Sunday, April 30, 2023

One Year Anniversaries

Yesterday, I realized we were at the one year anniversary of making an offer on the house that we now own.  I was trying to figure out when my wrist surgery took place last year (May 2), and along the way, I figured out another piece of history.

I didn't blog about the process in real time, in part because I had a broken wrist that made it hard to write.  In larger part, I didn't blog about it because I didn't want anything to happen that might jeopardize the process.  I did write some blog posts after the fact, once we purchased the house in June (here and here).

At the time, a year ago when my spouse was talking to the owner of the house on the phone, I remember being a bit worried about making big decisions in a place of emotional vulnerability.  I remember saying words to the effect of, "I'm happy to have a house at Lutheridge, but right now, I'm focused on my wrist surgery, so I might not be thinking clearly."  My wrist was not the only thing shattered a year ago; my faith in my ability to know my body took a hit too, and I was feeling vulnerable, because if a little tumble could do so much damage, what other catastrophes might be waiting?

Yesterday my spouse and I talked about some of the decisions we've made in the past year.  We felt lucky to get this house at a really good price because it needed work.  We may end up spending almost as much (or more even) on it than we would have spent if we had bought a house that was more move-in-ready.  But oddly, I feel O.K. about that.  We're making good decisions (like putting in a high quality/efficiency HVAC system) that people who wanted to sell a house quickly at top dollar might not have made.  We're making design decisions that work for us.

A year later, I am glad to have this house in more ways than I would have anticipated, and I anticipated being glad to have this house.  I didn't anticipate that seminary housing might become more precarious.  Now I know that there are plans to bulldoze the building that has apartments, including mine.  I don't know exactly when that will happen, but I've felt lucky to have a place to go.  I knew the housing market had been weird, but I didn't realize it would continue to be weird; yesterday I read an article in The New York Times that noted that lots of people want to buy houses, but increasingly, as interest rates rise, many people don't want to sell and lose a lower interest mortgage.  If we had waited to invest the money from the sale of our prior house into another place to live, we might not have been able to find anything.  

I am glad to have a house in an area that's a bit safer from all the destruction that climate change is unleashing; several weeks ago, I looked at pictures of flooding in our old neighborhood and felt a bit of survivor's guilt.  But more, I felt relief.

A year ago, the people who owned this house accepted our offer to buy it.  And I continue to be grateful.

Saturday, April 29, 2023

The Ballast of Books

I have turned in the Timeline project for my Church History II class.  It asks us to choose 30of the most important events that happened during the time of our class (1500 to present) and put them on a timeline.  Each of the 30 events gets a 1-3 sentence annotation.  Then we choose the five most important and write a longer piece that explains the importance. 

When I did this assignment for Church History I, I was writing about time periods that I didn’t know much about until I took Church History I. I thought that the timeline would be easier for Church History II because I know a lot more about the time periods covered by this class. It’s been hard in a different way—so much to choose from.

But it's done and turned in.  It feels like the term should be over.  But I still have a final for the class (open book objective along with a separate essay section).  And I have to finish my final project for Queer Theology and a paper for my Luke class.  Once those are done, I've got the final grading for the classes that I'm teaching online.  

And of course, there's the vacating of the seminary apartment.  Like all the rest, it's underway--I'm living in the now and the not yet.  

Yesterday I made the trip from seminary to my North Carolina house. I knew there would be rain, so I left very early.  But there was no way to escape the rain.  For the first several hours of daylight, I drove more slowly than usual, with rain flying up off the road in addition to falling from the sky.  It was grueling.

I had decided that this would be the move that included most of the books, and I was happy to have them in the back of the car as ballast.  I could feel the car wanting to slide off the wet roads; I could feel the books saying, "No, not today.  We're holding steady."

Books as ballast, books as counterweight to the distractions and destructions the world offers, books as stabilizing force--the metaphors abound!

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Patterns Made with Detritus

Before moving on to other topics, one last post about silk scarves.  

The main way that we got this variety of patterns was with rubber bands--tie dye, basically:

I had done tie dye many times before.  Long ago, I was part of a department that had a quarterly festival, complete with tie dye.  So I decided to try something else.  I looked down and saw lots of tulip petals, both purple and yellow.  So I put them onto the silk, in a circle, and I ended up with this gorgeous pattern.

I also tried dying another scarf with a leaf, and some detritus from a tree.

But that approach yielded a more subtle pattern.

To be honest, I'm not real sure which scarf goes with which approach.  I also experiment with mixing dyes, so the green in each scarf may come from the vegetative matter or it may come from some dye mixing.  It doesn't really matter, since I was just having fun with the experiment.  I don't need to replicate it.

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Silk Scarves and April Breezes

On Thursday of last week, as part of our Chapel Visuals class, we dyed silk scarves in vats of liquids made out of natural materials:  black beans, turmeric, and turmeric with iron water (created by soaking rusty nails in water and vinegar).  I wrote this blog post about it.

