Sunday, September 24, 2023

Family Reunion

A quick note to say that this is what we did yesterday afternoon and evening:

Hurrah for family reunions held at the old family church, Faith Lutheran!  Yes that's the church where I am currently the Synod Appointed Minister.  The weather was gorgeous despite tropical storm Ophelia to our east.  We were able to gather in the picnic pavilion on the church grounds and walk up to the building to use the kitchen and rest room facilities.

We ate barbecue on buns (the sliced meat kind with a great sauce), amazing watermelon (so sweet and in late September!), other fruits, cut up veggies, and wonderful homemade cookies.  I haven't had a snickerdoodle in years, and these were mighty fine.

Some of us will return to church today for worship.  I'm trying not to feel nervous.  But some of these people (and not just my parents) have known me since I was a little girl.  

Yesterday I created this Facebook post:  

"Happy autumnal equinox! We are headed to Bristol, Tennessee for a family reunion, and then tomorrow, a lot of family will be at Faith Lutheran to worship. I will preach a sermon to people who have known me since I was young and reading Laura Ingalls Wilder and trying to learn those pioneer life skills from my elders--hope they like my sermon! It won't have much to do with little houses on prairies, but it will have to do with life in God's abundant vineyard."

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Autumnal Equinox in the Mountains and in the Wellness Center

Autumn has arrived!  The autumnal equinox came early this year, at 2:50 a.m.  And yes, I was awake, even though I was trying to fall back asleep.  We had the window open, and for weeks now, the trees have been dropping something that makes a loud pop when it hits the tin roofs that are all around us (we have traditional shingles).  You would think I would be used to that noise by now, but I am not.

I lay awake this morning reflecting on how the night noise has changed through the summer.  A month ago, the noise of crickets and cicadas lasted until 3 a.m. or so.  Now that noise is much subdued, but the loud pops have increased.

We are celebrating the equinox in an unusual way.  Later this morning, we'll get in our car and head to Bristol, Tennessee.  My grandmother's side of the family is having a reunion at Faith Lutheran today.  We'll gather at the church, enjoy a picnic in the outdoor pavilion, and be done by 8 p.m.  Tomorrow, some of us will worship at the church where I will be leading worship.  If we all go to church, we'll increase the worship attendance by about 50%.

I think about the older generation, my grandmother's generation, who are no longer with us.  What would they make of this reunion?  I imagine they would be thrilled, at least with the evening meal.  They would be happy that so many of us would be going to church.  By the time that they died, I think that most of them would be O.K. with a woman leading worship. 

The weather looks perfect.  We are far enough away from the coast that tropical storm Ophelia won't affect us.  I am glad that my parents left Williamsburg yesterday.  That area floods even when there isn't a tropical system, so I'm glad they're not dealing with that.

Today I am thinking about past autumnal equinoxes.  One year I was at the Wellness Center in downtown Fort Lauderdale--it was on the 8th floor and had great windows.  I was there for a 6:30 p.m. fitness (not spin) class.  Out to the east we saw the full moon rising and out to the west we could see the sun setting.  It felt magical, like an unusual alignment even though it happens every year (although the moon isn't full every year and doesn't rise at the same time each equinox).

I am so happy to be in a place where autumn means a change in my surroundings:  cooler temperatures, leaves changing, apple orchards operating at full speed.

Friday, September 22, 2023

A Sketch to Welcome Autumn

I've gone from not writing about sketching for several months (or longer) to two blog posts in one week about sketching, which is fine.  Over the last few days, I returned to a practice that I only do occasionally, trying to replicate someone else's work.  Here's the final version of my sketch, which looks more vibrant on my desk than in this photo:

And here's the original, from this web site:

"First Day of Autumn" by Kim Leo

As I was sketching earlier this week, I realized that some of my markers seemed dried up, yet again, some of the important ones, the orange ones, in coloring pumpkins.  I do hate filling the markers, since if there's a way to do that easily and neatly, I haven't discovered it:

But it's much more economical to refill markers, so I do it.  

