Mystery in the Meadow, conclusion

20181219_2031198456243274100480667.jpg

The response to her brother’s note, left at the door of the fort, came two days later. It didn’t quite match any of the compelling situations she had imagined, but Shirley was okay with that.  It was a relief to know that there was no criminal in hiding, no homeless desperado, no Bigfoot out in her meadow. It was still a safe place to walk. And it turned out that the real situation was as interesting to her as the imaginary one.

It was a survival class being taught at the charter school whose property bordered the wetlands and meadow. The teacher called to remind Dennis that he had contacted him months ago about permission to use the property. He had been taking small groups of students there frequently to practice skills like finding shelter, finding food, and starting fire.  No one had noticed them out there.

The fort had been his idea. He had led the others out to the meadow to construct it. They had made fire probably four times for a simple meal, maybe six more times for keeping warm, preserving the fire bed for the next time. They were kids, but someone had to help them know that campfires were for more than roasting hot dogs and marshmallows. Shelter and fire could mean their survival. It had been a fun class.

——————————————————

It didn’t take her long to find him on Facebook and ask for a meeting. Sitting in the local coffee shop with their hot drinks, Shirley got whole story from the teacher himself.  He was clearly passionate about the outdoors, about survival in a myriad of environments, and about teaching basic skills to anyone who needed to learn them. He had stories…

Survival was a recurring theme in his life and was extremely important. He learned that at an early age growing up in Alaska.  He learned it in the military. He learned it traveling to foreign countries. There were countless experiences that reinforced that lesson.

He would present scenarios to his students. What if the plane they were on crashed in the middle of an uninhabited area and there were 50 survivors, or 100? What would be the best course of action to save lives, to survive? What would you do for the wounded? Where might you find food and shelter until help arrived? What resources might be right there in front of you but go unnoticed? He believed everyone should have a chance to think about those things. Those were the kinds of things they talked about out in the meadow, as they built the fort.

Not everyone responded warmly to the experiences he offered, at least not at first. There were the silent ones, the thinkers, the watchers. Some had been fearful and guarded all their lives. But as young people they were flexible, they learned what he was teaching and it gave them confidence, allowed them to trust and work cooperatively. It was life changing for them and rewarding for him.

“So what comes next?” she asked him as they finished their lattes and prepared to leave the shop.

“Maybe, if the fort is still there for the next class, we’ll figure out how to keep it warm. I want to see if the kids can figure out something solar, although you would be surprised how warm it gets with a dozen kids in there…”

Thanks to John (or Scott or whoever you really are) and  Angela for the latte and a great conversation. Hope to hear more of your adventures in the future.

20181218_1855287370074802499904056.jpg
The meadow and surrounding wetlands.

 

Mystery in the Meadow, cont.

20181218_0729593646005607260179595.jpg
Sunrise “up north” when we’re lucky…

Shirley gave up trying to sleep, swung her legs over the side of the bed and cautiously made her way out of the room, in the dark. It was kind of early to be getting up, but that was happening a lot lately, and not just to her.

She found her glasses in the bathroom, wandered out to the kitchen and punched the button on the coffeemaker until the red light popped on and the noises started. She checked the digital thermometer, the third step in her routine, then opened the blinds on the kitchen window. Thirty-five degrees, and everything outside had that dark, wet look. Something was falling out of the sky. She could see it reflecting light from the string of Christmas lights she’d arranged on the patio, but it was hard to tell if it was rain or snow. Probably rain, but the temperature was dropping. They wouldn’t be seeing a sunrise today.

She and her husband had recently moved “up north” to the family farm in Wisconsin. Her mom was not liking being alone since dad had died. Her brother Dennis and his wife lived close but they were in a different stage of life, with younger children and an expanding business to deal with. It made sense for them to pack up and go help. It made more sense in the summer than in the winter, but oh well…

She and her mom, more often than not, found each other about this time in the morning and had the first cup of coffee of the day while watching the sun come up. Mom, especially, had a fascination with the sky and clouds and would raise the blinds on the east windows, wanting to see what would happen out there that day. They would talk, solve world problems as they jokingly called it. Shirley also had the sky watching disease and usually jumped up three or four times to step outside and snap pictures.

