Thursday, March 29, 2012

Time for a National Brain Fart

Has it happened to you? You know. You’re in the middle of a conversation…maybe telling a story…you have some detail you need to share…maybe someone’s name, or the name of a place; a restaurant or a park or a shop…and…and…and…it won’t come.  You can't think of it. You’ve had a BRAIN FART.

It happens to the best of us from time to time.

I think it is high time that we have a national brain fart.

We need to FORGET ABOUT RACE! It needs to slip out of our collective minds. Gone. Zip. Can’t think of it anymore.

I suppose that’s a pipe dream. We spend way too much time defining ourselves with it. Black. White. Hispanic. Native American. Asian. Jewish. African American.

What if we suddenly couldn’t use race as a descriptor when explaining who someone was anymore? Could we manage it? Try it for a couple of days and see how often you do it.

But, why? Why do we need to do that? Why do we need to describe people with skin color? I don’t think we do.

I suppose to bow to the societal pressure, and so you won’t have to do make the description, I should say that I’m a white guy. Now, that I've described myself for you, you can know that I write from that perspective.  Since we can’t seem to get away from race, you might as well keep that in mind as I say what I’m about to say, and then you can judge for yourself as to whether that fact was important with regards to my message…

White folks are oblivious to the racism in our society.

Sure. That’s a blanket statement that is not entirely true…but, it is truer than we fair-skinned folks would like to admit. Some of us see it and wish it would be eliminated from our world. But many of us don’t see it at all because it doesn’t affect us. We assume the civil rights movement took care of that problem and anyone who claims it today is just “playing the race card.”

However, I think it is real. I think it is there. Sometimes it’s blatant, but often it is subtle; maybe even unintentional. For many of us, it was imbedded in us when we were young, and hate it or not, we still find the traces in our minds. For example, why do I get more uncomfortable in a low-income predominantly black neighborhood than I do in a low-income predominantly white neighborhood? It’s that race thing. It is unintentional. I don’t like it. I find it embarrassing and I work to eradicate it. But, it is there.

Some black folks see racism everywhere.

I think this is understandable. When you’ve been directly impacted, or many of your friends and family have been mistreated, you can’t help but look for it. Call it the “flinch.” Someone who has been repeatedly struck will begin to flinch even when there is no punch being thrown. Sometimes there are punches, sometimes there aren’t, but there will be flinches every time.

Is the guy being pulled over because he is a young black guy in a nice car? Or, is he being pulled over because he was going twenty mph over the speed limit? It could be either at any given moment, but just because one happens, doesn’t mean the other one doesn’t.

All that said, I like what Martin Luther King Jr. said:

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

To do that, though, it has got to go both ways…or, more accurately it has to go in all ways…all directions…all skin colors. No race has a pass on judging others.

Further, we should take a hard look at the Golden Rule.

"Do to others as you would have them do to you." Luke 6:31

If you should have the freedom to walk through or drive through a neighborhood freely, then why would you question someone else’s right to do so? If you live in a given apartment complex or neighborhood, why would you keep someone else from doing so? If you deserve personal respect, doesn’t everyone else? If you’re allowed to appreciate Blake Shelton, then why can’t you give room to someone else to appreciate Jay-Z?

See. Like I said. We need a collective brain fart.

We need to forget about race when we live, work, play, and generally interact with one another. Tragedies are inevitable. Accidents happen. Bad decisions are made. But, let’s wipe color out of the equation.

I’m not talking about turning a blind eye to obvious racism. We can’t ignore the evils that worm their way into our lives. We have to deal with that mess head-on. Be careful. Gather all the facts, and then deal with it with swift justice. But, what I am saying is that as far as it is under your control…don’t let race be a factor in your life.

In the words of En Vogue:

“Free your mind and the rest will follow.
Be color blind, don’t be so shallow.”

Let’s enjoy the freedom of forgetting about race. Let’s be color blind and just be good to one another.

So, as crude as it may sound, I’m hoping for a national brain fart.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Muncie Boyhood-Do You Know the Way to San Jose?

Me, Mom, Bob, Grandma Alice, and my niece Debbie.  Four generations.
In 1968, Dionne Warwick had a hit single called “Do You Know the Way to San Jose?” I used to listen to it at night on my little off-white (nicotine-stained) box radio that sat in the middle of the headboard in my bed before I went to sleep. In 1973, I learned the answer to the question.

