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?

Mother’s Day 2017

Stephen Forrest Buxton is our eldest, thus it was his birth that made me a mother. Over the years followed Michael Ray, Rebecca Jean, and our caboose, Andrew Brian.

Often, I sit in my home and think of those four children of mine, and I must tell you sometimes I weep. I weep not for sadness, but for love, and awe, and thankfulness. How did it happen that these little rascals of Jerry’s and mine developed into the exceptional people they are? Often I am brought up short when I learn of their accomplishments, their gifts, their triumphant over adversity. None have been without challenge, but I tell you they have taken on the garment of upright people who are making positive contributions to society. They care deeply for their father and me; they assist and coddle us.DSC_7102

So, of course Mother’s Day is a significant one in my life. Let me tell you of yesterday. I began its celebration by jumping out of bed early, drinking coffee, and roaming about the house admiring the flowers and cards that had arrived from said youngsters and recalling the drama that Rebecca and I attended on Saturday. RUTH was the simple name of the Lighthouse Theatre production, so well done, so excellent that both Rebecca and I cried. After Jerry had been up a bit and we had our morning talk, I stripped our bed, washed and replaced the sheets, dusted both our bedroom and the living room, and vacuumed both the floors. I had a little time left before we would leave for church, so I went out back and planted our “farm.” Two tomato plants, three stalks of corn, and one bell pepper. The zucchini and yellow squash must wait until another day for I had used all the potting soil.

I subject you to the mundane list of my Sunday morning activities because I am thankful all my energy has returned! This time last year I was recovering from breast cancer and a subsequent mastectomy, chemo therapy, and 25 radiation treatments. The chemo knocked me winding sucking every bit of energy away from me. But now I’m well! My energy and strength are soaring. I’m extremely thankful.

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We met Rebecca at her church in Rialto; afterwards Jerry treated us to a delicious Mexican lunch at Hortensia’s.DSC_7080

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Early on in the church service the staff had sent a lovely orchid corsage to where I sat. Later, as Bishop Booker prepared to speak, he came to our pew, honored me with glowing words, and pressed a significant bill in my hand. Totally unexpected. Gracious and honorable. This morning, I placed water in this piece of carnival ware and floated the beautiful flower there.

DSC_7123When I called Mike to thank him for the present I had received, I teased him. “What did you send me, Mike? Do you know?”

“Uh, I used to, but I have forgotten.”

“A bird feeder. You sent me a beautiful porcelain bird feeder.”

We laughed together, for I know that most of my son’s wives actually buy such presents. Indeed Mike told me that Melina always shows him the present before she mails it to us, saying this is what we bought.

DSC_7115I’m still reveling in the beauty of the flowers and all the other ways my family (including my sweet hubby, Jerry) and friends honored me yesterday. I’ve wandered about the house taking pictures.

DSC_7111One more thing before I let you go! Another reason yesterday was special to me is that on Mother’s Day when I was 10 years old, I was filled with the Holy Ghost . . .and from that day to this God has lived in my heart. Is that not the coolest thing?

Challenges Met in Sterling Ways

DSC_6559As astonishing as it was to observe the basic, stark way of outdoor cooking, and serving to the hundreds of UAW delegates in Nairobi, was the lovely, caring, presentation of meals to speakers and other guests. Table clothes were changed for each meal. Later we would see the linen pieces hanging on fences to dry.

IMG_0935These beautiful tents were rented. Used for ladies sessions during the day, at night they became sleeping places for many of the delegates. IMG_0891Junior Aston showed us how to eat this Kenya food called Ugali. It is customary in one’s home to serve the mixture in one large bowl into which everyone dips their hands and pulls off a piece. The process calls for taking one’s thumb to make an indentation, then “sopping” up the sauces that have been cooked with the meat and vegetables. I learned the trick quickly, and quite enjoyed it. The food was tasty; lots of stewed meat with delicious sauces. Pictured below is goat meat we were served. I liked it.

