Sunday, June 30, 2024

Harbingers of Hard Times and Vaccines

Yesterday afternoon I got a pneumonia vaccine at Ingles, our local grocery store.  On the face of it, that's not such a strange statement, not a statement that is a comment on modern life.  But let me make a few comments.

And yes, writing about a vaccine might seem like a topic too mundane for a blog post.  But my arm has been aching all night, so it's on my mind.

Getting a pneumonia vaccine wasn't in my plans until recently.  I'm turning 59 in 2 weeks, so I'm not in the group recommended to get a vaccine.  My spouse got one, after his doctor (also my GP) recommended it.  He's a heavy smoker, so he's in a vulnerable population.

Because my spouse is a heavy smoker, the Ingles pharmacist determined that I was eligible for the vaccine.  Lo and behold, my insurance covered it.  I am always surprised when my insurance covers anything, although these days, my insurance covers a lot.  I think of all the years I spent at crummy jobs because at least I had health insurance.  I am grateful that my health insurance is no longer tied to my job (thank you President Obama!).

I decided that it was time for me to get a pneumonia vaccine when a friend got very sick with pneumonia; she's only a few years older than I am.  She had a friend who had Covid and then developed pneumonia--and died!  I feel like I did a decade ago when suddenly I knew many people who were being diagnosed with shingles, and I decided to get the vaccine the minute I was eligible.  

Do I really know that many people who are coming down with pneumonia?  No.  But I feel surrounded by harbingers of hard times ahead, and whatever protection we can get is worth it.  A vaccine is such an easy dose of protection.

I returned home from the grocery store feeling very lucky.  I can go to the grocery store and get a vaccine along with my groceries!  I thought about a time that I wanted to get a tetanus shot ahead of hurricane season, and it was impossible to find.  The South Florida grocery stores didn't offer it, and my doctor didn't have it.  They just didn't think it was important.  I ended up going to the health department where everyone was puzzled ("Did you step on a nail?"), but they did have it, and I did get it.

Back to hurricane watching--speaking of feeling like hard times are just ahead.  We are likely to see Hurricane Beryl become a major hurricane; it's already the furthest east developing storm in June since 1933 (that humdinger of a hurricane season, worst ever).  A major hurricane in June hasn't happened since the 1960's.

Saturday, June 29, 2024

Saturday Scraps: June Winds Down

It's been a whirlwind week, in some ways, a slow week in others.  Let me collect some scraps from the past week:

--I've completed some of the chores that come along with modern life.  I'm primarily thinking of the car registration, which requires a safety inspection.  I was able to get both cars inspected on Thursday afternoon, after I got annoyed with myself for wasting so much time during the day.

--I tell myself I've wasted time, but that's not true.  In any given day, there's a certain amount of mindless scrolling through social media and online newspapers.  But I don't waste as much time watching TV as I once did.

--This week, as we've watched TV of the mindless variety and TV of the well-written variety, I've gotten lots of sewing on my quilt done.

--I also went to quilt group on Wednesday.  I helped assemble two quilt tops; the Janome machine is a wonder.

--On Tuesday, I went to both our neighborhood happy hour at Sierra Nevada Brewing Company and my seminary class.  I'm looking forward to Mondays in August, where my neighborhood group will be exploring breweries in Mills River, and for most of the Mondays, I won't have a seminary class to attend.  On Tuesday, my time was tight, so I didn't drink, but it was good to see people and spend time together.

--Today is the two year anniversary of our purchase of this house.  I have no regrets.  It's been good to have a place to live that is paid for, even if it needs a lot of work.  It's a solid house, more solid than we knew when we bought it--a happy turn of events.  It's been a good investment.

--It's been interesting, living in a house in a residential community that's part of a church camp.  During 9 months of the year, it's fairly quiet, downright deserted.  During the summer, we don't hear noise from the camp at our house; the traffic noise from a major road nearby drowns out all other noise.  But my daily walk takes me through the camp, and it's a different experience during the summer, seeing groups of people doing camp things (swimming, walking to the dining hall, playing games in grassy areas).

--Despite the joys of summer, I'm yearning for autumn, even though autumn will be very busy with more teaching and more seminary classes to complete.  Let me continue to work on appreciating the present, even as I'm looking forward to seasons to come. 

Friday, June 28, 2024

The Morning after the First Presidential Debate of 2024

In later years/decades, perhaps I'll wonder why I didn't write more about that first debate of the 2024 campaign.  To be truthful, I only watched a few minutes as I was getting ready for bed, within the first 15 minutes of the start of the campaign.  I only saw Biden speak.  It was painful.  We switched to the peaceful music that we sometimes let play while we drift off to sleep.

This morning, much more well-informed people are offering much more developed opinions than I am able to do.  I am aghast and depressed.  Thomas L. Friedman offered this opinion in his New York Times essay to explain how important this race is, an opinion I share with no hesitation:  "Because this is no ordinary hinge of history we are at. We are at the start of the biggest technological disruptions and the biggest climate disruption in human history."

The campaign season is long, and much can happen between now and the election, and many of the possibilities are horrifying.  Like much of the U.S. citizenry (and probably much of the world), I cannot believe we are having these same two candidates again.  Both have huge flaws.  I think Biden has been a good president, but I worry about the toll that four more years will take.  In many of his policies, Trump seems to think it's still 1982.  I will refrain from commenting on other problems that both men have as candidates and as humans.

