31 March 2008

Ah, asparagus

Tal was given an unusual gift over the weekend: two large bundles of freshly cut asparagus each held together with two wide purple rubber bands. The giver's instructions were simple: stand the bundles cut side down in a tall container of water, store the container in the refrigerator, eat asparagus soon and often. What a treat. The jolly green giant's version of this delicacy is never going to be the same.

I have a priest friend who, after leaving parish work, has become involved in the Slow Food movement and I found myself thinking about her as I washed 20 delicate green spears, their tips a heavenly, heathery purple, and located that spot above the cut end where it snaps naturally, separating the tough from the tender. Slow Food is all about shortening the distance our food has to travel before it arrives in our kitchens; Slow Food is about connections within the food community – farm, market, consumer; Slow Food is about sitting down to eat; Slow Food is about taking the time to mix up a dish by hand.

Edgefield County is host to numerous roadside stands and Saturday farmers’ markets during many months of the year, beginning about now. I think that with this unexpected gift of asparagus I may have received an invitation to pay more attention to where our food comes from, to become slightly more knowledgeable about what grows here naturally and at what time of year. No, I’m not going to turn my back on raspberries or Asian pears when I really want them. But, I can purchase them well aware that they probably don’t thrive here naturally or that they wouldn’t grow here at the particular time of year I find myself longing for them.

30 March 2008

Wet day, dirty dog

We woke to rain this morning -- and no water, but we faced that philosophically. That is, when the Edgefield County Water and Sewer Authority gets the water back on, it'll flow through our faucets again. For Whitby the rain couldn't have been a better start to the day. With the ground softened, the mole tunnels through the field between the house and Country Club were so inviting. By the time he barked at the garage door he was soaked, shivering and mud from paws to elbows, from the tip of his nose to his eyes. He had had such a good time!

No, I wasn't furious. Rather, giving him a bath provided me a chance for simple regrounding.

Happily, I've had generous amounts of time for reading of late. The reading material I've had in hand during the past week, however, has taken a psychic toll. As I wrote one day last week I was reading "Night" by Elie Wiesel while at Kanuga sitting on Eagle Rock overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains. Since returning home I began and finished my thirteen-month-old copy of "The Year of Magical Thinking" by Joan Didion, an extraordinary account of her first year following the death of her husband. Not only does she explore her own delusional rationalizing during that difficult time, the way she writes, the style of writing she employs, is itself expressive of her fragile state of mind. I was captivated.

This morning, as we waited for that first cup of coffee (luckily, we had a pitcher of water in the refrigerator), I turned to an article in the March 24th issue of The New Yorker: "Exposure: Behind the Camera at Abu Ghraib." I realize that we are at war, but my heart clutched at an early quote from an MP on seeing that frontline prison for the first time: "The emcampment they were in when we saw it at first looked like one of those Hitler things ..." It didn't get any better.

Those two accounts of prison camps, one from World War II and one from the current war, combined with Didion's self-preserving "magical" thinking is making for intense inner conflict. How much are my assumptions of a national moral high ground a case of wishful thinking, of simply not being able or willing to look at reality? I realized with a hideous jolt today, and not merely because of details in The New Yorker article, that not only do I do not trust the government's party line on that prison or any other associated with this war, I don't really trust much at all. This from someone who was taught -- and accepting of that teaching -- to trust authority, from parent to teacher, from elected official to diocese -- and who has spent plenty of her life trying to be in concert with and to please that authority. (I note with wry interest the automatic shift in self-reference in that last sentence, dodging I and using the more distant someone and her instead.) The immediate struggle is this: That we Americans may have/probably have succumbed to the same tactics we say we so abhor is chilling and humbling and frightening.

Who are we? Who are we, really?

Who do we think we are?

How "magical" is my own thinking when it comes to our national myth of peace-loving and even-handed wisdom?

Now what?

For the moment, I'm grateful for a muddy dog who forced me back into the present for a good dose of soap and warm water.

But, I can't not continue the line of thought.

29 March 2008

Toes in the water

At mid-day I walked the outgoing mail to the road and returned to the house along the promenade to check on our new weeping willows. This is the one closest to the house, looking none the worse for yesterday's wear and tear.

