in the column of love

He said so many things that landed on my heart, little comments here and there that wrapped us in love and goodness and mercy. Boundless mercy. Mercy divine.

It left me changed, I’ll tell you that.

And it came as a surprise. He was, after all, a man who’d come to whip the adult choir into shape.

Tom Trenney did so much more.

 

then sings my soul

 

There’s so much music, and so little time for rehearsing at Montreat Music and Worship. Each moment is precious. We gathered twice a day and the reminder we were a bunch of strangers singing unfamiliar compositions with a concert Friday was never far from our minds. Then Tuesday as time ticked by we were mid-learn (and really concentrating) on a difficult section of a new piece when a fire truck passed our open windows. Its sirens filled Anderson Auditorium.

I bristled thinking of the interruption of this harsh, unexpected sound, of the inconvenience.

Tom Trenney, on the other hand, stopped his conducting, dropped his arms in the most gentle way, and clasping his hands in front said softly,

Let’s have a moment of prayer for the people suffering this emergency.

Three hundred of us bowed our heads together.

 

beautiful Anderson Auditorium

 

I think now of that silence, that prayer, that moment, and I am overwhelmed.

Jesus taught by example.

Tom Trenney reminded me nothing is more powerful than that.

 

XXOO

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The Bear Who Came To Dinner

It was a pretty grand anniversary dinner, I won’t lie about that.

But then there was a great deal to celebrate. Thirty-two years for them, fifteen for us, and our wedding days butting right up next to each other. That’s what brought us for this long weekend together high in the  Appalachians where we knew time would move slow and the air would be sweet.

We were right.

rhododendron and flame azalea in bloom

And so we made a feast. All four of us contributed to the prepping and the roasting and the grilling. Amos Lee played loud above our laughter. And because there was steak and salmon and garlic scape butter potatoes, and yummy smells floating out from the porch, we kept a keen eye for bears.

Sure enough one came to join our party.

He was a little guy, interested but timid, and he stopped short in the driveway the minute he noticed us gathering for a look. Then he turned and walked away, no doubt concerned he’d brought the wrong vintage or worn the wrong sweats to fit in with this rather distinguished group. 

We felt sad for him, Leslie and I. But Tim and Scott even more. And so without so much as a word they set out after him.

That bear was nowhere in sight. 

And so the boys returned, and we dished up the feast, and we toasted to love, and marriage, and life. And to friendship, the very best kind: ancient, and easy, and deep.

XXOO

 

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love at the beach

 

 

It  was kind of miraculous, I guess you could say, the way we had this spit of beach with so few people running about on it.

It was a holiday, after all.

And not just that, but Memorial Day weekend. Prime time for those who like to kick off summer in a most dedicated way.

And not just that, but a resort. A lovely resort positioned right on Amelia Island where the canopies of the Live Oaks create a world so private you feel protected, sheltered, hidden away.

 

 

We made the most of it, I’ll tell you that, the fifteen of us gathered there. We’d come from all over, a family spread north, south, west, our ranks growing up and moving out, moving on in different directions, inevitable, really, as this is what life demands.

We stay committed though. Even as distance and new responsibilities make it feel more impossible. This family reunion mattered so to Dottie, you see, the mother and grandmother who those many years ago started it all, the matriarch who asked us to promise the summer gatherings of the family would continue.

We did.

We do.

For now it is us, our generation who guides. We feel her presence with every conversation, every giggle, every hug. Every story retold for the hundred-thousandth time. We feel her pleasure as the siblings reconnect and the cousins bond and the daughters- and sons- and grandsons-in-law meld into a family that is every bit theirs.

As we hold each other close.

As we toast the miracles.

As we share the joy that is another year together.

We are grateful.

 

little cousins, big cousins

 

lingering dinners

 

crazy kids, crazy filters

 

magic moments

 

XXOO

 

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A-Ramp-Hunting We Will Go

MY SWEET ELIZA is home from her California adventure, and we whisked her away for some well-deserved R&R following two years of working a job that asked so much. A few days in the mountains–where rest and relax are the exact formula–seemed just right. 

