations... just like a river.

I am thankful for you as well my friend.

Jim said...

People can be so cruel to each other, can't they?
I think it is hard to generalize about women correctly, but most of do a lot of it anyway.

MugwumpMom said...

Wow. Incredible post; I enjoy your writing.
Have often wondered..if men bore children would they see things the way women do? But then again, are they not mothers who help strap the bombs onto their own children for the sake of glory? Evidently, we are all capable of good and evil in all of us, regardless of gender.
Thank you for dropping by my site. I'll be back to visit here again, for sure.


Lillee said...

Powerful post you got there.
I hate this war between the Chrisitans and the Muslims too. Now that it's getting personal and involving Americans, this war which has been brewing for centuries, makes me crazy. But, it's all part of the Book. Fortunatly, we know the end of the story.

Lillee said...

Powerful post you got there.
I hate this war between the Chrisitans and the Muslims too. Now that it's getting personal and involving Americans, this war which has been brewing for centuries, makes me crazy. But, it's all part of the Book. Fortunatly, we know the end of the story.

Ame said...

I find humanity intrituing on this level. The way God made us so "elastic" and yet so fragile.

A teenage girl sits on the back of an open pick-up; the driver starts it up and edges forward; she falls off and it kills her.

Women hold a beauty pageant holding a sign, "please don't let them kill us."

A freak car accident and one lives. Another and one dies.

Yet another, Corrie Ten Boone, is tortured beyond comprehension and walks away and lives many years.

How is life so fragile and so strong all at the same time? What are the things that drive us to a place where our own life is worth sacrificing for something that we hold in a place of even higher value than I hold myself?

Drive. Passion. Desire. Hope. Faith.

"But the greatest of these is love."

Ame said...

intrituing ...

uhhh ... how about intriguing?!

Felisol said...

Dear Curious Servant,
Thanks for visiting. I have a rather poor English blog as well, mainly for the sake of exercise. I don't want to decay too fast, you know. My father, my idol, read the Bible, King James Edition, when he was eighty. Anyway here's the adress:
I love your blogs,CS, the ones that are written straight from the heart smelling blood, sweat and tears, and the intricate ones, where you're challnging intellect, ethics and old prejudices.

Exept from my father, brother and husband, who I love and cherish, I do not all understand men in general.
Providers, you say. Well they are huge produsers and profiters of all kinds of the worst thinkable weapons. It is said that even Hitler could not have waged his horrible WW II, was it not for the Americans, who too willingly equipped him for his evil task.
Take care of their tribe??
Men are abandoning their families, malesting them, having all kinds of dirty "affairs".
Children and women have become a course of income, a tradeware to and by men.
The whole world of business has become obnoxious to me.
I don't like it, I don't understand it, I don't want it.
And this illusing of power. Show me a working place or an institution where men do not compete and are trying to dominate.

I don't have the answers, but I do believe that seperation from God, and the seperating of the sexes (the two shall be as one) are soures that mislead us.

We are not supposed to be equal, but to fullfill each other. If a man loves his wife as his own life, he will not have to dominate or exploit. He'll give and demand respect. And vice versa. No need for manipulation or sweettalking.
We need each other and we love each other, and thats a wonderful, God given thing to me.

curious servant said...


Thank you for your comment. It is greatly appreciated.

There were many excellent points in your words... Tha this is not the state of things as they should be... that too much has been given over to the evil natures of men.

All that about providing for our tribes, our families, is the theoretical views of the cultural anthropologist (I studied anthropology) and such a world view has been left in centuries past.

AS you have pointed out in your own life their are men who care, who live to standards that respect, love, others.

I should point out that there have been men who have done courageous acts similar to the ones I described in those two songs.

There is the man standing in front of a tank in Tiannamen Square, willing to die for the sake of freedom. There is Mahatma Ghandi walking to the sea to make salt in his peaceful stand against the British Empire. There is Nelson Mandela, in prison for over a quarter of a century for planning non-violent resistence to South African Apartheid.

Perhaps that is a part of what is so startling about our Lord Jesus. He was a man. He lived under a repressive regime. There was a militant resistant movement which sought the expulsion of their oppressors. Yet Jesus was consistently gentle, consistently caring, consistently loving, and comforting, and healing. He was the perfect man, showing us how to live perfect lives.

If we are Christ-followers we will emulate that gentle, loving paradigm.

God bless!

Cinder said...

This is such a powerful post...speaks so much truth to what life is like!

Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving your prayer on my blog. This week I truly felt uplifted by the prayers of those around me and at times I know that is what helped to get me through.

If I don't get back here to read and comment before we leave for Sri Lanka, I'll be sure to come and catch up on your posts once we are back.

Blessings to you and yours!

Julana said...

It is hard to understand the extremes of beauty and awfulness that exist in the world. We're having an Irish festival in our area this weekend, and my husband's reading a book about the Rwanda genocide.
It's such a picture of the havoc wrought in Eden. The perfection, and the break with it.

curious servant said...

This post seems to strike a chord for many of you. It does for me.

You might check some of the links I have place in this post.

The podcast has a small sample of the "Miss Sarajevo" song in it (under the 30 seconds to avoid copyright issues of course).

Just Expressing Myself said...

Thanks for dropping in at my blog. Your post was a pleasure to read; you are a brave writer - you write just what you are thinking - I like that.
The background of your template is very interesting - did youcreate it yourself?
Take care,

Anonymous said...

this reminded me of a book -- men are from mars, women are from venus. i don't know why but all through out the last sentence of your post, i couldn't get this book out of my head.

God bless you, CS :)

Nancy said...

I honestly am only now admitting that I do not understand guys at all. But I appreciate their bravery and protection and all that they're doing now to protect America (women soldiers too!).

Love "U2."

Joe said...

What a post!

My wife has a sneaky way of reminding me of tasks. "Did you have a specific time in mind to mow the yard today?"


Fred said...

I love reading your posts, CS. then listening to the audio. It makes it all the better.

Big Dave T said...

Thanks for visiting my blog. Interesting coincidence that I was visited by two new commenters, both teachers, one of whom is very close to their faith while the other is an atheist. Such diversity here!

I not only used to watch Red Green, but I was actually a member of the Red Green fan club (it was free at the time). I was invited to a Red Green taping in Toronto once. Should have gone, but didn't.

4evergapeach said...

I've been away for so long and wouldn't you know I come back to a deep post. Does give you a lot to think about. I read over some of your last posts also. Glad to hear things are going well and it sounds like you are keeping plenty busy.

I have also let my spiritual life fall to the way side. I'm kind of lost right now and not sure how to get back. Sometimes I wonder if I want to find my way back. Sounds stupid huh? Almost a spiritual suicide. Things are just really out of focus for me and I'm not sure how to deal with it all. I have my good days and not-so-good days. Just trying to keep my chin and spirits up. I'll be ok. If nothing else I'll try and get by to see you more often. That always was a spiritual lift for me. It's a start. Thanks for sticking with me! You may be a God send.

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