We left the silk scarves soaking in the liquid.  My teacher took the vats home, left them soaking until Monday, and then hung them up to dry in her basement studio.  She brought them all to campus yesterday morning, and she strung twine between some of the trees in the courtyard of our seminary campus.

Then we pinned the scarves on the lines.  Our goal was to complete this task before chapel, and we were successful.  

It was the perfect day for this installation:  there was a breeze which kept the scarves fluttering, but it wasn't the kind of breeze that would rip them from the lines or flip them around.

I was intrigued by the ways that the scarves were both so similar and yet so different, even though we had all used similar techniques:  the same choice of dyes, the rubber bands to hold it all together in the vats of dye.

I loved the way they resembled prayer flags as they fluttered in the breeze.  Someone else took this picture of the courtyard from above, from a second floor window:

I am intrigued by how something relatively simple transformed the outdoor space, and the potential to impact the indoor space.  For example, people have this kind of encounter as they approach the chapel--our chapel has only the one way through the courtyard to it (for most of us who don't have keys to the other doors of the building that are kept locked), so people had to walk by the scarves--what would happen if the worship service built on what they encountered on their way to the chapel?

That's not what happened yesterday; we just had a regular chapel service.  But the potential is there, and I want to remember it.

I did something slightly different with the scarves that I dyed, but this blog post is getting a bit long.  Tomorrow I'll write about how I used other botanicals with my scarves to get a different effect.  Today I'll remember the beauty of them as they fluttered in the chilly April breeze.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Months Cruel and Kind

Each April, at least once, I think of the T.S. Eliot quote about April being the cruelest month.  I don't usually think of it in terms of taxes; happily, my tax situation is rarely that interesting.  Even this past year, when we moved from Florida, a state with no state income tax, to North Carolina, a state that does tax income, it was fairly straight forward, even though state tax wasn't withheld.

In earlier years, April has seemed cruel because summer crashes the spring celebrations; the heat comes much too early.  In my adult life, I've never lived in a place where the weather turns cold again--until now.

The seminary switched the buildings from heat to AC last week, which makes sense.  But yesterday, I was feeling a bit chilly.  I looked at the sunshine and decided to take a walk.  The brisk wind that cut right through me made me change my mind.

You might ask, "Why don't you wear a coat?"  I left my coats in North Carolina.  We'd had weeks of warm weather, and I thought I wouldn't need them.

And I really don't.  It will warm up again soon.  I can wear layers.  Still, I'm noticing it.  

On a writing related note, I went back to my blog and did a search for T.S. Eliot--had I written about April being a cruel month before?

Not as much as I might think.  Some of the blog posts contained an evocative line or two, and I copied them into a blank Word doc.  Perhaps I will play with them later.

Here are a few, if you want to play.  Each line could be a stanza.  Or maybe they go together as a poem as is.  Or maybe . . . 

I have not yet mastered all my moods.

Why should I even bother blues


The older I get, the more I shrug

Every season a hinge

With reckless abandon, we plant flowers.

Monday, April 24, 2023

The Bands of Our Youth

I have had bits of Indigo Girls songs in my head all night.  On Friday, as we played Sequence, a game that has cards, a board, and poker chips; as we played, we listened to Indigo Girls songs, and to our surprise, we were both singing along.

I said, "I didn't know you liked the Indigo Girls."  

She said, "And I didn't know you liked the Indigo Girls."

And then we traded Indigo Girls stories.  It seems like something I should know about my sister.  It also took me back to a time when we both liked such a wide variety of music that it's not strange that we might have missed some points in common.  It's also possible that I knew it at the time, but it's been decades, and I can scarcely keep up with bands I used to like, much less remember the playlists of loved ones.

I think of Whitman who contained multitudes.  So do we all.

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Sunday Snippets

We've reached the point of the term when I feel both scattered and focused.  I have final projects/papers that I need to be working on; I have a plan, but I can't decide which project/paper to be working on.  I have online classes that I'm teaching, so I've got plenty of grading to do, but I can't dive in.  Three weeks from tomorrow I need to be moved out of seminary housing; I could be packing, but I do still have three weeks, so it's not yet time to pack all the dishes, all the books, all my clothes/bedding/towels.

Let me record a few random thoughts before getting back to the work of the end of the term.

--Yesterday was Earth Day, and a Facebook friend posted this picture:  

--"Here to save the planet."  This morning, a first line for a poem came to me:  The planet doesn’t need your salvation.  I've written a few more lines, and I'll see if more comes.

--Although there were plenty of Earth Day events around DC yesterday, I limited myself to taking a walk around the neighborhood.  I knew that storms were on the way, so I didn't want to get too far away from shelter.

--I felt the ominous approach of the storms, even before there were clouds in the sky.  Would I have that feeling if I hadn't read the weather reports?