We’d hardly unpacked our soft-cothes-only wardrobes when I got this joyful text from our mountain neighbor, Jessie.

Ramps, you say???

Oh, yes.

 

I’VE KNOWN OF RAMPS all my life, them being regular mountain food in the part of the world where I grew up, where many folks lived from the land and made the most of whatever was available. In my mind it was akin to Poke Sallet, made from pokeweed, although I must say to my knowledge neither of these ever graced my mother’s dinner table. (Rather than anything fresh or leafy green we were much more likely to be eating Kraft Spaghetti–the box kind. Or frozen pot pies.)  So although I have long had an awareness of ramps, I am certainly not fluent. 

And heaven knows, I’ve never gone in search of.

But today these plants are a different thing entirely. Now the lowly ramp–which is sometimes called a wild leek, or spring onion–is a delicacy made so by swell young chefs of the foodie movement who’ve refined their preparation and feature them on specialty menus during their super-short growing season. Part of the appeal, no doubt, is due to this limited window during which ramps can be harvested and eaten. Look for the trillium to bloom, I have heard, and you’ll know: Ramp Season is on.

 

AND SO OUR neighbors planned an outing, and because they’re thoughtful they invited us to come along. They’d gotten permission from the landowner–a very important detail as many experts agree the elevation of the ramp’s status has resulted in a great decline in its population. So up that mountain we went.

My little heart beat fast at the sight of them, I’m not gonna lie.

 

 

We got on our hands and knees and dug.  

 

Gus, the pro

 

Gingerly, we dug.

 

Eliza, going strong

 

Then as the pretty white ramp bulbs emerged, Gus took a close look and made the call they were too small. Our friends needed a little more time to grow.

 

what a happy ramp

 

We did not despair but walked all around, looking at the early spring beauty right where we were, the miracles happening all around us right there in the woods.

 

 

 

Then we loaded up and headed for home, making one more impromptu investigative stop at the pond.

There are salamanders that live in that pond, you see, but only for a short time during early spring.

Might as well give it a look.

 

XXOO

 

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When the morning comes.

 

Most nights we are in the mountains I awaken two or three times just to check for light at the foot of the bed. It’s something we didn’t realize when we bought the place, the fact our bedroom faces east. Which means we can leave the shade open at night, and when it’s time to rise God nudges us up and out with the most gentle, spectacular show.

 

 

I mean.

 

 

My first words each day are: Is it get up time yet?

 

 

Tim always says yes. Which is perfect because every day is different–and we don’t want to miss a thing. 

 

 

XXOO

 

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The Gigantic Life Truth I’d Forgotten

IT’S A PITIFUL EXAMPLE for a gigantic truth that’s parked itself right alongside me like one of those huge roadside boulders in Southern California.

I was in my pilates class, and Jan–our superhero instructor– introduced a new, more difficult move that involved stretching forward to push down on a weighted bar while extending a leg behind you. It takes incredible strength and balance to create this horizontal body position, and it didn’t take long for me to determine I couldn’t do it.

I tried.

But then I decided: This is too hard.  This is too hard for me, given my weak shoulder. Considering my age. How tired I am. That rib thing. (I could go on and on.)

Then a whisper came that had already presented itself to me twice this week, insisting again:

You can do hard things.

 

MY DAUGHTER, ELIZA, has spent the last seven weeks 2000 miles from home. She’s there working with a beautiful, amazing child who spends every moment of his life doing things that are hard. Born with a tiny single genetic mutation, the simple control of his arms and legs requires enormous energy and concentration. He can’t talk or stand or walk, but spend five minutes with this seven year old and your very definition of determination will be changed. He fights for every movement, willing his body to do things it simply cannot do. He strives to understand, and to be understood, communicating in innovative ways that make the mere act a holy one. And he laughs. He laughs with such ease and with such boundlessness that joy fills all that is around him, all color and light, all pure, sacred goodness.

