Independence Day

Laying flat backed, on a thick solid wood bench, in the cool of early nighttime, the chorus of insects beside the lake was enchanting. Green flashes of light popped and faded in my peripheral vision. The strumb-thump-strumb-thumb of the bullyfrogs’ conversation sounded like people, as they talked back and forth. Then I was buzzed.

Not like the old days of being buzzed at the lake. Not like the chorus of laughter of long-time friends and family united in a long weekend’s escape. Not like the strumb-thump of an electric guitar screaming out Stranglehold across the full campground…

No this was a different buzz. The vibration was unique. Not the papery flaps of a cicada, or even the high frequency feathery humm of the tiny humm-ing-bird. It was warmer, and more matter-of-fact. These flyers were on a mission. Zooming low altitude almost across my face. After I had been in real stillness and silence on my solitary bench, I became part of the landscape, I was gone as a threat. The world of Shadow Lake’s Nightlife came alive. The criss crossing aircraft with their meaty and muffled wings, where Bats. Their signals pierced and pinpointed the darkness. Sharp and quick, they proceeded a flyby, and followed it to. They were everywhere, the nightly feast was on.

I lay there, while back at camp, the dog slept soundly. In the CCC-built showerhouse behind me, Lindsay was finishing up her day. A full day, of driving and travelling, seeing new places, making new decisions, discovering the fun stuff, the unknown to us stuff, that can be found in almost any place.

That’s where I was the other night. In a campground, yes. In a remote, beautiful spot of the Ouchita mountains of Arkansas, yes. But I was also right at home.

I’ve been camping more times than I could count. Hundreds probably. There are crickets and bullfrogs and yes, even bats, right where I usually live. This orchestra exists always, it’s the real rhythm and busy-ness of real life. Most of the time, I’m not quiet enough to hear it. Mostly, I’m too loud, or too aware of myself, or looking too long into a backlit screen, instead of the real world’s more intense beauty.

This force of life can almost be forgotten sometimes. Although ,there isn’t any part of our world, that isn’t influenced by the force of creation that inspires that same cricket to sing, or frog to bellow, or bat to chase down it’s prey, all night long. This force is alive and well, there isn’t something in my day, or in my mind or even in my actions, that can do anything to stop it.

Doesn’t always seem that way though. Sometimes it seems as though the world has shrunk. It is only my tiny tunnel vision. It completely consists of an overheated transmission on the side of an interstate. The world can shrink to the moment and space I can percieve as I’m tempted by the old fools and tricks of alcohol. The world can transform into a flash of my wife’s eyes. Sometimes a blissfull moment. Sometimes complete hell. I put the meaning into it myself. It’s where I’m at, that I see mirrored in her glares or giddy-ness. Too much perception, too much awareness, too much focus, as a car alarm goes off in this quiet campground, and I can choose to hear nothing but it.

That’s my lessons, that’s my struggles, to have ability to be aware, and yet to let it go. My own deductions and analizations, leave me with all the options I have. Too few. Not nearly the truth. Using my own power, me as judge, I’m a weakling, always. Melting the ‘me’ away, into that chunk of solid wood, beside a lake built in the 30’s, by some tough ‘boys’ of the CCC, I was connected to much more than I could claimed to have created.

I let go, I was quiet, but I can’t ‘make’ that happen. I did let it happen. I wonder how often that current of smooth electrical grace and love wants to flow through me? I wonder if it’s as strong when I want to stomp my foot, and make a stand, and be a man of action. I wonder if it fades away, when I feel lost and wonder if my faith is for real. Or if I’m on some hiatus, from real life, and I’ll someday return to old ways. I wonder if the peaceful joy of being buzzed by bats, is always there, if I will just slow down and release a little more?

The chorus has changed in the last couple days. It was bugs and bullfrogs, on Monday night. Then it was gurglings and ripplings of a rocky river. Then it was hearing from the camp hosts, that they’d ‘hate to lose us, and see us go.’ but they know ‘we’re off to more beautiful places too.’ And they were happy for us.

That chorus has come and go over the last few days on this camping roadtrip with my wife. At nights, it’s been the coolness and dryness of this weather, perfect for our tent. The buzz and love of God, has ushered us, and cradled us, not in complete comfort, but in complete safety and trust. We got the one last open camping spot available for the fourth of july, in Arkansas’s flagship state park. It just opened up, right before we asked. The neighbors across this little road are actual angels. Two white haired sisters, one 69, one 71, who camp in their car. Mosquito netting magnetized to their open windows, we’ve talked, and cried and prayed together. This is the chorus of divine life.

All too often, I miss it. All to often, I’m locked into my mind, believing the thoughts that are projected on the screen in front of me. All too often, I see hell, instead of heaven. This trip is all of that. It is both, as is all of life. The chorus of good and love and God, exists, right along side of the darkness. Once relax into that light, the darkness can’t have me. I can even be in the light, and chose to blind myself. I do that tooo.

Not today, not right now. Andrea hugged me today, and said she was proud of me. I saw the vigor and energy of a life lived well in Christ. She’s 69, she’s bringing her sister, for ‘one last hurrah’… but she’s fooling herself. They’ll be out again, and soon. They’re too young, they’re too happy, not to travel together some more.

Just like my wife and I, and that old heap of black fur Rox-Dog. We’re too alive, to let a transmission failure, keep us from moving forward. We’ll adapt and adjust. We’ll growl and each other, and we’ll cuddle again soon. This whole thing, just suits us, apparently. This whole thing, this whole life, has gifts to give and lessons to learn.

I quite often find myself inside of my mind. Inside of my own intelligent brain. I can see plenty, I can be creative, I can dream and plan and make things happen. But as long as I stay in that space, I’m limited. I’m small and I quickly run into dead ends. I have only so many possibilities in my small, tiny, pea-brain. Rather, for more openness, for more freedom, for more life to enjoy, I remind myself this. Let go. God is bigger than me. Where I see no way, God sees every way. Where I am stuck, God sees my perfect opportunity. I remind myself today to release myself from me. The ‘I’-ness and ‘Me’-ness, takes me almost nowhere, only into my comfort zones. Old and dusty circular trails, worn deep from years upon years of treading and retreading.

Today, is Independence Day. I celebrate it, and remind myself to be Independent of Me. Opening and relaxing and letting those bats do their thing, and those frogs too. I can create Independence for myself, I can only allow it. It wants in, I just let it become what it already is… No agenda, no achievement, just the flow of river, as it knows the path of least resistance, always. It’s water, watch it run always, every time, smoothly back to it’s source…

I pray, dear God almighty, remind me that I too can be your water. I too can flow freely, independently, wherever your creation has me run. I have no personality, I can get dirty, I can freeze, i can be stagnant or rushing, but always, with you, I’m pure and clear, when I’m free of pollutants…

Independence is good. Happy Independence Day to You. God is good, to me and to you, and to the frogs and to the dogs who get to hike and swim and camp and ride shotgun in the river bus. Independence is here now, and always.

Thanks be to God.


Aaron Nichols



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *