Green

Today I am joining Five Minute Friday’s and the topic is “green.”

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Such a green lawn. Second-flush hollyhocks noticed in mid-October.

Go:

The world is fading from green to gold. When I took that walk to the river yesterday I was disappointed that more of the trees had not taken on fall glory. Today I went grocery shopping and I noticed that the tress are more golden overnight.

Green is a color associated with growth. In the Church we are still in the season where the liturgical color is green. We still have green outdoors, but we know it will soon change. Today I am thinking that October green is a passing gift.

I need to be grateful for the still green grass. I want to thank God for all the shade the trees are providing. I am grateful for green hills. When the gold and crimson take over they will not last long. I must cherish the green because all too soon the Church will move on to Advent and I will need to dig out all that red and green for my house.

Stop:

I am grateful for the green that means not…quite… yet.

Rivers

Rivers can be places of great beauty.

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I took a walk to the river today and I was delighted with the view. Today I understand why water-front property is so sought after. A family of ducks were out sunning themselves as I was there. All nature seemed to realize that perfect weather such as we had today is not a thing to be taken for granted in October.

IMG_2403I was disappointed that only a few trees had begun their golden show, but that will come soon and today was for basking in the sun-streaming blue.

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Rivers are irascible things. Some days they are peaceful and patiently reflect the sky’s brilliant blue. No matter how serene a river may look it is never still. The current is always present pulling everything caught in their wake onward. The relentless movement reminds us that time is forever moving us on. Peaceful moments of bliss come, as does the inexorable current pulling us ever toward the sea.

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While they usually flow within their banks rivers always have the potential to flood. A river actually is a large landowner. Most of the time they only use a small portion of what they own. There is always a much larger land area that the river owns, but leases to the surrounding purchasers on terms they do not always understand.

The river owns all the land in the flood plain. There is no charge from the river to the user of the land. People sell the land to one another. You may own a piece of the river’s land. It is yours to use as you see fit, but now and then in periods of excessive rain and/or snow melt the river will reclaim its’ rightful heritage.
Floods are not peaceful high-water. A raging current accompanies a flood. It will tear out shrubs, rip up small trees, topple and wash away lawn furniture and everyone’s garbage cans. When the water recedes debris will be everywhere. Flood-mud is sticky, thick sludge that will be left behind. It can be polluted, depending upon what sort of industrial or chemical storage the river flooded as well. Everything that was within its’ scope is mixed in a thick stew that is redeposited somewhere else.

Isaiah 43:1b-2,”Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.”

After the clean-up mud will be left to mix in with the soil. In this ugly is actually the seed of renewal. In that mud is the topsoil that washed off the land upstream. It contains more than trash it also contains rich nutrients. Floods don’t just wash away carefully laid-out plans and landscapes. They also bring new beginnings.
Almost anything can grow in the rich soil of a flood plain. The banks of the Nile river were called the “breadbasket” of Egypt. Much of the ancient world relied upon Egypt for grain. In the middle of the twentieth century Egypt built a dam. It was a wonder of engineering. It also had an unanticipated negative impact on the productive power of the Nile basin’s crop production. Egypt began to need to import grain for its’ own use. Over thousands of years those living and working along the Nile lived with the difficulty of regular flood. In an effort to improve the situation they demonstrated on a massive and measurable scale how beneficial flooding actually is to agricultural production.

Sometimes the very seasons that seem to destroy us, contain within the tragedy, the reconstructive force to enable us to remain fruitful.

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Living near a river has taught me about loss and rebirth. My thoughts and prayers are with all of those living with flooding. I have been blessed to live mainly just beyond the river’s usual reach. One can never be certain with a river. In the sixty years the home has been in the family the river has never come into the living space. I still hold respect for the river, since it has reclaimed the cellar on a number of occasions. The land around the house is on loan from the river and could be reclaimed next week. It has also deposited an incredible supply of rich topsoil. Anything will grow near the river. My walk today led past hollyhocks in a second flush, roses still profusely in bloom and one tree turned golden. Blessing and woe, I saw numerous dandelions also. River’s are beautiful and powerful. Respect and appreciate the wonders God made.

A Cup of Cold Water

October begins the cooling of the Northern hemisphere. I stumbled upon the temperature in Fairbanks, Alaska this afternoon online. It is 34 degrees! That sounds like winter to me. For most of us fall can bring a welcome relief in the form of very comfortable temperatures. When I created the list of ordinary things to look at in a fresh way this summer I was inspired by a memory.

