Category Archives: family

Raj in the California atmosphere.

The highlight of our Thanksgiving season was a visit from Kate and family, including that baby I met back in January, who came from India this month for various family get-togethers and his baptism. Glory to God!

He and Kate and Tom did land first in Colorado to meet our newly relocated clan family, a few days after I’d come back here. So I wasn’t present when Raj encountered snow.

Two days after my return, my part of the state was inundated with smoke and ash from the Butte County Camp Fire far to the north, and the day of Raj’s baptism far to the south I was not physically present. My friend and I were here in what looked for a few days like a thrift store, organizing donations to the fire victims. Myriah did not lose her house, but she did certainly lose her home.

As soon as Myriah drove on to the  disaster area with lots of sweaters and socks and new coats, the Glad Group began trickling in, starting with Pearl’s family from Wisconsin and San Diego, and continuing with Raj and his parents, then Pippin’s people from northern California. Everyone wanted to meet Raj! And of course, to see his parents whom they’d been missing for a year and a half.

Until Wednesday, the smoky and cold air had continued to hang over our county oppressively. Then RAIN, glorious and cleansing, fell from the skies, and overnight the Air Quality Index fell from the 160’s (similar to what I experienced in Mumbai last winter) to below 20. All day Pearl and I baked pies, and yams in orange sauce, and prepped the turkey dressing. With the rain came milder temperatures overall, so we had to leave the door and windows open at times to vent all the oven and stovetop heat, and for two days we had the comforting background music of steady pattering and drumming. Pearl took lambs’ ears and dodonea from my garden to add to spider mums from Costco and created table decorations for the feast.

I had braved the smoke one day, wanting so much to get Pippin apples for pies, and drove a half hour to our favorite apple ranch where they still had stock of four varieties. I brought home Pippins, Romes, and Pink Ladies. It is still a sadly nostalgic thing for me to go there alone, but I am trying to embrace the joy of having such a rare and wonderful farm to go to, where I can find two or three dozen different varieties of apples over the course of the season. It makes me want to embrace and cherish apples more actively, too!

I looked and looked online to find a recipe for pumpkin-chocolate-chip muffins, the hankering for which had come over me when thinking of how to get ready for my crowd. I discovered just in time that I had my own “best” recipe right here on my blog. It made a generous batch, enough for everyone to enjoy while waiting for the primary offerings of the feast.

Fava beans

When the rain stopped briefly we looked at the newly-washed and radiant garden,  and breathed in those scents that are like an autumn feast in themselves. A whole flock of bluebirds visited the fountain for baths and we wondered if they were washing off soot. My fava beans that sprouted when I was in Colorado are doing great. I cut a butternut squash down from the trellis to roast for soup, and Ivy found giant fruits on the arbutus (Strawberry Tree).

After everyone had arrived, the “usual” fun began. This time, I think the unique circumstances of my recent sojourn in Colorado, followed by the fire and smoke, followed by the rain that kept me from walking, all contributed to lack of sleep, so that I felt alternately flat and in a hole — maybe in a flat-bottomed hole? — for days. But I did manage to take a few pictures, so now in recovery I have the vision to see them as a cohesive expression of a moment in our Glad cultural history.

The Usual included wrestling and snuggling and staying-up-too-late-talking with brothers, daughters, aunts and uncles, and all the assorted kinfolk that one only sees once or twice a year anymore. Oh, it is hard being scattered over the continent and globe!

I didn’t have it in me to go with everyone to San Francisco, the aquarium etc. at the Academy of Sciences on Saturday, and to Fort Point, so the smiling picture of Raj I also stole. But Sunday after church Kate’s and Pippin’s families and I did go to the redwoods! It was a dreamy time to go, almost winter and after several steady downpours had removed every trace of dust from the big trees, and both Pippin and the Professor helped me in my ongoing botanical studies.

Lichen fruticose hanging from California Bay Laurel (Umbellularia)
Coast redwood needles – shorter/compact grow higher on tree

I learned that the lichens that hang from the trees like tresses are lichen fruticose, and that the needles in the tops of the coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) resemble those of their cousins the giant redwoods (Sequoiadendron giganteum) that grow naturally in the Sierra Nevada. Big leaf maple and hazelnut trees made splashes of light and color in the groves that were dark in midday, the close canopy blocking the light from way up there. We made little impact on the deep quiet of the woods, strolling on the duffy paths — but that atmosphere was broken by a big crash and boom, the sound of a tree falling somewhere in the park. If everything hadn’t been thoroughly wet, we’d surely have seen some dust raised by that event.

