Allen Stark

Allen Stark

A few years ago, during Thanksgiving break, the sun created unseasonable warm air and several children were playing across the street from Al’s house.

The adults were also taking advantage of the warm day and were busy trimming trees and shrubs, planting winter flowers, and a few even began hanging Christmas lights on eaves, trees, shrubs, and fences. The new rage in holiday lawn decorations was a group of animated deer that moved their heads up and down. It seemed strange that so many of the neighbors had bought into the new fad.

Moving closer to the window, Al noticed there was one house that, in addition to its nativity scene, there was also a 15-foot high, air-filled Santa and a 10-foot high Cat-in-the-Hat.

Al was focusing his attention back on the children when one of the parents carried a large tub filled with soapy water and sat it down in their driveway. The children, varying in age from three to teenager, began dipping their large bubble wands into the tub. Some waved them through the air while others ran holding them overhead, creating various sizes and shapes of bubbles.

Being a writer, Al was always on the lookout for visuals and ideas for stories, articles, and poetry. His mind drifted here and there, as the bubbles rose and sank in the warm air of late-morning.

He watched captivated as one very large and colorful bubble flowed toward him. It seemed to hover just above a small tree in his yard for what happened to be at least a minute. And then a sudden gust of wind, from out of nowhere, sent it crashing into the tree.

The entire episode probably took less than a few seconds, but Al’s mind played it back in slow motion: The unexpected gust of wind, the movement of the bubble, the changing shapes glimmering with all the colors of the rainbow, the penetration of the leafless branches moving inside the quivering bubble, the spray of droplets through the air, some clinging to branches and blades of grass before slowly disappearing.

He sank back in his chair, picked up his pen and began writing.

It is true. Bubbles can take on many shapes, sizes, and colors. They can drift, being admired with wonder and awe, until they finally do burst.

Yes, bubbles do burst, whether created out of soapsuds, or permitted to grow out of an over-blown sense of well-being — moral as well as material. The bursting most often happens unexpectedly and slowly, and usually leaves a mess before disappearing.

No one ever plans for the bubble to burst, but when it does there is always a reaction. It is sometimes fast, but most often it is seen in slow motion, as the mind makes attempt after attempt to analyze and put into proper perspective what it has witnessed, with the end result sometimes being simple disappointment, or the most frightening prospects our mind can conjure up.

So what happens to the spirit when the bubble bursts?

The thought suddenly hit Al: “Now that sounds like something my wife would ask. So, how might she answer the question?” he wondered. “To be sure she would say that …” He began to write what his wife’s answer might be:

It becomes a time of testing. Testing of your character, resolve, beliefs, other people’s reaction to our bubble bursting, and perhaps our decision to either create another bubble to climb inside of, or find a way to exist outside of it. And the greatest of all temptations would be to believe that nothing has changed since the bubble burst.

After the bubble bursts there are usually times of necessary physical, moral, or spiritual clarification, which happens too rarely in life, but are precious times when they do. These times usually follow after hours, days, weeks, or possibly even years of confusion. However, these are opportunities to rediscover ourselves.

As Al paused, his eyes looked up at a plaque that had been above his desk for a couple of years, and knew the Scripture written on it by heart. He read the words and scripture reference, as if an unseen person had asked him to: “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known; along unfamiliar paths I will guide them. I will turn their darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them, Isaiah 42:16 and 17.”

It was all beginning to make sense. Al’s bubble had burst a few years prior when he lost a job he had expected to have for some time to come. And he was on the road to recovering himself and where it was he felt the Creator of all good things wanted to use his gift of writing.

— Allen Stark can be reached at amsstark@msn.com.

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