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Answering the Call

Elizabeth Brooke-Carr


Winter snow and ice have provided equal amounts of disruption and beauty in the southern region this year. Vehicles have slid on and off icy roads. Emergency departments at hospitals have dealt with large numbers of people injured in falls and accidents. Dunedin's mid winter street festival was cancelled because of a heavy snowfall accompanied by bitingly cold winds. Hoar frosts in Central Otago have threatened water supplies on some properties. With ponds frozen for days on end animals have become dehydrated. At least one farmer has had to carry water to her horses who were off their hay.

But the call to respond to winter's attractions has been every bit as compelling as the call to answer its emergencies. Our Australian visitor had the time of her life tasting the pristine snow and capturing its beauty with her camera. An elegant snow lady, complete with bonnet and boots, was sculpted in our back garden. The whole suburb, it seemed, was out walking in the fluffy whiteness after the first snowfall. Tin trays, sacks, and bits of wood were called into service as toboggans on the streets. As the wintry season progressed, even My Curler, who's usually a fairly prosaic sort of chap, was captivated. Then he heard The Call. And was transfigured.

I was reminded of a conversation with a friend, many years ago. She, too, had answered The Call, and been forever changed. When she explained to me that her entry into the ministry was not a simple matter of choice, I raised my eyebrows. What else could it be? We were liberated women, surely? We had both completed similar theological training. She had chosen to enter the ministry. I had chosen to take up a secular career. Or so I argued. But my friend was adamant that, for her, choice didn't enter into it. She had heard, and answered The Call. We have both retired now: she, after many successful years in her calling; me, after as many years in the career of my choice. So, was it just a question of semantics? Or, is there some greater mystery, some higher ideal or power directing The Call ?

This winter I have been forced to grapple anew with the question. It's a slippery one, as debate about free will and determinism often is. But I've seen the light - reflected to me from the Idaburn dam. And it's awesome. Tucked up by the comfort of our glowing fireside, where I've chosen to stay, I have witnessed My Curler's transformation as he answered The Call. From the great domain of cyberspace it came. And the change was instant. All thought of settling back to ponder on Sudoku or Codecracker was cast to the devil. In the twinkling of an eye annual leave was applied for and granted; briefcase swapped for duffel bag; cotton undies for thermals; the alarm set for an ungodly hour next morning. The Call had awoken some primitive force in my Curler's psyche and it was as plain to see as the yet icicle-free beard on his face.

Traversing frosty Central Otago roads in foggy darkness, as swiftly as he dared, my Curler made the pilgrimage safely to the Idaburn dam. All day in the lowering mist he played. Tam o'shanters bobbed and whirled about him in a kaleidoscope of wintry praise. With the help of a little ginger wine cheeks glowed ruddy in the sub-zero communion. The rumble of stones across the polished surface of the dam, the frantic swish of brooms sweeping a path for the stone to reach its potential, the clatter of stray stones connecting with others, and the shouts of joy as a stone slid into the 'house,' these things shaped the liturgy of the game.

'You should have been there,' my Curler sighed, hollow-eyed and exhausted, as he explained the details to me, afterwards. 'It was out of this world. Incredible. Absolutely beautiful and kind of …' he paused, as he gazed over my head searching for the inexpressible. In the end he gave up. As if he knew I'd never get it anyway - the compelling magnetism of The Call.

'Well,' I said, throwing another log on the fire, 'Hell would have to freeze over before I'd give up my right to choose…' But my Curler hadn't heard me. He had a glazed look in his eyes as if he was still on the Idaburn dam, the closest to glory that he's ever been. The ineffable power of pure water, the thick, frozen, translucent kind had claimed him. He had heard The Call of the Bonspiel. And, rejoicing, he had answered it.


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