Sometime around the end of my first-grade year or early in my second-grade year (approximately 1970), my brother Bob (or Bobby as I called him then) moved to California. He was in his early twenties, escaping from a failing marriage, mourning the loss of our oldest brother, and feeling that he needed a fresh start. So, he took off with his baby daughter and moved to San Jose, California to start over….and hide from his ex-wife.

About four years later, in the summer of 1973, in between my fifth- and sixth-grade years, my Mom decided it was time for her to go visit him.

Dad wouldn’t take time off from his job at Chevrolet-Muncie, so it was just me, Mom, and my grandma Alice. Mom wouldn’t fly, so we booked passage on Amtrak. This was truly an adventure from start to finish. Muncie to San Jose, California…riding coach.

LEG ONE-Muncie to Indianapolis

Amtrak didn’t run from Muncie to Indianapolis, so Mom recruited my sister to drive us to Union Station in downtown Indianapolis to catch our train. We were supposed to board at 8am, so it was an early morning drive. Now, here’s the thing: My sister was afraid of the interstate, so we took State Highway 67 instead of the much faster Interstate 69. Being a kid, I didn’t realize how silly this was at the time, but as slow as it was, it worked. She got us there in time and dropped us off. I remember thinking how weird it was to see all the steam rising up through the sidewalk grates as we drove into downtown Indy. I’d never been there before, and it seemed so….dirty.

LEG TWO-Indianapolis to Chicago

We got off to a slow start. I’m not referring here to my sister’s aversion to superhighways, but rather to our actual departure by train. Our 8am train didn’t even arrive in Indianapolis until noon. I was excited though. I’d never before been on a real train. I think I’d ridden one at a zoo or a fair, but that was just a tiny, make believe train. This was the real deal. It was huge, and shiny, with bathrooms and restaurants and comfortable seats.

It wasn’t long after noon when we pulled out for the short three-hour ride to Chicago. We had to catch a connecting train that evening at Chicago’s Union Station, but we had a good six hours. No problem, right? That’s what we thought.

This crazy train would go for a bit, then stop. Then, it would sit….maybe back up some…and then sit some more. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

It took us six hours to get to Chicago. We pulled into Union Station five minutes AFTER our connecting train to Los Angeles left the station.

This was interesting. We were stranded in Chicago and I don’t think my grandmother had ever even been to Indianapolis…at least not for a very long time…let alone needing to figure out how to deal with a city as big as this one. My mother wasn’t much better, but I was too young to care. It was an adventure.

I have to admit though that Amtrak took care of us. They got us a hotel room at the Palmer House…boy, was I too young to appreciate that…and they got us a cab to take us there. They even took care of our dinner (It was at the restaurant in the Palmer House where I got my first taste of real cheesecake.). All in all, it worked out. As a young adult, I got to revisit the Palmer House. Only then did I realize what luxury we had experienced.

The next day, we had to return to the train station to catch our new train to Los Angeles at 6pm. We went very early and waited, eventually boarded, and departed that evening without a hitch.

LEG THREE-Chicago to Los Angeles

That was a long ride sitting in a seat that only slightly reclined. We spent two or three full nights riding in coach. The days weren’t too bad with lots of scenery, little towns, and interesting people, but the nights were tough. Back then, everyone smoked and the trains were full of it. With nothing to distract me, and no real way to get comfortable, it was difficult to rest.

I loved it when we started to get near the Rockies. I could see them coming for a long time before we got there. Up to that point, the largest “mountain” I had personally seen was the sledding hill at Prairie Creek Reservoir. My mouth probably hung open for hours.

Now remember, I was a child. I was an obnoxious boy of eleven. I liked to joke, cut up, and generally act sort of silly. It was my way of keeping myself entertained, and I liked it when other people laughed too. (Maybe I still do, and that’s why I write this silly blog.) Anyway, when we crossed into New Mexico, somehow the subject of our upcoming stops was brought up, and I tried to say “Albuquerque.”

It didn’t come out as “Albuquerque.” It came out as “Albacookie.”

So, I started laughing and making fun of myself; repeating my mistake.

