Friday, June 30, 2023

Higher Ed Admissions

I will not be commenting in depth on the Supreme Court decision on college admissions that was handed down yesterday.  That decision won't really affect many schools, and the Ivy League schools can have work-arounds if they want.  Most students apply to schools that accept most everyone who applies, and that's not likely to change in the coming decade as we have fewer and fewer students heading off to college (less immigration combined with steep declines in birth rates since 2008).

As that Supreme Court decision was announced, I was doing training for my new teaching gig which stars in August.  It's the kind of online training that I suspect is common now.  I had four modules to complete, modules that covered e-mail safety, FERPA rules, and keeping everybody safe, including children (not students, but children).  Each module had a quiz at the end.  It took about an hour and a half, and my main response was, "People don't know this?"  I understand that we live in a world of lawsuits, and this training is more to protect the institution than to educate the new hire.

But here's what made it different:  I was paid to do this training.  I will be paid in real U.S. money!  You might ask, "How else would you be paid?"  With a lunch perhaps.  As an administrator, I've had to gather people in a room to do this training and monitor them, and we provided lunch, and my higher ups expected gratitude.

I am so grateful I am not in education administration anymore.  What a relief.

In addition to getting my training out of the way, I made some progress on my research paper that's due on Wednesday.  I've gotten my outside sources ready, and now I need to figure out where to put them.  It's a 5-7 page paper, so I don't have room to do much.

The past two days, we've had an increased work pace with the home repairs.  My sister-in-law and her electrician fiancĂ© arrive today to help us finish doing the wiring for the house.  I've been sitting at my desk with my back to it all, getting the online class that I teach ready to go live (which happened yesterday) and writing my research paper and doing research for that paper.  Wednesday felt chaotic because the counter top measurer came too.

We are making progress, although it's achingly slow.  I really hope we have more of this done by the end of August, when my schedule gets more intense.

That said, it's been a good month.  I wrote a post on my theology blog that looks back on my first month as a Synod Appointed Minister, a great experience so far.  I've completed one class of teaching, hurrah!  I am hopeful that I've been supportive as my spouse moves forward with these housing remodeling tasks.

Let's see what July brings!  How can it be July already?

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Thoughts in the Bramble Bushes

I noticed some thought patterns this morning, thoughts that were similar across circumstances.  Those who know me will probably not be surprised.

Me waking up, fretting about how the washer and dryer will be connected in the small space that will be our new laundry room:  I will never have a working washer and dryer again.

Me, after my spouse designer explains it to me:  This new home design is brilliant.  How long until the countertops are ready?

Me before writing my seminary research paper:  It's useless; I thought I had good ideas but now I don't remember what they were.

Me after writing the first paragraph and figuring out my overarching point, my long awaited thesis statement:  Maybe I should try to get this published.

Me, watching others achieve poetry publication success:  I thought I might have a first book.  But I haven't yet.  Clearly my poetry has no worth.

Me, reading this poem that was published in 2009, which I rediscovered yesterday from reading this post as I wrote about watching Missing again:  This poem is brilliant!  I should compile a new manuscript to submit as my first book and start sending it out again.

Insert a moment of gratitude for literary journals that still exist online, and a moment of sadness for that moment in 2009, when I thought we were creating a brave, new literary community. 

Me, parking the car in a place at camp where it won't be in the way:  I'm tired of always moving cars, all summer long, and why is it so damp all the time?

Me, seeing one of the berries in the bramble bushes in the vacant lot along the side of the road, as I walk back from parking the car:  It's a sign from the universe that I belong here.

May all our bramble bushes give us berries and joy!

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Tetanus Shots and "Missing"

Yesterday morning we went to a local grocery store pharmacy to get our tetanus shots, which were covered by insurance.  On the face of it, there's nothing terribly remarkable about that sentence.

The last time I got a tetanus shot was in 2013, the last time we did serious home remodeling by ourselves.  My insurance--provided by my employer--didn't cover a tetanus shot unless one had stepped on a rusty nail or been exposed in some way.  The local grocery store pharmacy didn't carry tetanus vaccine and suggested I go to the ER to get a tetanus shot.

My goal is to avoid emergency rooms, and most hospitals, as much as possible.  Instead, I went to the public health department, paid $35, and got a shot. 

Yesterday we were prepared to pay out of pocket if need be.  Happily, our bronze plan which we got through the Affordable Care Act set of choices and pay nothing for in premiums, covered it.  We got a shot and were on our way.  Hurrah!  And we're also covered for Pertussis and Diphtheria.

Hopefully our immune systems will never meet these invaders.  But now, they've gotten a reminder of what to do.

Later in the afternoon, I watched Missing, the Sissy Spacek movie, not the other one.  It's about the CIA, and the coup in Chile, and the uses of terror and torture.  I'm writing a paper about it for my Social Justice and Cinema class that I'm taking for seminary.  I've written about the first time I watched the movie here; I was 17, and that movie changed me forever.

I've since watched it at least a dozen times, since I used to show it in classes that I taught.  It's still a devastating story even knowing how it will all turn out.

I first saw it in the early 80's, and it seemed to explain so much about foreign policy, the U.S. interfering in so many countries so that national interests--that is, the best interests of U.S. corporations--could be protected.  In future years, will people look at movies being made and see explanations for our current foreign policy?  It's hard to imagine, but I'm also a lot more out of touch with movies being made these days.

Today we've got a lot of home construction happening, but much of it won't involve me.  I plan to sit here and get a rough draft of my paper written.  We are at the point in any given term where I wonder if I've bitten off more than I can chew, but knowing that it's likely going to be fine makes it  a bit easier.

Monday, June 26, 2023

John the Baptist Inspired Stanzas

My morning has gotten away from me.  You might say, "There's still plenty of morning--what are you talking about?"  But I do have grading to do, ahead of my deadline to turn in final grades tomorrow.  At some point this morning, the microwave installers will come, so I don't want to get too deeply into writing that takes much thought.

So let me do a poem process writing post here.  Yesterday, these two lines came to me.  Those of you not steeped in feast days or prophets or the early parts of New Testament Gospels may not recognize John the Baptist, whose feast day was on Saturday--shorthand for saying that I wasn't surprised when these lines floated up through my brain late yesterday as I took a walk: I have eaten your locusts and wild honey / and I am not impressed.  

This morning, I got rid of the second line, and now the stanza looks like this:

I have eaten your locusts and wild honey

And created a new menu with the bones

Of all the deer killed by carelessness.