--It was a relief to watch the storms roll in, knowing that I was relatively safe.  I made this Facebook post (and later updated it):  

"The crack of thunder that makes me disconnect the computer from the power cord, the rain that I hope will tamp down the pollen--it looks like the cold front is arriving! I am safe, not on a ground floor (no fear of flooding!), on a campus on a DC hill top (no fear of car flooding!), in my seminary apartment which was built the old-fashioned way, out of concrete block.

Update: The storm has settled into gentle rain; all is well here."

--On Friday, before I went to my sister's, I went out for ice cream with two seminary friends.  I love this picture:

--I made this Facebook post to go with the photo:  "Some days we do theology a bit differently in seminary. And some days, we eat ice cream. And some days, it all looks like the inbreaking community of God, and I want church to look like this."

--I will miss the people I've met here.  But I remind myself that many of them are graduating.  I'd be missing them if I stayed here.

--In some ways, I think that the emotional space of missing--missing houses, missing humans, missing land, missing the past--is one of the central explanations of my life.

Saturday, April 22, 2023

Celebrating Earth Day with First Pelagius Lutheran Church

It is Earth Day; on my seminary campus on Thursday, we celebrated by using natural materials to dye silk scarves.  We had a pot of black beans, a pot of turmeric, and a pot of turmeric blended with iron water, which is created by soaking rusty nails in a jar of water and vinegar.

We will hang them up in the courtyard on Tuesday, and people leaving chapel can take one.  That means that my Chapel Visuals class had the joy of dying extra scarves on Thursday.  I experimented not only with dyes, but also with leaves and tree detritus that I picked up off the ground.  We left everything soaking in dye, and my teacher took everything home with her to soak, and later this week-end to dry.

It took me back to Girl Scout days, where I worked on a merit badge by dying cloth with onion skins or beet chunks.  And yes, I do get class credit--ah, the joys of a seminary program that has a track for theology and the arts!

One of my classmates has two small children, and they've been having fun with chalk and sidewalks.  She's been having fun too.  

I noticed one theology on the sidewalk in the picture above, and decided to add another:

My problem with so many theologies of the cross is that they leave us all up there on that cross, crucified together with that message of sin and the worthlessness of humanity.  But that discounts the very first chapter of Genesis, which I paraphrase in my chalked walk.

To me, this contrast says much about the modern church, about 2000 years of Church History, and about Earth Day and the future.

I'm thinking of the last discussion post we are writing for my Church History II class.  The prompt concludes this way:  "With that in mind, come back to Tutu's remark, and look ahead a little bit. Where might be a place where the Christian enterprise would serve its mission, not by "raising the voice" but by "improving the argument" and how?"

I concluded my post this way:  

"I think that Christianity can “improve the argument” by moving away from our more common message of sin and unworthiness, and moving to a message of the inherent goodness of all creation, the creation that God proclaims “good and very good” (Genesis 1: 31, NIV). So please join me in worship at the First Pelagius Lutheran Church where we will have a Mimosa Mass every Sunday at 11:00 a.m. and a Creative Arts Worship experience every Wednesday at both 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. (this last sentence is just a dream at this point, but if you should find such a church, I’d love to know about it—and so would lots of other people, I’d be willing to bet)."

Friday, April 21, 2023

Things Fall Apart and Come Together

My Church History II professor requires us to read 2 shorter books during the term; he gave us a list of 3 books to choose from, and we chose 1 in each part of the course, and then we spend part of class time discussing the book.  The idea of which books should be on the list is the topic for a different blog post.  But this morning, I'm still thinking about poems and last night's books.

In class, we finished the in person part of the semester by discussing Achebe's Things Fall Apart.  One student talked about the hopeful parts of the book, about the hopeful part of the Biblical book of Revelation, and the poem that gave the book its title ("The Second Coming").  From what he said, I thought, hmm, I don't see that poem by Yeats the same way at all.

I raised my hand and asked how many of the editions had the full text of the Yeats poem because I never saw the poem a hopeful poem.  I was surprised to find out that one edition apparently didn't include the poem at all, while others just included a few lines.  After class, I went back to my computer to read the poem again, just to be sure that I still felt the same way about the poem.

It may or may not surprise you to find out that I still find the poem less than hopeful.  I was happily surprised to find that I could still remember a lot of it; long ago, I taught it so often that I almost had it memorized.  I am surprised that the Achebe book doesn't have all of it, but perhaps there are copyright issues.  Maybe modern editors don't see the allusion/epigraph as essential.  Perhaps Achebe only wanted those few lines included with his novel.

After I sat with Yeats for a few minutes, I turned off the computer and the lights and got ready for bed.  My bedtime reading has been from a different poet, Maggie Smith's You Could Make This Place Beautiful.  Yesterday I saw her post that the book is #3 on the NYT best seller list.  Hurrah!  It's a well deserved spot; I've been enjoying the book immensely.

