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.’

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Thankful to be working from home after a heavy snow

The last few days, we’ve had some little bit of snow; just enough to show an inch or two. Nothing to keep me from going to work.

But beginning yesterday morning, we got SNOW!! Thinking it would abate (like the rest has), I got in the car and went to work. After noon, my wife called to tell me that it was really beginning to pile up. “Oh? How much?” “About eight inches! And it’s still coming down like crazy!”

I made arrangements to work from home, and left as immediately as possible.

Good thing I did.

I commute via the Washington side of the Columbia Gorge, and although the crews do a valiant job of keeping the roads clear, it was obvious that they were beginning to fall behind. As I approached Mount Pleasant, (where the infamous Cape Horn overlook is located), I saw 40 cars in a long, slow-moving snake; all of them were following a number of semi-trucks that were going no more than 20 MPH.

I hadn’t wanted to drive Canyon Creek Road.

Most times of the year, it’s a beautiful, pleasant drive, especially in the fall; with all the big hardwood trees. But in winter, it shows a mean, nasty side: it’s narrow-shouldered, twisty, and dead-scary when it’s icy. The road drops off steeply on one side (into Canyon Creek), and there are NO guardrails. It doesn’t get any sunlight in the winter, and so if it gets icy, it stays that way. But the choice was to take another hour to get home, or drive it. So I turned up Salmon Falls Road on my way there, and saw that at least it didn’t look too bad. I began to relax a bit.

Turning onto Canyon Creek Road, it looked as good as Salmon Falls. So far, so good; maybe this will be okay after all…

Then I came round the corner which takes you into the deeper woods.

And the road disappeared.

There was about a foot of fresh snow, and no tire tracks from the ‘wanna-be-monster-trucks’ that are prevalent out this way. Nothing to guide me.

Two choices at this point: Turn around (risking going off into the canyon) or keep on. It was only about three miles to the main road at the other end of Canyon Creek, so I spoke a quick prayer for guidance, and settled back, settled down, and remembered all those country roads I drove in the fresh snow in times past. There are subtle signs in the landscape that will guide you, if you can be aware of them. This all came back to me in a moment of calmness, and so I carried onward.

And no, this is no time to be fiddling with the cellphone and trying to get a picture. If you want a simulation, look at a piece of paper on the long edge, and then bend it into a gentle S-shape. The upward flow of the S is the canyon wall continuing upward, the sort-of-flat portion of the S in front of you is about where the road should be; and the downward portion of the S is the bank falling into the canyon.

No guardrails.

There’s a certain quiet beauty in making the first tracks down a deserted country road. I relaxed into that, and kept my confidence in the car and in those abilities which I had been given and had practiced.

(Meanwhile, Subaru: this would be a great commercial for you guys.)

I eventually turned onto the main road from Canyon Creek Road; only a few more miles of driving the River Ravine and I’d be home. Meanwhile, I could tell that it was still snowing lightly, although the trees overhead were catching most of it. Once I came up out of the River Ravine and more onto the mountain where we live, I saw that I’d underestimated it: it was still snowing like mad.

Thank you Lord for getting me home safely. Glory to your name, Jehovah-Rohi…

And this morning I was up pretty much at first light to start working from home. Dara was happy to be out, frolicking in the deep snow. I could get an accurate gauge on the depth, then: Above her chest in the deep spots where it’d drifted (2′), and below her chest where the wind had scavenged it (18″). The “Dog-Gauge for snow depth” is pretty accurate, since it’s sampled from all over the meadow.

I grabbed a photo from the kitchen window, and I’ll attach it.

Back from the Hospital

My wonderful wife came home from the hospital a week ago. Thank you, Lord!

This intervening week has been a whirlwind of emotions and ‘stuff to get done’. I’m so glad to have her back; she was there for ten days.

But what put her there was an interactive combination of two things – her Congestive Heart Failure, and acute diverticulitis. The infection in her bowel made her weaker and weaker; it occurred and then worsened over a long period of time, quietly taking all her energy and thus the ability to do even the smallest things. The infection made her CHF worse, which in turn made the infection worse… but the symptoms came on so slowly and gradually that we just… did… not… notice.

What is less understood by many is that with CHF, you have to watch your weight closely – weighing every day. A sudden rise of two pounds overnight is cause for concern. And necessitates a temporary upward kick in the diuretics. So why is the water weight of concern? Because it is accumulated in the lungs, interfering with the ability to oxygenate blood. And thereby slowly suffocating the patient.

Meanwhile we are thankful that she’s better. She’s very slowly regaining strength in her legs, and is gradually doing a little bit more to help her conditioning every day.

We both thank everyone for their kind thoughts and prayers.

And we are so thankful for friends and church members who have brought by dinners, soup, and just been there for encouragement. Such things are heartening, both for their nourishment, and for lightening my load in caring.

Going forward, I’ve been seeing that smart-home items are actually improving, instead of just gaining ‘bling’ factor. I’ve invested in three items that will help: a video doorbell that has two-way audio (so she can talk to whomever might be at the door, from wherever in the house that she might be); an electronic deadbolt (so she can unlock the door for visitors and home-care folks); and an Amazon Echo (to interact with and control the two previous items). I hope to end the weekend with these all installed and working well.

Winter Alpenglow

Time for a bit of poetry – it’s been a while.

It is a fleeting moment
between sunset and the hard blue
oppression of the dying day
and twilight’s cold approach,
fading into the reality of Night.

The ocean of air in which we as people of God’s Creation live
breaks relentlessly against the shores
of the mountain
upon whose side I live.

The background rumble
is a reminder of how small I am;
each roaring crash of a wind gust
is a reminder of how alive I am.

I am thankful for
warm clothes
a place to sit, rest my knees, and to behold all this;
as if it were the first time I had ever lived it;
and a warm, snug house in which to retreat
and the warm embrace of my loving wife
for when the cold becomes too much for me.

My sweet dog-companion is hippety-hop with delight,
she having had plenty of time for sniffabout,
and ready to give up her guard duty over me
for the comfort of a nice, warm bed.

Inside, looking out,
I cannot help but marvel
at this wonderful place in which
we are so fortunate to live, laugh, and love.

 Thank you Lord, for the privilege of living here. Thank you for looking after us, in this place of wildness.

So, No Pictures of Wooly-Bear Caterpillars?

Oddly enough, I haven’t seen any, so far this year.

By this time last year, they were everywhere, and their amber stripe was hugely wide.

And we had an absolute howler of a winter. Icy, cold, stuck in the house for days… Let’s please, not do that again for a while, okay, Lord?

But so far this year, no signs of wooly-bears. Instead, may I offer this snapshot of the Ridge and The River Of Clouds at sunset:

Watching The River Of Clouds never fails to give me a sense of awe. It’s almost like when you were a kid, drawing your finger through the top quarter-inch of your bathwater, watching the ripples it made. I often wonder if God has that same sense of wonder at what he does…

It’s technically warmer outside, but the cool temperatures, combined with near 100% humidity, work together to give a penetrating chill.

I’ll finish my reading inside tonight.

And I wish you a good week for this upcoming week; and may God bless the works of our hands.

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.

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.
(A bit of background: 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 somewhere just good enough, 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 Don. Thank you Lord.

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