No home run necessary

As we began working down our list of errands in Aiken yesterday, it seemed as though we were going to strike out.

The UPS distribution center, we learned when we presented ourselves at the counter as instructed, had just the day before sent back the signature-required box that had been brought to our home three times during our absence earlier this month. Thanks. I'll let the sender know to resend once they get it back. Ste-rike one.

After a two-attempt search on Aiken's notorious, slow-moving, accident-inviting, aptly-named Whiskey Road, we located the official Verizon service center only to be informed that the cell phone that won't hold a charge even for a short conversation has a faulty battery, which we could replace for $40.00. Oh, that's OK. Perhaps we'll take the battery out of the cell phone Tal doesn't use and just share the phone. Ste-rike two.

Things turned around after that. We met Tal's brother and sister-in-law for lunch, eating and taking up space in the restaurant for almost two hours. A hit. And, visited our favorite nursery, taking home two 5-gallon weeping willows (salix babylonica). Another hit. The time spent preparing to plant them and actually getting them into the ground on the bank of the pond was tiring and dirty and happy. A line drive!

It seems we had the bases loaded. And we left it at that. Who needs home runs -- or even a score -- when simply plugging away can be so satisfying?

28 March 2008

Hummingbird spotting

We are drinking coffee and watching the birds on the thistle feeder. There it was ... the first hummingbird of the season perched in the Japanese maple outside our bedroom window.

The coffee was finished with haste, the so-carefully-packed-last-October box containing the hummingbird feeders was fetched from the shelf in the garage, the nectar was mixed and the feeders set out, one under the pergola at the back of the house and the other outside my study window.

By late morning, as I sat here at the computer, I saw the first hummingbird take a sip and by late in the day I had been able to identify at least three different birds.

Welcome back, friends.

26 March 2008

The trek to Eagle Rock

This day began the same way yesterday did: a 6:30 alarm, a 7:00 call home, a shower, breakfast at 8:00. After breakfast I tidied my little room and, sitting in the lobby where WIFI is available, gave e-mail about an hour. I felt productive and, when I closed up the computer, I felt finished. That’s one of my most persistent longings – to feel finished. So, today I know I have received at rare gift. I am grateful.

As lunchtime approached, I organized my photography vest with an extra camera battery, a polarizing filter, crackers, sunglasses and the “Kanuga Trails” map and began the trek to Eagle Rock via a trail known as Baldwin’s Reach. Although it is only about two miles from my room to Eagle Rock, over half of the way a steady climb, it took me nearly an hour to reach my destination.

Other than not being a young as I used to be slowing my pace, along the way a melodious brook caught my attention, resulting in a slight detour to get closer to it. While I watched and listened to the water, gradually I became aware that I was surrounded by small yellow flowers tucked into the shade all around me. What a surprise; what a delight. Efforts at getting close enough to photograph them and at getting the exposure and light balance right seems to have paid off, though I did tramp away up the trail afterward with damp knees.

It was the sound of the water, though and not the flowers, that changed the way I walked today. I saw less and heard more: the whisper of the wind in the tall pines; the rasping clatter of the back-lit, fluttering, golden leaves still clinging to the limbs of the beech trees; the multitude of chirps, tweets and other calls of the birds along the path, which for most part I could not see.

With high thin clouds shielding the sun somewhat Eagle Rock's long views weren’t particularly noteworthy. But, to me with the persistent breeze providing a hushed sigh above and around me, it was the perfect place to spend some time. I had Elie Wiesel’s “Night” in the vest and I read -- with my back to a warm boulder -- for about an hour. The subject of the book, his account of being in a Nazi death camp as a teenager, conflicted with the scene in front of me rather dramatically, somehow making me experience both of them more intensely.

I returned to Kanuga proper on the northern arc of the Corn Mountain Loop, an old road which gave me much more stable places to put my feet than descending Baldwin’s Reach would have. All told … a three hour excursion, making for a really great day. .

25 March 2008

The long way around

Not as young as I used to be, not as young as I used to be ... That was my mantra this afternoon as I hiked the trails of Kanuga. Not content to choose one place to go, I studied the map, linked three trails together and set out. First of all, I was a bit too heavily dressed, even though the day remained in the upper 40s, low 50s all day. The outer layer came off in the first 15 minutes. And, secondly, I can no longer made the pace I used to set, particularly on the steady climbing portions of the paths. All that is to say that I had to deal with expectations and disappoitment as I settled into the hike. Once I got over those frustrations, I enjoyed the adventure.

