Archive for December 2010

sf – GETTING COMFY ON CHRISTMAS

December 31, 2010

Well, to remind us all, the journey to San Francisco was to see the new, first, and only grandchild at his home at Christmas.  It’s the journey Hubbie had foremost on his mind during much of 2010 and Son and I are completing for him.

So – to set the scene:

Daughter and Son-In-Law know how to set a cozy scene!

And Cooper Kenneth knew just what to do about it:

In an easy chair, across the room. . .well, he could see the lovely Christmas scene in his home if he wanted to.

After a while, something wakes him up:

If a  person could just move the body enough. . .

. . .ahhhhhh. . . . .and fall into another comfy position. . .

Success!   Pretty good for five weeks old.

Of course,  looking this cute presents some hazards.   Daddy might . . .

Daddy might put me in a Christmas stocking. . . .

Advertisements

sf – “ON THE STREET WHERE YOU LIVE…”

December 28, 2010

Yikes!    After reviewing that last posting on The Spruce Tunnel I saw a lot of dismal pictures!    San Francisco has been quite nice in this district;  rain has not been a problem at all.   I’m not sure I’ve even been sprinkled on.  

So – If you are ever driving to San Francisco to visit someone,  this is the view you will see coming over the Bay Bridge, passing from Oakland to San Francisco.    Little did we know that one of those houses to the left is Daughter’s house, we just didn’t know which one to focus in on.

The closer we got, the more it cleared up and became beautiful  for the sunset.

At 5:00 p.m., the traffic was mostly coming out of the city, so it was easy to drive westward into the city.   I’d like to say it was clever planning on our part, but it was really just dumb luck.

We had a several-miles drive over the bridge, through its tunnel, and more bridge before we reached the city streets.

For a driver there is just something exciting about a big bridge – a passing from “here to there.”      And then, “once we were back there, now we are here, so much further along on our trip.”

Well, here’s the tunnel too.   It’s a bridge with a tunnel in the middle of it!

Then more bridge, then a few city streets, and then – the street where our daughter and her husband and Baby Cooper live:

Uh. . .it’s steeper in real life.

sf – SAN FRANCISCO WEATHER

December 27, 2010

I woke up this morning to the radio saying “…so now the Golden Gate Bridge is also hazardous for drivers with dense fog….”     That’s expected.    Last night we heard it was sunny, overcast, foggy, rainy, cold, and unexpectedly warm – all in the same weather report, and all for the same city.    Oh, yes, and within about a two-hour drive you’ll need chains on your tires….for the snow.

We descended into southern California (geologically speaking;   no offense intended) a few days ago, and drove right into the heavy rains and floods you’ve probably heard about on the news.

We also ran out of Interstate-type expressways and spent much of the day on two-lane roads where oncoming semi-trucks become a big, big issue.  

This becomes the main north-south corridor once you enter California!  

The flooding was all true:

This is where a lot of our food comes from.    Hundreds of miles of crops.   Son and I couldn’t identify many of the plants, but we’re sure we’ve eaten fruits and vegetables from this area.

We were delighted to find orange groves by the tens of miles. . .

. . . which were also standing in water.

Often the water came up to the edge of the road, and sometimes it flooded over.   When we woke up the next morning, before we left our motel, we had to check to see how to get out of that city because many of its roads were under water.

I asked my daughter about the weather out here.   She said this is their “rainy season.”       Not a pretty sight.   

Check your produce prices in the grocery store this Spring!

GETTING THE NUMBERS STRAIGHT

December 27, 2010

A little “reading” for the season:

                 25

“On the road” I’m reading and hearing little news clips that I wouldn’t normally tune in to, and I’ve been hearing a lot of speculation about the number 25.  It’s propaganda, really, in the true definition of that term. So now my “teacher” mode has been switched on.

             Christmastide

We’re all now in the Christmas Season.  I hope you can all feel at least some of the Joy and Hope for Humanity that Easter will bring and which starts now at the season of Christmas with the birth of the Baby at Bethlehem.

We’re still just  at the beginning of The Twelve Days of Christmas, leading up to the public presentation of the Infant King to the whole world  by means of the visit and adoration of the Magi.   But more of Epiphany another time.
  
December 25 is the date chosen and  accepted by Christians as the date of Jesus’ birth by the early Christians. By the 4th century it was universal, communication being what it was in those centuries.

And why the 25th?     

