When I attended college over 40 years ago I chose many literature courses for my elective classes. My belief was that good literature gave a window into the human mind and heart. So, in addition to courses on Scripture and theology, I studied, Shakespeare, American Literature, Greek Literature, Poetry, and other courses which helped me look into the human condition.
One poem I remember reading, and with which I was quite a bit overwhelmed, was “The Waste Land,” by T.S. Elliot. My professor, Dr. Erhard Essig, taught us that this poem showed how modern society has become a wasteland, a place where life shrivels and dies. That view of our world is pretty depressing, but the sin and the corruption we live with leads me to often agree with Elliot’s assessment.
You know that some who live in the lower 48 see Alaska as a “wasteland.” When the United States purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867 it was called “Seward’s Folly,” and Seward’s Ice Box.” And there are many who still see our far north state as a wilderness of ice and snow, and as a place they would not want to go. I have had two pastors tell me they would not consider a call to serve a congregation in Alaska because their wives would not go.
Yet, in this supposed wilderness, the beauty of God’s creative hand shines forth. Sometimes we gaze in awe at the majesty of the mountains. Sometimes the alpenglow takes our breath. And sometimes the beauty of God’s hand surprises us.
This summer Kathy and I were delighted and surprised at the splendor of God by a beautiful “volunteer” in our garden. Over the years many plants have sprung up in the garden, even though we didn’t plant them. For example, I have picked much spinach which I did not plant, but grew from the seed of previous year’s crop. Right now I have a strawberry growing in my lettuce. And raspberries often spread and grow, even where they are not wanted. But, in my lettuce row I had an unexpected plant grow tall this year. At first I thought it might be a sunflower. But then an attractive pink flower bloomed halfway up the stalk. Next, more blooms showed themselves. I didn’t know what this plant was. Eva Cohnen Brown told me it was a Hollyhock. Kathy and I have really enjoyed this beautiful, unexpected flower growing in what some call “Seward’s Icebox.”