“You don’t leave racism at the door (of a church), you leave it at the altar.” Rev. Johnny King NO LIMITS CONFERENCE Sacramento, CA.
At night I walk
with care. Each step
Then . . .
beneath my back is black.
My eyes fixed on stars, of cold and diamond flame.
Ice. Black ice.
Curiosity niggles. Has another person in the world, at any time, teamed George Washington with an eggplant? Is there–has there ever been–any other writer whose mind makes the leap from our beloved first president to a well-aged eggplant?
Any of my dear readers who has the time, the temperament, and the inclination to do such research, would be held in high esteem by the writer of this piece, and the comment section on this page would welcome such information. Actually comments of any breed concerning this post are welcome, and just might prove entertaining.
I read a bit about President Washington this morning in honor of his birthday, which I believe is the 22nd. At the Washington Library site at Mount Vernon I came across this account of his reminding his men of his sacrifice, and of his aging.
“Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for, I have grown not only gray, but almost blind in the service of my country.”
While trying to calm anxious Continental Army officers frustrated with Congress near the end of the American War of Independence, Washington reveled (revealed) to the assembled officers, for the first time, that he had begun wearing glasses. His gesture was a chance to remind them of just how long he had served, without pay, during the war.
Statement before delivering response to the first Newburgh Address | Saturday, March 15, 1783
It is said these men had never seen him use glasses before, and that somehow his appearing vulnerable and in a needy state helped quell the severe unrest among these officers.
I’m not sure how I came to keep this eggplant in my kitchen, but it may have gone something like this: I probably bought him at a 99 cent store, with the faint thought of concocting a tasty eggplant parmesan cheese dish, which I have never made, but which Jerry is very fond of. I think I’ve had the fella for months–maybe since Christmas–not sure. Anyway, the faint consideration of the eggplant parmesan cheese dish flickered out along the way somewhere, and I began to notice what a lovely specimen lived here in one of my kitchen baskets. He began to wrinkle in the finest way, and I began showing him to visitors.
I’m fairly in touch with aging, seeing that Jerry will be 87 next month, and that last July I had the startling experience of attending an 80th birthday party, which, unbelievably, turned out to be my own! Not just that, but as was true with President Washington, both Jerry and I have for some time sported spectacles. I’m one-up on him, though, in the hearing category, as I now sport an aid in each ear. But he has those canes he maneuvers around with, so I guess we’re even.
He’s wrinkled, is my eggplant, and as you can see, he is scarred. He’s beautiful, too, and although he did not live out the purpose for which he was created, he is ending his life by doing what he can. He brings me pleasure. His formation, his color, his intricately designed stem are works of art.
This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.George Bernard Shaw
With sincere apologies to the late President George Washington.
Jerry has macular degeneration now. He almost never drives. He can hardly use his phone because of his limited sight. We’ve had snow on the ground for weeks, and today alone we have received almost six inches of rain. Sort of snow bound here in Crestline.
Yesterday, he said, “Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, and I didn’t get you anything.”
I brushed the remarks aside. “Jerry, that doesn’t matter. You know that.”
This morning our furnace quit belching out heat. Jerry traipsed down to the basement. Came back. “The flame is lighting, but the fan doesn’t come on, so then the flame goes off .”
Jerry called Ken, our across-the-street neighbor, who is the best neighbor anyone could possibly want. Ken’s a little younger than we are . . .but still an old man, I suppose. A couple of weeks ago he had cancers removed from his nose and ears, and for a few days when we would see him, the end of his nose would be white . . .with bandages. Both men poked around in the basement.
The called furnace man came. His poking around in the basement led to his saying, “Your furnace is 40 years old, has this and that problem. You need a new one.” We ordered a new one. Wrote a check for half the charge. Will pay the other half when he installs it.
Later I stood by Jerry as he sat on a stool tending the fire in our fireplace. “I’m sorry I didn’t get you anything for Valentine’s Day.”
“Doesn’t matter, now does it?” I placed my hand on his shoulder. “Red hearts, chocolates, cards . . . It really doesn’t matter, Jerry.”
We’ve made babies together. We’ve bought furnaces and paid water bills. Once upon a time we were young, and now we’re old. A time or two, we stared down death. We swatted the tush of our sons, and of our daughter, and now, they with ease, place an arm about the shoulder of a fellow and say, “Let me tell you about Jesus.” We’ve wrecked cars and bought hamburgers and pumped gas and eaten in joints. We’ve settled into the skinny seats of planes, then tramped the ground in countries not our own. We’ve cried in our living room and in our churches. We’ve hooted in laughter. We’ve cooked biscuits and gravy, and grilled spareribs on our back deck. We’ve buried friends. We sleep with Winston, and drive ourselves crazy trying to make him mind us. We’ve looked wide-eyed at our kids as they took us in hand to tell us about Alexa and Siri. We’ve ridden horses in the Sawtooth mountains, and I fell off, and we’ve waterskied, and preached, and taught, and sang. And loved.
A box of chocolates? A rose. A card. Some glitter. . Sorry I didn’t get you anything, Shirley. Are you kidding me?
The glass had aged, its frame of flaking paint angled in deviation from straight, for who would anticipate ordinary here–a cavern of musk and chemical, of fertilizer and rakes, of rust and twisted wire. Bulbs and seed, trowels and mud shoes and kneeling cushions. The glass, though marred of dirt and of defect, set truthfully its calling, and gave way to the buds, to the roses. Here they are. See them now.
