Thursday, March 31, 2011

Reading

Finished Peace Like a River, reading it mostly on my lunch breaks, but also some evenings. I may re-read it on my lunch breaks just to pick up details.

Have begun So Brave, Young, and Handsome this evening.

Some good writers come out of Minnesota:

Garrison Keillor.

James Lileks.

Jon Hassler.

Leif Enger.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Seconds

Another brownie today, or rather more of the same. The other half of my deck is cleared and the pool cleaned out. Even in nice weather that would be a lot of work, but it was rainy today. Some people love me much more than I deserve.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Providence

I almost called this post "Serendipity," but why should I be embarrassed to use the word I really mean?

I've felt lately that God is preparing me for a change. It doesn't have to be major, but I feel I'll choose to do something to add more usefulness and satisfaction to my life and develop myself in a way that God would like to see.

Yesterday, I bought the novel Peace Like a River, by Leif Enger, on my Kindle. Right away, I loved it. I felt that somehow God has something to say to me through Leif Enger.

Sometimes a book comes at just the right time to be powerful in my life. It's not always something I can put into words, but somehow the themes of the book resonate with what's going on in my life at the time. I had that the first time I ever read War and Peace. I couldn't stop reading it and thinking about it.

Now, today, my sister sent me Leif Enger's next novel, So Brave, Young, and Handsome, not knowing I was already reading Leif Enger, which strengthens my feeling about his work.

I hope I don't lose this. There have been times when I thought God was leading me, but I didn't take him up on it. As St. Benedict says in his Rule: "Today if you hear His voice, harden not your hearts" (Ps. 95:8).

Monday, March 28, 2011

Brownies

I came home from work and lo! half my deck was cleaned off. I went upstairs and said to my folks, "It looks like some brownies came and cleaned half my deck for me while I was at work." My mom pointed at my dad and said, "There's the big brownie." Very nice.

Brownies are also the name of junior Girl Scouts. I was a Brownie in 2nd and 3rd grade, but I did not become a Girl Scout in 4th grade. That's because starting in 4th grade we lived in places where we could attend Christian Reformed churches, so I was a Calvinette. Really. Not too long ago, the denomination phased out the name Calvinette and introduced the name GEMS (Girls Everywhere Meeting the Savior).

I liked being a Calvinette, although my memories of it are a little vague all these decades later. I remember in Lynden in the 4th grade wearing a navy blue skirt with a light blue blouse and the blue neck scarf where one displayed one's badges. I don't think we kept wearing the uniform all the later years. I remember doing 2-strand and 4-strand braiding, which I have never done again--it is a lost skill to me. I liked the feeling of belonging when I went to Calvinettes, and I liked that it was for fun, not as stressful as catechism, when you were supposed to have memorized answers to questions and I never had. I had to sit somewhere in the middle of the group so that when the teacher started at one end or corner to ask each kid a question, I could count heads and try to figure out what question I'd get and try to memorize the answer before it was my turn.

These were textbooks with weekly lessons and 4-5 questions at the end with 2-3 sentence answers for memorizing before class. They were not THE Catechism (the Heidelberg Catechism) but child- and youth-geared lessons that no doubt reflected the doctrine of our church confessions (the catechism, the Canons of Dort, and the Belgic Confession).

Everybody's favorite part of the Heidelberg Catechism is Question and Answer 1:

Q. What is your only comfort in life and in death?

A. That I am not my own,
but belong—
body and soul,
in life and in death—
to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.

He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,
and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.
He also watches over me in such a way
that not a hair can fall from my head
without the will of my Father in heaven:
in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.

Because I belong to him,
Christ, by his Holy Spirit,
assures me of eternal life
and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready
from now on to live for him.


Our Presbyterian brothers and sisters have a good opening to their catechism--The Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question and Answer 1:

Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?

A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.


You can't beat that with a stick.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sunday evening blues

I always feel a little down on Sunday nights because the whole work week is ahead. This will be only a 4-day week for me because I am taking Friday off for personal reasons, but still tomorrow will be Monday morning. Also, I keep thinking, "Bummer, rain. Hooray, sun! Oh, bummer, rain. Hooray, sun! Oh, bummer, rain," all afternoon as rain and sun alternate.

I am having company on Saturday of this week, and I want to sweep my deck, but it only sweeps well when it's dry, so what I want is a full day or two of sun, not just sunny intervals in the rain. Because of the company coming, I am anxious about getting my house clean and organized in the coming week. I tell myself to do a little each evening after work, but I'm afraid I won't have the energy.

And a couple situations at work are stressful, too.

On the plus side, although it was raining 15 minutes ago, now there is some late-day, slanting sunlight, and a duck couple is out by the bird feeder.

