Fathom Mag
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Published on:
August 26, 2019
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5 min.
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A Stream that Leads to the Gate and Beyond

About every two weeks our family makes a Costco run I say family but it’s usually me I find wandering that warehouse strangely relaxing I truly do every bit that is except for the people who have no sense of where their bodies are in space and so they stand in the center of the aisle they and their cart or buggy effectively blocking the rest of us from making our way toward the stuffed salmon maybe they’re frightened of edges possibly having rolled right off the bed multiple times as a kid so they keep to the middle a condition which I can be compassionate towards but still it’s like a burr under my saddle but other than that I adore Costco (stream of consciousness aren’t you not entertained?) 

Selah.

Once you’ve filled your cart or buggy and your card has been accepted by the staff who are a walking billboard for diversity then you and everyone else even those folks who careened off the beds as kids are herded in the direction of one exit there is no other way out it feels like a gate to me but folks who use fancy spiritual words would probably say its liminal you know a threshold but it feels like a gate to me where two people one on the right edge and one of the left edge no keep-to-the-middlers here stand and essentially pull a Gandalf whereby you shall not pass until you present to them your receipt and they quickly and skillfully do a visual comparison between what’s on your receipt and what’s in your cart or buggy they’ve had training I’ve asked before inquiring minds like mine want to know Gandalf is sort of a dated cultural reference isn’t he yes they’re actually more like a couple of Heimdalls guarding the Bifrost Bridge gosh didn’t you love Ragnarock?

Selah.

Being Heimdall at Costco’s exit gate is not gender specific but I have noticed it is age specific as in all the Heimdalls look retirement age or older which I realize is assuming and heaven help us if we assume anything these crazy days but what my eyes behold when I look and I’m pretty good at paying attention is gray hair wrinkled faces sparkly eyes and support sneakers they extend their age-spotted hand you present your receipt they work their mental math magic then with Hofund in tow actually it’s a Sharpie they draw a line through your receipt I’ve had red before and lime green once but most often its black.

Selah.

That usually black streaked receipt is your ticket to ride have a wonderful day thank you for shopping at Costco I love those Heimdalls and wouldn’t mind one day playing that role myself although I’d probably draw the line at support sneakers I kid you not there are some of those keep-to-the-middlers who try and stay in the middle lane as they exit the gate but the Heimdalls kindly yet firmly guide them to one edge or the other as you do have to choose and those folks submit because there is no other way home and that goes for us all God bless us every one.

Selah.

Sometimes when the line through the exit gate is long I lean on my cart or buggy my wife says cart I say buggy this is an ongoing spot of contention in our marriage I find myself thinking threshold thoughts I do admit liminal is a lovely word about how we’re all getting out of here and “no one gets out alive” as Harry Middleton’s mother used to tell him I hope you’re familiar with Middleton’s writing if you only read one of his books read The Earth Is Enough which tells the story of a twelve year old boy whose father went to Viet-Nam and never came home and in that afterward time spent a magical season with his uncle and grandfather in the Ozark mountains on a ramshackle farm and those men both have gray hair wrinkled faces sparkly eyes and love to fly fish they live like paupers and are content with a capital C.

Selah.

And not in a preachy way at all because God knows Harry’s grandfather and uncle both hate preachers but they gently coax young Harry into manhood the way a good fly fisherman lures a trout to rise because Harry is understandably sad his life in a very real sense has rolled right off the side of the bed and he’s keeping to the middle for dear life but they charm him to the edges both literal and figurative because at some point you have to make some choices because that’s the only way home and if you shouldn’t search out this book and read it and I totally understand as you’ve no doubt a laundry list of things to do as do I but at least please note this quote that sums up that gorgeous tale “There are so few left so few who believe the earth is enough.”

Selah.      

A friend of mine named Joel gave me that Middleton book he’s a good man a priest now in fact I haven’t seen him in years though as he moved away made a choice couldn’t stay in the middle any longer and I’m proud of him he inscribed the first page of that book with these words “I knew this book was destined for you from the moment I met you” and then a little farther down the page he writes this “And ain’t that life this side of the Jordan?” which is sorta churchy language but it’s also sorta true and we’re both older now gray hair wrinkles hopefully a spark or two still in the eye sockets and he’s a priest and I’m a well I’m not sure exactly what I am but maybe we’re both moving in the direction of becoming Heimdalls not guardians so much as guides to preach and write that congruence is important which yes is a fancy word but a close-to-the-bone word actually a word I learned from Eugene Peterson who I could totally see working the Costco exit gate and loving it God I do miss him for it means things match up or you practice what you preach or your receipt plumbs with what’s in your cart or buggy and that’s important because that makes all the difference in how you exit Costco or life for that matter.

Selah.

I know some of us are scared and huddling toward the middle and that’s so understandable these crazy days because the center feels as though it may not hold or its possibly already fallen apart but there’s beauty at the edges my friends but to get there you have to move one way or the other and that’s all about choices which we want to be unlimited but that’s not the world we live in the world we live in kindly but firmly says you have to move away from the center and make some choices and hopefully my friend Joel and I and others who believe there is a God and that God’s not us further believe in that God’s infinitely tender hand yes that’s a Rilke reference and that hand is extended to each of us not just at the exit but all along the way saying c’mon you can do this I know you’re scared but I’m here and it is more than possible to live a non-Instagrammy existence yet be content with a capital C and enjoy cold Ozark creeks running taut with trout and on occasion even stuffed salmon from Costco.

Selah.

There are so few left so few who believe God’s unchanging hand is enough thanks for reading this stream have a wonderful day it’s called a buggy baby I just know it.

John Blase
John Blase preached for over a decade but then he thought he’d go where the money is, so he started writing poetry. He’s a lucky man with a stunning wife and three kids who look like their mother. He lives out West but he’ll always be from the South. His books include The Jubilee: Poems, Know When To Hold ’Em: The High Stakes Game of Fatherhood, and All Is Grace: A Ragamuffin Memoir (co-written with Brennan Manning).

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