From Camp Bob to Long Rocks to High Rocks to the Wolf Mountain Rest and back to Kanuga. I went in that order so as to avoid the treacherous final climb to the summit of Wolf Mountain. Been there, done that in the past, but the ascents along the way were hard nonetheless. And, of course, my walking stick, which I made while here last summer during a guest period, is hanging on its lovely hook by my coat closet in the laundry room. As always, though, the difficulty encountered along the way was quickly forgotten as I looked out, satisfied, at the long views available this time of year at the locations intimated by the trail names.

That these forests are in transition is obvious this time of year with the foliage not yet on the decidious trees. The results of the 2005 Christmas ice storm is evident everywhere, the fallen trees beginning to settle in for their long rot with skads of 18-inch white pines covering the open forest floor all around them. More sad is the march of the woolly adelgid infestation through the hemlocks. Many of these trees close in to the conference center buildings have been treated (although not all successfully), but there is nothing to do in the forest but to let the infestion run its course, changing for a very long time the look and compostion of the forest.

Where to tomorrow? Eagle Rock, perhaps.

24 March 2008

Kanuga: Easter respite

As I drove here today I was aware of having been on the coast of South Carolina only yesterday, the Santee delta grasses golden in the morning light, the lowcountry roads built on narrow causeways with swamp close on either side. Today my route on US25 took me through Greenwood, around Greenville proper and into the mountains of the Blue Ridge. The sharp geographic contrast was part of the title of the South Carolina history book the public schools used when I was in grade school -- from the mountains to the sea, my passage across the state in the opposite direction.

It's cold, the temperature on my arrival at roughly 40 degrees. Despite the cold, however, the late afternoon was clear, the sun low, the shadows long, so I struck out on a walk with the camera over my shoulder, only to lose track of time and miss supper. I've no doubt I'll survive the night and will be extra-appreciative of breakfast (and the world famous Kangua toast) when morning comes.

23 March 2008

Easter day and home

After seven days away, home does look good. And, Whitby and Belle were welcome, joyful sights.

Andrew and Paul flew out of Georgetown this morning before 9:00, waving good-bye before launching themselves into the wind. Mom and Dad headed back to Litchfield for church and Tal and I set out on the Georgetown, McClellanville, Jamestown, Moncks Corner, Santee route back to Edgefield.

Crossing the Santee delta, the tide low, in the early morning light was well-worth the unfamiliar route. The map, laden with plantation names and intimating layers and layers of history, was pure entertainment -- AND invitation to consider spending time in the area, making it a destination at some point rather than a passage way.

The flying Tarboxes

Gurdon and Andrew. Gurdon was the first person to fly in Georgetown SC, in July of 1911. Seventeen year-old Andrew landed at the Georgetown County Airport this afternoon, almost 97 years after his great grandfather's inaugural flight. It couldn't have been better.

Pictured here from left to right are three generations of Tarbox men: Paul, Andew's father, who flew from Virginia with Andrew; Andrew; and Gurdon Jr, Andrew's grandfather and son of the first Tarbox to fly.

22 March 2008

Walking the perimeter

Tal and I spent the afternoon at Brookgreen Gardens, an outdoor museum of American sculpture on the Waccamaw Neck and the place where I was fortunate to grow up. The afternoon was perfect -- the weather, the company, the location.

The original and primary garden at Brookgreen is walled, the main event in a manner of speaking. But, there is plenty to see no matter where the visitor ends up. We spent our time outside the wall: along Brookgreen Creek, on the boardwalk overlooking the rice fields, at the animal displays. It was frustrating to realize that the time was terribly short and that we couldn't linger to enjoy the late afternoon light -- a definite disadvantage of the earlier-than-normal change to Daylight Savings Time.

