Hot Days and Tansy (a photo post)

The last few days it’s been working up to uncomfortably hot, and yesterday we hit a peak. It was actually hotter here than it was in Los Angeles.

That’s a distinction I’d like to avoid as much as possible. Honest.

Saturday I attempted to get an early start on mowing the tansy; at least the County allows us to just mow the stuff down to keep it from going to seed. It takes a few years, but eventually the plant gets stressed out from being mowed and finally dies. There was quite a lot of it in the upper meadow; and the job is complicated by the blackberry thorns being extra-sharp and aggressive this year. See, the tansy seems to like to grow inside the perimeter of the blackberry bushes, which means you have to get brave and just dive right in there with the tractor. So I took out my aggressions on the tansy by mowing back the blackberries – no matter how much they gouged me. My scabbed-up forearms attest to this.

In case you’re not familiar with Tansy Ragwort, here’s a link to what it is, why it’s so nasty, and why we have to work to eradicate it. There are several links and fact sheets at the bottom of the page. I’ve seen what it does to livestock, and it is NOT pretty. In fact, leaving the stuff around for livestock to eat is just damn cruel. Tansy kills. Slowly and painfully.

Back to getting rid of it. You can see here how the tansy likes to ‘hide’ in the taller grass, which would otherwise be food for the deer and elk.

It took a good hour and a half in the heat and dust of my smaller upper meadow, to knock down the tansy.

And then I get to the front meadow, and here is my… (okay, I’m not going to call the guy a moron, but…) neighbor, who was supposed to have taken care of this quarter acre which was fully infested with tansy a few weeks ago – here’s what it looked like then:

And I guess he thinks he tried. But there is no ‘good enough’ when it comes to tansy. He played around for an hour or so with his excavator-toy, but did he get it all? No. With tansy, one plant is one plant too many! The stuff reproduces like the worst of weeds, and because this … (not calling him an idiot) person was too lazy to finish the job, there’s still tansy, getting ready to go to seed.

And where do the seeds go…? Into my place. Thanks … buddy.

Couple years ago when they moved in, I was trying to be helpful and warn them about things like roving bands of coyotes, the harsh weather up here on the side of the mountain, they told me that “we’re used to living in the country, we know all about it”.

Well, dammit, I submit you don’t. Kicking your dogs out of my meadows is not my idea of fun, nor is trying to keep your goat from climbing on my car and truck. And dealing with your lack of willingness to learn is getting frustrating. Especially when I’m hot and my knees are going to ache for days.

I’m praying for patience. Really. And I hope it comes soon.

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Old Guy Stories – in other words: “Yarning”

I had breakfast with my best friend of all time a while ago; I’ve known him longer than I’ve known my wife. And we had fun swapping stories.

It occurred to me that while they won’t fill a book, these are things from the nineteen-fifties, -sixties, and -seventies that we’ll never see nor hear of again; and they really should be written down and shared.

They won’t be in any order, and I’ll add to this as I think of things. Just like any old-guy yarning.

Okay, away we go: Get a cup of coffee and pull up a chair at the table.

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When I was an Apprentice Mechanic, the “Service Station” that I worked at had a clientele ranging from the most disadvantaged to the well-to-do doctors, lawyers, and other professionals. We also made a good business of caring for antique cars. Our place was at the bottom of a big hill, a hill where all the “nicer” houses in town were built. The hospital was also up there, one block up, and two blocks over.

Doc Turner had two Cadillacs: his was a ’62, Cadillac Black of course, and a true Sedan de Ville – a two-door sedan, with those big, heavy doors. Hers was a ’66 Sedan de Ville, a blue 4-door with a white roof. I knew where he lived, so one afternoon he asked us to run his car back up to his place, and please park it in the garage; leave the keys on the back counter, the back door’s open. No problem, Doc. We’ll have her back in a couple hours.

Driving that car was like piloting the USS Saratoga – ye gods, it was HUGE. And of course any little push on the gas would bring that giant V8 to life, and the car would shoot forward. Doc even had a piece of foam glued to the front of the gas pedal to help in controlling it. Even so, the hills tamed it to a point where it was a pussycat crossing the flat streets. I got up to his place, and as I turned into the driveway, I saw that the garage was TINY. And it had her Cadillac in the left side of it!

Oh lordy, now what…? I did some careful looking, as that big car rumbled at idle. Would… it… fit?