Two of my aunts, now retirement age, were talking this afternoon about how when they worked just two days a week, they loved going to work and looked forward to it, and it was like a vacation from their housework and family obligations. Meanwhile, when I'm headed to work every day I'm wishing I could stay home. It's not that it's a bad job, it's just the daily grind aspect, and the fact that the job uses up most of my energy and leaves me with not much to devote to things I'd rather do.

Still it's better to have a job than not to, because an income is so necessary. I know I should count my blessings.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Bright shoots of everlastingness

Seen on my walk with the dog: Forsythias just starting to send out their buds.


And magnolia blooms just starting to burst their sheaths. 


In my own garden, the Veronica Miffy Brute I planted last year as a ground cover seems to be coming back. I hope it spreads more. I want a carpet of it on the sand steps on the west side of the house. Last year I had patches of it, but not complete coverage. It's probably good that it's a slow grower, so it won't become invasive, but now that I know it's a perennial, maybe I'll buy some more this year to supplement what I have.


And the iris bulbs I received in November, kept in my car trunk for three months, and planted on a cold, wet February day are sending up shoots.


The word "shoots" triggered the memory of the phrase "bright shoots of everlastingness." That was the title of a great seminar I went to in college on 17th Century poets, and particularly the Metaphysical School of poetry--Donne and Herbert being the two greatest greats. The phrase comes from a poem by Henry Vaughan. Having found the poem, "The Retreat," I'm not that crazy about the poem as a whole, just the one phrase. It's a popular phrase; when I googled it, a number of books and essays came up and Vaughan's poem was almost lost in the crowd.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Diligence

Today at the end of the work day, my boss said she was not pleased that the brownie bites (brownies baked in a mini-muffin tin) she left on the office kitchen counter were not all gone. I assured her that I had done my part and more. I reminded her that I am a very hard worker and that I certainly had not failed to do my duty in the realm of consuming snacks.

I wonder if I'll get a raise.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Harbingers

Signs of the season:

1. Crocuses

2. Forsythia

3. Pup's spring haircut


So smooth, so clean. And he smells good, too.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Bulbs and Sunday afternoons

Today I saw my first daffodil bloom in Lynden. The crocuses are still here but are just slightly past perfection. They were perfect on Saturday. It rained Friday night, then Saturday morning was sunny, and the sun on the wet leaves, flowers, and branches made everything sparkle and shine. When I walked my dog, I noticed that all the crocuses in the neighborhood were open just to perfection and all their petals were gleaming. Most of the crocuses are a beautiful dark purple, a few are pale purple, yellow, or white.

I took pictures, but they are upstairs on my dad's computer, because I did not get my new computer up and running until Sunday.

Sunday afternoon I spent with my sister-in-law who lives out in the country, and we walked around her yard to see what she had done, in terms of pruning, on Saturday, and what was coming up. She has crocus bulbs, but she never gets crocus blooms because the bunnies eat them. Back when they had a dog, she could enjoy the crocuses because the dog chased the rabbits away. But now her bulbs are a leporidic salad bar.

What is more pleasant than walking around a garden with people you love (in addition to my sister-in-law, my niece was there), in the sunshine, with a cup of coffee in your hand, looking at and talking about flowers?

Monday, March 21, 2011

It rained very hard

When you can't think of what to talk about, talk about the weather. "It rained very hard" today. It cleared up a bit later in the afternoon, and I believe should be relatively dry tomorrow.

When Mrs. Jennings attacked her one evening at the Park, to give the name of the young man who was Elinor's particular favourite, which had been long a matter of great curiosity to her, Margaret answered by looking at her sister, and saying, "I must not tell, may I, Elinor?"

This of course made everybody laugh; and Elinor tried to laugh too. But the effort was painful. She was convinced that Margaret had fixed on a person, whose name she could not bear with composure to become a standing joke with Mrs. Jennings. Marianne felt for her most sincerely; but she did more harm than good to the cause, by turning very red, and saying in an angry manner to Margaret, --

"Remember that whatever your conjectures may be, you have no right to repeat them."

"I never had any conjectures about it," replied Margaret; "it was you who told me of it yourself."

This increased the mirth of the company, and Margaret was eagerly pressed to say something more.

"Oh! pray, Miss Margaret, let us know all about it," said Mrs. Jennings. "What is the gentleman's name?"

"I must not tell, ma'am. But I know very well what it is; and I know where he is too."

"Yes, yes, we can guess where he is; at his own house at Norland to be sure. He is the curate of the parish I dare say."

"No, that he is not. He is of no profession at all."

"Margaret," said Marianne, with great warmth, "you know that all this is an invention of your own, and that there is no such person in existence."

