Wednesday, May 27, 2015

THYME Magazine: The Bridge Builder's Tale V

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor


Posterity, you will never know how much it has cost my generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make good use of it" -- John Quincy Adams

Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will" -- George Bernard Shaw

Elizabeth Zimmerman O’Malley was the youngest of Rupert and Pat’s three children. The older two had been more like Pat. Rupert loved them dearly, but blessed them as they chose different paths from his. His oldest daughter Anna was a gifted teacher. Anna’s children were the delight of Zimmerman’s life. He loved to converse with them. Sandy, his middle child, was a noted travel writer and photographer. Elizabeth was her father’s little shadow. If Rupert sketched a design, Elizabeth had to try to draw it better. Zimmerman quit his job working for another super ego when Elizabeth was young and for a time worked out of a home office where Elizabeth sat at a little desk next to her father’s big table. Zimmerman came from an era when design required drawing by hand. He’d often add texture with crosshatching or stipple with a pencil.

Once a client of Zimmerman’s came into the shop as little Elizabeth was hammering away at her paper with a pencil. “What are you drawing, Elizabeth?” She had asked. “I’m drawing STIPPLE!” was the little girl’s reply. As a girl she copied her father, but as a young woman she excelled him. Being Rupert Zimmerman’s assistant was not for the faint-hearted. He’d been through dozens of them by the time Elizabeth arrived in Nome. Zimmerman trusted his nascent ideas to scarcely anyone. Indeed, his own wife Pat wondered at the rabbit trails of her husband’s mind. Elizabeth was strangely comfortable there.

As a boy, the creative and uber-sensitive Zimmerman had been taught by nuns. One of their favorite pastimes it seemed was to slip up on little boys doodling in class and rap them on the knuckles with a ruler. Use the wrong size pencil and they’d break it over your hand. There was a place behind Rupert’s peripheral vision where if a person entered he would freeze in whatever he was doing, a holdover from those days... unless it happened to be Elizabeth. When he became known for his successes, young people would want to come and learn by watching Zimmerman work. Often one would try to get closer and look over his shoulder. Rupert would freeze in his tracks... then say tersely: “only Elizabeth is to stand there.”

As a boy Zimmerman drew picture after picture of amazing things he wished to build. Cities on the Moon... space stations... outposts in faraway wastelands all flowed from the boy’s hand. After a teacher had unceremoniously ripped up one of his drawings, Zimmerman hid his work under his bed. He grew up to work making other people’s dreams into reality but somehow he never forgot his own. Where Zimmerman was strong on hard line, his daughter was strong on form and color. Together they were masters of the narrative that would become the Bering Strait Bridge. When potential investors saw their work, they were reassured by the depth of it.

Rupert, Elizabeth and Martin plugged on. Together they brought a great work to fruition. As Barry Soetoro’s policies mired the economy of a great nation, some like Pat started quietly storing food and silver, preparing for the worst. Some, like Zimmerman, looked to history as they planned for the future. Most thought them a bit crazy though. Post-war Alaska, however, needed a great work to hold on to. They were grateful to Zimmerman for providing it.

The opening of the Bering Strait Bridge and the creation of the Siberian Autonomous Republic opened up a great new frontier. The Confederation of the two Autonomous Republics possessed more potential energy resources than Saudi Arabia. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a huge stretch of nothing, suddenly blossomed with new exploration rigs drilling for oil. The funny thing is that the rigs themselves were almost unnoticeable and the wildlife flourished. Zimmerman’s fortunes grew with the region and now Elizabeth was able to invest the Zimmerman fortune improving lives around the world.

Where her father saw the potential to build, Elizabeth saw the potential to invest in people’s lives. In her mind there was no point in constructing a great bridge if people had no ability to produce crops or goods to ship across it. She was saddened that so many people in the lower 48 were living on government handouts and no longer producing things. What she saw in the rest of the world broke her heart.

(to be continued) [click to read]

The Big Diomede Service Plaza.

Map of Connecting Highways. Graphic by Bob Kirchman

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

THYME Magazine: Restoring All Things

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume IX, Issue XXII

G-d's Audacious Plan
to Change the World
Through Ordinary People

The only two things that can satisfy the soul are a person and a story; and even a story must be about a person. Men... are much oftener led by their hearts than by their understandings." -- G. K. Chesterton

Modern Evangelical Christians often miss the power of the story" -- Warren Cole Smith and John Stonestreet

After I had completed the manuscript for 'Pontifus, the Bridge Builder's Tale in Three Parts,' I discovered Restoring All Things by Warren Cole Smith and John Stonestreet. It was as if these two scholars had seen my feeble attempt to bring redemption into a contemporary (albeit slightly futuristic) narrative. They see the dark and hopeless narrative of the culture and counter it with stories of hope and heroism by quite ordinary people.

