Friday, April 29, 2022

Prayers, Patterns, and Paper

One of the great things about going to the Create in Me retreat is that I come home with all sorts of ideas. Let me record one of them here. This prayer practice would work well on one's own or in a group; we did it in a group.


We sat in groups of three or four around tables, and each table had a plastic bag with supplies: glue sticks, all sorts of papers (plain colors, pages from old hymn books, papers with patterns), and scissors. We also had larger squares of black paper on the table.


We were told to think about people, places, and situations in our lives in need of prayer. We were instructed to choose the three or four that most meeting and to pick a paper to represent that prayer. So, for example, If I choose my spouse, I might select a page from a paisley pattern, while the situation in Ukraine might call for a yellow piece of paper.


We were to choose a shape, and each prayer had the same shape. So my prayer for my spouse might be triangles, while my prayer for Ukraine might be squares. And then we set to work cutting the paper.


With my broken wrist, I could not cut, but I adapted. I tore some shapes, and then I realized they weren't all going to look the same, so I just didn't worry about trying to make them the same.


Once we had our shapes cut, we arranged them on the square of black paper and glued them; we were told to keep the center of the page uncovered. While we did the cutting and gluing process, we had music in the background; I believe I recognized George Winston. For me it helped me attain a meditative state, but I could see that working in silence might be good too.


When we were done, we put our prayers on the walls. We did this the first night, and it was good to move through the creativity retreat surrounded by prayers.


I like this activity because anyone can do it. I like thinking about prayers in a more tactile way. It's adaptable to those who can't cut or those who feel like they don't have an artistic bone in their body. It could lead to group discussion, but it doesn't have to. For those of us you need something to do as we settle into a meditative state, this practice could be a good one.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Voice Recognition Software

Many computer programs have more power, more features than I will ever need--much like my brain. Once I went to observe a class where the faculty member was showing the class some of the features of Word that don't show up on the toolbar.

Granted most of them were things that I would never need to do; still it was great to know they were available.

When I fell on April 15th and hurt my wrist, I had some seminary assignments I needed to complete. I thought about asking for an extension, but in most of my classes we only get one extension, and I worried that I might need an extension more later. So I decided to see what the dictate function of Word would do.

In the early years of this century, I had done some work with voice recognition software, but I had to make so many corrections that it just didn't seem worth it. That technology has come a long way. I have been doing all sorts of writing in the past several weeks, and I am amazed at how few mistakes I have to correct.

I've written comments for my students’ essays as I've graded them, and it's much easier with voice recognition software. By easier I really mean it's faster. I've responded to emails this way too. It requires some cutting and pasting, but that's OK.

As I've been writing papers for seminary classes that I'm taking, I've been trying to observe the process. Do I write differently? Am I formulating thoughts differently? So far the writing process itself seems similar, whether I am typing directly or speaking out loud and watching the words scroll across the page. I go back to correct errors as I notice them with either process. I don't think that one process or the other generates more errors.

Will I continue using this feature once I have regained the power to type the way I was trained? Maybe. It's good to know that it's available and that it works so easily. I do miss the ability to write with any kind of background noise; I can't listen to the radio for example.

I'm grateful for this voice recognition technology, and I'm happy that I've been able to adapt. The end of the term waits for no one, and while I could get an extension, I'm ready to be done with these projects. Soon I will be—hurrah!

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Creativity Retreat with Broken Wrist

Last week I would have already been on the road for a few hours. Last week I thought I had a sprained wrist. I got to my friend’s house, took a quick shower, and we went out to enjoy a lovely meal in the April sunshine.

The next day, when I arrived at camp, I was encouraged to go get my wrist X rayed. Even before the creativity retreat started, I had a right hand splinted, which made it mostly unusable. And yes, I am right handed.

Would I have still gone to the retreat had I known? Yes I would have but I would have packed differently--I ended up with lots of articles of clothing that wouldn't go over the splint, sweaters and things.


Over the 15 years that I've been attending this retreat, it's become less of an event for me about trying new things and discovering new art forms. I've made deep friendships that are rekindled each year with this retreat. That's the main reason I go, and I don't need the use of my right hand for that.

Still it was strange to see all the creativity around me and not to do it--so I decided to see what my left hand could do. It's one of those things that many a creativity book tells you to try: use your non-dominant hand and see what happens.