That’s why the photo gallery on her phone was predominately orange, red, pink, purple, with sunrises and sunsets. They were all amazing pictures, but how could they not be? It wasn’t her talent that made them amazing. She was not yet a photographer. She was also not yet an author. She was not yet a grandmother. “Not yet” was kind of like her title of nobility. She was not yet a lot of things, but most importantly she was not yet dead. She was going to make the most of that one.

A while later, breakfast out of the way, she was over at her brother’s place of business. Her brother was an entrepreneur and owned a small awards and recognition company, doing most of their business online out of a neat, up to date building only a short walk away from her mom’s condo.  The prospect of getting some employment there was part of the reason she had made the move north from Florida to live with mom.

She was in the learning phase of making plaques for a sports team. Being “not yet” a proficient worker and having just made some wrong cuts, necessitating a complete do over on a print job, she was glad to stop when her sister in law came in the shop.

“Are there some packages here for us? Dennis said they were here but I don’t see them in his office.” M.P. said as she took off her gloves and outer layer of winter armor. She fished her cell phone out of her pocket and started flipping through photos.

“Claire flew back from Duluth last night, in a small plane. A friend of hers rented the plane for a week and he needed to get in some hours for his next level. She took some great pics from the air of the Christmas lights in Bentleyville. Oh, and did you see what Dennis found back in the meadow yesterday?” She stopped her searching and held out her phone.

On it was a picture of the meadow behind the barn and the large brush pile that had been growing there for over a year. There was a rather large, rounded out hole showing in the pile.

“You wouldn’t believe,” she went on “someone made some kind of fort there. It looks like they’ve been making a fire outside too. Dennis can’t figure it out. No one has seen anyone out there. He was thinking of burning the pile, and what if someone had been hiding in there?”

Shirley Not Yet looked at the photo. “I was just out there a day ago. I didn’t see anything like that.”

“That’s what Dennis said too. It’s really hard to see if you stay on the path. The entrance is on the other side.”

“Did it look like anyone was staying there?”

“No, nothing was in it except a cup. But there had been a campfire outside, so someone had to have been there for a while.”

Shirley had made a few forts as a kid, but not usually in winter and she certainly never thought of starting fires and hanging out. It sounded like more of an adult thing. The thought of an unknown adult spending time in the meadow where she frequently walked was… unsettling, maybe.  Likely not dangerous though. She decided to go out and have a look.

——————————————————————

Incognito, that was the focus. If you blend in, don’t get noticed, make use of what’s around you, but be careful, you’ll be safer. It had only taken about three hours to build the shelter. After pulling out a bunch of debris from the pile, he had found the pallets and even a sheet of old plywood. He’d made four “lean tos” and put them together with the plywood over the top. Water would run off and it would stay dry inside. Piling the brush around the outside hid everything. It was perfect. Done close to dusk, no one had noticed. The fire was kept small and smokeless.

All of his life he’d had opportunities to practice survival. It was kind of a passion with him. Well, who wouldn’t want to survive?

 

 

 

I Sang in a Chorale

.facebook_1543803071309.jpg7680678429321417251.jpg
I am small, but I am there. Second row from the top, just to the right of the soloist’s head.

It’s the kind of song that sticks in my head once I start singing it, so much so, that it’s in the background as I fall asleep at night, and it’s still there when I wake up.  It was complicated to learn, but after much repetition, I’ve fallen in love with it.  It’s a chorale experience I won’t forget. The last performance was this afternoon and I’m sad because I don’t want the song to go away. I guess it’s one that’s been around for a while but this was my first meeting with it.

How Can I Keep From Singing?

My life flows on in endless song above Earth’s lamentation.

I hear the real though far off hymn that hails a new creation.

Through all the tumult and the strife I hear its music ringing.

It sounds an echo in my soul. How can I keep from singing?

 

No storm can shake my inmost calm, while to that Rock I’m clinging.

Since Love is lord of heav’n and earth, how can I keep from singing?

 

Although the tempest round me roars, I hear the truth. It liveth,

And though the darkness round me close, songs in the night it giveth.

 

My life flows on in endless song above Earth’s lamentation.

I hear the real though far off hymn that hails a new creation.

No storm can shake my inmost calm, while to that Rock I’m clinging.

Since Love is lord of heav’n and earth, how can I keep from singing?

