Making Faith Common

I woke up this morning knowing that my plans were in jeopardy. I had the awareness that we should have been up and around, getting ready to travel the four hours to see the daughter whose birthday is tomorrow. That was still in my mind last night as I rounded things up and put them in the car for an early start. It was nearly 7, and we had meant to start at 8. I could tell already that wasn’t going to happen.

But don’t panic. Your plans may need to change, and that will be alright.

I checked my phone, as usual, and saw a couple text messages that had come since I had gone to bed the night before. My daughter was undecided about the weekend. She was going to have four days off and was wanting to make good use of it, maybe travel away from home to look for a new job. She was also concerned about her dad. He had hurt his back and she knew he wouldn’t want to sit in the car for hours and hours. Should she come home to us so he wouldn’t have to travel? The possibilities were confusing. I wanted to talk to her but she wasn’t answering the phone.

You’re right. Don’t rush around trying to get ready and don’t be upset or confused. I know what’s going to happen and you will know, trust me.

 My husband wasn’t even stirring yet. I knew he liked to go slowly in the morning even when he was feeling well. His painful back was going to make it even harder to get ready. It seemed okay to let him sleep since I wasn’t sure what we were going to do anyway. An hour later he came shuffling out of the bedroom, every step taking effort, and headed to his favorite chair – the one that made his back feel better. I told him the situation. “It would sure be easier if she could come here, but I’ll go up there if she can’t. I want to be there for her birthday.”

You know what you need to do – ask me for help and affirm your trust. I’ll take care of the plan.”

 We had been praying together in the mornings pretty regularly, so it wasn’t hard to decide to do it given this situation. We asked for peace for our daughter and for ourselves. We asked that she be blessed on her birthday and that she would know that she was valued and loved. We asked for the best plan to be clear and that we would not balk or feel inconvenienced. “We want what you want Lord, so we’ll wait until you let us know what it is.”

Soon after, my cell phone rang, and my daughter and I talked. “We should have thought more about this weekend, I guess.” She was subdued and sounded tired.

“Yes, Dad doesn’t look any better this morning. He’s not moving very well. It might not be the best thing for him to travel.”

“That’s why I asked if I should come down.  His bad back wouldn’t be comfortable sleeping in my accommodations either.  I want to get away from here anyway, stay somewhere a little nicer this weekend. Can I bring the cats?”

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The cats seem to have settled in already. It’s their specialty.

And so it happened that instead of going to Jacksonville for the weekend, Jacksonville came to us – the girl, the dog and two cats and that really does seem best to us all. I was consciously aware of and thankful for the fact that I did not waste energy worrying about how it would turn out. I did not struggle with the change of plans. There was no miracle here, no dramatic voice from above, just a quiet interchange of spiritual thought in a rather common type of situation. What makes it possible is the claim of God to be caring about the details of my life and the response to believe him. It is very freeing and my wish is to be able to apply it, practice it, until it is second nature in all situations. It is like having adventures with someone who has all the time in the world for me. And I thought I would say that I like that, very much.

 

What a Wonderful Morning!

I’ve been home for two weeks in a row now which seems unusual to me. I’ve been riding my bike for exercise almost every day and have logged 40 miles this week – not a lot for an avid biker but for a late middle age woman, it’s not bad.  I have almost established a habit for my Saturday bike ride. My motto is “twice the distance at half the speed”. It makes for a relaxed and interesting ride since I plan to explore a bit or go somewhere different each time.

I live in a city that is full of mobile home parks and they are wonderful places to ride.  On the weekend, there is almost no traffic to worry about once you enter a mobile home park and when you do meet someone they most likely are walking or riding in a golf cart, they wave.  Saturday rides are not just for exercise, they are for calming the mind, stirring curiosity, and enjoying the sunshine and breeze (when you ride a bike there is always a breeze…). Come with me.

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The traffic was intense on this street…

There are a thousand ways to do pretty much the same type of housing. If you don’t believe that, you need to ride through a mobile home park to convince yourself it is true. I’m not a big fan of mobile homes to live in myself, but I love to look at them, at their porches, their landscaping, their ramps, their weird colors, roof lines, windows. The mystery house of the morning was the usual basic shape but the street side had only a garage door. Both other visible sides had no entryways. What’s with that? There is a reason hermits don’t go to mhp’s to live, mainly that they are very social places and people live to decorate their entrances with pink flamingoes, flags, name signs and plants. But no visible entrance? I couldn’t figure this one out.