Time passes by so fast. Sad to say, there are moments for me when that fact is almost paralyzing. Being paralyzed, of course, unable to chose for fear of choosing wrongly, is to miss out pretty much completely. Every decision we make means deciding for one thing and not deciding for a variety of other things. We have to choose and sometimes unchoose. Making the mistake isn't the problem. Not making what amounts to course corrections, when necessary along the way, is the real mistake.

The perimeter was wonderful. There was so much from which to choose and I think we chose well.

21 March 2008

Life's brass ring

Of the books I brought with me this week I have read three, two slender volumes in the personal theology/spirituality genre and a novel. I am coming more and more to appreciate that it’s in the story, not only in the form of straight theology, that one gleans the thought-provoking nugget, the nugget, if we’re reading for more than just a plot, which helps us examine ourselves and our lives. Jesus was definitely on to something.

The novel, “The Closers” by Michael Connelly, is set in the Los Angeles police department post-Rodney King and is the story of a seventeen year old open/unsolved murder case. Ultimately, I would say it’s about redemption, about redeeming what has gone before, making useful – if not whole – what wasn’t as it should or could have been.

The police department, not to mention Los Angeles itself, is in need of redemption, most certainly. The just-out-of-retirement detective – referred to by the chief of police as a “boot,” no more highly ranked than the newest graduate of the police academy, and by those in the department who would like to see him fail as a “retread” -- knows he has to prove himself. The father of the murdered teenaged girl, now on LA’s version of skid row, too, is seeking redemption for the ways he knows he failed his child following her death.

The detective, Harry Bosch, finds the father, Robert Verloren, and implores him to tell him everything he possibly can recall about his daughter’s death and the subsequent and eventually abandoned investigation.

Verloren started nodding halfway through Bosch’s appeal. Bosch knew he had him, that he would open up. It was about redemption. It didn’t matter how many years had gone by. Redemption was always the brass ring.
What a terrible, touching paragraph. But, I think Bosch’s assessment is true. It’s what we all want, need, long for, redemption. That brass ring is the prize that brings peace, no matter who we are, no matter what we have done or have not done.

Anything can be redeemed. Anything.

Do we believe it? Do we believe it for ourselves? Do we believe it for any and everyone?

20 March 2008

First day of spring

Since this morning was our last time to wake up at Springmaid Beach, this will, definitely, be the last early morning shot of the ocean from our room -- taken between 6:30 and 7:00.

It's the first day of spring, the defining feature of the day as it progressed being a howling east-to-west wind and waves powerful enough to have drawn surfers. Still, seeing the day begin from an ocean-front vantage point pulls at me. Is it the ocean? Is it the early light? It is the simple act of paying attention? Perhaps a bit of all three, but it think noticing is probably the most significant possibility of the three.

This year's reunion of the 3rd Army Reserve Rifle Team is over. We ended last evening with a team dinner at a popular restaurant in the vicinity of Barefoot Landing, a development of eating establishments, marinas and shopping where the Inland Waterway parallels US17 north of Myrtle Beach proper. Our plan for the day is to stay out of the wind, if possible, by visiting one of the local malls, to find lunch and to arrive at my parents' home mid-afternoon. Nothing too intense ...

Interestingly, although I am not serving the church this season, that today is Maundy Thursday is not lost on me. In a sense it is more a palpable holy day than it was while I was in the thick of it, leading the liturgy and preaching. The significance of that fact unexplored, I'll simply quote Martha Stewart: it's a good thing.

19 March 2008

Yawning yet?

The sun comes up here every morning! And, it seems I cannot not let it happen without the camera in hand. I'll post only one shot here so as not to send anyone into snooze-land. This is, after all, day three of the "same old same old" and there's always tomorrow.

The photos at the end of this posting were taken after breakfast at the cafe on the Springmaid Pier (the structure invading most of the sunrise shots). I especially like the kitchen sink view. The weather is supposed to be variable today, with a chance of rain and so far the variable part is right on target with fog along the water to the north and stiff ocean breezes.

Our time at this reunion is proving to be very relaxing for both of us. Tal played golf and I attended the ladies' luncheon yesterday. But, we're opting out of evening performances at the local theaters (Legends Monday night and the Opreyland last night). We will be sports and go to the team dinner tonight.

The plan between now and then is to visit my parents at Pawleys Island for lunch.