And then I wanted to write a bit more, but I wasn't sure what.  I peered into my dirty coffee cup and the next stanza emerged:

I drink my wine out of a dirty

coffee mug and bathe in the creek

that comes from the cooling

ponds at the nuclear plant.

I have no idea where this poem is heading or if it is going anywhere.  I'll keep the document open in case anything else bubbles up.   I'm composing on the computer instead of by hand, and for the past few months, I haven't written by hand.  Hmmm--is this change permanent?

Saturday, June 24, 2023

The First Days of Summer

One of my favorite weather sites usually discusses the progress of tropical storms and hurricanes.  This morning, most of the comment section is not focused on storms Bret and Cindy, but on the Russian war.  No, not the one in Ukraine, but the one that happens when mercenaries from the Wagner group decide they've had enough of Putin.  Maybe that's what's happening.  Maybe it's something else.

The implications are scary.  As historian Heather Cox Richardson observes, "There are no good guys in this struggle."  The humans are scary, the presence of nuclear weapons even scarier.

Here's my favorite Diana Butler Bass tweet about recent events:  "So, we’ve had a global pandemic, the rise of fascism, and a Titanic disaster - why not throw in a Russian revolution to complete the early 20th century historical rerun?"

What a strange week, with the focus on the missing submersible that took wealthy people to see the wreck of the Titanic.  I use the word "see" very loosely--there was one porthole and it's very dark that deep and the waters are murky because of wreckage.  Temperatures in Texas have smashed heat records, which is saying something--it's Texas smashing records, not the northern reaches of Canada.  The oceans, too, are smashing heat records.  I'm staying here, hiding out in the hills.

Last night I was reminded of the value of moving to a neighborhood that's cozy but not smothering.  Our next door neighbor had us over to dinner last night.  Her cabin doesn't have AC or heat, so she's here off and on during the warmer months.  We walked over to enjoy her beef stroganoff and discussion about the future of the Church, the ELCA flavored Lutheran version more than others.

This morning, before my Zoom Bible study with my Florida church, I'll make a quick trip to a local farmer's market, the one that had the best tomatoes last year.  That farmer is still there--I'll ask him when the tomatoes are coming in.

I've got a day that needs to be full of grading and seminary writing.  But there's time for summer pleasures too, time for community, time to linger in the late summer light and look for fireflies.

Friday, June 23, 2023

Weather Report: Our Dreary June Continues

Our dreary June continues.  Once again, I've turned on the heat and reflected on how I have never turned on the heat in June.  Granted, I've never lived in the mountains before either, but this rainy June chill is unusual for the mountains too.  I am not complaining, but my spouse complains bitterly, day after day.

My hydrangea that's planted in a pot is happy, though.  After being abandoned last week when we left suddenly for 4 days, it was looking a bit wilted.

As I've been tracking tropical storms (force of habit), I'm looking at satellite images that show the whole continent of North America, and I can't help but notice that no part of the U.S. has sun, except for Texas which has way, way too much sun.  That fact does not help my spouse's mood.  We could really use a day or two of sun to help his mood improve--and that would help my mood improve.

In some ways, this has been a great month to be taking a seminary class that focuses on film.  Rainy afternoons curled up with a movie--we wouldn't be out hiking or doing something outdoorsy in this rain.

Yesterday we watched The Battle of Algiers, which I'm not sure I was aware of until this class.  Unlike other films, like Birth of a Nation, this one wasn't ever on my radar screen.  In some ways, it was interesting.  In other ways, I wished it had been shorter.  On and on we went, with shootings and stabbings and bombings--people fighting for their freedom or terrorism?  I suspect it's impossible to see this movie the same way after the terrorist events of Sept. 11, 2001.

As I closed the curtains for the night, I thought I saw a firefly outside.  I watched, and yes, yes I did.  The first firefly of the season.  I'm choosing to see it as a good omen.

The blue skies this morning help too.

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Housing Remodel Updates

I have a different view from my writing desk, which until a few days ago was facing a wall:

Actually, that's the view when I'm standing at the desk.  The view from my seat is trees and a bit of the roof of the next door neighbors' cottage.  Here's the view from where I'm sitting:

We have spent the past week moving boxes and the desk.  The next phase of the home remodel is underway!  We have two bathrooms and they both need attention.  Plus we need to create a small laundry room--the space we have now isn't big enough for modern washers and dryers, which are so much more HUGE than their 1975 counterparts.  Here's the 1975 model, in all its avocado glory:

We are not done with the kitchen remodel, but it's coming along.  Yesterday, we got the gas connected, a multi-step process, which means we can have a working gas stove.  Here's a picture:

We are still waiting on countertops and tin for the backsplash; the installers need to come back to install the microwave (which is also a hood and surface lights for the stove).  The dishwasher can't be connected until the countertops are in.  At this rate, we'll be lucky to have a working kitchen by August.

But we are making progress.  Slowly, slowly.

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Summer Solstice in a Different Climate

We are still a few hours away from the official summer solstice, which occurs at 10:58 a.m., Eastern time.  Here in the mountains of North Carolina, it's more like chilly spring.  We have yet to turn on the AC; in fact, last week we had the heat on for a few minutes, just to take the chill off the air.

Let me be clear that I am not complaining.  My spouse complains about the lack of blazing heat and sun, but I like being able to take a walk in the afternoon without melting.  I like being able to get in the car without feeling like I'm suffocating for the whole trip because the car's AC can't get rid of the heat that builds up when a car sits in a parking space for an hour or two in the daylight.

I thought about this location that we've chosen as I read David Pogue's How to Prepare for Climate Change:  A Practical Guide to Surviving the Chaos.  Part of the book talks about deciding to move to a safer climate.  Pogue recommends the Pacific Northwest or the Great Lakes.  He also lists about 14 specific cities, all of them a bit cold for me, at this time of climate warming.  

But we've chosen a good spot.  I almost said we've accidentally chosen a good spot, but it wasn't an accident at all.  I've been thinking about this issue for at least 20 years, as it became clear that South Florida has some severe disadvantages as a spot to weather climate change or the lack of oil, which is the lens through which I first started having these thoughts.  

Pogue suggests we think about 4 things:  moving inland, moving north, being near fresh water, and finding a place with good infrastructure.  Pogue might think we're not far enough north, but it's far enough to escape the heat that worries Pogue.  We are near a huge lake and the French Broad River, plus Lutheridge itself has a lake.  So far, we also get a lot of water in the form of rain, which will be less and less true of much of the southeast in the coming years.