I looked back and forth for a minute, the car idling. Well, it just might

I carefully eased forward. There was about an inch and a half clearance between the front right fender and the edge of the garage door, and about the same amount to her car, on my side.

My heart was in my mouth. I for SURE didn’t want to scrape up Doc’s beautiful black paint, and marking up her baby blue Caddy would pretty much guarantee that my name would be Mud for years to come.

I started to enter the garage, listening for sounds which would ensure my doom. A tortoise would have easily won a race with me, I was going so slowly.

The front fenders began to penetrate into the shadowy interior of the garage. Then what seemed like ten minutes later, the base of the windshield entered the shadows. All the while, there was just this little tiny bit of clearance, and so far I hadn’t hit, bumped, or scraped anything.

What seemed like another dozen minutes passed, and then somehow I had the car most of the way into the garage. I switched on the headlights to see exactly where the wall was, and began to ease into position.

It then occurred to me that I had no way to get out of the car.

I started to think about taking off my shoes and socks and how I’d climb out the window, then make my way backward, one foot on each car…

I then looked to my right, and noticed the side door of the garage was starting to line up with the passenger’s door. And that side door was open. …What’s more, it looked like if I parked the car just… right… the car door would line up with the outside door, and swing outward, into it.

Now I started to look back and forth between the front wall of the garage and the passenger door, judging the swing of it against where the car was starting to get close to the back wall of the garage.

I chose a spot to stop, set the parking brake, and switched off the engine. My heart slowed, and I started to breathe easier. The door looked like it lined up pretty good, and I figured I could move the car a little bit if my guess was off too far. I pulled the keys and slid across the seat to the passenger’s door. Moment-of-truth time. I carefully opened the passenger’s door, and it swung outward. Outward toward the side of the garage door’s frame. NO! I grabbed it just in time, stopping it just before it would have banged into the garage’s side-entry door framing.

I stepped out of the car, and had just enough space between the car and the wall to stand up, reach the passenger’s door, and close it, and then squeeze past the car to step out the door. Doc was a really tall, lanky kind of guy, what we used to call ‘a beanpole’. He had to be sixty or seventy, and was in marvelous shape. I figured that he could get back into the car pretty easily, with me parking it this way. But dang, I had to tell the boss about this before anything blew up on me.

I found the back door standing open, just as Doc had said; so I dropped the keys on the counter where they couldn’t be seen from outside, and began the hike back to the station. All the way back, I had plenty of time to think about how I’d parked that car, and lots of time to worry about the consequences.

As soon as I got back, I found the boss and told him I’d put the car into the garage, next to hers. His reaction wasn’t what I’d expected: “Good. You didn’t scratch either of them, did you?”

“No-no-no! But holey cow, it was a real sweat to get that car into the garage!” At that point, he began to chuckle. “Good for you. I figured it was time you got yourself a little character built… That garage was made for two ’39 Fords to fit side by side, and it’s some feat of driving that neither of those cars has not a single scratch on them after all these years. Can you imagine doing that every day? But I’d bet that’s how Doc Turner stays so fit! He has to do all those gymnastics every time he wants to get in and out of his car. So, did you see how it works for HER car?” I admitted that I was so scared that I’d done something wrong, that I forgot to look. “Well, with hers, it’s kind of the same thing. Her doors are a foot and a half shorter, so she just parks so that the door swings out against the side of the garage, and then she just steps right outside from the car. I don’t know what they would ever do if they forgot and locked either of those garage doors.”

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One afternoon, we’d finished up a restore-to-drivability service on a little Ford.

A 1955 Thunderbird: 22,000 miles. Original, unrestored, in that salmon pink color. (Yeah I know, but remember, it was the 50’s.) It really didn’t look like anything special, just another car that was twenty-some years old and that just sat most of the time. It was the early part of summer, and the owner was going to be driving it periodically again. And the car was perfect, exactly the way it came out of the Ford factory, every part original (well, except for replaceable stuff like the fan belt, wiper blades, and spark plugs).

Anyway, it was done, we didn’t want it just sitting there in the lot, and so it needed to be delivered. I spoke up first, and the boss relented.

“BUT!!” He spoke with great sternness, getting right in my face: “I will NOT give you the keys unless you promise one thing.”

Sure, name it.

“Every intersection, and I MEAN EVERY INTERSECTION, you STOP COMPLETELY and LOOK BOTH WAYS!!”

Ooookayyyy… and this is … why?