At first I started with watercolors. I had been enjoying the azalea bushes and so I tried to capture them. That went well so I did something more abstract, which turned into a descending dove. 

I then did another piece with watercolor, which I used as the basis of a collage.


The next day I tried doing zentangles with my left hand, but as I expected that required a level of precision that I can't do with my left hand yet. But there were colored markers on the table, so I started to sketch with those. Part of me wonders if this sketch that I did with my left hand is so very different from what I might have created with my right hand.


I didn't do much writing while I was away, even though I had the computer. I did get some reading done for seminary classes, so that was good. the weather was beautiful, but I didn't feel like going on a walk. It was almost hot by the middle of the day, and my splint makes me feel even warmer and itchier--or maybe that's just an excuse.

I enjoyed being surrounded by creative folks, and I got some ideas for future retreats of my own, which will be a subject for another blog post. At the end of the retreat, we walked the labyrinth created by cloth braids, which I recognized from an earlier retreat. 

In fact, I had provided fabric strips for people to write prayers on, strips which we later braided together. And now, 10 years later, we're still using those braids to create a labyrinth--what a great metaphor for community.


I had always assumed that only death would prevent us from having this community, but the last three years have shown me that the world is more fragile then I knew. People can move away, diseases can change the way we gather, institutions which once seemed solid may not be. That realization made the joy of being together even more vivid, and I wouldn't have missed it just because I had a broken wrist.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Driving with a Broken Wrist

Over the next few days, I will write about the Create in Me retreat. It's the first one we have had since 2019, and it was different:  a bit more low key, a more relaxed pace, but a great retreat. Today, let me write a bit about the trip in the car.

When I left, I thought I just had a sprained wrist. The drive up wasn't too bad, although for about the first hour I wondered if I was making a mistake. I had a soft brace on my hand and wrist, So I could still move my fingers. I couldn't clench the steering wheel, but my right hand could help with the steering and holding steady.

While I was away, I had my wrist splinted, so my right arm was bent, and I had less use of my fingers. I knew the trip back would be different. I had always planned to go back to Columbia to spend some time with a grad school friend on Sunday. I decided to make that trip, and if it turned out to be impossible, I would call my spouse and strategize.

It was not as easy as the trip up the mountain, but I thought that I could probably make the trip back to South Florida. I didn't want my spouse to have to fly up and drive the car back, and I didn't want to fly down and have to go back and get the car at some other point. So yesterday morning, off I went.

I was surprised at the amount of traffic:  lots of traffic between Columbia and Orangeburg and then again, for the first two hours after the Florida line. Happily, those times of heavy traffic were interspersed with times of less traffic. In the heavy traffic I kept my left arm tense and my attention super focused, and it was exhausting.

I finished the trip in South Florida with heavy rush hour traffic, even though it was only three o'clock--sigh. But in a way that was good; as the traffic slowed to 30 and 40 miles an hour, it meant that I didn't have the big trucks trundling by along with the cars that zip in and out of slower traffic. In short, it was easier to keep control of the car.

I got home looking like a drowned river rat. All that intense driving left me sweaty. But I did it! I don't recommend it. At one point during my odyssey last week, I thought about how I had said I needed to start working on my arms, but this is not the upper body workout I had in mind.

Would I do it again? If it meant I got to go on a wonderful retreat, yes I probably would. But hopefully, in the future, I won't have to make these kinds of choices. 

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Broken Wrist Woes and Gratitude

 It has been a strange week. That is an understatement. A week ago it was Easter. It feels like a million years have passed since then.

On Wednesday, I got in the car and headed north. I knew I had a 10 hour drive in front of me, and for the first hour I wasn't sure I was going to be able to make this drive. But I really wanted to see friends and go on a retreat and get back to the mountains, and so I kept going.

On Thursday, my hand was the first thing that people noticed because my fingers were purple and swollen. I thought I was just in the bruised face of my sprained wrist, but several of my retreat friends are nurses and former PE teachers, and they recognize a break when they see it.  One of my retreat friends lives locally, and she told me about a great orthopedic urgent care that's in the same block as the camp entrance. I went over to have my wrist X-rayed at long last. My purple fingers concerned me too.

I was still hopeful it would just be a strain, a sprain, and that I would have spent money on X-rays for nothing. Why am I spending money on X-rays?  My former employer changed insurances, but didn't tell me, and as a person on COBRA, when they change insurance, I change insurance--long story short, I'm still waiting on insurance cards. Insert heavy sigh here.

