klutz

No one else in my family is. Only me.

I looked it up. According to Merriam-Webster online it became commonly used in the late 1950s in America. It is derived from the Yiddish word, klots which literally means ‘wooden beam’.

IMG_1125.JPG

I used to laugh this off but as I get older it gets a bit more serious. Like about 15 years ago I was visiting my dad and my step-mother at their house at the beach. She handed me two nested glass bowls that were stuck to un-nest.

Yes. They broke and sliced my finger.

IMG_1122.JPG

I wrapped it in a paper towel and figured it would stop bleeding. We kept the conversations going. Three hours later it’s still bleeding. There is no nearby hospital or even a doc-in-a-box (urgent care), so they called an ambulance.  For a cut finger. The ER doc gave me 5 stitches.

IMG_1123.JPG

There have been many more instances, I will spare you. Fast-forward to today. Years ago I learned the hard way I can not use a weed-eater. Not only do I get too close to that whacking string but I beheaded many unsuspecting plants. So whenever I want to edge flower beds I use a garden snip. This works really well but is time-intensive. On a day like today I was happy just to be outside. Even though my area of town did not get the quenching rains so desperately needed, the thunderstorms that passed through last night cleared the hot air and humidity.

IMG_1126.JPG

So I plopped down in front of the garden stones and clipped the overgrown grass. Lily and Lulu stretched out close by occasionally sniffing the light breeze.

IMG_1101.JPG

I absent-mindedly commented to Lulu how much the grass had grown, snipping away, hands buried deep when I felt a sharp pain on the same finger I nicked for my step-mother. Drawing it out sure enough a bright red spot bloomed where I actually sliced off a good chunk of skin.

IMG_1118.JPG

I ran inside, wrapped it in thick paper towels, again, holding it over my head. It finally stopped bleeding to the point where I could put anti-bacterial ointment and bandage it in gauze. It has even stopped throbbing now, so I think I will live.

Maybe I should get a weed whacker anyway. I can always replace the flowers.

IMG_1113.JPG

Lulu exhausted from the excitement.

 

that-the-man-of-god-may-be-competent-equipped-for-every-good-work-niv-1947.jpg

 

 

impressions

This was one of those weeks that can only be described as a gift. The little coastal town I live near doesn’t get anything most people can call winter, but it gets cold enough. Even some snow and ice some years, just not this year. Not yet, anyway.

But apparently winter gave a reprieve to some areas this past week, here too. Days were 60s-70s and nights did not get much below 45. So electric bills will be lower. Abundant sun, expansive blue skies, wispy playful contrails and clouds decorating the air.

IMG_0870.JPGCape Fear, upriver

Mindful of Emily Dickinson’s lovely poem, “There’s a Certain Slant of Light” (…Winter afternoons–…)

IMG_0866.JPGRed oak clinging to what is left of autumn

IMG_0867.JPGa closer look at leaf veins with the sun behind the tree trunk

So according to askabiologist.com* the leaves turn when temperatures get colder and the tree starts “breaking down the chlorophyll into smaller particles”, leaving more room for other colors (carotenoids) to make the orange, reds and yellows. Other trees (maples) have anthocyanins that create red, pink and purple colors.

The theory I grew up believing was that leaf colors changed when the days got shorter and there was less sunlight to make green. So that always seemed plausible but days get shorter all over the world and leaves don’t change color in warmer climates. So the cold theory makes more sense now.

I just never thought about it.

It’s interesting when we accept ideas unquestioning. Especially when they are about non-personal things, like nature. Facts are applicable to everything but so much seems subjective. So my ideas about why leaves change color, that I have believed for years (evidently I didn’t pay close attention in botany class) has been corrected.

It makes me wonder how many ideas, theories, concepts I am still holding true without really having it right.

0.jpgPileated woodpecker, base of far left tree hunting insects

Rescue dogs Lily and Lulu always get things right. And they are generous in their opinions, whenever I am at a loss.