The language of the Church often seems like a foreign tongue to those in contemporary culture. Indeed, in the afterglow of great revivals, Christian thought was present in the culture. One would know some Biblical wisdom as part of the narrative. Today the Church is speaking into a culture that has relegated Christian ideas and ideals to a place outside the discussion. The authors note how C. S. Lewis: "...had the challenge of building the bridge between the culture of Oxford and Cambridge and the culture of the Church. These cultures were worlds apart by his time." 

Lewis was 'bilingual,' so to speak, understanding the language of the Church as well as the language of the academy. He was able to present a world unseen to those in the secular academy. He and his fellow 'Inkling,'  J. R. R. Tolkien opened new vistas to mankind in the Twentieth Century. I am eternally grateful to them.

But the real beauty of this little book is that it is NOT merely a catalyst for intellectual discussion, but a call to action. Smith and Stonestreet show how Christians, ORDINARY Christians, ministered to those in their own communities. It was Christians who cared for their neighbors during plagues. History is full of the stories of the Church meeting human needs. The Saints of the past lay out a pattern for compassion today!

It is the Church that will continue to make the case for the value of all lives... making the case that if we want to protect children from abuse, we will protect them in the womb as well. The authors quote the oft repeated statistic that divorce rates are about the same for Christians as for Non-Christians and dig deeper, finding a significant difference for those who actually adhere to Scriptural authority. The oft quoted statistic includes ANYONE who merely identifies as a Christian. The reality is where Scriptural principles are the benchmark, there is significantly LESS divorce.

In fact, the Church can do the world a great service by 'Giving Marriage to the World Once Again.' Indeed, a world that has cheapened and discarded the institution simply needs to see more of the lovely thing it was created to be.

My favorite chapter is: 'Coloring Outside the Lines,' and it describes how Christians have cherished learning and innovation through history. The Church can provide meaning, purpose and foundations for the acquiring of knowledge. Though we often associate Christian curriculum today with notions such as: "color the grass green, the tree trunk brown..." the truth is that the Church historically has led in education, even establishing the great universities.

Today the Church must reengage in G-d's work to Remake the world. Smith and Stonestreet provide the workbook; and illustrate it profusely with stories of ordinary people doing just that.


Special Book Section

Three weeks ago we began the serial presentation of "Pontifus, The Bridge Builder's Tale in Three Parts." [1.] This week we present the fourth chapter of the first book: "Dinner Stop at the End of the World" below. This special book section will continue through the Summer. The full publication of THYME will resume in the Fall.

THYME Magazine: The Bridge Builder's Tale IV

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor


We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope." -- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

What we obtain too cheaply, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a price upon its goods, and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated." -- Thomas Payne

Like the Transcontinental Railroad of old, the Bering Strait Bridge was forged out of the ashes of a time of great Chaos. Alaska was now an autonomous republic, much like Texas in the Nineteenth Century. When United States President Barry Soetoro brokered an unprecedented third term, he then attempted to defund the bulk of the American military. Here he made a fatal miscalculation. The man who had no stomach for extended conflict, who often went to bed when he should have gone to the situation room, forgot that the men and women in his command had no such misgivings. All it took was a handful of generals who quietly slipped to Alaska with the codes for the missiles and Soetoro was their hostage.

Taking a lesson from America's bloody Civil War, the generals were quick to offer terms of peace tailor-made for Soreto's constitution. Alaska would become an autonomous state and provide basic security along with the United States Armed Forces. The rift that had long existed in the so-called 'United States' was now official. Soetoro's 'Blue Party' had promised citizens scores of benefits, all to be provided by the government. When the bill came in, there was no longer a thriving economy to pay for it. Gradually Soetoro's regime had to limit what they could give away. An economy in shambles looked to men and women who seemed to come from another era. Those men and women would carve a new nation out of a wilderness.

A brief time of conflict did ensue. Soetoro loyalists commandeered some landing craft. Coming ashore at night, they sacked and burned Juneau before moving on on to attack Anchorage, hoping to isolate and destroy the pipeline terminal at Valdez. General Palin created the ruse of a man unable to direct his troops, drawing the Soetoro forces ashore with the appearance of poor defenses, he hammered them from the hills surrounding Anchorage. Although Anchorage burned, the economic lifeline of Valdez remained unscathed.