The Romans kept good records.   They governed through an extensive and powerful bureaucracy, and their records were very, very good.   “And a decree went out from Caesar Augustus,”  St. Luke tells us, a decree that everyone has to go back to the city of their fathers and register for the Roman census/tax.    Luke tells us that Joseph took his wife with him to register at Bethlehem, the home of his forefathers from the Tribe of Judah.   Roman records which were in existence and public still in the 300s were examined by Christian leaders, and they read that this census occurred for Joseph  in the month which we call December.

This is recorded in the writings of St. John Chrysostom, among others.    He documents the December timing of the decree that led to  St. Joseph’s journey.

St. John Chrysostom underlines a second “proof”  for the December 25 birth of Christ.  We know the story that Mary was filled with great joy at the Announcement by the Angel Gabriel and the conception of her son.  And we are told that she “hastened” to visit her kinswoman Elizabeth whom she had just learned had also conceived a son, according to God’s plan, and whose life would be closely associated with Mary’s own Son.

In the words of Dom Prosper Gueranger:   “We know from the sacred Scriptures that it must have been in the fast of the seventh month that the Priest Zachary had the vision in the Temple; after which Elizabeth, his wife, conceived St John the Baptist: hence it follows that the Blessed Virgin Mary having, as the Evangelist St. Luke relates, received the Angel Gabriel’s visit, and conceived the Savior of the world in the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, that is to say, in March, the Birth of Jesus must have taken place in the month of December.”

So, there it is, two indications that December 25 was chosen by the early Christians to celebrate the Nativity of Jesus.  

Choosing the date of the 25th of December wasn’t just a ploy to trick pagans into the Church by adopting the pagan festival of Saturnalia.   And it wasn’t just a cynical plan to dilute Christian teachings thereby syncretizing pagan and early Christian teaching and making Christian teachings more palatable to the surrounding culture.    The Catholic Church of those early times fought to keep the doctrines handed down to them pure and true,  just as S. Paul had instructed in II Thessalonians 2:14.

 But for those who don’t know history,  it sounds plausible.   That’s how propaganda works.  Christianity has its enemies, and by the early 20th century,  the enemies of the Church had perfected the Art of Propaganda, in Europe, in Russia, in China,  in Cuba, and in the United States of America.  

We ought to be smarter than that.

We don’t need to accept the steady and pervasive  indoctrination of the enemies of Christianity.   But we can consider these words:   (by Cardinal Newman?) –   “Objective reality is truth.”

sf – Christmas in SF

December 25, 2010

We  are doing things California style, I think.    This is ‘home” for Californians, so it is their Christmas.    They have their own whimsical decorations:

It was just an ordinary family, setting out their Santa decorations in front of their house, but in the city, we live more safely behind bars, and so  Santa is “behind bars.”

We are far from home, and the familiar things that make up “Christmas” are not here.     No familiar stores with their familiar decorations, no Christmas lights softened by the snow, no frosty clean air outside;  we look for what we know and are reminded that we’re reminded that we are visitors. 

It’s also a reminder that the core  of Christmas is still , no matter what it looks like in different parts of the world.     I’m getting to like that very familiar phrase:  “Jesus is the reason for the season.”     A part  of my mind grasps onto that phrase like a life preserver, and then it hauls me in to a safe and familiar shore. . .Jesus is the reason. . .Jesus, born unto us. . .      

Merry Christmas,Everyone.

sf – THE TIME BEFORE US

December 24, 2010

Yesterday,  I recorded for my own memory our time on the Volcano.   Our next stop was something I’d heard about since childhood:   The Petrified Forest.

First we traveled through new scenery to get to these ancient ruins:

A couple hours of this,actually, and then the land got redder and more disrupted:

We had to stop and look at things close up.   Arizona is a photographer’s paradise.   

People lived in “paradise”  800 years ago:

They built stone houses, with the stones closely fitted together to keep out the steady winds that blow across the desert.   No cracks, no windows.

There was not too much information about them.   That is,  even the anthropologists had to speculate how they may have lived.   They’ve discovered “rooms” for grinding grain, storing grain,  a hearth in living quarters. . .

As a woman,  I couldn’t help wondering about how precarious life would have been.    The man you marry would make all the difference in the world to the quality of your life.   Would he be kind?  Would he be harsh and indifferent?  Would he be cruel to your children?  Or would he cherish the next generation and teach the babies who cam eout of your womb the things they would need to know to survivie in this harsh territory?  

