Category Archives: Nature

the heavens declare the glory of God

The Source of Harvest

 

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A dear friend gave me a beautiful flowering plant called “Oxalis.

This particular species’ leaves are a deep maroon color and each is shaped like a triangle. Oxalis triangularis is what I have. They bear pale pink trumpet shaped flowers. I placed the plant on the window sill, and when it got bigger, I re-planted it to a bigger terra cotta pot. All year that beautiful plant gave me joy.

Then, my oxalis seemed to grow weaker. The leaves became sparce and fewer flowers decorated its foliage.

It seemed to refuse any of my nurturing, or watering, or plant food.

Finally, I gave up and put the dying plant in my cool storage room and forgot about it. I felt a kind of grief, like when the vibrant reds and oranges of fall give way to bare branches.

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Next year, I needed a good-sized terra cotta pot for some new pansies I’d picked up at a local plant sale. I took the pot I’d used for my now-dead oxalis, turned the soil, added more potting mix and fertilizer, then planted the new pansies.

I put the pot of pansies out on my bistro table on my deck. Each morning I enjoyed coffee out on the deck, savoring the beauty and variety of colors and textures, of the dappling of sunlight across the banister and over my impatiens, pansies, and marigolds, and geraniums.

Then something almost miraculous happened. In the middle of summer, a speck of maroon-colored foliage peeked through the green leaves of my pansies.

What?

Sure enough, as I delved through the greenery and bright purples and pinks of the pansies I saw the children of my oxalis straining beyond the shadows to reach life-giving light.

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The two plants lived harmoniously for the rest of the summer and into the fall. But as the weather has cooled, the pansies have reached the end of their time-lines. But the oxalis will live on.

That plant goes through cycles where it seems to wither and die. But wait a while. Leave it. Go away and look at something else. And when the time is right, come back and scratch into the soil and find a new creation, straining upward.

This is the story of the miracle of God’s creative power. Like the oxalis, we artists—made to reflect God’s image—also go dormant at times. It is not strange, as I once thought about the oxalis. I didn’t understand about such things.

But as writer, I have found that we must be patient when we cycle in and out of creativity and productivity. We need those quiet times while we rest from our frantic pace of growth and reproduction. We must let our minds lie fallow for a time.

And trust God to prepare the new seeds for germination and to enliven the old, dried up roots.

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In the book of Galations, Paul is speaking about those who live to please God, how they will reap a harvest of everlasting life. And for Christian writers, as well as others who love God and seek to care for others, we can draw the same conclusion.

Here is what Paul says in Galatians 6:9, “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”

 

 

 

Love Needs Memories

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Quinn’s grandpa, my loving husband, Bruce

 

My grandfather was an enterprising, intelligent, successful, and moral man. But Alzheimer’s disease stole all of that when he was only in his mid-sixties.

Once, he took his grandchildren down to the San Francisco financial district and gave us lessons about business and banks (all age appropriate) and people, and manners, and proper deportment. He took us on trips to the ocean, even though he was allergic to the sun, to the zoo, and Golden Gate park, and rowed us on Stowe Lake, and treated us to tea and cookies at the Japanese Tea Garden.

 

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Oh how I loved Granddaddy. He also played duets on the piano with my uncle Harold and sang funny songs from another era. He was a good provider, president of his import/export company, a loving husband, and a good gardener.

But Alzheimer’s gradually robbed him of an articulate tongue, of recent memories, and how to do simple things.

I remember visiting my grandparents when I was about fourteen. One night, my grandmother had put Granddaddy in the other bedroom in a twin bed. He was too restless to sleep in the same bed with Grandmommy. I was sleeping in the other twin bed. Granddaddy kept waking up yelling, “Help, help!”

i got up and tried to soothe him. “What wrong, Granddaddy?” He looked scared, and my grandfather had never been scared of anything.

He finally came to full consciousness and said, “It’s nothing. Don’t listen to me. Go back to sleep.”

Eventually my grandmother had to put him in a nursing home. We went to visit him but he didn’t remember us. Didn’t remember that he ever loved us or that he had done so many grandfatherly things with us. All of that was gone.

The last time I visited him, he was very close to death, was in a hospital, and didn’t have a mind. His emaciated body and sunken eyes shocked me. I think he only weighed about 80 pounds. My granddaddy had once been a robust 170 pounds on an average five foot nine frame.

Mercifully, pneumonia took him. I had just turned sixteen. My aunt June, the wonderful singer, tearfully sang for his funeral.

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A recent memory of a drive with my honey on the Cascade Loop and Diablo Lake

I thought, how terrible to lose your memories. When that happens, you don’t remember that you loved someone, and you don’t know that that woman or man standing over your bed loves you.

Being loved and loving others is the most important thing in the world. But if you don’t have any memories of that person or all that you’ve meant to each other, then you don’t love.

