Trying to be a Tree

I spied the little fella yesterday as I was cleaning out a flower bed, noted his beauty, and since then at length have considered  his lesson. This morning as I set out for another day of yard clean-up, I carried my camera down the stairs with me for I was remembering from yesterday this little creation.

He is trying to be a tree.

He was ordained to be a tree, and somehow in his “guts” he knows he is destined to be such a living thing. It is in his genes, his DNA. Even so, it has not been easy for him. He has fought obstacles including the beating about of fierce winds that come off Lake Gregory and that tear around the corner of our house. Through the winter months cold, edgy snow piled high over him, drenching rain poured off our roof at the spot where he lies, and even sometimes after walking Winston if the garage door is closed I toss a little doggie business bag in that area, that stays there until later when I will retrieve it and plunk it into a trash can. Even that, as you can see, did not deter him. He pushed and shoved. He grew, he grunted, he persevered until finally he was strong enough to crack open his restrictive acorn walls, to flaunt his bright green oak leaves. For you understand, don’t you, that God designed him to be a tree.

DSC_7141 I actually did not know he was there until yesterday, and even then I paid him scant attention. It was only when my rake hung up on him, and I found him to be well rooted into the ground that I considered him. It matters not to him that neither Jerry or me, or anyone else for that matter, had taken note of him, that no one encouraged him with pep talks, or strokes, or positive words. Alone, he continued on his way toward being a tree. He’s a winner, this little seedling of mine. He’s rare. Rare, you say? An acorn? There must be millions in existence, or billions. Yes, there are, but I tell you that out of the mounds of acorns I bagged today, only this one will be a tree. The others have lost their way. Their dreams have died. Their visions of soaring into the sky, of birds nesting among their leaves, of little boys climbing and building club houses in their branches have vanished. Tonight they nestle against the other losers in black trash bags that set near the fence on the east side of our drive way.

And what of you? Of me? What of the gifts God and genetics have placed inside us? What of the urging to break through the binding walls that threaten our going to our graves with our potential unfulfilled, our talents silenced, the world deprived of our gifts. Let not the wind, nor the cold, nor loneliness, nor pressure, nor agedness, nor youth, nor past mistakes, nor anything else now or in the future defeat us.

. . .for even a few rare acorns become trees.

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My little fella is growing in a place that is undesirable. That I now consider him special, I will transplant him into a container. Because we have many oak trees and no room for another, I’m offering him as a gift to you who live close by. Any takers?

A Day of Beauty

A couple of errands I needed to run led me traipsing about the majestic San Bernardino Mountains today, in particular through Crestline and Blue Jay, then into Lake Arrowhead. The weather was perfect; azure skies against which now are flung golden leaves and red and scarlet.

dsc_4633dsc_4638Along the roadway I traveled, a rusted truck stays parked. Today I noted a person near the pumpkins that were in the back of the truck, so I pulled in beside it to say a friendly hello to my fellow mountaineer. As I drew closer I was surprised to see other “persons” in the truck cab. They were of a friendly nature and didn’t seem to mind my snapping a few shots.

dsc_4628dsc_4630A splendid cabin set nearby, and once a young man walked close to me, and asked if I needed help. “No, just taking a few pictures. Thank you,” I replied.

“Have a good day, Ma’am.” He grinned and returned to his work.

Within a couple of hours I was home again. I’m quite interested in our world, try to stay abreast of what’s going on around me, and of course current news reports are jammed with accounts of our election progress. No one asked me, but I’ll tell you anyway; the whole thing is a mess. I’m sad at the depths to which our glorious country has fallen.

So . . .tonight I checked out of all that. Jerry built a roaring fire from eucalyptus wood our son Steve brought to us a few weeks ago. Indeed, it is glorious. The perfect ending to a beautiful day.

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Winston and the Book Shelves

“Where’s Winston?”

“I don’t know. Around here somewhere. I hear him.”

I heard him also and decided to investigate. Found him in the dining room eating . . . a book. From the time he was small he has been fascinated by books, paper, and pens. Chews and eats them all.

ImageHe had climbed onto a hassock, cleared half a shelf of books, knocked them to the floor,  and with his sharp white teeth had destroyed an expensive, old book. I scolded him, cleaned up the mess, rearranged all the books, and got out the vacuum cleaner to finish the job. He lay silently and watched my activities, offering up the distinct look of a chastened soul, which look, I have come to believe, may be contaminated with a hefty portion of hypocrisy.