Would your husband remain healthy and uninjured so that he could hunt and protect your home against wild animals and dangerous invaders?   Would there be food enough for the next winter?   So many things went through my mind as I stood on the exposed desert, thinking about raising children here.

The people who lived here had someting to say about all that.

 But we really don’t know what they mean by these symbols scratched into the dark patina that forms on the rocks.

Son speculated, “What if these markings were just made by children who were doodling on the rocks nearby, for their own amusement?”

The anthropologists tell us they just don’t know what the people meant by their symbols.

I sometimes wonder, though,  if the information they left behind will not one day prove to be more than the information we put on paper and thin CD disks that require electricity to decipher . . .    How on earth will our civilization be interpreted and understood by our descendants?

I didn’t feel that these were happy children leaving their scribblings.

I know this is a long posting about just one subject,  but I want to give myself time to think about these people, and what they might tell us.   Son and I talked about what questions we could ask them.  My questions were, what is life all about?  Where did you come from?   What do you know about your Creator?  What is right and wrong, good and bad?   How do you cherish and nurture life, yourselves, your children, your relationships?   What do you KNOW?

I’d like to think this vast empty, windy, harsh desert gave them time to think about things like this.     I know it’s not easy to work through these questions in our present-day culture.

Theyleft their mark.    They must have had a reason.

sf – HIKING THE VOLCANO

December 22, 2010

After yesterday’s sunset,  a sunrise is in order:

I peeked out my motel room window one morning to see if it were daylight yet.  Beautiful.   That’s near the Texas/Arizona border.   

Next stop:  the volcano.    (inactive)

If you haven’t walked a volcano yet, enjoy some photos from our “walk.”    “Long hike.”     “Dangerous Trek”    . . .

It started innocently enough.   Or maybe we were the innocent ones, to put it kindly.   We saw El Malpais National Monument and decided to take a drive into it.   We had been sitting in the car for days, and a little walk around a “monument”  seemed like a nice idea.

The “monument” was a large geographical area of previously active volcanoes, and as we drove into the visitors’ area, we got out of the car to take a close look at the ground.   Sure enough,  volcanic rocks were everywhere;  hardened magma of relatively recent volcanic activity showing right through the vegetation.

We parked the car and  found the beginning of the trail easily.   We were the only ones out there.    It was windy, about 45 degrees, and a good day for a little walk.

We walked on and on through beautiful terrain:

We soon came to some areas where the lava tube caves had collapsed, revealing what lies underground.

We were a little disappointed that the lava tube caves were closed to the public after December 13.    Son and I both like “going into caves.”   We’re not spelunkers.   We’re not experienced cavers.   But we like things like Ruby Falls cave,  Howe Caverns,  Mammoth Caves,  Carlsbad Caverns. . . the typical tourist places.

Here is a Bat Cave;  a genine bat cave where bats still come out at night, spiraling upwards like smoke on the horizon. 

Looks like the other sinkhole, I know.   The sign down there says “Do Not Enter.”    Nope.     Sometimes odors come out of that cave….

Some of these volcanic sinks were trenches or just deep canyon-like formations.   It was fascinating to note how they just “sunk” into the grassy land we were walking across….and walking….and walking….

Found a nice place to pose Son against a deep sinkhole:

Here is more of the trail, probably a mile or so and several hundred feet higher than our starting place.  

We walked way up near those two volcanic peaks up ahead.   The altitude was beginning to get to us, but the air was cool and refreshing.  We were free!   We were outdoors!   And we were quite alone.  I began to notice scat on the pathway, little lumps and big lumps of semi-digested berries and fibers.   I reasoned anything that ate grass and berries shouldn’t be a problem to us.

Further up the mountain, the harmless berry scat was accompanied by other scat, sometimes laid down deliberately over the berry scat.   Like a message.   Like “you’re in my territory – and I win…”    Son mentioned casually that we hadn’t taken anything that hikers usually carry, like matches or….maybe a weapon.    I thought about that and deflected those thoughts with my own remark about not even taking any water or food.   

I took note of where the sun was in the sky.   A bit lower.   A bit closer to the horizon.   

And now the pathway turned muddy.   Thick, heavy volcanic mud that stuck to and then collected onto the bottom of your shoes.   A thick layer of slippery mud  cemented itself onto our shoes.  

