Saturday, June 29, 2013

Slowing Down and Catching Up

Our jaunty walking mailman pushed two letters through our mail slot on Thursday.  That is a rare occurrence--two hand written letters delivered on the same day.  Two different people slowing down time to handwrite a note, address an envelope, lick a stamp, and entrust the message to the time delay of the US Post Office.  The sentiments could wait, needing neither tweeting, nor facebooking, nor texting, nor emailing.  The first letter was from our sweet Alex who wrote to thank us for our recent trip to Disney World.  He writes in pencil and no longer needs lines to guide his increasingly more sophisticated sentences down the page.  It's a keeper.  The second letter, pages of text, is from an old and dear friend.  Dell was a mentor mother to me during my own young mothering years.  A veteran mom with five kids, she took me under her comforting wing and I have never forgotten. I think of her often when I interact with young moms at church.  Approaching 75, Dell writes of her quiet life atop a mountain.  Dell and her whole family are huge, huge readers, and as typical with any conversation with Dell, she ends her letter listing her favorite current authors. I will look them up.

I treasure both of these missives.  Few of us write letters by hand anymore.  I confess that when I do write notes, typically I word process them, since I believe my penmanship deteriorating.  I suppose we have become so accustomed to communicating instantaneously, we quickly click out our messages rather than slowly composing our thoughts.

This past week our internet was down. Both Jim and I had an erie sense of panic, even though our smart phones allow us 4G connection.  We are perhaps too connected. We didn't used to be so wired up, and those days and that time minus laptops and Google's massive reach were filled with meaning and purpose. A WiFi-free house recalled that particular place of peace and quiet.

Speaking of peace..I just finished reading this book.

The first time I encountered Mary Pipher was a June, early 1990's, right after school ended.  A colleague suggested I read her runaway best seller Reviving Opheliaand so I did.  It was hard to put down, the content and Pipher's writing so rivetingly true to what I saw in the young women I taught. Jim, at that time, was leading Conferences and Institutes here at Penn State, and I lobbied urgently to bring Mary Pipher to Penn State. And so he listened.  Meeting Mary and Jim Pipher was for both my husband and me an unforgettable experience. We remained Christmas cards friends for several years, and Mary inserted a story we told her in a book she later wrote, The Shelter of Each Other.  In small but meaningful way, I knew this writer beyond the words on her pages.  

It has been a while since I have read one of her books, but I happened upon the mention of this book, Seeking Peace: Chronicles of the Worst Buddhist in the World from a friend's Goodreads page.  Beginning my third official year of retirement, I continue to seek and explore the proper balance of peace, presence, and purpose and thus the appeal of this book to me right now.  I loved it, for the intimacy I felt with the writer, for her candor in telling her story, and for the eternal truths Pipher articulates in this her memoir. She advocates slowing down and paying attention.  She describes her struggles with making and taking time to meditate, and she deliberates on the pace and press of contemporary living.  Once again, Mary Pipher delivers a story that speaks truth to my own journey and my own story.  

I return back to the wired world, grateful for the technology which allows me easy connection to those I care about, as well as, enabling me to research topics of interest and to organize my life in words and images.  However, I hope this this brief vacation away from such omnipresent technology has reset my internal operating system, shifting it into a saner, slower pace that takes the time to compose a life rather than simply click it away.

(I cannot leave this post without sharing this iconic Disney shot...our darling redhead in the foreground, the Magic Kingdom in the background!)

It was indeed a most magical,memory-making trip!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

When a tree falls

I was up early as usual this morning, greeted by rumbling, dark skies that opened into a downpour so dense I couldn't even see the street in front of our house.  I postponed walking out to pick up the newspaper, something that rarely happens even on subzero, snow-covered winter mornings.  It was bad out there.

About an hour later, there was banging on our front door. Our neighborhood watchdog stood on the porch, pointing up and exclaiming, "You have a new friend up there!"  I thought maybe we had a bird's nest in our rain gutter.  But it was a tree...on our roof.  A large limb from our neighbor's tree had splintered right off and fell onto our roof.  I couldn't believe I never heard it.  Last fall, on another morning bright and early, our neighbor on the other side came knocking to ask what happened to my car which was wearing a flower pot, on its smashed windshield. We never heard that one either. Apparently in our home, it is always a peaceful world.

We made our calls today.  One to the tree surgeon, one to our insurance company, and one to our contractor.  Tomorrow a crane will lift this tree off the roof which will then be inspected for damage (it looks okay from the attic looking up), and hopefully, the front of our home will be returned to its typical  tranquility.

When I think of tornadoes in Oklahoma, fires in Colorado, floods, hurricanes, and devastation visiting  other places and parts of our world, a tree branch resting rather gently on our rooftop is not such a big deal. Just a little morning excitement in this quiet neighborhood.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Strawberry season opens and school closes.  It must be June.

Supplies assemble and water boils.  It must be jammin' time.

Liquid sweetness and jars of red line the counter.  It must be summer....

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Five things on my mind

 #5 Knitting (of course)  I just finished a prayer shawl for our church'a 2014 Medical Mission Trip. Buoyed by making a blanket from working through a bag of scrap worsted wool yarn, I conceived knitting a prayer shawl by doing the same with my scrap cotton worsted.  Two skeins of a DK striping yarn sustained a relative consistency and added even more color.

#4 Strawberries!  Tuesday, the first pint of strawberries appeared in our CSA box. Yesterday, I made a breakfast fruit smoothie with those delectable orbs of red sweetnesses. Today I embark on a farmer's market quest to buy a whole flat of strawberry goodness.  The season of preserving begins!

#3 The state of public education.  This week a group of us toasted a fellow teacher, retiring after decades of service.  The bulk of the conversation was school talk, focused on the changes and challenges of life in our high school; however, in reality, we considered the mercurial flux of public education.  It grieves to me see cuts in instructional programs and the exacting impact of more and more tests, assessment tools for both teachers and students. It saddens me to observe a relative dearth of innovation in education. Ironically, this tenacious Democrat rues the oppressive hand of government regulation.  Less could mean so much more....

#2 Upcoming new experiences.  Tomorrow I travel to Altoona to serve as a lay delegate in the ELCA Synod General Annual Assembly.  After printing and reading 100 pages of pertinent text, I think I am ready.  And in now less than two weeks, Jim, Alex, and I will be making memories in Orlando, Disney World, and a nifty little cabin at Fort Wilderness.  My Birnbaum guidebook is filled with post-it flags and lined with creases.  So much to see and do!

#1 Sylvia Boorstein, mindfulness, and wise effort. My daughter first introduced me to Krista Tippett and her radio show On Being from American Public Media, and I have been a follower ever since.  A few weeks ago, I listened to Tippett interview Boorstein, a writer, teacher, psychotherapist, and Jewish Buddhist (what a great amalgamation).  Inspired by hearing her speak, I secured a Boorstein book to read:  Happiness is an Inside Job.  There is much this Jewish Buddhist has to say to this ever seeking Christian. I close with one of her blessings:

May you feel safe
May you feel content
May you feel strong
May you live with ease

And may her words cover and bless you as the gently rest on me....