I vacillate.  I am most often thinking that none of it matters, that climate change is accelerating, and our situation is changing in ways we can't even perceive right now.  But then I think about the hinge points of history, and how various humans have made a clear difference.  I don't know that either man will be capable of that.

I did not intend to write so much about politics this morning, particularly since I didn't watch the debate.  I didn't watch the debate in part because I didn't want to fill my head with negativity right before sleep.  I should have followed the same advice this morning.  Ugh.

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Singing Together, Singing By Ourselves

I am happy to report that the second class meeting of my seminary class in protest music lived up to the promise of the first week.  Our professor does have a PowerPoint, but unlike some other professors, he does not read from the PowerPoint.  We cover the material that's in the book, but so far, it hasn't left me saying, "I could just read the book."  We listen to the music and discuss it, but not in the depth that a music appreciation class would offer.  The book offers a more in-depth dive into the history that prompted the creation of the music.

One thing that's different from other classes:  we sing together.  It's an online class meeting by way of a Zoom session, so it's not what you might imagine, a group of seminarians with a guitar and folk songs in a physical room.  The professor, who is also a professional musician, has a keyboard as part of his set up, so he sings the song and plays it.  We students keep ourselves muted and sing.  Well, some of us do.  I realize that not everyone knows these songs.  

Last night we sang "This Land Is Your Land," "We Shall Overcome," and "If I Had a Hammer."  We also talked about why some of us grew up singing these songs in elementary school, while others didn't.  My professor's theory is that there was once was a core group of songs that many of us knew, from singing them around campfires and such.  I thought about what a wide range of songs I knew and how I came to know them:  church choir, camp, parents who had music playing in the background throughout much of the day, radio stations that played a wide range of music.

I didn't offer my theory:  those of us who went to elementary school in the 70's had teachers who thought those songs were important and taught them to us.  I had music classes in school, taught by people who were once hippies, radicals, and organizers (or people who knew these types).

We talked about what children sing now, perhaps Disney songs, but it was late in the evening, and we didn't spend much time on the topic.  I did spend some time thinking about my childhood and music, thinking about elementary schools that once had music as a class period.

I've also been thinking about my classmates, some of whom are so much younger, who have never heard of this music, and perhaps this history.  I feel lucky to have been educated when I was, with such a wide variety of educational experiences.

Monday, June 24, 2024

Low Energy Monday

I am off schedule this morning.  It would be interesting to go back through this blog and see how often I am off schedule on Mondays.  It often takes awhile for my Sunday to catch up with me, and I am surprised to find myself tired on Mondays.

We are also having summerish temperatures, which disrupts my sleep, regardless of air conditioning.  Air conditioning helps, don't get me wrong.  But I much prefer a lovely winter bedroom, when the outside temp is cool, and I am snuggled in flannel (flannel pjs, flannel sheets).  The overnight temps are much cooler here than they are other places, but it's still humid.

Yesterday left me more wiped out than usual.  I decided that with the early sunrise in summer, I would get my walk in before we left for Bristol at 7:30 a.m.  That was successful:  a lovely walk.  Yesterday was a longer day at church, with sandwiches and ice cream sundaes after worship.  It was delightful, but it put us home several hours later than usual.

I did some reading on the deck in the late afternoon, which was both delightful and left me too warm.  I feel like I never cooled down enough for a good sleep.  It's strange that I often have disrupted sleep both on the night before Sunday worship and the night after Sunday worship.

Happily, these days I can adjust my schedule on Mondays.  I'm not sure what happens when my schedule picks up mid-August.  Perhaps Mondays will be low-key days in my classroom.  Or maybe teaching will give me energy.

Saturday, June 22, 2024

Morning Rambles and Brambles, Evening Concerts

When I was walking around camp early this morning, I heard a deep voice say, "Good morning."  But I didn't see anyone.  I called out, "Good morning--but I don't see you."

The person who owns the voice waved, and then I could see him walking down a path through the forest, the path that runs from the upper craft lodge to the lower lodging spaces for campers.  I recognized him as a counselor, and he didn't seem alarmed to see me.  I was surprised.  This year, campers leave on Fridays, and I have assumed that the counselors would be sleeping a bit later on Saturdays.

As I continued on towards the lake, I thought about hearing a deep voice booming out of nowhere and how my thoughts went to all those Biblical accounts of God speaking out of an non-embodied space.  I thought of hymns about people answering God's call.  I thought about how few call stories there are that involve women late in midlife.

Elsewhere in my walk, I ate the first black raspberry of the season.  I thought they were blackberries last year, but my plant identifying app tells me otherwise.  I am not hopeful about this berry season here at camp.  The few berries that are ripening are very small.  I keep wondering if that fact tells me something about the upcoming winter, but it probably just reflects erratic rainfall.

To get to this morning's berries, I had to scrabble up a small embankment and then try to hop back down without falling.  I did have the thought that I don't really like berries enough to risk a fall.  But it also made me happy that I could do it.

So far, it has been a lovely week-end.  Last night, we sat on our deck and listened to the radio, by way of streaming the station on a computer.  It was the opening night concert of the Brevard Music Festival.  Sure, we could have driven over to Brevard; it's only 30-40 minutes away. There were still tickets, but the cheapest ones were $35 each. 

But in a way, it was lovely to be on our deck, with wine and some nibbles, and the pot of petunias I bought earlier in the day.  It was wonderful to watch the light shift and to have candles.

