Monday, October 29, 2012

Waiting for the Storm

The bamboo birds are confused.  Every dawn, right on schedule, they leave the bamboo grove in a blanket of dark wings across the sky and head due south.  This morning, although the winds aren't strong and it's not even raining, they congregate in a tree north of our house.  One by one they fly down to the street and hop around nervously.  The road is covered in wandering birds.  They know what's coming, but they don't know what to do.

The weather maps tell us a monster storm is approaching.  Will it really be as bad as they predict?  Maybe it will fizzle out.  Or will it be worse? I remember Katrina and watching that radar picture moving across the Gulf.  No one imagined the devastation. 

I am tempted to worry, especially about my kids and their new homes and the big trees surrounding them.  I think of the little ones asleep in their beds in the night next to glass windows when the storm is supposed to surge into our area.  I gaze outside at our trees that should have been trimmed long ago.  Fred says we will sleep in the basement tonight.

The Creator of the storm knows our worries and our needs.  "The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge."  Psalm 18.  "The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock."  Matthew 7.

My good husband is home building us a fire.  We're prepared for an emergency.  We don't know what's coming but we know what to do.  Our good God is in control.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Best Weekend

I only dreamed I saw a falling star, but I really did see a bluebird.  He perched on the deck railing, feathers ruffling in the cold breeze.  He puffed himself out, as if shivering against the bite of the wind.  His little head swiveled to look right at us in the window watching, unafraid, then he stretched out one blue wing before taking to the air again.  It was cloudy the night of the meteor shower.  I do want to see a falling star someday, but the bluebird is enough.  Heaven and earth are full of wonder.

Can it get any better than this?  A warm, windy weekend in autumn, the leaves at their peak of glory.  Dominic and Stacia drove up from DC to celebrate Lana's birthday and to see baby Jordan.  The family met at a pumpkin farm and we joyously trampled through a dry, rustling cornfield looking for clues in some game I never did comprehend. But that didn't matter. The sun was bright on our faces and the kids big and small laughed and threw corn kernels at each other.  (Against the rules.)

On the farm we bought apples and gourds and chestnuts and rummaged around in a flea market.  Doing nothing and yet doing everything.  Five of my six children here together, daughters-in-law, and grandchildren.  What more could I ask for?  Nothing more.  I am full to the brim with joy.

We drove the short trip back to Jon's house for Lana's party.  Jon and Chrissy are gracious hosts and it is comfortable to be at their new house, enjoying conversation and not busying myself with meal preparations.  Anthony and Kim come with baby Joey and his big smile lights up the room.  Little Jordan asleep in my arms, a glimpse of heaven.  Precious baby so new to this world.  What does she dream of?  Laci, Mattie, Lana and Liana run off to play, cousins, girlfriends.  Deacon hasn't a playmate yet, but another baby boy is on the way and we think how these little guys too will be good friends. Dominic leaves when no one notices and comes back with a special treat--gluten-free pizza!  We share this delicious meal while others munch on tomato pie and pastries.

And the weekend is not over! As if that wasn't joy enough.  We make plans for geocaching in a nearby park.  We all have so many memories in this park. Our first fall in Pennsylvania coming from the windy plains of Oklahoma, stunned by the glorious trees.  Hikes and hide-n-seek with Anthony, Jon and Marissa when they were little.  Fred's elderly mother stumbling along the paths to the site of her daughter's ashes.  All the years we've walked these trails and here we are again.  Today, every turn is unbelievable beauty, the towering trees ablaze with color.  Even our feet tread on a carpet of reds and golds. Liana and Lana are off on an adventure known only to them.  Big sisters Arielle and Marissa share girl talk.  The guys search for treasure and find trinkets here and there. Fred, who works so hard under so much stress, unwinds.  How could anyone walk through this forest and not be changed? My family--here together in this wondrous setting!  I found my treasure. I have no other desires, no other dreams.  Everything I ever wanted is fulfilled here this weekend.


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Autumn Escape

My brother and his family came for a visit to our home and then we all drove to Amish country to spend time together there.  It's a favorite family spot.  We have taken the girls since they were little when we started attending the shows at the Millennium Theatre.  We've ridden the train to Paradise, visited museums, and shopped at little country stores in the village of Intercourse.  There really isn't a lot to do there, so I think that is exactly why we love it.  It's a retreat from the bustle of our hectic lives in the suburbs.  And autumn is the best time to go.

We all unwind as we make the long drive through idyllic farm country. The familiar peaceful rolling hills surround us.  Today the farmlands are ablaze with orange and green under a bright blue sky.  Dry corn fields glisten in the golden sunshine and trees are beginning to display their fall colors. Silos define the skyline and roadside stands beckon with pumpkins and mums.  Weeping willows line small streams, their tendrils dripping into the cold water.  As we get closer, we notice it must be laundry day.  Clotheslines adorned with dark trousers and plain dresses whip in the cool breeze.  Arielle notices the order--light to dark, large to small.  Hard-working hands pinned each item on this brisk morning.