 

Singing these words, I realize how closely they express my feelings about life’s storms, about truth, about hope for the future. I do hear that “far off hymn” that says everything is going to be made new and good. I don’t believe that we are going to figure out how to do it ourselves. Don’t get me wrong – I am amazed at what we have discovered, what we can do, what we call science. But amazing as it is, the things we discover always seem to end in a question, not an answer.  We discover things that have already been put in place. Science doesn’t tell me who put things in place. My faith tells me that.

God can be mysterious, hard to understand, and his sense of timing can be annoying to me because I am a limited, fairly clueless being when it comes to knowing what time is really right.  But I am won over, just by looking at the choices in front of me. I choose God because he is a communicator – through what he’s created, the historical record of what he’s done, and the experiences he takes me through. He is all about communication when I see it for what it is.

That’s a good question – how can I keep from singing? It’s very much like the question “how can I keep from writing?” I can’t, at least not for long.  I have to respond in hope to the future as God lays it out, as he promises. My everyday life goes down in writing in these posts, mostly because of this hope. I am loved, relevant, made on purpose and designed to know God and love him back. Like a witness in a courtroom, I tell my story, usually in 600 words at a time, right here. I can’t help it.

He who was on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”  The Revelation from Jesus Christ to John, chapter 21, verse 5.

 

 

Who Indeed?

A post written in five minutes on the prompt “who” for Five Minute Friday.  Check it out if you want some inspiration to write. 

Who?

adult beard casual cellphone
I’m sorry but I don’t think  you’re my grandson (that I’ve had never). Photo by Oscar Mikols on Pexels.com

 

For the first time ever, I have gotten a call from someone calling me Grandma. “Who are you?” I asked.

“I am your grandson.” He said, in a masculine adult voice.

“Oh, really? I don’t have any grandsons. Would you like to try another approach?” Click.

I can hardly believe that anyone would take the time necessary to make calls to scores of people, hoping to find one gullible person who actually has a grandson of a certain age. They hope to find someone who doesn’t even recognize their grandson’s voice or know his circumstances. I imagine if our conversation would have gone on longer I would have heard a story that ended with the need for funds being sent. But who does these things, and who is so confused that they respond to them and send them money? Inconceivable (at least for me.) Who?  Just sayin’…

FMF: A Marvelous Thing

This is my Five Minute Friday submission. I’m sorry, I don’t write very fast. I rather like to think about what I’m writing and that takes time. The prompt was SHARE.

When I was a child, to share meant letting others eat some of your cookies, or use your toys. You didn’t have to give them away, but you did have to peacefully watch while someone else enjoyed them. I guess that’s still what it means to me but it has become more of a “show and tell” experience for me. It is now about sharing moments of joy, or sorrow. It is about sharing experiences, doing things with others. It is about sharing moments of importance, in the hope that someone else will enjoy them along with me.

For instance, I came across a red maple tree today. It has been vividly green all summer. Now it is suddenly and perfectly red. This is a marvelous thing. The science is behind it all, I know. But even without the science, it is just a marvelous thing to look at and enjoy. I share it with you.

20181005_2017242314242277798993580.jpg

“Up North” Rain

20180902_1922353830897178976518932.jpg
Heavy rain! The stream did an overflow on both sides of the newly fortified culvert. More water than expected!

This month I am joining with Five Minute Friday (FMF) Link-Up. It’s a group of writers who write for five minutes following a weekly prompt given Thursday night. This week’s prompt is RAIN, and I know a thing or two about that…

 This is Wisconsin. It rains here, and how! Last Sunday it was a downpour outside as we headed to church. As a car left from the early service we got their space right by the door, but in spite of that we got soaked going in. Everyone in church was wet and shivering.

This is a frequent occurrence in the northwest part of our state. You’ve heard that Washington state is cloudy and rainy and I think Wisconsin is equally so. The small streams and rivers in our town have flooded several times lately and washed out roads making them impassable. The stream flowing through the wetlands on the property where I live swelled and nearly covered the footbridges. Even though one bridge had recently been fortified, the stream rose high enough to make new paths on either side of the culvert. It is wet and has been for the last few years, killing trees that are close to the water.

In spite of it all, I like the rain. Wisconsin is usually green and cool because of it.

As the pastor said last week, “Look out the window at that rain. In three months it will be snow coming down like that!” We have that to look forward to. It’s Wisconsin… just sayin’.