The loyalists blew up every bridge and communication tower they could. They soon came to the realization that in destroying Juneau, they had failed to destroy the Alaskan government. Under the red crosses on tents outside Fairbanks, deep inside Alaska, the business of the young republic went on. Cell towers might have been taken out but ragged children ran to and fro with important communications. The President of the young republic shared a tent with war wounded and took a turn at tending for their needs. Citizen-soldiers bolstered the ranks of American troops who had followed the renegade Generals. They were ragged and often had to provide their own supplies and ammunition. In the end they proved to be a "well organized militia."

The defense of the important port of Valdez was their shining moment. As Juneau and Anchorage smoldered in ruins, Soetoro loyalists tried to circumvent the naval vessels protecting the oil terminal. In their overconfidence they tried to move inland to destroy Alaska's economic lifeline. They were met by the ragged men who had been all too easy to rout earlier... now in the mountains where the same ragged men prevailed. German general Rommel had traveled to Virginia to study Thomas Jackson's Valley Campaign before he became known as the 'Desert Fox.' Alaska's General Palin was, if anything, a more thorough student of Jackson. Alaska might have provided a more limited infrastructure for troop movement than Nineteenth Century Virginia, but her mountains held way more secret passages.

In the American Civil War, Thomas Jackson had enjoyed exellent communications using signal posts such as Massanutten Mountain in the great Valley of Virginia to relay his important messages. Alaska presented a vast array of “signal knobs” for a military engineer with the abilities of Martin O’Malley, Palin's chief strategist. Yupik Inuit specialists joined the effort, communicating in their native language at times. Soetoro's forces couldn't crack the code. Palin always was aware of their positions. By the time they realized it was a Native American language, the war was over. The defenders of the Alaska Republic dug in for a long fight, remembering the lessons of the Civil War, but the Soetoro forces had no great generals and Soetoro himself had little taste for war, especially war that could not be quickly won. His unmanned drones were innefective in the North, where men who honed their marksmanship hunting polar bear were quick to pick them off. After the tide turned at Anchorage, peace was negotiated.

At the battle of Anchorage Rupert Zimmerman, who was no soldier but a strong defender of his land and family, was wounded. This requiring the amputation of his right leg. Recuperating in exile in Nome, he began sketching his great bridge. A new republic, resource rich but lacking connection to the rest of the world, was waiting for him. General Palin's chief engineer, Martin O'Malley, was also in Nome. The dashing young Captain took a liking to Zimmerman's daughter Elizabeth. Elizabeth had left her native Virginia to be at her father's side. Elizabeth was a gifted artist and a visionary in her own right. An interesting charrette ensued as Zimmerman's great bridge came to life before their eyes.

Zimmerman found in Martin a man of the stature of Claudius Crozet, Napoleon's engineer who came to Virginia in discrace after planning the Battle of Waterloo. Crozet had built railroads and canals. He built the Blue Ridge Tunnel through the mountains with an army of 2000 Irishmen. O'Malley, the descendent of railroad builders, joked that he'd require three times as many Frenchmen to accomplish his task. Martin and Rupert set to work to create drawings and raise capital. With solid commitments in place, the men made a trip to Wales to survey the stage upon which they would begin their magnum opus.

Although they almost lost their lives when their tent burned on the tundra above Wales, Rupert and Martin survived to begin their great work. Returning to Wales sick and disoriented, the men recovered rapidly as they began assembling resources to build the Bering Strait Bridge. The genius of Zimmerman and O’Malley was in convincing their backers that they really didn’t have any genius. What they were building was nothing that hadn’t been done before. They referenced the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-tunnel built in the nineteen-sixties in Virginia. That span was 26 miles long and connecting Alaska to Siberia simply required two spans of similar length joined end to end at the Diomede Islands. What they left out of their narrative was the relative difficulty of what they were proposing. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-tunnel was essentially built on pilings driven into the sandy floor of the Chesapeake Bay. The Bering Strait was infinitely more complex, a wild undersea topography that was complicated by plate tectonics.

Seven men had died building the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-tunnel. Assembling a bridge exposed to the whims of severe weather had its risks. Zimmerman came up with the idea of a tethered pontoon bridge prefabricated in sections in the relative safety of shipyards. Seagoing tugs would maneuver the pieces of Rupert’s game into place and robotic submersables would place the cable stays to keep it in place. Another problem of the Bay Bridge-tunnel was exposure to the elements of travelers on the bridge. A truck had once crashed into the Bay after apparently being struck by lightning! Wind sometimes wreaked havoc on large trailers. Bering Strait Bridge traffic would move in covered roadways. Assembly in shipyards created an economy that allowed for such upgrades.

