The Cruelty of a look Askance

With December on the doorstep the fields are yet bare of snow.  Autumn brings lists and indoor work such to keep my mind from straying from grudges about the weather and season.  Truth is, summer is always more of a gift than ever I could ask for.  The buckets of flower and beans seeds saved from the final dehiscence of blooms and fruits are proof of trust and hope.  Hope being a kind of prayer, we prayerfully tuck them away for the season of dark and cold.

Thoughts and ponderings take root during these dark quiet evenings and it occurs to me (once again) that the sermon on the mount is clear – we were never (none of us) saved merely for our own sake.  All parts of our lives, whether verbal or non, active or passive, must radiate the love of Christ.  If they don’t – if we give the impression of dislike or disapproval, we are a Pharisee.  I’m not sure that I even mean that “we behave like one”.  I think we become one.  “Holier than thou, watch me I am the non-sinner and holy, you aren’t measuring up to my level of spirituality”.  Only Christ has the right to look down on anyone.  We don’t know if He looked down on the Pharisees or not, but he was not passive aggressive.  He called out the Pharisees for being Whited Sepulchers.  Whitewashed tombs.  They loved their power and position, and every “sermon” they preached or rule they made or interpreted, was to keep that status.

He corrected the more lowly of sinners, but he never even once seemed to act with disgust or disapproval toward them.  If we want to emulate Him, we must stop our disapproval tours, and begin loving those around us no matter how they’re dressed, or what they live like.

The person who seemed to be the convergence of the two (Pharisee yet humble sinner) was Nicodemus.  He came with an honest question, willing to listen and learn.  Jesus seemed to say “you should know this”, but then he told him outright – “you must be born again’, and helped him see what that meant.  We don’t hear much about Nicodemus until the end when he helped bury Jesus.  That is evidence to me that Nicodemus heard and obeyed.
When I have someone looking at me like I am so naughty (or that my children are?) it simply doesn’t create a desire in me to be more….be more what?  They haven’t said.
It causes me to feel unloved and unwanted.  Not even enough care goes into “looks”, to say what I should change.  It is merely a mean look.   Don’t get me wrong, I have known folks who have brought me their weekly list of my “wrongs” and I don’t like that either.  I actually *am* within my biblical structure of authority and it is important to me to stay there (and you will find this in 1 Col 11. don’t add to it please).  I don’t think I need to have a weekly list of character improvements by arbitrary people to move me onto a better path.  That’s not to say I’m so good I don’t need work, I just listen better to love and acceptance.  Like most people.
Get out of the way of the Holy Spirit and let Him do His job.  Even this simplistic diatribe can help us see (myself included) that to love one another, is simply that.  It isn’t “we love them so much we want to help them see they aren’t as good as us”.

“And they tossed scripture to pious spirits and feeble minds; two things I could never distinguish by dialect or dress” (Raymond St.Elmo)

As the days shorten, so shall my energy.  It is then more important to budget this energy well.  Choral programs, A daughter’s wedding, a few more “parties” here bring joy, meaning, and love to our home.  Never give in to the temptation to shrivel within yourself.  It will only bring grief.  Next time I may re-attempt mirth.  It seems more fitting.

Mostly sincerely, ~Pam.

Mostly sincerely, ~Pam.

A Midsummer night’s ramble

As we get closer to mid-summer (or the beginning of summer, depends upon how you view June 21), the days lengthen into something extremely tolerable.  The latitude is about 44° (North) where I live so where I grew up was even better (45 °) in the summer…..darker in winter.  But not enough difference to make growing things any different.  Even the soil is similar – A lot of clay below the topsoil in the non garden areas (so if you dig a new garden, you will need to add good black dirt and compost).  Campfires go late into the evening with not too many bugs yet.  It is a charmed time of the year right now.

Around the summer solstice, it becomes almost easy to be tranquil, kind and peaceful.  There is hospitality in having folks come over, even when things aren’t perfect, so do not fail to meet together. Of course things must be comfortable for the guest, and disorder and clutter are rarely comfortable.

