Thursday, January 11, 2018

It's Raining - Hard

An obvious redundant statement when telling a story about yourself is "When I was younger."  Yes, you were younger, everything that has happened in your life was when you were younger than you are now even if it were but a second ago.  Not only that, but every moment that you are alive you are growing older and the only way to stop that is not a great alternative, and that is to not be alive.

It's fascinating to listen to different conversations in different setting, in particular I'm thinking about the aquatic center which we visit twice a week.  We choose a time when there is no structured activity or exercise session and apparently the others in the water at that time are making a similar choice.  Gail claims she can't swim but floats well.  I claim that I could swim if I didn't sink to the bottom.  So we exercise our joints and muscles by walking the river, with the flow and against the flow, forward and backward.  Then we walk in the still pool twisting and turning as we go.  After getting our pulse rate up a ways, we move to the therapy pool where the water is warmer.  There we do stretches and arm exercises until we move to the spa for a few minutes of letting the body enjoy the warm circulating water.

The number of persons in all these pools is low while we are there, maybe up to a dozen, usually fewer, in both pools.  Most of them appear at least our age, some a bit younger.  Rarely do we see someone who appears trim and fit.  They exercise in the water probably because it's low-impact and they want to keep moving.  Some set their canes and walkers aside before entering the pool of choice.  Some come with a physical therapist from the local hospital.  Few seem to be there just to hang out.

Besides the artifacts of walking aides and bumps in their chests for pacemakers, the conversations betray some of their motivations for being there. "I had my second knee replaced at so-and-so and it went better than the first time."  "They told me that if I had another heart attack it could be the last."  Those conversations lead into "I'm doing this because my knee was acting up," or "My brother was having problems and I decided that I didn't want the same issue."  Yes, the conversations center around health including costs, benefits, insurance and sometimes the politics of health care.

After a face become more and more familiar, conversations advance to restaurants, diets, families, jobs-mostly former jobs.  Although there was the day when an older gentleman came up to me and gave me a summary of his life in Wyoming and his move to Oregon.  I'm afraid he thought that was important for him to share and for me to know.

The saddest part of these conversations is that I'm way too quiet.  I seldom get past "Good morning."  Maybe my resolution for the next phase of my life when I'm not younger is expand my repertoire of conversation.  After all they're all good people.

Sunday, December 31, 2017


A couple days ago a half dozen Chinese scholars and a couple of their children came to share a midday meal with us.  They had no transportation to our remote hillside home so I made five 40-minute trips to gather and later disburse them.  As we drove closer and closer to our home they came to realize the remoteness of our place and how it was "out in nature" [their words].  And it is in so many ways, "out in nature," even though we have made an artifical human footprint among the trees and wildlife.  They were thrilled, as were we, when nine deer chose to pass through the back yard as we were finishing the meal.

Today is defined as the last day of the year, defined by mankind, in a natural world which has no last  or first annual day.  Even our calendar is modern with respect to the life of the earth and solar system; we define this as a mere 2018 years since we started counting.  The structure of our calendar has made several changes in that time including a recent one just some two-hundred years ago.

Other cultures have different calendars.  The Chinese calendar is over 4000 years old, the Arabic and Hebrew calendars are lunar, based on the moon instead of the sun.  Regardless of the source of a calendar, it is mankind's way of quantifying and defining the cycles of nature.

That all feels logical to me, creating a tool to measure the movement of the sun, moon and stars, to record the changes of seasons.  What feels peculiar to me is the excessive celebrating the change of the calendar from one year to another.  We annually celebrate the birth of our bodies when we left our mothers' wombs; that occurred at a specific time and date and we're glad to be able to live through another summer and winter, so we celebrate.  But the first day of the year which was arbitrarily created by mankind, that it totally artificial.  We just love to find reasons to celebrate.  And we connect it to religion, hence the number 2018, and the seven days in a week.

As the story Christmas Carol by Dickens tells of the conversion of a Scrooge from hating Christmas to embracing Christmas, perhaps there should be a story about the conversion of a Denvy from seeing no value in the New Year's celebration to one who appreciates the festive mood at the end of the calendar.  Perhaps that story has never been written because there is no proper definable conversion.

I hope that your next cycle around the sun is peaceful, meaningful, enjoyable, profitable and reasonable, whenever that cycle may start or end.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

A Simple Life

During the month of October a half dozen or so persons met and talked about Happiness.  The idea is that God created us to be happy, happy through at relationship with God.  We were invited to challenge ourselves to take some steps to becoming happier.  Among the ideas tossed around was removing oneself from temptations of materialism and strive for a simpler life.

That led to the question "What is a simple life?"  We agreed that everyone probably had a slightly different idea of how to live life simply.  I was motivated to review my own version of a simple life.

