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Sunday, October 28, 2007

At the peak

Red Oak at its peak
I can see it from my workspace window standing tall at the fork of the entry driveway just inside the orchard fence. The red oak is at its peak. The once green of its large oblong pointed lobed leaves is now barely visible. In some leaves the dead leaf brown begins to show. This is the perfect in between time; when the more brilliant red than orange six month old clothing catches my attention. Unlike us who button up and put on heavier coats, the oak with each wind gust shivers and shakes off top-coat layers to bare itself for winter. As the leaves dance to the ground, I go outside and gather some of the best leaves pressing them between waxed paper (with newspaper to keep wax off the ironing board and iron). I then flattened them with heavy books, hoping to preserve the color for our family to enjoy at our Thanksgiving table.

Wendell Barry mentions that trees planted on a farm are a sign of the owner’s “long-term good intentions for the place.” With the hundreds of trees Neil has planted here, he certainly has made a mark for genreations to come. The oak, now about 30 feet tall could last 500 years and mature to 90 or 120 feet tall reflecting his hope for the future. How many generations is five hundred years? I have hope in the future as well, but it comes in the daily pleasures that are hints of the glory of God who will outlast the oldest tree. I guess that is one reason why I try to write a weekly blog to attempt to capture the week in time, press it on the page to preserve the color for family and friends. I admit that I have been “off”, not at peak performance, these last few weeks. Just too much going on and no time to sit and think. So today, over a week late, I shed off my other responsibilities putting on my long term good intentions for this blog as Neil has headed off the island to buy more trees.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Instead of writing

Asian Pear
Biological Preserve

Monday, October 22, 2007


Harvesting the last of the tomatoes

Green with Envy

We harvested the rest of the tomatoes this week and instead of making a lot of sauce, I gave most of them away to those whose tomatoes only got green.
When a gift is given, it is for the receiver to do whatever they wish with it; otherwise it is not a gift. This is not only for gifts given by people but by God. Sometimes I don’t appreciate the gifts He gives and I try instead to do something that doesn’t come easy or doesn’t give joy. I realized this week when taking a watercolor class that I actually enjoyed it. I have neglected painting for many years and was persuaded to take the class in order for it to be held at our community building, the teacher needing a certain number to make it worth while for her to come to this island. I usually like to be in the background, but the only seat left was one up front and I tried to make do with a wash that I had done the week before not wanting to waste the paper. I copied off a photo that was taken at the biological preserve and decided on a horizontal orientation. When the teacher came up to me to see how I was doing, she took it away and said, “You are finished,.” and hung it on the board for all to see. She didn’t make any comment but I received some from others in the class that were upset that I finished so soon with a decent picture. Perhaps I’ll just post pictures for awhile. Writing has been just too difficult and I keep getting further away from my desired Sunday posts. I don’t think writing is one of my gifts, although I do ask God for help. I give these to you each week to read even though some are not ripened or finished. You can do what you want with them.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

October discovery

When Mom died of cancer February 1993, Dad placed in my hand the silver necklace, a charm attached to a long chain, which she wore all the time. It was a gift, a remembrance of Mom, and perhaps he thought it would comfort me since I too was going through cancer treatment, diagnosed the previous October. I wish I could have been there for her but the 3000 miles apart and my treatment made it hard.

Dad bought it for Mom on one of his travels to Rio as a Bank Examiner. The charm was in the form of a lower arm, with cuff and wrist bracelet with the hand clenched into a fist. On the cuff standing out in raised letters was the word “Brasil”, how Brazilians spell it, and an anchor design on the back of the cuff. Later when she needed a colostomy and radiation treatments, she began to wear it all the time, with her own right fist clenching the hand of silver as it lay at the end of the long chain on her chest. It was almost as though it was her anchor, another hand she could hold that was always there. I too, after receiving it, wore it going through the treatments when I was feeling especially vulnerable, hurting, alone or just missing Mom. I would grasp the hand that Mom grasped and in a way it was like having her close. It was not until it was in my possession that I took a good look at it. The fist was not an ordinary fist but had the thumb placed between the index and middle finger. It was not until a few weeks ago that I took time to find out the meaning of that fist. Called a figa, this amulet is used for good luck common in Brazil. The figa or higa supposedly came to Brazil through the African slaves brought to the West Indies and beyond, and used to ward off the evil eye or demons, and diseases. It was also brought to the West Indies with seamen of the Spanish Armada again worn for protection especially against shipwrecks. I don’t believe in good luck charms, only the grace and sovereignty of God. Man made objects cannot protect us as evidenced by the multitude of Figas retrieved from shipwrecks in museums in Bermuda and Florida and Dominican Republic and no protection from disease for Mom. I also found that this particular fist gesture is an obscenity in some countries.