"Well, then, he is lately dead, Marianne, for I am sure there was such a man once, and his name begins with an F."

Most grateful did Elinor feel to Lady Middleton for observing at this moment, "that it rained very hard," though she believed the interruption to proceed less from any attention to her, than from her ladyship's great dislike of all such inelegant subjects of raillery as delighted her husband and mother. The idea however started by her, was immediately pursued by Colonel Brandon, who was on every occasion mindful of the feelings of others; and much was said on the subject of rain by both of them.

Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Checking in

I'm still not fully up and running on a system of my own, so my personal computer use is just to check in on Facebook and e-mail usually relatively late in the evening. That is why I have not been posting every day, because by the time I do get on the computer it's late in the evening, and I'm tired.

Here's a picture from this morning. It rained last night, then was sunny this morning. Everything was misty,sparkling, shining.


I did my first bout of gardening on the deck. The sun was out, but it was not very warm, and later in the afternoon, it got quite cold.


I ruthlessly cut back my lavender, figuring it will either grow back in a better size and shape, or not, in which case I would buy new.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

How relaxed can you get?

I took this picture of my dog just moments ago.



The dog we had while I was growing up used to lie like this sometimes, too. My oldest brother said that our maternal grandmother found this attitude unbecoming, and she would nudge the dog's leg with her foot until her turned on his side and slept more modestly. That dog slept only on the floor, not the couch. He was a lot bigger than this dog, plus this dog is very much indulged.

By the way, that's my parents' couch. He is their "grand-dog" and privileged like no dog before.

Come hither, hummingbirds

Last week I put out my hummingbird feeders.



This round one I filled very full and then put the plug in. Last year when I posted about hummingbird feeders, a commenter told me one like this has to be full, then the hummingbirds extract the food by suction. But all the liquid food leaked out past the black rubber seal that has the suction tube in it.


I don't know how to put the seal in tighter without running the risk of breaking the glass globe by pushing too hard. I particularly don't want to break it because it was a Christmas gift from my oldest brother, who now has passed away. So I think I'll just leave it empty. It is pretty just as it is. I may hang it somewhere indoors, since I won't be feeding birds with it.

The other one has not attracted any hummingbirds yet. It may be a little early. I have seen hummingbirds in years past this early, but maybe they're just not here yet. It's not like there are many flowers in bloom yet, just crocuses. Although, according to Ciscoe Morris, hummingbirds also eat bugs. He said sometimes they will eat bugs that have been trapped in a spider's web and if the spider comes to investigate, "he becomes chow too." More power to the hummingbirds.

The crocuses

A few days ago, I expressed my gratitude for crocuses because they come up and bloom early, and are the first to gratify our longing for flowers. I mentioned I have none of my own but have to enjoy my neighbors'. Here is a picture of the crocuses from the neighbor's bed next to my driveway.



Sweet.

Kitty, kitty

A few days ago, maybe last Saturday, I took this picture of the catkins on my contorted filbert.



Here is a picture from today. Some of them are more opened out. Catkins, according to several online sources, are flowers, but without petals.


So, could we say that these catkins are in bloom? Or does bloom have to involve petals?

Just ducky

We had a number of ducks at our feeder this morning. There may have been more outside this shot. I took it through the window, then I tried to very quietly open the door to see if I could get a better picture outside, but as soon as I opened the door, they took off. They did come back later in the day, but I didn't get a picture.


In this picture it looks like there are a male and a female on the roof of the feeder, another female on the ledge of the feeder, and a male on the ground. Maybe they had a double date, and our feeder is the local diner.

Not that I'm at all prone to anthropomorhize animals.

Faithful companion

Took the dog for a walk on this rainy, chilly Saturday morning. When I got back to the house, I sat in the rocker on the sheltered side of the deck because even if it's cold and rainy I like to sit out on the deck a little and enjoy the back yard. My dog looked at me, silently asking, why am I here on the cold cement pavers instead of inside on a warm couch cushion?


His tail as at less than half mast because he'd rather be inside. Although he likes to go outside to go for a walk, when he can smell things and pee on things, once that excitement is over, he wants to go stretch out on the couch, or curl up there, as the case may be. His preference to be warm, dry, and comfortable shows him to be a sensible animal. He cares nothing for watching birds or appreciating the slow increments of spring. In terms of the beauties of nature, he is an utter Philistine--except for the smells.


When I stood up to go inside, his tail immediately curled up over his back, as an expression of his happiness.


When we got inside, I dried off his muddy paws and belly with a towel I keep by the door for that purpose. He got on the couch and draped himself over the arm because that end table surface is where my breakfast plate rested earlier. He was checking for crumbs, another highly interesting hobby of his. If there had been a half-drunk cup of cold, old coffee sitting there, he would have lapped out of it.