One year we had a flood that destroyed our hot water heater and furnace. Thousands of people were similarly situated and so it was over a month before we were able to have them replaced. It was late October when we received our new hot water heater and furnace. I was very appreciative of the fact that I doubt there is a month that was better for going without hot water, heat or air-conditioning.

I will always remember how the  cold water running from the spigots cooled over the month of October. Early in October a shower with only cold water was hardly noticeable. By the middle of the month everyone in my family had switched to baths augmented by a couple large pots of hot water heated on the stove.

Each fall since I have been reminded of what a luxury hot, running water truly is.

It is easy to take such things for granted in life. In many places clean, running water is an unheard of luxury.

Even cold, fresh, running water is a blessing. Jesus talks about rewards to his followers in Matthew’s Gospel. Sometimes when He talks about drink rewards they are much more than something to drink.

Here He talks about a simple cup of cold water. Matthew records this in 10:40-42.
“Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me. And anyone who welcomes me welcomes the One who sent me. Suppose someone welcomes a prophet as a prophet. That one will receive a prophet’s reward. And suppose someone welcomes a godly person as a godly person. That one will receive a godly person’s reward. Suppose someone gives even a cup of cold water to a little one who follows me. What I’m about to tell you is true. That one will certainly be rewarded.”

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Rather than tell us that we need pass out Starbuck’s cards to the homeless, Jesus tells us that even if we just hand out cold water to those who are thirsty, God sees our kindness and rewards us. No we don’t earn points toward heaven. None of us could ever earn heaven. Jesus earned that for us on the cross. The reward is God noticing and appreciating our efforts.

One thing that I have done in the past is prepare “Manna Bags” to pass out to beggars. They are gallon-size plastic bags containing a bottle of water, and single-serving size crackers, fruit cup, plastic spoon and fork, easy-open meat (like tuna), hand wipe, paper napkin and a note telling the person of God’s love. We made them at my church. I kept them in my car ready to pass out in traffic when waiting for a light. We had a local man who always had his dog with him, so I kept individual-serving dry dog food also.

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Even bottled water to hand out would be wonderful. Try adding a label to the bottles with a word of grace like, “God loves you.”

It is easy for me to become distracted by the “great things” that should be done. Jesus points out in this passage that even the small things are important. A cup of cold water can be important enough for the maker of the universe to stop, perhaps say something like, “That’s my girl!” It isn’t only the grand gestures that matter. Hot water tanks or heaters are wonderful but even a simple cup of cold water is significant.

Every kindness we show to others is valuable. Isn’t life really made up of the small, everyday kindness that we give and receive.

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Autumn Roses

20130519-211447.jpgMy last flush of roses are blooming today,

Fragrantly unfolding on this crisp October day.

Autumn’s chill is sharpening the air

And the profusion of roses are as big as they dare.

From semi-double to two-hundred petals

They are gloriously beautiful, but have thorns sharp as nettles.

Their beauty isn’t diminished by their armor for me,

I know that such loveliness must be protected from thieves.

A chilling breeze sweeps down from the north,

Turning leaves on the trees to yellow, crimson and orange.

But, the roses blossom in shades of summer true,

And the last forget-me-nots add their touch of blue.

Are October’s roses more sweetly endowed,

Or is it the season that enamours the crowds?

Are roses more lovely in the autumn breeze

Because soon to follow is winter’s freeze?

Sweater Weather

imageSweaters, Merriam-Webster lists them as knitted or crochets garments.

The first use of the term comes from the 15th century. That is about the time that knitting first began. Prior to this if you needed some extra warmth you were dependent upon a cape or shawl.

With the development of knitting it first became possible to have a garment that had some stretch. Trying to move your arms and shoulders freely was difficult unless you wore a loose-fitting garment. Conversely, loose-fitting clothing for warmth, like a cape, allows quite a bit of air flow up into the garment decreasing its ability to keep you warm.

In the 21st century we have threads that have stretch and we love materials that have fibers like Lycra and spandex woven into them.

We have the advantage of being able to keep warm and comfortable without considering how for centuries those were mutually exclusive objectives.

When they first came on the scene a sweater was a marvel of new technology.

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Today a sweater is a symbol of coziness. It resonates as comforting.

Sweaters can be works of art or works of love when they are hand knit. Or they may be called, “ugly” when they are mass-produced gaudy.

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The sweater depends upon who made or purchased it and how they fit the wearer. It is easy to take a sweater for granted. Most of us have drawers full of cardigans and pull-overs with which we keep ourselves warm and comfortable.

