Reflections

By Dr. Jim Ferguson

 

To experience wonderful things you sometimes have to move out of your comfort zone. This can be a willingness to consider the perspectives of others or it can be a willingness to travel.

These days, destination weddings are in vogue. My daughter’s destination wedding was at the top of my bucket-list, and required travel to Portland, Oregon, where she lives and teaches middle school. However, the cross country trip was far less daunting than long distance wedding plans and logistics. Kudos to my resourceful wife, Becky, and my daughter, Emily, for organizing, not only the wedding, but housing for the considerable Knoxville contingent who traveled to the Pacific Northwest to stand with Emily and her fiancée, Matt, as they exchanged vows of fidelity. Our ladies orchestrated a perfect day, a perfect wedding and a beautiful, joyous bride.

Final details for the “wedding of the century” required considerable travel around Portland, a city of half a million. I’m proud to report that, like the little Shake ‘N’ Bake girl, “I hailp’d” to fetch and to chauffeur. In my concierge medical practice I’ve found the GPS (global positioning satellite) application on my iPhone invaluable for house-calls. However, for navigating around a big city like Portland, Oregon, the GPS is indispensable, especially for a man who has a poor sense of direction. It’s fortunate that I was born in the 20th century and not the 19th. Otherwise, I might have made a wrong turn one night on the way to the outhouse and been carried away to the lair of a bear.

I drive by what I mistakenly refer to as dead reckoning. Actually, I navigate by, “I reckon this looks right.” These days, Apple’s computer lady named Siri, tells me where to go. She even perfectly directed Becky and me on side trips to the Pacific coast and down-state to Crater Lake. The only problem that arose occurred one Sunday afternoon when I loaded my mom, mother-in-law, Becky and her sister into the car for a sight-seeing trip around Portland. Hubris is a dangerous thing. I’d become too cocky with my techy-navigation aid. The rental car’s “Siri” began talking over my iPhone’s Siri, and along with the other back seat drivers, this 21st century Daniel Boone was nearly brought to his knees and the curb!

As I traveled around, I found the people of Portland to be more friendly than Southerners. Perhaps my Southern dialect branded me as a traveler who might need assistance, but time and again a Portlandian went out of their way to offer friendly smiles and assistance. These folks are certainly not like New Yorkers or Parisians one encounters in late summer.

I like to people-watch and wonder what they’re thinking. I have to admit I don’t understand tattoos. There is no death of body art among Portlandians. I’ve counseled patients about the health risks of tattoos, but veritable tableaus of “ink” are common in Portland. Body piercing and tattoos are not new phenomena, but are older than recorded history. I once read a story about the Iceman whose remains were discovered in an Alpine glacier. He had numerous tattoos perhaps invoking deities. Paleoarchaelogists believe the cave art of  Lascaux, France, was done to aid hunter-gatherers “capture” the likeness and the spirit of their prey. These days most of us “hunt and gather” in the meat section of Kroger. I no longer hunt, but I’m not critical of hunters or those who raise cattle for our hamburgers. What disturbs me is a culture that seems to care more about a lion shot by a dentist in Africa than an aborted pregnancy.

Perhaps travel has heightened my perceptual awareness, because I keep sensing my iPhone ringing or vibrating in my pocket. Recently, I learned of a new phenomenon called the “phantom phone syndrome,” where someone erroneously perceives their phone ringing or vibrating in their pocket. Maybe I was acutely alert that one of my patients might call me amidst inner-city traffic noise or wedding revelry. Maybe I’m just “old-school” and have a sense of responsibility to my patient’s needs.

I once said that I would not return to Portland unless Crater Lake could be added to my “re-bucket list.” I’m sorry if descriptions of this wondrous place have become tiresome, but I have been blessed once again to stand in the mightiest of God’s cathedrals. I feel in good company that the author and world traveler Jack London said that in all his travels to experience the beautiful places of the earth, Crater Lake is above all others. All of you must visit this gem before you die.

We live on great plates of rock which float on liquid magma (lava) deep within the earth. The notion of plate tectonics and continental drift was proposed by Alfred Wegener in 1912, but was ridiculed by the scientific community; and they were wrong. The Rocky Mountains are the result of great plates of earth pushing against one another, thrusting one upwards as the other slides underneath. Along these pressure points, that we call fault lines, earthquakes occur. Additionally, molten rock wells up along fault lines producing volcanos like the Mt. St. Helens eruption. We all remember this explosion which changed global weather, but the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii was 30 times greater. And the 1883 eruption of Krakatau was twice as great as Vesuvius, and produced an explosion thousands of times greater than the Hiroshima atomic bomb. Crater Lake was formed by the collapse of Mt. Mazama which exploded with a force three times larger than Krakatoa. Yellowstone National Park is a product of an even more massive volcanic eruption millions of years ago. The park even today sits on a vast molten pool of liquid rock which will again break through someday and destroy this wondrous place.

Man has such a narrow view of time and space. I find it hard to think of next week or even tomorrow let alone a life span of three score and ten. Thousands of years and eons are the purview of God. It is best to focus on the wisdom of Psalm 118:12, “This is the day the Lord hath made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

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