I am less sure about the infrastructure, but the fact that the population is less and more spread out is a good thing.  The roads seem in good shape, as do the power lines and the internet access.  The great December ice storms may have made me wonder about the water, but the city of Asheville did a great job of keeping us informed as the crisis was unfolding, and they did a great job of figuring out resources for those affected.

I read most of the book yesterday afternoon, even though a lot of it doesn't pertain to me anymore.  I have always loved disaster prepping narratives.  Even as a child, I loved books about being lost in the wilderness and needing to find a way to survive.  Hopefully, my life won't come to that, but life in Florida, particularly after a hurricane, resembled that narrative more than I wanted to live anymore, particularly as we got older.

In the past, I've written summer solstice posts about summer pleasures, in part as a way of remembering that there were some to be claimed, even as the season wore me out.  Let me think about summer pleasures in a new way this year--this season will be fleeting, I suspect, and I'll need to make the most of it while it's here.  That said, I'm looking forward to seeing how the seasons shift here in the North Carolina mountains.  Last year, I got a glimpse, but I was in D.C. for the most part.

For me, the pleasures of summer revolve around food, particularly melons and tomatoes and corn.  A week ago, I started looking at community swimming pools, and I've kept a swimsuit out of a box in the hopes that we'll get in a swim or two.  I'd like to go to an evening outside concert at the NC Arboretum.  And I'm going to have to do much of this later in July, when I'm done with the seminary class that I'm taking.

Maybe by then, it will be warmer; if last year is an indicator, that's when we get the most summerlike weather, in later July and early August.

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Troubling Tropics and Mountain Rain

I am not sure I have a thought deep enough to sustain a whole blog post--but fragments can create an interesting whole too.

--Today I'll go to the library to pick up the 3 climate change books that I put on hold last week.  Once again, I'm reminded of the miracles of a public library, particularly one in North Carolina.  If I have a library card, I have access to the resources of any library that's in the far-flung network.  It's probably not enough for scholarly work, but it will save me a considerable amount of book buying, if I can be disciplined.  And I must be disciplined, for we don't have infinite space for books in our small house.

--Let me remember that we've just seen a tropical storm develop in the Atlantic.  And why is this significant.  In this article, Jeff Masters and Bob Henson note:  "It’s the farthest east in the tropical Atlantic that any named storm has developed so early in hurricane season (latitude 42.2 degrees west)."

--Record setting heat in Texas, record setting fires in Canada--I am so glad to be living in a southern mountain range.  It won't be safe here forever, but probably through my life span it will be.

--I feel a poem percolating about geological time and the wisdom of the rocks.  Or maybe it's the silence of stones, amidst the crashing of the ever-rising ocean, the burning of boreal forests.

--Speaking of geological time, progress on the kitchen remodel continues.  We ordered all the appliances early, thinking they would be here in time for the cabinet install; we just got the dishwasher and the microwave yesterday.  The installers will come back, but it's one more delay.

--The gas plumber is the one person who has a speedy turn around time.  He, too, was here yesterday.  We might have a working gas stove by the end of the week.  And no, I am not worried that the federal government will come to take away my stove.

--And still we wait for countertops.  The measurers will come a week from tomorrow.  When the kitchen designer at Lowe's said it could be 3-7 weeks for a countertop, did that include the time of waiting for the measurers to get here?

--Let me go walk in the raindrops and remember why I love to live here:  cooler, gentler summers.

Monday, June 19, 2023

Funeral Week

People paying attention may have wondered what happened to me, the woman who usually writes a blog post a day, each and every day.  I haven't posted since last Wednesday.  Shortly after that posting, we got a phone call from my spouse's stepmom, who was crying.  I thought it would be bad news about my spouse's dad, but no, it was bad news about my spouse's youngest brother who had just learned that he could stay in his seminary apartment, as he did some post-MDiv work.  My spouse's stepmom and dad had driven through the night after days of not hearing from their son.  One or two days might be normal, but more than that meant that something horrible had happened.

We are only 2 hours away from Columbia, SC, so we threw some clothes and toiletries in the car and drove down, not knowing what had happened.  There was a brief moment where I hoped it would all be a terrible mistake, and that by the time we got there, we'd all go out to lunch and have a laugh about how we had all panicked.

Sadly, by the time we left our house, it was clear that the worst had happened; the coroner had arrived.  But we didn't know details.  By the time we arrived, we knew that it wasn't our worst fears:  a horrible crime.  Eventually we would find out that Stephen had a blocked left ventricle; he died suddenly, the way that men in their 40's and 50's so often die suddenly, by way of a massive heart attack that has no symptoms in advance.

The seminary took good care of the family.  By the time we arrived, several pastors had been there, including the bishop of the South Carolina synod and the pastor who had supervised Stephen's internship at his church, St. Andrew's in Columbia.  The seminary made reservations at a nearby hotel for us, and after eating a bit of the sandwiches that the seminary had ordered, we headed over to the hotel.  On Wednesday, we got settled, and they tried to sleep, while I logged on and attended my online class in the evening.

Thursday was a hard day, full of difficult meetings:  the funeral home, the pastor planning the memorial service, the first day we were allowed in the apartment.  But it also wasn't as gruesome as I feared.  I haven't had to deal with much death so far in my life, but I've been impressed with how kind and professional the people who deal with death are.  I was most grateful for the clean up that had happened before we were allowed in the apartment.

We still had considerable cleaning, sorting, and packing to do at the apartment.  Even a man living alone has a lot left behind.  A seminarian has papers and books to sort through.  Happily, the security guard found a great home for Stephen's large, energetic dog, the kind of dog that needs a yard and a dog friend with boundless energy; now she has those things, along with a loving new owner.

On Saturday, we had the funeral service, which celebrated a life well lived, even as it was cut short.  In some ways, it was unbearably sad, thinking of all that he had left to do; in fact, he had called all of us a night or two before he died to tell us all about the cool new job he had just gotten and was supposed to start the following week.

After the service, we went to the parlor, where there was a lovely reception that the church provided.  I wrote this Facebook post later:  "The funeral service for Carl's younger brother was beautiful and even more profound was hearing how many lives he touched. It's what Church can do well, when Church does things well."  

As I stood listening to people tell us how much Stephen had meant to them, I thought about that line from the funeral reception scene in The Big Chill:  "You'd never get this many people at my funeral."  Of course, Stephen would also likely be surprised to see the crowd at his funeral.

