Cruel Beauty in our Lives

For all these years that I have been maintaining this monologue, I have always tried to “call ’em as I see ’em”, as they look to me; with minimum prejudice and bias. And in those things in which I am biased, I try to tell you such. I try to maintain integrity.

I have worked under many different Bosses, Masters, and Chiefs; and with only one exception, they always, always, expected from me nothing but the truth; such is the basis of integrity.

Tonight, the mountains amongst which I live, teach a lesson: sometimes within great beauty lies great cruelty. But the cruelty is never hidden; and so they maintain integrity. They pretend to be nothing more than they are.

Look at this gorgeous sunset happening along the Ridge tonight:

To look at it for any time during this time of year requires several things: proper cold-weather gear, preparation, and a steely resolve to see what wildness is there. And maybe some alcohol for medicinal warming purposes.

But in just a half hour, the cruelty of the Ridge begins to reveal itself: falling temperatures, higher winds, falling snow levels (if snow was coming). Now look at that same Ridge, not even forty-five minutes later:

The clouds are rolling over the top of the Ridge, the deepening chill ready to catch and punish anyone who is unprepared and unaware.

All this is to draw a loose parallel to the situation that my great nephew finds himself in: five years ago, he fell hard for a person of a stunning beauty and sharp personality; but who hid a dark pretense and in whom five years’ time has revealed a deep cold streak.

In the beginning, things seemed to have gone well: they seemed happy together, they were building a life. Her sharp wit was welcome in the family. 

But now, after five years, the cold streak has revealed itself. The beauty of the landscape has now revealed its cruel side: one for which we as a family were unprepared. 

It came subtly: Casual remarks became more cutting. The physical closeness which one always observes in newlyweds seemed to dissolve in annoyance. The personal integrity crumbled and became darker, colder; revealing a cruel twist: She had planned to leave him for months, waiting until after Christmas. However, her intentions were unmasked on Halloween, her words shedding any ideas he had of a loving bond between them; uncaring that she was crushing his spirit without any kindness of a gentle letdown.
In retrospect, she appears to have used him to get what she wanted: horses, tack, outfits, saddles, truck and horse trailer, dressage entry fees.

And now she’s left. And he, one who loves deeply and gives without reservation, is crushed. Abandoned. Alone. A gentle soul is having to resort to draconian tactics, just to get some communication going.

Which leaves me asking, how could this have happened? Is a person so innately self-centered that they needed to, had to, outfit herself in a type of mental armour, just to put on a great pretense and SAY that she is giving herself to another person?

If it was so bad, so terribly, awfully intolerable; why was nothing said? Why the great act of ‘dumping’ the other person in a way that certainly causes the most bruising to a gentle soul, one who gives and loves blindly?

Maybe I live in a fantasy world.

I have the great fortune to have been married to a wonderful, loving, giving, warmhearted person for 43 years now. We just celebrated that anniversary a week, plus a few days, ago. We give ourselves to each other, trusting that the other will not in any way abuse that trust. But to understand that if it is in the smallest way abused, that we will immediately inform the other; so that it would not be unintentionally continued.

Meanwhile, to my wife: I give myself to you; I accept your gift of yourself to me; let us live in the fullness and in the sacred trust of that gift.

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God’s Timing is Perfect, Especially When Mine Isn’t

I had a rather scary incident last Thursday. It reminded me of my mortality and my fragility in some physical areas.

As you already know, now is the time of blasting winter winds up here on the side of the mountain, the roaring and commotion unceasing for weeks. Our winds lately have been averaging 15 knots, with gusts up to 40 knots. At our current temperatures, this results in wind-chill numbers of the low twenties to single-digits.

Back to the story: I’d been working late on Trash Day, so when I got to our little country lane, it was long, long, after dark. I pulled my flashlight from my pocket, expecting to find the garbage can blown to one of its usual places.

Not so.

It was nearly a hundred feet away, clear across the busy main road, in the neighbor’s ditch. But at least it was at the top of the ditch, down just a bit from the edge, and hung up on a bush. Normally on rough ground like this, I take a walking-stick of some sort. But I judged that I wouldn’t need it for this job.

I was wrong.

