What It Was Like

The day started sunny and cool. The clouds arose and passed over in the AM. Everything is fulsomely green in Philadelphia nowadays. I was by the Schuylkill, where the punts slide up and down the river, the oars like insect legs. Few people out: random bike riders, gangs of moms with strollers, the incessant stream of runners worn thin by the time of day.

On the way downtown, as I was waiting at the circle before the Museum, the grey damp of impending rain loomed in the southwest, blew in suddenly with only a few premonitory splatters. Then there was rain driving between the towers, cascading on the glass surfaces of the buildings, flushing out drains and waterspouts, lashing the trees, and soaking all. I drove south on 21st and east on Pine between the row houses, to the Delaware. Branches on the street, some big ones, and leaves and freshly crushed wood. You could smell the fresh car-trampled greenery, the downpour notwithstanding.

In cities there are always people out in it, anytime you have rain. I love to watch them from a dry place. Small pointless umbrellas, wedged persons, crouched, wincing, as people do when their face is involuntarily wet, men in suits scrambling, bike riders in great earnest, and the huddled into hoodies puzzled people who do not seem in any way to comprehend meteorological phenomena, all going about.

Great clouds lumbered over like ocean liners afterward. I was at IKEA watching it dwindle and break up, having the hot dogs and gazing on the ancient ocean liner in the dock across the way. Outside the day was scrubbed clean, like a seaside town after a squall. We had more rain later, more wind, and more fallen branches. I was then inside a glass case near the art museum; on my way down, through the sculpture garden, I activated the wall-fountain for a few seconds. I left Philadelphia clean and prosperous, the air clear, the leaves pleased, the glass surfaces of the towers reflecting cloud and sunlight, the edges chiseling the rowdy wind.

Soaring Along

The caterpillars whose gossamer entangled us some weeks ago seem to have become large yellow butterflies, not unlike monarch butterflies, perhaps a variation thereof. They are seen early in the morning in the Fairmount park, usually in couples. There is great joy along the Wissahickon, in the shade of the tulip trees and beeches, below the soaring span of a better age’s bridges.

Early in the morning, about 4AM nowadays, the birds get going. When the traffic is still and the huge setting moon almost on the horizon the waking birds make the world seem to ring with song. The fire alarm flashed and sounded, scaring us awake at 4AM recently. Circling the building, I found out about the moon, the morning, and the birds. Happy mistake.

Summer has come with a bang to Philadelphia. We had enormously hot weather that is now gradually dwindling to something decidedly more pleasant. As in winter when you get a sudden deep cold, what comes afterward is decidedly milder than the long steady descent by increments would be.

Summer projects accomplished: vacation and NT preliminary examination (apologies for the erroneous post on the New Perspective). Quite a bit of concerted attention on the text of 1 John and several books of issues. The chair of the NT dept. assured me there was nothing against being a dispensationalist here (which is fine with me either way), but the reading decidedly tended otherwise. Ridderbos on the Kingdom, Thompson on Acts, Bauckham on Revelation. Reading outside of one’s specialization brings ambivalence; on the one hand is not what one is intent on, on the other it broadens.

We’ll see how the OT preliminary tends. I know the AP preliminary is going to tend pretty strong toward presuppositionalism. Every day said approach grows in my eyes more preposterous. I gather ammunition. I brood and conn and devise. I have observations to make . . . eventually.

John Wain on Samuel Johnson provides welcome relief from evangelical prose. He is not the greatest, but he is considerably better than anything going in academic circles. He can make a collection of words do more than plod, and he has a decided attitude. I love the first sentence of his Note on Sources: There is no research in this book.

Reflecting on what Wain writes, I think to myself I ought to exert myself in literary directions while I have the chance. The summer has its business, not least of which is German, but not unrelieved, unmitigated German. There is ground to cover on many fronts.

Philadelphia Chronicle

We have never been able to be without air conditioning, but we can here. The humidless breezy summer permits it, and I can understand a bit why people enjoy summer.

Still I yearn for the fall. I don’t like summer because it is warm. I’m the kind of person who is glad of the fall because I like to wear clothes. I don’t necessarily like to be well-dressed; I just like having many clothes on me, many layers. It reminds me, I was in the art museum today and it is wonderful how many and how rich the clothes were people were depicted in during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries–though it does not look like they wore many sweaters. Another thing I like are hot rather than cold beverages, and I find he summer is not as conducive to them as other more obliging seasons are. I understand most people don’t share my preferences, however. What I don’t understand, is what they have to live for.

So I long for the fall, and I yearn for it to start school which I am eager for indeed. I go over to the library at Westminster and see that it is not full of books but small and ordered objects not so much full of words, though many of them are merely full of words, as full of possibilities. They are like so many doors into other rooms, or other cities. You don’t have to go far down any of the shelves to be reassured by the abundance awaiting. I’ve discovered Marsilio Ficino, and I intend to know about him.