But because I know his ways, my coffee cup was cleared away.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Waiting for a new computer

Ordered a new computer from Dell, thanks to my dad and mom, without whose help I would have to go to the public library to meet my internet needs. The computer should arrive on or before March 24.

Thank you, crocuses.

Thank you, crocuses, for coming up and blooming before everything else, just as an early guarantee that it really is spring.

I have not planted bulb flowers yet (although I know that technically crocuses don't grow from bulbs), until a month or so ago I stuck some irises in the ground (and I know that technically irises don't grow from bulbs either). But this year I'm so thankful to the crocuses that it makes me think I should plant some early flowers like crocuses and daffodils this fall so that next spring I'll have them.

Meanwhile, I'll enjoy the neighbors'.

Me and Ciscoe

Last weekend, I went to the Whatcom Home & Garden Show just to see my hero, Ciscoe Morris. He not only knows everything about every flower, shrub, and tree, he also seems to be a genuinely nice guy. After he spoke, we could line up to ask him questions. I was going to ask how to get baby spider plants to root, but instead I decided to ask if I could have my picture taken with him. I asked the lady behind me in line to take the picture.




The topic of Ciscoe's talk was hummingbirds, and in this video taken at the very end of his talk he tells in his characteristic way about the mating flight of the Rufous hummingbird. Ciscoe himself has as much energy as a hummingbird, I think.

video

I asked him when I was having my picture taken with him if it was okay if I posted my video of him on my blog. He said, "Oh, sure. I don't care." Some celebrities are all possessive of their own images, but I don't think Ciscoe has a celebrity mentality. That's what I mean by his being a genuinely nice guy. He's funny and jokes all the time, but he's never mean.

Ooh la la.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Crashed computer

My computer has crashed, so I come upstairs and use my dad's, which is not the ideal situation for blogging. Although blogs are for public consumption, so you wouldn't think I needed privacy to blog, yet I find it inhibiting to be blogging from someone else's living room, as they walk in and out.

I need to figure out when can spend the money on a new computer. I am hoping I can retrieve information from my old computer by means of an external hard drive I bought in January, knowing my computer was starting to fail.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Sweater dreams

I cruised the web seeking a topic of interest, but all that happened was I started to doze.

This morning when I woke up, I had been dreaming up a storm. Sweaters from bygone days made their appearance in the dream. I pulled out of a locker a too-small green wool cardigan I bought in England in 1983. I still own it in my waking life because it is a memento of my trip to England, but it is too small for the now me. In my dream, I offered it to a friend to try on. Then I saw it again as it was draped over the locker door and I realized it was not the green wool cardigan from England, but a gray wool cardigan I used to wear that in waking life my sister helped me finally throw away because it really was too ragged to wear anymore. Then I looked again and it was a black acrylic cardigan I still own and wear, but mostly at home because it is quite pilled. It changed one last time into a green cotton cardigan that I wear at home only (again) because I once washed it in the same load with something reddish colored and it has pale red blotches that won't wash back out.

I remember another part of the dream that I can't mention here, but while dreaming it I thought, "This is just like a bad dream."

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Sweet song

When I came back from walking the dog, through the door window I could see the flickering firelight from the gas stove that heats my living room. It made me think of the chorus of this song: Just a song at twilight, when the lights are low, and the flickering shadows softly come and go. Though the heart be weary, sad the day and long, still to  us at twilight come love's old song...comes love's old sweet song. My day was not that sad, although it was a little long,and my heart is not too weary (just a little), but the flickering shadows softly came and went at twilight.

Love's Old Sweet Song
Music by J.L. Molloy;
words by G. Clifton Bingham

Once in the dear dead days beyond recall,
When on the world the mists began to fall,
Out of the dreams that rose in happy throng
Low to our hearts Love sang an old sweet song;
And in the dusk where fell the firelight gleam,
Softly it wove itself into our dream.

Just a song a twilight, when the lights are low,
And the flick'ring shadows softly come and go,
Tho' the heart be weary, sad the day and long,
Still to us at twilight comes Love's old song,
comes Love's old sweet song.

Even today we hear Love's song of yore,
Deep in our hearts it dwells forevermore.
Footsteps may falter, weary grow the way,
Still we can hear it at the close of day.
So till the end, when life's dim shadows fall,
Love will be found the sweetest song of all.

Just a song a twilight, when the lights are low,
And the flick'ring shadows softly come and go,
Tho' the heart be weary, sad the day and long,
Still to us at twilight comes Love's old song,
comes Love's old sweet song.