He stole my heart, this remarkable child, and I don’t ever want it back.

 

AND THERE IS ELIZA, who moved boldly into a new life in a new world, who gives so well in a job that asks so much of her. She is brave and strong, and I admire her willingness to step out and step up, taking it on even when it’s hard.

We can do hard things.

I will strive to remember this the next time I face down something that requires more of me than I want to offer, the next time my inclination is to quit or to turn and run toward an easier path. 

 

 

We can. We can. We can.

XXOO

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And then we experienced San Diego.

 

Y’all. San Diego. It’s all true.

We had just arrived and were still in the airport the first time I said, “It feels like we are in a futuristic city where they finally got everything right.” I mean. It was clean. Signage made sense. The bathroom stall walls and doors–each and every one of them–went all the way to the ground.

And then we got our rental car (which took approximately 22 seconds) and headed for three days in Oceanside. I shared that part of our journey with you last week–the post with too many pictures–and now I want to tell you about the next five days that we spent in San Diego.

Or since we’ve already set the precedence, may I just show you?

 

pretty San Diego, from Cabrillo National Monument

 

the lighthouse at Point Loma

 

Spanish Village Art Center at (magnificent) Balboa Park

 

(It is as awesome as you hear.)

 

Salad. Again.

 

Anteater alert!

 

Lunch at In-N-Out. Yes, it was worth it.

 

La Jolla

 

Rocks and Sea Lions. Everywhere.

 

We brought the rain to Southern California! (Plus I can’t resist a bird photo.)

 

top of the Torrey Pines hike

 

Looking down.

 

At the bottom.

 

lovely southern california

 

I love San Diego.

Get thee there, if you can. And fast.

XXOO

 

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California! Part One.

I want to share it all with you, every photo, every comment, every would you take a look at that. It’s my first time in Southern California, a last minute trip we planned so we could visit Eliza during her months of work here. (You know Tim and I will go just about anywhere, just about any time. There is so much to see in this world.)

We spent a couple of days in charming Oceanside, then drove Highway 79 up to Palm Springs where we walked Palm Canyon Drive, found Dinah Shore Drive (you have to, right?), then made the incredible journey across the rough and rugged San Jacinto mountains to San Diego. It gave us an incredible view of the Coachella Desert Valley.

And now we are here in San Diego. Eliza arrived last night to spend the long weekend with us, and we are all excited to see what this fascinating city has in store.

 

Ready for the journey!

 

Oceanside

 

a little obsessed with the cute beach cottages

 

Oceanside’s famous pier

 

love the retro vibe

 

the famous Top Gun house

 

(just because I like him)

 

Tim and Eliza on the jetty

 

Pacific Sunset, Oceanside Harbor

 

sunset and surfers

 

Let’s go to Palm Springs!

 

on the valley floor

 

Crazy landscape!

 

We’re here!

 

I’ll just have the turkey sandwich.

 

You got to, right?

 

 

fascinating desert landscape

 

looking down on the Coachella Valley, home of Palm Springs

 

We brought the rain to San Diego. But Eliza arrived safely!

 

XXOO

 

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the snow moon

 

The Snow Moon comes tonight.

Still I can’t help posting these photos from last night.

 

 

Because for the first time in many, many years, I happened to be where snow fell all day long.

 

 

 

 

Then as day began its slip to night, 

 

 

temperatures dropped to the low 20s

  

 

and a big ol’ moon rose bright over the tree tops.

 

 

I love February.

 

 

 

XXOO

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Mother.

 

 

 

I’d like to introduce you to Mother, the grande dame of our mountain property. From the moment I saw her I knew she would be a fierce spirit guide for my adjoining studio.

How grateful I am for her abiding presence. I am awed by her fortitude; fascinated by her wizened shape; amazed at her faithfulness as she continues to sprout tender green shoots each Spring.

Even now, in this harshest of seasons, Mother stands by. Resilient. Proud. Unrelenting in the face of winter here in these ancient mountains. 

 

XXOO

 

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