“Almost every one of these cars that’s been in a wreck, has been T-boned. It’s because you can’t see out of them, to see if anything’s coming to the side! NOW, PROMISE ME!!”

Yes, sir, I promise.

“WHAT are you promising? Tell me!”

That at EVERY intersection, I will stop and look both ways.

“NO! You will STOP COMPLETELY and look both ways! Say it!”

I will stop completely and look both ways.

“Do you PROMISE!?!”

Yes, I promise.

“All right then. Here’s the key.”

I went over to the little T-Bird and threw in a towel to sit on, then sat and carefully swung in, so as to not touch the door or the frame with my shoes. We were careful around all antiques in this manner; that’s one of the reasons we had a good business in them. Meanwhile, we’d done a good job here: she fired right up and that little V8 settled into a smooth idle.

I closed the door and sat up into driving position. Holey cow, NOW I saw what the boss meant. Although my head didn’t hit the inside of the roof, the front edge of it came to well below my eyes. I had to hunker down to see out the front. Carefully I eased the gear selector into Drive, looked around to clear the lot, and made for the side exit of the station. I stopped at the edge of the curb and looked both ways. Clear.

I eased onto the gas and began to ease my way out. I heard the boss yell, “Good job. That’s the way to do it. Now do them all like that!”

It was kind of cool, driving a little car like that, even though the wheel was huge in comparison with today’s cars that have power steering. This did not, and even so, it communicated the road surface nicely back through the wheel.

I made it to the top of the hill. Stopping completely, I checked both ways as I signalled for a right turn. Clear. I eased onto the gas and rolled forward.

Exactly one block.

Then I stopped again, and looked both ways. Clear. Satisfied, I rolled forward. This car was fun to drive; I bet it’d be a hoot on a country road.

But I remembered my solemn promise, and stopped completely at the next intersection, which again was exactly one block. And I looked both ways.

Onward I rolled, stopping at each and every intersection, remembering my promise.

Twelve blocks later, this was starting to get really tedious.

And repetitive.

But I’d made a promise, and dammit, I was going to keep it.

I stopped at the next intersection, and looked both ways. Again.

Clear. Or so I thought.

I was just about to take my foot off the brake, when something caught my eye from the left: it was a car… and not just any car; it was a great big old Buick, the kind made with about ten tons of iron, coming downhill REALLY fast.

The guy hadn’t seen me, because the T-bird was so low.

He zoomed through the intersection at what had to be a good 35 MPH in town (where are the cops when you need them…), with the speed boost from coming downhill for so long.

Then I realised, that if I’d started through the intersection, I would have been T-boned. And probably hurt really badly. Not to mention that it would have been my fault for really screwing up a customer’s antique.

NOW I was scared. I had about ten blocks to go.

There is no way to express the relief I felt when I finally pulled into the Customer’s garage, put the T-bird in Park, set the brake, and switched off the engine. I pulled the door down behind it, went to the house and hung the key in the secret spot by the back door; all as instructed.

Towel in hand, I began the walk back to the station. The shakes had finally quit by the time I walked in the garage; I found the boss and told him he was absolutely right. And why. (And I also knew that if any of our customers were around to witness this, that the story would get back to him sooner or later.)

To his credit, all he did was nod sagely.

 

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We had an important Customer who needed his ’63 Lincoln Continental 4-door (yes, the suicide doors) started. His wife was going to be driving it, and it wouldn’t turn over.

Three of us got into the service truck: the boss, the shop manager, and me. We had everything we needed to get it going, as that car tended to sit for long periods of time between being run.

We arrived at the house, a smaller, unassuming place, but with a big single garage. Inside slumbered the Lincoln.

The boss went to the door and got all the keys; I was standing by with a hand oiler (that’s the proper name for the trigger-pull oil can you hold in your hand), and gave both the lock and the handle a shot, holding a rag underneath to catch any drips.

The door screeched open, and I went to work on the track and rollers. Up and down twice, and it was silent.

Now the guys came in to get the car started. The boss opened the door, pulled on the headlights… and nothing. So the battery is indeed dead; so that’s where we start. He pulled on the latch to open the hood.

It’s important to note here that on those years of Lincolns, the hood opened from the back. That meant we all had to be careful about not bashing it on the ceiling as it opened, and because it couldn’t be opened all the way, that inhibited access to the battery. And the jump cables had to go across the fender. I brought in a cloth to cover the fender, then went back outside.

