Wednesday, May 6, 2015

THYME Magazine: The Bridge Builder's Tale II

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Chapter2ds

Let no man despise thy youth, but be thou an example of the believers in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity" -- 1 Timothy 4:12

All who have meditated on the art of governing mankind are convinced that the fate of empires depends on the education of youth" -- Aristotle

People always thought Kris was taller than her true height. When she stood next to her husband they assumed he must be seven feet tall. In actuality he was a little over six. Her fair skin and delicate features fooled you too. Under her girly exterior was a woman fit to "meet my mountains." Many of the strong people who had built the Texas Republic in the Nineteenth Century had come from Rockbridge County in Virginia. Sam Houston, "Big Foot" Wallace and a host of other heroes were raised in the rolling valley of Virginia. Kris grew up in their footsteps. She probably never thought she'd leave those gentle hills, but when Rupert Zimmerman sought a spiritual mentor for his Eden, he looked to a church with a history of sending ministers into frontier communities.

Walt Disney once set out to build an idealized version of the Nineteenth Century American town. He built "Main Street" in the center of Disneyland. Notably absent was any church. A 'cast' of characters portrayed a longed for Americana. Tourists paid good money to stroll in its ambiance, then returned home to face their own harsh realities. Such a world was only possible when portrayed by costumed characters funded by high priced tickets. Zimmerman might have simply been seeking a sober and diligent population for his empire, but he at least saw the hole in Disney's thinking. The service plaza was, without doubt, the center of Big Diomede's economic life. The little church in the biosphere was the heart of her life. Many considered Kris the reason. Her given name, Kristina Elaine, seemed to define her best. Meaning "Follower of Christ" and "Light," it defined precisely who she placed her identity in as well as her mission.

Zimmerman had funded Big Diomede's Pastorate well, but Kris was drawn to reach out to those in the pulse of her economy. A number of women who'd come to Big Diomede with the intention of circumventing Zimmerman's 'codes of conduct' now found themselves singing in the choir as a result of Kris' intentional friendship. Now they in turn were reaching out to newcomers with the same intentionality. The Westward push of the American frontier had come at a high cost for the women who followed their restless men. Loneliness and madness were not the stuff of Luis L'Amour novels, but they were the grim reality faced by many a pioneer wife. Kris made it a point to build bridges between souls, bringing together the families of Big Diomede in a circle, to protect them from the wild ravages of a lonely frontier. During the long Winters, she made sure the little community was not overcome by the surrounding darkness.

Summer brought families in minivans looking to drive over the end of the world. They'd often linger in Big Diomede's biosphere. The children would wander into Kris' open-air Summer Bible Schools, were she had created whole undersea worlds on painters' drop-cloths. Smiling belugas and orcas cavorted on fields of deep blue as Kris explained nature's wonders to "little pitchers with big ears." The biosphere's incarnation as a tourist destination was an afterthought, but the nature lessons seemed to be a well purposed institution. Parents would linger on the fringe of the group, finding the discussion far more informative and entertaining than the Park Service's "Ranger Talks," which always seemed to be a repackaging of the "Looming New Ice Age." Kris knew her stuff. A colleague had once dubbed her the "Critter Consultant" because of her knowledge and interest in the ways of nature. Kris had made sure butterflies and hummingbirds were introduced to the biosphere as a condition of her moving there.

Tourists and truckers alike stopped on Big Diomede for much-needed physical refreshment. They lingered there for something else. Disney's Main Street facades were fake. The upper stories were actually scaled down so that they "looked" like three and four story buildings. They were actually much shorter. On Big Diomede the buildings were small and honest, the creation of a Swedish designer for whom form followed function, but something about the community made it seem larger than it was. There was no architectural trickery involved. When your children practically drop their little electronic games to run into a world of true color and wonder, no hyperbole is necessary.

(to be continued) [click to read]

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Painting by Kristina Elaine Greer.

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