Unfortunately, it is a break, and a break that may require surgery, a metal plate, and pins.  The doctor told me I have some time--no need to go racing back to South Florida. So they splinted my wrist and sent me on my way.  The next day, Friday, I did make an appointment with the South Florida orthopedic hand specialist, and I've been enjoying the Create in Me retreat.

It's been interesting to hear how many people have experience with broken wrists. I met two people during retreat week who broke their wrists in the same way that I did, a simple fall. My mother wrote me an email reminding me of her experience with a broken wrist; she too needed surgery, pins, and a plate. I had been feeling bad about not going to get an X-ray sooner. But I likely would have had to wait on surgery anyway--often there is waiting time because of swelling, and my wrist has been very swollen.

I am still feeling no pain. I realize I'm very lucky. I've been enjoying this retreat even though I can't do a lot of the activities. I've been experimenting with my left hand, and I've been remembering an art book that recommended working with our non-dominant hands.  I've had a few moments where I felt panicky, both about my own wrist and about the larger precariousness, how one minute we're fine and then one little trip over a sidewalk crack--which sometimes results in skinned knees, but can result in broken bones or worse. I'm thinking of Octavia Butler, gone too soon when she slipped and fell.

I'll write more about the retreat later. I am trying to get ahead with both grading and seminary work, since I do have an appointment with a hand surgeon on Thursday, and I don't want to get too far behind. We are at the end of the semester for both my teaching and my seminary student work. When this semester started back in January, I worried about the new Omicron variant, and I worried that my job might keep me from being successful with my classes.  A broken wrist was not on my radar screen of things to worry about. I am aware that I often worry about possible negative developments only to be blindsided by something else. Breaking that habit of worrying about the future may take more years than I have left.

Again I realize I am very lucky. I am grateful for the voice recognition that I have with my version of Word, for example.  I am grateful to be able to be at this retreat, broken wrist and all.


Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Sprained Wrist, Silences, and Writing

My sprained wrist makes traditional typing hard. But my version of Word lets me dictate, and I've spent the last hour writing a seminary paper this way, and thinking about if my writing process changes depending on mode: pen, typing, dictating.

At some point, maybe I'll experiment with alternate ways to create a blog post, but not today.  Today I must catch up on seminary in advance of travel and Create in Me retreat time this week. 

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Triduum with Trip and Fall

 Early on Good Friday, I went for my daily walk.  Hours later, I made this Facebook post: Tripped on my morning walk--came down hard on my chin and right hand. Face is OK--landed on grass. Wrist is swollen and sore but responding well to ibuprofen, ice, and a wrist brace. Poet brain wants to make Good Friday connections, and seminary brain is grateful that because of Easter break, no written work is due until later next week. 

And this morning:  On a bright note: taking a lot of ibuprofen yesterday for my strained wrist means no pain this morning in my arthritic feet.

More details later--Typing is tough right now.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Quilt Camp, Eucharist, and Maundy Thursday

I realize that I haven't talked much about the religious aspect of Quilt Camp.  Even though it's held at Lutheridge, a Lutheran retreat center, it's less overtly religious than some of the adult programming there.  I've spent some time wondering if my friends of other faiths would like the retreat.  I think that all but my friends who are strict atheists (the type annoyed by religious people) would.

The room was set up with this space under the rock climbing wall.  From a distance, it looks like a simple stage, barely elevated, a display platform for quilts and rocking chairs--a way to give the huge room a touch of hominess.  

But it was where we faced for evening devotions, which were optional.  The last night we had communion.  We were able to do this because one of our participants is ordained by the Baptist church--during that brief moment when the Southern Baptists ordained women.

We had a wide variety of Christians in the group; if anyone was of another faith, or atheist, or agnostic, she didn't say.  After communion, one of the younger women made a group announcement.  She said that she had never been to a service where a woman handed her the elements for communion, and then, with her voice cracking into tears, she talked about how meaningful it was. 

Unlike other retreats, there was no Bible study, no group work; we spent most of our time at our individual tables sewing and sewing and sewing.  Occasionally there would be conversations, which occasionally turned to the topic of God.  One woman said to me, "It's in the Bible, right?  So therefore, we know it's true, right?"