The only elements of Zimmerman’s plan that had to be fabricated on-site were the high suspended portions to allow for the passage of large ships. O’Malley designed two -- one in each long span, feeling that would be more than adequate. At the last minute the Russians threw a wrench in the process, demanding another high crossing on their side of the Date Line in the span between the Diomedes. O’Malley worked out a design change but stretched the construction budget over the limit in doing so. Zimmerman was furious. His investors were becoming uneasy. In the end he gave the Russians the shortest suspension span possible.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

THYME Magaine: A Love Song

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume IX, Issue XXI

The Story Behind the Photo

The photo above is one I took of the morning flag raising ceremony at Capon Springs, West Virginia. Every morning, when the resort is in operation, the owners will select a child to raise the flag. I readied myself on the third floor porch of the Annex building, which is now the main building since the Mountain House, which was much larger, burned in 1911. I must have been distracted somehow, but the child stepped up rather quickly to raise the flag. I literally shot the photo without thinking.

When I looked at the captured image, I saw the shaft of light. Then I was washed by a great flood of emotion as the light seemed to be as a message of comfort from the Divine. Indeed He hears our prayers for our beloved land. He cares for us. Don't give up. Fight the good fight. I offer you 2nd Chronicles 7:14:

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."

Yes, our problems are great... seemingly insurmountable, and yet I remember that band of men under George Washington at Valley Forge and the Battle of Trenton. The odds weren't so good then either. In 1985, Katharine Lee Bates visited Pike's Peak. It was an arduous journey but the sight of the great mountain stirred her to write this great love song... but it is more than a love song, it is a prayer. Read the verses we seldom sing and you will see her great prayer for this country.

America the Beautiful
Words by Katharine Lee Bates,
Melody by Samuel Ward

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare of freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam 
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!


Special Book Section

Two weeks ago we began the serial presentation of "Pontifus, The Bridge Builder's Tale in Three Parts." [1.] This week we present the third chapter of the first book: "Dinner Stop at the End of the World" below.

THYME Magazine: The Bridge Builder's Tale III

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor


They shall bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing." -- Psalm 92:14

The spirit of man is more important than mere physical strength, and the spiritual fiber of a nation more than its wealth." -- Dwight D. Eisenhower

Most innovations like the Transcontinental Railroad and the Bering Strait Bridge spread a blight across the landscape they traversed. In the 1890's, "Hell on Wheels" came to be the term used to describe the loosely formed "towns" that blighted the building of the great railroads. Rupert Zimmerman would have none of that on his Bering Strait Bridge. He was not so great a moralist as much as one who realized the toll lawless frontier society exacted from its victims. Knowing that the vilest of human or devilish institutions rush in to fill such a void, Zimmerman had sought to proactively fill it. His biosphere city on Big Diomede was the prototype. Kris had followed her husband to the end of the world to co-pastor the church there. Zimmerman had financed the whole community, including the church. He had seen the folly of making profit at the expense of human suffering, indeed HE had profited at the expense of others. As he learned of the evils of human trafficking and modern day slavery, he had become something of a 21st Century John Newton, loathing his former life and seeking an antidote. He couldn't control the follies of man but he could provide a healthy environment, at least along the tolled portion of the Bering Strait Bridge Highway.

The biosphere enclosed a garden-like eden for her citizens. Kris had had a hand in designing the parsonage, one of the first hand-built houses in any part of the Bering Stait Complex. It was something wrought out of that beautiful classicism that characterized American cities before the Great Depression and the World War. Zimmerman, who'd shamelessly utilized prefabricated structures, even revitalizing a ship interior manufacturing plant in Virginia for his larger buildings, seemed to sense the toll such industrialism took on the human soul. Here on Big Diomede he sought to find and hopefully plant something far more enduring than even his great bridge. Seeking the company of men like Dan Cathy and David Green, who saw their companies as a means to more than a profit, Zimmerman sought expression for his own altruistic purpose in the marvel he had wrought. His Great-Great Grandfather had made his fortune building Chicken Coops. Once a necessity for shipping poultry, they were now seen only as 'Americana' decor in restaurants. His Father had worked in the shop before it closed down and he had passed one story, that of being mentored by Cliff Aylor, a man who taught him how to save the odd pieces of belt lacing and relace drive belts utilizing every last piece. Grandpa was a hard man when it came to wasting nothing. But the words of Cliff's that had become inspiration were these: "Your Grandfather loaned me the money for my first house."