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If you are a knitter you know they extent of the labor involved in making a sweater. It does not consist simply in the sheer quantity of the thousands of stitches, but also in the complications involved in shaping the piece to fit the body.

Let it be sufficient for me to say that if you ever happen to be the recipient of a hand-knit sweater you are extraordinarily loved.

imageA completed sweater no matter how poorly made is a masterpiece of hope, plan, labor and hopefully skill.

To knitters who wish to attempt this Everest of knitting, tell the recipient, make sure they like the design and take repeated measurements and fittings throughout the process.

To attempt a surprise is tempting fate and will like result in a complete waste of your time and considerable money.
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A well-made hand-knit sweater will fit the recipient exactly. Unlike ready to wear it is a personal  garment.

Treasure the sweater for the love that it represents, even if you hide the offending item when the maker is not around.

Who Else Can You Really Trust?

The Dashwood sisters from the 1995 Ang Lee movie based upon Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility

The Dashwood sisters from the 1995 Ang Lee movie based upon Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility

There was no way that I could have predicted this, but after writing about trust on Monday I discovered on Friday that trust was the theme for Five Minute Friday. Oh, no! What is a girl to do?

Enter my sister from stage right. Actually she entered from the door on the right, but now I have drama on my mind. I don’t remember what she came to tell me. I know it was only a few hours ago, but what she said wasn’t important. What she did set the wheels rolling in my mind. She had a dust mop and she swept the floor of my study while we talked.

After I had shared the trust that dogs have for us. I likened it to the trust we should have for God. I thought that I couldn’t find more to say on the subject of trust in one week. Who can you trust besides God and your dog? Your sister! For those who do not have a sibling that you have always been close to, you will have to think about a dear friend who has been like a brother or sister for you. You can trust a good sister.

In the book, Sense and Sensibility, Marianne and Elinor are close sisters who experience loss, injustice, grief, broken hearts and much more. They are very close friends despite the fact that they respond to the vicissitude of life in very different ways. Siblings teach us that we don’t have to agree with everything someone else thinks in order to love and care for them. Elinor, Marianne and their younger sister Margaret help one another through a period of upheaval because they have learned to trust one another.

My mother always stressed that everyone needs someone that they can trust to always tell them the truth. Sisters we were taught should stand with each other through good and bad times alike. My sister is someone I can trust to tell me the unvarnished truth, even if I don’t want to hear it. She will help me no matter what. She will also sweep my study floor if she is holding a dust mop and talking to me. That is another picture of true trustworthiness in my book, as well as Jane Austen’s.

This post is number nine in the series A Fresh Look @ Simple Things. It is also teaming up with the Five Minute Friday team at Kate Motaung’s. Check out what else is going on by following the links above.

Overlooked Potato No More

imagePotatoes are so ordinary to me. When I choose the topics for this series I was looking for commonplace items that I could reflect upon. Honestly, I was seeking things that most people would be very familiar with. This post is part of the series A Fresh Look @ Simple Things , for write 31 days 2015. If you want to see what others have to say about write31days check it out here. Continue reading

Simple Pleasures of Life with Cats

Cats. What can I say about these enigmatic creatures that is fresh and new?  My earliest memories are of soft tabby fur and a purr that reverberated through the walls. Cats do not occupy all my time. I don’t write about them. My sister and I  have said for years that I should write a book about cats; what can I say in a blog post?

They may not occupy that much space in my conscious mind but they are as pervasive as air in the history of my world. They have always been present and without air we gasp and die. I’ve spent my whole life living in close communion with cats.

The cat will treat you as you treat them. If you want an animal that will largely look after itself and share your home without demanding much of your life the cat will oblige you. If you worship the ground that they walk upon they will treat you like a god.

I have always treated my cats like close family members. Puff Mae treated me like her own kitten and I treated her as another mother. I learned the location of every little hiding-hole in our home before I could run. I perfected my “run all the way around the room without touching the floor” with such success that as a skinny two-year-old I broke the coffee table. My mother could not understand my explanation for why I had run across the top. “Why would you run across the table?” “I had to Puff Mae was leading me and teaching me.” “What?” “I can already crawl all around the room behind the furniture without your having seeing me. Now I need to learn how to go around the room without having to put my feet on the floor.”  “Are you playing cat games?”, she finally guessed. “They’re games. Didn’t you play them when you were little?” “No. Petesie and I  cuddled and had tea parties. He was a really good cat.”  “You missed a lot, Mommy” “Just stay off the tables.” “But I’ll never make it around the room.”” You are not a cat. You can’t jump as far and you won’t fit. Stay off the tables. Try tea parties.”