One Reason for Being Here

20180904_1813045661508336183345620.jpgSeptember 4, 2018

This is not the first time I’ve come in Mom’s room and found her horizontal surfaces covered with stacks of old letters, poems, pictures and memorabilia that she’s sorting through. She puts items that go together in zip lock bags ready to be offered to the person most likely to be interested in them.

 

“Do you think anyone will want to read these letters? They have a lot of family history in them, but I don’t know how to contact any of the people anymore.” 

It’s habit with me to think of Google for anything I don’t know and I suggest she plug in some names and try it. She pulls out some faded black and white photos on thick cardboard with finely scalloped edges. They are Christmas cards from three different years picturing a family.  In one, parents, four children and dog are sitting, close together, on the floor in front of a fireplace. The room is darkened and light from the fire is glowing on their faces and casting shadows behind them. The father and his son are wearing suits and two of the girls have matching dresses. The mother is in shadow except for the top of her face and she is smiling. She wears glasses. They all look peaceful, happy as they gaze at the flames.  Handwritten below is “A Merry Christmas from the G. Wesches”.  I wonder who was taking such artful pictures back in 1950. 

Another one has the children lined up in order of height and age and this one is signed by the parents and the names of the children are listed. They are Harold, Geraldine, Patricia and Alice Jean. I pick up my smartphone and plug the name Harold Wesche into the search bar. Mom explains that these people were not relatives but the family of a local doctor in her hometown. The doctor made house calls and impressed her as being such a kind man – and one who sent cards to his patients at holiday time.

 The search engine comes up with over 100 records of this name and as I look at them I find one who is 82 years old – that would be about right. The website gets to work collecting and verifying information on Harold. I know they are going to charge something at the end, and that we are not going to buy anything from them, but the small paragraph they give us for free does help Mom remember. He is the Harold in the Christmas picture. She remembers more.

There was one summer that this family vacationed at Meyer’s Log Cabin Resort on Round Lake. Mom’s friend Donna was asked to come with the family to help entertain the children. They let Gwen (Mom) come along to keep Donna company. This was quite a treat for both Gwen and Donna to have a week at the lake. The Wesche children were cute kids too, so it was not an undesirable responsibility.

One day the parents took the children with them on an outing. Donna and Gwen were given the day off to do whatever they liked at the resort. They decided they would take a boat ride. They went out into the middle of this fairly large lake and felt very adventurous.

This story interests me because Meyers Log Cabins was less than a mile from the farm where Mom and Dad went to live after they were married six years later. I grew up visiting my friend Barbara Meyer and swimming in Round Lake at that resort. I have never heard of Mom’s experience there and she said she would not have thought to tell me of it if the Christmas pictures had not been found. She is still trying to pull out the end of the story from the memory bank. 

“I don’t know what we did but it might have been something that made us feel a little guilty. I think it had something to do with hot dogs. Maybe we took more of them than we should have…” I laugh, because Mom still loves hot dogs.

“Do you think it might not be good to dig through all this stuff, all these memories from so long ago?” she asks.

I tell her I think it’s okay, and the truth is I think it’s a gift to remember stories from the past. It’s an opportunity to think of people, to wonder about them, and especially to mention them in prayer. It is never too late to care, to look for someone, to possibly even get in touch with them and tell them a story.

So, if Harold Wesche or any of his family reads this story, Mom wants to know if you’d like to have these pictures of your younger self.  If not, I will keep them to remind myself of one of the reasons I am glad to have come back to Wisconsin to do life with Mom. I want to hear more stories that I’ve never heard before.   

20180904_1937233501823003542416449.jpg 

 

 

 

 

 

Up North: September Challenge

Okay. I’ll admit I’ve been a little quiet about our new life “up north”. I think it’s a mild form of shock, if there is such a thing. I can hardly believe I’m really back living in Hayward, thousands of miles from Florida, on my grandfather’s farmstead, in my Mom’s condo.  I’m trying to find a place for myself (and the husband) up here and it takes a lot of introspection. Introspection wears me out. “Worn out me” tends to revert to endless games of spider solitaire (confession time), jigsaw puzzles (hours spent here), thick paperback novels (three in the last two weeks), and occasionally, just sitting and looking out the window. Anything except writing.  After all,  these are stereotypical retirement activities and am I not retired now?