Of course, the sound would have been better at the actual festival.  We have a fair amount of traffic noise from the main road beyond the trees, and I usually forget that we do, until I'm trying to hear something.

I suppose I should get to the main work of today, creating a sermon for tomorrow and creating the communion bread for tomorrow.  But there will also be treats, like the watermelon that I bought yesterday.  Here's hoping it's a good one!

Friday, June 21, 2024

When RevGalBlogPals Meet in Person

One of the joys of last week's intensive that I haven't written much about was the chance to meet a blogging friend in real life.  In a time that feels very long ago now, there was a group called RevGalsBlogPals, a group for clergywomen and people who support clergywomen.  We blogged about all sorts of things, some of them church related, some not.  There were all sorts of support groups and there were conferences and fun outings.  I was sad to see it end, and like so many things in my life that end, part of me understood and part of me was baffled.

I've continued to see various RevGals in the online realm, but last week, one of them came to the intensive.  I knew that Diane Roth had started the program, but I lost track of her progress; in retrospect, I should have sent her a message in advance so that it was less awkward on that first day.  I saw her nametag before she got there, but I wasn't sure how to say, "I know you online, but I'm not sure if you know me."  Sure, in retrospect, I should have just said that, but I was worried I might sound like a weird stalker.

Happily, Diane took the first step, and she did it during the pre-dinner meet and greet, which meant that we could spend the rest of the intensive as friends, not as people wondering how they knew each other.  On Friday at lunch, she asked what I was planning to do during our free time.  I talked about going to the library, and she wanted to go to an independent bookstore.  She tries to go to independent bookstores as she travels, and I'm happy to support bookstores too.  I had a car, which she didn't, and I'm familiar with Columbia.  It was a recipe for a successful outing to All Good Books in Five Points.

And we did have a successful outing.  The bookstore had a great selection of books, and we both found one to buy.  I was happy to find Susan Rich's latest book; I love supporting poets and independent books by buying books from bookstores.  

Alas, we didn't have time to buy a coffee or to explore Five Points.  We had to get back for more instructional sessions, which after all, was the reason we had come to the seminary campus.   I was happy to post this picture to Facebook, happy to be part of my favorite subgenre of FB posts, when online friends meet in real life and realize that they are just as delightful in person as online:

Thursday, June 20, 2024

Making Marks on Paper: A Prelude to Collage

Earlier this week, I went over to a friend's house to catch up.  She's got a studio in her basement, so we sat and played with color while we chatted.  Through the years, we've done all kinds of creative activities together, so it's always a pleasure to catch up this way.  She set out markers for us, a bowl of water, and some paint brushes.  I had brought paper and an old hymn book that I'm using as an art journal of sorts, when I remember that I have it.

I ended up with an assortment of colors on paper:

This one may be my favorite:

But I loved the ways the colors blended when I added water to this picture:

Now for the eternal question:  what to do with these papers?  I had been planning to paint paper that I'd later use in collages for card making.  I'm inspired by my friend's Christmas card that she gave me this past year:

Take a closer look at the art--painted hymnbook pages!

So, I've stashed the papers back in my hymnbook where they will wait for their next incarnation.  I feel lucky to feel inspired!

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

One Summer Seminary Class: Protest Music!

This summer, I'm taking one seminary class, a class on protest music.  It only meets for 4 weeks, and last night was the first meeting.  The class is one quarter over, and I am already wishing we had more time.  I did not feel that way with last summer's class, which was 6 weeks.  The summer before, I decided not to take classes because we'd be moving, and that summer, there were lots of classes I wished that I could take.  This summer, the protest music class was the only one that looked interesting and could be done from a distance and didn't have an intensive section during Music Week.

Each week, we'll do a deep dive into four songs, and we'll have more general discussions about protest music, about the history of the times that birthed the songs, and about music theory (the very light version).  Our class book, 33 Revolutions Per Minute:  A History of Protest Songs from Billie Holiday to Green Day by Dorian Lynskey,  is great!  Last night we looked at "Strange Fruit," "Mississippi Goddamn," "A Change Is Gonna Come," and "Say It Loud -- I'm Black and I'm Proud."

This morning, I'm thinking about how it was such an appropriate choice for the day before Juneteenth.  

In the middle of the night, I woke up thinking about alternative lyrics to "Poor Wayfaring Stranger."  For the class, we have a choice of writing a short paper (750 words) or a protest song of our own.  I am thinking about a protest song about climate change.  I drifted off to sleep thinking about "This Land Is Your Land" as a song base, but woke up with "Poor Wayfaring Stranger" in my head.

My spouse pointed out the number of musicians who will be around Music Week, when the song is due.  We've got all sorts of instrument possibilities beyond my spouse's violin.  I'm glad I have a few weeks to come up with lyrics.  The structure and rhyme scheme aren't similar to ones that usually shape my poetry.

I'm so glad that I decided to take this class.  It's going to be a great 4 weeks!

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Bears at Camp

I saw a bear on my morning walk around camp at Lutheridge.  In fact, I was about 3 feet away from the bear.  Did I have my camera or cell phone?  No.  But that's O.K.  Even when I've had a camera or cell phone, I haven't been able to get a good picture.