Well, she did ask me, and so I gave her the gentle version of why we can't assert that, or at least why I can't assert that if she means true as in factual.  I talked about how I view the Bible as the writer of the text telling us of an experience of God, but not the only experience, and perhaps not even a true experience as we would define it today.  Having spent months studying the letters of Paul, I am not the person to lead your Bible study, if you want a leader who will tell you that God dictated the words to the Bible writer, so of course there's no bias.

She didn't run away in horror; in fact, we had a good conversation.  But I was also relieved that it was a casual conversation.  At the God Spa retreat, I heard some genuinely crummy theology (as in "God never gives us more than we can handle" and "The Lord gives and the Lord takes away"), but as a regular participant, I didn't see my role during group Bible study time to be the one who rips everyone's theological crutches out from under them.

I write this post on Maundy Thursday, a time when I might be writing about foot washing or meal sharing.  But the community I experienced at Quilt Camp seemed just as vivid a witness of the power of love in the world.  We were able to be together, in all of our variations of age, skill, knowledge, and resources.  We were able to cheer each other on.  We had lots of advice, for those who wanted it.  

I would love to see more Christian churches expand the vision of what it means to be a community based in love.  What would Maundy Thursday look like if we celebrated more than Jesus and 12 disciples and a last meal and a footwashing?

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Last Look Back at Quilt Camp

A week ago, I'd be waking up at the house of a grad school friend, and shortly I'd be heading up to the mountains for Quilt Camp at Lutheridge.  What a great retreat.  I made a lot of FB posts, and I'm going to paste them here, along with some pictures, so that I can find them again.  Facebook is not nearly as searchable/readable as this blog.  I will leave the posts in a different font.

Here is my post from the first night, just a week ago.  I was able to log onto my seminary class, as well as the small group before the class--hurrah!

Retreat month continues! I am safe at Lutheridge, one of the places on earth where I most love being, ready for retreat #2: Quilt Camp! And thanks to the joy of modern technology, I can do my seminary classes each night. Seminary classes and Quilt Camp--perhaps I have died and gone to Heaven?

Thursday afternoon, I wrote this post:

Twenty-four hours after the start of Quilt Camp, I've gotten panels sewed together, and I'm beginning to think I might be able to get the whole top sewn together, and perhaps I might even be able to assemble it. I have fabric for the back with me, and plenty of near-by stores would sell me the batting.

I was not able to get the whole top sewn together, but I did assemble the back, and I did get to a store on Saturday that would sell me batting.

We ate so well:

I have consumed a week's worth of calories at breakfast:grits AND oatmeal! and bacon! and eggs! fresh fruit (cantaloupe and pineapple)! I didn't eat the scones, bagels, or other breads, and I didn't eat the Greek yogurt and granola.
Now, back to constructing the quilt top. If any sort of apocalypse falls on our heads today, I won't starve any time soon, due to all the snacks we brought and how much I have stored in my fat cells. And I've got plenty of fabric.
If an apocalypse falls on our heads, know that I'm happy: sewing fabric into quilts and catching up on seminary reading with the old-fashioned books I brought with me in case the internet was down.

I had my computer at my sewing station.  I was able to write a bit, sew a bit, on and on through the day.  It was wonderful.

At Quilt Camp, I leave my aging laptop in the Faith Center where the sewing tables are set up. The building is completely empty when we go for meals, and I did wonder if my computer was safe. Then I laughed at myself. Every woman in this room has a sewing machine that is more valuable than my computer--and many of those sewing machines may contain just as much in the way of electronics as my computer. These are not your grandmothers' Singer sewing machines. Alas.

I stayed up much later than usual each night.  On Thursday night, I made this post:

If it's 9:30 at night, and I'm ironing the fabric for the back of my quilt, am I really Kristin anymore? (You may or may not know that I usually go to bed about the time that toddlers do and that I almost never iron).

And then on Friday, started looking out for snow.  And then, we finally got some snow!  On Saturday, I walked outside in the morning, feeling sad that I had missed the snow.

But it snowed off and on throughout the day.

More snow showers at Lutheridge at 4:30 on Saturday afternoon--the best kind of snow, the kind that drifts outside of the window but doesn't accumulate on the ground, while I'm inside, finishing the last panel for my quilt top.

And by Saturday night, it was clear that I was not going to get my quilt assembled--but that was O.K.

I thought I might get enough panels done before Quilt Camp was over to put the quilt top together, but it's clear that I will not. On the bright side, I don't need to stay up all night sewing all the panels in the top together. And I have more time for design decisions.