In ways I think I have chosen and in part successfully led a simple life.  I find joy in the little bird that hums over a feeder sipping up sugar water.  Through my childhood I only read about and saw pictures of humming birds.  In Alaska never did I see one, even on trips to other parts of the globe.  But when we settled in Oregon, they came to the window and ever since then they come daily.  In recent years for some reason some have even graced our lives through the winter.

In May of 2014 just a month before our 45th anniversary of our wedding, we had a gathering in our yard inviting anyone and everyone who had a birthday that year.  Ninety came.  It was one of the happiest days of my life.  One of the simple but lasting and most enjoyable gifts was a bird feeder.  It was wood with plexiglass walls with a wide overhanging roof.  Now I fill the feeder regularly as the birds, and an occasional chipmunk, empty by eating and spilling seeds.  Many larger birds so appreciate the spillage as they feed off the ground when they don't fit on the feeder.  Chickadees, juncos, jays, starlings feed the doves, quails and turkeys.

I believe that God led us to this home, a place where we labor to keep the weeds down and the flowers blooming.  This home is a blessing with trees that touch the sky while others cool the ground with far-reaching branches.  While the lawn is level and is the labyrinth moved into the native grasses, a hillside rises to one side and drops to the other.  The dry ground nurtures fruit and nut trees and gardens of vegetables and flowers, while an unvisited space is filled with flowing water.  After responding to God's call to reach out to the people of the world, this place energizes and relaxes  our bodies, minds and souls.

God created this place and I have the privilege of sharing it.  I hope that the house and other works of my hands don't overwhelm God's work but facilitates his calling to me.  Now I return to using my hands with simple tools and God's materials to create joy for others.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Homeless Issues Coming This Way

If I have a dream of a quiet week, this was not a successful week.  Ten days ago I was involved in a conversation about helping persons who have no homes or are sleeping no the streets.  After several followup moving forward actions were suggested I recommended that the person in the county who heads up this type of service be informed and I offered to do that.  The resulting meeting included a county commissioner with a brief update on the current situation, some pending plans and dreams, and other possible avenues to explore.  No unique and definite solutions were outlined.

That evening at an event at the college I thanked the university president for his support of DACA students and mentioned the need for housing in Monmouth during cold snaps.  We discussed several uses of the now vacant buildings on campus and he said, "Give me a call."

The next day a gentleman who lives our direction from town stopped by the church and wondered about assistance for a man sleeping in his car along side the road.  A couple days later that homeless man showed up at church while we were serving homeless families a evening meal.  We offered him the meal and I said I'd go with him to the county resource center the next day which I did.  After helping him migrate some of the system I left him in the hands of the county with hopes that he would find some way to move forward.  This morning his car was back alongside the road in his safe spot.

While I was at the resource center one of the staff told me that several ministers may be contacting me about setting up warming shelters for this winter.  I only wondered how all this could happen in less than a week with no preparation or preplanning.  It wasn't and isn't on my bucket list or my to-do list but with the rapidity of the events, this was no coincident; it was guided as if part of a much larger master plan.

Oh, yes, and we are helping a lady move out of her apartment but with no specific place to go.

Where will this stop so I can go back to my bucket list?

Friday, September 22, 2017

A New Day

I'm inside looking out.  We designed the house so that no matter where you were in the house you were always looking out.  It looks like fall, which incidentally literally started about 20 minutes ago.  It's hard to know why it looks like fall, trees are green, the sun is shining, and I can't feel the temperature.  Probably nothing about this moment says fall, maybe it's what's happened in the past several days and what's happening among people.

It's rained for about five days now, a bit over three inches in that time.  The university is buzzing with activity as the first year students are coming to campus for their first taste of higher education.  The church has started its fall schedule and the evening seem cooler and dark earlier.  The sense of fall may be completely internal and not from outside.

It's also time for harvest.  We picked and canned a dozen or so quarts of tomatoes from the garden yesterday.  There may be a few later but for the most part they're done.  We picked the last beans and as well as the last solo cucumber.  A couple nice sized onions were also brought for use of the next several days.  A bowlful of raspberry are a daily routine this past week which aren't enough to preserve but just perfect with ice cream and chocolate syrup or on the top of a bow of cereal.  They go great in a smoothie as well.

I haven't seen as much activity from the humming birds lately.  Perhaps some have found their own homes.  As Gail looked out the window yesterday she said "The young ones always look so cute."  I thought first she was talking about the humming birds but indeed she was referring to the family of tuffed grouse that were tiptoeing through the flower bed in front of the house.  She could have been referring to the flock of turkeys who came through as a few hens this spring and now number about a dozen with the young'uns.

While my view from behind the computer denies me the chance to see the yellow leaves I know that they're out there.  I saw them through another window earlier.  Don't get too excited, it's not fall color time yet, there only were about a handful.

We did start the wood fire stove in the house a couple times during the rainy evenings these last couple days.  The temperature and dampness causes the body to crave the cozy warmth of a wood fire.

