Posted by: donnatallman | May 1, 2012

Ghost in the Gully

(…Continued from previous post, Flannel Graph Jesus)

Omaha, Nebraska – 1964

Photo by Donna Tallman

Nebraska winters are brutal. North winds gusting from Canada sneer across barren farm fields, pulverizing any remnants of autumn’s long-ago harvested crop. Only the most courageous clouds dare challenge the “Nor’easters” hoping to bring the answer to every child’s winter prayer: snow! Nebraska snowflakes rarely fall gracefully to earth wrapping the countryside with downy blankets. Instead, vicious storms churn snow into mountainous drifts that can camouflage buildings and entire houses for weeks. It’s not the courageous that venture out into a Nebraska snowstorm to play – only the foolish.

Fresh snow covers the roadway, and a steady breeze picks up. As I add some extra padding to a snowman Randy made on his way to school, my scarf suddenly snaps to attention. A gust of wind sucks my scarf into its orbit and I take chase. Out of nowhere, a blast of northern fury slams into the side of the house, turns left, and wraps itself around me before disappearing down the street.

“Look! The wind!” I holler to my deserted neighborhood street.

Mrs. Jensen said no one has ever seen the wind, but I just did. She’s wrong.

I want to tell someone that I am the first person to ever see the wind, and my mother is the first person I want to tell. It is a struggle for my five year-old body to run into the face of such a powerful force, but I set my sights on the front porch and stagger toward the door. Mom stands guard over her freshly waxed linoleum.

“I saw the wind!” I gasp as I clutch the doorframe and drop snow all over the floor.

“Mrs. Jensen said no one had ever seen it before, but I did. Come see!”

Mom laughs and sends me back outside to play. I am sure I have seen the wind, and she needs know I am right.

It’s always breezy down at the gully, so I wade through the thigh-high snow in our backyard to the long gully that runs between our house, the Green’s, and the Mattson’s.

“Whoosh!” the wind says, as it races by my face, taunting me into a game of chase. The sun escapes from behind a cloud for a moment sending light rays dancing off drifted snow banks. Prisms of color dart back and forth across the gully dazzling my captivated eyes. Refracted wonder.

Too bad Mom can’t see this!

Photo by Larisa Larisa

The wind and I play catch with my hat along the Green’s back fence, until suddenly, something under my feet gives way.

I have forgotten how deep the gully is since the snow is hiding its treacherous rocky crags. Now, I am buried in waist-high snow. Panic overcomes me and I try to claw my way out, but the more I try, the deeper I sink. One foot slips out of my boot in the struggle, and I drop deeper. Quickly my left foot becomes numb from the cold. I know I scream, but my own voice sounds so far away.

I do hear another voice up close. It sounds like it is right behind me. “I have sent my angels to protect you,” the voice says. Someone’s nearby!

“Angels? Who’s there?” I whimper, hoping that whoever belongs to the voice will walk around and pull me out of the snow. I can’t see behind me, but I wait for the voice to rescue me. Nothing happens.

“Help me!” I demand. Still no answer.

There is nothing I can do or think of to rescue myself, so I begin to cry.

“Be still,” soothes the voice. “I will take care of you.”

“Who are you?”

No response.

“Who ARE you?”

Somewhere in the distance I hear Mom call my name. She’s looking for me, but I can’t answer. I’ve struggled too long and I’m in too deep. My strength is gone, my is spirit broken, and I doubt I’ll ever see her again. I close my eyes.

He simply assumed that I knew him – the one with the “voice” in the gully. He made no introduction, gave no handshake, provided no revelation of his identity. He just proceeded to talk to me as if we’d always been friends. “Be still,” he said. “I will take care of you.” Mom eventually found me and pulled me out of the snow.

Despite the fact that the “Voice” suddenly entered my storm and assured me that he was watching over me, I never saw him and he never actually answered my question.

“Who are you?” I demanded, but he went silent leaving me to figure it out on my own.

*     *     *     *     *

Shari Weinsheimer

“Peace, be still!” the Master declared to the sea. “Peace!”

The disciples faced their own storm on the Sea of Galilee. Despite fighting off the colossal waves with all the skill and finesse their many years as sailors afforded them, it still wasn’t enough to save them. Their boat spun first one way, then the other, and quickly took on water. A capsize was imminent. As the swelling waves threatened to take them under for the ultimate death roll, the disciples finally woke Jesus. Surprisingly, he was sleeping peacefully in the back of the boat.

“We’re going to die!” they shouted in panic above the roar.

“Nah,” my brain always inserts next into the text. “We’ve still got stuff to do,” I imagine Jesus saying in the vernacular of his day.

Then Jesus stood in the face of Galilee’s most powerful force and said, “Hush!”

Jesus commanded the sea, and it was so. Calm descended over the water, but not in the hearts of his disciples. Now they were really in trouble. Their fear of dying in the storm paled in comparison to the terror they felt when a “mere man” yelled at the winds and they obeyed him.

Sensing their fear, Jesus asked, “Why are you afraid?” Well, they’ve almost died in a shipwreck and apparently this guy they have been running around with can control the weather. I think I’d be afraid too. Knowing their hearts were full of doubt, Jesus asked, “Do you still have no faith?”

Bobby Mikul

No faith? No faith in what?

At the beginning of the story Jesus said they were going to go to the “other side” of the sea, not put out to sea and die along the way. (Mark 4:35) Jesus wanted them to trust his word – not only that it was true, but that he had the power to make it happen. Wow, that seems like a lot to ask a group of fishermen who’ve never encountered a person with supernatural control over nature before.

“Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” (Mark 4:41)

Who is he, this one that entered my storm in the gully of Omaha with the power and authority to bring calm when a capsize was imminent? Who is he who expects me to believe the unbelievable?

Who is he?

I had no clue. It was my first encounter with the “other than” of this world, and he left me totally intrigued. I just wanted to close my eyes and give up that afternoon, but he had other plans. It was if he reached out of the heavens to whisper, “Hey, don’t give up yet. We’ve still got stuff to do!”

(…to be continued…eventually)

© Copyright, 2012 by Donna Tallman.



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