I was standing at the entrance to Pioneer A, the sleepaway part of camp where the youngest campers stay with their counselors.  I looked at the lake, and then turned my face towards the path ahead and realized there was a bear on my left, between me and Pioneer A, travelling parallel to the main road.  He was on the small side, his back about the height of my hip, like a very big dog, and somewhat thin. 

 He was not far enough away for my liking, but he was not interested in me at all.  Maybe it was the chanting of the campers that made him intent on heading away from Pioneer A.

Based on their chanting, the campers were deep at the back of Pioneer A, gathering together for the morning hike to the lake and on up to the dining hall.  The bear was ambling away, so they were in no danger; I didn't see any reason to alert them.  I did look around to make sure that there were no other bears, particularly no cubs.  I figured that the bear would stay away from any campers.

I was tempted to try to follow the bear, but I didn't want to alarm the bear either.  Plus, I had already had good bear luck this morning, so I didn't want to tempt the fates.

I listened to the campers chanting their marching to the lake song.  I stared across the lake and said a prayer of gratitude for so, so much.

Monday, June 17, 2024

Summer Shifts

Two weeks ago, I was sipping coffee in Arkansas, almost to Oklahoma.  A week ago, I was getting ready to head south to Columbia, SC.  This morning, I'll be entering fall dates into syllabi for my online classes, as required because of recent Florida laws about citizen access and the possibility of problematic content.  In a way, it's fine.  The work needs to be done at some point, but it is awfully early to be thinking about classes that start in August and September.

My seminary class that I'm taking this summer starts tomorrow, and the summer online classes that I teach start next week.  My schedule will still feel leisurely compared to the school year, but I do feel a shift underway.

July will get even busier, with more involvement in Lutheridge:  Music Week in early July, my leading middle schoolers through Bible study in mid-July, and mail delivery for the last 2 weeks of camp.  And then camp will be over, and it will only be a few days until I return to work at Spartanburg Methodist College.  I will look back on these days with amazement at how empty they were.

So, let me enjoy this time.  Today I'll walk while there's still a bit of cool; we won't get the kind of heat the rest of the nation will experience, but it's time to shift my walks to earlier morning.  I have some reading to do before class tomorrow, but I'm looking forward to it.  The class is about the Music of Protest, a topic I've loved since childhood.  Maybe I'll make some shortcakes, the biscuit style; we've got strawberries, blueberries, and peaches that need to be eaten.

Ah, summer!

Sunday, June 16, 2024

A Poem for Father's Day

I am home from the onground intensive, a bit tired, but no time for rest this morning.  Soon I will shift to getting ready to leave to drive across the mountain to Bristol, Tennessee to preach at Faith Lutheran.  I expect to write more about the intensive, a bit more, but it won't be this morning.

It's Father's Day, so I thought about posting a poem.  I went to my older poetry folder and found a climate change poem that I had forgotten I wrote, "Word Problems in a Time of Climate Change."  I wrote it in 2019, before I knew that we would be selling the house as early as we did.

In light of the flooding in South Florida in the past week, I am so glad we sold that house.  I've worked for Broward College since 1998, and until recently, classes were canceled only for hurricane warnings, not watches, warnings.  In the past year, we've had several cancellations for extreme flooding.

But it's not a Father's Day poem.  I know that plenty of people will post poems about their own experiences with their fathers, and I haven't written many of those.  In fact, if I've written any of those, I can't find them.

I did write this poem, about parents of grown children.  I think it makes a good Father's Day offering:

Goodnight Moon

Even though the children are grown and gone,
she still sings at night.
Fretful memories haunt the house.
So she does what she always
did, for twenty years, before childhood ended.

She heats the milk in a pan, pours
it into calming Christmas mugs (no matter the season), dusts
each with a sprinkle of nutmeg. She goes
from room to room, checking closet doors
and dimming lights. And she sings
the special lullabies, that repertoire of sleepy songs.

He sits in the armchair in the den
and sips his mug of milk.
The cats linger in his lap
as he leafs through the books his children used to love.

Saturday, June 15, 2024

Guiding Meditation

This morning's writing time is shorter, since I need to write a rough draft of tomorrow's sermon--I'm not too worried about it, since I've been composing it in my head.  But I do want to get a draft down before breakfast.  Let me collect some fragments from the last few days that I don't want to lose.

--We've been doing lots of guided meditations.  At the beginning of yesterday's guided meditation at the end of our mysticism module, we put a hand over our hearts.  I was able to slip my hand inside my shirt and put my fingers on my skin.  I wrapped my other hand around my wrist and felt my pulse.  I adjusted my fingers and hand to actually feel my heart beat.  We focused on our breath:  one phrase for the inhale and one for the exhale.  Eventually the goal was to have the words drop away, and we could be one with God.  I found it very grounding to feel my heart beating.

--At the beginning of our Howard Thurman module yesterday afternoon and again for closing worship yesterday evening, we did lectio divina with Thurman's work.  It was a great way to enter a difficult text:  take a smaller chunk of it and read it several times (we did 4) noting the word or phrase that spoke to us.  I wondered if first year college students could benefit from this practice.  I plan to find out!

--Our small group discussions have been powerful.  I don't always have that feeling about small groups, but this time, I've enjoyed them.  Better, I've felt nourished by them.

--This whole time at seminary has felt nourishing.  I'm glad I had this time to slip away, before my summer commitments start, before the seminary closes.

