This past week, I spent a marvelous time exploring parts of Oregon and even more of Washington.
Now, as I sit typing in a cozy studio bungalow by myself, I can hear the ocean from Ediz Hook just a few feet away. I can hear a friendly bay horse whinnying for attention not far behind me, and a variety of birds (even an owl!) fussing to their neighbors. I now love the smell of real pine trees (a novelty in Dayton, Ohio), and the Olympic mountains make a fantastic backdrop to this serene setting. I feel at peace. I feel at home.
Yet, my family and most of my friends are back in Dayton, Ohio. My home in Ohio is far from the majestic mountains and relatively peaceful sea of Puget Sound, but it is hardly without charms of its own. The friendly smell of backyard firepits and evening grills, the sound of my children laughing and jumping through a sprinkler, my lovely garden and collection of books, and family and friends who are welcome to stop by any old time (and do!) I have missed while here.
In both Oregon and Washington I have met new friends, visited with family, and enjoyed aspects of nature I’ve not been able to enjoy in a very long time. I feel stronger than I have in years, and I’ve done much, much more than I have in years. I feel more peaceful and adventurous than I have in years. I feel invigorated, renewed. I have changed in subtle but important ways this week, and am excited about those changes.
The sea and the pines call me to stay, but my children and family are calling me back. Which way is home?
I love, and am attracted to, shiny objects. Midnight stars, colorful beads, glassware, crystals, the sun glinting off water. In a similar fashion, much of humanity is attracted to shiny people, but be warned: All that glitters is not gold.
Shiny people and their audience tend to trounce logic and reason to the hurt and chagrin of everyone, but especially logical people. There is no room for them at the inn, because they are most likely to tell people exactly what they don’t want to hear, that the shiny person’s foundation is not solid rock but weak infrastructure, and too many people are gathering on the balcony. Such wet blankets are forced out of the happy group, to wander in seclusion.
Shiny people dress in literally shiny outfits with lots of glitter, sequins, bright colors, and power suits. They surround themselves with plenty of actual shiny objects, the more over-the-top the better (golden toilets, for example). Shiny people love a good show, and their audience loves a good show too. That’s entertainment.
Shiny people seem to know inherently how to charm others (or blind them) with their glitz and glamour, and those who love it are like moths to a flame. Just like the basic biology concept of symbiosis, the one can’t exist without the other. Audience and performer all share a high of sensationalism, surrealism, excitement, and mystery.
This isn’t about one-time performances in which you leave on a high note with the thought, “That was fun! I’d like to do that again, someday,” but “Wow! I can’t wait to see what they do next!” Once an audience member has invested some time and money into a shiny person, the superior feeling they get from being associated with them is nigh impossible to break. It takes a personal catastrophe (others’ tragedies involving the shiny person in question, can be reasonably explained away) to shock an audience member back into reality.
Shiny people are like the fusion reactor in Spider-Man 2 (2004); they build their glow and following slowly, but soon they are radiating like the sun with thousands or millions of followers. The more energy they receive from their crowds, the hotter and brighter and more unstable shiny people become, until they finally explode. An explosion from a shiny person necessarily heaves debilitating, even deadly (financial, emotional, spiritual, relational, even sometimes physical) shrapnel to their unsuspecting crowd. And just like Doc Ock’s fusion reactor, the moment a shiny person loses all control is typically unpredictable.
My oldest daughter came home with a simple glow stick bracelet from her teacher for Valentine’s Day, with the accompanying message, “You light up my life!” Tonight she wanted to activate it, but upon doing so, she found that only the tip came to life in a neon blue. She was of course disappointed and began to complain, when I took the little glow stick and said, “Follow me. I want to show you something.”
We walked back to her room and I said, “This little broken glow stick doesn’t look like much when all the lights are on, does it?”
“No,” she sighed.
“Well what if I turned out the lights and shut the door?” I turned out the light, and the little broken glow stick seemed instantly brighter. I shut the door, and in the complete blackness, the little broken glow stick looked like a beautiful beacon.
“Wow,” my daughter admitted, “why is it so different?”
“Because of contrast,” I replied, leaning on my photography knowledge. “The bigger the difference between the light and the dark, the brighter the light appears.”
I went on to make my moral point, “Good is like this tiny, ½ inch bit of light; you may not notice it, or think it makes much difference when there are many other “lights” around, but this broken bit stands out for all to see, when surrounded by darkness.”
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5
See more “misty mountain” photos from my trip here
These communities rely almost solely on the dying coal industry that operates mines in the Appalachia mountains throughout Kentucky, Southern Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Not only do these areas struggle with economic depression, and an aging population, the heroin epidemic has hit these communities particularly hard as well.
The mountains here have been dynamited over the years to make room for better, wider, and safer roads. Shale rock breaks easily, so “steps” and ditches have been formed to prevent accidents from falling boulders and rock-slides.
Remains of the Sidney Coal Mining Company, now defunct. Images of the dying coal mining industry are tucked everywhere in the Appalachia mountains near Pikeville, KY.