And I do take some delight in all the blibs and blobs of color on various papers (paper towels, cotton balls, a sheet of sketchbook paper):

Long ago, I needed more constant inspiration when I was doing a daily sketch for a card with a date on it that would greet students as they did the COVID sign in protocol.  I both wanted something special for students and a way to make myself sketch more.  These days, I rarely need that inspiration in that same way, but it was great to feel motivated that way, and to be relatively successful.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Thursday Snippets: Quilting, Testing, Teaching

My brain feels a bit scattered today, so let me just collect a series of shorter observations.

--Last week I was isolating because of a positive COVID test.  Yesterday both of us finally tested negative, so I was able to go back to Wednesday quilting at the local Arden church near my Lutheridge house.  I did a bit of fabric sorting, and then I decided that I really wanted to do some hand sewing.  It's not practical to do hand sewing every week; we're trying to complete as many quilts as possible for Lutheran World Relief.

But yesterday, we had three sewing machines in operation, and I didn't feel like setting up another one and then getting the more skilled people to help me when the machine was counter intuitive.  It was so soothing to put together some fabrics with pumpkins and to sit and sew long seams.

--We were able to do COVID tests because on Monday, we made a trip to downtown Asheville, to the Public Health Department where they were still giving out free test kits.  I thought about how people of a different generation might have once, long ago, reported to the health department to get tested for an STD.  I remember news stories in the 1990's that predicted the death of public health departments as STDs became more treatable and traceable, and health department officials didn't need to go into neighborhoods doing contact tracing and tracking down exposures.  Little did we know of the challenges coming down the pick in the field of public health.

--I am glad to read that the federal government will be shipping free COVID 19 test kits again.  If I have to pay $8+ dollars for a kit, I'm not going to test any time I have congestion.

--I am creating a different kind of assignment for my English 102 class, an assignment which has two parts.  The first part is a response to the broad prompt of Seasons and Holidays.  It can be a creative response or an analytical response.  The second part requires analysis of the process of creating part one.  I'm interested to see how it works out.

--I'm also pleased with the research project for my English 101 class.  As I usually do these days, I break it into parts:  a pre-research essay, an annotated bibliography, and a research essay.  I'm also having them do at least one interview and write about it.

Let me stop writing now and get ready for those classes.

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Return to the Land of the Living

It's strange to reflect how easy it was to isolate last week when we were first aware that we had COVID.  I did go to the grocery store each morning; I went early and wore an N95 mask and did self checkout, so I'm hopeful that I didn't spread the disease.  But I did my teaching online and took my seminary classes online, and it was fairly easy to isolate.  

I am grateful that I have a good internet connection.  That was one of my worries about moving to the mountains.  The antenna for the TV doesn't bring us much in the way of options, and I worried it might be the same for internet.  I'm guessing that living close to Asheville helps in terms of technology.  I know that there are nearby parts of Appalachia that have much less in the way of services (phone, TV, internet).

If I had to choose between good TV reception and good internet reception, I'd choose internet every time.

Yesterday I made the trek back down the mountains to teach my in person classes.  My 102 class was missing half the members; they had a paper due, but that's no reason to miss class, since they can have an extension.  Both classes went well, but my voice is still not back to normal.  I didn't feel quite as energized as I did pre-COVID, but that might have nothing to do with recovering from COVID.

I am looking forward to next term, when I won't be creating so much curriculum as I go along.  I like the idea of teaching without a literature text book, but I underestimated the amount of time I would spend deciding which literary works we'll read.  I also know that at some point, I'll miss this part of the teaching life, finding literary works that go together for a class session, a process which is both energizing and draining at the same time.

Next term, I am scheduled to teach only 101 classes, which is fine with me.  In some ways, it's a more straight forward class, which makes it easier.  