Later in the day, again I could not find him. Neither could Jerry. We looked everywhere, including the floor-level shelf in the dining room that he had claimed as a tiny pup for a sleeping place, and from which long ago I had cleared all books. He was not there. I called him loudly. Nothing. We began the search again, looking under things and again outside.  I lingered in the dining room when I went there another time. Something out of place caught my eye.

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A dark object had wedged himself behind the books on the shelf. The same shelf. The one he had cleared out earlier in the day.

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“Winston, why didn’t you answer me? What are you doing in that book shelf?”

He opened his sleepy eyes a bit wider, but said not a word.

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The rascal. As I rearranged the books before I lifted him off the shelf, he drifted off to sleep again.

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I suppose I should be impressed with owning such an intellectual pup, but to tell the truth, I sometimes wish he preferred one of his balls or a chew toy over books, pens and papers.

 

Honor to Whom. . .

Since I was a friend of his, Holly had said more than once to me, “I need to meet him. I want to thank him and remind him of how he has influenced my life,” or words to that effect. Then when she heard that he and other dear friends would be at our home on Tuesday, she asked, “Do you think it would be okay if Patrick and I come up and talk with them?”

The situation was this: Quarterly, we three couples–friends for most of our adult lives–rotate to our homes where we share dinner, and a breakfast the following morning: Stevensons, Hodges, and Buxtons. Holly and Patrick Garrett, our young friends who pastor a church in Yucaipa, CA., had not met either the Stevensons or the Hodges. It was in particular Johnny Hodges that Holly wanted to meet.

Earlier in the evening, I had phoned Holly and asked if they would be coming up. “Yes,” she replied. “We’re finishing drama practice and will be up in about an hour.” Our scrumptious dinner was over. Jerry had outdone himself on smoked St. Louis style ribs, (that’s another great story in itself), we had eaten dessert and had drunk strong coffee, Johnny had removed his shoes, and we had all slumped about in delicious old-time-Imagefriend conversations when the Garretts arrived. We made the introductions, offered food and drink, then rather quickly, Holly addressed Brother Johnny Hodges.

“I don’t know if you remember all the details,” she began, and then summarized the story. Her parents, Joyce and Richard Pierce, were not serving God, but because of family connections in the church asked Brother Hodges to marry them. Then sometime later when Holly came into the family, the Pierces asked Brother Hodges to dedicate their baby daughter to the Lord. He did so, and during the ceremony he urged them to continue to take little Holly to God’s house. Thus began the conversion of the Pierce family. He became a minister, and years later started a church in Costa Mesa, CA. It was there that Patrick Garrett found God, and where he and Holly fell in love. They married, have two sons of their own, and now pastor a church in Yucaipa.

“I want you to see the fruit of your labor, Brother Hodges,” Holly said as she pointed to Patrick, who was listening intently.

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A sweet presence of God surrounded us on Tuesday night in our living room as this beautiful young lady sincerely honored the man who those long ago years reached out to her parents, and thus “effected” her salvation, and those of her parents, her husband, her children, and those to whom she and Patrick minister today. I admired her for her thoughtfulness and for her sincerity. It was an unforgettable moment.

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Brother Hodges is now 82 years old, declining, and in very poor health. Many do not recall the days of his youth when he was an honored district leader, and was a preacher of rare skill, anointing, and distinction. Holly, too, has no memory of those days, but she has listened to the stories, and has heard their message, and has inculcated its meaning into her very soul. May there be more Holly Garretts in this world. May there be more Johnny Hodges.

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Seven Thousand and Counting

It grieved me to hear that a highly respected elder minister of the Gospel felt in good conscience he could no longer attend the church he had pastored for many years. The relative who had followed him as pastor has chosen a “new” gospel. The names lack significance. The message cracks with consequence.

As a counterpoint to the short piece above that I recently posted on Facebook, and which received many affirming comments, I present a young couple. Their names are Anthony and Shauna Allen.

ImageAnthony Allen is a young minister, and he and his darling wife stand as the antithesis of the relative noted in the paragraph above. On Sunday at the conclusion of their (and his parents) short visit in our home, Jerry spoke a short devotional.