I thought of how many people assume that they aren't very important.  We live in a culture that likes to reinforce that feeling so that we'll buy whatever is being advertised or vote for whichever candidate needs our vote or pay money for more education/training/etc.  But a funeral is a good reminder that we touch more lives more deeply than we'll ever realize when we're alive.  It's also a good reminder that although we might feel that our efforts to make the world better are ineffectual, every bit counts and all the bits add up to quite a lot.

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Library Love

Usually when we move to a new place, getting a library card is high on my list of priorities, along with getting a driver's license.  Last year, when we moved to North Carolina, we discovered that getting our driver's license would take much more effort than in any other location we had ever lived; I had a hint of that when I went online to make an appointment to avoid lines, and the nearest appointment was 5 months away.

So, I barely got my driver's license in time, and since I thought I'd be living in D.C. for the next several years, I didn't prioritize my library card.  But I've been yearning to read some books that I don't own, both light reading and some climate change texts, and the local library has them.  Yesterday I needed to escape some of the deconstruction noise at the house, so off I went to the nearest branch of the Buncombe county library.

Almost always, entering a library feels like coming home.  My earliest memories are of going to the library, and libraries haven't changed radically in appearance in my lifetime, so it makes sense.  Libraries have more stuff now--computers, meeting rooms, non-book media/items--but libraries still have books, shelves and shelves and shelves of books.

I got my card with no trouble, since I now have a North Carolina driver's license.  The librarian asked me if I'd ever had a Buncombe county library card before, and I said no.  Suddenly I realized that I've had a library card in almost every state south of the Mason-Dixon line and east of the Mississippi River.  I have no particular desire to live in the missing states (Mississippi, for example), so this might be the end of my run.

I spent some time in the stacks, wondering what I'd like to read.  Yes, I keep a list, but that list is in a box somewhere.  I ended up with Living Resistance by Kaitlin B. Curtice and Sue Monk Kidd's The Book of Longings--not the light and fluffy reading I wanted, but maybe they'll hit the spot.  I came home and went online to request the climate change books I wanted--they are at a library far away, and I'm happy to wait for them to be delivered to the branch nearer to me.

One of the cool elements of this library system is that I have borrowing privileges at many other North Carolina counties.  It's hard to imagine that I'll get to many of them, but I do live just one mile away from Henderson county.  There are no overdue fees, but after 30 days, the item will be charged to the card.  But if you bring the item back, you're good; I know this, because I heard it explained to the young child and his dad who had brought items back.  If you're charged, and you bring a new copy of the book that you got from somewhere else, you don't have to pay what the library will charge you to replace that book.  Once I lost a book from the Broward county (FL) system, and not only had to pay an exorbitant cost to replace it, but also a service fee; I ended up paying almost $50.00 for a paperback that was widely available for a few dollars elsewhere.

One feature of this library card is that I can get Zoom passes, which gets me and my group admission into a variety of educational spaces (the NC Arboretum!  the WNC Nature Center!  the Asheville Art Museum!), with one pass per place per month.  Wow.  It requires some thinking ahead because I have to get the pass at the library, but I'm fine with that.

On my way home, I heard that Cormac McCarthy died; I was surprised that he was as old as he was when he died.  I only read The Road, which had some of the most gorgeous language I've ever read, which is particularly unusual in a dystopian novel.  My reading life is short, and I'm unlikely to read more of his work, although this appreciation made me want to read more.  NPR commentator Wade Goodwyn recorded it just before he died of cancer--he died in his 60's, much younger than anyone should.

I did not waste time with news coverage of the Trump appearance at a federal court room yesterday.  This story will drag on and on and on.  In some ways, it's much like a kitchen remodel.  I did get kitchen counters ordered yesterday.  

It will take 3-7 weeks for them to be made and installed.  Sigh.  

But at least the process is underway.  I also got the tin for the backsplash ordered; happily American Tin still had some of our old pattern in stock, which we're getting in hopes of duplicating what we've had before.

In the meantime, we have a temporary sink, and we'll keep making due.  Earlier this week, standing on the deck in the morning dark, looking through the sliding glass doors, I thought, if this was a picture that I saw in a magazine, I'd want to live here--even if the kitchen doesn't have counters yet.

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Weather Report from a Chilly June

A friend of mine who was a camp director for decades said that this weather is perfect for camp:  cool in the mornings, but warm enough in the afternoon for swimming.

I would still find it a bit chilly for swimming, but then again, I'm not in elementary school.  I have to say that I'm loving this weather.  I have never had a temperate summer in all of my grown up years.  I could take a walk in the morning, if I wear a jacket, or in the afternoon when it's more pleasant.  I'm not sweating through 5 outfits during the course of a day.  I can get in the car without feeling like my flesh will melt.

We've even had to turn on the heat in the last week, just to take the chill off.  Of course, we haven't had to turn the heat on--we could have added another layer of clothing.  I've never been in a place where we've even been tempted to use the heat after March. 

My spouse is not as happy with the chilly June as I am, so I try not to mention it too much.

Hours later:  it's clear I'm not going to be able to muster the focus to say much more this morning, so let me leave it here, a brief weather report.  I did create a poem out of last week's apocalyptic post and some other thoughts, so it hasn't been a total waste of a writing morning.

Monday, June 12, 2023

Church at the Pavilion

Yesterday, we got up and headed off across the mountains to Faith Lutheran in Bristol, Tennessee, where I will be the Synod Appointed Minister (SAM) for the next 9 months.  We did this last Sunday too, but yesterday was different--for one thing, I remembered to take some pictures.

Yesterday was the day of the church cook out and picnic at the pavilion down the hill from the church building.  As is their custom, they had the church service down in the pavilion too.

As I got ready for the service (we try to arrive an hour early), I tried to remember if I had ever led an outdoor service.  I've participated in plenty of them, usually at retreats, but I haven't been a worship leader outdoors.  Overall, it went well.

I had arrived with vague ideas for the children's sermon.  Faith Lutheran has the children's sermon before the Bible readings, and the readings for yesterday were particularly tough for a children's sermon.  With a group of children so new to me, I didn't want to talk about feeling like an outcast or all the ways our bodies can betray us, two approaches suggested by the Gospel for yesterday, Matthew 9:9-13, 18-26.

I stood at the pavilion, looking at the view of the huge pine trees to one side, and the vast, unmowed field to another side.  I decided on a completely new children's sermon.  I talked about the field and asked if any of them knew any of the plants.  We heard birds chirping, and could we name them?  I admitted that I couldn't.

But good news!  God can.  God knows every element of creation, each single one--and God knows each one of us too.  God loves each of us deeply. 

