Monday, November 24, 2008

Magic Ice

Yesterday my friend, Far Side of Fifty, posted a reminiscent blog called "Magic Ice." I've only experienced ice like this one other time, when I was a teenager visiting a friend on her ranch in Oregon. And that time I didn't know how to skate. Just looking through the ice at the weeds and life carrying on below was thrilling enough, though. 

This year our ice is even far. It unnerves me a bit to walk level on nothing but water as I watch the ground gradually falling away beneath me. Faith, Lattice, faith... I think I can now relate a lot better to Peter's anxiety as he stepped a few paces away from the boat!  ;~)

Our kids have never experienced perfect ice before. Often the wind blows too hard during this season, making the ice build in uneven ridges; or it snows as the water freezes, forming a huge sheet of jagged crystallized bumps littered with hollow pockets in surprising places, all hidden beneath a blanket of white powder. But our kids love to skate, good ice or bad, and for the past month our son has used at least one of his breaks during the school day to run down and check the depth of ice on our small swamp. A week or so ago it reached four inches, which was enough to walk on safely (the more daring were prob'ly driving ATV's on it by then), and as we've been studying the Scandinavian countries and watching Hans Brinker, or the Silver Skates, the kids' excitement was at fever pitch and we nearly had a family incident by the time I dug out the skates this past weekend!

The kids were content on the swamp for two days, but then yesterday afternoon I walked to town to do some errands and detoured by the lake on my way home. There were two men on the lake, 30-50 yards out from the shore, removing small boulders that someone had thrown on the ice to check it's strength. Everywhere else the ice was a perfect smooth sheet. I trotted home as quickly as I could, knowing the swamp was never going to seem "enough" after this. No matter--this was not a gift to be left unopened! 

Everyone at home was up to their eyeballs in home projects, but I called a 30-minute recess, grabbed skates, camera, and kids, and headed back to the lake for some quick fun and fresh air. By the time we got there, the men were gone and the whole lake was ours. Within two minutes the kids were skating the entire length of our summer beach, stretching their wings and trying new tricks.

"Thanks, Mom! That was THE best skating I've ever been able to do! That ice is perfect! Will you take us again tomorrow, and bring your skates, too?"

...Well, yes, I think maybe I will... And I don't know if we might have inspired anyone who happened to be watching through the windows of their lake home, but like the Gospel, this news is too good to keep to ourselves. We invite you to join us...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Watson Falls

Mist filters past us
Driven by playful puffs of wind
Collecting on angel noses,
Dripping off ecstatic chins

From dark to open light
With rainbow rays of praise
Dancing around shadows
Swirling deep with timeless phrase

Forever tumbling, sparkling
Finding paths of least resistance
Heading t'ward full oceans
From some expansive distance

Sheer curtains of endless power
And opaque, dynamic glow
Merge in rhythmic, cyclic cadence
To pound loudly far below

And through the chaos at the bottom
Order is restored
Settling out 'round mossy boulders
Resumes a stream that we can ford

We spent the next several days of our trip in my old stomping grounds--the southern Cascade Mountains in Oregon, around Crater Lake NP. I spent my earliest "hidden years" there, climbing trees, building forts, running up and down game trails, romping around our secluded hydroelectric power camp. There were ten houses in our camp, plus the building where my dad worked, a school for the 40 1st-8th Graders who lived in our camp and the USFS camp a few miles up the road, and housing for our two teachers and the principal/teacher/bus driver/janitor/Phy Ed instructor and his wife, the librarian. There were three classrooms, the library, a gym, a playground and a ball field. Since there weren't very many of us, we had to modify game rules in order to play sports, and we square-danced for Phy Ed every Friday (so that was dress day... By third grade I was a total tomboy and hated to wear dresses, but my mom made me a square dance dress I loved!). We had all music and band classes on the same day of the week--the day the music teacher came to camp. Town was 60 miles away.