18 March 2008

Playing with the camera

This time at Springmaid Beach is affording me much leisure time for reading long-neglected books, fiction and non, and for playing with the camera, especially working on the basics of exposure.

This palmetto tree shadow image was taken yesterday after our pancake breakfast. Not only were the trees and their shadows intriguing, I was also in the flight path of the airport across US17 from Springmaid Beach. The air traffic, a mix of commercial and military, added considerable interest to my time outside, not to mention much faster-moving shadows than I could capture.

And, I did it again ... dragged myself out of bed to capture the sunrise only to return to my spot between the covers for a pre-breakfast nap.

17 March 2008

Good morning

With everything I brought on this trip how could I have not ended up with a tripod? What was I thinking? Oh well … Here’s the sight I saw on waking. More magical light! Followed by a little more sleep.

I have a question. Does anyone know how many beach towel shops, miniature golf courses and pancake restaurants there are in Myrtle Beach and environs? After we roused ourselves this morning and discovered that the restaurant here offers only a buffet at breakfast time and that it’s pricey, Tal said he remembered from his Highway Patrol years here on the coast (some 52 years ago) that there was a pancake place nearby. When we started looking, he was astounded -- national, international, world famous, plantation, mammy's, sarah's, omega ... Needless to say, pancakes he did eat!

The reunion crowd is gathering, today’s activities limited to personal choices with no group functions. We have been assigned a spacious room on the 1st floor (2nd level of the hotel) in which to visit, sign up for outings, eat and drink. I’m remembering all the faces but very few of the names. Truly, a bad sign.

At the end of the day

We arrived in Myrtle Beach late this afternoon for the reunion of the 3rd Army Reserve Rifle Team. The trip was pleasant and uneventful, even though we tried a new route.*

So far, we’ve not seen very many of Tal’s buddies, but we have enjoyed our supper at Damon’s, are settled in and have been out for a stroll. The pier at Springmaid Beach is quite long and the early evening begged for some camera work. Wonderful, magical light.

* Our usual route from home to I-20; I-20 to Columbia; US1 to I-26 to I-77 around Columbia; US378 to Conway; Highway 501 to Highway 544, ending up in Surfside with a brief turn north to Myrtle Beach.

16 March 2008

When I eat breakfast

For several weeks Tal and I have enjoyed the practice of a general routine. Lots of days it collapses, but for most part the bed is getting made each day, the kitchen floor is cleared of dog hair, the incoming mail is handled before getting any farther into the house than the kitchen counter, Tal and the dogs (and sometimes I) walk the promenade when it’s time to close the gate for the day. All is not orderly by any means. There are, however, certain expectations for each day.

The most enjoyable one for me, so far, has been eating breakfast with Tal. This event can take place anytime from 6:30 to 10:00, but it happens every day. This morning I took a photograph of one of the things I see from my breakfast perch at the counter. Just up and a bit to the right. Isn’t it amazing?

Tal has a bed of amaryllis bulbs. Every fall he lifts a few of them, pots them up, lets them rest in a dark place. Then, we get to watch the progress of the green emerging from the crusty brown bulbs. This year he was a little late getting started, resulting in our enjoying the blooms not during Advent but during Lent.

In some way they have offered me reassurance during this first six weeks without the routine of working claiming so much of me and my time. When I eat breakfast under this fabulous cluster of blooms, I am calmed at my core.

Brewing storms

What an afternoon. It had been a great day so far. I’d spent the morning working in the guest room and bath and we had had a Mexican lunch with good friends in Edgefield. Mid-afternoon Tal began hearing weather reports interspersed in the golf match he was following. The weather making its approach was, indeed, serious, but as the situation progressed the actual reporting was worth putting down the dust cloth to witness.

The entire weather team of a local television station was on the air; regular programming had been suspended. The up-front guy was in shirt-sleeves, the shirt itself remarkably rumpled, his tie loosened. Another man, his shirt crisp, cuffs buttoned and tie still snug around his neck, appeared in the scene from time-to-time to deliver just received telephone messages to the up-front guy. And, a third man, seen only in passing managed the computer images for up-front guy. Up-front guy was in heaven.