Mother and Dad would have been mortified if they realized what she was wearing. Not only the obscenity of it, but a man made object whose purpose is to trust it for protection rather than in God’s sovereignty and faithfulness would go against their beliefs. So I contemplated how to get rid of the necklace.

Last week I traveled to the city, driving a friend back and heading to a luncheon to benefit mobile mammogram programs. I still have a hard time with October, the month I was first diagnosed, but wanted to recognize and celebrate my 15th year survival anniversary. So on that day, that would have been Dad’s 100th birthday, I stood on the deck of the ferry as we traveled past a reef marker towards Anacortes, with the witness of my friend, and with much celebration, praising God, grabbed a hold of that hand for the last time and flung this charm into the deep. I could almost hear Dad and Mom clapping and celebrating too.

“Lord You Are More Precious than Silver” I sing.

Monday, October 8, 2007

More manna

City crows gathering daily French fry road kill

Lately whenever we travel to the city, I notice more crows congregating in large family groups. From early autumn until breeding season the individual needs of most birds are suppressed and they become community minded. 1 So instead of a cormorant, it is a gulp of cormorants, a cast of falcons, a gaggle of geese, a covey of grouse, a colony of gulls, a flight of swallows, a host of sparrows, a murmeration of starlings, an unkindness of ravens and a murder or storytelling of crows. 2 So here is my story telling about crows.

We drove to the city for a few days this last week to gather with family and friends. In between times I ran errands in Madison Park and ran into crows, congregating with their constant cawing. As I was walking along the sidewalk an acorn dropped right in front of my face, just missing my head. I looked up to see the crow culprit sitting on the telephone pole watching. So I started watching the crows instead. Near the park I saw one ingenious pair dropping the hard sycamore fruit out on the street to be cracked by the next motorist to come along, afterwards retrieving the seeds. Further down the sidewalk I saw the trash receptacles were so full the crows had a party and invited all their extended family. It was near here the crows were contemplating the demise of a French fry run over by a delivery truck. This flattening produced no seeds but an opportunity for a game. It could be called King crow on the French fry which included a lookout partner or a game of who can stay the longest peeling it off the pavement before getting run over by a truck. Perhaps there was a claim on this fry before I happened to come along, a story behind it all, the finding the bag in the trash and distribution of it all until the last fry. Then the decision of who gets it and perhaps the dropping it from the air and another catching it on the fly with the last crow mistakenly dropping it to the pavement just before the truck came and flattened it, and every time they tried to get it, another truck came along. So when they finally had an opportunity to congregate in the street there was much ceremony in taking the last fry because they didn’t want this game to end.

I've rewritten this ending every day this week since the post to no satisfaction. You'd think I was hit on the head by that acorn with all the trouble writing I've had this week. One day I'm community and family minded, the next day I want some space; one day having fun, the next having a frown, one day glad to give up my needs for others, the next day, upset that I did or that others didn't give up their needs for me. I wish it was as easy for me as it is crows, to know my place and give way to community for a season. But then I realize I have available the daily manna of grace for me through Jesus Christ who died for me, not crows.

Ecclesiastes 3:2 "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:"
If you missed this video, go to or you can search "A storytelling of crows"

1.Eliot Howard, Territory in Bird Life
2 James Lipton, An Exaltation of Larks

Monday, October 1, 2007

Daily bread

recreated the next day

This week the raccoons harvested the Bartlett pears; and ravens harvested the loaf of bread left outside in a basket. I was distracted.
The phone rang and I left it there all alone for awhile. When I came back for it, there was neither sign nor crumb. Next day I apologized to the men building the rock wall
That morning they were waiting for the promised bread.
It was manna from heaven for the ravens instead.

Fall is here, the gathering season, and I think about the Israelites in the wilderness daily going outside their tents to gather manna, a flaky substance that they made into cakes. It was God’s daily provision for them. They gathered only enough for that day, except the day before the Sabbath they gathered twice as much and it lasted two days. Other days if they tried to gather too much, what they didn’t use rotted.

This week I am trying not to look too far ahead. I want to daily depend on God for whatever He wants of me, not do more than I need to do, not expect too much, just trust what He has for me this day and do it with His power. Give me this day my daily bread. I know He will provide whatever I need for the day in order to provide for others. I ask Him to just help me not to get distracted.

Exodus 16:11-21