I'm happy for her success; it's good to see a woman poet succeed this way.  I'm happy when I see anything that tells me that people are still buying books, and I'm even happier when people are buying the books of poets, even if it's not their volumes of poetry.  I'm happy when a woman outside of New York City is finding publishing success.

You Could Make This Place Beautiful is the book that I was hoping Keep Moving would be.  I liked the inspiration that Keep Moving gave me, those nuggets that first appeared on Twitter.  But I found myself wanting more about Smith's life as a poet, and You Could Make This Place Beautiful gives me that window into her life as a writer.  She's also very honest about the price that came with her success.

Today will not be quite as steeped in literature, but that's O.K.  I'm headed over to my sister's, where we'll catch up and have dinner and do carpool duties and relax.  I know how fortunate I am.

Thursday, April 20, 2023

Friends Old and New

Last night, after my last meeting of the day, I decided to take a short walk across campus.  As I walked in the dusk, I wondered if I would get confused decades from now, when I'm an older woman.  Would I look back to this April night and think of myself as an undergrad?  Would I confuse my seminary campus (Wesley Theological Seminary in NW Washington, DC) with my undergraduate campus (Newberry College, in very rural Newberry, SC) in my confused older brain?

Probably not.  They are similar, but so different.  And I am similar, undergrad Kristin and seminarian Kristin, but so different.

Yesterday I had lunch with a friend from those undergrad days.  She went to UVa, but we saw each other regularly.  We met as Lutherans in the Lutheran Student Movement, as it was called then.  We were both from Northern Virginia, so we got together on school breaks.  I went to her ordination as she graduated from the Lutheran seminary in Philadelphia; she came to my wedding.

We've kept up with each other more sporadically since then, and I haven't seen her since 2004 when she was on vacation in South Florida.  I'm happy to say that it was easy to be together, in the ways that we used to be together, from the deep conversations to the ice cream that we enjoyed.  

I am so grateful for friendships like these.  When I was an undergrad, I always hoped that I would have friendships so deep that we could pick up right where we left off; undergraduate Kristin would be surprised that I would have friends I might not see in decades, but happy that we can still be friends, even without that face to face time.

At the end of the afternoon, I went to the last Wesley Student Council meeting of the academic year.  That had a surreal aspect.  It feels like we just started meeting, but here we are at the end.  I went to the first meeting in the spirit of undergraduate Kristin who decided to try every student group on campus, except sororities because they would cost too much.  Seminarian Kristin didn't have as many options as undergraduate Kristin, so off she went to that first student council meeting in September.  It's been good to be part of that group.

I feel like I just got here, just unloaded my last carload of stuff, fully expecting to be in this apartment for the next 2-3 years.  And now, here I am, about to load it all back in the car over the next several trips back to the North Carolina mountains.  It's been a good experience being here, although I am struck by how different my experience has been compared to my friend's experience at Philadelphia.

Her seminary in Philly had to merge with the one in Gettysburg to survive--a metaphor for the time we're in. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Spring Seasonal Shifts

If I didn't know better, I'd think that it was autumn, based on my senses.

The seminary apartment feels autumnal.  It is a chilly morning.  In some ways, I'm only noticing because the campus has shifted from heat to AC.  I only know that, because yesterday as I walked through the classroom building, I felt the chilled air blowing from the register in the hallway.  My first thought was  oh, good, it's been stifling with the heat still chugging along.  I have had to turn on the AC in my seminary apartment the last two afternoons.

This morning, I'm wishing we could use space heaters.  We can't, so I made a small batch of pumpkin butter (some pumpkin, some sugar, some spices, mix and bake for half an hour)--stove as space heater!  The apartment now smells autumnal.

But in some ways, spring still startles me.  I was grading student work when I was startled by the first light of the morning.  I thought, have I been grading that long?  I thought it was closer to 7 a.m., but it was closer to 6 a.m. than 7 a.m.

I looked across the parking lot Monday, and once again, I was struck by how much has changed since I was away.  Two weeks ago, when I pulled out of the Wesley parking lot, I could see through the leafless trees to the bell tower beyond.  Now, once again, the bell tower is obscured by the green leaves.

We are in the last weeks of the term.  It seems like we just started, but the new greenery and the earlier light tells a different tale.

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Bucolic Blooms and Blossoming Neighborhoods

Long ago, in the late 90's when we moved to South Florida, my inner visual artist was excited by the quality of the light which was so different than the light of Lowcountry South Carolina.  Yesterday, as I took my walk through the abundance of blooms in the DC neighborhood near my seminary, I thought about changing landscapes through the seasons, a different kind of delight for my inner visual artist.