As soon as I stepped over the edge of the ditch, things started to go wrong. I had to take a number of steps downward to keep from falling and impaling myself on the broken branches of trees and bushes in the ditch.
(The County comes along in the summers to clean ditches, and their current method is to use a chain-flail mower on an articulating arm to smash trees and bushes down – oh, but not to ground level, but just above.)

I managed to get turned around and got the can in one hand to steady myself. But it was going to be really hard to get out of that ditch without falling. There was nothing to grab onto, no way of getting real purchase. I could take short steps and was at least moving in the right direction; but boy, my old knees were complaining.

It was at this point that I prayed aloud for God to help me; I wasn’t going to get out of that ditch easily.

Suddenly out of the roaring darkness, my neighbor showed up and with a hand under my arm, got me out of there.

An answer to prayer.

Exactly when I needed it.

Thank you. Thank you Dave. Thank you Lord.

And I have an addition to my Christmas list: a grappling hook and 10 meters of throwing line.

More reasons to be thankful – a photo post

My wonderful wife, beset with so many challenges, is cooking again.

I cannot begin to describe the depth of joy which this brings to my heart. It is, in the words of Miami Sound Machine, “Coming out of the dark”. She had given up cooking in abject frustration and despair as to do so was presenting too many challenges for her: standing, carrying, bending, and so on – all things needed for, and associated with, cooking.

She had so very long ago claimed the kitchen and cooking as her domain. She has always enjoyed cooking and cooking-related things, including researching new ideas and methods. It has always been a joy to her. I got to trespass in her domain only briefly for things like breakfast.

And now she’s beginning to do cooking again. I see this as the beginning of healing from all these challenges she has had to face, which I will not enumerate.

We are looking forward, not back.

But look what we produced together yesterday:

This was one of the easiest ways to do a turkey, and she had spent about a week doing research. This method involved using a cooking bag, (See Cook’s Country, current issue) and the turkey turned out GREAT. Moist, and look at the browning! One caveat: the turkey cooks faster in a bag, WAY faster. You have to watch it. We overcooked it just a bit, but it was hard to tell that we did, because it was moist and flavorful. We’ll do better, next time; live and learn.

The best thing: None of this dangerous stuff from before, like trying to turn a hot turkey from breast to back halfway through cooking – which is what we did last time. And I got at least a couple dozen new gray hairs on that day. I cannot tell you how stressful that was…

But to reemphasize the lead: I am so proud of her for taking up cooking again. We did good things together yesterday. And even made side dishes.

After putting away the food, we fell into bed exhausted, and slept in today. Now to tackle the kitchen.

In her words, “Eek, eek, eek…”

 

Yeah, there is a giant stack of dishes to do – and a lot of stuff out of sight to the left – but you know what? I’m doing it with a light heart:

Because she’s cooking and enjoying herself in the kitchen – her claimed domain – once again.

.

Healing comes. Healing… comes.
A tearful ‘Thank you’, Lord.

New Weather Station Finally Installed

My wonderful wife got me a new weather station a while ago; I’d been waiting for my nephew to be in the area and we’d install it together. But I just couldn’t wait any longer, so I started thinking about how I’d do the install. Several things had to be taken into account:

  • The weather station has to be completely clear of ground turbulence. This is something the old one wasn’t.
  • I have to be able to get to it to service it; to clean out the rain collector, and every few years, change the backup battery.
  • It has to be in a location where it samples the weather from the Ravine – the winds are different down there by the Ravine, as are the temperatures. I’ve seen as much as a 4° difference in temperature, plus wind velocity differences of as much as 10 knots.

In thinking about how I’d put it up, I came up with the idea of using an extendable painting pole – perfect for the job, as it’s UV-resistant, it collapses down to a usable height for servicing, and if the weather station gets knocked off-angle (due to a bird landing on it or some such thing) it’s easily re-pointed to the right direction.

The weather station requires about a 1-1/2″ pole for mounting. The end of the painting pole is much less than that, but if you remove the last extension segment, the poly-material that makes up the top clamp is exactly the right size. You have to have a sharp knife (I didn’t think to try a hacksaw) to slit the poly-material so that the last extension segment will pull completely out. Then the U-bolt for the weather station not only grips the poly-material, but locks everything nicely in place. This leaves you with a single-extension painting pole that is stiff and stout enough to support the weather station.