Here's one last picture of the whole group--what a great group and what a great time!

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Palm Sunday at the Quilt Retreat

 How do we respond when we meet the Divine in unexpected places?

How do we react to reminders that of God's humanity?

Can we  worship a God who has been working through time and outside of time to transform this human condition?

Do we believe in the promise that resurrection will break through, even in the most unlikely circumstances?

Saturday, April 9, 2022

Rethinking the Quilt Top

On the first night of Quilt Camp, we had a show and tell session--we were supposed to bring a quilt from home.  I grabbed the one that was easiest to bring, the one that I had quilted during my last Quilt Camp in October of 2020:

As I held it up, one of my Quilt Camp friends said, "And what you don't know is that every part of this was done by hand, the piecing, the sewing, the quilting, all of it by hand."  During the first day here, I have learned that cutting with scissors is also retro.

I look at that quilt, and I think of all the odds and ends of fabrics I collected--fabrics for the wedding quilts of my sister and the fabric I picked up when buying other fabric for the baby blankets of many friends and family.  I see those pieces of fabric and think about the quilting friends who were with me when I shopped for fabric, friends who have moved away or died.

I have spent the last few days surrounded by people who sew on fancy machines that cost more than any computer I've ever owned, and one woman has a machine at home that cost more than my car.

I look at the above quilt, and I wonder about my current approach, which is also using long, wide strips.  At the time I made the autumnal quilt, I was in a hurry to be done with the quilt top and to get some of the fabric that I had out of the way--that led to the long, bland patches on the left of the quilt in the picture above.

At our show and tell on night one, one of my fellow participants told of a class she took where they were supposed to cut apart a quilt top they didn't like and reassemble it.  She didn't have a quilt top that she didn't like, so she took some fabrics that went together, sewed a top out of strips, and cut that apart.  Here's what she ended up with:

I wonder what would happen if I looked at the panels I've been assembling in a different way.

What would happen if I cut those strips into smaller rectangles and mixed and matched them?  I will spend time thinking about this.  

Earlier in the quilt retreat, I was in a hurry to be finished with the top.  But now I'm thinking that maybe I should go a bit more slowly.  I don't make as many quilts as I once did.  I could take an additional day and make this one be a bit more interesting.

Here's my original idea:

And here's what I'm thinking of this morning:

Let's see what the day brings!

Friday, April 8, 2022

First Full Day of Quilt Camp

Yesterday was the first full day of Quilt Camp.  I got here on Wednesday to get a head start, but yesterday had a different feel.  Plus, Wednesday night I had to go to my online seminary classes.  Still, I made this Facebook post:  "Retreat month continues! I am safe at Lutheridge, one of the places on earth where I most love being, ready for retreat #2: Quilt Camp! And thanks to the joy of modern technology, I can do my seminary classes each night. Seminary classes and Quilt Camp--perhaps I have died and gone to Heaven?"

The benefit to getting here on Wednesday was that yesterday morning, my table was set up and ready to go at 7 a.m. on Thursday morning when the building opened.

I spent yesterday cutting strips and sewing them together and occasionally, I'd lay out panels to see how far along I was.  By the end of the day, I had about half the panels that I will eventually need.

I also had to do some seminary work.  Happily, the vibe here is laid back.  I have my computer and books set up on a corner of my sewing station.  I can work the way that I love best:  do a bit of writing, do a bit of creating that's more tactile, go back to writing, 

In the evening, I decided to go ahead and figure out the back of the quilt.  In February, I had got a beautiful piece of fabric for an online store, and if I bought the rest of the bolt, I got it for a $5.00 a yard price, which is unheard of these days.  So I had just enough for the back.  I cut it in half, ironed the clothe, and sewed the halves together.

Last night I made this Facebook post:  "If it's 9:30 at night, and I'm ironing the fabric for the back of my quilt, am I really Kristin anymore? (You may or may not know that I usually go to bed about the time that toddlers do and that I almost never iron)."  It was the second night of staying up late, luxuriating in good conversation and the joy of sewing a long seam.

And today, I get to do it all again--heaven!

Thursday, April 7, 2022

The Trip to Quilt Camp

I am writing this from Lutheridge, the camp in Arden, North Carolina, which is in the mountains near Asheville.  How strange to think that just 48 hours ago, I was at the desk that was once my grandfather's, that I was writing down in South Florida.