When Raj was carried into my house last week and met the third or fourth new crowd of relatives in a fortnight, he did respond to my face and voice with a sweet smile. Perhaps the FaceTime sessions truly did help him to remember my voice, adding to whatever deeper memories were embedded from those newborn lullaby sessions with me nine months ago.

Now Pearl’s and Pippin’s families have departed, but Tom, Kate, and Baby Raj will be with me for a few more special days. A good rest and a forest walk have perked me up quite a bit, so I have hope of making the most of the rest of this week and entering into the joyful work and celebrations ahead.

I will close with a few lines [surprised to see that out of all the many stanzas we used, I chose the same lines three years ago to share here] from the “Akathist of Thanksgiving” that we read together on Thanksgiving evening, and which express my mood right now:

I was born a weak, defenseless child,
but Thine angel spread his wings over my cradle to defend me.
From birth until now Thy love has illumined my path,
and has wondrously guided me towards the light of eternity;
from birth until now the generous gifts of Thy providence
have been marvelously showered upon me.
I give Thee thanks, with all who have come to know Thee,
who call upon Thy name.

Thou hast brought me into life as into an enchanted paradise.
We have seen the sky like a chalice of deepest blue,
where in the azure heights the birds are singing.
We have listened to the soothing murmur of the forest
and the melodious music of the streams.
We have tasted fruit of vine and the sweet-scented honey.
We can live very well on Thine earth.
It is a pleasure to be Thy guest.

I throw snowballs and eat guavas.

I’m home again! I was so busy the last week of my stay with Soldier and Joy’s family, I didn’t finish my story of the Most Fun Day in Colorado: It was the snowy weather I’d mentioned was on the forecast, and I didn’t expect the quantity of snow that fell in the night. In the morning before the children were up I went out and took some pictures of the wonderland.

When the boys got on their unfamiliar jackets, snow boots and gloves, they began their happy discoveries. Brodie is only 2 1/2 and he was cautious. His brothers were kind and patient introducing them to the white stuff that they had just begun to explore themselves.

I went out to play with them, and it was such a joy. I also had my waterproof boots, and my down jacket. My gloves seemed to be waterproof. I showed them how to make snowballs and gave them permission to throw them at me! That they loved most to do, all three of the little cubs whom I’d been telling for two weeks that I so appreciated their affection, but they should not show it by pushing, pinching, or whacking Grandma as they passed by (their natural way with each other). Their parents and I tried to teach them to be gentle. Suddenly it was okay to pelt me with balls of cold fluff. We laughed and ran around and eventually built a snowman, and when I went indoors the older boys made a snow house.

A few of us went on another walk in Fox Run Regional Park and came across two teepees made of logs. Another group drove all the way to Boulder to the Celestial Seasonings factory and headquarters but that outing didn’t turn out quite as expected and I only got one picture, of the little room modeled after the Sleepytime tea box, featuring two of the boys instead of the sleepy bear.

One of the things I loved about being in Colorado Springs was attending Sts. Constantine and Helen/Holy Theophany Church. It felt a lot like home. The walls are crowded with icon murals, making it ideal for walking around and greeting all the many saints who are surrounding the worshipers like a cloud of witnesses. The first week I attended I went back into the building after the agape meal to take pictures. I look forward to visiting again whenever I travel to see my family who are hoping to settle there for a good while, God willing.

Today I flew home. It is such a short “hop” compared to what I’ve been doing the last many years; I arrived at midday, when the house was cold and the garden warm. I’d been thinking of my garden the last three weeks, when checking the weather report, and even into November there have been days over 80 degrees. I wondered if the pineapple guavas might even ripen this year — and they did!! At least, ten of them had doubled in size since I left, and dropped on the ground, and I ate one. It was ripe indeed, and scrumptious.

Lots of the dwarf pomegranate fruits have grown to be larger and redder, but still their dwarfish selves. The figs have continued to ripen, and olives to get color. The sunflowers finished drying up, but the irises and abutilon have not slowed down one bit! I turned on the fountain and marveled at my space. I am as happy as a hummingbird whose feeder has just been filled to the brim.

Rabbitbrush and butterscotch.