I stood there outside, biding my time as the guys got the battery hooked up to the Start-A-Car and made ready. A couple shots of gas down the carburetor throat, plus a few more to get gas into the fuel bowl, and they were ready to try it.

The shop manager stepped back, took the long cord from the Start-A-Car that ended in a control button on the end, and put his thumb on it; the Start-A-Car clacked loudly as the relay snapped over and fed about 80 amps to the battery. He gave the boss the thumbs-up.

The boss turned the key, and that big Lincoln engine  started to turn over, slowly at first, then picking up speed as oil got to the engine bearings… CHOW—-WOW—-WOW—-WOW—-WOW–WOW–WOW–WOW-WOW-WOWOWOWOWOWOWOW….

Nothing. The boss let off the key so the starter could cool for a minute. The shop manager let off the control button and the relay in the Start-A-Car snapped back with a loud THUMP.

Outside, I could see them both looking at their watches, waiting for about 45 seconds to go by. Then the clack and the thumbs-up again.

Again, the same drama with the starter growling; this time the shop manager gave a couple of shots of gas straight down the carb, as the top of the air cleaner had been left off for just this reason.

That big engine almost caught; it tried to clear its throat, but there wasn’t gas coming to the carb from the fuel pump yet. That gas tank was a long ways away.

A couple more shots of gas down the carb, and the engine caught and ran on its own, but it was really rough; it was going TUHHHHH–TUH-TUH-TUH—TUH-TUH-TUH-TUH….and then it began to hit on more and more cylinders. Finally it settled into a roar, and the boss let off the gas to let it slow down to the top step on the choke; to high idle. Meanwhile, I’m outside and I’ve moved upwind, because the Lincoln is smoking heavily. I saw the shop manager disconnect the Start-A-Car and begin to pack it up. He put the air cleaner cover back on, and spun the wingnut home to put it all back in place. Leaving the fender cloth in place, he came out of the garage with the Start-A-Car, and just as I was helping him put it back into the service truck, we saw…

The backup lights on the Lincoln came on.

The shop manager exclaimed, “What the hell…?”

The hood was still up.

We jumped out of the way as there came a tremendous CRASH, as the Lincoln’s hood caught on the garage door. That monster motor, even though it was still a bit sick, had plenty of guts to move that big car plenty fast from a standing stop.

The boss stopped, then drove forward into the garage enough to let us get the hood down somewhat. It was plain to see, even in the dim light of the garage, that things REALLY weren’t right with the front end of that Lincoln.

The boss backed the Lincoln out into the sunlight, and we could see that the whole front end of the car was about half ripped off. It was at about this time that the owner’s wife came out of the house, having heard the noise. Both the shop manager and I quietly stepped to the far side of the service truck; we knew what was coming, and this gal had a real temper. And we’d just screwed up her all-original Lincoln.

After the thunderstorm subsided, it was decided that the shop manager would drop me off at our service station so I could go back to work, then he’d meet the boss down at the local body shop and give him a ride back.

The story has yet another twist: the boss took his wife’s car over to where the Lincoln lived so the gal could have a quality ride for the weeks it would take to get the Lincoln fixed. Now, the boss’ wife was known for a less-than-sunny disposition, and we all knew she gave him hell every night for having to drive one of our station cars around for the duration of the repairs to the Lincoln. Our station cars were clean and everything worked okay, but they all were just on the edge of being ‘beaters’.

I never saw the Lincoln again, although I did have occasion to see the body shop manager from time to time. I learned that the damage to the Lincoln was something in the nature of $1,600; which would be probably about $12,000 today. But consider: that was at a 30% discount, because we did a lot of business with him. So the real nature of the damage would be about $15,000 today.

 

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Here’s a couple from when I was a kid. My folks loved going camping, and Dad saved up the money to buy a 12′ Aloha travel trailer; and we went so many places with it. My older brother quit going with us at some point; his loss…

The sleeping arrangements consisted of the pull-out couch across the back of the trailer, a hammock above it, and the de-luxe fold-down dinette in the front. I always thought that was the best spot.

We had a German Shorthair Pointer; her name was Maisie, and she was a good and quiet companion. One Sunday morning, my Dad was in the process of getting up: he’d swing his legs over the edge of the bed, then take whatever time it took to fully wake up. This particular morning, Maisie was anxious to go out, and from the front of the trailer, I could hear her anxious pacing – her toenails clicking back and forth – while she waited for Dad to get up and take her out.