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On to the next attraction – the champion camphor tree. Pictures do not do justice to its hugeness. Nature always inspires me and I am in awe looking at this tree. The sign explains.

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Bradenton was on national news lately with heavy rains that flooded the area. This next picture shows a drainage ditch that filled to overflowing and did flood the parks that I rode through.

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Can you imagine water rising to cover the road? It did.

Commonly there is a fence of some kind around each park, but if you know where to find them, there may be gates or walkways connecting one to the other.  I crossed a shaded wood bridge over the ditch to the next park.

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Doesn’t it invite exploration?

Without having to cross any major roads or deal with busy traffic, I finally made my way through a small golf course to this destination. I love shakes…

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One hour, ten miles – it was a great ride. Getting out and doing something active, just for the fun of it, is important for people of any age. I find it is essential for me. It made a wonderful morning, on a wonderful day.

Do you sense this need? What do you do that meets it? I’d like to know.

 

 

Downsizing: The Terrible Meal

I’ve written several times about my desire to “lighten the load” of my household, to get rid of “stuff” before moving or dying, whichever comes first. But not lately, and lest anyone think the desire has abated I want to update the record. In fact, I am more determined than ever to whittle down to the amount of stuff that will fit in a good sized U-Haul van.  One trip. My determination was fueled by a week of helping someone else with a lot of things move those things into a storage unit. It was arduous, and being that everything is in storage it will have to be moved again sometime. We can hardly wait.

When people move do they throw away all their food? No, they take it with them. What if you live in a place where having a pantry stash is recommended? I have imagined how it would be in a hurricane after a week of no electricity and no food in the grocery stores to have a cupboard stocked with plenty. And I have one of those that I have been reviewing and deciding what to keep and what to trash. For instance, would you eat this?

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I would. And there were other things. Last week I made pumpkin pie with no crust, which turns out to be pumpkin custard or pudding because for some odd reason I had several cans of (outdated) pumpkin and several cans of (outdated) sweetened condensed milk. It was delicious. It was untouched by time. I ate it all. And the (outdated) sauerkraut looked so fresh that I had to go out and get some hot dogs to go with it. Mind you, I test all these things.

There is still a box full of canned goods which must go soon or maybe two or three years ago. Today I wanted to use up a few things so made a menu based on stuff in the box. Dessert was first. There were cans of pie filling, blueberry and cherry. I had also found in my recently cleaned freezer some phyllo dough which I thought could possibly pass for pie crust. I will do anything to not have to make pie crust. There was also a little bit of ice cream in the freezer and I figured that old ice cream could possibly outweigh old pie filling if it wasn’t very good. Dessert, check.

The chicken was new thankfully. I just bought it last week so no freezer burn on that. But I did open up a can of cream soup to make gravy over it. And I wasn’t worried about the potatoes. Potatoes are either edible or rotten even if you don’t know how old they are. You’ve seen the green beans. Honestly they were pretty good okay and probably tasted the same back in 2011 when they would have been best by. Add a fresh green salad and I had a meal that was passable. I call it the terrible meal but I’ve cooked worse, lots worse. The greatest accomplishment was using up four cans in one meal. I was ecstatic.

I’m a little worried about this confession since some of my readers live close by and have eaten at my house. Will I have friends turning down meal invitations? I don’t know. I had a guest at this meal and he didn’t seem to mind, although, now that I think about it, his usual effusive comments were lacking. Now that I think about it, it was kind of a terrible meal, unless you can imagine a hurricane, starving people in other countries, or what they eat on Naked and Afraid. Then it would be a pretty good meal, just sayin’…

Fear

I am afraid of my blog. 

I am afraid it will punish me if I don’t write in it. I haven’t been to it in a couple weeks and I know it’s sitting out there with an attitude, I can feel it. I want to go hide from it. I want to teach it a lesson, that it can’t harass me this way just because I don’t feel like writing. You know, sometimes you actually have to live life in order to have something to write about, duh?

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Hey blog, maybe I forget to take a picture of every little thing I do, maybe I just don’t want to, and of course I can’t post without a picture to go with it, or so you say. When we started this whole thing blog, you never told me that my media file would get full and that it would be nag, nag, nag.  “Make me a premium blog and I’ll give you all the media storage you want! (he, he, smirk)”.  You never told me it was going to take an hour every Tuesday just to delete emails from all the other blogs that actually have people writing in them regularly. Guilt trip, guilt trip. Do you think I have nothing to do but read blogs all day? And just maybe I’m becoming aware that my family is nervous every time I do something with them because it’s going to be a blog post.  I get that look, you know the one.

