Sunlight in the Forest – A Photo Post

It’s that time of year when the sun angles are just right and the setting sun will penetrate deep into the forest and set the trunks of the trees ablaze. It’s like this for mere seconds sometimes, and last night was one of those rare times. I didn’t even have time enough to get to the window; in the foreground is a Sapho rhododendron which has yet to bloom. (Yes, our growing season IS short.)

But here it is, a blaze of glory and color.

Kind of puts an underline on our Men’s Breakfast devotion this morning – which had some notes about the glorious planet where we live, and from Psalm 46:

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

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Moonlit, High Overcast Nights

By the time last weekend came along, we had reached a sort of equilibrium here at home. We are finally beginning to get some kind of handle on the scope and nature of my wife’s illness: the Transition Clinic is tweaking her heart meds, the Physical Therapist scheduled for this week, and we are finally beginning to get perhaps a clearer picture of ‘whom to see next’ about all the puzzling things that are making up the convoluted spectrum of what is making her feel like… shit.

Yes, she still feels like shit. No, we don’t yet know exactly why.

But together, we are celebrating the small victories.
– From one end of the hall to the other without having to stop.
– Pulling out a cookbook and looking for a recipe.

And because she may be doing a bit better, and because I’m getting the new routines figured out…

By this last weekend, things had calmed to the point where I was able to finally take some time to just sit outside and enjoy the first really nice day in about four months. I was able to really begin to get into a good murder mystery (the Cormoran Strike series is cracking good stuff), and I could just relax and … breathe.
A bit of Care for the caretaker.

It was, in a way, pretend camping. One of those rare times when I finally didn’t have to do anything.

And now, these last few nights have been times of halcyon wonder: light overcast, but with a bright moon.

It reminds me of times from 47 years ago: when I would go driving out in the country (wasn’t far away, in those days) with my ’65 Barracuda. I would be rolling along, in tune with the car and the road: not pushing for speed, but just being part of the flow of the road.

It was the car and me as one, carrying the right speed through the corners, shifting up and rolling the straighter lengths – shifting down for the corners – all the while just being in tune with the car, the road, and carrying just the right speed. Honoring the road and the landscape.

Then…

I would ease off the gas, switch off the headlights, and just marvel at rolling through the unearthly change in the landscape. I could see perfectly to drive, and suddenly, organically, I became a part of the landscape, yet not a part of it:

I was flowing along the road like a moving mist:
There, and then gone.
Ghosting along.

I’ve experienced this a number of times since, and the feeling is always the same: the different lighting of the landscape, the greatly enhanced play of light and shadow from the high contrast of moonlight and deep shadows; and that odd feeling that one is only a visitor upon this Earth…

Now, I don’t encourage anyone to do this, as it can be dangerous if done in the wrong place. You need open country, open roads, and no hazards to driving (like an idiot deer jumping out) – something quite rare anymore.

Spiritual Journeys

In the grand sweep of Life, there are those Moments of Note. Through life experience for some of us, comes a bit of wisdom and sagacity.

Last night brought into snap-focus (sorry, this comes from my television background; but look the term up) two parallel journeys that my wife and I have been seeing and… walking.

SHE comes first. She is first in all things of my life. Her long journey back to health and strength has been arduous, but character-building. I’m witnessing this transformation into a fighter. She has had to fight hard to come back from her recent encounter with the dark side of Congestive Heart Failure: Its insidious creeping-up of fluid buildup in your system – so slowly that… by the time you realize you need hospital attention, it’s actually about three weeks beyond that true point.

She has also had to fight her way back from a back injury, sustained before Thanksgiving. She’s diligently doing her Physical and Occupational Therapies, and is working hard to get released. The extended-care-rehab facility she’s in won’t sign off on her release until she can do stairs – because we have two steps down to our living room. Now, 29 years ago when we built this house… had we known this… But what good does “if-only-ing” do you?

But.

She has realized that she is the one in control of her condition, and must hold onto, and exert, that control. Good for her!

Lesson learned: When she looks around her at the facility, there are many good people who were stricken with strokes – and worse. Their journeys will be far longer than hers. And her roommate has crippling arthritis, to the point where it is difficult for her to even feed herself.

When you look around in these circumstances, you realize how very, very fortunate you are. And you adjust your attitude.

 

For my part: these last almost two months (TWO MONTHS!) have been quiet – too quiet – and dark, and cold, in the house. It’s been hard to sleep, because I just miss her presence and the light and laughter that she brings to the house. Meanwhile, our Christmas presents sit quietly in the dining room, unopened.

And her brutal honesty about how certain aspects of current politics affect all people, of all income brackets.

And how she gently understands that I need to do the things God has made me to do, and how they help others… for my work… and how she totally understands the toll that this takes on me.

The light in the house is dimmed by her absence. But we have had snow lately, and the last few nights, I have maintained my practice of going outside. In spite of the challenge of walking in the snow with my diminished capability.