Friday, June 14, 2024

Ghost Seminary

One reason I wanted to come to this intensive is that it's the last time we'll be on this campus.  Earlier this year, the announcement came that the seminary would be moved to the Lenoir-Rhyne campus in Hickory, NC.  Frankly, as I move around campus, it feels like everybody has already moved there.

I will spend time in the library today, the library that has more books by itself than the whole of the library holdings at the Lenoir-Rhyne campus.  I fear for these books.  I know what often happens:  people will look at the last time a book was checked out and decide that no one is interested and toss the book.  The idea of that makes me sorrowful in so many ways, even as I admit that I rarely check out physical books from my own seminary campus (admittedly harder from a distance).

The dining facility has group pictures of all graduating classes, and I've had fun looking for people I know.  But along the line, I thought about the size of the classes.  We've been told that the seminary must move because there are fewer students.  But based on these pictures, the seminary has never had many students.  The largest graduating class was roughly 30 students.  Far more typical is the class of 1990:

Now, there are other good reasons for moving the seminary.  It's clear that it's been awhile since the buildings were maintained.  My small group is meeting in a building that reeks of mildew, even though the AC is running.  As I walk back to my seminary apartment that's on the far end of the complex, I can see the stucco about to break apart on the walls, and every AC unit looks like it's about to rust through completely.

Still, I hate to think of losing this campus, particularly as I take guesses at what might happen to it.  In yesterday's small group session, I talked about feeling grief about this part of the future.  I talked about how it's a shame to have all this infrastructure disappear into more urban development when so much could be done.  My friend said, "Like create an arts retreat?"

My friend and I have shared this dream, a retreat center that focuses on liturgical arts, for a long time.  I like the idea of communal living as part of it, but only if the communal living means that each person gets their own living space.  I know how quickly communal situations deteriorate when one person's cleanliness/neatness preferences don't mesh with that of others.

The small group was intrigued by the idea of changing the campus to that kind of vision, and I spent the rest of the day thinking about that possibility.  It might be easier to do such a thing at a place that already offers retreats, like Lutheridge.  It might be easier to do such a thing at a place that is also a small seminary--sigh.

I do realize that I don't have the resources of Lenoir-Rhyne, and so why should I think that I could have different outcomes.  But my mind goes back to part of our large group session yesterday, when our learning leader talked about God planting dreams in us like a farmer plants seeds.  I will continue thinking and writing and dreaming.

Thursday, June 13, 2024

We Begin with Native American Spirituality

When I read about the June 2024 onground intensive for the spiritual director's certificate program, I wanted to attend for many reasons; alumni are invited back once a year, and I've been in the past as an alum.  It's great to be reminded of best practices and to discover new techniques.

In terms of the teaching, the focus on Native American spirituality was one of the main reasons I wanted to say yes to the invitation to return.  We covered that material last night, and it did not disappoint. 

Long time readers may remember that I wrote a blog post about a similar experience in January of 2022, and in some ways, last night was similar.  We began with a smudging ceremony.  

This year, no words were spoken during the smudging, but in other ways it was similar.  The smudge stick burned and the tribal elder used the feather to wave the smoke towards us, down one side and then down on the other side, and we lifted the heel of each foot to allow smudging there, too.  When we did the ceremony in January, it was dark and cold outside; it felt a bit strange to do the ceremony in the blinding sunlight of an evening in June (we started at 6:50 p.m.).

Then we moved indoors, where a drum circle had been set up.  There was a big drum in the middle of the circle with 6 Native American women seated around it.  They drummed, and we each had a shaker.  Each shaker was different--here's the one that I chose (I asked permission to photograph it):

Much of the music was the same as the session in 2022, but it was good to revisit it.  The workshop leader told us that the music to "Poor Wayfarin' Stranger" is a Cherokee tune.  We sang the words of "Amazing Grace" to a Creek tune.  Our leader talked about Native American theology and compared it to Christian theology to show that we are worshipping the same God.

She also mentioned the new version of the Bible, the First Nations Version: An Indigenous Translation of the New Testament.  I had seen this version while at seminary, and we have a Kindle copy.  I was glad to know that it was done by Native Americans, that it's not an appropriation.  

After the workshop and the drumming, a woman passed out prayer squares; here's the one I got:

It comes with this card attached:

I love this idea, the idea of a patch of cloth, with strings that can be knotted as one prays.  It's a variation of prayer beads which appeals to my fiber loving self.

Yesterday wasn't even a full day of the intensive, and I already feel like I've gotten more than a full return on my intensive investment.  My cup overflows.

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Gardens that Enchant

As I wait for the onground intensive to start later today, let me post a few more thoughts about creating enchanting garden space.  After writing yesterday, I took a few more pictures.  

I love the idea of finding clay pieces here and there.  When I visit potters, I often think about how many mugs I already have.  I also love the idea of creating some clay pieces out of some of my sketches.  

My younger self might have worried about nailing something to a tree trunk.  

My older self thinks that the pine trees would probably be just fine with a short nail here or there.

My friend has found intriguing bird feeders to hang in the trees.  I love the idea of a bird feeder made of glass.  Of course, she lives in suburban Columbia, SC, where she doesn't have to worry about a bear breaking the bird feeder.