Then I turned our attention to the pine trees and talked about the root system that keeps them from falling over.  And recent research tells us that trees communicate through their root structures.  I talked about how God's love can support us, even when we don't feel strong.  It's our own root system, strengthened by the love of our families and what we learn from our scripture reading.

I enjoyed being there, and I enjoyed the picnic afterward.  It was a great way to get to know each other better.  It was a delightful day, and a reminder of one of the benefits of being part of a small congregation who can know each other more deeply than a huge congregation.

Sunday, June 11, 2023

I Feed the Birds, and the Birds Feed Me

I am late to the world of smart phones and the apps that go with them.  We just got smart phones in August, and so far, I've mainly used mine as a phone and a camera, which didn't seem revolutionary to me.  I've been grateful to be able to access a map and directions a few times.  I send a text here and there.  But the Merlin Bird ID app gives me a window into the ways that a smart phone might be a game changer in so many ways.

I haven't downloaded any apps until this one; my phone did come with apps, but I haven't used them.  We don't have unlimited data, but more than that, I don't want the phone sucking my attention away.  But unlike many other apps, the Merlin app helps me pay attention.  Yesterday on my morning walk, without a phone, I could identify the song of the cardinals.

Of course, birdseed helps me pay attention too.  We've been spreading birdseed along the deck rail, and the birds come to visit in the evening.  It feels magical, but I realize it's not.  It's a basic principle of hospitality--offer food and see what happens:

The other night, I tried to sketch these cardinals.  

I didn't want to try to add color, although I was tempted.  But my markers are imprecise, and many of them are dried out.  I made the sketch using the photo.  At some point, maybe I'll try a more impressionistic sketch.  Or maybe I'll just continue trying to snap pictures:

The birds are tough to capture as they zip down, grab a seed and go.  Last night, we didn't have the seeds spread out, and one landed and stared at us as we sat there with our cheese and crackers.  I didn't have my phone with me to capture that one, but it looked a bit like this bird:

We haven't seen any fireflies yet.  I'm too much of an early bird for that--I often go to bed before it's completely dark, in these days heading to the Summer Solstice.  

Each day, I wonder if I can last until that moment that the birds are most likely to feed, as the sun sinks.  Most days, I can.  After all, I'm getting fed too.  Feeding the birds has reminded me of a basic of hospitality: set out food, and the miraculous can happen (or the mundane will seem miraculous). 

Saturday, June 10, 2023

A Trip to the Neighborhood Sawmill

Yesterday, we went to a local sawmill.  Those are words that I didn't foresee ever saying.  In South Florida, we didn't have things that are common in other places, like junkyards and scrap heaps, much less a sawmill.

But now we live in the mountains, not far from Asheville, but also not far from much more rural places.  We live in a house that has a different kind of siding that exists in much of the rest of the nation.  Our current house has rough sawn boards, but they are painted.  It's a mountain look, a church camp look.  We need a few more of them to preserve the look of the house as we remove a door that doesn't make sense in the remodel.

We asked a local lumberyard if they carry these boards, and we overheard one sales rep assuring the front desk woman that no house in the area used those boards.  They took our name and number, but no surprise, we haven't heard from them.  The Lowe's that is a few miles down the road from our house told us that it would likely cost $1000.00, so I suggested we just create a mural or mosaic for that wall.

But then we got an ad (I think?) over some social media site for Sunrise Sawmill, so we called them, expecting more bad news.  Much to our surprise, they had what we needed, although it doesn't stay in stock long, and it was very affordable:  $50.00 for what we needed.

In these days of shortages and supply chain issues, we try to buy what we will need when we see it, because we can't be sure we'll get it again.  So yesterday, we headed over to the sawmill.

It's a very different place, and yet just a street or two away from regular suburban housing and restaurants and schools.  As we drove there, seeing several apartment complexes under construction next to the industrial sites, I said, "I can't decide if the city of Asheville has a unique approach to zoning or no approach to zoning."

Part of me half expected to see running water and big wheels, but it's not that kind of mill.  Instead, it's stacks of logs that will be transformed into the stacks of boards that dotted the grounds.

We only needed 5 boards, but the first person who helped us treated us like we were million dollar customers.  We made some cuts, loaded the boards, and then we had to figure out the ratcheting straps we brought with us.  Happily, the woman in charge of the office uses them to lash her paddleboard to her car, so she helped us.

the first board on the roof of the Nissan Rogue

Soon we were on our way with boards lashed to the roof of our Nissan Rogue SUV, the first time we've ever used it that way.   Happily, the winds were low yesterday, and we were on back roads, not highways.  The lashing held, and soon enough, we were back home, unloading boards and commenting on their beauty and quality.

When I thought about moving to the mountains and exploring, a trip to the sawmill was not on the agenda.  But I'm glad to discover that such places still exist.

Friday, June 9, 2023

Heat and Chill

Yesterday was surreal, in so many ways.  I wrote my apocalyptic blog post, but we had beautiful weather.  The day began with grumpiness, but ended in the sweetness of an evening on the deck, watching the birds, eating popcorn, and reading.  One of the advantages of turning off our social media early is that I didn't find out about the Trump indictment until this morning.  Instead, we watched some YouTube clips of Muppets singing before watching an episode of South Park, truly a surreal way to end the day.

We did hear about the death of Pat Robertson, which prompted a review of religious zealots who have impacted our timelines, so many of whom have died.  In my younger years, I avoided the outrage that so many others have felt over what these men and a few women did to the Church and larger society.  But I can't avoid the sorrow, and death does not diminish that sorrow.

Part of me is always running alternate timelines--how would society have changed if this had happened, instead of that?  I realize that life might not have been any rosier if there hadn't been conservative religious people who got a national stage and preached oppression and hate.  But it's hard not to think about all the ways life might have been better for more of us if there hadn't been the persistent chorus of those men and a few women spewing their lies and their hate.

We didn't dwell long on that.  My spouse wanted to unpack some boxes and get some of our kitchen stuff back into cabinets, so we pitched ourselves into that.  It sounds so easy, but it meant trying to find the kitchen boxes in the midst of all the other boxes, the ones that came back from seminary and the ones we didn't unpack after the move because we knew remodeling was coming.

We had earlier than expected arrivals from the kitchen remodel experts, the one who came to give us the temporary sink and the gas plumber who is instrumental in making our new gas stove functional.  The water plumber was able to fix the leak at the cold water valve in the kitchen that we hadn't been able to fix and the gas plumber made an elegant installation and had a CO2 monitor that we could buy from him and not Lowe's.  The gas stove is not functional yet; several steps need to happen, like the county inspection and the gas company making final connections, but the gas plumber will shepherd the process.

