FARGO — At a friend’s recent, final-hour invitation to a Zoom call celebrating the life and work of our late pal and poet, Timothy Murphy, I gladly registered, then pushed on with preparations for dinner, eager for the word-dappled dessert to come.
Murphy’s penultimate outpouring of lyrically lavished words have been gathered into a posthumously published book, “Hiking All Night,” by the North Dakota State University Press, with a final collection still in the works.
After clearing the table that evening, I slipped into my office to set up. With our teen sons doing homework in another room, and my husband away, my heart readied for an hour of thoughtful reflection.
Noting the names of Murphy’s friends and family far and wide onscreen, I was delighted when the wordsmith himself was called from the grave to be the first reader of his own words, through audio recording — and in that measured, emphatic poetic voice we all treasured, and dearly missed.
Others then began taking turns reading their favorites from Murphy’s poems when, suddenly, the still image of a naked woman flashed before us, followed by unfamiliar voices spewing foul language. A confusing confluence commenced: words from the heart of a hunter who’d been happily haunted by the hound of heaven clashed shockingly with obscenities from the halls of hell, which came too quickly to be quelled.
Evil entered the safe realm of our homes that night, intruding on a tender time of recollecting our friend, who’d himself escaped a kind of hell-on-earth; one finally relinquished at the reckoning of redemption’s reality.
Murphy had begun his life in a Christian home in Moorhead, but later, setting out on a search for truth, he wandered away from his childhood faith. When he finally recognized the voice of Christ calling him back, Murphy’s writing revived along with his soul’s ascent. The fruits of Murphy’s prolific final years, a collaboration with the Holy Spirit as he called it, are now relics we can hold.
As the Zoom call closed by necessity shortly after the pornographic intrusion, I sobbed — for Murphy’s family, friends, and for our boys, whose youthful voices now drifted, muffled, through a vent. What kind of wicked world are we bequeathing them, I wondered?
The next day, the newspaper announced a forthcoming eatery featuring “female servers dressed in revealing clothing.” My spirit dampened again, recalling the evening prior, and noting the tie-in: The objectification of humans that abets our culture’s degradation. How long, Lord?
My solace comes in knowing, as Murphy discovered, that the world’s empty enticements — yes, the wicked and their wiles — will whimper away in time, as the Lord of Life has promised.
But here and now, to rectify the damage of that marred night with an edifying verse, I give Murphy the final words, from the last stanza of his “Poet, Yes,” “from Hiking All Night,” p. 127:
Spirit, let me proceed by indirection,
praising Your montane trees,
the sweet salt of the seas,
to find in prairie beauty Your reflection.
Salonen, a wife and mother of five, works as a freelance writer and speaker in Fargo. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, and find more of her work at Peace Garden Passage, http://roxanesalonen.com/.