She also has this wicker bird shelter:

I love how she's put small statues in her garden and how they blend into the landscape:

Here's a closer look at the statue:

I love how her garden aesthetic shows a variety of influences:  medieval mazes, meditation gardens from all sorts of traditions, whimsical touches here and there, a collection of delights that people may or may not discover.  She purchased some of it, while other parts were repurposed, and she's spent the past year, getting to know the space, letting the space shape her vision of what it could be.

And this firepit shows all of those elements best.  The firepit was here, but overgrown.  She brought some of the chairs with her and rescued some that were here.  She bought a lantern or two, along with twinkle lights to string in the trees.  And as the seasons change, she adds and subtracts; the geraniums are an early summer addition.

I'm happy to have such inspirations!

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Inspirations around the Fire Pit

This morning, I'm writing in the house of a grad school friend.  Soon she will wake up, we'll eat breakfast, and I'll head off to the house of another grad school friend.  Our time together has been full of delights that I can't enjoy in my mountain house:

You might wonder why I can't have a similar fire, and if I constructed carefully, I suppose I could.  But one disadvantage with the design aesthetic of the outside my house, which I call forest floor, is that there's lots of combustible material.  It's great for wildlife, and perfect for a no-maintenance yard, but not so great for fire pits.

My friend's yard has seating areas and twinkly lights and lanterns around the perimeter of the yard.  They are solar powered and turn themselves on as darkness falls.  That experience has made me think about my yard in new ways.  She also has cool pottery pieces here and there, along with bird feeders and a path that she carved out of grape vines that had grown over a shed and the back fence line.

I remind myself that I do spend a good amount of time outside on my deck once the weather gets warmer.  It would be worth thinking about my deck view with an eye to some enchantments.  

I suddenly have a yearning to make enchantments out of clay--that yearning is partly inspired by my friend's water cups made out of clay.  

I found myself looking at the glazes and being amazed by the colors (I'll post a picture later).  I know some potters in my area . . . hmmmm.  If I could pay them for supplies, instead of buying a lot on my own . . . hmm.

Let me post these inspirations here.  If I write down my various yearnings, often I don't forget them, although it may take me years to work my way back to them.

Monday, June 10, 2024

On the Road Again, Towards the Spiritual Direction Certificate Program Reunion

Today I am in Columbia, SC, where later today I'll go to the Lutheran seminary for the onground intensive for the Spiritual Director's Certificate program.  You might say, "Wait, didn't you already do that certificate?"  Yes, I did, but alumni are invited to return once a year.  I didn't go last year for a variety of reasons.

This year I wanted to go for a variety of reasons, but the biggest one is that the seminary is moving, and this will be the last intensive at the Columbia campus.  I don't know what will happen to that property, but I'm fairly sure it will all be bulldozed and turned into something more commercial.  I have all sorts of feelings about that, but I wanted to take this last opportunity to gather on that campus.

I also wanted to go because the curriculum looks great.  Some of it I did before, like the module on Native American spirituality--it was great, and I'm looking forward to returning to the topic.  Some of the material seems new.  And the topic overall, that of how we discern the presence of God in our lives and how we help others to do so--it's a topic that remains interesting to me.

I'm also looking forward to seeing people along the way, grad school friends from long ago, retreat friends, and seminary friends from the certificate days (who are different from seminary friends from Wesley days).  

As I've been thinking about our current situation, I'm so happy to realize how wealthy we are in friends and families who are within a 3 hour radius of our house.  We had friends in South Florida, of course, but so many of them had moved away by the time we moved.  And during a week like this, when tropical flooding is expected all week long in South Florida, I'm so grateful that we figured out a way to move to a safer spot, even as I miss the people we left behind.

Sunday, June 9, 2024

Letting Our Selves Go

 As we traveled great distances by car in the past week, it made me think of other trips I've taken.  In some ways, not much has changed.  There are still times of singing along with times of deep conversation.  There's boredom when the scenery is essentially the same for mile after mile.  And then, there's my internal thought process.

On road trips that I took in college, I'd gaze out the window and wonder about the people living in the houses that we zoomed by.  I would wonder if I would ever own a house.  I'd daydream about owning a house and some land and what we could do to sustain ourselves.  My fellow travelers suggested growing Christmas trees on the land.  Even then, especially then in the wake of the 1980's farm crises, we knew that family farming was too hard.

As we traveled this past week, we drove by farm after farm, some tiny and some industrial in scope.  It made me think of my earlier dreams of owning a small farm just like the ones I was seeing out of the car window.  Why is it so easy to let some of my past goals go, while others feel like defeats?

I'm thinking of various people I've known throughout my years of teaching, so many of whom have retired.  And here I am, still hoping for a dream job, even as I'm preparing for other possibilities and wondering how anyone ever decides they can afford to retire.

I'm thinking of writing hopes that still pop up, especially when I see others getting first book deals or second or third book publications.  I've long given up on the idea of novels that get bought for screenplays.  I still think about a volume of poems.  But then part of me wonders why I do.  I know all the depressing stats on who reads poems and publishers going out of business.  But the English major side of me wants that faint hope of preservation of my written work, more specifically, the poems.  

I think of this idea of letting ourselves go, our past selves that no longer fit, those past goals that no longer fit.  It's hard to know when to let go and when to push on.  I'm thinking in terms of creative work, but also in terms of paid work and also in terms of body work.  Being on the road also gave me time to think about how creaky my body has become, especially as I got out of the car and limped to the picnic area.  Is this just part of aging or should I be doing more to try to offset the ways my body wants to ache?