If you've been reading my blog posts over the past nine months, you've seen me taking note of these changes.  Some of them are the product of nature.  When we drove away from South Florida last summer, we talked about how green everything was once we escaped Florida.  As I've driven back and forth across the mountains, along Interstate 81, I've noticed how the landscape has changed from the deep greens of late summer, to autumnal bronzed brilliance, and now, the spring shape shifting of various trees blooming and blossoming, along with patches of tulips and daffodils.

Yesterday, as I drove back from my Easter break and the Create in Me retreat in the mountains of western North Carolina, I thought about how bucolic the countryside was, in a way different from the drive in March.  Back then, I described the landscape this way in this blog post:  "green fizz look of the first growth of spring."

The light green has deepened for many of the farm fields.  I was surprised by how many flocks of sheep I saw.  I also saw horses and cows, but I expected those.    As I traveled through the late fall and winter, I didn't see as many animals in the fields, but yesterday was different.

I got back to my seminary apartment, and I was surprised by how many blooms I saw.  When I left, almost 2 weeks ago, I thought I had seen the best of spring:  the daffodils were beginning to droop, as were the tulips.  The cherry trees had finished.  I was happy to get to the mountains to realize I hadn't missed the dogwoods.

Turns out, I haven't missed them here in DC either.  Yesterday I took a walk and marveled at all the dogwoods and the redbuds that were in full blossom, along with the azaleas--what beautiful azaleas!  When those hadn't bloomed in early April, I assumed we just didn't have any.  Wow--what a difference 10 days makes!

As I walked through the neighborhood, I thought about how I had seen the houses through the seasons, which ones were decorated for which holidays, what had bloomed through the year.  I will miss them, but I am looking forward to getting to know a new landscape.

Monday, April 17, 2023

Back Down the Mountain

Yesterday, at the end of the Create in Me retreat, instead of driving 12 hours back to Florida, I walked down the road to my house in the residential section of Lutheridge.  Today, however, I do have a long drive:  between 7-8 hours back to my seminary apartment.  However, I don't dread it.  Much of the scenery is much prettier than past year's drives.

It's nice, also, not to dread that return to "real life," that leaving of the mountain top experience.  The bulk of my "real life" is a dream come true:  being a seminary student.  The job that pays part of the bills, teaching college English classes online, isn't onerous.

Last year, I left the Create in Me retreat with my right arm in a cast, wrist broken within it, knowing I was going to need surgery.  I am also glad not to be facing that.

Let me do my last packing and head out.  I don't leave quite as early as I once did, but it will soon be time to go.

Sunday, April 16, 2023

Needle Felting

Yesterday at the Create in Me retreat, I tried a new art form.  You might say, "Wait, wasn't your experience on Friday a new art form?"

Yes, in a way.  But I had worked with paint before, and I had worked with color that is under the control of forces other than my brush/hands.  Yesterday, I did needle felting, which you can see above:  the two fuzzy pictures above the pictures made with paint.

I had done a different kind of felting before, a process involving water and scrubbing wool on a cold porch.  I hated it and couldn't imagine why anyone wanted to do felting.  But yesterday's process was very different.

We had a table full of roving wool in a wide variety of colors and shades.  We had small squares of quilting batting and rectangles of foam.  We had very sharp needles, which we used to punch the roving wool into the batting.  I loved seeing how the colors merged and how I could make different textures.  I even tried to work some beads into the fibers.  I was successful, but they didn't sparkle the way I thought they would.

It's the kind of art that appeals to me for many reasons, like the way it allows an artist to play with color and texture, the way that an artist can make a realistic scene or something abstract.  But I also love that it's easy set up and clean up.  There are many reasons why I don't paint much these days, but the fact that it takes a long time, relatively speaking, to clean up when I'm done.

As I've said many times before, one of the reasons why I love this retreat is that I can try new things.  Even if I'm not going right out to buy needle felting supplies, it's cool to tuck this idea away.

I'm also dreaming of returning to a childhood love, creating dyes.  I won't be doing that anytime soon:  lots of clean up, plus time and space to dry the dyed materials.  But it's great to feel inspired!

Saturday, April 15, 2023

Pouring Paint

When the Create in Me retreat is at its best for me, I get to try new things.  That part is not the most important part for me; the most important part of the retreat is reconnecting with friends.  But it's great when I get to try an artistic technique I might never try on my own.

I've been hearing about paint pouring for years.  It always sounded interesting, but I haven't tried it--until yesterday.

In some ways, it reminds me of alcohol inks:  the way you have minimal control of the finished product, the way the paint swirls, the way the finished product might look different when it dries.

We tried some techniques with string, and other ways to affect the finished project.  I had trouble photographing with the big fluorescent light overhead--hard to get rid of that glare on the wet paint.

It was fun.  In the piece below, I was trying for autumnal colors, but purple tried to take over, the way that purple so often does.

I have a similar problem with paint pouring that I do with the pieces I made with alcohol ink.  I can make a number of pieces in small time, and then what do I do with them all?

