Mrs. Blather and I headed up to Oklahoma City for the weekend with Female Offspring Unit #2. Our purpose: to visit the campus of the University of Oklahoma with a view toward FOU #2 going to school there in the fall.
As loyal readers know, she graduated from high school last May but delayed college for a year in order to spend the late summer and fall of ’09 working at an orphanage in Nairobi Kenya. She had previously been accepted to Belmont University in Nashville and Baylor, but somewhere on the plains of Africa she misplaced her certainty that either of these was where she was supposed to be.
This, in spite of the fact that the majority of her closest high school friends are already at Baylor and rooting mightily for her to join them this August. But as I mentioned in this post when she graduated, she’s never been one to follow the crowd or seek the comfort of the familiar.
So, on Saturday, the three of us got an official tour of the OU campus. Even in the lifeless gray of a damp January day, the Norman campus really is impressive. The preponderance of the older buildings reflect a Gothic architecture that isn’t overly heavy. The Bizzell Library is a great example:
Of course every college campus seems to have its share of buildings designed in what we now know to be the Dark Age of American architecture–the late ’60s and ’70s, and OU is no exception. On our tour of the campus, our guide pointed out the physical science building–this beauty:
Believe it or not, that’s not a tall building standing behind a squatty, windowless Soviet bunker. It’s actually a tall building sitting on top of a squatty, windowless Soviet bunker. Since the time of its construction in ’70-’71, this charmless hulk has been known to students and faculty as “The Blender.”
Our guide felt compelled to explain why the first 50 vertical feet of the building is trapezoidal block of concrete. He said that the building had been designed in 1969 as campus riots were commonplace all over the country–with even OU experiencing a bit of acid-fueled anti-war anarchy. The architects made the lower four floors windowless concrete to make it riot-proof. Hand to my heart.
At that point in the tour, I leaned over to my wife and commented (a little more loudly that I had intended), “Yeah, and now all those rioters are tenured faculty teaching sociology and history.”
She burst out laughing as did several of our fellow tour mates. The student leading the tour smiled nervously and just kept the tour moving.
In any event, it look increasingly likely that, come this fall, we’ll have one in Waco, one in Norman, and one at home. And that’s alright with me.
There are two great posts up over at The Corner which highlight the insanity and damage to which liberalism and political correctness invariably lead.
First Roger Clegg points out that the Obama/Holder Justice Dept. is about to start pressuring mortgage lenders to make the same kinds of bad loans that contributed to the current crisis in the first place.
John Derbyshire responds by pointing out some additional maddening examples–including the fact that, once those mortgage lenders comply with Justice Dept. demands, they’ll be accused by the same Civil Rights division of predatory lending when those loans go bad.
You’ve probably heard or read about the late-night scheduling trainwreck in progress over at NBC . It’s hard not to indulge in schadenfreude over any pain being felt by the parent company of MSNBC, however, I found the recent news release sent out by Conan O’Brien about the debacle a refreshing gust of good humor, transparency, and most of all, perspective.
His statement began:
People of Earth:
In the last few days, I’ve been getting a lot of sympathy calls, and I want to start by making it clear that no one should waste a second feeling sorry for me. For 17 years, I’ve been getting paid to do what I love most and, in a world with real problems, I’ve been absurdly lucky. That said, I’ve been suddenly put in a very public predicament and my bosses are demanding an immediate decision.
Makes me hope that the rumors about Fox offering him a show are true. You can read the whole thing here.
God has blessed me with a new book deal. Details forthcoming when I’m at liberty to share.
As prophesied in the post below, I loaded up the Expedition with some gear, firewood and food early Wednesday morning and pointed it south. My destination was a cabin in the Texas Hill Country about an hour west of San Antonio. Right about here: View Larger Map
This was my second annual beginning-of-the-year-wilderness-retreat-and-media-fast. The media fast part began as soon as I started my seven-and-a-half hour drive. No radio. No CDs. Just silence, my own thoughts, and my own voice in prayer or song. I’ve found that I spend the first 24 hours of these trips just going through withdrawal from being in a constant media/information cocoon.
That’s my cabin in the pic above. Not quite as spartan as my stone hut on the edge of Palo Duro Canyon but definitely “no frills.” I loved it. The weather was quite cold so I kept a big fire going every evening.