For me, it was an idyllic life. I liked to read Pippi Longstocking and Nancy Drew tales (our small library had almost all of Carolyn Keene's series), but I really connected with sweet Heidi of the Swiss Alps, reading her story over and over. I agreed with her that high in the mountains was the place to live, and I was steadfastly resistant (on the inside--had to acquiesce on the outside...) when my parents chose to move us to a large town just before I started 6th Grade.

Watson, Whitehorse, and Clearwater Falls were just a few minutes' drive from camp, and we visited them frequently. Huckleberry season, morel and coral mushroom season, deer and elk hunting, fishing, and wood-cutting season all beckoned us their way. I guess we were hunters-and-gatherers, living simply in the midst of some of God's most spectacular scenery.

But I was completely grown before I ever actually got in Watson Falls. I had long dreamed of daring it, but it's not an easy act. The water plunges 272 feet in a sort of "cathedral amphitheatre" of columnar basalt, landing in a shallow pool strewn with boulders. It's perfectly clear and paralyzingly cold, and the pelting curtain moves--a long, slow swirl, kind of like water swirling down a funnel (except pelting!). In an exhilarating, kind of "last act" together before my brother got married and life changed, he took my hand, pulled me up and past the trail, and led me straight into the torrent at the bottom of the falls. That dousing was defining--one of the most freeing, joyful experiences of my life. It is standing in the presence of Almighty God and being washed clean! I danced... 

And it was on my "must do" list to pass that experience forward to our kids during our recent trip. They were quite eager and intrepid to do this wild, extraordinary thing, and we had a blast. But it illustrated a different concept for them. It gave them a whole new appreciation for the concept of honoring their parents. My husband and I have since enjoyed being viewed as a valuable part of the fabric of the umbrella God provides to protect them from our enemy's fiery darts!


A picture is worth a thousand words, but for the rest of the story, click here.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Common Decency

He stirs up the sea with His power, and by His understanding He breaks up the storm... Indeed, these are the mere edges of His ways, and how small a whisper we hear of Him! But the thunder of His power, who can understand?  --Job 26:12, 14

The conclusion of the election process seems like a natural break--a perfect place to refocus and finish journaling our vacation lessons. Now let's see...where were we? Oh yes--we had just arrived at the vast, powerful, massive piece of creation known as The Pacific Ocean! (Which is just the mere edge of His ways??? The small whisper we hear of Him...? Wow!)

My husband and I have each lived a small part of our lives on the ocean, and wanted to help our kids take in and savor their "very last first time" there. We coached them in safety concerns before we left the hotel, then borrowed a bit from an idea set forth in James Michener's novel, Space. He says to first look at the stars with the naked eye, then binoculars, and then, finally, a telescope, pacing oneself to enjoy each layer of revelation...  

Our kids started first with just a glimpse of the ocean (easy to accomplish since it was foggy). Once we parked, they stood for a moment just outside our vehicle to take in the panoramic view, first scents, and sounds. It was nearly high tide, so the small dunes with strange new vegetation were more impressive than the slim offerings of the beach (just a few broken shells and no tide pools). After a bit of dune exploration, we approached the frothy outskirts of the tumbling, churning waves. First we snuck up just close enough to run away from them. Finally, we clasped hands tightly and tackled them head on!

What ecstatic fun! What energy!  What freezing temperatures!  After racing and jumping waves at Samoa Beach for most of a very gray morning, we were nearly hypothermic. We changed clothes (no Far, we did NOT need scissors!--we held up damp beach towels to change behind), crowded into our vehicle and turned the heat on full blast, and relished the warmth as we meandered a few miles north of Eureka, CA, to have fresh seafood for lunch at a merchant's marina cafe'. After ordering hot drinks all around, I went to wash. In the women's restroom there is a sign that reads:

"California state law and COMMON DECENCY dictate that all employees wash their hands before returning to work."

The sign is probably common to the people who work there, but I found it refreshing!  ;~) Common decency... Isn't that really just another term for love? Makes me think of God's second greatest commandment: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."  Even washing our hands is a loving thing to do, for others as well as ourselves!