When we started this relationship, it was a dear diary thing, something my mom could read so she would know I’m still alive, just a record of my mundane life.  I really just want to be reminded of what’s going on from day to day because I’m so old that it’s hard to remember.  What was I doing a month ago, a year ago? But now I have Facebook for that and I don’t even have to ask them.

But you, blog, you have become a weight on my soul. Although I’m all for discipline, I need it for other more important things (like eating my vitamins and taking baths) and can’t see using it all up on you. There are a lot of other things I’m not doing right now but are they hanging around making me feel guilty? No, not usually.  And you aren’t the only game in town either – maybe I’ll write a book. Yeah, a book, a little book with short chapters and you’ll see how important you aren’t!

Okay, maybe I’m just having a bad day week month and I’ll be sorry next week that I “lost it” and wrote about you like this. Maybe, maybe not. I’m just sayin’, you need to quit making me feel bad. That’s all.

Then and Now: Hatchery Creek

I’m not done recording details about the visit to Hayward, Wisconsin. The Chamber should be paying me for this…

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then (1987)
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Now (2016)

It was thirty years ago but I remember it  like it was yesterday. Two moms, one with two little boys and one with two little girls, needed the kind of break from routine and stressful lives that only nature can provide. They were campers so they loaded up and traveled to an out of the way spot. It was an abandoned fish hatchery, state land I suppose. The cement tanks that had been embedded in the ground to harbor the young fingerlings had been removed and the field grasses had grown to cover the areas. The small road, two tracks with grass growing in the middle, crossed a stone bridge which covered a creek, Hatchery Creek. Chalk it up to mid-westerners to avoid having to name things, by just calling them what they are.

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I was one of the moms. I had driven down the road one day looking for a place of childhood memories.

Sundays, with the whole family in the car, my dad would stop on the way home to look at the fish, in particular the large sturgeon who lived in his own special tank. Other tanks were rippling with the motion of the young fish waiting to be released into northern Wisconsin lakes and streams.

But in 1987 it was obvious that the program had been discontinued and the sign indicated that the natural stream that ran through the property was being restored as a trout habitat. There were no buildings left, no signs of recent activity, just a beautiful meadow surrounded by hills decorated with hardwoods and pines. It was the perfect place to camp. I could hardly wait.

In this day of protected lands, designated camping spots and required permits to camp, it is hard to imagine someone just picking a place in the woods and deciding it’s the place for them. If we were trespassing, I didn’t know it. Plus, we were gutsy women who loved to make independent decisions, and we made the decision of where to put the tent, where to make our campfire and told our kids where they could explore.  That’s what they did all afternoon.

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There is something so compelling about a creek. It’s more personal and approachable than a river. Rippling and clear, musical, fordable, a creek begs you to follow it up river because it has to start somewhere. What would that look like? This particular stream was easiest to follow if you got in it. The banks were sometimes purposely undercut to provide hiding places for fish and the grass and bushes on the banks were tall. A person who didn’t know the stream was there might have a hard time finding it. But you could walk in the middle in water never more than knee deep and every now and then there would be stones or boulders to stand or sit on. The kids were having the greatest time and we were watching, with cameras in hand.

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I had to work my way through head high foliage to get to the place where it looked like water was welling up out of the bottom of the creek. It may not have been the birthplace of the stream but it was certainly adding the major portion of the flow. I have a weird fear of holes spewing an endless flow of water. If I stepped in there would I disappear, falling endlessly like Alice down the rabbit hole, only this hole is full of water which kind of rules out being able to breathe?

I’m again back in childhood, ice skating on the farm pond and hearing Dad tell us to stay away from a certain area where springs kept the ice thin. Springs were mysterious, like faucets that never get turned off.

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The rest of our camping trip was spent cooking supper, sitting around the campfire with visiting grandparents, and sleeping through the night with one eye open. It was “that season” of the year and our tick phobia was full blown by the time we left, nevertheless it was a memorable time for me, and that is why I revisit Hatchery Creek most every time I go home to Hayward.