Loaned me the money for my first house." Clearly there was a profit one could derive from business that could not be tallied on a balance sheet. Zimmerman ached to see something bigger than himself emerge from his endeavors. The more he tried to deny it, the more it seemed clear as a bell that his great bridge was not a work of Zimmerman, but of an unseen hand that moved human history. Human history was not and endless cycle, but a line. There was intelligence and purpose drawing that line. Just like the line Zimmerman had drawn across Alaska and Siberia, it led to a destination. Kris' first house was hand-built, but not on site. Her dream design had been cut and fabricated in a production center in Virginia by craftsmen under the supervision of an innovative Swede. The man was an old friend of Zimmerman's and cast in the mold of his Grandfather. Walls and framework were expertly fitted by master craftsmen in Kris' Mother state, packed tightly in a trailer and assembled carefully by those same craftsmen in the wilds of Big Diomede. Zimmerman loved the thought of following in his Great-Great Grandfather's legacy. The gratitude in the young couple's eyes was the bonus Zimmerman hoped for, even knowing that their gratitude was directed to an unseen hand.

(to be continued) [click to read]

Kris' house on Big Diomede. Graphic by Bob Kirchman

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 Copyright © 2015, The Kirchman Studio, all rights reserved

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

THYME Magazine: The Future of Humanity

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume IX, Issue XX

Where are the Christians setting out the huge constructive vision of what the Gospel means for the human future?" -- Oz Guiness

What is the Future of Christian Faith?
by Intervarsity Press

Is it possible for society to have redemption and renewal? Is the Christian faith still relevant in the very global world of today? Os Guinness, in his new book Renaissance, declares a hopeful yes. We are in a time of renewal, of change, of continuous reformation, and, as Os writes in chapter one, “a movement that is led by the Spirit of God, which involves the people of God returning to the ways of God and so demonstrating in our time the kingdom of God, and not in word only but in power and with the plausibility of community expression.”

Although we are in a time when the problems of western worldliness — exploitation of the poor, prevalence of prosperity gospel, to name a few — seem to be overtaking the church and the world more broadly, Os believes there is hope for the future. Throughout the book, he describes how the Christian faith influenced and shaped culture over the last two hundred years. Christians have established universities, built great cathedrals, brought literacy to cultures, and generally displayed God’s goodness through art, literature and science. Drawing on great thinkers like John Baillie, Christopher Dawson, C. S. Lewis, Thomas Cahill and others, Guinness shows that the church is in a moment of great transition, but it has been here before. In light of this, readers will see that now is the time to rely wholly on God’s provision, knowing that with it the Christian faith can continue to be the cultural influence it’s always been.

For decades Os Guinness has been one of the most nuanced, realistic, yet hopeful voices calling Christians to engagement with culture,” Tim Keller writes. “This latest volume from him should not be missed by anyone. Os summarizes some of the most helpful recent discussions, updates many of his own lifelong challenges to the church, and provides many fresh insights.”

Renaissance leads readers back to a center point and challenge for the faith of the future. Os writes, “[This challenge] is, I believe, that we trust in God and his gospel and move out confidently into the world, living and working for a new Christian renaissance and thus challenge the darkness with the hope of Christian faith, believe in an outcome that lies beyond the horizon of all we can see and accomplish today.”

Os closes each chapter with thought-provoking discussion questions and brief, stirring prayers that challenge and motivate readers to take action, however dark the times may seem.

Skye Jethani, executive editor at Leadership Journal, declares this book an essential resource: “Os helps us see our present circumstances in the right light. He illuminates why the catastrophizing done by many Christians amid cultural change is unwarranted, but also soberly addresses the genuine challenges we face with new clarity and gravity. Most helpful of all, Os directs our sight back to Christ, the author and completer of our faith, in whom we find both the courage and the resources to be his people in our time. You will not regret a single minute invested in this book.”

Interview with Oz Guinness [click to listen]


Special Book Section

Last week we began the serial presentation of "Pontifus, The Bridge Builder's Tale in Three Parts." [1.] This week we present the second chapter of the first book: "Dinner Stop at the End of the World" below.

THYME Magazine: The Bridge Builder's Tale II

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor


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]

Painting by Kristina Elaine Greer.

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