We walked on like this, on slippery, heavy  mud platforms, in the thin air,with increasing difficulty, trying to reach the summit.

Our goal, at last:

It was THE cinder cone – the hole through which all the lava and gases and ash emerged with powerful force from deep into the earth.    It wasn’t the only cinder cone around, but it was certainly the highest one that we got close to.   We just didn’t have it in us to climb down and up and over and “touch” the cone, but we made it this far!

Now we get to return to our car.    Which was very, very far away.   We were still alone, and I was still watching various unidentifiable animal tracks  of all sizes.   (Unidentifiable to me, anyway.)    Son slogged on through the muddy pathway, which became a deep-rutted four-wheel drive type of back country road, which I hoped led to our car and not to the back country.

I tried walking alongside the road to avoid the mud, but then I had to pick my way around chunks of volcanic rock and strange, harsh vegetation.   By not looking where I was going,  I got my first Cactus Attack….walked right into it.   That hurt!   Technically,  I guess I attacked the cactus….but that’s still a memorable experience.

At last, at last, at last, thoroughly weary and out of oxygen,  following only Son’s blind optimism,  we saw our “home”:

It was then that we paused to catch our breath – and actually READ the signs.   Like the one saying this is for experienced hikers – with equipment:

And then a little sign about the “animals”:

I don’t know.   If I were a park ranger,  I would make these signs much bigger!   DANGER!!!!   MOUNTAIN LIONS1   BOBCATS!   WOLVES!   BEAR!   ALL KINDS OF DANGEROUS ANIMALS LIVE HERE!

They take these things altogether too casually around here:

Who decorates a mountain lion with a Christmas bow ???

sf – HITTING THE SUNSET

December 21, 2010

Yeah, sunsets of all kinds.    I’ve got about twenty photos of sunsets….you get that driving through the Southwest, but this one is kind of peaceful, kind of restful to me.

It’s telling us the day is ending.    We had some kind of  powerful day yesterday on our journey.    By the end of the day, sunset was all we could manage.    We “hit” our own sunset – hard!

Later tonight I’ll show you  our three peak tourist experiences –  a two-hour hike on a volcano;   a two hour trip into the Triassic Era;  and a two-hour stay at one of the biggest highlights of our life – a visit to the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff.     On the night when the total eclipse of the moon begins!!   How great is that!   (Percival Lowell figured largely in my childhood;   I felt like kneeling at every nook and cranny in the Observatory.)

Then another kind of “sunset” experience, I think:    I know they say “turnabout is fair play,”  but after years of being the Mom who wakes her poor kids up in the middle of the night to watch the eclipses, I had the odd experience of being wakened up by my own son. . .to watch the eclipse.  Oh, I’m very grateful that he did that, but isn’t that my job?     I’m feeling one phase of my “mothering’  is sunsetting on me now, and I ought to think about sliding gracefully into the next phase.  Parenting is  like that, from time to time. 

However, back to yesterday’s sunset part.   It sure felt like the “end” of a busy day for me, maybe because  I’m “old” and not used to climbing mountains and slogging through heavy volcanic mud and wending my way through rocky trails, but Son  is just as wiped out as I am.    For me it’s injuring my feet in ill-fitting shoes.   For him (maybe me too)  it’s the altitude.   Our home is at about 600+ feet above sea level.   Yesterday,  we did all our activities between 6,880 – 7,400+ feet. . .probably higher in spots.

Except for getting up in the middle of the night to see parts of the eclipse, we slept like the proverbial logs.   Yes.   I think it was the altitude.

sf – CRAZY FOR TEXAS

December 20, 2010

A few posts ago I wrote how Son and I are enjoying the change of terrain from one region of the country to another as we travel.   There are so many varied landscapes to experience. . .and each state is actually quite different from the others.  

And uniquely . . . uh. . . crazy.

That was breakfast today.

Could’ve had lunch here –

We didn’t grill anything on that thing available at our roadside stop though  – we’ve been  filled with plenty of meat since we’ve arrived in Texas.

That was our supper.    And this was lunch of the next day:

Anyplace called Cattle Call is bound to have good food, we thought.   And we weren’t disappointed.   Son had ribs, I had BBQ’d everything – pork, beef, cole slaw….it even worked well in the grits.    And sweet iced tea, as they can do it only in the South.   Or West.   Wherever.