In short, it was great to experiment with supplies that I didn't have to buy separately, store on my own, feel guilty when the paint dried up in the containers because I didn't have time or space to do this art more often.

Today it's on to trying more stuff.  Last year, I had a broken wrist, and I couldn't do much.  This year, I want to do it all, and I'm overwhelmed a bit.  But maybe I'll try to make something with fabric edges made from this antique cutter:

Friday, April 14, 2023

Flooding, Windows, and a Retreat Begins

After a week of really good sleep, last night was rougher.  I would have expected it to be better--we were at the end of a successful installation of sliding glass doors and windows.  But I was jangled.

I spent the day reading reports from my old neighborhood, the one in South Florida that flooded on a regular basis.  One of my neighborhood friends posted video of her flooded property, which I watched.  If her place flooded, I'm sure our old house flooded, since we often flooded when she didn't.

Ft. Lauderdale got 25.91 inches of rain in a 24 hour period.  The previous record was 14.59 inches.  I was first aware of the situation because I'm still on an e-mail list from the city of Hollywood, which was also inundated.

Yesterday was such a strange mix of emotions:  gratitude for not owning a house in a flood zone, survivor guilt because we left while others haven't been able to do that, sadness over a historic flood that one day will seem like a small flood in comparison, worry about friends who are still there.

I had emotions not related to the flood.  Yesterday was our window installation, which made me anxious:  fear that the wrong windows would be on the truck, fear that more rot would be discovered, fear that we'd have the wrong size openings for the windows going in where there weren't windows before.  Two of our windows are very high, up in the vaulted ceiling.  One of the installers told me that it wasn't really that high, that they'd worked on much higher windows.

Happily, I didn't have to stay in the house trying not to watch the installation.  I headed up the hill to Lutheridge's Faith Center to help get ready for the Create in Me retreat.  This year, we're exploring the theme of Creation out of Chaos, and our text is the Noah and the ark story.  We chose this theme and text back in 2018, for a 2020 retreat which had to be canceled.  Back in 2018, I pushed for that theme because of my experience with Hurricane Irma.  Sadly, it is no less relevant.

I created some fish out of foil and decorated them.  I made strips of fabric for an interesting garland that was designed to evoke water.  I helped others get materials and drove people to parts of camp and tried to stay out of the way when people were on ladders to create installations like this one:

I'm sure I will have more pictures later.  Today is the first full day of the retreat, and I am so blown away by all the raw materials that are in the Faith Center.  I'm sure that I was in a jangled state last night in part out of anticipation of the wonders of this retreat.

Breakfast will be served soon, so let me get ready for the day.  Again and again, I know how fortunate I am.  Again and again, I offer thanks.

Thursday, April 13, 2023

I Can See Clearly Now

Yesterday's installation went well, although the windows didn't arrive as expected.  We had also ordered sliding glass doors, so some installation could happen.

Our wall that faces the mountains has three sliding glass doors and a solid door, which means the back wall is almost all windows.  But the old sliding doors were pitted and dappled and impossible to make clear:

And yes, we did try to scrub them with a variety of cleansers. There were also places where condensation seemed to have settled in--here's a view from the old windows in the study/office:

When the professionals took the doors out, we discovered some rot, which wasn't a surprise to me.  It was clear from the damaged subfloor that there had been water intrusion.  Our installer took the rotted places out, replaced the wood, put flashing on the wood, and now everything should be water tight.  Hurrah!

Last night, I was struck by the difference in the view with new windows:

And here's the view from the windows in the study/office:

The old windows are in better shape, so the difference between them may not be as startling.  At the end of the project, we'll have 3 additional windows, so hopefully there will be a bit more light coming in.  Of course, we have lots of tall trees around the house, so the light will always be dappled.

At least when the project is finished, the glass in the house will not be dappled, even if the light is dappled.

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Windows Arriving!

We are hopeful that today we make some progress on the home repair/restoration front.  Back in December, we ordered new windows and doors, high price additions that will add energy conservation plus better usability.  For reasons that aren't clear to me (ha ha, no pun intended), the 3 sliding glass door sets along the back wall of the house are clouded and pitted and obscure the view.  When we first arrived, I thought, I'll give these doors a good scrubbing.  That did not work.

We hadn't planned to buy high-end windows, but these will have an R-value of 24--most walls have an R-value of 14-20 when it comes to insulation.  These have various guarantees, and having replaced windows before, we know that the guarantees that come with a reputable company can be worth it.  Of course, if it's a reputable company, you'll likely never need that guarantee.

I'm not sure what to expect in terms of construction chaos, so let me soon turn my attention back to getting some writing done before it starts.  I am making good progress on my World Religions final paper that is due on Sunday.  I had good ideas, but it's always a relief to get them down on paper.

Later today, I'm picking up a Create in Me friend from the airport.  Tomorrow, the retreat starts.  More reasons to shift back to seminary writing.