“Albacookie! Hahahahaha. Albert’s Cookies. Hahahaha! Albert’s eating cookies. Hahaha!”

It was definintely obnoxious, but people all around were laughing with me. I thought it was hysterical, laughed and kept it up for a long time, but eventually it died down. Soon, I had even forgotten it. A little time passed, and I need to go to the bathroom, so I got up and headed down the aisle. I was about to the end, when a lady grabbed my arm…

“Hey!” she said.

“Uh, yeah?” I responded.

“Were from Albuquerque, and we don’t appreciate you making fun of our city!”

“Umm. Okay. Sorry.”

Wow. Touchy.

She let me go eventually, and I made it to the head without peeing my pants…or being accosted by any additional native New Mexicans.

The last night was much better. There was no one in the seat next to me, so I got to stretch out across the full bench. I slept really well until about 5am when we pulled into Needles, California. I was woken up by the conductor…or someone acting on his behalf…because they had a passenger that needed the extra seat I was lying on. It was a Native American woman, which I thought was cool.  I had never seen an "Indian" as they were called then, so it was intriguing.  The unfortunate part though was that she was reeking with body odor. It was a tough couple of hours more into Los Angeles. Can you say WHEW?

LEG FOUR-Los Angeles to San Jose

This was the most beautiful part of the entire trip! The tracks hugged the coastline the entire way, and the scenery was amazing. Los Angeles with its concrete rivers. Malibu. Santa Barbara. Big Sir. I’d do that part again in a heartbeat. I can’t really remember much detail about it anymore other than it was just incredibly beautiful…for a kid from Muncie, Indiana.


We didn’t stay with my brother. I don’t think my mom thought it would work out very well. Rather, we stayed with mom’s ex-sister-in-law. We got there in early June, and I know we were there for the Fourth of July, so I guess we were in California for almost a month. I got to visit so many fantastic places. Fisherman’s Wharf. Monterey. Carmel. Alcatraz. Redwood State Park. The Winchester Mystery House. The Boardwalk at Santa Cruz.

I rode a cable car in San Francisco. I flew in a helicopter over San Francisco Bay. I swam in the Pacific Ocean.

Eventually, though, all wonderful things must come to an end as I suppose they have to, or we would begin to lose appreciation for the adventure. We boarded another train, or series of trains, back to Indiana.

It was during this time that I grew the closest to my grandma. She had been living with us for a couple of years, and initially Dad didn’t think it was going to work. He was close to throwing her out a couple of times because apparently she was being mean to me. If she was, I was oblivious to it. Suddenly, though, that all changed, and we started to become very close. This train voyage to California and back came at the height of that closeness, and we had a lot of fun with each other the whole time; joking, playing, and generally being silly.

It was Allabitquirky….even in New Mexico.

Enough for now.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Life Isn't Fair

Life just isn’t fair.

That’s what I thought today as I sat in a church pew; a pew that is usually reserved for joyful worship, but today was set aside for the comfort of a family as they celebrated the life of a son lost too soon. Songs were sung, prayers were offered, tears were shed, and embraces were given. These things are tough. There are no words that can make it better; no wisdom that can ease the pain. Not really. I say that even though the words offered in Eulogy today were remarkable. Even so, my friend Lois will probably not really feel their encouragement for some time. She will need the strength of her husband, and the shoulders of her friends.

Because life isn’t fair.

A son should not die in his thirties. A five-year old daughter should not die in a school bus accident. An entire family should not be swept away in a terrible storm. All that is true, but it happens anyway. Every day. Day after day. Year after year.

The first time I felt it was when my oldest brother died. I was seven. He was twenty-six. It ripped my mother’s heart out. It robbed me of a lifetime of brotherhood.

I felt it again when my seventy-six year old grandmother died. I had grown so close to her, then she was gone. I felt it with the passing of both of my parents. It’s been eleven years now since Dad passed; eight for Mom. Both of them lived a long time, they had good lives, but somehow it still feels unfair that they are gone.

Life by its very nature is unfair. Every time that we grow close…grow attached…those we love are ripped away. It happens to all of us…and it will happen with all of us.

Even so, we must give life a break.