It's a different kind of midlife crisis than the kinds we often hear about--when to let go, when to push harder, when to change course, when to keep going.

Friday, June 7, 2024

Back Home, Safe and Tired

I am back in my own house, after a night of sleeping in my own bed, and I wish I could say that I awoke refreshed and fully rested.  No, not exactly--I had dream after dream of floods.  Happily, it wasn't my current house being flooded in my dreams.  And it doesn't take a trained psychologist to figure out my anxiety dream.  Still, I was ready to be up.

Let me record a few thoughts from my last days of travel:

--Wednesday was our very long travel day, similar to Sunday.  We left Petit Jean State Park and headed back to East Tennessee.  We traveled with my spouse's dad and step-mom that day.  We've always gotten along well, but we've never taken such a long car trip together.  I'm happy to report that it went well.  On both Sunday and Wednesday, we made sandwiches and had a nice picnic at rest areas.  Here's my Wed. Facebook post:  "I just ate a picnic lunch of homemade pimento cheese sandwiches at the Johnny Cash rest area- - and I will spend the rest of the afternoon trying to work that into a country song."

--We were at Petit Jean State Park for a wedding.  I wasn't sure what to expect, having never gone to a wedding in a state park before.  In fact, it's been a long time since I've been to a wedding in any venue.  Lots of us were traveling from far away, and the park itself felt very far away from civilization of any type.  It was a wedding, but it was also a family reunion, along with a vacation and a splash of educational opportunity.

--When I thought about this trip, I thought we might do some hiking, but it was wet and the trails looked a bit strenuous.  In fact, the signs stressed how strenuous the trails were:

--Would I have been as worried about slipping if I hadn't had a bad fall a few weeks ago?  Maybe.  Happily, we had other options, boardwalks that made for an easier walk in the woods.

--There were also areas where we could pull right up to the scenic overlooks which were a brief walk from the parking area--and see the burial site of Petit Jean, for whom the park is named:

--But the highlight of the trip was the chance to be with far flung family members, from Illinois and Indiana, from South Florida, from Mississippi, from the Appalachian mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina.  It's amazing that we could all gather in Arkansas to share good times and make good memories.

--Yesterday we took the southern route across the mountains to our house, along the Great Smoky Mountain Expressway.  We saw beautiful mountain vistas and rivers ran beside us, and there was only a brief disruption for roadwork, unlike Saturday, when we sat and sat and sat for over an hour on I 40. 

--We also got to stop at Darnell Farms, where we got a wide assortment of fruits and veggies, which we'll enjoy for the next several days.

--It is good to be home.  Here's the last Facebook post I made yesterday:  "We are home, looking out at a different set of mountains, not knowing exactly what time it is, and missing family, but enjoying a light lunch after a long road trip. Happy we were able to travel almost all the way to Oklahoma to celebrate declarations of love and trails that do not end in tears."

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Blessed Brides and Other Blessings

Once again, I am up early for this time zone in Arkansas, writing in the CCC room, sipping coffee shared with me by the front desk park ranger who has been here all night, keeping watch while the rest of us slept.  I am happy to have slept through the night because at 3 a.m. I banished the thought that said, "Screw it.  Might as well get up and get the day started."  I managed to get back to sleep and slept until just before 5, which is always a rare event for me.

I am up and thinking of yesterday's dramatic weather as I hear the rumbles of thunder:

Yesterday morning's view from the patio overlook was the most clear that the skies were going to be for the rest of the day:

I don't have a picture of today's view; it's early and most of the exterior doors are locked.  I'm set up here at this table, with thunder rumbling, and I don't feel like tromping around outside.  Yesterday when I first heard thunder rumbling, we were an hour away from the rains and storms that lasted all day.

The afternoon wedding had already been moved so that we could be near a shelter, and all day, we kept  an eye both to the skies and social media, in case plans changed.  We had been told the shelter was 13 miles up a road that was described as both muddy and gravel with limited parking when we got there.  I had already decided to wear my running shoes, and frankly, I wish I had a pair of sturdy hiking boots because I would have worn those too.  I am envisioning my elder years as shod in boots of various sorts. But I digress.

I wore a pair of shorts on under my skirt.  If the vehicle got stuck in the mud, I could take off my skirt and not ruin it.  I'm not sure what I thought I would do after that, but it made me feel better to be prepared that way.  In my sneakers with shorts on under my skirt, it also made me feel like my 5th grade self.  That grade, we all wore shorts under our dresses and skirts because the boys delighted in trying to expose our nether regions.  Even once they got tired of the game, it felt good to have that protection.  But I digress.

We made our way up the road in the most rugged vehicle we had, and it wasn't as bad as we had been told.  Although cloudy, the weather was perfect.  That weather did not hold.

Just before the ceremony, I looked up the severe weather alert, and then I looked up which county we were in.  The weather alert told us to take shelter immediately.  I don't think the weather folks had our shelter in mind.

The view was dramatic, as I watched various weather systems moving across the land below.  And when the ceremony started, the clouds descended and mist moved through the shelter.  The guests were able to avoid most of the rain, but I can't say the same for the wedding party.

Happily, we avoided the kind of headline I envisioned when I saw the weather alert that warned of dangerous lightning and 60 mph winds.  We took post ceremony pictures in the rain, and then we moved down the mountain to an enclosed picnic shelter for the reception.