Suddenly, my Dad lets out with a groaning expletive, let me just say it wasn’t “Jiminy Crickets”. This was the expletive he deserved for really bad situations. Mom instantly came awake and said with alarm in her voice, “What’s wrong?”

“The… dog… farted…!! Ohhhh…” Another long groan. “Oh, this one’s WORSE!!”

Mom and I instantly dissolved into giggles, and they got far worse when Dad said, “Dammit, it’s NOT funny!!” Both of us had to pull the covers over our heads, because although my Dad would never, ever, have struck either of us, he did have a bit of a temper when things went bad.

And my Mom seldom missed an opportunity to tweak on him…

Once, they were working together on our new house, and Dad hit his finger with the hammer. Of course, a number of expletives followed. (Huh, maybe that’s where I get it.)

Mom was right there anyway, and said to him, “You know how you can keep from hitting your finger with the hammer?”

“No, how?”

“Hold the hammer in both hands!!” Dropping what she was doing, she quickly ran away.

I still remember the glee in her eyes when she told me about it later that same day.

 

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We had one mechanic who was really good, although to look at him, you’d never know it: he was a hairy block of a guy; goofy and good-natured. John’s methods were unconventional, but he got good results.

I was working the front one afternoon, and John was doing a brake job on a great big Buick. The right rear drum was stuck on, and no amount of hammering would budge it. I came in from outside to see John holding onto the drum with both hands, then placing his feet on the body of the car, on either side of the wheel well. He was four feet off the ground.

Thinking, this isn’t going to end well, I answered the driveway bell and started back out.

Right then, that brake drum popped loose, and John’s superhuman effort propelled him backward… Right into the window from the shop to the front office.

The window exploded with a giant CRASH..

Broken glass and shop chalkboard and office display pieces flew everywhere.

We all came running at the sound, only to find John, unhurt, standing up and shaking glass out of his hair, saying, “Wow, I guess I made a mess! But I got that brake drum off!” And it was still in his hand.

John’s next check was quite a bit lighter.

 

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Another story about broken glass:

We had a plumber who was a good customer, and we maintained his truck; which was his ‘office’. Between calls, sometimes he’d come in and borrow our phone for a few minutes. But this afternoon, the phone rang and it was him – the brakes on his truck had quit working, could we fix it right away?

I took down the details of his truck, then went to the boss. “Of course! Tell him yes.”

Back at the phone, I got an arrival time, then hung up and checked with our local suppliers to see who had brake parts for his truck in stock. I hit pay dirt on the second call, then hopped in Old Red (one of our station cars and trucks, the ’49 Chevrolet Standard pickup) and off I went.

Meanwhile, the rest of the day went on pretty much as usual, except that it was a cold day and we had all the bay doors pulled down to keep in the meager amount of heat for the shop. These doors looked just like firehouse doors; they had six panes of glass across and eight high, with the bottom panel being painted wood (because if it was glass, we’d always have to be cleaning it).

The plumber called again; he was on his way.

We cleared the far left bay (the one with the heavy hoist) for him, and left the door down. I started watching out for him, while cleaning up from a different job.

Suddenly there he was out in the street, waiting to make the left turn and up into our lot. I saw him gun it – that was the way he always drove – and bump-de-bump, he was in the lot, and heading for the far bay.

Suddenly I saw his face go white and his knuckles on the steering wheel tighten to a death grip.

I yelled, “Clear the bay!! Run!! He can’t STOP!!” And we all flew from that bay.

I just made it around the front side of another car, and turned back to see him hit the door at about 10 MPH, all that mass of tools and stuff in his truck making it into a battering ram. There was a tremendous BOSHHHHH!!! as most of the glass panes in the door broke, and glass fell inside and out. The door, being made of flexible wood, was surprisingly unhurt.

The guy had been slammed into the steering wheel (remember, no seat belts then), but he was okay. And he had the presence of mind to shut the truck off and jam it into gear.

It took a few minutes to sweep up all the glass (he helped) and get his truck in.

We spotted him farther forward on the lift than normal, remembering an incident from before I worked there – The same kind of thing, a plumber, but with a little Dodge A100 van. The back was all full of tools and stuff, and when the guys took the front wheels off, it was enough weight loss that the van literally tipped backward and slid off the lift, landing vertically on its bumper. It was trapped between the hoist in the air, and that same garage door. A picture even made the paper at the time. They had to break several panes of glass in the door to allow a tow truck to slowly set the van down forward on the floor.

