Archive for October, 2008

The Loveliness of Snow on Zinnias

October 28, 2008

We had a surprise waiting for us when we went outside this morning.  Can you guess what it was?   Why, yes…that’s right!  Snow!  How did you ever guess? 🙂 

The cold was a bit of a shock to our systems–after all, I was working outside in a sleeveless shirt two days ago.  But the white dusting on the red maples was lovely and the paradox of snow on zinnias (the quintessential summer flower) was an unexpected delight. 

And, curiously, the snow on the red yarrow had a festive, Christmas look about it.  Kind of put me in the mood. 

Anyway, I thought I’d share the sight with those of you who may not have been so lucky (or unlucky–however you look at it).  Maybe it will put you in a holiday mood, too, and we can all close our eyes and dream…

Of peace on earth, good will to all, and the joy and delight of a white Christmas.


Wide-Eyed Wonder at the Wii We Won

October 23, 2008


If you want to see this better, click on it to enlarge it.

(The cartoon above was created by my daughter Ariel aka Lucky Pennies in Microsoft Paint.  Now, in case you were thinking, Gosh, that seems kind of mean, well, let me explain.  The truth is—I have a large fanny.  (Or Gluteus Maximus, if you prefer, with emphasis on the Maximus).   That’s just the way it is, no ifs, ands, or…um…buts about it.   There’s no getting around it.  (I mean, reallythere’s no getting around it).  So, like Steve Martin making jokes about his huge nose (in one of my favorite movies, Roxanne, a hilarious retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac), I’ve always made jokes about my big rear end.  Might as well laugh, because there’s not a darn thing I can do about it.   So my family has always been given license to poke gentle and affectionate fun at my derriere.  And, yes, they’re laughing with me, not at me.  Really, they’ve always been the first ones to boost my confidence by telling me I’m pretty.  So, I really don’t mind being the…er…butt of their jokes.)




Recently I heard yet another story about an Idaho man who won big, not just one—but three times—in the state lottery.  I always roll my eyes and sigh when I hear those stories because, although I’ve entered any number of contests in my life, I’ve rarely won a thing. 


Okay, there was that dozen eggs in the PTA raffle I won when I was six years old.  When they called my name, I was nearly beside myself with rapture.  I ran up to collect my dozen eggs, then in my excitement, almost tripped and dropped the eggs on the way back to my seat.   Yes, you read that right—I was practically apoplectic with ecstasy upon winning a dozen eggs.   Sad, but true.


So you can imagine my excitement recently when my daughter Ariel called me with some exciting news:   She had won a dozen eggs!    No, no…I’m just kidding.  Actually, she had won a prize for writing the best definition of “health” at a…what else…health fair at college.  She had won….drum roll, please…a Wii!  And a Wii Fit! 


Yes, it’s true!  She broke the family, never-win-anything curse!  Even better, she brought the Wii home for fall break.  I’d like to tell you that we spent her break communing in nature, discussing deep and profound philosophical insights, feeling one with the universe and all mankind.  I’d like to, but I can’t.  Because the truth is, when we weren’t out running errands or shopping for things she needed, we were one with our Wii.  (Now for any one that might not know, it’s pronounced  “wee” and don’t feel bad if you didn’t know because, a year ago, I didn’t either.  I pronounced it “why”).


And, oh my, this Wii is just way too much fun. To start with, it was a blast to make the little Beth Mii character (of course, pronounced “Me.”)  I could make my Mii as pretty and thin as I wanted to!  Never mind that later, after the Wii Fit had weighed me and done my “fitness evaluation,” that the Wii made my Mii fatter.  At least my Mii still had that gorgeous hair!  Yes, that’s right—the Wii Fit, after it weighs you, will actually change your Mii’s size to match reality.  That just amazes me.  Sure, it annoys me a little, too, but mostly…it amazes me.  Ariel and I made some more little Mii’s—she made Oprah Winfrey and Bill Clinton and I made an Obama Mii.   He was really cute.


Anyway, Ariel went back to college Sunday and took her Wii with her.   Good thing, too, because if she had left it here, you wouldn’t be reading this post because I wouldn’t have written it because I would still be playing that river bubble game where you float down the river in a giant bubble trying to get to the end, which only happens if you don’t burst your bubble on the rocks or if the bee doesn’t puncture your bubble with its stinger, thus drowning your little Mii.  Sadly, my Mii was drowned repeatedly, which, I can assure you, is most unpleasant. 


Yep, no doubt about it—I am a woman obsessed.   I have a wiikness for Wii, and the only cure is to get one myself or have counseling.  Or possibly I could exert my parental authority and tell Ariel of my grave concerns that the Wii might be too much of a distraction from her college coursework, so, regretfully, her father and I think it might be best if she left it here (I would say this, of course, with great gravitas, shaking my head sadly). Or perhaps I could rationalize buying a Wii for Mii—after all the Wii Fit provides obvious health benefits by encouraging people to exercise.  Yeah, that’s the ticket.  We need a Wii  ’cause it’s good for me!  Who knows… maybe it could do something for my big backside—tone my tush, give definition to my derriere…


Or…maybe not.  That’s probably just a little too much to ask.  🙂  



(I sincerely apologize for the small print.  I have no idea why it came out that way.  I tried to change it, but it wouldn’t let me.  I’m sorry!)