And they have a Crazy way of decorating for Christmas around here –

And GUESS WHO I met going into the restroom!

That’s John Wayne, “partner”!   The Duke himself.      Crazy.

sf – OKLAHOMA REMINDERS

December 20, 2010

First comes our innocence.

Then comes the event:    9:02  

In two short minutes of time, an event happened that took us from innocence, where death is just an abstract idea, to “experienced,”   where death (and violence and ugliness)  has hit close to home.

It was the Oklahoma City bombing, and 168 people  died.   Each of those lighted spots is a “chair” representing those who died inside the building.

Each lighted block is inscribed with the name of a victim.    There are little chairs and big chairs;    little children and adults.   

The lights were beautiful at night.   There is a stillness there at the Memorial, and a wonder, a wonder that each human life is so uniquely precious and needed for a time in this world, and a wonder that such a valuable thing as human life can be ended, and how a whole nation can feel the loss — as well as how a person  can always feel the daily loss of the loved one: This is the famous fence where people come to put little mementos of their loved ones – and friends and strangers come to hang up little notes and objects to honor the dead.   There are not as many objects hanging there as there were in past years, and I suspect it is now mostly family members who keep  the practice – even at Christmastime:

Someone put a photo of the lost one inside a new Christmas wreath.    It just feels like more people should know about this.

Don’t worry about visiting the Memorial at night.   It’s always open.  Other people are there, and a nice watchman walks the beat.   And the reflective pool, meant to represent the Eternity that the 168 went to between those two columns with the times on them is very impressive with its dark bottomless stillness..

They’ve made it a beautiful, peaceful place to pay tribute to those who have died.   Damaged brick and granite rubble have been removed, and comforting loblolly pines have been planted.

I know an unfortunate political mess followed the investigation into the bombing, and I know good people were maligned because they were “conservative” and not part of the liberal ruling class. . . but when all that is forgotten, the fact will remain:  people die: people we love will die;  and on that day 168 people died and entered some kind of Eternity.

sf – ‘NOT IN KANSAS ANYMORE’

December 19, 2010

Oh, wait.   We are!

Son and I were watching to see if we could tell when we made the transition from prairie to plains.    We knew the terrain would change, the vegetation, and the general “feel” of the land, but it was going to be a subtle change as the miles pass by.  How do we know when we have crossed into another geographical area?

It wasn’t in  Iowa.   It’s hard to tell under the the snow cover, but Iowa seemed a lot like the Midwest – just fewer trees.

I think it was this scene outside our speeding car window.   Not too clear, I’m sorry, but we stared and stared at this new land.   It was reddish, it had definite contours of its own, and it had “cracks” in it, where erosion had washed away the thin covering and exposed veins of……broken up rock material.   

In the distance there, you can see the black lines  that are the thin cracks that expose the rocks, like black scars in the topsoil — if indeed it is “topsoil.”    Vegetation grows there but I don’t think you’d get any “crops.”

We were in the Flint Hills of Kansas.   It’s a “geological treasure” according to National Geographic magazine which did a cover story on the area in April of 2007.  It’s winter now, but it’s apparently an area of the tall grasses of the Great Plains – 8 – 10 feet tall grasses – the kind the buffalo like to “roam” on.    I read a Western once, which told a story of settlers passing through.     Their guides were ready to move on for the day, but first they had to take a small party out on horseback to replenish their supply of flint.    I think they came here.

So – after a couple of hours of driving through this,   we experienced our first “total immersion”  in new land.    We have cactus and sagebrush and canyons and desert and mountains and ocean ahead of us;   but this is the first big change.

We’re not close to home anymore.

I have some advice for any of you who like to drive long distances:

That’s a great Welcome Center.   More than just a rest stop on the way – or as we say in Illinois,  an Oasis on the toll road.    It was filled with lots of interesting and helpful information about the area.

This is one of the plaques on the outside of the building, depicting the scenes of American  pioneers and the cattle drives and the plains Indians.  The Welcome Center even explained those strange silhouettes of life-sized buffalo and cowboys and Indians that are placed alongside the Interstate to remind us of what used to be commonplace in Kansas.

The only thing is, we explored this good Welcome Center – on the way out of Kansas.     We wished we had nown this stuff on our way in!      From now on we’ll try to stop at Welcome Centers as we enter a state;  we’re in no hurry.    There may be some interesting one-chance-in-a-lifetime things to see.