By the end of the day, I was exhausted, but going to bed at 5:30 seemed like a defeat of some sort.  So we had a light supper on the porch, and while my spouse watched the Merlin bird app identify birdsong, I read a few essays from the new volume by David Sedaris.  Part of me wanted to stay on the deck until sunset, but part of me wanted to drift off to sleep on the couch.  The episode of South Park kept me engaged, and because of our gorgeous new sliding glass doors, I was still able to watch the sun set.  I went to bed shortly after sunset.

This morning, I looked over the news and decided to skip over all the news articles and editorials about the Trump indictment.  It was one of those news moments when I thought, come back to me when there's something new to report.  At this point, everyone seems to be doing the performative drama I expect, and right now, there's nothing new to say, and we've already been contemplating the possibilities in terms of what it means for the election.  

I was sad to hear about the death of George Winston.  I understand all the reasons why people don't like his music, but it was the backdrop to college for me.  The first time I heard the Pachelbel Canon in D, it was George Winston's version, which they played at the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum before the movie played on the IMAX screen, which led me to explore the more classical approaches to that piece of music.  It gave me a way to talk about classical music with my parents, who have so much more training in that area than I do.

I got up this morning and turned on the heat, something that has NEVER happened in June, in any other place I have ever lived in the southeastern U.S.  I'm delighted to live in a place where I don't have to dread the summer weather, the way I have in other places I have lived.  I do realize winter is coming; in fact, I bought some winter gloves this week, and a hat for my spouse, while they are on sale.  I know that at some time, I might dread the winter, but we've done a lot of work to make the house more weather proof and well adapted to all sorts of weather.

Thursday, June 8, 2023

Apocalypse in Flames with Tint of Ocean

We are not experiencing as much smoke from Canadian forest fires as much of the rest of the east coast of the U.S. has been.  Still, there were moments yesterday when I looked away from my computer screen wondering if I had lost track of time because it had gotten dark.  Or maybe a storm was coming?

Yes, a storm is coming, but it won't be an easy thunderstorm, the summer kind that blows up quickly and only lasts an hour.

Nothing like apocalyptic pictures from New York City and DC to bring out my apocalyptic side.  For years (decades?), I've been saying that future generations will wonder why we focused on such minor matters as abortion and other attempts to legislate bodies (like with the current arguments over the bodies of trans people, both minors and adults), when such a huge horror was bearing down on us.  How could we not notice?

My non-apocalyptic friends might say, "What horror?"  Even being in the midst of a global pandemic might not have seemed like such a horror if we happened to be lucky.  Those who have never had to evacuate don't understand how eerie it is to be facing a storm that doesn't care about all that you have built up and restored, of the wealth stored in your modest house.

Perhaps I am not writing a blog post, but a poem.  Some of it will make its way into a poem, to be sure.  But poet Dave Bonta has already written what seems to be a perfect forest fire poem.  I started playing with lines that visualize the planet as wanting to reshape its body in various ways, but I'm not sure I can pull it off.

The planet excising parts of itself as a cancer--fairly standard imagery now.  The planet practicing plastic surgery has a nice alliteration.  The planet as feeling trapped in a wrong body and excising the parts that don't fit--forest fire as corrective surgery--perhaps this imagery is too transgressive?

But maybe we want transgressive imagery.  Maybe in an era of apocalypse, transgressive imagery is what we need to shake us out of our complacency.

Living in the most southeastern part of Florida, cleaning up flood after flood after hurricane after flood, I always wondered how people could be complacent.  Now that I live in the mountains, where climate risk is much lower (not true of all mountains, I know, but true of mine),  I understand complacency.  Yesterday, it took me a few hours to wonder if the haze outside might be more dangerous than I thought.  I looked up a different chart from a different government agency, one that measures fire risk to lung health.  Our particulate levels weren't particularly good, but for those of us without breathing issues, it was fair.

I looked up my old address in DC.  This morning, the code is purple.  I am glad I am not there.  My air quality here in the NC mountains is green.

A new apocalypse, a new metric to be learned, new charts to follow, new numbers rising and falling.  But don't turn your back to the ocean, which is always rising, and faster than we've been told.

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Day One of the Kitchen Install

Soon, I will get back to posting about other things, like poetry or the fun I'm having watching the birds in the yard.  But the kitchen install is ever present in my mind.  So let me post some updates, with pictures.

Here's the way the kitchen looked just over a year ago, when we first bought the house:

In some ways, it would have been fun to work with what was there--it's got a vintage appeal.  But the oven part of the stove didn't work.  There aren't enough cabinets and some of the ones that were there weren't very functional:  the corner cabinets were deep and impossible to access most of them.  My spouse hated the scalloped trim at the top.

So, instead of keeping it, we went in a different direction, but in many ways, it's a direction we've covered before.  Whenever I've chosen cabinet colors, I always come back to a cinnamon color.  It seems relatively timeless.  We thought about gray, because the house is dark, and we thought that a lighter cabinet color might make the space feel brighter.  But in the end, we came back to the spiced maple kind of color (this cabinet maker calls it cherry) that I love.

I never had any question that we would pay for installers to put the cabinets in place.  Even in my younger years, when I was much stronger, holding a cabinet in place while someone else screwed it to a wall stud was not something I could do for more than one cabinet.  We are both older and less limber now, and I'm glad that the cost of the installation wasn't more than my spouse could consider.  

Yesterday I expected a team of installers, but only one man showed up.  He was more than capable.  He could install an upper cabinet all by himself.  I thought he would make much less progress than he did, so I'm pleased with what happened yesterday.

I sat at my computer for much of the day, which was fine.  I got all the reading done for weeks 1 and 2 of my seminary class which starts tonight.  I got most of an essay done; it's due to the magazine editor today.

Here is how the kitchen looked at the end of the day yesterday:

It still needs lower cabinets, along with appliances installed.  But still, an amazing amount of progress made by one man doing it all himself.

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

First Day (Hopefully) of the Kitchen Install

This morning, my kitchen looks like this, but with the drywall painted:

It should have looked even more crowded, but Lowe's had to postpone the delivery of some of the appliances (dishwasher and microwave) and the sink and its accessories.  We placed the order weeks ago in hopes that everything would get here, but delays no longer come as a surprise.  If we had to have a delay, then I'm glad it's not with the stove.  We need the stove here on Thursday when the gas plumber comes to work his magic.  The gas has been run to the house from the street, the gas plumber will do what needs to be done inside the house, and then the gas company will come back to connect the gas.  And then we will be cooking with gas, as the old saying goes.