After lunch we played at two warmer, sunny beaches before meandering through the gentle giants in Redwood National Forest on our way north to Crescent City. We arrived at suppertime, still shivering but also glowing.  As we checked into the motel where we had reservations, my father noticed a little sign on the counter:

"You must report any pets traveling with you. There is an extra charge for small dogs.  Note: California state law prohibits leaving pets in vehicles."

Another "sign of love?" When I called to make our reservations I was asked if we'd be bringing any pets, but it never dawned on me, a month ahead of time from here in MN, that my parents out west might bring their two Australian Shepherds with them.  Even if it had, it wouldn't have dawned on me that I needed to notify the motel. For my whole life my parents have either found caretakers or traveled with their dogs as circumstances dictated, but they've never lodged them in a motel. They provide padded mats for the dogs to lie on during driving or sleeping at night; bring along their leashes, dishes, food, and a supply of clean water for them; make frequent stops to meet their needs; and always leave the topper's windows open for adequate ventilation. My parents care for their pets as responsibly as they care for me, but they do not lodge them in motel rooms...

We reported our pets to the desk clerk, and then we were ALL in a real pickle. The dogs were too big to be allowed into the motel room, the law prohibits lodging them in the vehicle, and it was too late to cancel our reservation without having to pay full price for the rooms. Besides, there was no place else to go. The clerk resolved the issue by charging us the extra pet cleaning deposit even though the pets wouldn't be in the room, and telling my father to park in an out-of-the-way space in the parking lot, make the dogs wait for their evening constitutional until after dark, and hope the dogs didn't bark and attract anyone's attention. After getting our wet, sandy clothes washing in the Guest Laundry and taking a quick hot shower to warm up, I found my father in the parking lot taking care of his dogs. It broke my heart when his face crinkled in frustration and his voice cracked when he spoke, "I feel like such a criminal, sneaking around out here!"

Later we learned that such laws are not limited to California. It is illegal to leave pets in vehicles overnight in our state, too. In my world, animals have never needed the government to protect their rights--they've had caretakers with common decency, and that was enough. But I guess activists somewhere have found people who need Big Brother to tell them how to be responsible owners. Whether lawmakers are fanatical or just trying their best to enact reasonable laws, animal rights seems to be an issue where balance is hard to find. My parents were unfairly charged, and forced to break the law, because they brought their "over-sized" dogs with them. And yet they brought them because of...common decency.

Besides that we were spending time in environments those dogs LOVE, playing with people those dogs LOVE, and that they both enjoy traveling, one of the dogs had recently contracted a horrible eye infection. Her vet prescribed medication that had to be administered to her eye several times a day, and the elderly neighbor who usually cares for the dogs when my parents have to leave them could not manage the job. Bringing the dogs along was the most reasonable, decent choice my parents had.

We left Crescent City the next morning, mentally battered but thankful that at least in the previous election the proposed CA state law that would have limited pet travel to only 1-1/2 hours per day did not pass!

What a simple yet complicated concept is "common decency." How hard it is for us to account for all eventualities and set boundaries that truly define love. There are as many choices to make about loving as there are ways to blog. Perhaps that's why God didn't get overly specific in His commandments, and admonishes us to avoid legalism.  His plan is for us to be free to love.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Not my will, but Thine...

"...there's no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God."  
Romans 13:1

It's late, and we already know who won the next presidency.

It's seemed like natural foreshadowing the past couple days to substitute the name "America" for "Assyria" as I've read through the short book of Nahum... (If you try this exercise, don't give up in the middle!)

The peoples' choice is not my choice, but okay, Lord, You are God and I am not. You've put me in this position of surrender before, and You were faithfully full of surprises then...  Your ways are higher--much higher!--than mine...  Thank You for staying in control and implementing YOUR perfect plan.

(Note: If you viewed this blog in its original form you will notice it's now changed. This morning the Lord convicted me that while it was a little catchier with my tongue-in-cheek thoughts, my attitude was out of line.  It reflected resignation but not true surrender to Him. I apologize.)