On Tuesday, I got up very early, brewed the coffee that I would later pour out on the North Carolina pine needles, put the last batch of stuff in the car, and headed north.  It was a fairly easy trip:  the road construction that I encountered was very early in the morning when the traffic was light, and along the way, all of us drivers managed to avoid accidents.

I got to Columbia, South Carolina just after my grad school friend got home from teaching her morning classes.  During the last few hours of my trip, the public radio station in South Carolina had broadcast messages about various state offices closing early, the message brought to us by the department of emergency preparedness at the governor's office.  How strange, I thought.  I visualized a map of South Carolina, wondering if the counties were near each other, and the answer was yes and no, as the announcement broadened the number of counties.

My friend had had students leave her class early because their children's schools were being let out early because of possible thunderstorms.  We shook our head at this modern life.  I looked at the skies and brought my overnight bag in, along with my computer.  About a half hour later, the skies opened up, and I was glad I did.  There was a crack or 2 of thunder, but we didn't think much about it.  It was cozy to eat soup and sandwiches assembled on sourdough bread while the rain poured down.

Later in the afternoon, the tornado watches were elevated to a warning.  Again we looked at the skies and the maps.  We thought we were out of range, but we made a plan, just in case.  We talked about what would happen if we went to the room below ground, and a tornado came.  Would the house be lifted off of us?  Would it collapse down on us?

Happily, we never had to find out.  I am aware that others were not that lucky.  All the way up I 95 I heard the horrible reports out of Ukraine--so much death and destruction.  And this morning, I'm reading about the destruction wrought by tornados across the very route that I drove on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, I had other thoughts as I drove up I 95.  The last time I drove up I 95 was in January, when I went up to LTSS to finish my certificate in spiritual direction.  Back then, I still owned a house in a flood zone in South Florida, although I was hopeful that we would actually close on selling it the following week (we did).  Back in January, I was still employed in my full-time job, and I was beginning the think about whether or not I should sign up for online seminary classes since it looked like my job would not continue.  Six weeks later, I had been severed from that job and signed up for a mix of online and onground classes, and I've submitted a request for on campus housing.  When I last drove north on I 95 in January, there were rumblings of war in eastern Europe, and as I drove up on Tuesday, there were rumblings of war crimes and news of utter devastation.

On Wednesday, we had a leisurely morning, and then I got back in the car to finish my trip to Lutheridge.  My month of retreats continues!  Here I am at Quilt Camp.  I last attended in October of 2020, the first large-ish gathering I attended since the pandemic started.  Back then, we didn't have vaccines, but I felt safe-ish because there were only 13 of us, we had open windows and high ceilings, and we were able to be as distanced as we wanted.  We were in the dining hall because a local elementary school group was using the Faith Center for school.

And now, here we are; I have had 4 vaccine shots, so I feel fairly safe.  We are in the Faith Center, which has much better lighting.  As I overheard conversations, I am struck by how many of us have gone through life-changing stuff in the past year or two--some of it in a good way, some not.  Would we have gone through the life-changing stuff if there had been no pandemic?  I have no idea.   I can only speak for myself--the pandemic reminded me that I may not have as many decades left on this planet as I want to believe that I do.  But other elements came together too--I found my dream program at Wesley Theological Seminary, and if that hadn't happened, I don't know that I would have decided that now is the time to go to seminary.

It has been wonderful to be able to travel--I was able to do my Tuesday night class, my Wednesday night small group session, and my Wednesday night class from a distance.  Tonight's class has been cancelled.  If my professor had to cancel a class, I'm glad it was this week.

It's strange to think that last week, I joined my Thursday night class saying that I had gotten a 2nd booster shot and was starting to feel chills, so if I shivered, just ignore it.  We had a brief, pre-class, discussion about booster shots and travel, and then my professor headed off to London for a conference.  And now, she's cancelling class.

As I said, I'm happy to have extra time for other pressing tasks--that might be a funnier pun if I ironed.  But it's hard not to wonder what's barreling our way that we are not seeing.  But let me not allow my brain to go down that path.  I am trying to live in this current moment, surrounded by cloth, friends, and the mountains.

Monday, April 4, 2022

Return from Luther Springs

In some ways, it seems silly to write yet another blog post about the retreat.  Do I really have that much left to say?  I realize I haven't yet included much in the way of pictures when I've written about the retreat.  This morning, as I looked over my pictures, I wondered if any of them merited this final blog post about the retreat.  Yes, I realize this prewriting period has much to say about the mental space where I spend too much time for my own good:  is it worth it, any of it?