It really has no choice. We live in a world with limited resources and limited space. Unfortunately, it is the reality of things that everything must pass on in order to make room for those following behind. It is a brutal concept. And after all, how long would it take for us to completely overload our world if all of the sudden there was no more death? If we found ourselves with the magic pill for ultimate health and we ended the process of aging. If we found a way to eliminate all accidents, war, and personal violence; all those things we so desperately hope for,…how long would it take before we could no longer sustain our way of life?

It wouldn’t be long, because even eliminating all those things would only bring on more turmoil and suffering…different, but the same. And that isn’t fair either.

Then, there is the glory of God.

What the physical world is powerless to do, God has the infinite ability to make happen. He is the Great Conqueror over that imminent bully, death…as the minister today called it. God’s resources are beyond measure, and He has the determined will to bring limitless life to all who are willing. He can end aging. He can end disease. He will end all wars. That tree of life will never run out of fruit, no matter how many are picking from its branches.

He injects fairness into what is otherwise completely unfair. He causes hope to spring eternal. He makes the sun to rise after the night of our distress, and the sun to set on the age of pain.

Life may be unfair, but we are not judged by life. We have one who transcends. We have the Alpha…the Omega. He was before life began, and He will be there after physical life has ended to hold forth on the age of limitlessness.

Let us hold on to His hand as we all walk through that valley, the one with the shadows of death, because the one walking with us makes fairness irrelevant.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

A Muncie Boyhood-A Few "Back in My Day" Reflections

This post isn't quite as story oriented as some of my other posts, but really is just a random collection of memories from my childhood.  I thought I'd quickly share them.  It might add some background color to some of my other stories.  On with the show...

“Times have changed.”

“Back in my day…”
“When I was a kid…”

I heard that from time to time as a boy. When I did, it usually provoked a roll of the eyes and an under the breath “here we go again.” Every generation gets to hear it, and every generation gets to do it.

Now it’s my turn.

Here are some “back in my day” reflections from my Muncie Boyhood…


A. No satellite. No Cable. We had an antenna. It sat on top of a metal pole that was tucked into an outside corner of our house. Attached to it was a wire that connected to a 4” x 6” black box with a dial. To adjust the signal, we would move that dial back and forth, which theoretically moved the antenna around. It never seemed to make much difference to me.

B. We had 3 ½ channels. That was it. Channel 6-ABC, Channel 8-CBS, Channel 13-NBC, and sometimes we could get a good enough signal to pick up Channel 4. We always hoped for a good signal from Channel 4 on Saturday night so we could watch Sammy Terry and the old scary movies! There was also a local Muncie channel, but it was PBS and we rarely cared if we even got that one.

C. Cable came along in the mid-70’s. My parents resisted for a while. “Why would I pay for TV?” Eventually, they gave in and we suddenly had twenty channels. Wow! Then, HBO showed up. My nephew and I discovered that before the adults did. “This movie is rated R. HBO will show this feature only at night.” Need I explain further?


A. We had one phone. A black table-top model with a rotary dial.

B. For most of my childhood, we also had a party line. If you’ve never heard of that, a party line was one that you SHARED with some other random and unknown family. If they were on the phone, you couldn’t use yours. You could literally pick up the phone and listen to some strangers discussing whatever strangers discuss. If you had an emergency, you had to break into their conversation and ask them to hang up so you could make your call. Eventually, as party lines gave way to private lines, we no longer needed to deal with that, but we kept the party line anyway. It was cheaper. No one else was on there, but we still paid less than we would have with a private line.

Air Conditioning

A. Our air conditioning was an open window with a screen. August in Muncie can be hot and very humid. It was normal to have the curtains pulled back and a big box fan stuffed in the window to pull in the night air. It sounds terrible, but you just learned to adapt.

B. Dad never did invest in central air, but after I was grown and gone, mom did eventually nag him to the point that he allowed her to put a window unit in the dining room—one window unit to cool the whole house.

School Transportation

A. I can remember riding a school bus a few times in only one early year of my days in the Muncie Community Schools. It was short-lived, and I really didn’t like it.

B. For most of my days, I walked to school. Kids never walk to school these days. I think parents would be brought up on charges if they expected them to. I started walking to school probably in first grade, and I either walked to or from…or both…all the way into Southside High School. I walked in the sun. I walked in the dark. I walked in the rain. I walked in the snow. I walked in the heat and I walked in the cold. I never walked “five miles, barefoot, up hill both ways” but I did walk.