I had placed them there. I knew their story.
They were fresh when given, dewy, tied with ribbon. Of tucked card, they were of occasion, for a delivery person had come and handed them to me. Winston barked, and I shushed him.
One day they were finished, and I took away the vase and poured out the water, for no longer could they take nourishment. I recall that I laid them for awhile atop a book shelf, stretched out, a funeral of sorts.
Strong south winds rush across the room where lay the roses, and then began stray dried-up petals to be scattered about, and one day I took them up, retied their ribbon and carried them down the stairs off the back deck to the “potting shed” below. With little thought to exhibit, I stuffed them onto a shelf, a vague thought of using them again sometime . . . for something.
A couple of days ago as I was watering the now dying peonies, I glanced through that window and saw those ancient, dried flowers. I had not arranged them so, or at least consciously I had not. I lifted my hose and sprayed away the dust from the sagging window through which they showed. I stared at them. . .
In a few days I will be 80.
As 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.
These beautiful tents were rented. Used for ladies sessions during the day, at night they became sleeping places for many of the delegates. Junior 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.
Her 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.
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.
The landscape itself was magnificent. The weather glorious. In certain places it was safe for us to leave our vehicles and walk about.Indeed one of the rangers offered to guide us to a spot where a crocodile had recently hatched 15 babies.
Zebras seem impossible. They are so fine, so perfectly stripped. Sophistication with a mask on. We saw herd after herd of these beautiful creatures.
This fella fixed his eyes on me as we paused to consider his handsomeness.What of these horns?
“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.
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.
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.
On 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.
They 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.
The 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!
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.
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!
I write this first segment aboard a Lufthansa plane, at an elevation of 37,200 feet. Set against a crystal blue sky, the surging aircraft–with me in it–is traveling at a ground speed of more than 500 mph. Far beneath us I see a river. The screen attached to the seat ahead tells me the river is called the Nile, and I think of Moses, and bulrushes, and a floating baby basket. We will reach our destination in 2 hours and a half. The city of the airport is Nairobi, the country is Kenya, the continent is Africa.
I find it hard to believe I am here.
Jerry called from the living room, where he sat with Steve, to me in the kitchen in the afternoon following lunch, Easter Sunday 2017. “Want to go to Africa tomorrow?”
“I said do you want to go to Africa tomorrow.”
“What are you talking about?” I questioned as I walked into the living room.
And so began the trip. I knew Steve and Dearrah were flying on Monday to Nairobi, Kenya where Steve would preach during a church conference, then on to Rome for a few days of sight-seeing. I knew that, and that a few people from his church would be going with them. But we had not figured into those plans in any way.
“Why don’t you and Mom go with us,” Steve had said after Jerry casually asked of the airline price for the trip. “We bought rooms at a group rate, and it was cheaper for us to add a room we didn’t need, so your rooms would be paid for.”
Jerry and I stared at each other. Then we grinned, began talking of appointments, hotel reservations and such we had for the coming days, and that we could cancel them all, how that our passports were up to date, how much fun it would be, and that because of my cancer treatments last year when our 60th wedding anniversary rolled around we hadn’t really celebrated it, and this trip could take care of that little lapse, and that the fares were exceedingly reasonable . . .
Steve made phone calls to his secretary, Evette, to assure that seats were available on all the flights we would need. They were. We said yes. We were laughing, Dearrah and I hugged, and Steve reminded us we would have to cancel our plans to attend a drama that evening, get home as quickly as we could for Evette needed our passport numbers, visas must be arranged, travel insurance bought, packing for us, phone calls, and such. Our drive home before we could even begin the process was two hours and a half. The first flight was out of LAX at 11:00 on Monday morning, we needed to be there at 9:00, and the airport is a 2 hour drive from our house, so we would leave at 6:30 am, take Winston to Rebecca’s and transfer our luggage to Nate’s car.
I called Rebecca to ask her to keep Winston and to get Nathaniel to drive us to the airport. “We’re going to Africa tomorrow.” Stone silence. “We’re going to Africa.” When she could finally talk, it was to say how excited she was for us, and that of course she and Nate would help us with the airport trek, and with looking after Winston.
Panic set in a few minutes after we walked into the house. I could not find our passports. I keep mine in a desk drawer in a folder named Important Documents; Jerry keeps his in one of his dresser drawers. Neither passport was in its place. Expired ones were, and a copy of our current, valid one, but I could find neither of our passports. I was trembling. Called Steve. Asked how much time we had. Could the airline tickets be cancelled? “Keep looking, Mom. I’ll make phone calls.”
I tore the house apart, checked in pockets of all our luggage, pawed again through the places they should be, checked folders in the desk, and finally out of two drawers of a four-drawer file I took every file folder and plopped them on the floor, thinking maybe mine had slipped out of its file. Nothing. I went upstairs to the room where we keep our pictures and travel mementos. Same word: Nothing. I was sick.
Back to the study. I opened again the bottom file drawer, took everything out of there, and discovered a large file with ISRAEL/ISTANBUL scrawled over its face. I looked through it, and there among maps, cards and notes was my passport. I grabbed it up, ran in the bedroom. “I found mine.” Poor guy, Jerry had pulled a chair up to the dresser, still searching, and was just pulling out the entire big drawer when I walked in. “Maybe it’s behind there.” IT WAS! I reached my hand far to the back, and there wedged against the rear wall was Jerry’s passport. Somehow it had slipped over the edge of the drawer and had jammed there.