Puff Mae was superb at raising little girls. She cooperated with wearing endless clothes but my mother insisted that I not pull doll bonnets down tight on her head and I must never tie (read knot) the bonnet strings. It would be uncomfortable for her ears. She sat, rode, and sprawled in every piece of doll furniture without complaint and even drank water from doll bottles. If I squeezed too fast the water ran into her mouth faster than she could drink and some ran out the other side and down her chin. She would turn her head if I didn’t pour the water in slow enough to drink. They only time she was ever put-out by my high jinks was when I put a “magic ” bottle in her mouth. When she saw what looked like milk decreasing in the bottle, but couldn’t feel any liquid in her mouth she literally jumped out of the doll high-chair and would have nothing to do with that bottle again. Her patience set the course for my life.

Puff Mae

Puff Mae

As an adult I have treated my cats as if they were my  “natural “kittens and they have treated me like the mother. I always have a cat with me in the house. My own cat, Rose follows me around and comes running with my dog to greet me when I come home.  They want to be a part of all that I do. Writing bores my cats, so they regard it as more-or-less nap time. The writing is more if they are sleepy and less if they are not tired.

Each of my cats has had very unique personality. They have all been very intelligent and had definite individual interests. Rose loves to spend time in the kitchen with me when I cook. She knows that she must remain on the floor or the chair. For her it is a time when she has me mainly to herself. She follows me around the room and listens to me as I do my version of a cooking show host for her benefit. My “fur kids” don’t get to eat human food as it is not healthy for them. Rose doesn’t sample the food she “helps” me prepare. The only exception comes in a tiny taste of roast chicken when I am putting the leftovers away. She loves roast chicken so much that she sits and watches it while it roasts. I’m careful to leave the oven light on since she happily waits in front of the oven window. The way she sniffs the air as it cooks is adorable. The look in her eye as she quietly waits by the oven tells me clearly that having my attention and roast chicken is pure bliss to a cat.

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Rose

This post is part of the series A Fresh Look @ Simple Things.

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Character Trees

imageI love trees. My street had a wealth of old trees when I was a child. My bedroom window looked out into the upper branches of an ancient apple tree. It was a view that I adored. When I read Anne of Green Gables I immediately recognized the Snow Queen.

As a teen when I went off to college in the big city I was rapidly appalled by the exhaust fumes, noise and endless concrete. My older sister loved the city. I always preferred the country, but I had nothing against the city. Only a few months into college I found myself irresistibly standing transfixed on the sidewalk in front of the only green space on campus. It was home to one majestic tree. A squirrel was playing next to tree and I could not move until he disappeared from sight. I was late for class because I couldn’t take my eyes off a squirrel. As a conscientious student, I was astounded at my own behavior. Being of a philosophical nature I pondered what it represented for the rest of the day and part of the night. I concluded that I could not be happy living anywhere with more people than trees. I probably overestimated the number of trees required, but to this day I have never been satisfied without a minimum of one tree per household.  More trees always make me happier.

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I originally believed that when the tree to person ratio exceeded my preferences it resulted in too many people congested into one area. I now wonder if it may also be a natural fondness for what trees represent. I have a good friend who is a fellow tree enthusiast. She described trees as have such interesting characters. She did not mean that they had personalities, but that they remind us of people who have very lively characters. The sort of characters who make an engaging story. My friend loves a good story as well as an interesting tree. I think that this may be why writers often express a fondness for trees. Tolkien loved trees as did L.M. Montgomery. Trees often remind me of people with personalities too big to keep in check.

I have cried when my neighbors cut a tree down. I still miss trees that were removed years ago. When age, disease or lightning damage a tree I understand why that tree may need to be removed. What I don’t understand is why some people view trees as nothing more than a liability issue. Lest it lose a branch in a storm, or blow down on a car they cut it down and replace the regal growth of generations with a sapling. I find it sad. Everyone doesn’t find the same joy in antique trees.  Rather than an arborist they call a tree removal company. Fortunately, God filled the earth with trees and left alone more grow. New trees are the hope of the future. I will admit that some self-sow very freely and many a gardener may have been disgruntled by their pervasiveness. They do not always take root in the best places. Oh, but the beauty they provide!

You may have guessed, but my favorite trees are wild trees. Left to their own devices the winds reshape trees into fascinating structures. Some people want symmetry. As for me, I like tempestuous trees, shockingly autumn colored trees, frilly spring blooming trees, stooping, weeping or swaying, I love trees.

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