Haha, no, not really.

There is plenty to do up here – real work, including writing. For my own sake, I need to exercise some discipline and record the journey (that is, life) in this new place. Writing should be a daily activity, a joy, a relief, a healing outlet and a way of sharing. Thirty days hath September, and each one shall be recorded in some fashion. If I can do it in April, (A to Z in April) why not now?

In defense of jigsaw puzzles, I need to explain. Each time we finish, Mom says “Did you take the picture? Of course, I do, although I don’t always post them here or on Facebook. There is almost always a puzzle in progress in this house. We know the kinds we like, the kinds we agonize over and won’t choose to do again. We have different methods of hunting for pieces depending on the puzzle. We have special Styrofoam boards on which to lay out the pieces, and we now bag up the edge pieces separately when we put them away. These are the fine points.

The value in all this puzzling? I can think of three benefits. First, it does make us think about so many things. Color, shape, texture, direction, recognition all have to register and be in operation to get a puzzle from a pile of pieces to a picture. Secondly, no matter what stresses we have been immersed in before or after, the time spent doing the puzzle is a break. We concentrate, get engrossed. It clears our minds and emotions.

Thirdly, probably most important, it is time spent together. We don’t always talk, but often we do. All kinds of things come up as we sit there, knowing that the other person is not in a hurry, not going to rush off somewhere. We probably don’t solve any world problems, but that’s not to say we couldn’t. Who knows?

20180831_214128

So here is our last puzzle. We liked it because there were no parts so hard that we got stuck. We were always finding pieces, 1,000 of them to be exact.  We will probably be doing puzzles more as the days get colder and there is less to do outside. We have a whole stack of them waiting, thanks to our friend Sandy who traded with us.

I’m just sayin’ there are a whole lot of worse things we could be doing with our leisure time, here “up north”.

And I may actually write about some of them this month. The plan is to share life, the small and the significant, the joy and the pain, the awe and the awful… here it comes. 

Those Who Write

It has to be true, that there is nothing new under the sun, that even though we are unique, we have thoughts in common with others. That is why I love reading. It’s through reading that I learn I am not alone in my experience here on earth. Of course, I would have nothing to read were it not for those who take the time to write. I am grateful.

We have family treasures – letters from our ancestors to each other – that my mom and I were discussing recently. What an experience it is to be encouraged by words written down a century ago, by someone who had no idea who their readers would be. And it’s not that their messages were necessarily wise or well crafted. Often they were recounting the mundane ups and downs of everyday life, but in doing that, their resiliency, ingenuity, optimism, and strength of spirit were displayed. We can say “these are the people I came from”.  What is written down has power to influence.

I’m often struck with that need to communicate. I feel restless when I’ve not been writing for a while. I start feeling isolated and want to reach out somewhere. I read something this morning that resonates, sounds true. It’s Sarah Young’s interpretation of scripture in her book “Jesus Calling”.

I speak to you continually. My nature is to communicate, though not always in words. I fling glorious sunsets across the sky, day after day after day. I speak in the faces and voices of loved ones. I caress you with a gentle breeze that refreshes and delights you. I speak softly in the depths of your spirit, where I have taken up residence.

You can find me in each moment, when you have eyes that see and ears that hear. Ask My Spirit to sharpen your spiritual eyesight and hearing. I rejoice each time you discover My Presence. Practice looking and listening for Me during quiet intervals. Gradually you will find Me in more and more of your moments. You will seek Me and find Me, when you seek Me above all else.  Psalm 8:1-4; Psalm 19:1-2; I Cor. 6:19; Jeremiah 29:13

I thank her for writing that, and I thank God for all those moments when I can “read” him so clearly. wpid-20150930_181847.jpg

Story

Why is it so difficult to write? Life right now is not a single thing that can be described in a post or series of posts. It is made of rabbit trails and randomness going off in many directions and not making much sense. It won’t stand still and be examined and written about.

I know if I could view it from way outside I could probably guess where it’s all headed and see some patterns, some sense that escapes me in the moment I’m living. It takes all my concentration to keep focused on the enjoyment of the moment – because I know being present won’t last forever. And there is always something to enjoy, because God is good and I see evidence of it in so many ways. But I do hope that the inspiration to write comes soon. I want to write. I want to tell my story to myself, if to no one else.