So we learned about Kansas as we entered Oklahoma…..and Oklahoma is a whole different state. . . . .

LEAVING THE PRESENT

December 19, 2010

“Leaving the Present”  —  Or so it seems….

They say it’s a good idea, when something as big and life-changing and tragic as a death in the family occurs, to leave.  Go on a journey.    Begin creating a new set of memories for the New Normal that will be yours for the rest of your life.

I’m not sure I understand that, or agree.   But circumstances dictated…a journey.  It is Christmastime.   Our daughter is separated from us.   The three of us who remain  need to be together.    Now.   And she has already taken two flights across the country to see us – within two weeks of her son being born.   Now it’s three weeks later.    It’s our turn to travel to her.

So we’re leaving our present lives, and it seems with the first stop on our trip  we are leaving the present century.  Near the general store above, a lovely holiday parlor  awaited us at  our first stop.

We were in an Illinois prairie town, where the people still remember their grandparents who settled here among the Indians and wagon trains and early days of farming when railroads were king.   Life was hard, but the pioneers took with them the values of civilized life.   An elegant dining room awaited us too.

We were in a lovely museum created from one of the early homes in Geneseo, Illinois.

We didn’t go to Geneseo to see elegant old houses with historic displays of the pioneers and prairie life, but we went there to reconnect with some of Hubbie’s family who live there.    It’s family life that meant the most to him.   Small town, Main Street, American family life:

That’s looking “up” the street that the museum was on.    It just begs for a Fourth of July parade come summer.   And this is the way we left the town,  looking “down” the street from that museum.   Lovely village street.

If there is one legacy that Hubbie left us,  one lesson that he taught us,  it’s to know and to love your family.    He worked hard on genealogy, but what he loved best is to find out who his living relatives are – and to get them to know each other – and to renew or begin friendships among them all.     

Last summer he visited these relatives in Geneseo, and he saw those hometown streets and he even visited the museum.    This winter Son and I will carry those Family Values with us into new territory on our journey, and we’ll make sure that family ties remain strong, no matter what miles lie between us.

Now we are in strange new territory indeed, far from our home address.   Son and I are the only ones each of us know right now as we leave the snow-covered Midwest and travel through new scenery and meet new people. . . .

From now on we’re creating brand-new memories for our little family.   I’ll post some of them here.

THE NIGHT BEFORE THE MISSION

December 16, 2010

I had to visit some neighbors tonight.   Our street was very, very pretty with the Christmas lights this year.

The neighbors are going to watch our house.   Some have a good across-the-street view.   Some will be using our house in the next couple of weeks.  And some will be partially living in the house, tasking care of things.

This is our house this year.  It was decorated by Hubbie.  

Last summer Hubbie was so excited to show me what he had brought home from a garage sale.   I had to go out immediately and SEE it!     Seems like a long time ago, but it’s time to put it out now.  

It’s a lighted deer.   He moves his head up and down, as though he’s eating from our front porch.   It looks quite natural.   Son didn’t put it out on the lawn because he needed to find a support for it.    I kind of like it near our front door.   Friendly-like.

We won’t see him for a while, though.    We’re on that mission.  A little while ago our daughter was wearing that large black and silver  T shirt that read “Tiny Kicker”  — as though the son she was bearing would become a Raiders fan.

Well,  our mission is to deliver the little guy some proper clothing:

It’s a long drive to San Francisco. . .but looks like they need us out there.   

We’re on a Mission!

FROM HAZE TO CLARITY

December 16, 2010

 “Haze to clarity”    That ought to be me, but I’m still too hazy to figure that out.   Instead, I’ll make no analogies tonight.   I just want to show you more beautiful snowstorm photos.  

This was the scene outside out back window during that snowstorm:

A snowstorm can be a beautiful thing.   That’s not fog or haze;  it’s the air, just all filled with snow, blown nearly sideways with a strong wind.    It’s an active scene as the wind changes the puffs of snow here and there.

No birds on the deck railings that day.   It was so cold, and the wind would have blown them off the railings anyway.

But we had BEARS!

The Bears were pretty hazy that Sunday afternoon too.

Nothing wrong with my TV —  just lots of snow blowing around.     I don’t think the Bears ever got out of their own haze that day.    Not a good score….