C. I remember one day in high school when there was a huge snow storm just beginning, the officials released the students early. I had walked to school as normal, but it was snowing like crazy, so I went to the office to call my dad. ME: “Dad, they’re letting us out early because of the snow. Will you come get me?” DAD: “Nope.” ME: “Dad, please. It’s terrible out there.” DAD: “Nope. It won’t hurt you to walk.”

So, I walked.


We had three ways to deal with trash.

a. A half-gallon paper milk carton was torn open and placed beside the sink. Mom would put all food scraps in that container. Weekly it would be put in the main garbage.

b. We had a paper sack that sat on the kitchen floor in front of the refrigerator and next to the trash can. We placed un-burnables in that bag; things like cans or other metal or plastic items. Once a week, the paper milk carton was closed up and added to one of the sacks. The sack would be put in the steel garbage cans out by the alley for the garbage truck to collect.

c. We had a plastic trash can that also was kept in the kitchen. We would put mostly paper in that receptacle, and from time to time, we would take it out to a barrel that my dad kept by the alley to burn. We burned trash as long as I lived there. Most of the neighbors did the same. I don’t think you could get by with that today.

Things we didn’t have…

A. No microwave ovens

B. No cellular phones—geesh, we didn’t even have cordless phones

C. No TV remote controls

D. No DVD players,…we didn’t even have VHS until I was in high school

E. No home computers—a handheld calculator was even rare when I was real little

F. No I-pods, no CD players…we had 8-track players, and before that it was plain old vinyl records.

G. No power nuthin’ in my dad’s car. No power steering. No power brakes. No power windows. I’m lucky he even got an AM radio put in his 1968 Chevy Nova.

You know, as I think about it, it’s a wonder my whole generation even survived. I mean, we even played OUTSIDE in the summer time.

More to come.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Is Your Worship Synchronized?

Sometimes I feel a little conflicted in worship; torn between what I perceive to be the expectations of those around me, and what I feel on the inside. Have you ever been there? More and more, I find myself examining the words my mouth sings, and comparing them to what I am actually doing in worship. Frankly, they don’t always seem to be synchronized.

This thought process began a couple of years ago when I was sitting with a group of parents and teens on a Sunday night. The youth minister was having a devotional to kick off the summer activities. At one point, we sang “This is How We Overcome” by Reuben Morgan. A key line is:

He has turned my mourning into dancing!
He has turned my sorrow into joy!

The more I looked around the room, the more disturbed I became. NO ONE was smiling. No one seemed happy at all. Here we were singing about how God had made us so happy, and our faces were giving off the opposite message. Were we lying to God? Or, were we just not paying attention to what we were singing?

I wasn’t sure then, and I’m still not sure.

That experience got me thinking about our worship. How many times do we sing about things that we just simply don’t mean? Or, maybe we mean them, but we’ve really turned them into metaphors.

What is a metaphor? It is a figure of speech that is applied to something that it does not literally represent in order to reflect a resemblance. It becomes a word picture that describes something else. For example: “Her face shone like the sun.”

I think we have taken acts of worship and have literally made them metaphors of what we think is going on in our hearts. We have suppressed outward obvious worship, and have begun to rely on what we “think” about those things.

“I feel that way, so I don’t need to actually do it.”

Maybe I’ll try that with the IRS. “I felt like I paid my taxes, so I don’t think I really need to do it.”

So, are you interested in some examples? Here you go….

In the last three weeks we have sung three different songs that I think illustrate my point.

First, we sang a song that included a line about “lifting holy hands to God.” That phrase was used several times. In an audience of over 200 people, maybe three or four were actually doing it. I hesitated at first. I’ve been brought up in this suppressed worship atmosphere and I have a hard time breaking out. But, I had to deal with it. How can I sing about it if I’m not willing to do it? So, reluctantly, I raised my hands. It felt so awkward….but, it also felt more honest.

Secondly, we sang a song that encouraged the church to “Shout Hallelujah!” Over and over, it said to “Shout Hallelujah!”

Shout Hallelujah!
Shout Hallelujah!
Shout Hallelujah to the Lord!

Hallelujah literally means to praise Jehovah.