IMG_0980IMG_0978Her name is Carol. She is the national secretary of the Ladies Department, and she kind of took me under her wing. She is the one who in the first service gently pushed me into a group of ladies who were dancing in worship to African music. (I did my best, but in some videos I have seen, I look rather stiff and uncoordinated!) Once, in a moment of affection,  she picked me straight up off the floor. Later I walked up behind her as we headed to the tents, touched her on the arm and acted as though I would lift her. She smiled at me and said in her beautiful accent, “You cannot move a mountain.” I truly love her. Hope to see her again some day.

AUW Compound in Nairobi, Kenya

Here in the United States before our trip to Africa I had only briefly met both Pamela and Bishop Ngota Aston, but I certainly came to know them better during those days we stayed on their church compound, and to admire their ambition, their godly ways, and their accomplishments. I salute them today.

DSC_6557If I understand correctly, it was through his burden that he met with Apostolic leaders across Africa, and that in 2014 the Apostolic Union of the World was founded. He became the leader of the organization whose purpose is to facilitate evangelizing Africa with the Apostolic message. The conference we attended was the third such meeting.

DSC_6573His wife is beautiful, hospitable, a great speaker, singer, and musician. She was reared in a very challenging environment, but by the grace of God has risen from its depth to a place of prominence in Africa, and has attained an excellent education.

The compound is impressive. I was stunned to learn that they have only been in that location for seven years. It is completely fenced, boasting numerous structures with a 24-hour guard at the gate. Encompassed in the wide acreage are the sanctuary, the building I have mentioned in which we stayed, school facilities, and a few other out-buildings. Monies from outside Africa have been supplied and appreciated, but I noted in some of their material that one of their goals is less reliance on foreign aid; instead the development of financial independence

DSC_6175DSC_6556Both the impressive grounds and the buildings are kept in pristine condition. Workers were painting just hours before the beginning days of the conference.

DSC_6582I do not have the exact number of persons who attended the conference, but I suspect the final count to have exceeded 500. Most of these were ministers and their families, including some who had traveled as many as four days to arrive there. Several countries were represented. Although the provisions were simple, it astonished me that every delegate was accommodated on the premises. Outhouses were utilized and hundreds slept on mats on the ground. The food was cooked outside a small room on charcoal cookers; the dishes washed nearby with the assistance of a lone faucet. I highly respect my brothers and sisters in Jesus I met those few days in Kenya. Some of them, I was told, do not have enough food, and some are actively persecuted because they are Christians.

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I posted the following words on my Facebook account a few days after the conference ended. Those were my sentiments then . . .as they are now.

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I am raw. Lying open in the sun raw. The conference in Nairobi has ended. Forever in my ears will ring the words–Africa Must Be Saved–as I recall the hundreds of black people who swayed to the burden of their song, who fell mourning to the floor, who wept over the millions who are lost in the hills, the jungles, the cities of their beautiful continent. ……….I will never forget the mama of this beautiful baby who sat in the dirt long side a muddy road and nursed her darling child beside the table where she sold bananas and watermelons and corn . . .I will never forget leaders who taught their women not to be bitter as they asked God to give them food for their children. . . I am raw. Lying open in the sun raw.

Safari

The Nairobi area has experienced a significant drought, so the rain that pelted us at the airport on Tuesday evening was quite welcome, even to the animals that roam the lush savannah lands of southern Kenya. We saw hundreds of them during our safari, sleek, healthy, and beautiful. It was a breathtaking moment as we motored down a dirt trail, saw a spotted neck rise above the trees and a face thrust about, so that we could recognize this being  as an elegant giraffe. They are huge animals, ranging from 15 to 19 feet tall.

DSC_6288The landscape itself was magnificent. The weather glorious. In certain places it was safe for us to leave our vehicles and walk about.DSC_6487Indeed one of the rangers offered to guide us to a spot where a crocodile had recently hatched 15 babies.

DSC_6467DSC_6473Zebras seem impossible. They are so fine, so perfectly stripped. Sophistication with a mask on. We saw herd after herd of these beautiful creatures.