Afterwards, the next day,  everything clears up.   It’s cold and still and clear in the early morning sun:

And walking out on the back deck just took your breath away.   Not the single digit temperature which freezes the air as you try to breathe it in.   But the sheer sparkling, shining beauty:

The sun shines on and through everything.   I hope the photo shows some of the beauty.    I hope you all get to experience such a storm as we’ve had.

Heh  heh  heh . . .

WHITE CHRISTMAS

December 12, 2010

The “scene” around here, this morning:

I haven’t been too enthusiastic about Christmas this year.   For one thing, it will be very different….   And I won’t be here, home, for Christmas anyway.    But when you wake up and this is the first thing you see, it kind of triggers Christmas feelings.

The Advent lights and candles are all in place, shining their delicate rose and violet brightness. 

A December snowstorm brings both beauty and excitement:

That’s what I can see out my kitchen doors.     As the hours pass now during this storm, sometimes we can’t even see across the pond.  The winds whip up the snow so that it’s like looking through thick fog, and everything is grayed out.  White-out, they call it.

So.     Nature is getting us ready for Christmas during this Advent season.    It’s Gaudete Sunday today –  the third Sunday of Advent, the one with the rose-colored candle.    Gaudete – Rejoice!   for Christmas is coming!

As I said in my last post,  we need to be driven by our wills, by our intellect, and not by our emotions.

We can actually choose to see beauty and know that the Author of beauty is here, probably rejoicing that we rejoice that Christmas comes.

And pleased that we give thanks that He has made us creatures of will and intellect who can perceive His beauty and give Him glory for it.

I wish you all the joy of His beauty this year.

CRYSTALS

December 11, 2010

If we just open our eyes and go through life seeing . . . .

The black was deep black and the white specks were shining and almost “alive.”    I stared and stared until I finally ran indoors to get my camera.     I took about ten shots but didn’t get it right.   This is about the best.

It was a cold, gray day:  a biting wind made it uncomfortable to be outside for very long, and the clouds that covered the afternoon sky made it feel like the gloom of early twilight.   Indoors was the jumbled-up aftermath of a post-funeral household – so much to do, so much sadness to feel,  so much confusion and aimless, random activity.   

And yet.     I saw this.    And the tiny specks of beauty captured me.

It was only an ordinary activity:

Ice crystals had formed on our mailbox.    That’s all.

I’m glad we’re supposed to live by our intellect, not by our emotions.    My intellect tells me the world is  a complex home for us, a mixture of good and bad experiences to teach us and tempt us and try us.

I’m glad we’re supposed to live by faith and not by what we see in the material world around us.   My faith tells me everything we’re given to experience can bring us closer to God, who made it all and who gave us all we have.    

Things can be so much more than what they seem. 

Thanks to God for a little beauty now and then, to point to Him.

WORDS

December 10, 2010

Really.   This is an object of “art” on a wall at the Cleveland Clinic.    

That’s a whole wall of words.    Each little spot on the wall is a letter and the letters form words, vertically.

Son and I had to go back to the hospital  for one carefully chosen day to pick up Black Beauty who has been parked in the hospital parking ramp for two weeks.   Black Beauty being, of course,  his gleaming GTO that doesn’t like snowy roads – and Cleveland just had 8 inches….with more to come in a day or two.   Son had rode home in Hubbie’s ambulance, so he left his car behind.

While we were there, we revisited the places that had become familiar to us.    The corridors, waiting rooms, eating places, good cell phone signal places, the elevators. . . and the people.    I don’t know if this was a wise idea, but it seemed to be important;   we said to each other words like “remembering” and  “closure.”    

We wrote down words of  deep gratitude to the staff on the Heart Failure unit.   

And then we had to deliver the note.   In person.      Wonderful, beautiful nurses who recognized us immediately — and undid our composure with their words of enthusiasm and kindness and compassion.   

At this stage of things my world is full of words.    

It seems I must write to just about everyone our family knows, and I do this willingly because I want to reach out and make contact and give information….and express our words of thanks.

I need to keep the words organized, so I have them in long lines.   That way I can check the words I wrote, make sure I wrote all the words I meant to write to the people I meant to write them to.   I’m only part way done.

It’s important work – because “words mean things.”   I tell my classes this sometimes.   Words create a kind of reality, and we shouldn’t use them casually.    It’s why when we pray, we make the effort to say words whenever possible;  we don’t just think the words, we form them with our mouth, sometimes out  loud, sometimes silently.     Each word is important.

