With the brakes of the semester squealing on the tracks, you get some more free time for personal reading. This evening I finished a book by Alan Fry called The Ranch on the Cariboo. I’d read it once a few years ago, enjoyed it, and this time through I appreciated it even more. It’s an autobiographical account of the ten years of the author’s life between the ages of twelve and twenty-two, many of those years spent working on ranches throughout the Cariboo region of British Columbia. No doubt it’s having explored the interior of BC on what’s become an uncountable number of fishing and camping trips that has nurtured in me a fondness for pine forests, open cattle range, sage brush, and back roads. So just the fact that that’s the setting for the book, giving me an excuse to imagine myself back in the places that I love, gives it a head start.
But what really makes it worthwhile, and the reason I’ll read it again, is because it reflects a truth that’s stated well in a quote I came across recently: “The world does not yield to our whims like Playdough, it comes with inherent characteristics that need to be reckoned with. The inner structure of things is not something to fight but to ally oneself with.” Since the book takes place in the 1940’s on mostly small-scale ranches, the author was largely involved with manual labour. Haying was done with a pitchfork, cabins and fences were built of wood that was prepared with hand tools, and you went everywhere on horseback. What that meant was that you had to deal with the world on its own terms. The weather, the woods, the wildlife; they were what they were, and you had to make your peace with that.
It’s a refreshing message in a world of computers, mass communication, and what seems like an endless amount of information. In a world like ours it can be hard to find your way, for every path seems full of possibilities. Where truth for Alan Fry was often straightforward, like a cloud bank in the western twilight heralding a storm for the following morning, it has become for us an obscure and multi-faceted dilemma. Every fact can be seen from a thousand different points of view, and each one of those thousand voices is clamouring for your attention. Nothing is simple. But yet all those voices will die, and when they’re gone the world will continue rotating on its axis. Snow will melt, robins will return, trees will bud, and the hard work of being mankind amidst a groaning creation will go on. Hard, physical labour teaches you these truths firsthand, which is why farmers are often far wiser than intellectuals. It’s also why, in a station like mine, it can be easy to forget these things. The world of books offers far less resistance to folly than does ripping lengths of oak on a table saw. The irony isn’t lost on me that I’m reflecting on this because of a book, but so it goes.
I’ll leave you with some lighter material. On Friday we’ll be examined on the Canons of Dort, the final of the Three Forms of Unity tests. There’s a lot of material in the Canons, with 59 different articles and 34 rejections of errors. We don’t have to have the whole business memorized but we do have to know the subject, and be able to give a summary, of each article. So in the interest of learning the rejections of errors, I came up with some mnemonic devices. For instance, the first head of doctrine has nine errors so I came up with a list of nine words or phrases that each represent the subject matter of an error (basis, definite, light of nature, incomplete, changeable, uncertain condition, hardens, worthiness). To help remember that list I came up with a silly sentence of nine words, each word beginning with the first letters of the words in my list. I did the same thing for the second head which has seven errors, the third/fourth head which has nine errors, and the fifth which also has nine. Here are my four sentences:
Bad deer may linger inside, cheering until haruspex woken.
Speeding concerns automobiles revving orchestral freeway dirges.
Ordering vintage hillbilly underwear clothes investors advocating for modesty.
Covert actions fail under full candlelight, terminating able professionals.