The day ended with the boss calling the insurance company, and me going down to the lumber yard to pick up several pieces of plywood to cover the openings in the door until the glass could be replaced.

Scared Puppy

It’s been dry -really dry- here for weeks. Some local communities were actually talking about water rationing.

But mid-week, we’d heard that it looked like rain was coming.

And it arrived, last night.

After all this time, I had finally been driven in from my night’s readings by rain. Sweet rain.

I sat in the sunroom and listened to the random sounds accompanying the blessing of rain.

This afternoon, the intermittent showers had eased, so I took Dara with me down to town, to run a couple errands. The first stop, I was able to look over my shoulder and out of the shop windows, to see her in the front seat of the car; keeping a close eye upon my movements.

But then there was the unmistakeable rumble of thunder. And having herder blood, she’s scared to death of thunder…

I looked back to the car, and she had abandoned her vigil, and I knew she had gone to seek the most confined place possible in the car.

I concluded my business as quickly as possible, to return to the car to offer her some comfort; and found her curled up and shivering in the footwell:

She was barely responsive in her fear; I comforted her as much as possible, then realized it would be a familiar thing for her to just proceed to my second errand.

A few minutes later, she was recovering, and gratefully accepting my attention.

I completed my second errand, and she was now getting back to herself, but still somewhat upset:

Yes, those frightened eyes just melt your heart.

On the way home though, she was quietly sighing and relaxing with my nearly-constant attention. By the time we got home, she had recovered considerably.

Tonight, she’s my shadow, not far from my side, and being reassured at every moment when she seeks attention. I let her come to me, not force myself upon her.

It is this partnership between dog and human which I believe God created as a reminder of that bond between us and all of creation.

And tonight, a gradually quieting herder sleeps by my side; a gentle soul, seeking and receiving comfort.

Reflections

I have seen the world below
swaying in the wind
from the side of a 100′ telephone pole;

Flown gracefully over salt water, the boat and sails in full song,
a bone in her teeth,
and us laughing and shouting for joy like madmen.

Travelled near, not too far
but with a depth of immersion
and hearing the shout of Creation:
God is; GOD IS!!

I have sat on the dune tops, the noise in my head deafening;
the surf even louder, and absorbing the eternity of the scene,
and the depth of the simple lesson, “Be still and know that I am God.”

I have been in agony of spirit
for worry about the arthritis
which painfully
twists and
distorts
my hands;
to be reassured by Jesus the Carpenter,
who worked with tools passed on to him
by his earthly father:
“I do my best work with old tools.”

Young:
with a crewcut, riding a bike with a friend, us discussing the spring time change:
“it’s such and such a time now, but it’s really this time (an hour earlier).”

One particularly bad dream where
I’d dreamed I’d found my father
dead,
and tearfully crying out,
“Daddy… Daddy…”;
only to find the light in my little bedroom suddenly snapped on,
and my Dad right there, quietly accepting my arms
tight around his strong neck.

And they were there for my next step in life,
Mom and Dad sitting proudly as I gave and received vows
with the most important person in my life.

Learning how to be
a good husband;
stumbling a lot at it in the beginning,
but always being thankful to God for her seemingly infinite patience.

And together:
We have been to the top of Mount Constitution,
thrown a camp stove into a river because it was on fire;
dragged our tent trailer across part of a river
to camp on an island,
walked to the side of an incredibly vast overlook,
only to have our contact lenses fouled
by the heavily dusty updraft at the edge;
sailed on every class
of BC Ferry:
from Dogwood
to Queen of Cowichan,
to Spirit of Vancouver Island.

Had our arms around each other
as we watched salmon spawning in a creek,
shared many other adventures
all rich in memory
and still our depth of sharing in love increases.

Life is change, and we are changed by it;
Yet we change together with it.

And we
Live,
Laugh,
And love,
Together.

A Poignant Story in a Rain Shower

Up where I work, it’s a drier micro-climate. There always seems to be plenty of sun, wind, and nice days.

This afternoon, a squall rolled through.

The smell of rain on dry soils and sidewalks brought a memory back to me, powerfully. Being of a certain age, I seem to have a number of stories which need to be told. And this is one of them.

My Mom died of metastatic breast cancer, back in 1978. The cure was worse than the disease, then.

It was to be her last trip to the hospital, and my Dad of course was there to lock the house behind them, and then to follow them to the hospital.

