The Shire: Comfort, Hobbits, and the Human Race

Joshua 1:9

I’m almost finished with J. R. R.  Tolkien’s The Hobbit.  For those of you that haven’t taken the adventure through the middle earth through print or motion picture, I recommend it.  Not only is J. R. R. Tolkien’s world likely to pull you into a well-crafted story but our small, comfort-loving protagonist Mr. Bilbo Baggins will likely remind you of, well, you.

For consider your calling brothers (and sisters):  not many of you were wise according to worldly standards not many of you were powerful, not many of you were of noble birth.  But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong (1 Corinthians 1:26-7).

And such is the case with Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit living in a comfortable little hole, when Gandalf a powerful wizard finds him.  “I have not time to blow smoke-rings this morning,” Gandalf says to Mr. Baggins, “I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone” (Tolkien 4).  Mr. Baggins is surprised to see Gandalf for he is the wizard “responsible for so many quiet lads and lasses going off into the blue” (5).  Something inside Bilbo Baggins begs to take part in the wizard’s plans, but the rest of him wants to stay in the Shire.

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The Surface of the Moon

Aside

Don’t ask me why at 21 years old I already feel nostalgic.  I’ve been listening to 90’s (soon to be oldies) Latin rock, and I find myself knowing every word of these songs.  They remind me a lot about my teenage years which I recognized were practically last week.  My life since then has significantly changed and these songs have taken on a completely different meaning.  Sometimes I have to change the song because I recognize that I do not approve of its message.  But I do notice that love songs strike a certain chord inside of me.  Don’t get me wrong.  I am in love. But I’m in love with a man who loved me in my darkest.  I felt nothing for him and yet he gave everything for me.  My biggest fear is that I’ll never love him as much as he loves me, and yet I know that fear is the silliest thought that has ever hit me yet.  Perfect love casts out all fear.

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In the Name of Tradition

This was my first traditional thanksgiving dinner. Who says what makes up tradition anyway? When I tell you that there was a stuffing, sweet potatoes lathered in marshmallow melt, and a giant bird that took too long in the oven, you nod and tell me that’s tradition. I’ll tell you, I don’t know what we normally have for Turkey Day. Whatever we feel like eating that day, I guess. Tacos, menudo, maybe some pizza. We might have ordered Chinese one year. The menu always varies.
My Tia Mary decided to host thanksgiving dinner this year at her little bungalow in South Chicago Heights. She married an Italian-American guy with a fascination for Native-American artifacts. There’s a cabinet in their living room with Windex-ed glass and baked clay on the other side.
“Just because you made it doesn’t mean it should be fired,” said Billy about our creations last Thursday in the Ceramics studio. “Remember these things are going to outlive you. Choose carefully. Or I’ll have to choose for you.”
Back in Tia Mary’s house, I stared at Uncle Tony’s collection through the glass and wondered whose hands this pot outlived. Tia Mary noticed my interest and snickered. “I tell Tony I’m gonna take him to Mexico,” she mocks, “to the dump where they throw all the burnt and broken ollas.” She shook her head at the blackened pot made with coils of clay with careful hands.
While we waited for the bird to bake, Uncle Tony showed me his arrow head collection.
“I find them in the trails,” he said, “after it rains.” I wondered where the people are. I have my guess. He told me there are burial grounds. I wonder if he’s ever heard of Manifest Destiny. He knows a guy who found a skull after a storm in a construction site. Funny. The things that out-last us.
The bird comes out of the oven anticlimactically. We pray a blessing over it and devour it in the name of tradition.