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.

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Well how about that! A White Christmas!

In my more than sixty years, only twice have I seen a White Christmas.

Until now.

This is only the third time I have seen a White Christmas. (I had to grab this shot from the home office window – everything else is iced over.)

Living here in the Pacific Northwest, our weather is some of the most unpredictable – and changeable – in the world. We have a unique position between the ocean and tall mountains, which makes for unstable weather.

Yesterday, I would not have believed that this cold would stick around long enough to keep snow on the ground for this morning. I had gone down into town and it was nearly 40 degrees, the sun was shining, and the ground was dry! Not even a hint of the rough conditions up here on the side of the mountain.

But we live on the snow line. And that just got proven once again.

Last night, I couldn’t even go out. And I can stand some pretty severe stuff. But… The wind was gusting past 30 knots, and driving snow before it. It was the kind of stuff that stings the skin and wants to get in your eyes. Temperature was in the mid-20s, making for a wind chill in the low to mid teens.

I went into the sunroom to try to grab a shot of the conditions, which would be considered a blizzard, had the snow been falling at a higher rate. As it was, the snow is powder and is being picked up and drifted by the wind:

Just a few moments after I grabbed this shot, the rattle of freezing rain began to sound against the windows. I knew that by morning, it would be treacherous to walk out there.

But this morning, we have a warm house, the makings for a nice Christmas breakfast, and warm hearts for each other. A roast is curing in the garage fridge for dinner tonight. Dara snoozes happily on the bed.

We take time to pause and remember the coming of the Light of the World, Everlasting Saviour, Prince of Peace.

And to marvel.

A White Christmas! How about that.

First Snow

Yesterday, I was looking at the conditions, and they were ‘right’ for snow.

I was up at about three this morning, and I could see that the back deck was white. I went back to my nice warm bed and pulled up the covers.

After sunup, I fed Dara and let her out to do her thing. You could tell she was hippety-hop with excitement. I clicked the screen button on the cellphone to catch her excitement, but by the time it made the capture… well… This is all I got:

The cold beauty of the Ridge is in full view; witnessing it outside in person demands much. You have to “bundle up”, as my Mom used to say; and meanwhile the strong winds and low wind-chill numbers try to suck any warmth from your body.

My chair cushions were frozen solid, very un-fun to sit on; that’s once you break them free from the chair. My hands were shaking at this point and I couldn’t get a snapshot of the frozen cushions, which may I wryly note, would certainly give one a case of ‘polaroids’.

Will this snow stay through Christmas? I’m pretty sure not: the daytime highs will be too warm. And down in town, you’d never know it was so cold and snowy up here – temps were nearly 40, dry, and sunny.

It’s interesting to note that in all the Christmases I’ve seen, I’ve only seen two White Christmases. So for me, in their rarity, they are special.

But after these few moments alone out in the quiet, I return with a sense of gratitude for warm clothes, a snug, warm house, and the love of a wonderful woman.

May you also be blessed in the same way.

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.

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.