Monthly Archives: November 2014

We play, eat, and cut a tree.

While the Thanksgiving dinner was cooking, I was surprhonking 14ised to have so many opportunities for my lap to be piled with two or three grandchildren. They were “honking” my nose, and later switched to “ringing” my ears. Is everyone familiar with this game? If someone squeezes your nose, you say “honk!” with every squeeze. With the ears, they pull, and you say, “Ding ding ding!”


potatoes 14

plaid tower of boy

The younger grandchildren also liked to have attention from their older cousins or aunts and uncles, as in being toted by a tall cousin also wearing plaid (90% of the males wore plaid shirts that day), but on a regular basis the two 2-year-olds seemed to just need a Grandma Lap where they could escape from the noise and get some peace and quiet.

Iris pie 14


whipping cream

The day after Thanksgiving Soldier and Joy were off to cut a Christmas tree on public lands (permit cost $10) so some of the rest of us went with them.

It was a way to maximize the time our distantly scattered family could spend together, though it still came out too too short. If the holiday had to come to an end, we were pleased that it happened in the forest with us all smelling the freshly rain-soaked and piney air.

M & WCM & Frank 14

P & tree 14

My necessary Bird has flown.

This season of Thanksgiving is a good time to remember my friend who was known on this blog as “Bird.” She fell asleep in the Lord last year, but at the time I couldn’t find the words to write about her passing. She had been very dear to me, affectionately motherly and sisterly at the same time. Even past her 100th birthday she was thoroughly engaged in the present and was a good counselor and truth-teller. Not in platitudes or the kind of universally applicable advice that fails to touch the individual in a warm way, but in the manner of a Christian, a “little Christ” who comes alongside and shares the joy or pain. Bird took me Bird +K 97into her heart and gave me of her self: her motherhood of thirteen children, her married womanliness shaped by devotion to a passionate and visionary man, her thankfulness to a loving Father.

I didn’t meet Bird until she was already in her 80’s and had been a widow for some time, so I am not qualified to speak about her life as a whole. But certainly if someone can be supremely happy and content from the ages of 85 to 102, that is a huge accomplishment, not to speak of the many good people having descended from her. Even if she hadn’t been so good a friend to me, just the example of her life would have been encouraging. There was nothing flashy about Bird, no career or teaching ministry or fame; her habit of self-giving was gentle and quiet.

Recently her son kindly sent me a copy of the special journal thP1110738at she liked to write in, her Gnome Gnotebook, repository of decades of treasures she had collected in the form of poems, quotes and proverbs. I had enjoyed exploring the original book whose pages had long ago been filled up; when she ran out of room Bird simply wrote any new notes and poems on scraps of paper and kept them tucked between the pages, the whole bundle getting fatter and fatter, held together with a rubber band and always kept within arm’s reach.

As I began to browse the contents this month, a couple of entries jumped right out at me as completely expressive of truths that she had learned deeply and lived out every day. They happen to be written conveniently  right next to each other on one of the bound pages of the Gnotebook, and if any maxims might have been formative for the woman I knew, these would be likely ones.

P1110740 Bird's book

When I tried a year ago to write this tribute, the words “Bird has flown” were in my mind, and when recently the following autumn poem by John Updike came to my attention it seemed to complement my feelings. The world is a bleaker place without her – there is no replacement. And yet, there is that “certain loveliness” still present, spread abroad and noticed by those giving thanks in the spirit of my Bird.


The stripped and shapely
Maple grieves
The loss of her
departed leaves.

The ground is hard,
As hard as stone.
The year is old,
The birds are flown.

And yet the world,
Displays a certain
Loveliness —

The beauty of
the bone. Tall God
must see our souls
this way, and nod.

Give thanks, we do,
each in his place
Around the table
during Grace.

–John Updike


If you didn’t get a chance to read what I’ve written about my friend before, this post on Bird’s Open Heart features a photo of her as a young woman, and A New Apron for Bird tells a story about our friendship.

How I learned Longfellow.

In my 5th Grade class each of us pupils must memorize a poem; our teacher gave us suggestions and I liked the look of this one. It was the first poem I ever paid that much attention to or learned “by heart,” and it is a sweet one to be laid down as a foundation stone.


Between the dark and the daylight,
When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day’s occupations,
That is known as the Children’s Hour.

I hear in the chamber above me
The patter of little feet,
The sound of a door that is opened,
And voices soft and sweet.

From my study I see in the lamplight,
Descending the broad hall stair,
Grave Alice, and laughing Allegra,
And Edith with golden hair.

A whisper, and then a silence:
Yet I know by their merry eyes
They are plotting and planning together
To take me by surprise.

A sudden rush from the stairway,
A sudden raid from the hall!
By three doors left unguarded
They enter my castle wall!

They climb up into my turret
O’er the arms and back of my chair;
If I try to escape, they surround me;
They seem to be everywhere.

They almost devour me with kisses,
Their arms about me entwine,
Till I think of the Bishop of Bingen
In his Mouse-Tower on the Rhine!

Do you think, O blue-eyed banditti,
Because you have scaled the wall,
Such an old mustache as I am
Is not a match for you all!

I have you fast in my fortress,
And will not let you depart,
But put you down into the dungeon
In the round-tower of my heart.

And there will I keep you forever,
Yes, forever and a day,
Till the walls shall crumble to ruin,
And moulder in dust away!

– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Apart from which we have no experience.

I’ve just started reading David Bentley Hart’s The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss. The purpose of this book is stated in the first chapter like this:

“…I also believe there are certain common forms of experience so fundamental to human rationality that, without them, we could not think or speak at all….All I want to do in the pages that follow is to attempt to explain, as lucidly as I can, how traditional understandings of God illuminate and are illuminated by those experiences.”

I heard Hart tdavid-bentley-hartalking about his book on the Mars Hill Audio Journal, and it thrilled my philosopher’s soul. Because the man can be a little hard to follow when he’s speaking quickly and extemporaneously — and I am not a good auditory learner — I am even more delighted in the book.

I can’t wait to share one gem of a thought from the introduction:

“God is not only the ultimate reality that the intellect and the will seek but is also the primordial reality with which all of us are always engaged in every moment of existence and consciousness, apart from which we have no experience of anything whatsoever.”