IMG_0002.JPG

 

proxy.duckduckgo.jpg

https://askabiologist.asu.edu/questions/why-do-leaves-change-color

winter sleep

It makes sense, the days are shorter, it’s colder (in most places), plants go dormant. So there’s more inclination to sleep, or to want to sleep.

Not for me this week. Hurricane Florence took out a couple of fence panels that I had to replace. The installer guys said the wood had to cure for 6-8 weeks before I could paint so I did that this week. I forgot how long it takes to paint a fence!

I thought I’d get a jump on Christmas card and package mailing. Everybody had the same idea. Probably a good idea to avoid the post office from Thanksgiving till New Year’s.

An email this week had one of the coolest (no pun meant) pictures I have ever seen. There are many places I want to see before I can either no longer get around or see in general. I have been to some, the Grand Canyon was the top of the list, and another isn’t really a place so much as a thing. I would love to see auroras. So this picture is a phoenix aurora–

unnamed.jpg The picture was taken someplace over Norway recently, the photographer is Adrien Mauduit. Auroras are ephemeral, they shimmer and move with beauty. If you visit this photographer’s twitter page there are nothing but auroras, some in motion.

So though plants and most of nature sleeps, geomagnetic storms (coronal mass emissions from our sun) do not. And every summer throws its tantrums in the form of thunderstorms, hurricanes, tornadoes, and all seasons have something to keep us awake. Right now it’s a winter storm making its way across the midwest to the NC mountains. At least I sure hope it stops there.

IMG_0763.JPG

When I took rescue dogs Lily and Lulu to their favorite walking park today, a nature preserve about 15 miles north, I noticed the overpasses and bridges have all been salted but not the roads. Which usually means not much in the way of icy is expected.

I hope this is true. Anyway, staying home sounds like a good idea this weekend.

He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” Psalm 121

#capefearstrong

Chain saws, bucket trucks, wood chippers, hammers on roof shingles, semi trailers, disaster relief…. these will be here for a while.

The river is expected to crest sometime this weekend, maybe begin to fall Tuesday. Interstates are still closed, roads have collapsed, dams are failing.

The power of water.

And there is nothing anyone can do to stop it, like the wind.

IMG_0645.JPG  Trees appear to cringe against fear of more wind

Recovery is incremental at first… the winds and rains stop, electricity is restored, traffic lights flash, then hold steady, fuel and grocery stores reopen, limited hours, limited persons allowed to shop, gradually reopening to full hours. People venture out more, less afraid… has it really gone… ? Aftershock.

Life returns to a form of normalcy, people eager to complain impatiently about waiting in a check out line rather than humbly, gratefully in a line waiting for ice, water, MREs, tarps.

IMG_0635.JPG        IMG_0623.JPG

Even nature is disoriented, seeking shelter wherever they can, emerging from fallen trees, crushed vegetation, where is home?

Water recedes, surges. the abnormal seems normal until it isn’t and you realize how awful it all really was. How grateful, fortunate you are it was not worse.

IMG_0648.JPG   IMG_0639.JPG

Eventually the detritus of the storm disappears, flatbeds come and take it away. The chainsaws stop, birds sing louder.

Life as we knew it resumes, the same, but so different.

IMG_0650.JPG

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you.”   __Isaiah 43:2

“Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.”   –I Kings 19:11, 12

storms of life

It could have been so much worse.

Don’t get me wrong… we’re still in the midst of the thing. We were fortunate in many ways– Florence was a category 1 storm when it made landfall. With threats of becoming a monster cat 5 with winds over 150 miles an hour we were fortunate to experience up to 105 mph winds. Bad enough, but not catastrophic.