Jonathan is working hard in the beeyard these days, after his day job.  We help when he needs help.  Simple trigonometry problems go up on the whiteboard almost each week so the children can keep their brains exercised in practical word problems (like figuring the height of something too tall to measure, using shadow lengths, or a simple formula for an easy-ish combinatorial) through the summer, and book reports continue at a much slower, lazier pace.  Such is the homeschool family, that we find learning in all things.

I cannot part with my large pot of rosemary this summer so I sincerely hope it enjoys being in the house getting daily personalized attention.  As I get older, I become more and more attached to this particular smell.  I love the lavender too, but it would be deprivation to make it stay in here all summer long.  I’m late getting the front porch cleaned (lots of spiders around here), and the outdoor bench and wooden boxes I use as end tables need their coat of beeswax polish again.  I will need to deal with it before the 4th of July, when our intimate little group of relatives and whatever friends might want to come (and this entirely up to the potential guest, who would be, in most cases, quite welcome. One simply has to ask), will have a bbq on the porch and drink water and talk all afternoon until supper and then fireworks at Clear Lake in the nearby town.  Possibly a few games of spikeball, volleyball, practice throwing a few discs (so I can maybe become not *so* awful at disc golf), etc …

I would like to think that life always flows with midsummer ease.  I know that isn’t so, but my illusion at this time persists.

Quite Sincerely, Pam.

Quite Sincerely, Pam.

“The pedigree of honey
Does not concern the bee;
A clover any time to him
is aristocracy.” (Emily Dickinson)

Spring Things

I was recently reflecting on how spring seems to be passing me by this year.  I heard someone say that we’ve had no spring, but indeed we have.  It is on the calendar and in the heavens.  But they are right in that it has been too cold and rainy to do the spring things we usually try to do about now.  So I guess that is where my thoughts and reality come to convergence (and I love when that happens): If I don’t hurry and do the spring things outside that need doing, while it isn’t raining, they won’t get done and summer will come crashing in on me.

If you happen to recall my last spring’s thunderous disinterest about my gardens, that last paragraph may sound ambitious.   But each spring brings a different thing to us.  There is still time to get a jump on summer and if you need help, call me.  I’m willing but ignorant.   And just so we’re clear, what you’ll get is an immediate appointment for my physical labor in your garden, that brings no expertise, just experience and a fresh eye.

My children could vouch that a recurring motto with me is “Learn by others’ mistakes.  You don’t have time to learn all you need to by making your own”.  My concern here is that we all make mistakes – and hopefully learn from them.  But if we rely on making a mistake in order to learn a hard thing – we’ll be fresh out of years before we learn some really valuable things in time to use them.  So while I never advocate being nosy and watching for dirt, one can be wise and realize things going on and quietly learn.   When they were very young it worked like this:  one child gets in trouble for something, the rest see that go down and decide to not do it themselves.   Life’s simple little lessons continue all our lives that way.

Last night we were helping Jonathan (the current main beekeeper here), install a whole bunch of bees into two different yards.  He’s trying Russian bees this year.   Now some people say that type is more aggressive, but we were thinking that after bouncing in a horse trailer for 900+ miles in the rain, anybody would be temporarily aggressive.  So we all received bee stings, and I personally am resisting the urge to say : “Здасвуйте мой товарищ!”

Tonight’s dinner will be salad, and some burgers that I found done up in the freezer.  I think I’ll try them on the grill.  With me, that is always a risky endeavor, but Mark cleaned it, so I should not need my usual arsenal to put the fire out.  Odd juxtaposition of words, but you knew what I meant.  The salad will be whatever I clean out of the vegetable bin, added to the lettuce and tomatoes from the greenhouse and the burgers are truly a cleaning of that section of freezer.  I must have thought I would use them right away because I never labeled them.  It’s clear though what they are (so I hope I’m right).  Any potential freezer burn can easily be masked with enough ketchup and mustard.    So in true Pam fashion: tonight is clean the fridge night.

I think I’ll make a cup of coffee and take it outside with me.  Go watch somebody else for a bit.

Quite Sincerely, Pam.

Quite Sincerely, Pam.