We watched satellite images from Columbia; we watched satellite images from Warner-Robbins Air Force Base; we switched back and forth between the two at a dizzying pace. We counted lightening strikes per minute. We learned about the “classic hook” echo, a sure indicator of a tornado. We followed super-cell thunderstorms down the Savannah River and west-to-east along I-20. Mobile home dwellers were warned to seek shelter elsewhere. Others needed to be ready with blankets and pillows to hunker down in an “interior-most” location. The WeatherCam panned the horizon, buffeted by wind gusts. The broadcast throbbed with urgency.

To his credit up-front guy repeatedly hoped aloud that their radio partner was preparing to take their reporting live. When the television station was struck by lightening, up-front guy made one final appeal for radio coverage, responding with relief and gratitude when he learned it had happened. Then, we lost the signal from that station.

Getting any photographs of the storms as one moved through and another passed to our southwest was difficult as we live in a something of a bowl next to Country Club Pond. I was predisposed to follow up-front guy's instruction not to be on the road. I have to admit, however, that being on higher ground between home and Edgefield would likely have provided some pretty dramatic sights.

14 March 2008

Welcome to the study

After getting up this morning and having the car in for service before 7:00 (yes, we DID set the alarm), we had breakfast and I went to the study on a bill paying mission. I was taken aback, pleasurably, by the sunny view into the room from the hallway.

It's going to be a very pleasant space in which to spend time. For the record, I've officially checked paint the study off the "to do" list!

13 March 2008

Heave ho

It's Thursday already. Even though daylight savings time began on Sunday, I'm having more trouble adjusting than in previous years. Since my retirement, unless we've needed to be up early for some reason, we've not been setting the alarm, waking pretty much between 6:30 and 7:ooAM. This week? We're still waking with the light -- between 7:30 and 8:00AM! And, the dogs are allowing it!

It's been another focused day despite having slept in. The closet in the study houses the copier, a four-drawer lateral file, office supplies and the like. About a year ago I went through the file drawers and ridded myself of all the sermons I'd ever written. By the end of the day today, the professional files I'd been building since arriving at seminary in the fall of 1989 had met a similar fate. In fact, I brought the trash can in from the garage and when I'd finished I couldn't get it out of the room! Even with a full drawer of our personal files (which will undergo a careful review and cleaning out in the very near future), the filing case went from four full drawers to just over two.

I suppose I could label this time my "decluttering" period. No matter what the name, however, the attendant at the dump is amused by the frequent visits we're making. Lonely he isn't.

12 March 2008

Moved in

After all is said and done, I'm so glad Tal and I tackled the painting project in the office-turned-study. While everything (and I DO mean everything) always takes longer than we anticipate at the outset, the thought that we purchased the paint on Monday, the 3rd, and the room's is fully usable this evening, the 12th, is cause for a sense of great accomplishment. We could have moved along faster, no doubt, but it wasn't a race and we didn't need to hurry for any particular reason.

Had we wanted to avoid the trouble of painting altogether, we could have chosen not to do anything. I would still be writing today -- from an unchanged space and probably somewhat frustrated with myself. I hope I'm not sounding smug. My pleasure here is at getting myself off dead center, thinking about various things I'd like to do and never getting anywhere near them.

So, signing off with a satisfied sigh.

11 March 2008

Thoughts of Hitchcock

What's with the birds?

When we awoke this morning and enjoyed our usual cup of coffee while still in bed, the birds were truly an amazing sight. The thistle feeder just outside the bedroom window and the Japanese maple in the same vicinity were alive with the usual finches like I've not seen before. For a long time I sat on the footstool (which resides between the window and the bed so Whitby can get on the bed without assistance) to watch. The colum of thistle in the feeder dropped dramatically in a 20 minute period.

And, the intense activity wasn't limited to the area surrounding the feeder. The open woods between the house and the pond were full of movement as well -- woodpeckers, cardinals, blue birds, blue jays, mourning doves, mockingbirds. Letting my vision blur as I looked into the woods somehow intensified the level of activity. I didn't want to leave that spot!

As I prepared to rouse myself, I was given one final surprise. A red-winged blackbird, the first one I've seen this year, lit on the curve of the thistle feeder's crook for a full minute and then went on his way.

A great way to start the day -- not to mention a clear indicator that spring is more than a promise.