You need to know that my Mom was a person of the outdoors. She loved camping, she loved the outdoors; if nothing more than to sit and watch Nature being Nature. She was an accomplished gardener, with the beds around each of our houses making all into showplaces. Color and texture, variety of height and presentation, those were abundant in the art she applied to living plants, both inside and out. She was one of the region’s premiere flower show judges, and to have her frequent flower arrangements in the house brought a touch of the genius of design with an eye to natural presentation, so very unlike some of the ‘flower arrangements’ available at flower shops.

A person of the outdoors. A person who enjoyed the look of Nature, and being out in Nature.

Because of her disease, she had been trapped in the house for some time, with some trips to the hospital. And now she was going to the hospital for the last time. The attendants tenderly placed her on the gurney, and gently rolled her out the front door, to exit the house that she and my Dad had built; going out the front door for the very last time.

And suddenly, it began to rain. Not a drizzle, not a deluge, but one of those rains which spot your clothes and give you wet polka-dots. The attendants said to her, “We’ll hurry, we’ll keep you from getting wet”.

“No, wait,” she said. “I want to feel the rain on my face.”

And so they stood for several minutes in the rain, those normally in-a-hurry ambulance attendants with my Mom; and my Dad standing patiently nearby. And my Mom got to feel the rain on her face for one last time.

.

.

.

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So I very seldom anymore complain about the rain.

Nor do I try too awfully hard to duck in out of it.

Stop, Listen, and … Be

Today, and in a greater sense, this weekend, has been more than a whirlwind. 

Saturday was our church cleanup day; and I am so humbled every time by those who come selflessly to help, and by the amazing results of the work of everyone’s hands.

Our 93+ year-old building gets spruced-up, both inside and out. And as the Property guy on Council, I have to say that the old girl looks great. 

One of the things I personally have a burden to do is wax the hand-touch areas in the sanctuary: this is the tops of the pews, the ends, the assist rails that are on the steps to the altar; and the communion rail. And this time, l had a helper from the Scout troop that we support, and things went faster.

It’s just that when these small, seemingly insignificant things are waxed, people are better protected against germ transfer, and besides, it makes things look nice and welcoming.

It is truly a quiet labour of love; I do not seek, nor acknowledge, recognition, for this work. I note it here only to show that it has been done. But it’s done, in spite of the protestations from my knees.

Then today, we did our taxes. This is much later than usual. But they’re done. May I say, Stressful…

Tonight, there’s rain in the area, keeping me in. And the physical and mental stress of this weekend would ask me to focus on just that, rather than on what is in front of me: the cold,wet wind rushing breathlessly through the trees, the bluntness of the wet-cold outside; the freshness of it all. It is here, reminding me that all I have to do is choose to look up and see God’s reminders in nature around me that God IS, GOD IS!!

When things look down, look up.

Do not lose sight of what is all around you.

That Daily Challenge

 

Challenges are a part of life.
Sometimes it’s just
the act of getting up after pressing ‘snooze’ only once …
and sometimes
it’s soldiering on when
things hurt
and ache
and protest every move.

But the challenges call to us
begging us to meet them;
things we do, because we must.

Sometimes
these are great and spectacular things;
for instance, my (much younger) work colleagues have a different challenge: biking that trail, running those miles today…
and sometimes
the challenges are quieter, subtler;
but no less of an obstacle when seen from the right viewpoint:

one more day in defiance of the obstacles presented by aging,
helping another deliberately turn away from crossing into the despair of a chronic illness.

We are made for Hope;
we are made for answering
‘Yes’ to God,
the spark of life within us
unquenchable.

The call for each of us
is unique,
an encounter to be met
in the way that we are the one person who is equipped to meet it.

 

I still go out every night to heed that call;
out to read,
out to pray,
out to think,
out to be quiet
and know that He alone is God.

But sometimes I feel a reluctance;
the weather is harsh, inclement, cold wind-chill numbers;
I’m going to get cold and wet, and my arthritic fingers are going to hurt.
But I go.
For a few minutes, at least.
And after coming in, I reconcile myself to the sunroom
where it’s warmer and I can still feel a part of outside.
And I had a reward:
the warm indigo tones of an Alpenglow.

(I caught the colors in a way that shows how sometimes you have to fool the camera’s sensor).

But now I’m inside, my fingers are warmed up and working, and God is as just as present here as everywhere else. 

Acts 17:27-28:

27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’