Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Secret to Happiness

Walking about town in the rain this afternoon.

From First We Have Coffee, autobiography of Margaret Jensen:

"Mama sensed my distress. Tenderly she placed her arms around me and quietly, but firmly, reminded me that we had prayed for shoes. God answered, not the way we think is best, but God heard and answered. Mama never allowed sympathy to obscure a deeper lesson.

Mama continued, "Pride is a terrible thing, Margaret. It is not so important what we put on our feet, but it is important where our feet go. Sometimes we have to put on hard things--like the shoes--so God can keep our feet on the right path. If you worry more about how you look than what you are, you will have many lessons to learn. Someday you will look back and say that this was an important lesson to learn. Remember this: God always answers prayer, but not always your way. Wear your shoes with a thankful, humble heart. Shall I tell you the secret to happiness?"

"Oh yes, Mama."

As she gathered me in her arms and stroked my hair she whispered softly, "A thankful heart, Margaret. A thankful heart."

* * *
It's true!
"All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful." ~Psalm 25:10

Monday, October 29, 2012

Contrary to the first line of the post (below),
this is not a photo of a grey, rainy day.
It is a photo of an autumn tree
that made me think of a bubblegum machine.

Rain again today means it’s grey outside
and warm lights are turned on inside.
 On days like this
I want to stare out the window and think.
Or read a good book.
But I also like to be outside.
Autumn trees are more vibrant in the grey,
and rainy air is fresher.

They say you can spot a non-native in Oregon
because he carries an umbrella.
Well I was born here,
and my family has lived in Oregon since the 1850’s,
so I’m pretty native.
And I carry an umbrella.
A dark green one.

(Yoohoo, Michelle!)
I walked to Sundance Market today
and saw Koala Crisp cereal
and thought of you all
So I bought a box,
along with almond milk,
and I came right home and ate a bowl.
It tastes better when I eat it at your house.

“There is only one world—in God—
and it is simple and real.
Why speak in riddles?”
Yes, Alexander Schmemann, why?
(They haven’t embraced this idea
At the university where I spend most of my time.)

Saturday, October 27, 2012

I Prefer. . .

This is all that's left of my books.
(Except for two shelves full in my bedroom.)

Dark chocolate to candy.
Walking to driving.
Writing essays to writing research papers.
*William Blake to T.S. Eliot.
Thrift stores to new stores.
Wendell Berry to Al Gore.
Early mornings to late nights.
Anne Morrow Lindbergh to Betty Friedan.
Reading to watching anything.
Romantic to Enlightenment.
Blue cheese to cheddar.
Used bookstores to Amazon.
Black coffee to coffee-flavored milk.
E.F. Schumacher to Adam Smith.
My neighborhood natural foods store to Costco.
Slow life to busy life.
Contemplation to analysis.
Wood stove to electric heat.
Bare feet to shoes.
Very thin-ruled paper to wide-ruled.
Geology to Biology.
Mechanical pencil to pen.
Hand-written letters to emails.
Blogs to Facebook.
A tent to a hotel room.
Back roads to highways.
Global thinking to linear.
Phone calls to text messages.
High desert sky to valley sky.
Argumentation to symbolic logic.
Anything to statistics.
Moccasins to high heels.
Cardigans to pull-over sweaters.
Hand-washing dishes to dishwashers.
Old books to new books.

Just to name a few. . .
How about you?

*Later: Had a back and forth text-message conversation
with my son. He said, "William Blake to T.S. Eliot?!
Why does it have to be Eliot?"
Yeah, Aaron, I know. I was wavering on that one
right from the start. I still am.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Nature Life

There’s a little green glass dish of small rocks sitting in my living room, and when my mom stopped by the other day, she asked me what they were. I told her that when I go off somewhere special for a hike or other outdoor adventure, I always bring a rock home with me. After one hike this past summer, I set the rock in that dish, and since then, that’s where they have gone (I have many other rocks in a jar somewhere). Well, my mom thought this was cool, and she even took the little magnifying loupe I have sitting beside the dish and examined the rocks (they’re so interesting to see this way!). As she exclaimed about them, I smiled and knew where I got my curiosity and love for all things in God’s world.

This love seems to have passed on to my own children, proof of which came in a photo of a shelf my daughter Michelle sent me yesterday. Michelle likes to build things and reconstruct furniture. The girl is creative and undaunted. If she wants to do it, she’ll figure out how. So, with her little handsaw, hammer, nails, screwdriver, sandpaper, and bits of scrap wood, she builds some pretty great stuff. Recently she made a shelf, like the grey one in the photo above, and, as she often does, Michelle sent me a photo of it when it was finished.

