Editorial

Finding the Gaps
by Richard G. Johnstone Jr., Editor

Richard Johnstone
Richard Johnstone

Summertime and the living is … frenetic, frenzied, frazzled? Crazy, yes; crazed, sometimes; but almost never “easy.” Not in this digital day, this electronic era of instant communication, instant gratification, instant on, 24/7/365.

Phew. It makes me tired just thinking about the frantic pace of life here in the early years of the 21st century, especially as my family prepares to pursue our annual summer ritual: the grueling vacation road trip. You know, to a destination where the beds will not be as comfortable as home, where simple American food will be sold at haughty French-like prices, and where nerves will be frayed in the rush of  cramming as any memories as possible into our precious few days and you’ll enjoy every moment do you understand? 

Then, of course, will come the real fun: looking at the snapshots after the fact, oohing-and-aahing as we coat them with a thick glop of sentimental revisionism. Memories of bad food or backseat jousting between the kids will subside. The remaining residue will be pleasant, captured and preserved in living color. Didn’t we have the best time? What a great trip! Well, maybe this year will be different. Maybe we’ll be able to enjoy our journey to Maine as much as the destination itself.

Every age has its anxieties, of course, and goodness knows we’ve got a wealth of them nowadays between the world at large and the economy at home. But we’ve also got a bounty of blessings for which to be grateful: freedoms, opportunities, and resources that other people at other times and in other places can scarcely fathom. Yet, all too often, we treat these blessings as birthrights.

July 4th offers us another opportunity to count blessings, especially the blessing of freedom that was bought and has been paid for over and over at the absolute price of life and limb.

A smaller, but very tangible, blessing is the electric service your home enjoys. It’s a blessing wrought of cooperation in the 1930s and ’40s among residents of rural areas and small towns across the country, who overcame financial and logistical hurdles to bring electric service to areas that large power companies were not interested in serving. It’s a great story of rural men and women taking their destinies into their own hands, forming not-for-profit cooperatives to provide themselves with electric service. Three generations later, local people are still providing their neighbors with reliable, affordable electricity in almost a thousand communities across the country.

So as we enter the heart of summertime, remember to appreciate blessings and savor each moment, whether it’s on your back porch or in the front seat of your car traveling to some distant place. One of my favorite writers is Annie Dillard, who attended Virginia’s Hollins College and lived in the Roanoke Valley for several years in the 1960s and ’70s. Her most famous book is likely Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, which mixes nature writing, scientific observations and religious musings as it recounts her experiences living in the mountains of Virginia. Toward the end of the book, she talks about the importance of appreciating the moment, using Old Testament language about finding “the gaps,” or the ability to appreciate the divine in the everyday.

She writes: “Ezekiel excoriates false prophets as those who have ‘not gone up into the gaps.’ The gaps are the thing. The gaps are the spirit’s one home, the altitudes and latitudes so dazzlingly spare and clean that the spirit can discover itself for the first time like a once-blind man unbound.” She admonishes the reader to engage in this discovery of one’s self and one’s world and suggests that this journey of discovery will lead to “splitting the cliffs of mystery.” She closes the passage by writing, “This is how you spend this afternoon, and tomorrow morning, and tomorrow afternoon. Spend the afternoon. You can’t take it with you.”

So, find the gaps. Appreciate the moment, every moment, this season, this summer, always.

 

 

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