10 March 2008

Stopped in my tracks

Actually, that's happening alot lately, being stopped in my tracks. What a delight it is to be able to stop ...

This morning, as I was standing at the cooktop preparing Tal's breakfast (yes, I was cooking; and, yes, I admit, we were out of milk preventing Tal from enjoying his usual cold cereal and milk; but all that's beside the point) and Tal was sitting at the counter reading the newspaper, I noticed Whitby. He had given up trying to get one of us to toss the ball for him and he'd stretched out in a block of sun on the corner of the dining room rug. Off to my left he was watching every move I made, his eye brows cocking as he followed me with his eyes.

He was so comfortable that my going for the camera didn't occasion a change of position.

Now, for confession time. I lied in last evening's post. Actually, I simply couldn't stand the suspense. We took the tape down in the study before going to bed -- without incident. No need for touchups, either where the wall color came off with the tape or where the tape didn't prevent the trim paint from running onto the wall. Ah, such sweet dreams.

The resettling has begun. When we cleared the room, everything went into the guest room -- small pieces of furniture to books to files. The process of resettling involves deciding what to put back, what to store, what to give away and what to throw away, the last two categories being by far the most important.

09 March 2008

Blue tape and an angled brush

Guess what Tal and I did this afternoon?

Here's a shot of the room from the hallway after I'd done the taping and before we began painting the woodwork.

We're finished now, Tal having tackled the crown molding with me staying rooted to the floor. Our fingers are crossed that when we begin removing the tape we won't "remove" any of the new wall color. We're sleeping on it, knowing/hoping we'll be braver in the morning! But, the green paint's still in the utility room. We'll live if touchups are in order.

08 March 2008

... in quietness and confidence shall be our strength ...

The words of this post’s title come from the section of prayers in The Book of Common Prayer, part of a petition in the collect "for quiet confidence" (pg 832). The line came to me again and again this morning during my time as retreat leader at St Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church in North Augusta. I addressed a group of between 35 and 40, a mixed group, but predominantly women, who had gathering to give over several precious hours of a Saturday to pursing their respective Lenten disciplines.

Everything about the morning was gentle. Registration and a light breakfast were scheduled for 8:30. I arrived about 10 minutes early and everything was sweetly ready early as well. Confidence. The morning’s program was held in the worship space and the event was to end with a celebration of the Holy Eucharist before lunch. The altar was already set when I walked in to plac my notes on the lecternbefore joining the participants for coffee. Quietness. My jittery nerves were significantly calmed by the sense of readiness I encountered.

I need not continue describing the day. The collect’s words pretty much say it all. Obviously, this parish knows how to offer and conduct a quiet day and the participants, most certainly, perceived that just as readily as I did. My address was followed by gentle question and answer, a period of solitary quiet and finally eager, intense small group discussion.

Quietness and confidence … a day of holy strength.

07 March 2008

What a difference a translation makes

Saturday's presentation is ready. All the "stuff" I've found has been fascinating. Much too much for a 45-minute address. I am devoting considerable time to the petition in The Lord's Prayer -- forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, but cannot expand on other translations of those words given everything else I need to include and the time allowed.

But, how illuminating. We're used to the translation above. Sometimes the words debts/debtors replace trespass/trespasses. These translations following, however, are from Aramaic into English:
  • Loose the cords of mistakes binding us as we release the strands we hold over another's guilt.
  • Lighten the load of our secret debts as we relieve others of their need to repay.
  • Forgive our hidden pasts, our secret shames, as we forgive what others hide.

Makes our assumed self-righteousness less easy to accept, I think.

Of course, with today's news of the massacre in a Jerusalem seminary and the murder of UNC's student body president, Eve Carson, that petition -- no matter what the translation -- will challenge the depth of commitment for anyone who prays the prayer.

06 March 2008

A room transformed

Well, it's on its way. The office's golden fleece went to primer on Tuesday. This morning we enjoyed watching quietude (a soft bluish green) stake its claim and the study emerge as we labored. I take care of the edges, doing all the cutting in, and Tal handles the roller. We've decided not to punish ourselves, so the second coat will go on tomorrow.