People have asked if we're worried that our stove will be banned, that the state will come to take our stove.  That has not crossed my mind, although I did read the reports about gas stoves that led to the worries of people that the state will confiscate my stove.

The cabinet installers come today, and I'm hoping that by the end of today, we'll have more space to move around.  It may be a 3 day project, according to the guidelines sent.  But it's a small job, as kitchens go.  By Thursday, we should have a temporary sink, which will be a huge improvement.  I have planned meals with an eye to having few dishes to wash in the tiny bathroom sink with the inadequate space between the faucet and the sink.

Fingers crossed that all goes well--with yesterday's stove delivery, carried down the gravel drive by the Lowe's delivery guys, I feel hopeful.

Monday, June 5, 2023

First Day as Synod Authorized Minister

Yesterday was my first day as a Synod Authorized Minister, which is a position where I am allowed to do/have all the responsibilities and duties of a minister in a church, but only in one specific church that the Synod designates.  So, I can consecrate bread and wine, but only in that one church.  I can officiate a funeral, but perhaps not a wedding, since there might be state laws about that.  It's different from being an ordained minister, but much of the work looks the same.

Yesterday, we got in the car and drove over the mountains to Bristol, Tennessee.  We had no trouble finding the church, and we pulled in at the same time as one of the church leaders was walking across the parking lot.  I had 45 minutes to meet people and to get oriented to the building and the worship service I was about to lead (I had the bulletin in advance, so there weren't any unpleasant surprises).

I had wondered if any of my relatives still went to the church, and sure enough, a cousin introduced himself to me.  That led to me explaining my family connection to the other early arrivals at the church, and they knew my grandmother's sister, Martha, who worshipped at that church her whole life.  So, at the beginning of the service, when I introduced myself, I explained the family connection.

The worship service went smoothly.  The altar sits flush against the back wall, an older style.  I decided not to turn my back to the congregation as much as possible, and I asked how the previous pastor had located herself in the worship space.  She did much of the service down close to the congregation, which works for me.

I preached 2 sermons on the Trinity, since it was Trinity Sunday.  My children's sermon used ice, water, and steam from an electric kettle--hurrah for quick heating kettles that did produce steam.  My adult sermon focused on God the Creator who we meet in Genesis and God as Community.  I may say more about these sermons later.   I woke up thinking about how I could have made each better, but that tendency probably comes with the sermon territory.

After church, I talked to more parishioners and then de-robed and figured out the exiting process; I don't have a key for the door to the sanctuary (two other doors have a code for entry), but the person who does have the key stays to lock up.  People spent time lingering in the sanctuary to talk to each other after the worship service, a coffee hour of sorts, but without coffee and treats to eat.

We got in the car and drove back over the mountain, and the drive back seemed even easier/quicker than the drive there.  We didn't eat before the drive, and on the way home we saw a sign for a brewery called the Thirsty Monk.  We speculated about monasteries and breweries and followed more signs.  Alas, it wasn't a monastery, and the brewery was actually off site.  Still, we stayed for a flight of beers and fried pickles.  It was spontaneous and tasty and didn't take us too far off our itinerary.

One of our neighbors had an impromptu late afternoon neighborhood gathering in their beautiful backyard, which was a great way to end the day. Several of our neighbors are retired pastors, and they said, "It's a shame you're not further along in ordination" and told me about other churches that have also not had a full-time minister.  These are churches in the mountains of North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia--not unpleasant places to live.  I know that there could be many reasons for vacancies, but it does seem a bit troubling (and also not my problem to solve, not exactly).

We finished the evening on our own deck, overlooking our own beautiful back yard.  My spouse spread birdseed along a deck rail, and we watched the birds approach, eat, and fly away, over and over again.  I said, "It's like we're sitting in a cathedral made of birds!"  It was mystical and awe inspiring.

Mystical and awe inspiring--in many ways, key words to describe the whole day.  

Sunday, June 4, 2023

Minutiae from May in the Mountains

I am having trouble believing it is already June.  Before the new month turns into the month that is slipping away, let me record some moments from May that I don't want to lose.  Let me collect some of the Facebook posts that never made it into a blog post:

--I am at the saddest Barnes and Noble in all of North America, the only store still functioning in a once vibrant mall, working on my sermon for Sunday, thinking about the Trinity and community as one does, on the Thursday before Holy Trinity Sunday and after Pentecost.

--There is a dead wasp under the table, which seems like a great metaphor in the saddest Barnes and Noble in North America, but I don't think it will fit with my sermon. Same for the fact that in every light fixture, at least one fluorescent tube is out. I did finish a mostly finished draft of my sermon for Sunday, so that's a plus, even if I can't use these abundant metaphors in this sad, sad store.

--Long ago, I majored in interpreting poetry. This morning, after a long time on the phone, I discovered what one specialist charges for interpreting lab results. I majored in the wrong thing--but then again, the specialist probably doesn't create lines of poetry like the ones I created this morning: Does milkweed grow in the mountains? / Monarchs migrate and the world burns," and I'm adding some lines about the coronation of Charles and a reference to the late Permian period extinction. Perhaps I didn't major in the wrong thing after all.

--Last month, I made bread dough, and put the extra in the freezer. Today, I had it out to thaw, a lump of solidly frozen dough in a plastic bag, on the deck railing. We will not be grilling it for lunch. A squirrel nibbled through the plastic bag and into the bread dough before I noticed. I suppose it could have been worse--a bear would have been worse.

--Today I am grateful for a smooth plumbing install--replacing supply line valves for the kitchen sink that will be part of the remodeled kitchen. Those of you who have known the Berkey-Abbotts for a long time know that we have not always had smooth plumbing installs, but happily today went well for Carl Berkey-Abbott, plumber extraordinaire.

--For a variety of reasons, I haven't been taking naps in the past 9 months. I took one today; I forgot how glorious a nap can be. Those nap/rest ministry people are onto something!

--"All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go"--but I'm not leaving on a jet plane. My car is packed too, and soon I will head west and south, back to our Lutheridge house, heading west and south for the next chapter, which will be a continuation in some ways (seminary studies and online teaching) and new adventures too (volunteering at summer camp in a variety of ways).

--Your resident seminarian found herself oddly impressed by this Coronation sermon--well done, Archbishop.

--Since has live coverage of the coronation, I am watching it. I spent many years studying British literature, so I'm not uninterested. The attempts to be more inclusive interest me, but even more, that at age 70 something Charles finally gets the job he's wanted all his life, that reality warms my heart.