Is it really fall?  The forecast calls for another week of warming days starting in the 60's and moving up to the 80's next week.  Fall or not, that will be great.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Fall, an Awesome Time in the Cycle

If I considered the calendar it too would remind me that it's fall.  The temperature, the weather in general, doesn't suggest fall.  There's no rain, typical of an Oregon fall and the temperature is a sunny 90˚F.  Yet, I'm gathering the pole beets and canning them.  A week ago that batch of beans became pickled beans.  The bowl of tomatoes became freshly canned tomato sauce, the cucumbers became "bread and butter chips" while yesterday's gathering were pickled.

Some of the herbs are hanging in the sun, drying and waiting their turn to enter the herb pantry.  The blackberries are coming in cookie sheet at a time to be frozen and bagged.  While the berries find a purpose for humans, the blackberry vines are being cut and putted and placed on the burn pile waiting for the rains when the state will again allow backyard burning.  They should be nice and dry and ready to go up in smoke in another month.

It's been a dry summer; I think we're just days short of three months without rain.  When we were in Eugene a week ago we drove home with the windshield wipers on, well, we drove almost home.  We turned the wipers off about a mile from our house.  When we walked out of a meeting in Monmouth last week, the pavement around the car was damp but again not in our yard.  Some plants are showing the consequences of this summer's climate, some trees are shedding browned leaves, garden plants are turning brown and wilting even though we water them regularly.  I guess that another sign of fall. They simply have completed their cycle.

Amid the browning that comes with fall and no rain, the fall crocus are everywhere and oh so plentiful.  Amazing plants, how they store all their energy in their bulbs and then at the appropriate time, just stick their blossoms out.  No fanfare, no leaves, no stem, no stalk, just a bouquet of blossoms, rain or shine.

We ask ourselves as common folks, scientists think they know, how do plants and animals know when it's fall and they would change their behavior.  It seems to be a part of us humans as well.  When you step out into the darkness, which comes earlier and earlier each day, we can just sense the approaching change of seasons.  Yes, it's cooler, but there's a sensation in the air that we sense.

Animalwise only chickens live with us now.  They are products of past years, only three of them, and a purchase of babies in early April.  Their feeders and water containers allowed me to visit them a couple times a week but now they are laying eggs and I must gather the six or eight they lay each day.  They're still not full size but that will come about in time.  The horses escaped the last padlock a couple days after the eclipse and went home to join their herdmates down the hill.  They were close enough to talk to each other and apparently the conversation led them to escape.

I see no noticeable difference in which birds are eating the bird seed I put out.  The doves, quails and wild turkeys can be seen cleaning up on the ground from the spill over by birds in the feeder.  We got a new and larger humming bird feeder so we don't change that as often but I would wonder if they are feeding on less of our sugar water than earlier.

I'm off to the garden, to gather a cabbage for supper and a few tomatoes to sit on the side.  I will also go and wash my hands again to see if I can reduce the smell of rosemary and thyme.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

The Walk from the Barn

As the last light of dusk faded into total darkness I walked from the barn.  It was a slow walk.  The evening was silent and the air a comfortable warmth after a day of uncomfortable heat.  Each step was intentional and small.  As I thoughtfully looked down my step moved from over a ground-height curb delineating the driveway from the lawn.

It's been a dry summer.  We remember no rain in August although the neighboring city recorded a trace.  Also July had no rain.  Somewhere around the middle of June there was some rain but at the time the forecast was for some days with no rain and we engaged the contractor to redo the roof on the house.  That's about two and a half months with no rain, not even a drop to turn the dust on the bench to mud.

My steps fell on brown dry pieces of remenants of grass that grew faster than I could mow it a couple months earlier.  Typically during Oregon summers there's no need to mow lawns unless one waters it.  Without thinking one foot rose and moved in front of the other.  The ankle rolled as the ball of the foot pivoted before rising to move forward.  The heel landed waiting for the rest of the foot to touch the ground before the other would take its turn to move forward.  The silence of the evening allowed one to hear the crunch of the grass.

Deep in the soil critters too small to see did what they were created to do to make the isolated system of this earth continue over the million of years.  Far over my head, pretty much just in front of me the moon shone short of being full.  Far beyond the moon, really far beyond the moon and even the sun, there are stars and beyond them more stars.  As vast as space may be, the world under my feet is small, really small, far beyond our imagination.

What a marvelous system we live in, one where we as humans have the resources and skills to creatively maintain a indefinitely but improving existence of the earth's offerings.  Yet as small as the critters are beneath my feet are, so small are we in the bigger scheme of things we call outer space.  Just as the critters can't imagine our existence we can't fully understand or imagine the existence of other beings in this vast space of orbs of light we call stars and bits of dust we call planets.

Thank God for this beautiful walk in the cool of the evening and for not having to understand the complexity of life around us.