There’s nothing like a good long walk. Every summer, I disappear for a few days into the woods of northern Michigan, near where I grew up. This year, I walked along the Lake Superior shore near Pictured Rocks. I spend most of each day on the trails, with camping kit, food, and a book or two stuffed into my pack. There are a few other people every day on the trails, but not many. In camp at night, you get to talk to other hikers about where they came from that day and about the other spots their hikes have taken them to. But most of my time on hikes is spent quietly and privately, which gives me an opportunity to think about the kinds of things that are hard to think about during the constant press of daily life. My walks through the woods give me time to consider how my life has changed over the past year and wonder where my life might take me next.
It’s natural to think about the course of your life while on a long walk. From John Bunyan to Dante, to more recent authors such as Cormac McCarthy in his bleak novel The Road authors have used the metaphor of a journey on foot to signify the long journey that comprises every human life. The twists in the road, the obstacles that block our path, the wrong turns and doubling back, these all tell the story of our lives and our search for happiness and hope, the story of our souls’ reunion with God.
Another example is found in Wendell Berry’s wonderful novel Jayber Crow. Martha Greene Eads’s essay, “Suffering unto Salvation,” traces the lifelong pilgrimage of an orphan named Jayber, a journey that begins with him walking the roads lonely and isolated, and leads through a life of sorrow and suffering, but brings him ultimately to recognize the immense love he feels for a tiny town that becomes his home. Also in this issue, Susanna Childress, in “Instructions for the Vocationally Challenged,” offers a sort of roadmap that will be of great use for those planning their own journeys (especially for anyone who has ever thought about making a career of babysitting).
Two review essays in this issue say something about the kinds of missteps we often make on this journey. David K. Weber reviews David Brooks’s book The Social Animal, which argues that recent findings in neuroscience demonstrate that human beings will experience life as most fulfilling not when they achieve the greatest successes as individuals, but when they live out their lives within a web of loving, stable relationships, And Christina Bieber Lake considers the recent film Limitless as an example of how technology offers a false hope of transforming our lives and bringing us a sort of happiness that, if it really existed, would take us beyond the flaws that cannot be escaped in the world in which we live .
After sixteen years on the job, poetry editor John Ruff has decided to pass the torch. In his long tenure, John has chosen hundreds of poems to be published in our pages and introduced our readers to the voices of a wonderful range of gifted poets. He has worked with three different editors, and I can speak for all of them in thanking John for the great job he has done for all this time.
Our new poetry editor, Marci Rae Johnson, teaches for the First-Year Core program and the English department at Valparaiso University and also serves as Poetry Editor for WordFarm press. Marci holds an MFA in Poetry Writing from Spalding University and an MA in Theological Studies from Wheaton College (IL). Her own poems have appeared in many fine journals including The Valparaiso Review, The Louisville Review, The Christian Century, Minnetonka Review, and 32 Poems. Her first collection of poetry won the 2011 Powder Horn Prize and will be published by Sage Hill Press later this year. We at The Cresset are pleased to welcome Marci to our staff.