Last week was full of rocks and trees and even flowers. Joy and I took the children to Garden of the Gods, where red sandstone in ragged forms towers above the walking paths. Even the littlest guy walked more than two miles among the juniper and mountain mahogany, and wildflowers mostly gone to seed. The Gambel oaks, also known as Rocky Mountain white oak or Colorado scrub oak, had probably displayed more varied shades of orange and yellow a few weeks ago, but when we encountered them the leaves had aged to a rich, mellow gold.

We saw the rabbitbrush in many forms and places, but didn’t know what it was until just before we left the park and saw its picture in the visitor center. I have known of rabbitbrush for decades and I hope that after this extended encounter I will not forget it so easily. We saw its flower, two sorts of galls on the plants, and noticed its needly leaves and how they are softer than conifer needles. One of the galls is cottony gall; the other I haven’t been able to identify.

The very next day the whole family drove up to Woodland Park; it’s less than an hour to this town that lies at 8500 feet. We walked along Lovell Gulch Trail, among several species of conifers and groves of aspens. We suspected they were aspens, but we knew that birch have similar bark, so when we got home I googled around and it became clear that yes, what we saw were aspens, so plentiful in the Rockies and in dry places high up, while birches like floodplains and shade. And the few leaves that we saw  — most had fallen after turning bright yellow — matched the pictures of aspen. I only saw one bright leaf, of another species.

We admired the bark of other trees, especially one that had lots of texture, and fresh sap flowing. Soldier had a sudden thought, came close to get a whiff, and concluded, “Oh, it must be a Jeffrey pine — they smell like butterscotch.” Indeed. Oh, that was delicious! I made up a mnemonic story for myself about a boy named Jeffrey who was walking down the trail and discovered a butterscotch drop on a tree trunk.

The view of the mountains is striking from there, a different perspective from our daily one. We have seen Pikes Peak from several angles now, and don’t know the names of any of the other peaks visible from here. Soldier just read that Colorado has more than 50 peaks over 14,000 feet. Colder temperatures are coming this week, and yes, snow is on the forecast, too. So our views will grow even more spectacular.

The beauty of souls and red rock.

Colorado Springs – I am still here with Soldier and Joy’s family, but having a quiet and slow morning, as Joy has taken the children to visit an old friend she ran into at church. Today is cold again, after a week of warm and sunny weather, and the winter season will settle in before the end of the month with freezing temps every night. The town lies at 6300 ft. elevation, with Pikes Peak in view, so one would expect a mountainous feel to the air and the seasons.

I’m a little homesick for my usual mild climate and the abundance of beautiful plants all year long. This Airbnb house is in a neighborhood that appears a little drab to me. Is the relative dryness of the region the region the reason that the leaves on the trees don’t turn beautiful colors, but merely shrivel and lose their color before falling? Out the window we see a broad and flat expanse of dirt and dry weeds between 40-yr-old housing tracts, where it seems more houses are now going to be built, so if you are a little boy who likes to identify excavators and cement mixers you will enjoy that view. I tire of it and lift my eyes just a bit to the large sky, and one morning, there was a sunrise palette.

All the males and I went on an outing to Manitou Springs on the weekend, where more than a hundred years ago bricks from ancient Anasazi ruins in the Four Corners area of the Southwest were used to build a full-size replica of cliff dwellings. It was fun for the boys to walk through the passageways and explore rooms cut into the rock, and there was even a small arrangement of native plants by way of a botanical garden for me to investigate while they went through the dwellings a second and third time. I love that red rock!

The natural beauty I have most appreciated has not been of the broad landscape, but what I’ve found close up, like the above, and the ubiquitous junipers and blue spruce that will stay fresh and green all winter, and which are a  clean contrast to the nearly aways blue sky. The town is known for the way the sun shines all or part of the vast majority of days. Yesterday I had the boys to myself for a few hours and they ran outside on the green grass; we scooped up leaves with a snow shovel and I taught them to run and jump in our little pile. The leaves smelled sooo good.

The most sublime images of creation I encounter day by day are the humans, with their souls that glow with the life God gave them, and who have the potential to be changed into His likeness as they follow the desires of their deepest longings. I am in awe of the parents’ conscientious care of the children, the thousand responsive decisions they must make every day about how to answer questions, how to deal with squabbles and tantrums and meltdowns — after they have already made many intentional and pro-active planning decisions.

I know, I also used to do that same job day after day, and I wonder at the person I was! It’s all of God’s grace, that we have the strength to do it again the next morning, and that the children grow up at least somewhat prepared to live without the constant supervision and training that they need early on. If they can learn to return to God time after time after time, to receive forgiveness and everything else they need, that will be the best thing.