Nearly fifty years later, I’m thinking about my love for Jesus. How grateful I am to have memories of all that He’s done for me, His lovingkindness, faithfulness, His provision, His protection. If I lost those memories of all the times He’s revealed Himself to me, would I still love Him?

Psalm 103 says:

“Let all that I am praise the Lord;

may I never forget the good things He does for me.

He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases.

He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies.

He fills my life with good things;

my youth is renewed like the eagles.

 

How grateful I am that I can still remember all these things. I’ve learned not to take memory for granted because I’ve seen how quickly it can be stolen by disease. Yet even though we forget, God will never forget us, or that we are held in His mighty hand. What a comfort!

 

Lessons From a Paraglider

Bruce and I went for a hike last Saturday at the Blanchard. Forest Block. I really enjoy this hike. It’s about seven miles round trip: just right for a morning’s outing. The trail starts out like this.

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I love how the trees stretch and lean toward each other like they’re whispering secrets about the hikers who pass underneath.

Even though this hike is a there and back type—I usually like loops because I don’t like seeing the same thing twice on a hike—this one has a delightful reward: the Sound and the San Juan Islands.

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At the overlook, Bruce and I snacked on trail mix and I snapped a few photos. Right about when we had decided to head on back, a guy and a gal showed up with some colorful cloths bundles and began to unroll it on a gravelly pad just below where we sat.

Aha, they’re going to paraglide. I got my camera ready to grab their images as they floated off.

But, my gosh, they took the longest time preparing for their flight. A couple of other folks showed up, and by their questions to the flying duo, I could tell they knew something about the sport, themselves.

The young man unrolled the kite-like cloth, smoothed it, checked it. Talked. Answered questions. Studied the area, studied the wind conditions. (Barely a breeze.) I wondered how in the world they could get their gliders up in the air with so little wind.

I couldn’t see the woman. She was hidden from view by some bushes. But the guy stood near the precipice, studying, examining, checking his equipment.

Finally, he suited up: harness, helmet. Checking, checking again. And he seemed to enjoy instructing the onlookers about the sport.

I stood there for a full fifteen minutes, holding my camera up, waiting.

The guy was extraordinarily deliberate and methodical. Like a good thriller, his actions made me tingle with anticipation, whetting my appetite, holding me in suspense. Any second, now. Any second.

I’m sure he had no idea I was watching from uphill, practically jumping up and down in my impatience to see him take off.

He raised his arms, like a frigate bird drying its wings. Yes! Get ready…

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And then…and then…

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Lift off!

Immediately afterward, the guy disappeared from view, and I was concerned he’d  plummeted to the sea.

But a couple of seconds later, he re-emerged:

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Beautiful. Almost makes me want to paraglide.

Almost.

Some takeaways from my fifteen minute observation of the paraglider:

  1. The guy was experienced. He didn’t just think he could paraglide. By his conversation and by the way he handled his equipment, he had done this thing many times.
  2. He took his time, which I think is the mark of a seasoned sportsman.
  3. He was gracious to the people who asked him questions. He had a calm, almost humble, attitude, and he was willing to take the time to explain his method.
  4. He patiently waited to take off until his female partner, with her paragliding stuff, was also ready to take off.

Some good questions for me in my writing life or for you and whatever you aspire to:

  • Am I doing all I can to gain experience and continue building my skills, like this paraglider?
  • Am I kind, and am I able to explain my methods to others?
  • Do I take the time to ensure I’m producing a well-thought out, superior product?
  • Can I work well with others, showing consideration and respect for their individual needs and preferences?

I am so glad I stayed to watch this paragliding man. My photos will remind me to imitate a paraglider whenever I work on another writing project.

 

Blackberries: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

 

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The sun is shining this morning. Gloriously so. I knew that even before I opened my eyes because the light penetrated through my eyelids.

A house sparrow perches near my window and sings a long, involved peep, dee, doodly, peep, zee doo-dah, peeply, peep, peep, dee riff. The length of his song makes me breathless, wondering when the tiny bird will come up for air. As a former singer, I wish I had that kind of breath control.

Yay, it’s the season for tulips and daffodils.

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I absolutely love mornings, especially by the sea, and especially when it’s a spring day. But with spring comes the yearly chore begins of inspecting the gardens and deciding what to prune, what to fertilize, what to dig up, what to plant.

Yesterday I spread fertilizer and weed killer on my lawn and wondered why nothing seems to kill the blackberry which has spread from the vacant land behind our house, submarined its way to our unsuspecting lawn, its thorny tentacles emerging  among the blades of grass like horrible zombie fingers from a fresh grave.

