Log-jam

For the last couple months I haven’t written anything. I am not certain the reason for the writer’s block. A loss of confidence or dearth of ideas? A fondness for words like “dearth”? Or perhaps it is a log-jam, too much stuff pushing down the river at the same time.

Log-jams are common in streams and rivers along the Oregon coast. For a longtime we mistakenly thought we needed to clear out these messes so that the salmon could migrate up and down the rivers more easily. In fact, for years loggers were required to clean the logs and slash out of the river and creek beds after logging an stand of timber.

Well, turns out we were wrong. The more biologists studied the salmon, the more obvious it became that log jams were essential habitat for the young salmon making their way back to the sea. Behind and under these log-jams deep pools formed where the fish could escape the summer sun. Today out-of-work loggers are hired to cut alders and drag them into river beds. We make log-jams.

I have learned that my own log-jams are valuable in ways I don’t understand. When I was on yearly contracts at the college, I send out job applications all over to no avail. I was, it turned out, stuck in Myrtle Point with no clear calling or purpose. In the midst of that log-jam, I began persistently asking God what he wanted from me. A dangerous question, I suspect.

God drew my attention to Job 29 and 31 and I began praying earnestly that God would make me a father to the fatherless. Although I knew nothing about soccer, I imagined myself coaching a soccer team of little street urchins. A few weeks later someone in Teckla’s little youth group asked if we would adopt his three nephews in foster-care. We did.

I have learned to look at log-jams differently. To value the deep pools scoured by the current. When I asked Teckla why I hadn’t been able to write anything for this blog, she said, “Because you are supposed to be writing a short story.” Although seeming completely out of the blue, it felt true. And Teckla had said it! So I have written one.

I have no idea if it is any good and I’m sure it needs some rewriting before anyone reads one. It is, however, an important step for me.

But that’s not the point. The point is to not dynamitelog jam our log-jams. They have value. In their slow, cool water we find rest and nourishment for our journey. We may even find family and our own creativity.

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About Mark

I live in Myrtle Point, Oregon with my wife Teckla and am the father of four boys. Currently I teach writing and literature at Southwest Oregon Community College. I am a graduate of Myrtle Point High School, Northwest Nazarene College, and have a Masters in English from Washington State University.
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