The worst of it is the storm is not moving. Or just barely. Like taking a leisurely 2 or 3 mile an hour stroll. But Florence is not only strolling. This storm is still drawing up moisture from the third of the storm that is over the warm Atlantic Ocean and dumping on my area and areas in about a 200-mile radius. And this radius, as the storm weakens, is expanding. There are winds, but nothing like we heard two nights ago. I understand why people describe tornadoes as sounding like freight trains.

My house is maybe 10 miles, give or take from any large water source: the ocean, all the area creeks and the Cape Fear River. The river has flooded its banks into downtown.

Before the storm all ferry service to the barrier islands and outer banks stopped the night before as did our little airport . All bridges into my town closed when the storm winds were 40 mph. Just today the only interstate access here was closed from flooding. Stores are still boarded up, closed. Gas tankers cannot get here to fill up all the stations which emptied the night before the storm.

So there is now no way in or out of here.

Remarkably there have been attempts at looting. Well in advance of this storm it was made very clear that extra law enforcement and national guardsmen would be in areas under mandatory evacuation to protect from looting. So all 6 people who decided to see if they meant it are now in county lock-up.

Good. Disasters like this make even the most formidable vulnerable in ways they could never imagine. The entire state of North Carolina will be inundated with more rain over several days. Projected flooding is predicted to be historic. Everywhere.

The pendulum swings. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

Will we now experience extreme drought in the coming months, years?

The disaster response is humbling. The “Cajun Navy”– those guys with outboards from Louisiana that came to so many rescues in Houston and surrounding after Harvey are here. People come out of nowhere with chainsaws to help remove trees (where there are no power lines involved) and open small neighborhood roads. And as soon as roads are passable and the rains come closer to stopping 40,000 linesmen from 17 states are on stand-by to come in and help restore power to over 600,000 homes who are without.

So thank you, anyone who followed this storm, wherever you are, and thought of us at its mercy. Thank you for any prayers, good thoughts or concerns. That is what people need to do anymore.

Just care.

Thank you.

DnDqsKVXcAAv3GQ-1024x683.jpgHurricane Florence, September 14, 2018 Courtesy of NASA https://blogs.nasa.gov/hurricanes/tag/tropical-cyclone-6/

11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.”     Jeremiah 29:11-13

disconnect

So last March I made plans to visit my favorite place in the mountains and returned home earlier today from a 4-day weekend.

It rained.

No, strike that, it poured.

Interstate driving for me is pretty relaxing. For the most part. But this trip? First I made a stop in Charlotte, NC. In a year they have made it nearly impossible to get in or out. There is construction on the east side for a new toll road. Leaving from the north there are mammoth overpasses being built at the conjunction of two interstates and the highway itself is being widened from 6 to what looks like 10 lanes. I lived in Miami and the interstates weren’t that wide. They were parking lots all the time.

Seven hours of driving in a downpour is trouble enough but in mountains it’s a real challenge. People had stopped at underpasses, on the emergency shoulders. Flashing hazard lights everywhere. So I stopped for gas and waited a few minutes till it let up, then set out to go over the mountain.

The Cove in Asheville, a retreat and training center, is itself built on a mountain. Two guest inns, a chapel, cottages for conference leaders, the training center lodge and hiking trails all over the mountain.

My conference– “How to be right without being insufferable”, dealt a good bit with truth. Not agenda-driven truths, Bible truth. The truth so many either have forgotten, chosen to ignore or just don’t believe it applies to them. He was pretty circumspect about everything, assuming most of us were at least open to the Bible being the basis of what is true, and God being a loving but just God, merciful when we ask Him to forgive us, help us, or just listen to us. So after roughly 6 hours of sessions and a few Bible references I got the gist, I think: when we speak to others who may disagree, be loving. See their point of view. Understand where they are coming from. But don’t ever compromise the truth.

Well, that’s a whole other ball of wax. He did not begin to get into psychology, just tried to help us understand never to dodge a question on the truth. Never be afraid to speak up for what is true. And always convey what we speak in love.