The photo is blurry, but you can see that it’s a fine-looking shelf. I love it, and I love the fact that my daughter is making things, but something else pleased me just as much as the shelf itself—what she had placed on it. Nature stuff. There are field guides and other nature books, leaves, sticks, shells, rocks, books about nature, a “bug barn,” gems, a mounted insect, a pumpkin, and more.

Michelle and her kids are always bringing nature inside with them after they have been out exploring, and they put those items where they can see and enjoy them. Like on this shelf. But their nature-stuff is not only on this shelf, it’s everywhere, and some of it is living. When I visited the family recently, and it was bed-time, Michelle said, “Oh, yeah, Mom, if you hear a really strange, loud sound in the house in the night, it’s just Jayden’s frog.” Huh, Jayden has a frog? This kind of thing is so routine in their house that no one thinks to mention the latest addition to the live-nature they are keeping.

For example, Roman’s spiders. He takes good care of them, and they live for months and months and months. You might have seen this text message I posted recently from Roman to his dad, reminding him to buy crickets for the spiders. Roman has read countless books about spiders and has observed them minutely. He describes to me at length the behavior of spiders, and it’s really interesting!

I suppose it’s natural for my kids to share nature with their children. Why wouldn’t they? It was a huge part of our home culture when they were young. And if they loved it then, why would they stop loving it now? Michelle was the one who created the bird-project book pictured above (and represented by the photos in this post). But this was just one of the many nature-things she did, and all of the other kids had similar learning adventures.

We lived in the country while the kids were growing up, and I described part of our nature-life in something I wrote a year or two ago:

My kids grew up in nature. Their father was an amateur entomologist who spent hours at his desk meticulously pinning beetles and butterflies to his insect mounting boards. He enlisted the kids in his bug-capturing campaigns, and they raced exuberantly around the property swinging butterfly nets through the air. A grey, papery (vacated) hornet’s nest hung from the family room ceiling above a large terrarium where stick bugs crawled, camouflaged, across green blackberry vines. Crickets chirped happily inside our house at night in their carefully constructed habitat, while museum beetles stripped a frog carcass clean to the bones in a tightly-sealed glass case next to the crickets. Collections of rocks, shells, nests, pressed flowers, and whatever other interesting things we found outdoors sat everywhere.

The kids explored tide pools at the beach, poked in the dirt, hiked through lava fields, crawled through caves, and followed animal tracks around our property. Summer nights, we lay on a blanket in the grass to wonder together at the heavens, brilliantly illuminated in the darkness of our high desert country sky. We all marveled as we observed the delicate intricacy of snowflakes under the microscope. Birdfeeders and nesting boxes were hammered together to feed and house our feathered friends. And the kids created illustrated nature journals as well as beautifully annotated photo-records of particular nature experiences.

Wherever our family was, we explored the natural world, but mostly we explored our own property—sometimes alone, and sometimes together. We had no agenda—we simply pursued nature because it was interesting and beautiful, and we grew to love observing life on our property as it changed through the seasons.

So, why is this a big deal to me? Why do I care one way or another? Because “the heavens declare the glory of God,” and as the book of Romans indicates, the nature of God can clearly be seen in the natural world He created for us. It’s a beautiful world, a gift, a treasure, and we need to value it. Research offers a huge list of benefits that come from being in nature—intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, physically—when we are allowed to interact with nature on our own terms, without someone directing or curating our experience. Research aside, the main reason this matters is what I said first—that “the heavens declare the glory of God.” It doesn’t take research to convince me that being out the natural world and really allowing ourselves to take it in is essential for well-being, and not only for our children, but for us, too.

It's truly sweet for this mom and grandma to see this way of life carried on in her family.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Five Minute Daybook

It might have been nice to clean up this spot and hide the cord,
but, oh well. Who cares, right?!

Five minutes, because it's midterms week.

First question: What is my latest brilliant idea?

My new wastebasket (above). It’s a tin that belonged to my great-grandmother and then my grandmother and now me. I had been tossing crumpled pieces of paper on the floor in that spot (the printer is off to my right and produces a lot of paper, which computer use was supposed to save), and I thought it might be nicer to have something there to catch those papers. The tin wanted a more useful job to do than just sitting around in the kitchen, so, now it is my wastebasket.

Where am I?