We sing other songs that repeat “Praise Him. Praise Him.”

But, do we ever really do that? To praise someone is to tell them about all the wonderful things they do, all the wonderful things they are, all the features they have that mean so much to us. It would be weird if I walked up to my daughter and only said: “I praise you.” However, if I told her how beautiful she was, or how proud I am of her talents and abilities, then I have actually praised her.

So, we sing about praising God, but how often do we actually do that? What are His features, His qualities, His wonders that mean so much to you? Tell Him about it.  Tell others about Him.

On top of that, the song was encouraging the church to actually SHOUT HALLELUJAH! I wonder what would happen; what people’s reactions would be, if some folks actually started doing that. “Hallelujah!”

Lastly, we sang the song “Here I Am to Worship” by Chris Tomlin. One of the key phrases is:

Here I am to worship
Here I am to bow down
Here I am to say that you’re my God

Here I am to bow down?

Really? Bow down? Actually get down on our knees and physically humble ourselves before God? Bow before the Great I Am? Really?

We sing it. What if we actually did it? If Tim Tebow can do it in the end zone, surely we can do it in church. When Tim does it, the media makes it all about him…Tebowing. However, I’m sure he would agree that it has nothing to do with him and everything to do with God. It is funny how physically humbling our bodies can actually enhance the humility of our hearts.

One of these days, it will be my turn to again lead the congregation I serve in prayer. I’ll get my turn in wording a “Shepherd’s Prayer.” When it comes around again, there’s a better than average chance that I’m going to give the church an opportunity to join me in a little physical humility.

Get ready. It’s coming.

So, how about you? Is your worship only a metaphor? Are the words you sing only a representative of what you hide inside, or are you actually living out the words?

Maybe you could join me in my awkward attempt to be honest, making the words I sing synchronize with the actions I perform. If so, then I say:  HALLELUJAH!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Destiny's Reign

Destiny’s Reign
By Michael DeCamp

One day I went to worship
And God gave me a gift
The praise was over
The sermon had ended
And my destiny said hello

There she stood before me
My future with brown curly hair
Smiling with exotic eyes
That captured my gaze
My heart took notice

My life made a shift that day
A change of direction
It was subtle at first
A simple yearning
A friendship blooming

As friendship matured
And our hearts began to merge
Our lives intertwined
Destiny took the wheel
And our journey began

My gaze is still held captive
By those exotic eyes
Time has not mellowed the yearning
As God’s gift still abides
And my destiny still reigns

In my heart

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Emerald Shadows

Photo courtesy of Pamela Enos
The Emerald Shadows
March 4, 2012
A Short Story by Michael R. DeCamp

The woman stood at the end of her pier staring out over the now calm waters of Whistler’s Lake; the slight chill in the air raising goose bumps on her arms and legs. The sun was shining brightly and through the mist of her exhaled breath, she could see ducks paddling in and out of the reeds along the shore. Despite the heavy storms of the previous evening, everything looked normal enough this morning; everything that is except for the wooden door floating in the placid ripples about thirty feet off the end of the dock.

The door, frame and all, looked as if it belonged there. It seemed as if it was simply part of the normal order of things, and that there was a hidden chamber underneath, sort of a natural portal to another watery realm.

Curiosity. That’s what the image evoked in the mind of the middle-aged woman as she stood there staring and her light blue nightgown flapped lightly in the wind. It seemed odd to her that the door would be in that place. How could it have come to be there? There did not seem to be any other debris nearby, and yet there it was. Stationary in the water just a few feet away; locked in place as if God Himself had hung it there.

She had always been prone to curiosity. If she had been a cat, she would have used up her nine lives before she exited her teens. At times it tended to dominate her and threaten to drive her over the edge. Times like when a friend would start to share some meaty gossip, but then would say: “Oh, I can’t tell you. It wouldn’t be right.” Those times drove her nearly mad.

Now, that curiosity seemed to swell with each ripple that flowed up to the doorframe. However, unlike the tiny waves that dissipated when they reached the hinged portal, her curiosity only continued to blossom. A bud of wonder formed, then began to open, until when in full bloom, she finally determined that she simply had to take a closer look.