Today, I’ll go outside and check to see if there are any more invaders in or around my little patch of grass. Blackberries are like spiders: they’re fine as long as they stay where they belong. In the spider’s case, I talk to them just like this whenever I encounter one: “Okay, spider, just live in the garden and it’ll be live and let live. But if you get it into your spider head to hunt bugs inside my sacred, spider-less abode: you’re dead!”

Same with blackberries. Stay in your patch with all the other blackberry bushes and don’t go thinking—I’m sure blackberry bushes can indeed think—that there are greener pastures, like in my lawn or garden.

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“Die, monster, die!” I growl as I spray and spray and spray weed killer, saturating each thorny length of vine.

I should have been wearing gloves to get this shot:

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A few days later, the blackberry withers, browns, and shrinks back into the earth. But I know it will be back. Blackberries have more lives than cats. I remember my dad doing the annual battle with them back at our home in Lafayette, California. But one year, before my father could poison the vines, my brother, Jay, harvested the berries and we had several week’s worth of blackberry syrup for our pancakes. Wow, was that ever wonderful.

There’s nothing better—in my opinion—than a ripe succulent blackberry. Don’t bother to take them home and wash them. Just blow off the debris and pop that little sucker in your mouth. Heavenly.

But the thorny vines? Oh, the battles I’ve fought, the scars I’ve accrued!

They want blood, they crave human blood. Just like zombies.

And if you think you can merely chop them into submission, you’re wrong. They’ll grow ten more thorny vines to replace the one you amputated. I kind of suspect that if I slept near a blackberry bush, it’d wrap itself around me during the night. That’s how fast they grow.

I wish we had thorn-less blackberry vines. Do they have such a thing? If they did, I’d tear out my lawn and let the blackberry bushes go to town. I’d cut little alley ways vertically and horizontally through the bushes. I’d tenderly nurture the plants-as if they needed it!—and speak to them lovingly, stroke their pretty serrated leaves. I’d plant blackberry bushes in pots and place them on my deck, and show them off to my dinner guests. I’d write poems about how lovely blackberry bushes are, how benign and productive they are, how they serve mankind.

But, alas, the reality of those thorns keep the blackberry vines relegated to the outer limits of my property.

I just hope, that come late July, I get first dibs on the tasty berries. After all, none of my neighbors has had to chop and hack at the blackberries. I’m the one with the battle scars.

Blackberries are a good metaphor for all of nature. You can enjoy them, feast on them, hike near them, even camp near them, but remember, they’re wild!

i’m not going to even try to construct some kind of biblical metaphor with blackberry vines as the evil intruder and how we, as Christians need to be on our guard to keep at bay their intrusion.

Nope. Blackberries have wonderful tasting berries, but they’re intrusive and their thorns are lethal for your unprotected skin. That’s it. Anything else is just plain silly.

 

 

 

A Nature Day

I knew before I even opened my eyes this morning that Spring was going to make a showing this morning.

I was not disappointed. The fog dissipated, crocuses on the front yard are opening, birds arrived on my porch, looking for black sunflowers in the bird feeder. It’s empty. Another errand to do this morning.

And I’m not going to apologize for getting exercise. Yes, I need to get writing done.

But first….. a long walk.

I drove down Fairhaven Parkway and found a place to park. Took the Interurban trail down to Marine Park. When I got there, a bunch of older guys had suited up and put their kayaks in the calm waters. I got a good photo of them as they paddled off into the sound.

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On my way back from the park, a freight train neared. I love to stand up close to trains as they pass and be bowled over by their size and the blaring horns at the crossings. I guess I’m still a kid inside.

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A little farther up, I encountered these sleeping ducks. They didn’t mind me at all. Even the train didn’t rouse them. I wish I knew what that big whitish fellow is on the top right. Oh, and a flock of white geese flew overhead, going north. Perfect V-formation. Does anyone know what they are? Not Canada Geese.

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And on my walking route back to my car, I passed this old building. It’s name makes me chuckle. In case you can’t read it, it says, “Bailey Brothers Building and Loan.” A reference to the building and loan business of the same name in the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life. One of my all-time favorite classic movies.

 

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I went to Lowe’s and purchased an enormous bag of black sunflower seeds for my birds. When I went out to my porch to refill the squirrel-proof feeder, I found ample evidence of the squirrels’ displeasure. They’d been foiling me in my attempt to save some seeds for the birds. So I bought  a hanging feeder that uses the squirrel’s own weight to press down on a lever that prevents the squirrels from extracting seeds.

They’re awfully mad at me, as you can clearly see by what they’ve left behind.

 

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Oh well, it’s a beautiful day. The sun is shining. I’ve had a five mile walk, and finished it with a delicious cup of coffee from Tony’s Coffee House.

Not to mention, I got lots of time to pray during those five miles. Thank you, Lord, for this unusual chunk of time for refreshment.