Even so, noisy traffic and city life intrudes.   Amish buggies dangerously share the roads with speeding cars.  But we, like they, carve out our own little enclave of tranquility. We focus on the beauty and the simplicity and return year after year because here we can shut out the chaos of modern life and retreat into our own little world.

We meet my brother, my sister-in-law, and my niece and stroll through the shops and laugh in that comfortable way you can when you are with people you love.  We linger in the tourist shops and I snap this picture of two silly guys.  We visit quilt shops, our eyes assaulted with beautiful fabrics as we dream up new projects.  We eat hot, sweet pretzels and sit on the porch watching the buggies at the drive-through bank across the street.  All of us live in two worlds, don't we?  Balancing the hard realities of life with the joys we find in family and community. 

On this trip I will remember a late dinner, relaxing in an almost empty restaurant, listening to the stories about the Amish family who hosted my brother and his family.  They had a firsthand experience to learn about the people who have separated themselves from our crazy world the best they can. My niece washed dishes in an Amish kitchen as the family prepared for their work day.  My brother drove the Amish farmer to the library and discussed his genealogy research.  I will also think about the next morning when we all explored a many-leveled antique store while the rain drove hard. Our little vacation ended at one of our favorite shops in Bird-in-Hand so we could stock up on apples from the huge bins outside.  With a sad, wet good-bye, we parted ways.  My brother was  heading to Gettysburg and we back to school and work and routine.  But our hearts are full of new memories to add to the stories of so many years past.   

Friday, October 05, 2012

Shouts of Joy

Early this morning I read:  "Sing aloud to God our strength; shout for joy; raise a song; sound the tambourine, the sweet lyre with the harp.  Blow the trumpet at the new moon, at the full moon...I delivered you!  I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations...I will establish your offspring forever, and build your throne for all generations.  Let the heavens praise your wonders, O Lord...Blessed are the people who know the festal shout, who walk, O Lord, in the light of your face, who exult in your name all the day!"  

My son Damien called.  His daughter is born this day!  Jordan Dorey.  We love you already, precious child!

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Busy with School

People say you can tell a family home schools by the projects lying all over the place in various stages of progress.  It's a mess!  That's our house.  Right now several little plastic tubs of stagnant pond water adorn the counter and a microscope is plugged in right next to the kitchen table.  Pond scum is percolating outside the back door, green slime soaking up the sunshine.  Liana had seeds in little dishes trying to germinate in their various habitats around the house, including the refrigerator.  Now the survivors have been planted in containers all in a row on a sunny window sill, Liana hovering over them like a nervous mother. 

Liana also has to collect, name and display 20 leaf specimens for her botany class and some of them at this moment are pressed under stacks of heavy books, the unidentified mystery leaves shriveling crisp and brown on the dining room table.  If she doesn't know their names, they get tossed, I guess.  Today I will help her iron wax paper to the perfect, flat leaves and she will cleverly think of a way to mount them.  

Our house is cluttered with books of all sorts--right now I can see Hamlet, Microscopic Life, and Trees of North America.   Scattered around them are papers upon papers, including Arielle's colorful drawings of her lab report, colored pencils left out.  Then there are the notebooks and the workbooks and the math CDs and Spanish worksheets and the textbooks.  My house is rarely neat, and often chaotic, but who would want a different life?  Certainly not me.

A week ago we all went to a nearby park and with a soup ladle attached to a big stick with electrical tape, Fred scooped up slimy, green pond scum.  He also pulled up some deeper water and we put them in four little containers and fed our samples some food to make our cultures--hay, rice, soil and egg yolk.  We kept these at home in a shoebox about four days, each getting stinkier by the hour. 

We were certainly rewarded for our hard work!  We made slides and observed numerous microscopic creatures.  The more we watched, the more we saw!  It was fascinating!  To our delight (and horror!) we found a "huge" transparent larvaIt looked like a big, hairy monster, with a hook on its face reaching out to other creatures, all from its tiny drop of water.  The amazing thing is that if you looked at the slide you could see nothing.  Yet here in the microscopic world, a myriad of organisms go about their business of eating and swimming and whatever else these creatures do. 

The year is just beginning.  What other new discoveries will we find?  Would I be observing microscopic life or discussing Shakespeare or gathering leaves if not for my girls?  How boring life would be!  Sometimes I long for the school days when we cuddled on the couch with a good read-aloud or made projects of sculpy clay and paint.  But these new adventures will later be memories we hold dear in our hearts.  And then one day it will all be over and the girls will be grown up.  I want to hold on to these days forever.