Winter Solstice

I have a few hours here before evening ramps up, and another day before we begin to prepare for our annual foodie extravaganza at our house (New Years Eve).   What began as a way to make the Holiday activities special, for all of our young children (awhile back), became a special evening for the whole family.  Even those who have grown up (most of them) and moved away (some of them) look forward to it and try to be there for it.  At some point once the older ones were old enough to eat horseradish root, we began the tradition of digging up a few of the roots from the garden (and this proves difficult when the ground is frozen solid but it makes for very nice horseradish), and creating an extremely delicious version of cocktail sauce to dip our shrimp into.  At some point in our travels and years, we also picked up using tubes of wasabi sauce, and we make sushi to put this onto.  The food underneath is a mere conveyance.  Anyway, this is all miraculously accomplished near winter solstice, when the sun is lowest in the sky at midday (relative to the rest of the year), and the days are very short.

The reason this (northern) hemisphere has these short days during this time (both sides of December 21 or 22), is because the northern hemisphere is tilted away from the sun.  Looks rather like this from a distance:(winter on the right)

img_1958

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now that we have bright electric lights, we can light up our homes easily to extend the day a bit, yet we still feel the lack of natural sunlight, making us tired earlier.  We even hate to leave our houses in this dark. (disclaimer: this may be a true fact only on planet Pam).

So I suggest we prioritize our energies (for we still have much to do) and do those needful things, keeping the many extras minimal, especially in the dark evenings.  Especially (and this is the key) if it distrupts our family life and peaceful equilibrium.  Psalm 39:6 tells us that all of our busy rushing and striving ends in nothing.  Ignore ‘keeping up appearances’.  Some people don’t even realize that is what they are doing until they are presented with that possibility.  The next right thing to do, isn’t necessarily the thing everyone else is doing to appear good.  It is that necessary thing that is put in front of you, that is budgeted in.  Be careful (and flexible) here; as it becomes easy overdo it and get crabby or too tired to enjoy your family.

And as this short day looks to be winding down (sunlight wanes), so shall I.

Quite Sincerely, Pam.

Quite Sincerely, Pam.

April Showers

April is a fickle month in MN.  One never knows one day to the next if it will rain, shine, sleet, (sometimes snow), be warm, cold, or in between; Unless of course you read the weather report, then you may have some idea.  I generally prefer to step outside and take a look around each morning.  Life should have some wonder and surprise, and a sunrise and weather are always a wonder.

April also has a few special days in it.  Forget April Fools Day – I hate that one. I like having fun, but I tend to shy away from doing so at another’s expense.  Seems like practical jokes come back to bite.

Lillian and Kim have birthdays this month, but it seems like quite a few of their friends do also, which is kind of fun.  Thomas Jefferson’s birthday is on the 13th.  We don’t tend to celebrate it but it seems worth mentioning.  Square root day was the 4th, for obvious reasons.  Arbor Day is somewhere in there, as is the Turkmen racehorse festival (in Turkmenistan anyway).   One of my favorites is Day of Silence (April 15th – Makes me wonder if it’s related to tax day).  We could perhaps even pull it off except that it’s one of our birthday days here.  I remember the day she was born.  It was warm enough to walk around outside.  There were dandelion greens all over and I remember thinking that if I felt more like bending down and picking things I could make a salad with them.

Last year I reminded all those who read this (mark) that April is National Poetry month.  I go through rare periods of inability to grab onto inspiration, as in now, so this year I’m reminding myself.  For what it’s worth, it is also National Mathematics awareness month, so maybe I’ll be more aware of that instead.

Here’s hoping all of the above will lead to May flowers,

Mostly sincerely, ~Pam.

Mostly sincerely, ~Pam.

 

Caspar Milquetoast (historical comic trivia as therapy)

Caspar Milquetoast is a wimpy comic strip character created by H.T. Webster from 1924- into the 50’s. Caspar’s last name is a deliberate misspelling of a bland and fairly inoffensive food appropriate for someone with a weak or nervous stomach. Webster described Caspar Milquetoast as “the man who speaks softly and gets hit with a big stick”. The modern dictionary definition of milquetoast (meaning a very shy or retiring person) comes from Webster’s cartoons.