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ImageAs I gave a final hug to Shauna, she spoke soft words me: It is such a blessing to be in a home where I feel so strongly the presence of God.

Image Our Sunday morning devotion in our living room ended in this way and I was reminded again that across the world there are innumerable honest, ethical, God-fearing people who are not deviating from the doctrines found in the Bible. Young ones, middle-aged ones, and older ones. I recalled that great prophet Elijah who once got to thinking he was the only one doing right. God rebuked him and cited 7000 who had not bowed their knees to Baal.

I smiled. . . and decided to tell you about it.

The Cusp of Wonder

Edgy. I live on the edge, the glorious edge, where every day I am astonished—I never take it for granted—at the beauty, the success, the hint of the hereafter that surround me. For in all areas of my life I find myself balanced on the cusp of wonder. Rising from my bed in the predawn hours of the newest day, I finagle my clothes, flip on the coffee pot, and settle into my favorite chair in the dining room with its wide windows that look across the chasm of Lake Gregory to the untitled (4 of 4)trees of the alpine forest that rise as a standing army on the other side. I read, think, pray, write, contemplate, cry sometimes, and frequently take on a heavy feeling of compassion and concern, and my chest compresses, and at times my heart breaks, but there is nothing I can do about that. I smile occasionally, though, at what I read, and sometimes at my own thoughts. Jerry comes and I pour his coffee, or he pours his own, and he sits in his chair . . .

“It’s just over 70 miles to Palmdale,” was the first thing I said to him this morning as he stood by the coffee pot, “but it will take us about two hours to get there.” He sweetly grunts, (his becoming fully awake is a slow process that can’t be rushed) and hugs and kisses me.

Other points of wonder around me go to political insanities which daily assault my listening ears, disappointment that my beautiful squash plants produced only gigantic yellow blossoms but no zucchini or yellow squash, and discussions with Jerry about buying some kind of screen to secure over the tubs and pots where I will untitled (3 of 4)again plant spring-flowering bulbs. The screen bit is in hopes of keeping the mountain critters, throughout the winter, from filling their little bellies with dinners of un-blossomed tulips, hyacinths, and allium.

Drops of anointing will splash about me during the next many hours, for we are off to Lancaster today to help celebrate with Pastor Sean Manzano and his family the 7th anniversary of the founding of Rushing Wind Worship Center.

We’re leaving early–around noon–for I want to take a little time to photograph the Mormon Rocks and the trains that are always chugging around that area. The massive rock formation is named for a group of Mormons who traveled through the Cajon Pass in covered wagons on their way from Salt Lake to southern California. We’ll get to our hotel room in time to rest a bit before the service tonight.

I live on the cusp of wonder. Tonight I will sit with life-long friends in a congregation of Apostolic believers, and we will worship and sing and listen and talk. There will be a rush of the Spirit of God, and we will clap and rejoice, and around me will settle as points of light the holy presence of God.

We’ll be tired tonight, Jerry and I, and I will lie on my bed ready to fall asleep, and as I often do, I will think of the comfort of sleep and rest. . . and will anticipate the morning, another day on the edge of wonder.

 

Apple Praline Bread

Someone, from somewhere, at some time posted this recipe on the internet. The recipe sounded so wonderful that I copied it and placed it in my electronic file called recipes. I neglected to note who made available this tasty loaf which has turned out to be spectacular–a winner, a keeper.

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Apple Praline Bread

Ingredients:
1 cup sour cream
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups Granny Smith apples, peeled and finely chopped
1 cup nuts (walnut or pecan or a combo), divided

For the praline sauce:
¼ cup brown sugar and ¼ cup butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan. Set aside. (I used stoneware loaf pan for perfect cooking)

Using an electric mixer, beat together the sour cream, sugar, eggs and vanilla on low speed for a couple of minutes until well blended. Stop the mixer and then add in the flour, leavening agents and salt. Continue to beat on low until well combined.

Fold in the apples and half the nuts into the batter. Transfer the batter into the greased loaf pan.
Sprinkle the rest of the nuts on top and then press them lightly into the batter. Bake for about 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool in the loaf pan for about 20-30 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. So it doesn’t get too dark, I suggest using a light colored loaf pan.

