Saturday, July 23, 2005


Distraction is Distraction

Spring blew in, carried on a succession of intense storms. People complain that southern California has no seasons but the reality is that you have to look harder. The signs are there but you may have to dig for them.

True for most years, but this one was something else. Spring starts when the rain hits, and it started early and kept up. Chaparral plants are extreme opportunists, as am I, sensing with their slow processes the change in season and going for broke.

I rode into the mountains to record the process. Giant phacelia, in a normal year about a foot tall and therefore a true giant among chaparral flowers, this year reached four feet and showed in places I'd never seen it before. Everywhere I turned there were flowers, and the camera I'd bought with the macro lens just for this purpose was always ready.

Mountain biking started as a way to see the wild world, or at least as much of it remains around here. After God brought me back to himself riding was a way to have some time with him away from the telephone and computer, and we solved many problems while I was up there. I'd ride for a time, walk for a time, sit under a bush and think, praying for clarity and getting it under his skilled tutelage.

Toting a camera turned the whole thing into work. I couldn't let any flower go unphotographed. It was a handy distraction. God's voice faded. I got some good images, but they were expensive.

Distraction is a handy tool for one who needs not to care. When thoughts run too deep I can simply run: to photography, to sand sculpture, to reading. I guess I'm lucky I never became the type to get drunk as a distraction or I'd have died years ago. Lucky, or protected? I always chose distractions that weren't life-threatening, at least in the physical sense.

Spiritual health is another issue. Good distraction is still distraction, and God's touch helps center me. It also sets me aflame with a whole lot of barely comprehensible things. I don't really want to comprehend. He wants me to love? I can see where that path leads. Distraction is more attractive, and yet I remember the warmth of his gentle touch. I add the fire, remembering the implied judgment that God has never made. He calls and I drown the voice in things that are themselves good but used wrongly. Music, even church. Being busy.

Love means that God keeps his voice quiet. He's not a manipulator.

As my life improves the options for good distractions increase. Depression is a great reason not to do anything, or to concentrate on one or two things that are good enough to get me moving. Now there are more options and every minute can be filled with something that builds a fence between God and me.

Another balance. Fear against need, attraction and fear, gentleness versus perception and memory. Getting close to God is uncompromising, a call to growth that, like the flowers here in the mountains, can't be supported by anything but His constant rain of love. Distraction is a purposeful stepping on the new growth, and putting up an umbrella to preserve the desert.

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