My other, less physical activity is completing preparation for leading a Lenten quiet day at St Bartholomew's Episcopal Church (North Augusta SC) this coming Saturday, an event sponsored by their chapter of the Daughter of the King. The topic is "How Do I Truly Forgive Others?" Could the planning committee have come up with anything more difficult?

This engagement has been on the calendar since mid-December and, since my retirement last month, I have relished reading two and perusing several other books on the subject of forgiveness, as well as consulting the web sites of some really phenomenal organizations dedicated to the topic. I am intensely aware how fortunate I am right now. In times past speaking engagements such as this one, although enjoyable and welcome, have been stressful additions to other, regular duties and have resulted in many too many late nights and bouts of intense worry -- and even fear -- as the date approached, the clock ticking and prep time nonexistent.

Finishing the Saturday's address in advance of Saturday and not presenting a first draft will be a pleasure. Perhaps more than a single room on the NE corner of our home is being transformed.

05 March 2008

Mud flat no longer

To tell the truth, the mud flat's been gone several weeks now, and the deer are not able to walk around the water end of the fence at will any more. But, the wild thunderstorms and gushing/gusting rain of yesterday evening and night sealed the deal. Even the spillway at our side of the dam is flowing this morning.

The two views below show the shallow end of Country Club Pond and the promenade, passable, but requiring waterproof footware.

04 March 2008

The first brush strokes

Ah. The office-turning-study echos. Only the glass-front bookcase and the desk remain in the room. And, the walls are no longer golden fleece. Actually, they're primer at the moment, the original paint a gloss requiring a coat of primer to insure the new color stays put. In other words, we spent the better part of the day continuing our preparations to paint.

No complaints. Both of us, though a little sore here at the end of the day, managed to get through those continued preparations without mishap. Quite an accomplishement, if I do say so myself.

03 March 2008

Small satisfactions

I'd just about forgotten what an afternoon of errands felt like. These were regular, unremarkable errands, such as visiting the Sherwin-Williams store to settle on paint for the study, negiotiating the Wal-Mart parking lot in order to get wild bird seed and dog food, settling in for a consultation with our tax preparer. While there was nothing out of the ordinary in these or any of our other stops today, what was out of the ordinary is this: we were not in a hurry. The only set time for anything was to turn over the tax figures.

I'd forgotten what it felt like not to be racing against the clock, hurrying, always hurrying.

02 March 2008

Auto white balance

One of the first things we did after my retirement was drive to Jacksonville where I attended a weekend workshop sponsored by the Rocky Mountain School of Photography. A great event. I learned an amazing amount in the five sessions I attended, despite the fact that it was pretty much all classroom with no real need even to take the camera out of the bag.

What did I learn? One example. Elizabeth Stone (she has a web site, if you're interested) asked this rhetorical question: When would a digital photographer use AWB (auto white balance)? The answer? Never. So, where has my camera been set for the three years I've owned it? You get the idea ...

Using my favorite subject, Whitby, I engaged in a brief experiment Thursday night. He had been to the groomer that day, so in addition to trying out different white balance settings the photos also serve to document how crisp he looks.

Whitby with the white balance set to "flash" (with the flash suppressed).

Whitby with the white balance set to "florescent."

Whitby with the white balance set to "tungsten.

All things considered (like the true color of Tal's pant leg), the second shot was taken with the white balance set correctly. The lamp next to Tal's chair has a compact florescent blub in it. White balance -- must one more thing to consider before releasing the shutter.

But no matter the white balance, isn't Whitby cute?

01 March 2008

Another beginning

This post is going to amount almost to nothing. Nothing but another beginning, today being March 1st. I am attracted to new beginnings. Always have been. I wonder why it is, though, that beginning on Mondays or on the first day of a month is so attractive to me.

I've been retired four weeks tomorrow. It still feels recent. But, the truth is these weeks have been varied and full: travel, time at home, photography, severa hours work with folks takiing over the tasks I did until four weeks ago, visits with family. While I've not gained my retired sea legs just yet -- that is, I'm not quite sure I know what feeling retired feels like, I am on the verge of claiming home. About time. We've only lived here just shy of four years.

My claiming home is presently taking two basic formats: cleaning one room at a time, deeply and well, and transforming what had been the church office into a softer, more welcoming study. That means clearing the room and paint -- next week's project.