Thank You

October 20, 2008

Words are really inadequate to express how grateful I am for all the loving, thoughtful, insightful comments so many of you made on my last post, but since words are all I got, here goes:  I thank you sincerely from the bottom of my heart.   Every single one of your comments touched me and moved me to tears.  I read them over and over and even printed them out so I could take them out and read them on some future terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.  🙂

One thing that struck me as I read them was how so many of you, in commenting on my post about risking my heart, had risked your own in commenting with such honesty and candor.   I am grateful for that and for all the wisdom, love, and compassion shown me in your comments.  And I was humbled by your kind and generous words about my writing.  It’s funny—most times my first reaction when someone says something really nice about me is to think I don’t deserve that!  But I’m trying to learn to accept compliments gracefully.  After all, that’s a part of learning to open your heart, too, I think—to let the light pour in.

And I want to thank my children, too, for their comments and for being who they are.  I have learned so much from them about having a bold spirit and a courageous heart.  They both have such a strong sense of who they are and where they are going—I think I want to be like them when I grow up.   🙂

In my friend Judy’s comment, she mentioned my post on finding a heart in the grass.  I thought those of you that read that post earlier might be happy to know that the heart’s still growing there in our big, imperfect, mongrel-grass yard.  🙂   Here is the original picture:

And here is one I took yesterday:

As you can see, there’s a little breach in the heart now, but it’s still largely intact.  The other day, when I saw the breach in the heart, I thought, “Aww, now it’s a broken heart.”  But at least that heart’s still growing.  And now, I think I’d say that little crack is not a break, but an opening.  Because, as my friend Wesley said in her comment, quoting from the words of Leonard Cohen: There is a crack in everything / That’s how the light gets in.


“You Are Here to Risk Your Heart”

October 17, 2008

(Bee leaving glory having tasted its sweetness)

Sometimes, I’m not so sure I was meant to be a blogger.  For one thing, I’m actually rather quiet and not much of a talker, though my sometimes lengthy posts may seem to contradict that.  For another, almost every time I write a post, when it comes time to click the “Publish” button, I get downright queasy, and when I do finally click it, sometimes I feel like throwing up.  Then there are those frequent dreams I’ve had since I started blogging about being in a crowd and looking down and realizing I have no clothes on.

Okay, maybe you don’t feel that way—maybe it’s just me, neurotic, quivering jelly mass of insecurities that I am.  But most times, after I post a piece, I do experience a sort of blogger’s remorse—especially when that post is very personal and revealing.

And so it was last week when I clicked “Publish” on the post, “Wayfaring Strangers.”  Perhaps you read it in the two days it was up.  If you didn’t, let me summarize for you.  Pretty much, I talked about how Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man and I have almost despaired of ever finding a church, a spiritual home where we might fit in because we just feel so unlike the rest of the world—almost as though we are from another planet.  And I talked about how the many difficulties we’d been through made us feel even more that way, so that we sometimes feel broken and sad. Or as Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man puts it: sometimes we feel like God’s Crash Test Dummies. 

So, when I clicked “Publish” on that one, I had something very much like a panic attack.  Pounding heart, nausea, light-headedness, and difficulty breathing.  I almost deleted it then and there.  But I’m trying to learn to trust people again and that means learning to reach out and ask for help and comfort.  So, a deep breath and a little pep talk to myself and out my heart flies into the blogosphere.

Red Smith, a Pulitzer Prize winning newspaper columnist once said: “Writing is easy. You just open a vein and bleed.”   And, of course, this is particularly true when your writing is personal—when you lay your soul bare for all to see.  It’s difficult and requires a sort of faith that the world will treat it kindly. And, for me it never gets easier.

But I was more anxious than usual about this one.  So a day and a half later, I was grateful for the four comments I’d gotten. But then I looked at my stats, and that was my undoing.  That’s when I saw that 162 people had read that post.  One-hundred and sixty-two people had read that we felt sad and broken and only four had extended a virtual hand.  One-hundred and sixty-two people had read that we often feel alone in this world and one-hundred and fifty-eight seemed to confirm our suspicions.

But this isn’t meant to be a whiny or petulant post about those one-hundred and fifty-eight.  What really distresses me and what I’ve thought about most since was my reaction.  What I felt was shame.   Shame—as though I’d done something wrong in speaking honestly about our pain.  In fact, my sense of shame was so intense as to be intolerable.  So I did the only thing I could think of to do: I deleted my post.

Why did I feel shame?  Why is it so hard to shine a light into the darker places of our spirits?  And when we do shine a light there, why is it so painful?  Why do we hide so much of ourselves away?  Why do we (as Robert Frost wrote in Revelation) “make ourselves a place apart/Behind light words that tease and flout?”