Two weeks ago daughter Esther and I went to the area where we had camped and observed the ritual of wading in the creek. She was the youngest of the four children present and does not remember the time and the place as clearly as I do. It has changed. It is now an access point for a series of trails including the Birkebeiner ski trail. It is used year round by many people who want to hike or single track through the woods, or skiers practicing their hill climbing and cross country skills. People do not camp there and I feel a bit sneaky (and smug, and fortunate) for having done so. The creek is still flowing, although it seems to have taken second place to the footpaths through the woods. I know where that spring is. I still find it mysterious and I still wonder how it keeps coming, and coming, and coming…

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A short walk up a trail
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woodland beauty
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even in death…

There Is a House…

wp-1471628511978.jpgIt sits at the top of a hill in a midwestern town. It has been there for a hundred years or more and I can imagine the stories that took place within its walls and grounds. I think I want to live there.  Maybe not forever, but for long enough to see if I love it as much as I think I might.

In this large house with stairways and many bedrooms I would have places for all my favorite guests, and I would have some secret places just for me. I know it must have at least one hidden room somewhere.  I would make each bedroom special with places to sit, to sleep and to read while looking out a window.

It has a large kitchen with lots of light coming in numerous windows. A cool breeze blows through the central hallways because it’s on a hill and surrounded by shade trees – the currents of air are refreshing and full of magic smells like clover flowers and mown grass. Outside the kitchen door would be a garden with a pool. I would grow herbs and salads and water lillies.  On my tall fence I would grow grape vines and in late summer there would be a lot of grapes.

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In the winter I would sit in the great front room by the fireplace with my wool and knitting needles. I would invite women to come and knit with me. In the summer I would sit on the front porch. I would call to my friends walking by and ask them to sit and have ice tea with me. I would flavor it with mint from my garden.  There would be a bouquets of hydrangeas everywhere.

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But being old and full of stories, means that this house is drafty, poorly wired and has some floors that are not quite straight or level. It would need lots of paint, and constant attention to the roof. It’s fireplaces and chimneys would need cleaning, and it’s plumbing would be less than desired. Would I love all that? I don’t know, but I would like to live in it and see.

Just a dream…

 

Lake a Day Challenge: Company Lake

This is the last post of my challenge since this visit to the northwoods has come to an end.  This lake was a surprise for me. Although the road my sister-in-law and I were biking had been around forever, and was named Company Lake Road, I hadn’t been aware of how pretty it was or of the lake it was named for. The lake was breathtaking in the morning light when we came past it. Unfortunately I had forgotten my camera and had to come back later in the day for photos. It was still pretty gorgeous.

I have to say that this spot is typical of the beauty in the Hayward area and the northwoods in general.  These small lakes, marshes and streams are common. Fish, frogs, turtles, cranes, crows, eagles, geese, ducks, swans, chipmunks, skunks, badgers, otters, beaver, fox, wolves, bear, deer… you name it, it’s here and can often be seen close up.  I will admit that I did not get wet in Company Lake but I have an excuse. I will suffer with mosquitoes, but I will not go close to poison ivy, and the bank where I took these pictures was full of it.  Just enjoy these pictures of late summer in north Wisconsin and know that it is a wonderful place to be.

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Lake a Day Challenge: Nelson Lake and Totogatic River

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Another creative place name as we approach Nelson Lake Dam

There is a large lake a few miles north of Hayward and grandfather’s farm that has a story connected with it. I loved hearing my dad tell me about the days when there was a valley there instead of a lake. He was very young when conservationist Frank Nelson proposed a dam to be built on the Totogatic River to create “a lake or backwater, suitable for fish and which would furnish a refuge and breeding ground for all kinds of wildlife.” Dad had memories of accompanying his father who was helping to remove as much timber from the land to be flooded as possible.  The dam was completed in 1936 and Nelson Lake was created. It’s hard to imagine the valley that lies beneath its waters now.  Much of the shoreline is wild and undeveloped and the lake is known for excellent fishing.

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This wild jumble of blooms completely obscured the stair down to the restrooms.

The park at the dam has been a favorite picnic spot for my parent’s generation, for my generation and hopefully for the next generation. I have done my part by taking my niece and nephew there to explore. It was a “must visit” spot for my lake of the day challenge.

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Not real sure about the green water…

Mom and I drove out and found the park a little overgrown but much the same as we had known it. Wild sumac and flowers covered the bank by the dam and the boat landing was busy with fishermen coming in from a day on the lake. There was a lot of algae bloom in the water which made it a little uninviting as far as swimming was concerned. I stayed with the one foot dip. But the views were fantastic and after reading some of the history of the lake here , I was more appreciative of the part the lake and its accompanying flowage played in local commerce.  There is a large island in the middle of the lake accessible only by boat and I think exploring it is going on the list for my next visit.