Sitting at the computer in my apartment. My computer is in my second bedroom, just off the living room, and is actually used for everything I can’t do (or don’t want to) in the other rooms. In early morning, this is the cheeriest room in the house. The rising sun shines warmly in here.

What am I wearing?

Is this important? I am wearing blue jeans, a grey light-weight sweater with ¾ length sleeves, reading glasses and bare feet.

What am I thinking about?

Besides doing multivariate analysis, trying to remember the geologic time-table in relation to the events of the geologic history of the national parks of the Colorado Plateau, and reading about the environmental justice movement, I’m thinking about my family (miss them). I’m thinking about why I think hand-written letters are better than email but that email is useful in some cases. I’m thinking about why keeping a blog is positive for me in some ways and why I will probably try to keep doing it in whatever way works. It will be simple. I’m also thinking that I really want some dark chocolate and maybe another cup of coffee. Someone please bring me some chocolate! I’ll take care of the coffee.

In the kitchen?

On a good day? This week? Leftovers! I’m just cooking really simply off the top of my head. No recipes. Lots of vegetables—right now I’m featuring winter squash in my kitchen. I just roasted delicata squash halves last night with butter, maple, curry powder, and salt and pepper. Oh, yeah--and after it cooked, I smashed the maple butter into the squash, squeezed over some lime juice, and ate it; you can eat the skin of delicata squash. For lunch, I’m sitting here eating leftover dal and broccoli. When I am finished with lunch, I am also finished with this post.

What am I thankful for?

Truly, everything. God has been good to me.

What's this?

This is what I do for fun now. I go with my class to places like road cuts next to the interstate to hang out for an hour or two. And who would have guessed I would want to stay longer?! This stuff is fascinating. (Picture is of a dike, in case you didn't know. An unusual, bent and curvy one.)

What am I reading?

Well, books for my classes. It’s week five of the term, and in one class alone, we are on our fourth book. And besides that, just for me, I’m reading The Wild Muir: Twenty-two of John Muir’s Greatest Adventures (taken from his journals). This is a fun book to read, especially if you love the outdoors, which I do. I’m also reading through Elspeth’s Wonderful Weekend Book again. I look at her blog occasionally, too. . .

And that’s that. Lunch is over, and it’s time to get busy. I have a project to finish by tomorrow morning (which really means by bedtime tonight because I am way too old to pull all-nighters or even to stay up really late (though I did once this past week!).

(Okay, that took more than five minutes.)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Being Hospitality

It's a blurry photo with a red line running through it! :-)
(From the field trip yesterday.)

There is a man at my church who walks through the hallways and "sanctuary" (it's a gym) every Sunday, saying hello with a beaming, welcoming smile to everyone he sees. Sometimes he stops to chat for a bit--always about you, and rarely about him. Even though you know he does this with each person he encounters, it doesn't matter because with that smile and hello he somehow makes you feel special, singled out, important, like you’re his favorite person at church. He remembers your name. You can’t help but beam back at this man, and after you walk by, your heart is warm, and you keep on smiling.

This man is very beloved in our church. He’s from Persia (he refuses call it Iran), where warm hospitality is a cultural expectation, but he takes it beyond what human hospitality can muster at its very best. He carries Light and Truth. It’s in his heart, it beams across his face in that smile, and it touches every person who crosses his path.

This man is walking hospitality. He doesn’t strive to be hospitable; he just is because he can’t be anything else. He is full of the Love that Jesus has for the whole world, and it seems to bubble out of him and infect everyone who is lucky enough to come near him.

This man recently found out that he has incurable brain cancer. When the church received the news, I am sure that every person who knows this man cried. I certainly did. To think of him being gone (unless the Lord chooses to heal him) seems like a little bit of the light of Jesus is disappearing from among us. And of course it is, but, hopefully, partly because we've learned from this man, that light will be replaced by others who love Jesus, too.

Hospitality is not just about having a warm and welcome home. It’s not just about inviting people over for food and conversation, though this is very important. Real hospitality is you. Or more precisely, real hospitality is Christ in you. It touches everyone that crosses your path. It is in every conversation, in every smile, in every meeting of the eyes, in every small interaction in your life.

Hospitality happens in your home, starting with your children and your husband. When you see them, do you beam at them a warm and joyful smile? Do they each feel that warmth from you so much that, secretly, they suspect they must be your favorite? That’s how Jesus makes me feel—that I am His favorite. But, of course, so are you.