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Judas and Why We Take Classes

Today, a quick post before turning my attention back to seminary writing.  Actually, my attention is never very far from seminary writing, but today I actually need to get some words recorded.

Yesterday morning, as I was thinking and reading, I had that stray thought flit through my brain, the one that wonders why I bother to go to seminary.  Couldn't I achieve the same thing by reading and writing on my own?  Granted, I wouldn't have the credentials at the end that might open up new career doors--but in terms of intellectual stimulation, couldn't I achieve the same thing?

Last night's class on the Gospel of Luke reminded me of the benefits of taking a class that's happening in real time, instead of just watching recorded lectures.  We had a great conversation about Judas Iscariot, a conversation that wouldn't have happened if we hadn't been there asking questions.

I asked what had been on my mind--could we really be sure that he exists, since he is such a perfect foil as a character.  We concluded, after fruitful conversation, that he probably did exist.  The early church would have been embarrassed by him.  The early writers would have had reason to keep him out of the Gospels.  He's an embarrassment and a puzzle--how could he have spent so much time with Jesus and acted the way that he did?

We talked about how little is known about him in the Gospel of Luke.  It's other Gospels that mention that he holds he purse or that he is greedy.  But Luke does include the bit about Satan entering Judas, which led to some interesting conversation.  We talked about agency.  I said that Judas still had free will, even after Satan entered him.  In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus prays for all the disciples because Satan will be doing winnowing and coming after all the disciples.  We see different outcomes of that prayer.

My professor said that Judas still has agency, even after Satan entered him.  I said that Judas could have said no, just like Mary could have.  My professor said, "Satan entering Judas doesn't immobilize him any more than the Holy Spirit entering Mary immobilizes here--what is true of good entering us may also be true of evil."  I do realize that others may have a different view of possession and how the forces of good and evil work.

One of my classmates put the idea in terms of remembering, both the kind that involves the memory and the kind that involves putting body parts back together.  She theorized that Judas had gotten lost, that he couldn't remember himself, as happens to all of us from time to time, for so many reasons.  And that's when we need Jesus to re-member us.

The other reason for the language of Satan, my professor said, is that it moves the story from one of a friend betraying a friend.  It is that story--but it is much more cosmic.

And here's one more nugget.  My professor acknowledged that the Gospels don't answer all the questions that she has.  She said that when she keeps coming back to a question that the Gospels refuse to answer, that maybe it's time to ask a different question.

In short, it was a great class, with lots of interesting give and take, throughout the class.  It was a great reminder of why it is worth it to take classes, instead of just watching YouTube videos or doing readings on my own.

Monday, April 10, 2023

Relaxed Easter Sunday

We had a much more relaxed Easter than we sometimes do.  Often we've gotten up very early to get over to the church to set up for Easter sunrise service; we've been part of the team that plays music.  Once we've done the Easter sunrise service, in the past, we would stay at the church the whole morning and participate in every service.

We did leave a bit earlier yesterday so that my spouse could get to choir practice before the 10:30 service.  But we only live minutes away from our current church, so it felt leisurely.  I sat in the large fellowship area and read my textbook for Church History II class.  There was no Easter breakfast or coffee cake or hardboiled eggs.  That felt sort of strange.  Happily, I had brought my own homemade bread, and there was tea at the hot beverage area.

The church service was a bit more crowded, but not as crowded as the early service.  I've been to the early service, and usually there are 15-25 people.  Yesterday, it was packed; I was able to observe because the church service wasn't done when I first arrived, and I could see the church empty out as I read and ate my bread.

The church service had some special elements, lovely flowers and some special musical instruments.  Easter is the day of brass instruments, and we had two.  We had bells to jingle when we heard the word "Alleluia."

At the end, we came  home, did some grilling, including grilling the bread dough I made, which gave us a delicious meal.  I got some grading done, and we called family members or made plans for a call on a less hectic day.  We ended the day by listening to music and watching reruns of Mash and All in the Family (as if it was a Sunday evening in the 1970's).

I will close with pictures of the flamingos in the neighborhood that flanks my seminary.  

When I was taking the pictures, a woman walking her dog told me that the woman who lives in the house designs these seasonal decorations for the flamingoes.  

I asked the dogwalker to tell the woman how much joy they have brought me.  

They make me want to do something similar in my mountain home.  We shall see.

Sunday, April 9, 2023

Gardeners and Other Easter Types

It is Easter morning, and we will go to church for the later service, where my spouse will sing in the choir.  It is Easter morning, the first Easter in many years that I don't have a lot of church duties.  I am aware that it may be one of the last Easters where I don't have a lot of church duties, so we have taken a low-key approach to Holy Week.  Plus it's been very rainy, which made me want to stay put.

