Written by Karl Johnson

Karl Johnson


Karl Johnson received his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees from Cornell University. Karl previously served as the Dan Tillemans Director of the Cornell Team and Leadership Center, a division of Cornell Outdoor Education. Karl was recognized as a 1999 Academy of Leisure Sciences Future Scholar and has received several writing awards, including the 2014 Literary Award of the Christian Society of Kinesiology and Leisure Studies. His interests include human relations with the natural landscape, from wilderness to urban environs. Karl currently serves as Chief Strategist for The Octet Collaborative, the center for Christian study at MIT.  Beginning in January 2021, he will serve as the Director of the Consortium for Christian Study Centers.

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April 14, 2009

I love Ithaca. Partly because there is no end of creative, interesting, and talented people. But I don’t just love the people who pass through. I actually love place itself.

Here is a poem that captures both sides of my affection: a poem about Ithaca, written by one of the many creative students who hangs around Chesterton House happenings.


Praise God, little tree outside the Women’s Community Building. Are you a chinaberry tree? No. Praise God, whatever you are, in the bounty of your tiny red fruits.

Praise God, men and women dressed in brown, carrying your lives on your backs. Praise God, street-side café with your goggle-eyed Chihuahua sign. Praise God, scrap metal horse. Praise God, basement shop full of silky foreign scarves.

Praise God, shoe store so proud of being in Collegetown since before you were born.

Praise God, little tattoo parlor with the brass sign on your inner door, Confessions, 3-5 pm.

Praise God, students. Little crooked streets. Sing your danger, cliffs. Praise God, falling water. Praise God, each one who crosses safely.

Praise God, Beatles played by bells. And the campus looking down on us. Praise God, poodles. Bikes. Clod-hoofed horses. Praise God, five-year-olds, and all you who were once five, and all you who will be five, and you whom death took early.

Praise God, silent smoke-stack factory, you beautiful eyesore: graffitied rooms with hot pink passages in French, upper windows that caught sunset like flame. Your windows are smashed. You have been gulped away by trucks and men in yellow hard hats. Praise God, wrecking crew. Praise God, even though you are gone; for what was brokenly lovely in you is not lost.

Praise God, all you who remain, ashes, crocuses, sunrise flooding the lake.

All you with momentary bodies: Praise God, for He is risen, and the thick choke of your fear is not the final word.



Chesterton House Painting