Let me shift gears and head to the laundromat.  Hopefully we'll get the laundry room at the house finished in the next few weeks, but between travel and COVID, our home repairs/renovations are a bit behind.  Luckily, the laundromat is close and easy and so far, I've been having luck getting laundry to dry in the sunshine.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Virgin Mary, Harriet Tubman, and Haunted Landscapes

It has been awhile since I posted anything about my sketching practice.  I've continued sketching, at least 5 minutes a day; it's part of my morning spiritual discipline, the Morning Watch devotion time that I lead for my Florida church on Facebook.  I've been doing that since late March of 2020.

I've also continued to sketch at other times, but it's often closer to doodling than anything that seems worthy of a blog post.  However, last week I changed my approach and ended up with this sketch:

It began when I read this passage for my seminary Systematic Theology course, a passage from Jurgen Moltmann's The Way of Jesus Christ:  Christology in Messianic Dimensions:

"The Holy Spirit, not Mary, is the source of life, the mother of believers, the divine Wisdom, and the indwelling of the divine essence in creation, from which the face of the earth will be renewed.  . . . It is the Holy Spirit, not Mary herself, who is co-worker with the messianic son of God, and who together with him will redeem the world" (p. 86).

I felt a bit annoyed at the dismissal of Mary as a mere vessel, a womb for hire.  Moltmann's language aligns the Holy Spirit with some feminine aspects, but it still irked me.  I had a vision of the kind of Mary image that I had sketched somewhat obsessively back in December of 2020:

I had a vision of that figure but with trees and a big moon in the sky, a more autumnal Mary.  As I sketched, I also added the star in the left corner, the star that is the Christmas Eve star in my iconography.

As I sketched, I was also thinking of Harriet Tubman and swampy landscapes.  I wasn't surprised when the river emerged, but I didn't anticipate the basket when I was first thinking of the sketch.  Unlike many sketches, I started work on it and completed it in the same sitting.

It's not quite done with me, this sketch.  Earlier this week I started another sketch as part of my morning spiritual discipline.

Monday, September 18, 2023

Ebbs and Flows and Writing Rhythms

My blogging practice fell off a bit last week--but if I'm honest, I think I've been missing a day or two each week for months.  In some ways, I'm OK with that.  In other ways, it makes me feel a bit panicky.  My other writing practices have been in decline too, but I've told myself that as long as I blogged daily, I would be O.K.

I'm not sure how I came to this line of thought.  I used to say the same about my morning pages, 3 pages written longhand, each and every morning.  Blogging fills the same purpose in some ways:  part journaling, part getting out of my own way, part recording of things that will otherwise not be remembered, part inspiration, part duty.

Even in this time period of more flexible schedules, I still have trouble balancing all that I want to do.  Is that true?  Or is it more true to say that some writing I no longer want to do?  I still love the idea of writing novels, but I also realize that my novels are likely to remain unpublished.  I still love writing the novel as a project, as something that keeps me entertained--but these days, with so many schedule disruptions, I'm not likely to see a novel to completion of the rough draft, let alone revision.

Before our Labor Day travel and our COVID infections, I was getting into a poetry rhythm.  I had actually composed a poem or two to completion.  My more usual practice over the past year or two (or more?) has been that I write a few lines, have a few more ideas, write a bit more, run out of time, never return to the draft.  My older process was to think the poem to completion before writing anything--I did wind up with more completed poems, but I lost more ideas too.

Obviously, both approaches have pros and cons, but I do wish the poetry part of my brain was feeling more inspired on a daily basis.  I was going to write that I should try reading more poetry, but I'm actually reading quite a bit of poetry as I prepare for my in-person class each week.  

I tend to be hard on myself for all the scrolling and internet reading and online ways of "wasting" time.  Some that time could be better spent.  Some of it is class prep.  Some of it will come out in poems in interesting ways.

I am grateful that I'm no longer spending time, so much time, getting ready for accreditation visits and doing the documenting that is required of administrators.  I do not miss that kind of writing, although I was skilled at it.

Let me do what I always do:  trust that my processes are at work, while also looking for ways to have more writing in each day.