What's Tony Thinking

This, That and Another Thing


Saints . . . I liked this from a commentary I am reading on the New Testament Letter to the Hebrews.  . . . ‘Saints,’ (one theologian described as) “figures out of the Christian past whose lives have been insufficiently researched.” A lot of “saints” getting researched these days.

Among them, Marcus Whitman, the 19th century missionary to the Oregon Territory after whom Whitman College, and quite a few other things, e.g. “Wallowa-Whitman National Forest” have been named. Blaine Harden, a great writer, has done the research. His 2021 book Murder at the Mission: A Frontier Killing, Its Legacy of Lies, and The Taking of the American West makes clear that Whitman as a saint or hero is largely a figment of pious imagination and clever marketing, in other words, lies.

Whitman’s statue has been removed from the U.S. Capitol., replaced by that of the Native American activist, Billy Franks. What’s an institution like Whitman College, which is really a great school, to do? Maybe embrace the idea that we are saved by God’s grace not by our merits?

Some friends have been trading recommendations for on-line TV shows. Mine was Ted Lasso. Ted is my kind of saint, truly loving but not exempt from life’s suffering and strangeness or his own fuck-ups.

Anyhow, if you haven’t seen this show, which is on Apple TV, it is absolutely wonderful. Ted is a minor American football coach who has been hired to coach an English soccer team, a sport about which he knows nothing. (Story there, but more than we want to take on here.)

Ted is an embodiment of grace. Never giving up on people. Seeing them in a hopeful light. But more than that, he suffers — in a weird 21st century way — for their healing, for their redemption.

Locally, Kokanee (salmon) are running, that is, spawning up the Wallowa River, a sure sign of fall. Kokanee are a land-locked salmon species. They live, among other places, in Wallowa Lake where some grow to fairly prodigious size.

In the fall they run upriver, flashes of red-orange in the blue-green waters of the Wallowa River. They are every bit as colorful as the maples of New England.

A couple years ago I did a painting of the spawning Kokanee. It appeared in a show here in Joseph, Oregon a year ago. It now hangs in a home in Sun Valley, Idaho.

I’m heading into the back country tomorrow. A three-day, two-night backpacking trip in the Wallowa/ Eagle Cap Wilderness.

The first leg is up the East Fork of the Wallowa River trail to Aneroid Lake. From there we go over Tenderfoot Pass (8500′ elevation). Then into the Imnaha River watershed. First along the North Fork of the Imnaha, which is joined by the Middle Fork, then the South Fork, at which point it is simply “The Imnaha River.” We come out, God willing, on Saturday at the Indian Crossing Campground.

The challenge, at this time of the year, will be the cold of the nights. It will certainly be in the mid-thirties, but could drop to the mid-twenties. I’ve been snowed out of the Eagle Cap in August in the past. We hope for a nice autumn hike.

Friends who have been in that (Imnaha) area recently tell me that we can expect to hear wolves howl and elks bugle. Isn’t that great?

To me such experiences constitute a “Simeon Moment.”  Simeon was one of the ancients who hung out at the Temple in Jerusalem (Luke 2) for it had been promised to him that he would not see death before he would see the face of the Messiah. When Joseph and Mary brought infant Jesus to the Temple for his dedication, Simeon took him in his arms and said, “Now, master, let your servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen your salvation . . .”

There are moments, experiences, aren’t there, when you feel, “If I die now, it’s okay. I have seen beauty of thy salvation . . . let your servant depart in peace.” Okay, we may have our fingers crossed, but still there are such moments, so full, so beautiful, that we feel if we had to go right then it would be okay, maybe better than okay.






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