DSC_6369This fella fixed his eyes on me as we paused to consider his handsomeness.DSC_6353What of these horns?

DSC_6388“There’s a lion down the way,” someone in another vehicle told us once as we stopped for something. “A recent kill.”  The lion had killed a cape buffalo that lay beside the road. The lion was a few feet away in some bushes, but unfortunately we could not see him well. We did see his chest moving up and down, breathing hard as he digested his tasty meal.

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A bit of a tourist trap threatened to snag us when after walking with a guide down a trail we were led to this little business venture by some ambitious Maasai. We smiled, fingered the trinkets, but I don’t believe any of us bought anything.

Adventure personified–the day of the safari in Nairobi, Kenya on the continent of Africa.

Dancing with the Maasai

Jet lag is a reality as is demonstrated in my own life by the fact that it is now 5:06 am on Tuesday and that I have been awake since 2:00 and up since a bit after 3:00. Our delightful 12-day trip to Africa and Italy  ended on Friday with a smooth landing at LAX. Rebecca and Nathaniel were there to drive us to our home, and when I opened the car door there was Winston, our great dog, wagging his tail–indeed his entire body. Bek had tied a big red bow around his neck, and he wore a sign that read Welcome Home. Jet lag tends to be worse as one travels eastward, as certainly was the case with our entire group our first few days in Nairobi. Many of us were awake for long periods around 2:00 in the morning. East to West typically is less taxing, and I have done very well until this morning. So, since I hate to lie wakeful in bed, I’ve been up drinking coffee, reading, praying, and reviewing this glorious trip.

DSC_6255On Thursday two vans picked up our group of 11 to take us to Nairobi National Park for a Safari. After our drivers had parked the vans and before we entered the safari area, we joined with a group of persons who were entertaining near the admission gate. I first went into a restroom and when I came out, there was Jerry right in the middle of the dancers, who I learned were of the Maasai tribe. Many Maasai live in the Kenya area. As we traveled into the city proper one day on what is considered a main highway I was startled to see numbers of cattle roaming about. I learned then that the cardinal means of living for the Maasai is cattle herding, and that they consider any open ground as fair game to graze their herds.

DSC_6256They are beautiful, tall lean people who are extremely agile as is demonstrated by their high leaping and jumping.

Someone pushed me into the dance group. The dancers circled us and dressed us in their garb and soon began chanting, leaping, and dancing. Jerry and I did our best to dance the African steps, but a couple of videos I have seen of our efforts were little short of abysmal.

DSC_6273DSC_6264DSC_6267The dancers gathered about Jerry at the conclusion of the dances, and as he dug around in his pockets for tip money and considered a shilling of 10, they indicated no. Two 10s would be better. And so it was!

The People, The Market

We’re so attached to Winston, that both Jerry and I were sad when we dropped him off at Rebecca’s, but he’ll be fine, for Rebecca’s dog, Paisley, is Winston’s sister, and they love being together. Sweet Nathaniel loaded our things into his car, and we were off to LAX. Horrendous traffic, but finally we were there. Met up with Steve and his group, checked documents, obtained boarding passes . . .and we blasted into the sky on a magnificent 747. I’ll never get over my amazement that such creations holding 400 people can move with great precision across the globe.

A trip such as this one has been described as brutal, for it calls for virtually traveling from one side of the world to the other. A few details may help you see this. We left LAX at 11:00, flew up the coast to San Francisco. From there a ten-hour to Frankfurt, and from there to Nairobi, an 8 hour flight. By the time we arrived in our room, it was Tuesday evening, and we had left our home 24 hours before. It definitely was the longest time of air travel for me, but I was surprised at how well I felt when I plopped into a comfy bed at midnight. Worth every second of the grueling day.

Before I finish writing of this trip I will endeavor to express my love and appreciation for our hosts here, Brother and Sister Aston Ngota, and will strive to describe to some extent the compound here; the printing room, the beautiful church, the kitchen, the chickens, the building in which we have a 2 bedroom suite, as do Steve and Dearrah. Gracious and godly people.  Brother Aston and his staff picked us up at the airport, midst a mild cool rain; Sister Aston met us at our rooms in which she had placed hot chicken soup, fruit, sandwiches and other fine things.