So I disconnected one afternoon when (finally!) the sun shone. No sessions were scheduled. After a bite of lunch I raced down the mountain to my room for a change of clothes and sneakers and went up the mountain. IMG_0234.JPG

I forgot how steep it was. Or how high. Gulping in huge breaths of air I stopped now and then at a switchback to steady my heart rate. And looked at the untouched beauty. There are bears, and at this time of year their young are about 7 or 8 months old. Very small, cute and very protected so whenever I heard a crashing sound I moved a little faster. Our black bears are very shy and will scare off if you yell, sing or clap your hands at them but I’d not like to see how that works.

It is beautiful at the mountaintop. As I said to others I met on my way down it is worth the effort. I assured them they were well past the steep parts of the climb (if they were), and told those  who were not that they could make it. At one point on my way up I heard *crunch*crunch*crunch*crunch* behind me and turned to see a young man who is in the military actually running, as if he were going down, not up! I’d never have survived basic training had I enlisted.

IMG_0241.JPG    IMG_0239.JPG

This was the first year I have enjoyed a conference here. Most years I go for a personal retreat, which it is and it is wonderful. But I met so many good people, there were about 300 from 25 states, I am glad I was brave.

And no amount of walking is helping my sore leg muscles!

IMG_0186.JPG

 

 

Transforming

So the prediction was certain there would be snow, a lot of snow. How many times the ubiquitous “they” predict, get our hopes up, bread and milk disappear from the grocery store shelves. We have an overabundance of bread and milk.

And no snow.

Years ago in one of my former lives as a travel agent I’d won a trip to Jamaica and my brother, living in Washington, DC at the time, was to accompany me. Something woke me a couple of days before departure. I looked out my patio door and saw white. Snow still falling blanketed everything. A lot of snow. I went to my son’s room and woke him to see. It was very early and we got up and watched a movie while the snow still fell. Ultimately there was about a foot of snow which was truly an anomaly for Charlotte, NC.

Though this snowfall on coastal NC was not like that one, 4 inches of snow with below freezing temperatures settles winter in pretty deep here. They’d salted the roads but we don’t have any snow plows so no real way to deal with ice or snow. We basically wait it out.

It is beautiful. It silences noise. Everything normal is changed. Browns and greys of dormant lawns and plants are covered in shining white. Sunshine gleams and shimmers and makes sparkling glints of diamonds.

Picture0106180658_1.jpg

Rescue dogs Lily and Lulu making first marks

Maybe it is just weather in a different form. But snow gives a chance to see ordinary as extraordinary. It rests over and upon all it touches challenging us to see differently, to think differently. It offers a rest from the usual, opportunity to wonder and delight in new perspectives.

Picture0106180700_1.jpg A sago palm looking like not a sago palm

Though the temperatures will stay well below freezing through this weekend ensuring that, except for what the warming sun melts away the snow will remain. In a few days temperatures will rise and begin to melt all the ice and snow. The nourishment of moisture will seep into the sleeping earth assuring its life.

Jesus enters our hearts as one invited. He completes and embraces from inside. As we tentatively open our hearts to Him, His rich sustenance fills and awakens us. Our lives becomes stronger, kinder, more whole as we reach for more of Him and He through prayer and His Holy Spirit empowers us with more humility, grace, peace.

We ask Him for wisdom, He helps us discern in every aspect of our lives. In speaking and holding our tongues. In thoughts, once critical, judging, fearful become grace, kindness, hope. This is why He died for us. To save us from our sins, from ourselves.

We move forward, stronger, braver. We search and wait for understanding, compassion, truth. As His love shines on us like the sun our anger, hatred, fear, confusion melt and He gives us clarity in truth, courage, grace, love, peace.

There is a never-diminishing source of His grace to which we may return time and again, over and over, receiving his protection and mercy, no matter what. He has promised He will never leave us and He never does.

Thanks be to God.

Picture0106180659_1.jpg

 

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”   –Matthew 7:9-12