I could say ‘not tonight’ and just go into the sunroom where there’s a comfortable chair and even though the floor is cold as ice (the room isn’t heated or cooled) I could kind of have the same thing going.

But this is something that needed doing, no matter how hard it might be. It’s the doing that matters. It’s that practice of having faith and going to a special spot to practice the Presence of God that matters. And it’s always rewarding in some fashion.

There was about five inches of snow (until last night, when we got a good six to eight more), but somehow, I needed to go out and sit in the chair on the deck… and to behold what God had done…

And, yes, it was magnificent.

And after I got in, I realized that this, too, was a minor spiritual journey.

I had to put my trust in God, that he wouldn’t let me fall. And that I could just spend a few minutes being still. in the quiet and stillness; letting it sink in… and to realize that God IS.

Psalm 46:10:

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

Lest you think that it’s all good and pretty weather up here…

Aches and pains predict the weather. I used to hear this from folks, and <sigh> I guess I have reached that age. These last couple weeks have brought time for ‘hunkering down’ and doing what we need to do to keep warm.

It’s been very NOT fun. My left shoulder has been killing me – as bad as if I had a flare-up of my bursitis. You can’t sleep for the pain; no position is totally comfortable. Finally in simple exhaustion, you find a position that hurts less and you fall asleep for a little while.

Outside, it’s been nasty-ass cold, that combination of temperature, humidity, intermittent rain, and wind that just slices right through any layers you’re wearing. In this area, it’s that gray area in the transition from wet to arctic: 32° to 42°. It’s this temperature band that, in this part of the country, feels colder than standing outside in a blizzard in Nebraska. And I have that on good authority from a friend who has lived there.

Last night, I went out for devotions, considering that the weather was really going to turn, and I only was able to stay out for less than ten minutes. Dara sat close by, having done what she needed to do; pointedly turning away to tell me that she was REALLY ready to go in.

In moments like this, I do and I don’t miss Wheaton. He had an uncanny ability to sense rain coming, and he would start barking insistently until I went in with him. And he would do it even for a passing drizzle. Which we could sit through and be okay. But the insisting about going in no matter what, drove me crazy.

This snapshot was before it got dark and the rain really rolled in, in earnest.

I’d like to tell you that that evening, we got about a half inch of cold rain, but the backup battery in my weather station by the top of the Ravine (just off her right shoulder) quit.

(Davis, if you’re listening, please put in a larger solar panel charging a supercapacitor, instead of the scheme with this darn battery that dies every three months…)

And the last few days have borne out my weather-predicting aches: a REALLY soaking storm, which in going to work, is like driving through a car wash. I’m not going to complain: we’ve been characterized as being in drought conditions for the last couple years. This rain is recharging our well, and bringing snow to the Ridge; which you can see in the photo above.

Meanwhile, our efforts in getting Dara to be more social are bearing some fruit. One of the things that was so great about Wheaton (in the house, at least) was that wherever you were, he was there also. Didn’t matter what you were doing, if you were in a room for a few minutes, he’d come in and check up on you, or come in and hang out. (Outdoors was different – he’d disappear and not reappear until he was good and dirty.)

But Dara was never taught to be social. This isn’t her fault; often times rescue dogs are ‘odd’ in some way, and this is one of her oddities. Typically, we’ll be in one room and after a few minutes, she’ll just ‘check out’ and head off to the bedroom to go lie on our bed. I’ve been working with her to get her to stick around where I am. I have a dog bed out in the sunroom so she can lie down on something soft and a lot warmer than the cold floor.

But look at this! Progress!

What a heart-warming sight! Looking wistfully out the window, and learning to be a Companion…

Rolling into Winter

The last few days, the winds have been up; making the leaves dance and swirl around the house and across the deck. Steady-state has been roughly 8-14 knots, with gusts easily exceeding 25-30 knots. You can always hear those gusts coming at the last second, because it sounds like you’re standing to the side of a gravel road and a semi is approaching at speed.

I’ve had the luxury of the last week off (we were going to go camping but I hurt my foot), and meanwhile have been able to do some things that I haven’t been able to do in a long time. This morning I spent time watching the morning weather outside with a cup of coffee and with Dara nearby. She came up on the deck to see me, then went back to her ‘herder spot’ where she could watch both the West meadow and the back one (where the deck is).

Dara as Sheepdog

(You should be able to click to enlarge.)

Note the big firs in the background; you can see they’re leaning a bit with the wind. I grabbed this snapshot during a lull.

The winds are expected to continue for a few days, bringing us some sunny days and not-too-cold nights. The stars have been visible, although not prominent, likely due to wildfires.

We did have one evening where the winds dropped, and the temperature plummeted precipitously at the same time. I knew if this kind of thing kept up that I’d have to go up and winterize the Airstream right away. It will ride out one cold night if the days have been fairly warm, but asking it to do two or three in a row is asking for trouble.

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.

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.’