I’m sorry I deleted that post.  I wish I had been bolder.  I wish I could have realized that the only real shame was that I felt shame at being honest.  I wish I had been brave enough to leave that door open to my heart.  I wish I had risked making my heart vulnerable for just a little longer.

I do want to thank those who did comment.  I’m very grateful.  I’ve thought about why more didn’t.  Perhaps, as one friend said, “folks just don’t know how to react when confronted with an emotional post.”   Or perhaps others were like another friend who read my post but wanted some time to think about her response.  I’ve done that before. Whatever the reason, I think what really matters here is that, even though I did delete that post to retreat to a safer place, here I am again opening my heart to the world.  Here I am—saying that there is no shame in showing you my pain.

My friend Wesley sent me a lovely quote that she had found on another blog, Pinwheels.  It’s from Louise Erdich’s The Painted Drum:

Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself that you tasted as many as you could.

So, yes—I am broken.  I am hurt.  I have been betrayed.  And, much too often, death has brushed near.  But still, I risk my heart.  And still I love.  And still I feel.  And still I pray that I will always taste the sweetness of even the most bruised of every fallen apple.

A Place Apart

October 16, 2008

(The vastness of Max Patch)


We make ourselves a place apart
Behind light words that tease and flout,
But oh, the agitated heart
Till someone finds us really out.

‘Tis pity if the case require
(Or so we say) that in the end
We speak the literal to inspire
The understanding of a friend.

But so with all, from babes that play
At hide-and-seek to God afar,
So all who hide too well away
Must speak and tell us where they are.

                                     Robert Frost

The Blue Ridge Blue Collar Family Goes to Church

October 5, 2008

Okay, I confess. Yes, we went yet again  to Craggy Gardens.  Which is, quite honestly, a little reckless of us considering the gas shortage around here.  And considering that the gas that is available costs a pretty penny.  Yep, a little reckless.

But maybe you could just think of it as going to church–to our place of worship.  Because that’s what it was.  That’s where we most often find God—in His wild and wondrous natural world.  Maybe you could think of my unrestrained exuberance at finding a new natural wonder as a transcendent, spiritual experience.  Because that’s what it is. 

I tell people we haven’t found a church home yet, but maybe we have, after all.  Maybe we could call our church The Restored-and-Renewed-by-the-Holy-and-Wondrous-Works-of-God Sanctuary Church. 

On the other hand—maybe that’s a little long.  🙂  

Really, I wish we could find a church like that.  It would be heavenly to worship in that way—a hike together, then maybe a potluck lunch back at the picnic grounds where we all share where we found God that week—whether in the symmetry and perfection of a tiny wildflower or in the kindness of a fellow pilgrim. 

Anyway, in case you’re interested in yet more Craggy Garden shots, here’s the latest from our sojourn at our sanctuary.  As you can see, there’s not a lot of color in the trees just yet.  But the wild blueberry bushes were a deep and lovely red.  And the sky was a deep and lovely blue.  And the autumn sun lent everything a divine and holy glow.

Finding Beauty in the Everyday, Everywhere

October 1, 2008

(Soapwort Gentian-autumn wildflower found at Craggy Gardens)

In an earlier post, I wrote about how my Mama loved Craggy Gardens and how she went there as often as possible before she was stricken with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.   So to celebrate and honor her birthday last week, Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man and I decided to head once more to Craggy.

Fact is, I feel drawn there lately.  It’s funny—I never even think about visiting Mama’s gravesite in Greensboro, NC.  I know that many find solace in visiting the place where their loved one’s body was laid to rest, but not me.  That grave holds only her earthly remains—the broken body that failed her.  Craggy Gardens is the place she loved while she was living and strong and healthy and able to hike its many trails.  Lately, I have a sense when I go there that I’m seeking something, though I’m not sure what.  I do know that I often feel her presence there, especially when our children are along. 

So, with my heart wide open, I go to Craggy.  Always seeking—and hoping that whatever I’m supposed to find there will reveal itself in due time.  And I did find a lovely treasure this visit—a wildflower I’d never seen before.   Fortunately, no one was around at the time but BRBCM, because I couldn’t contain my excitement and hollered like I’d found a bag of gold, instead of a common soapwort gentian.  As I’ve written before, despite being a very shy person, I have an inclination towards frequent and unbridled episodes of unrestrained exuberance over what others might regard as insignificant natural events.   And I’m afraid, in my case, there is no cure.  🙂  

I get that from my Mama.  Although she encountered a great deal of hardship and sadness in her life, she was as open to the world as a baby and prone to childlike enthusiasms when discovering some new natural treasure.  And though I too have had much hardship and sadness, I have that same huge capacity for finding joy in the ordinary and delight in the commonplace.  Praise be.

Mama taught me to see beauty everywhere, and I am so grateful. It was one of her many gifts to me and is so often the grace that saves me.  And I like to think that I (and Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man) have passed that on to our own children and that they, too, have the gift of seeing beauty everywhere and in the everyday.

So here is just a bit of the beauty I captured and the new (to us) wildflower we found on our pilgrimage to Craggy Gardens—on the birthday of Queen Winabel.