The Renaissance, you know, is full of these figures–colorful, towering, interesting. I had wanted to do early Church studies in order to get into the great Plotinus. But now that I have Ficino, who needs the early Church? If I can do him, I’ll have to do Plotinus. We’ll see what develops on that score, but there lies a possibility. And there’s Nicolas, and Pico, and all the other chaps, not to mention Erasmus and Sir Thomas More. I keep wondering if there’s a book like Kirk’s Conservative Mind called the Christian Platonic Mind from . . . probably we’d have to start with Philo–from Philo to C.S. Lewis.

One of the most interesting things about books is their interconnectedness. You find something in the world of one, and it is connected by a passageway to another. A library is like a city, all with underground and aboveground connections, openings, ancient shafts and tunnels, alleyways and doors and windows. It is a good thing for the Westminster library that it has interesting holdings, because the premises themselves are little interesting. The most commendable thing about that building seems to me its well-waxed floors. Somebody recently stripped and waxed them, and how they shine. Odd how it has no grace, charm, and barely amenity to it but the floors are kept in top condition.

Speaking of that, I have been surprised at what is available through the Free Library of Philadelphia because their premises are shabbier than Westminster’s library, and their hours of operation very limited. But my first search for things yielded better than I have grown to expect in Columbus. So who knows what riches and splendors here await me. It is like the Reading Terminal Market–a place to which we are constantly drawn, connected as it is to so many worlds of cooking wonder.

That Which Nourishes

Of course I dream of other worlds, but it is because I dream of them (catching sight in the distances of piled cloud on cloud with beyond the highest, whitest cloud a brightness remote and indescribable, or in the darkness of a still pool, suggesting yet deeper depths beyond: another world) in the present world–which is all I know–that this is made another wonder.

I think it is a wonder that in this world there should be a place like Philadelphia. Let those grumble who will, who only see what they can; I will love Philadelphia. There is a whole city block enclosed and given over to food downtown. It is a combination of a market in Cleveland to which I went when in sixth grade and the North Market in Columbus. The place in Cleveland was touted as a wonder back when I was still innocent in expectations, and was taken in while I still had growth to undergo, and so it was greater around me than nowadays it is. Rare and desirable goods were displayed in cases over which I could hardly see, and there were lights and smells unimaginable. These goods were available to us in all their beauty for no more than money–what a happy exchange! The North Market in Columbus is full of places to eat and specialty food shops; it is various and curious and worth just walking through. Put the two together, entirely taking the space of both and glorifying their ideas, and crowd the walkways, and add Mennonites and greater variety of display and you will get the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia. People today were crowding the breakfast tables, chocolates and baked goods were piled, coffee was being roasted, tea reposed in cans, pretzels and pasta, steaks and bacon and poultry and seafood, barrels of pickles, sauerkraut and such stood ready. Not so much ethnic food, as in the North Market, though there was enough of that for me who hardly cares for it; more the delights of Pennsylvania, echt Deutsch. (I am a man of the West. All these fiddly ethnic foods–why don’t they eat meat and potatoes?) And the people in there sounded, chose, devoured; and the lights were welcoming and the abundance was cheerful; and altogether it was wonderful to see: one of the great sights of my life. A place suggesting real good-cheer, echoing below the cheer of heaven and the life to come.

Speaking of the life to come, I saw in the art museum the study of a scholar and wondered what kind of place the Lord has for me someday. I was thinking about it because this silly American ideal of being a handyman came up: and I am not (not a manual labor guy, you know?). Nor is gardening my thing, I’m no horticulturist. I have no wish ever in my life except by way of food to touch an animal, though seeing them from afar is interesting, though as a sausage more. What I am is a reader and a dabbler at writing, and a lover of those kinds of things to do with paper. I also love weather, and seeing the effects of weather on the world, specially the qualities of light you get–these I admire and enjoy the most, and its one of my chief reasons for going out of doors. I like artificial light as well, the light of candles and fires, and the effects of a proper atmosphere indoors on something. Cunningly lit places, with dimness and brightness I love. And so this magical market somehow seemed to me, though at this point I don’t know why (I am antipathetic to explanations that destroy wonder, so I don’t look for them. Nothing is more off-putting than some clod taking away the magic to leave one only in possession of a fact, as if that counted for more). Whatever awaits me in the world to come for which I long more than anything, I think something got into this market.

Perhaps it was the joy of discovering such a place, the undetailed observation that is the first impression, the happy extent of it, how unanticipated it arrived all stumbled upon. I do not know, but I think it is one of the best things about this wonderful metropolis.