We talked about the old folk wisdom that a bride who has rain on her wedding day will have a blessed marriage.  If that's true, the bride in our family is blessed beyond measure.

As I sat at a picnic table watching adults and children dance, I thought about how we are all blessed beyond measure, with food in our stomachs and weather the only threat from above.  We have come through many storms already, and I know that more will come.  But it's good to remember that we have more people rooting for us than we may know, the ones who are there in person, the ones who pray from far places.

Monday, June 3, 2024

Don't Be a Zombie: Celebrate Love

I am writing in a state park in Arkansas, Petit Jean State Park, in the CCC room.  A very kind park ranger who tends the front desk overnight offered me a cup of her strong coffee, and I said yes.

As I understand it, this lodge where I am writing was constructed by the CCC, and the furniture in this room was constructed to match the original furniture.  It's not exactly comfortable--a straight back chair with a woven seat--but I've used worse.  There's a charm in being the only one in this room, while the sky slowly lightens.  Here's a view of the lodge from the table where I'm writing:

As we drove across the state of Tennessee yesterday, I thought about how much of the state I've seen in the past week:  from Bristol in the northeast corner all the way to the Mississippi River.  As an English major, it's impossible not to drive by places and reflect on the literature that these places have inspired.  

And of course, there are darker thoughts, about the Civil War and the Civil Rights movement and the fierce battles for the soul of America.  My younger self would have thought that these battles were settled and that we were on a trajectory towards a better future, a more egalitarian future where everyone (except for the very richest of us) has similar opportunities.

As we drove and drove and drove across Tennessee, I thought about the current battles over land, especially Ukraine.  I understand the value of that land, the literal land and the historic ideas of it, from reading Timothy Snyder's Black Earth.  It wasn't the book I was expecting, but I haven't forgotten it--an excellent book.  

As we drove and drove, I thought back to history, people who lived in the lands that the car drove by, people in the 1850's who tilled their fields and tended their farms, people who lived far away from decisions made in Washington, D.C., people who had no idea how history was about to rip apart their lives.  Most of the people who lived in most of the country in pre-Civil War years didn't own slaves.  Their lives were about to be upended over policies that would never have impacted them otherwise.

Happier reasons bring me to Arkansas, a wedding and the family reunion that these kinds of events can create.  Last night I watched small children lurching around the picnic area pretending to be zombies.  The smallest one came over to me, looked directly into my eyes, and said, "Be a zombie."

I am of an age where I don't get these kinds of invitations/directives often.  And so I rose from my camp chair and played at being a zombie.  By the end of the evening, most of us, all ages, had taken a turn at this game.  I talked to the child's mom about how kids these days are learning about zombies, and now I have a Disney creation to look up.  I didn't realize that Disney had travelled to the land of the undead.

I am traveling through the land, rejoicing that we are not yet dead, that there are still kind front desk managers who share their coffee with early morning writers, that there are still children who will spend hours playing make believe, that the land offers up so much beauty, as does life itself, if we look away from our screens and 24 hour news feeds and the other ways we allow our joy to be killed.

Today we celebrate love.  Today I am remembering that we should celebrate love, in all of its forms, in every way we can, each and every day.

Saturday, June 1, 2024

Quilting through Summer Break So Far

So, here we are, the beginning of June.  For some, it's Pride month; for others, it's the beginning of hurricane season.  Maybe it's wedding season or vacation season.  Maybe it doesn't feel different at all.  

Yesterday I took one of the cars to the car wash.  Our cars live outdoors, under trees, and this past season has seen heavy, heavy pollen.  I bought the cheapest car wash option; I didn't want to have the machine do the waxing and have the pollen trapped to the car forever in the wax.  So I bought it home, and we spent an hour trying to remove the pollen that was hard for the machine to reach.  We still need to do something about the roof of the car, but that can wait.  I didn't want to tackle the roof, then have to redo all the windows we had just gotten clean.

I took the old quilt inside.  We've had it in the car since January, just in case we had car trouble in cold weather.  Happily our Nissan Rogue is still fairly new in terms of miles, so we haven't had car trouble, and the past two winters have been fairly mild.  Still, we will likely put the quilt back in the car when the weather gets colder.

It's been a week of taking building supplies back, and taking the ones that aren't returnable to the Habitat Re-Store.  We still have a lot of tile in odd shapes and sizes.  I'm not sure what we'll do with all of it.

It's been a week of more sewing than writing.  I still sew by hand at home, often when we're watching fairly mindless TV, and I'm feeling restless.  But I've also been using the fancy Janome machine when I've gone to the quilt group that makes quilts for Lutheran World Relief at Lutheran Church of the Nativity on Wednesdays.  It's amazing how easy it is to use those fancy machines; we have one that's an even more recent model that I used a few months ago, and it didn't even require me to have a foot pedal.  We've got a less fancy one that only one of us can figure out how to thread.  Here's my favorite quilt top that I've made for LWR:

It's a delight to pull fabric out of the bins and spend time sorting through other bins looking for material that goes together.  Some times, I put similar colors together and don't worry about it.  Some quilts start with a big panel, and I add some material to each side, and it's done.  This quilt started with a medium size panel in the middle, and the blue material that was the same size:

We have so much material in the modular building where we meet, and much of it is high quality cotton.  I'm always amazed at what I find.

It's been a good week of summer break.  The next week may see slower blogging.  I'm not sure of my internet access, but I will report back.