For the praline sauce:

In a small sauce pan, place the butter and brown sugar. Using medium heat, bring to a boil. Lower the heat and then simmer lightly for about one minute, stirring constantly until the sauce thickens. Remove from heat and then drizzle over the bread. Cool completely.

Three days ago, an autumn feeling swept over me, for I felt a chill in the air, observed the veritable rain of falling brilliant leaves, fat acorns kept falling onto our deck and driveway, and Jerry had picked apples off our tree in the back. Baking was called for, I recalled this recipe, gathered all the ingredients and baked up this lovely loaf–well, here you can see we had already delved deeply into the fine sweetness.

ImageIt is scrumptious, I tell you.

Exceptional. Very moist with a sugary crust that will cause you to sigh for joy and close your eyes in bliss.

ImageNow it is three days after the fact . . . we–only Jerry and I–just ate the last crumb. 🙂

I made these adjustments in the recipe:

1. It took  10 or 15 minutes longer to cook than the 60 minutes called for. Remember, though, I live at 5000 feet in the mountains. Used the toothpick test and it came out perfect.

2. I used a Pyrex baking loaf dish.

3. The instructions do not say when to pour the praline mixture over the loaf. I chose to do so just after I had removed it from the oven.

4. I used mostly yellow delicious apples with one Granny Smith.

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Tell me now: Does this sound wonderful, or what? Planning to whip up a loaf? 🙂

Taking Up Autumn

They tell me the daytime hours and the nighttime hours are almost of the same duration on the day of the Autumn equinox, when our spinning globe, because of its slight tilt at the axis, waves in a new season. Now end the days of summer here in the northern hemisphere and we begin our steady approach toward winter. But today! it is fall . . . perhaps my favorite season. (Except that winter stuns me with its beauty, and spring bursting the earth in resurrection is astounding, and then there’s that languid warmth of summer and the lake and the birds . . . )

The ground over which I walk is familiar, and yet strange, for its paths now have lost the warmth of yesterday and my shoes must be of heavy sole to push against the fallen sticks and the acorns which fall from the oaks in abundance here in the San Bernardino mountains. Day and night we hear them–Jerry and I–as they lose their grip on their limbs, and a couple of times Jerry has been thumped, and once last week he said, “I would sit on the front deck with my coffee, but I’m afraid for my head,” for a breeze had struck through the trees. untitled (4 of 6)We drive our car over the long driveway to the sound of snare and the click of fine drum sticks. Jerry sweeps the deck and the driveway and sometimes blows the acorns down into piles where the driveway meets Wabern Court, and then he scoops them up with a shovel and ties up the heavy yard bag into which he has thrust them. I’m always wishing we could come up with a plan that would enable us to sell them by the gunny sack full, (but everyone around here has so many), or market acorn butter or wood floors for cabins. Something like that, but so far: Nothing. Except that years ago when my grandchildren were small and were up here visiting, I let them go to the neighbors and sell our exceptional acorns that look like little people wearing woody hats. “You can’t charge more than a nickle,” I instructed, as they stuffed them into plastic bags, and they came back grinning with quarters in their fists.

When I arose yesterday–the first day of fall–I peered at the thermometer which hangs outside my kitchen window and it read 43 degrees, a drastic drop from a few days before, as though the weather understood that the calendar had declared summer had ended. Our house is amazingly well-insulated, so it was not actually cold in here–67 degrees, I believe, but after he had been up for awhile Jerry said, “Want a fire?” untitled (1 of 10)And so the first fire of the season was laid and lighted, and as is my custom I gazed, entranced, into its flames and saw figures and dreams and had visions.

I’ve put away flimsy summery things, and last night before I went to bed, I removed the pink Chenille bedspread from the downstairs guest bed and replaced it with a much heavier covering, plus I’ve scrambled around in my cupboards exchanging out dishes. untitled (2 of 6)Now there probably is no such thing as fall and summer dishes, but during these days of early fall when I think of pumpkins and Indian corn, I get this urge to bring out my pottery, and to rub polish cloths against my copper pieces.

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Jerry and I will be taking our morning walk in a few minutes. It’s been awhile since we ventured into the woods at the end of Wabern Drive, but today–already I can tell–the intrigue of that curving path aflutter with weeds and leaves and the marks of little creatures just may lure me into its ways.

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