Now there are obvious elements of this kind of person that are good;  We don’t want to be offensive, sometimes someone who is nervous is cute, speaking softly with our indoor voice when we’re indoors is a good thing.  But I submit that there are some areas where this will get you average or below average goods, services, or worse.  Sometimes if we say something (nicely), we can get the group rate, correct calculation errors or receive discounts, etc….  Kind of a “you have not because you ask not” concept.  Also (the “worse” I refer to), Caspar was a timid soul; A man who was easily dominated or led by a proverbial nose ring.  He was so easy to convince – The girl who chased him simply made her moon face at him as she chased him around for a few years until her father went after him.  Of course Caspar wasn’t man enough to say no (plus it was flattering and he didn’t know that flattery is like perfume: nice to sniff, toxic to swallow).  So he never got around to (and was too timid) pursuing and winning the heart of the one who secretly adored him but would never chase him.  But then perhaps he wanted a dominant obnoxious woman, who knows.

Spring keeps peeking at me.  The March that came in like a lamb, looks like (at least in my neighborhood) it will go out like a lamb as well.  The snowstorm that was announced, was further south so we got a mere 2 inches of soggy snow that melted with the sun.  The swans have paused their travel north to the Arctic Circle so that we can observe their graceful beauty up close in our own waterways.  The swans, of course, are charmingly ignorant of how beautiful they are, which, I suppose makes us all the more grateful.  The Buffleheads (small American sea duck) are also passing through, and their noise makes me smile every year.  No Pelicans yet.  Hilariously comical, we love to watch them but always hope they don’t stay in our ponds (they’d destroy them worse than a large population of geese).   I find my energy returning with the length of days.

Happy Easter.

Quite Sincerely, Pam.

Quite Sincerely, Pam.

Suddenly, the days are longer.

Ok I realize it wasn’t suddenly in real time, but when you look here, we go from getting shorter pretty quickly, to now it is 6:17pm  and still pretty light out.  Miraculous really.  A lot of happenings between then and now, but also a lot of being sick.  I don’t like excuses though and really it is only myself that misses posts here. :-)  Actually, what I really miss, is the stream of events that brings a thought to a series of thoughts, to writing them down until I like it, to posting it on something permanent.  It’s been falling flat on the writing them down part.  I hope any who stumble on this will forgive me for that bit of self-centeredness (the thing I just said).

IMG_7382Kim is big in the news here at our house.  She is sorting and making lists, sewing dresses for her uniform and generally vacillating between being excited and nervous.  It will be her first time moving from home for longer than a few months and that is scary for her.  And we will miss her (!)  But we want our children to have good,normal, happy lives and this was an event that was an answer to specific prayer.  Well, that and she passed her boards (nursing test). Go Kim!    Mountain View in Aroda, VA will soon have a new nurse.

The snow in the yard is almost gone.  The snow on the nearby ski hills is not almost gone.  Yet it gets a dull sheen to it that indicates spring is near.  It seemed like a brief winter.  Late in coming, early in leaving.  Perhaps I will retract that in March.  Some of our worst snow storms happen in March.

Jonathan is at Bible School and loving it.  He wants me to bring his unicycle :-0 .  The Trumpeter Swans are migrating again, and we plug along each day doing all the needful things.  And I am realizing that I got as far on “the stream of events”, as writing them down.  I’ll probably also even get it on my site (such as it is).  But clever has taken a vacation.  I hope it returns in my lifetime.

As always,

Mostly sincerely, ~Pam.

Mostly sincerely, ~Pam.