We have found ourselves exhausted, part way through a home remodel, part way through an intense schedule of classes, both ones I've been taking and the ones I've been teaching.  We've spent much of the time between Thursday and now sleeping and napping.

I have been thinking about the stories we don't hear in our liturgies.  In the past few years, I've been hearing more about the women who stayed at the foot of the cross and the women who came to the tomb--who may have been the same women.  I'd be surprised if more conservative churches are focusing on those women; I'd be happy to be surprised.

One year, I thought about the gardener, and a poem came to me.  It tells the story of the first Easter morning from the view of a gardener.  It was inspired by the piece of the Easter story where Mary thinks that Jesus is the gardener, which made me think about the fact that there must have been a real gardener and made me wonder what he thought of all the commotion.

It first appeared in issue 3 of Eye to the Telescope.  The whole volume is devoted to persona poems and edited by Jeannine Hall Gailey.

The Gardener’s Tale

I liked to get to the garden
early, before the harsh
light of day revealed
all my mistakes, all the growth
I couldn’t contain.

I liked the pre-dawn
hours, when I knew
the flowers by their smells
as I rustled
their stems.

That morning I saw
him first. He asked
for bread, and I had a bit
to share. I offered
him olives and some cheese
from my son Simon’s goat.

We talked of ways to attract
butterflies to the garden:
the need for nectar
and leaves for the babies.
I showed him a tree
that had been ailing,
and he suggested a different nourishment.

I thanked him for his wisdom
and moved to the border
of the garden. I didn’t make
the connections until I heard
the shrieks of the women
and Peter nearly knocked me down.

Saturday, April 8, 2023

A Visit to the Virginia Quilt Museum

At the quilt retreat in November, one of our group told us about a show that would be at the Virginia Quilt Museum, a retrospective of Jinny Beyer, a woman who is a luminary to so many quilters.

I planned to stop at the Virginia Quilt Museum on one of my trips back and forth between seminary and our Lutheridge house.  But the months went by, and I didn't go, in large part, because the museum is closed on Mondays, the day when I've been driving back from North Carolina.

The museum is in Harrisonburg, and usually, I've left my seminary apartment too early to stop on my way to North Carolina, but on Wednesday, I decided to change my departure time so that I could stop in.  The Beyer exhibit was in its final days.

It was worth the stop.  Below is a close up shot of the quilt above, a quilt where no fabric repeats:

How much fabric would that be?  I have no idea.  Her quilts were beautiful, but didn't make me want to try what she has done.  It just made my head hurt at all the calculations that would need to be done.  The colors, however, made my heart sing.

There were other quilts too.  Lisa Ellis had an exhibition in one of the galleries.  Her quilts used the Cathedral Window pattern, another mind aching pattern.  But I do love the way it looks:

She did all sorts of things with this pattern, including making a sculpture that evokes wind chimes:

There were other quilts, too, historic quilts.

Here's a close up--a way to use up so many tiny scraps:

In addition to the antique sewing machines in the galleries and hallways, there was a whole room of antique machines, including this cabinet.

It included some of the smallest machines I've ever seen.

All too soon, it was time to be on my way again.  I made my way back to the parking garage where the parking was free, away from the picturesque downtown that had an Asheville in the 80's kind of vibe.  But I carried those quilts with me in pictures and in my brain, and I'm looking forward to a time to quilt again.

Friday, April 7, 2023

The Brokenness Before the Beauty

Today, much of Christendom will celebrate Good Friday, the day that remembers the Crucifixion of Christ. This is the day that no bread can be consecrated. Many Christians will fast today. Some will fast until Easter morning.

I have already heard a great Good Friday sermon.  At seminary chapel on Tuesday, we had a Holy Week theme, and our guest preacher preached on the crowds demanding the release of Barabbas, not Jesus.  Our guest preacher cautiously approached the substitutionary atonement theology that rears its ugly head on Good Friday and beyond.  He reminded us that this theology comes to us from Anselm in the 12th century, not from God.

He said that humans required the crucifixion of Jesus, in the way that human brokenness so often does.  God did not require the sacrifice of Jesus.  He talked about Jesus and the ways that Jesus sought to heal the world.  He ended his sermon by saying, "Jesus released Barabbas.  Let us have the strength to release Jesus Christ." 

Tonight I will go to a Good Friday service at another new church of mine, the one near my North Carolina house.  It will involve Stations of the Cross and walking outside.  I'm interested to see what they do with all the potential.  I have not done much with Stations of the Cross in the past, just a Good Friday service here or there, plus a few encounters with art that uses the Stations of the Cross.

from Mary Button's "Stations of the Cross:  Jesus at the Border"

It is good to remember how much of the world is stuck in Good Friday.  It is good to remember, as our guest preacher did, how we are called to stand in solidarity with those who are broken by the world.  It is good today to reflect on God, who can make beauty out of the most profound ugliness, wholeness out of the most shattered brokenness.