--Back in December, I heard my upstairs seminary apartment neighbor singing "Silent Night" with the grandchildren that were half a world away (ah, the miracles of technology). I just heard them singing "Old McDonald Had a Farm." I will miss this. Of course, even if I stayed in this apartment, I would miss this, since they are moving to be closer to those grandchildren.

Saturday, June 3, 2023

A Quick Trip down the Other Side of the Mountains

For the past six weeks, I've been on the road, often the same road, for six or more hours.  So this week's journey down the other side of the mountain was a refreshing change in that it was shorter.  It was also refreshing because it gave me a view into the near future.

In addition to teaching online classes this fall, I'll be teaching first year English courses in a physical classroom at Spartanburg Methodist College.  Since I had never been to that campus, I thought it was wise to take a trip to see it and to meet my new department chair, and to do that before the first day of class, and that's what I did on Thursday.

Happily, the campus wasn't hard to find--hurrah for highways marked with signs to schools, and for follow up signs on secondary roads.  And what a campus it is!  It is huge for a small, liberal arts college, which is even more surprising, considering that it only started offering 4 year degrees recently (it began life as a 2 year school).  I parked my car under a beautiful tree, thought about my own Lutheran undergraduate school down the road in Newberry, and felt a momentary pang.

The English department is in one of the newest buildings on campus, and it is beautiful.  The classrooms have are well appointed, and some of them have gorgeous views of ancient trees and rolling hills.  My chair was welcoming, as was everyone I met on campus, from future colleagues to the women in the closed coffee shop to the cleaning staff to the Public Safety officers who helped me with a parking sticker and ID.

I didn't meet any students, but that wasn't the purpose of my trip.  I wanted to find out basic information like location and copy machine rules and how long it takes from my house to my teaching workplace.  I'll feel much easier in my spirits when I make the trip for the first day of class on August 15.

After that, I made my way to Columbia, SC to see the two grad school friends I see periodically.  It was delightful to reconnect and strange to think about all that has happened since then.  When I last saw them in August of 2022, I was about to move to seminary housing, and now, I've moved back.  I have a new part-time teaching job and a new part-time preaching job, opportunities that weren't even on my radar in August.

As I was talking to my friends, I realized that I haven't ever had this much freedom in the classroom before; for example, I could choose any books for my classes that I want, and students have much less obstacles to getting them.  They go to the bookstore, get what they need, and it's all part of the financial aid package, so no need for waiting for student loan checks to come through or any of the other ways that keep students from getting their books--at least, that's the way I understand it.  Of course, for the classes I'm teaching, the first year writing/literature classes, there's plenty of online resources, so I didn't order books.  But I could.  I have never been completely free to choose my own books, and I've taught at a wide variety of places.   At best, I've always had 3 to choose from, and I had to choose one.  From an accrediting standpoint, from a bookstore stocking standpoint, I understand.  But how delightful to be able to choose more freely!

For the future, I'm already thinking of the possibilities, poets I could support, opportunities to have poets interact with my students via a Zoom session.  This time, I didn't have much time to make a decision, and I decided to take the easiest route.

I had easy travels the whole 48 hours, and I know I'm lucky.  There's road construction between Newberry and Columbia, which often but not always snarls up traffic, and there's similar construction approaching Asheville exits on the other end.  But this time, I was lucky.

Yesterday, as I drove home through the hazy mountains, I thought about how lucky I feel these days. I'm looking forward to the upcoming months, not dreading them.  I feel hopeful about the future, not foreboding.  It's a nice change from some of my past years.

Thursday, June 1, 2023

Hurricane Season, Pride Month, and Shifting Into Summer

Today is June 1, which means different things to different people.  Let me write a collection of snippets loosely connected by the fact that it's June 1.

--Hurricane season starts today.  I am glad that I'm living in the mountains.  Last year I wrote that I was glad not to be a Florida homeowner, and that was before Hurricane Ian.  I am still glad to be a homeowner of a house in the mountains.  I know that when a storm like that hits the state, or even when a small storm hits the state, insurance rates go up for everyone.  I look back at what we paid for homeowner's, hurricane, and flood insurance, and I am astonished we could stay there as long as we did.  It required us to work a lot of jobs to keep our financial heads above water, even as the water (both literal and metaphorical) was rising below us.

--It is the start of Pride month.  What does this mean in a time of legislatures that are bearing down on transgender people?  I listened to a great episode of 1A that explained that many of the things that legislators say they must prevent, like genital surgery of minors, simply isn't happening.  Here, as with many issues, I firmly believe legislators shouldn't insert themselves into medical decisions when they aren't trained physicians/clinicians.

--It's a month of Synod Assemblies for some Lutheran synods (ELCA brand, the kind of Lutheranism that is more inclusive), and I have no idea if any of them will be addressing any type of oppression at all.  I know that my home synod, the Florida-Bahamas Synod, has a bishop election, and often other items get put aside so that elections can move forward.

--I will not be going to any synod assemblies, although there are several that hold my interest (I live in the North Carolina synod, I have an internship this school year with the Southeast Synod, I go to a school that's part of the Metro DC synod, and I have had a scholarship from a church in the Virginia synod).  I begin my part-time preaching job in Bristol, Tennessee this Sunday, so getting away for a synod assembly doesn't make sense.

--Yesterday I sat down to write my sermon for Sunday--what a delight.  I know the writing process won't always be this easy, but I am writing about God the Creator as a focus for Trinity Sunday, the creator in the first Genesis story that's part of the Revised Common Lectionary selection for this Sunday, the one who declares everything "good and very good."

--I am reminded of what I wrote with chalk on a sidewalk last month:

--Last night, we went to a picnic at the lake at Lutheridge, a picnic to introduce the summer counselors to the people of the residential section.  Here's a picture taken by my next door neighbor:

--It was interesting to reflect on our various ages.  Most of the counselors are fresh from a year or two of college, and only a few of them are people who have been a counselor for more than two years.  Most of the residents are 15+ years older than my spouse and I am.  I think we baffled both sets of people at the picnic last night:  you're living here full-time, and you're not exactly retired, and one of you is in seminary?

--Forty years ago (I first typed thirty years ago, and then did the math), I graduated from high school, at the end of May.  Part of me feels it's impossible that so much time has gone by.  Part of me is astonished at all I have accomplished.  I am interested to see what happens in the next 40 years (while also realizing that I am likely to be dead at the end of those 40 years; next month I will celebrate my 58th birthday).