Try sending up to heaven your agreement with the content of the  Lord’s Prayer.  Or try thinking through the words of the Lord’s Prayer.   Then try saying the actual words you’ve memorized from the Lord’s Prayer.    Or next….say each word as though you yourself meant to say each one of those words because, from earliest times,  these words of Our Dear Lord were learned, repeated, recorded, and taught to each next generation.    Precious words.

“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path…..”

We give and receive words to each other.   Just like we give our words to God,    and He gives His Word to us.

ACCEPTING THE NEW NORMAL

December 8, 2010

An “old” photo of Hubbie’s church, on Dec. 2:

 A photo like this is beginning to feel like a photo from a past life.         

The New Normal is forming itself around us more quickly than we want it to.    People have returned home, thank you notes are getting out, belongings  have been gathered.  We are nearing the last of our food from the funeral.    Soon it will be no longer appropriate for The Spruce Tunnel to dwell on the details of the last month’s sad events.  

The New Normal will always include Hubbie, but in fond memories and a trickling down of his own unique wisdom, a little happy influence here and there, an echo of his attitude in the things we do. . .  He worked very hard so that all the parts of his extended family would know each other or at least know about each other, or maybe become friends; and he worked very hard so that his own family would be financially and physically safe and sound.   And so he built the structure for us all, the structure in which we would live that New Normal. 

If that makes sense.    We honor him by living in the environment he created for us.    We’re slowly creeping into it, sometimes reluctantly, but sometimes with resolve.

Some of you know what Holy Day it is today.    If we’d take time to  think about the life of the Virgin Mary, we’d see that her life wasn’t easy.   Along the way she had many “new normals” to accept,  including life after the death of her own spouse.     At every point, she accepted what God sent to her.    We could have no finer example.

A GOD OF PATIENCE

December 5, 2010

The world goes on.

For us, newly without Hubbie, time passes oddly.  Son and I are mired in thick, viscous ether that paralyzes our thoughts sometimes, and then at times let’s us pass through, slowly forward.   Something is changing in us, and we are moving on towards the outside world.   
 
 

It’s the Second Sunday of Advent today.   It feels important to hang on to that.   If we pay attention to more and more of things that are outside of our selves, these things will help pull us forward until we are “up to speed,” as the saying goes. 

There was a wonderful Advent sermon today, based upon the Epistle reading from Romans 15.   It was the kind of Bible passage that could be mined for a hundred good sermons.  We heard one of those today, a very good and thought-provoking one, that coincidentally helped encourage my struggles towards a life that will be a”new-normal.”  

The portion extracted from today Epistle, the one I remember best, is this:   “Now the God of patience and of comfort grant you to be of one mind one towards another, according to Jesus Christ…”   And then the sermon expounded on the “one mind” that we enjoy, the sweet concord, the deep oneness and understanding among Christians, but – caution! –  this “one mind” forms only “according to Jesus Christ.”   Only minds that are each individually conformed to the mind of Christ are able to experience that everlasting communion among Christians.   

Well, that’s a brain, not a mind, but it’s an active brain.   Our minds express our souls’ activities in an interlocking series of symbolic meaning, in our attempt to come to terms with objective reality and truth. 

We don’t invent the truth, we discover the truth.  According to our sermon today (and according to many worthy philosophers)  “God already knows what the truth is and what is right:   He created it!   He knows it!”     We conform our minds to the mind of Christ.

We often don’t get to choose the big events in our lives, but “the God of patience and of comfort” is waiting for us to make progress towards understanding and accepting the will of God. 

Emmanuel comes.    Deo gratias.

“A FUNERAL IS LIKE. . . “

December 3, 2010
    
                       Funeral Guests
 
 
Going to your own husband’s funeral is like seeing him through the eyes of his family and his friends.   Each person has a “piece” of him, and his wife’s and his son’s and daughter’s hears are full with the pieces you gave to us.   Thank you for filling us up with those pieces as you shared your memories and our sorrow together.
 
Family “friends,” childhood friends, work friends, neighbor friends, volunteer friends, church friends, collector friends, sports friends, young men and women friends,   children friends, and friends I didn’t even know about:  the funeral occasion was like visiting with all of you throughout the past years, but condensed into one single day.  
 
I didn’ have enough words for you on his funeral day,  but I see that he has put himself into each one of your lives, and so I cherish all the words   you said.