I'm also worried about the washing machine.  I put clothes in awhile ago, and it didn't seem to be moving through the cycles properly.  Now I've moved the dial to the spin cycle, and I'm realizing that I don't know how long the machine usually takes in the spin cycle.  Grr.  Yes--another glimpse of my mental space that seems far too common.

One of my church friends posted her retreat pictures, and I felt bad that I didn't take more walks along the sandy paths, that I didn't explore the grounds more in the one or two hours when it wasn't raining.  Her pictures made me realize that there were some cool places that I didn't even realize were there.  Why didn't I go and find out for myself?  Again, this head space is familiar, and unhelpful.

Let me try to write myself back into a righter frame of mind.  Let me remember that one reason that I didn't want to leave my room was because it was cozy to be there during a rainy day.  Let me remember all the handmade quilts on all the beds in every room.  Here's mine:

Let me remember doing various arts and crafts projects in the room with the windows open so that we could hear the thunder and rain.

Let me remember the sand mandela that I made, and how easy this project would be to do with a bowl of sand and objects found on a walk:

Let me remember that even when it's too rainy for a regular campfire, you can create one with a string of lights and colored paper:

And then you can sing around it:

But most of all let me remember the friends that brought me along with them:

Sunday, April 3, 2022

Rainy Retreat

Tomorrow I will do a post that wraps up the retreat with more pictures.  The wi-fi is just too slow here at Luther Springs to take the time to do that today while I'm still here.  In some ways, it's a miracle that there's internet access at all.  Once we got lost on our way here and never found the camp; there was no cell phone coverage at all.  Now there is wi-fi, but it's iffy.  I tried to watch a lecture video for my online seminary class, and it took so long to load, reload, etc, that I finally decided I would do better to watch at home where the access is better.

We're not that far from Gainesville, where there's a major research university.  You'd think there would be more connectivity.  Of course, I'm also not seeing other signs of "city" life, like a grocery store or a restaurant nearby.  In some ways, it's refreshing.

It's been a good retreat overall, despite my irritation with the retreat materials.  We're using the "Renew, Restore, Refresh" book from CTA, which has such a baffling website that I'm not even going to link to it.  I can't find the resource that we're using, and I can't find out much about the group.  The books have a conservative whiff to them; I wrote a whole post on my theology blog in response to our first session with the books.

We've had talk about Psalm 23 and how we're lost sheep, determined to go our own way, but God comes to get us.  We've talked about God giving and taking away.  I've concentrated on keeping my face neutral (skills honed during administration pays off!) and listening, instead of trying to explain how people are misguided.

I persist in being amazed that Christianity took root and became so widespread with these ideas.  Why would I want to worship a God that snatches away all that I hold dear?  Do I really think I deserve that treatment?  Some of these women seem to think so.  It's puzzling to me.

My idea of God who is either not omnipotent or who limits power in favor of free will and free choices in the hopes of truer relationship makes more sense to me.  I am aware that I could be deeply misguided too.  And I am aware of how odd many people, especially those raised with a judging God, find my beliefs.

Happily, these sessions with CTA curriculum have only been a small part of the week-end so far.  My favorite time, of course, was the time for creativity.  I made a small book and learned about neurographics, which involves sketching and circles and getting rid of angles in the sketch and thinking about whatever's causing us pain or conflict and creating new neural pathways that will solve our issues while we sketch.

I made this sketch:

Will it solve my issues?  I'll let you know.

It was a rainy afternoon, which meant no hikes, no archery, but that was fine.  There was something so soothing in the rain, knowing that I could get to everywhere I wanted to go by the covered walkways, which was better than a hike on sand trails, better than archery which would remind me that I'm not as fit as I once was.

Along the way, I got some seminary work done (reading previously downloaded materials and writing) and kept in touch with the online classes that I'm teaching.  Even sloggy internet lets me do that.

I made this Facebook post last night:

"If you had a hammer, you'd do what? Spent time tonight teaching the next generation some classics by Peter, Paul, and Mary and Pete Seeger. I'm the one taking the pictures and singing along. You may or may not be happy that I am not posting audio."

It was great to end the day singing and smiling with a larger group.  And I'm hopeful that our singing didn't get in the way of a good time for others who didn't want to sing.