The picture below is of the building in which we’re staying, looking back on the trail that leads to the kitchen where we have been served delicious meals.

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The conferece does not start until Friday, so we have a couple of days for some sight-seeing. Wednesday the church graciously supplied two church vans, along with drivers to show us around a bit. Highlight of the day was a visit to one of the markets.

An interesting moment occured when the young girl in the white shirt pictured above beside me complained that I did not buy anything from her stall and that I was just taking pictures and would probably charge for them. I am careful of people’s feelings when I take pictures in such situations, and if I am close range to a person and want to photograph them, I ask their permission, as I had done of the lady in the booth to which this young girl referred. Steve joined the conversation and offered to have me photograph them. They declined, then their vibrant friendly brother pulled on a hat and said, “Take my picture.” I did and told him I would send it to him if he gave me his email address. The conversation with all of them became sweet and tender as you can see. Bottom line: We gathered about them, Steve led in prayer, and they have promised to attend one night of the conference.

Thursday plans: A safari!

An Unexpected Storm and Manzanita

Rain last night, accompanied by such lightening and thunder as we seldom see here in Crestline. Our forecast indicated a slight chance of rain, with no mention of thunderstorms. When I heard the first rumble, I looked across the living room and quizzically stared at Jerry. “Is that thunder?”

It was, and thus began the hours-long visual display of lightening, and the drum-like sound of the accompanying thunder.

Much earlier in the day, well before we drove away for our Sunday morning worship, Jerry and I had walked with Winston. On leaving the house, I saw that the light was glorious, carried my camera with me, and snapped these two shots of the men in my life.

dsc_4738dsc_4755Winston’s placid moments were to give way to sheer panic, though, when in the evening the thunderstorms moved in. He was terrified. Once when he went out in the back, a thunderbolt sounded so loudly, that he hid under the ground-level stairs and would not come up, necessitating my going down and carrying him into the house. He trembled for hours. Nothing we did seemed to calm him. He spent the night under our bed.

The storm raged for hours–throughout the night, and has continued today.

Between showers we took our Monday morning walk, and I snagged a treasure. I had eyed the gem from time to time as we walked between our house and the woods near Thousand Pines Camp; today I decided to take it home with me. The small manzanita branch was red, full of leaves, and when I bent to pick it up, I found it to be slightly attached to the earth on the side of the hill. With one firm tug, I uprooted the woody piece, and began the short drag to our house.

dsc_4764“What are you going to do with that?” (Guess who asked.)

“Oh, I’m not sure. Lay it around somewhere. Look how pretty it is.”

“You’re a sight dragging that branch down the street,” hubby sweetly noted.

dsc_4766dsc_4771Manzanita is beautiful wood, drought resistant, and our variety presents itself with  a rich mahogany color. My piece has small orange leaves and resides now on a table that sets on our front deck. Its final place will change over the course of the months and years, for despite its humble delivery to our home, the formation is suitable to anchor a centerpiece for the most formal of occasions, or to be plopped onto a rustic plank in the back yard for a picnic or a barbecue meal.

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The storm is reluctant to leave. While I have composed this piece sitting on our living room couch with a small fire burning within a few feet of me, Winston is still hiding, for numerous showers accompanied by persistent thunderbolts and flashes of lightening continue to fill the air here in the beautiful San Bernardino Mountains.

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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Is Fall My Favorite Season?

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Jerry went ahead of me into the lodge where we would eat lunch. “Let me tromp around a bit with my camera. I’ll meet you inside in half hour or so,” I had said to him.

Beams of noonday sun danced among newly fallen leaves, fiery orange and yellow. Acorns and pine cones and wispy weeds with seed heads of harvest lay spread about, and I reflected again: autumn is my favorite season . . .but again there is majestic winter . . .the pulsing bud of spring . . .the languid sweet days of summer . . .

And you? What is your favorite season? Can you decide?