On her right, rocking gently against the aluminum framework of the pier was her old rowboat. She walked over and looked inside at the collection of oars, lifejackets, and dirty water gathered in the bottom of the small vessel. She really ought to go back inside and put on some better clothes, but she just could not bring herself to turn around. She was drawn to the door like mouse to a piece of cheese, or a moth to a porch light in the summer.

She stepped down onto one of the seats, careful not to lose one of her matching, light blue house-slippers; holding onto a mildly rotted wooden support post for balance. Once aboard, she stepped on down into the boat, soaking her slippers in the dirty mixture of rain and lake water in the bottom, and sat down onto the seat. After untying the line from the mooring and fixing the oars into their mating hardware along the port and starboard sides of the boat, she pushed off and began to row quietly toward the strange door that seemed to be beckoning for her attention.

In a few minutes, she found herself along side the door. As was the norm with a row boat, she had paddled facing the stern with the bow of the boat at her back and she had come up along side the door with its knob on her right along the port side of the boat.

Now that she was upon it, she could see that it was a plain sort of door commonly used for bedrooms or closets with no ornamentation at all. There was nothing to visually stimulate the kind of essence of intrigue that she was feeling as she looked upon its oak laminate finish save one spot that had been crushed inward. The knob was simple as well; a plain, round brass knob. No lock.

It is an odd thing about closed doors. They seem to beg to be opened. It harkens back to the days of your youth when your parents would take you on a visit to some seemingly ancient relative in an even more ancient old house with lots of old, six-panel doors, layered thick with paint, that just called out to be opened. A weird mixture of fear and curiosity would tug at your mind until you could sneak a peak only to find a pantry full of canning jars and cereal boxes.

This door in the lake evoked that same sort of feeling. The woman knew that logically the only thing under the door was more water, but the mere fact that it was floating there still latched in its frame seemed to demand that the knob be turned and the door pulled open on its hinges. She had no choice. She had to do it. She had to open that door and look inside. It was calling to her. There was a pressure from inside pushing her to sneak a peak.

Slowly, with a trepidation that she could not understand, she leaned over the edge of the boat and turned the knob. It clicked and popped free of the latch. It took a bit more strength than she expected to pull the door open because she was leaning at an odd angle over the rim of the boat; pulling up with her right hand while trying to maintain her balance in the rocking boat with her left. With much effort, she managed to pull the door free and fling it open.

The door stopped, frozen in place when perpendicular to the water revealing within the framework an emerald staircase that descended deep into the heart of the lake. The sun was just high enough that she could see down quite a distance, but she could not see the bottom. The light faded away after maybe ten steps and the shadows of the deep took over.

If a closed door whispers feelings of curiosity and fear, a shadowed staircase to somewhere unknown screams the same and more. She simply could not ignore its call. She had to know. She had to know what was down there, and how could it have come to be. She trembled with fear, but her curiosity drove her forward.

Tilting the boat to the side, she slid overboard and onto the top step and let the vessel float away. Down she stepped. One step. Two. Three more steps. Soon her head was even with the surface of the lake. She was amazed at the weirdness of the situation. She could look down into the darkness of the portal that should not exist, and at the same time she could look out over the waters of the lake; at all the beauty that was her home. The ducks. The water lilies. The roses, lilacs, and peonies that she so delicately cared for each spring.

Should she keep going, she wondered. Or, should she ignore the longing to further descend into the darkness below?

She loved the world above, but it had lost much of its luster when her husband had passed. Her children were grown and had moved away. All that was left for her were the flowers, the ducks,…and…the lake. So little to satisfy an intense curiosity.

Now, the lake was calling to her. It was as if she could hear her name echoing up the emerald steps. “Maaaaggie. Maaaaggie. Come down, Maggie. Come down.”

She looked around at the sunshine reflecting off the rippled water one more time, and then stepped down. One more step. Two more. She glanced up at the sky as she took a third, smiled as a bird soared overhead, and then turned back toward the darkness as the door smoothly swung shut sealing her inside the emerald shadows.

Each day now, they wheel her out to the end of the pier to sit in the sun and stare blankly over the water; hopeful that the lake will free her mind and let her come back. But, she cannot see the ducks or the flowers or the bright rays of the sun reflecting off of the calm waters. All she can see is the swirling, twirling, whirling emerald shadows, and she is captivated by the intensity of the images as each is more intriguing than the last.