Here’s a photo of it in action last night. Dara is on sniffabout here, and so is included for ‘cute factor’.

(Click to enlarge and zoom in.)
Some statistics: The new weather station is a Davis Vantage Vue; the painting pole is a two-extension-segment fiberglass and aluminum model I got from Amazon. Both are Made In America.

The Owls Are Back!

Tonight, I am sitting out and reading, and I heard something I have been missing since Spring:

Owl calls.

From across the Ravine, I heard a Great Horned Owl hooting away, and later, his hunting call: “aaaaaAAAAAH?”

And later, another owl call, one I’ve not heard in a long time-perhaps a Snowy…?

The Hunter’s Moon is waxing, and the strong winds are making the leaves dance upon the meadows; Winter is coming quickly, and may it not be as harsh as it was last year.

Tonight, Deneb is bright overhead, and the winds have quieted, leaving a chilling cold in their wake.

The hills shift gently into chilly silence, as people finally arrive home from a hard day’s work.

I am fortunate to be here tonight to listen and observe.

God’s glory sometimes whispers quietly, in the cooling stillness of a darkening evening, rather than the blazing glory of a  spectacular sunrise.

May we always have the ears to hear the attestation of his love. Even in the cold and dark.

Chimichanga Omelettes – a different take on Omelettes

This is one of those things which came to me while lying awake early in the morning, in a “hey, what if…?”, mad-scientist sort of moment.

Sure, they’re not really figure-friendly, but they turned out well…

We had a couple of the store-bought chimichangas left in the freezer, and the more I thought about this, the more interesting it sounded. But before doing these, I checked with my wife, who doesn’t like “unconventional” breakfasts, and she said this sounded good to her. So away we go…

First, I heated/cooked the chimichangas in the microwave according to their package directions, going a little shorter on cook time to make up for the time they’d spend in the pan. Then I put them in a skillet to crisp up the outsides and keep them hot. This skillet will become my “topper” to bake the Omelettes from the top.

A couple eggs and a shot of Ranch for fluffiness..

Into the hot pan that’s had a pat of butter, and the trick of lifting the edges to let the uncooked eggs flow under. Here, we’re ready to cook the top:

And now the one pan on top of the other. This is something I thought of a while ago, for a time-saving and energy-saving technique. You don’t have to have the oven on and waste all that power/gas. Meanwhile in the hot pan, the chimichangas are still crisping. Perfect multitasking…

And the result:

Note how puffy! Now to turn it out onto the plate, and to insert the chimichangas into the middle, as I’m turning them out. This required a bit of fancy dancing with the camera (phone) while this was happening.

And the way it came out:

What would I do different? I used butter in the pan with the chimichangas, thinking that would help make them crispier; it did initially, but the butter soaked in, creating the opposite effect.

Did they turn out well? Oh yeah. This was a breakfast that kept us going all day. I’d recommend a good hot sauce to accompany them. Something not too spicy; so you can enjoy all the flavors here.

Hope you give them a try, and enjoy them as much as we did.

Summer and Fall, shaking hands

I think of the seasons, sometimes like affectionate brothers, sometimes like atagonistic brothers; shaking hands. 

Sometimes the embrace is warm, hands gripping forearms; sometimes it’s fingers, barely touching fingers. 

This season, it’s a warm embrace. (So far.)

The sunset tonight seemed symbolic:

A gentle fading of colors…

And a gentle handoff of Summer, to Fall…

And tonight, it is as if Fall is stepping up to embrace Summer, as if to say, “it is my turn now”. 

The crickets are in full song, applauding Summer as it exits; the winds herald Fall’s entry, bringing showers and rain and cool, gray days. 

The chill air presses upon my summer-accommodated skin, cooling me so much that it drives me inside.

I marvel at the work of God’s hand, in that he made us adaptive to so many different different environments; even though I am “cold” now, I’ll be the same kind of “cold” when there’s snow on the ground.

Tonight, I can see Vega and Deneb overhead. Other constellations just hint at their presence through the cloud cover.

Thank you Lord. Thank you for the things we can see, and for those which we cannot see.