Man against man. Man against himself. Man against nature. That's the way literary themes were categorized for me in high school. Personally, I like Reese Roper's division, in Five Iron Frenzy's heart-tugging "Every New Day", where his frustration rings out: "Man versus himself! Man versus machine! Man versus the world! Mankind versus me!"
There are days when I sing along from my depths, "yearning for grace and hoping for peace". But there are also times and places where I get a taste of shalom
witnessing a lovely interaction between two parties known for their struggles.
Over at Contratimes, Bill Gnade offers a vignette about a farmstead versus the world
. Go read it. Though he gives just one small photographic glimpse, his accompanying description shows enough that I can picture the farmstead vividly. What I would give to walk in that quiet place as Mr. Gnade did — before the bulldozers disposed of what must have seemed to the new owners like so much litter on the landscape.
One of the themes I'm trying slowly to develop in my photography are occasions where man meets nature, and they both win. For a time, the "natural" elements of creation are removed or displaced to accomodate the "ersatz" conveniences of modern life. We build knowing it is difficult to go back, as we can hardly "leave no trace". Occasionally we even leave quite a mark on the landscape: a strip mine, an open quarry, an abandoned farmstead, a piece of construction machinery forty years adrift. We do this, hopefully with care and wisdom, as part of our God-inspired ambition to unwrap the potential he has placed in creation.
What catches my eye are the monuments left behind when progress abandons its earlier work. I want to help others see the beauty I see there. Streams watering new growth in a strip mine, artwork emerging from weathered limestone, doves roosting above the attic and vines growing around a rusty axle — all reminding us that when we adandon our ambitions, God uses time to heal wounds and bring beauty out of brokeness. (Likewise, maybe corals on a sunken ship can remind us of God's mercy even when He denies our ambitions.) It amazes me to see how the landscape is created and sustained to forgive our trespassings even without forgetting. Even a tactlessly ditched beer can makes a cozy nest for a field mouse and her litter.