January 2008

Andrew Peterson on a Sudden Joyous Turn

I kept watching Aedan and Asher’s faces during certain parts of the movie, like when Shelob poisons Frodo and Sam feels that all is lost. The boys were looking upset, so I paused the DVD and talked to them about eucatastrophe. It’s a word Tolkien coined in his essay “On Fairy Stories” which means, basically, the opposite of catastrophe. He calls eucatastrophe the “sudden joyous turn”. It’s that moment when all seems lost, when evil seems to have finally overcome every good thing, when the hero can go no further. Then light prevails against the darkness. The good guys win.

When you’re writing a story, like I am now, you realize that there’s not much story if there’s nothing at stake. If there’s no evil, no enemy, no point at which the hero is at the end of his rope, then the thing falls flat for some reason. But if we want the good guys to win (and almost universally we do), why do we put our heroes through so much? Because we grow into what we are meant to be by walking through the fire.

I told the boys about how the story of Jesus’ resurrection is the ultimate eucatastrophe. When Jesus, the perfect man, God made flesh, cries out and exhales his dying breath, the sky is black and roiling, the ground shakes, the dead emerge from their tombs and haunt Jerusalem, and the sheep scatter. But Sunday morning, more than just the sun rises. Everything changes. It’s not just a story, it’s the story. A sudden joyous turn, indeed.

– from The Rabbit Room blog

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Elmo Studd on the New Year

“2007 is gone.

We think 2008 it.”

– sign in front of Elmo Studd’s Building Supplies

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Gallery: The Plastic Storm

As you might have heard (or not – we here in Southern California assume everyone cares about our business), there was a big storm here last weekend. It rained heavily and the wind blew.

I went down to the beach during a lull. The normal scene of smooth sand and water was much distorted. The storm had brought in truckloads of what can be fairly called flotsam. There may have been some jetsam involved too. As well as some detritus.

Anyway, it was pretty terrible and it made me think of an article I’d read recently, which was forwarded to me by my favorite sister. The article was called “Plastic Ocean”. Read it now if you’d like, but be prepared to be freaked out.

That article, and then the view on the beach last weekend, has got me thinking about every piece of plastic I use. There are so many of them. And I’m constantly throwing them out. It makes me want to never use a plastic spoon again. And when I went to the grocery store today, I carried out all my groceries in my hands without any bag at all. Crazy.

I’d recommend not thinking about it too much, just for your sanity’s sake. In fact, forget you saw this. Put a (plastic) bag over your head or something.

Here are some pictures I took.


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The Singing Clump

These days I stay up late and, in the mornings, I sleep late as well. It’s nice to have a long evening but sometimes I feel like I’m missing out. The days go by so quickly. Not long ago I woke up early for no reason at all. There was no sleep left in me. It was still dark outside. I crawled out of bed.

As I showered, I thought about how nice it would be to see the early morning light slipping in around the corners of the mountains to the east. There is a large lake nearby where I sometimes go to walk the dog.I thought about it for a few minutes. Then I woke up the dog and got in the car. We got there quickly. No freeway traffic at that hour. Can you say “we” when it’s just you and the dog? I guess you can. I’m pretty sure that’s how the dog thinks of it.

I took the Long Walk Route this time which included parking at the far end, hiking up to the top of two consecutive hills, down the other side, across the bridge, along the water, through the gate, up the hill. Stop. Enjoy the view. Walk back the way you came.

On the outbound leg of the walk, in the gray light, I passed a tall clump of reeds the size of a small house growing at the edge of the lake. At the time, I mostly ignored the reeds, although I did notice some coots and a family of mallards mucking around in the water. Noticing them reminded me to remind the dog that he isn’t allowed to eat coots or mallards.

On the way back, the sun was just coming up and there was beautiful red glow in the east. On the hillside above me, the first shadows of the new day were receding, burrowing back under the rocks and sagebrush. In the air, unseen, was the sound of a giant blackbird choir. I knew they were blackbirds, not because I could see them, but because I was raised well, brought up to recognize such things, for which I’m grateful. (Thanks, Dad, and happy birthday.)

By the sound of them, the blackbirds were happy to see the sun. I didn’t blame them. I was too.

I walked by the reeds at the edge of the lake and realized that the singing was coming from right out of the muddy heart of the clump. Not a bird in sight, but the air was full of their chorus. I stopped and watched for awhile. Not a sign of life from the bush. Except, of course, that song. There must have been hundreds of birds in there.

What does it all mean? I don’t know. But I’m glad I woke up early, even if I was tired all afternoon.


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