On my first full day I hiked nearby Garner State Park. The Frio River runs through the park and, being the product of spring-fed creeks throughout the surrounding hills, is crystal clear. I mean freakishly clear. The trails at Garner present a lot of steep climbs up rocky terrain. But when you get to the top, you are rewarded with views like this:
I understand this park is super crowded in the summer, but given the cold temps on this day, I only saw one other group of hikers. The same was true the next day when I drove to Lost Maples Natural Area–a gorgeous park named for the stand of Bigtooth Maples there. (Bigtooth maples aren’t supposed to be in Texas but these old men are believed to be a relics from the last ice age tucked away in a unique microclimate.) I saw one other human being all day.
Along the trail I came across several dripping springs which, given the temps, were creating icicles:
When I came across the spring above, I promptly dumped out both of my water bottles and refilled them from the spring. If you’ve never had natural spring water right out of the rock, there is no purer, sweeter water on earth.
This trip was rich and wonderful and soul-nourishing and spirit-strengthening in every way. Each night for entertainment I pulled up a chair by my fire and watched the dance of embers, sparks and flame. Occasionally I’d walk away and enjoy a different show under a clear, black, star-strewn sky–until the cold would send me back to the embrace of the fire.
Yes, I had hoped for better hiking weather, but then one of the points of all this is to leave comfort behind. Mission accomplished, I think:
Yes, I’ve been neglecting the old blather blog here through the holidays. My excuse? Well, it’s certainly not because I’ve been covered up with work. On the contrary, it’s been decades since I’ve had less going on. Things work wise are s – l – o – w. I mean slower than Joe Biden on NyQuil.
Nor is it because I’ve been doing lots of holiday feasting. Not only have I not gained a couple of pounds through the holidays as in past years, I’ve actually lost about 12 pounds since before Thanksgiving. My secret? I’ll let you know after I’ve lost another 12 or 15 . . . or 20.
We had the first white Christmas this area has seen in more than 80 years. Of course, this added an appropriate finishing touch to all the other charm and wonder that Mrs. Blather always brings to Christmas at our house. It’s amazing how much light and cheer she can create, even in the leanest and sternest of times.
On Christmas morning, our girls–Female Offspring Units 1, 2 and 3–gave us one of the greatest gifts we’ve ever received. In our stockings the wife and I each found three rolled up pieces of paper secured with ribbon. On them, the girls had handwritten long, sweet notes expressing admiration and gratitude. Those notes are now filed away among my most precious documents.
Long time readers will recall that I spent the opening days of 2009 on walkabout in Palo Duro Canyon in the Texas Panhandle. It was a long-overdue and badly needed few days of quiet, reading, prayer, hiking, stargazing, introspection, and personal inventory taking.
One of the most jarring yet beneficial aspects of the retreat was the complete cut off from all media noise. Until then, I hadn’t realized how I tend to spend every waking hour in a broadband media cocoon. The silence was good. I needed the silence. So I’ve scheduled another retreat for next week.
This time I’m off to the Hill Country of central Texas, northwest of San Antonio and southwest of Austin. Through the power of the internets, I found someone with a solitary cabin to rent a few miles outside of Utopia, Texas. From my cabin, it’s a short drive to two great hiking spots. On my first full day, I plan to hike Lost Maples Natural Area and the next day explore some of the trails at Garner State Park.
As last year, Mrs. Blather expressed some concern about me hiking steep canyon trails alone and in unfamiliar terrain. I reassured her by reminding her of all the Survivor Man episodes I’ve watched and therefore know how to build a fire using nothing but the power of my thoughts and know which grubs and slugs make the best eating.
These assurances didn’t seem to produce the level of comfort in her I had anticipated.
My hope is to come away with some fresh vision and a renewed sense of just what it is God wants to do with the gifts and desires He has deposited in me. You see, in a sense I’ve been hiking unfamiliar terrain for some time now. Having turned 50 a few weeks ago, I find myself in circumstances I’d never dreamed I’d be in at this stage of life. Frankly, I’d hoped for better, more comfortable times. But don’t we all.
It’s not just us, of course. For almost everyone I know, 2009 was tough. But for me, I’m leading my wonderful family up a new, unfamiliar trail.
I’ll let you know what we find around the bend.