 Deep roots are not reached by the frost

Mark has been growing vegetables in the basement, hydroponically.  Also, he has continued the garden after the frost (back in September) using cloth over bended poles to cover things like broccoli and cabbage (pretty easy) and lettuce (not as easy).  I have a potted cherry tomato that I brought in to put under his lights.  With all this, I’ve noticed a few things:  The lettuce that grows inside is beautiful, but it’s leaves are thinner, not as crunchy as the lettuce grown outside in the cold.  It is also cleaner.  Mark prefers the outdoor lettuce because he likes the crunch.  I prefer the indoor lettuce because I like that it isn’t dirty.  It seems the cold hardens them- makes them stronger.   We have a number of tomato plants in the basement.  Mine that I mentioned, is doing pretty well under regular lighting and is well in the basement where it stays fairly warm. But again, without the winds to strengthen the stalk, it is weaker than summer tomatoes outside.  I water it and deadhead the marigolds and pretend I have a garden there (in my little plant pot).  There are also some that Mark cloned from my garden favorites, near the window where they only get natural sunlight (such as it currently is).  It isn’t cold, but it also isn’t as warm there.  These plants are spindly and tall and cannot hold themselves up and the leaves are beginning to get wilty even though they have everything else they need.  They also prevent the curtains closing in the master guestroom down there so my apologies to those visitors who have had to sleep with cats or coyotes peering in the window through the tomato leaves.  Then there was a tomato plant out in our new greenhouse.  The floor heat wasn’t connected in there yet so while there was a bit of sunlight low in the sky, and it wasn’t freezing in there, there was no wind and the floor wasn’t warm.  This tomato plant produced quite a few tomatoes just before it died for no apparent reason.  It turns out that the roots on a tomato plant need warmth. I keep thinking about that one, along with the hardening of the lettuce.  I believe I’ll keep thinking on it because there is a message in there somewhere.  

In case you are wondering about pollination for those tomato flowers, Mark uses a toothbrush.  :-)  We’ve been kept in plenty of salad for a couple of months now.  It’s great.

On an even more fun note, Jonathan is home again after over 3 years in Haiti.  The first Sunday he was home, he woke the other boys up with a fog horn/siren/revelle medley through a loud speaker.  Mark and looked at each other in the kitchen and said “Jon’s home”.   Jonathan has a different way of looking at life, or perhaps just way more of how we look at life, but we like him that way.  We also like that he listens to us and adjusts.  Welcome home Jon!

As we prepare for another family wedding, there is much to do.  Between all that though, the children made a snowman and the hunters keep hunting. Normalcy continues and we strive for peace.  The fabric of life is woven deep.  Life doesn’t have to be perfect, to be wonderful.

Have a great week,

Quite Sincerely, Pam.

Quite Sincerely, Pam.

 

All that is gold does not glitter
Not all those who wander are lost
The old that is strong does not wither
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
(J.R.R.Tolkien)

 

Venerable August

This is the busy month of summer.  Different than the other busy months of summer.  This is the time we put up as much food for the coming winter months as we can.  Weeds are ignored, though there aren’t as many as before, and flowers are bursting the confines of the garden borders.  When there is extra to do, it means less sleep.  The sunshine seems precious now, and will even more so next month.  In a way, we are saving that too, in our jars and freezers.

In my peripheral vision, for some time now there has been a transitional quality to the sunlight, that hints at the coming death of summer.  Now it can’t be ignored.  The days are quite obviously now, shorter.  The past few days have been in the 50’s and rainy.  This isn’t all bad, since it keeps us from having to water the gardens, and brings new life into the green beans.   And if you look up and take notice, there are beauties to even the gloomy rainy days.   Young green herons do not tend to get waylaid in your back yard, right under the window, on a bright sunny day.  And white light does not have anything to refract it, in a clear blue sky.

young green heron

refracted light

Awake!

The winter seems over for now.  The Geese have been returning for a week or so.  A pair of swans were seen over the farm.  And while out at the campfire (unusual itself, for March) we heard the bizarre “rattle” of the Sandhill crane.  Perhaps the Robins I saw in the apple trees have been here for a bit, but I only saw them yesterday.  Since the snow has melted from the road ditches, the hawks, eagles, and vultures are out en masse.  The sunset is made more vibrant by clouds.  This is how life goes.   Beauty returns in yet another form, and the clouds actually teach more and give more than clear blue sky ever can.

We did not celebrate National Pi day (3.1415) by eating pie, but rather by calculating the circumference of the fire pit outside while roasting bratwurst on sticks.  This date seems very memorable, and it is, happening only once this century.  However I will state that I personally only really use 3.14 anyway.  And truly, next year is almost better since it is more accurate if you round to the nearest hundred thousandths.  3.14159…  does actually round to 3.1416, which is a year from now.  So if you failed to celebrate Pi day this year, there is always another and perhaps more accurate year coming.  It just isn’t usually warm enough for comfortable campfires around here on that date.

Have a beautiful March.  As always,

Mostly sincerely, ~Pam.

Mostly sincerely, ~Pam.