Hospitality happens when you meet someone in the hallway at church. It happens when you sip coffee in a shop with a friend. It happens in every exchange in a campus classroom. It happens in your office. It happens on the bus. It happens when you invite someone to share your home or a meal.  But hospitality is not really in the acts that you do; it is in what fills your heart. Are you full of yourself or of Christ? When we are full of Him, we can’t help but bubble with His love and warmth until it spills over and others know that love and warmth, too. 

My actions, my influence, my way of “being hospitality,” will not be the same as this man’s from my church. Jesus is manifest in each of us differently because none of us can come close to containing all of Him. And that is why the church is a beautiful thing. It takes all of us to make up “Him” on this earth.

Love Him and be full of Him, and loving others will come naturally.

Fine Day

On the university campus. 

On campus, too, just around the corner from the trees in the photo above.
Across that green space in the background is the graveyard
I often walk through on my way home from class.

I even bring leaves into the house.
I bring them in pretty and fresh and watch them gradually shrivel up.
But they're still pretty.

Today was a fine day. I got up early, made my bed, brewed myself a cup of coffee, and read my Bible while standing in front of the heater. It’s getting cold at night around here! For breakfast, I fixed myself some toast spread with delicious homemade blackberry jelly that my friend Laurie gave me, and then I studied for a couple of hours.

In the afternoon, I went on a little geological expedition to some pretty interesting places around town with just a few students and the teacher from my Geology of the National Parks class (actually, it’s a geological photography seminar-class that branches off of the big class). We all fit snugly in one car, so we rode around together and had a great time.

At my suggestion (because you have to have snacks when you’re out on an adventure), the professor was even game to stop just off the highway at a little biofuel gas station/market that sells natural foods and good coffee. I bought my favorite treat—a chocolate peanut butter cup that’s handmade at a popular local patisserie.

It was a fun day in the fresh, chilly, sometimes cloudy-and-sprinkly, sometimes cloudy-and-sunny air. At one of the sites we visited, I made sure to pick up an interesting little rock to add to my collection of adventure-rocks. We came back to campus, and I snapped a few more photos as I walked home. I have loads of pictures, but I haven’t looked at most of them, so I’ll just put up these two (I’ll stop with the autumn photos soon, I promise!).

And now it is waaay past my bedtime. (What in the world am I doing still up?!)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Walking Home this Evening

Leaving for home after class.

Wow, the colors are pretty. 

Aren't they?
And I could have snapped a lot more photos.

 A little more shady here.

 When I walked past this place, it was glowing.

 The campus is famous for its trees.
It is an arboretum. For real.

When I walk through the cemetery, I'm almost home.

Sometimes I really miss nature and living in the country.
But God gave me two strong legs,
and put me in a pleasant part of town.
And every day I walk across a beautiful university.
I live on one corner of campus,
and some of my classes are more than a mile away
on another edge of the campus.
But I don't mind.
Because my walk home is lovely.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Autumn Puttering

"When we human beings let go and embrace the new,
when we flow with the seasons,
and merge with the same basic rhythm that tells the geese when to go,
we hear things beyond sound, and feel things beyond touch,
and a kind of serenity settles over our spirits."
~Jean Hersey in The Shape of a Year

See? I put up the paper leaves Michelle cut and colored
for me when we lived in the High Desert.
(But now, instead of gracing our old kitchen window,
they grace the mirror in the space between
the living room and kitchen of my little apartment.)
Buttercup squash with maple is roasting in my oven.
We had our first hard rain in a while last night.
It was nice.
The kids and I were texting yesterday
about fall memories in our old home:
Frosty-cold mornings.
Clear beautiful skies. Crisp air.
Bundling up for afternoon walks.
Stacking wood.
A crackling fire in the woodstove.
Everyone vying for that green chair by the stove.
Cheddar chowder with bacon.
Chocolate chip pumpkin muffins.
Russian tea (always mainly for Aaron).
Raking pine needles in the cold wind
(that would be Aaron, too).
Long evenings round the table,
everyone together, talking and playing games.
But that was then, and this is now,
and I neither want to go back nor try to recreate the past.
At the same time, traditions matter,
 and some of ours will be maintained forever.
I am truly thankful for whatever God brings my way.
I am thankful for now.
It's autumn, and it's lovely.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Crater Lake

I went on a field trip to Crater Lake National Park
with my class yesterday.
There was a smoky haze in the air from regional wildfires,
but, otherwise, it was a sunny, gorgeous, mild autumn day.
The lake was almost glassy.
What a perfect day.
It was nice to be back in the high desert.

I needed to adjust my camera slightly, but, still,
you can see what a pretty day we had.
(Click to enlarge.)