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Nelson Lake behind the dam, island in view.
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Water is high now and there is good flow going over the dam.
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The Totogatic River downstream from the dam and highway bridge.

Lake a Day Challenge: Spider Lake

A spider is probably not anyone’s favorite image to attach to a memory or a place, but when you grow up calling a place Spider Lake, you eventually quit thinking about real spiders and just think about the lake.  This lake is really a chain of lakes, four to be exact, connected by short rivers.  For many years one of my cousins has owned the Spider Lake Golf Club and Resort and it was only recently I learned that it is actually located on Clear Lake in the Spider Lake chain.  Big Spider (ugh!), Little Spider and North Lake make up the other three.

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Me and Spider Lake in rustic setting

My visit this summer was prompted in part by a reunion of my cousin’s family, as well as my own. This was the day we met at Spider Lake Golf Club for a wonderful dinner cooked on the grill and lots of family fellowship.  Cousins from as far away as Alaska and Florida (me) got reacquainted with each other, and fed mosquitoes. It seems the mosquitoes are a force to be reckoned with everywhere near the water or woods in Wisconsin. The young people hunted frogs, played catch and got underfoot. The rest of us visited and ate.  It’s kind of a standard theme among us. Always have food.

One of the most interesting activities at our gathering was making an African Praise Poem about mom.  Mom is one of three surviving siblings in her family of seven and a favorite among all the cousins.  After dinner we “poets” and mom talked together about the important events of mom’s life and the memories we had surrounding those times. There were tears. All these recollections were recorded and will be arranged, poetically and mysteriously, in the form of the African Praise Poem. We’ll all get to see it when daughter Esther puts the finishing touches on it. We asked mom how it felt to be the subject of an interactive poem like this and she admitted that it felt a little like being at her own memorial service, but not a bad thing overall.

I think Spider Lake is known for being a good fishing lake, and there are resorts and cabins available there still. It was a beautiful day, and a beautiful lake.

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Poet and photographerfor this shoot, my daughter Esther
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Possibly the oldest, my Uncle Wendell (with two l’s) and the youngest, Hazel Erikson.
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Frog hunting
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Family, food, fun.

#5: Lake Hayward

It’s not just about the lakes here in northern Wisconsin. It’s about the whole outdoors experience. Part of it, for those of us who grew up here, is berry picking. I’m talking about serious berry picking, where you gear up with two layers of pants, long sleeves, a belt to hang your berry bucket on, head protection against the deer flies, lots of bug repellant and your sixth sense of where not to go, where not to step, what not to touch.

We went berry picking this morning because my brother had reported seeing bountiful berry patches on our farmland near Round Lake. He had been cutting trails in the overgrown woods and fields with his flail mower (he does this for fun, yeah???) and wanted to take us out in his Kubota tractor to where we could just stand in the trail and pick all the blackberries we wanted. Sounded good. We went early because of forecasted severe weather coming our way.

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Beautiful fruit. Wicked, brutal thorns.

Mom and I drove out to the field/woods in her SUV and met my brother and his wife. We were startled by a graceful buck deer that ran across our path. We were also aware that there were bear in the area, as seen on my brother’s woods cam, but thankfully we didn’t flush any of them out this time. We also saw large flocks of Canada geese and several sandhill cranes in the harvested oat field we drove through. After hunting for a while we did find what we were really looking for, berries, hiding amidst the goldenrod and pines. Unfortunately, the storm found us and we had to cut our picking short. But now we know where they are, and we’re not telling.

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Goldenrod. I’ve never seen so much of it in one place.

Today’s lake is Lake Hayward, which is formed by a dam on the Namekagon right in the town of Hayward. Here the town has its beach park and I remember many picnics and swims in this spot. I remember it being a lot larger than it really is, oh well. It is close to another Hayward landmark, the “big fish”.  Hayward being the Musky Capital of the World someone had to build a giant muskelunge for tourists to get the full experience.  If you want to, you can climb the stairs and view the town from the fish’s mouth, something you don’t get to do everyday.  Today’s photo credit goes to Mom who accompanied me. wp-1470860401413.jpg

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Both feet wet in Lake Hayward, holding lilypad.
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The mouth of the fish (nightmare material, maybe)
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And the tail, with a person in the picture for perspective. It’s big.