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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Signs of the Tide

Wild flowers and grasses
Cover upper sands
Like an impressionist's wash
Of burnt sienna, green, and ochre
Interspersed with rusty Sheep Sorrel,
Blue Lupine and Vetch.
Beach Peas and Dunegrass
Line the sandy trail
Enticing, leading to wide expanse of beach,
Deserted, except for a few crows.
Farther off, gulls wade the creek,
Where it meets the waves,
Searching for morsels.
Crows leave tracks
Clearly defined in dark, wet sand
Showing where they've dug
To un-earth Sand Worms.

Deer, it's clear, have traipsed to the tide line,
Then back to the woods.
We've never known why
For they creep in at dawn or dusk,
Perhaps for the taste of salt.

Once, a river otter was sighted
Bounding across the width of sand.
Seeing us, it scurried to the grass line,
Disappeared into thick reeds and brush.
Later, I found his run,
Followed it to marsh
And webbed prints in mud.
Smaller, zigzag tracks show
Where crab has run, to escape the sun
And smooth winding trails
Would be snails,
Ending where they dug in to wait.
Receding, the tide leaves behind
Wet piles of Bull and Sugar Kelp,
Feather Boas and Eelgrass
Crawling with amphipods, beach hoppers,
An occasional crab.
Waterlogged branches become stranded
Bearing their cargo
Of barnacles and sponges
Now left high and dry.
We follow the wrack line
Strewn with debris from the sea,
And all sorts of human endeavors.
Ahead, through the mist
Hovering above the flat stretch of sand
Two dark shapes emerge.
Large and wary,
One on a dark rock, one on a log,
As we approach they flee,
Circling far above
In ever-expanding spiral
Reluctant to leave,
Unwilling to return.
The rock's lumpy, rounded shape
Shows it to be a dead seal
Washed up some time ago,
Now mostly skin stretched over bones.
The vultures had their turn,
Now Golden Eagle eats its fill,
While two Bald Eagles
Watch from the trees.

The roar of waves competes
With roar of the wind,
And neither one wins.
But still they go on
In never-ending cycles
Like the sea's rising and falling.
And the race is on
Yet again
To see who can survive
A minus tide.

Deep calls to deep
In the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
have swept over me.
Psalm 42:7

The sea is his, for he made it,
And his hands formed the dry land.
Psalm 95:5

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Cedar Lessons

Mom, look at me!” My eyes traveled up and up, then locked on the small, partly obscured shape halfway up the tree. “I see you.” I shouted back. “You look really small.” “You too!” came the answer.

At the tender age of 5, our son had asked to climb the huge, old cedar tree in our back yard. My father had been highly protective, always warning me to be careful and I was determined not to raise our son that way. So I told him he could climb, reminded him to be careful (!), and watched him disappear into the greenery. I had no idea he would go so high. “Take your time coming down.” It seemed a very long time before he emerged, unscathed, at the bottom.

That was nearly 30 years ago and the tree was old then. I have no idea what age it is, but it still graces our yard, dwarfing everything below it. At 50 feet, it hasn’t nearly the 230 foot height such trees can reach. Surrounded by native ferns, star flowers, huckleberry, Oregon grape, mint, St. John’s Wort and the graves of 1 hamster, 1 guinea pig, 2 dogs, and numerous goldfish, baby geese and ducks, it has become a family shrine of sorts. I can’t imagine living here without it.

This is a Western Red Cedar, common in this part of the world, and could live up to 800 years. Although not a true cedar, this slow growing, naturally durable tree has been valued by humans over time. Producing long lengths of timber with true, straight grain, its heartwood has natural decay resistance. Free from pitch, its wood has superior insulation value, is lightweight, easy to work, easy to finish, weather and insect resistant, and flat-out beautiful. Long before our European ancestors arrived, bringing a thriving timber industry with them, it formed an integral part of the spiritual and practical life of local Native Americans.

Jerzy Strzelecki
Across the world, other huge, old evergreens live on - the majestic Cedars of Lebanon. True cedars, these ancient giants can grow up to 80 feet, spread from 30 to 50 feet, and live more than 1,000 years. These, too, have been highly prized since time immemorial. As early as 3,000 BC, Babylonia was importing wood for its temples. 4,700 years ago, Gilgamesh, the legendary king of Sumeria, stripped the land bare in southern Mesopotamia for timber to finish his magnificent city. Much later, King Solomon formed a trading alliance with King Hiram of Tyre to acquire all the cedar wood he needed to build his huge palace and temple in Jerusalem.
BlingBling10

Today, precious few of our old growth Western Red Cedars remain - likewise the venerable Cedars of Lebanon. If trees could speak, oh what stories these could tell! Still, the lessons are there. Perhaps we should begin to learn them - beginning with those in our own backyard.
Jerzy Strzelecki

Consider Assyria, once a cedar in Lebanon,
with beautiful branches overshadowing the forest;
it towered high, its top above the thick foliage.
The waters nourished it, deep springs made it grow tall;
their springs flowed all around its base
and sent their channels to all the trees of the field.
So it towered higher than all the trees of the field;
its boughs increased and its branches grew long,
spreading because of abundant waters.
All the birds of the air nested in its boughs,
all the beasts of the field
gave birth under its branches;
all the great nations lived in its shade.
It was majestic in beauty, with its spreading boughs,
for its roots went down to abundant waters.
Ezekiel 31:3-7

Cedars of Lebanon picture files from Wikimedia Commons 

Monday, June 21, 2010

Father Goose

Pilgrim Geese pair - 1980

He came flying at the fence with all the bravado he could muster, wings flapping and squawking loudly. He had seen us earlier as we strolled about the yard, and hadn’t taken his eyes off us. Now, as we approached the fence, he could bear it no longer. “Wow!.” I thought. “He’s really mad and will kill them for sure.”

Geese are known to be good watch dogs, loudly announcing any stranger approaching their territory. Their noise can be annoying, but the ganders can be lethal. When threatened or angered they may readily attack, biting with hard, rigid beaks and flailing with strong wing “wrist” bones. More than once I have felt the string of these bones against my shins, so that I am leery now and watch any goose closely - especially if it is a gander.

While living on some acreage in Idaho, we decided it might be nice to have a few geese. We’d heard they don’t require a lot of care, readily grazing on grasses and needing only fresh water, shelter and grain or poultry mix to keep them fat and healthy. We acquired a pair - grey female, splendid white male. We enjoyed them immensely; thought they looked regal strolling about our front pasture, warning of any strange activity. But as he grew, the male became cantankerous - lunging at me and the dogs as we entered the field. Grabbing mouthfuls of fur, he so traumatized the dogs that they never again went near a goose. I learned never to enter that gate without stick in hand, just in case. As spring approached, the female laid a clutch of eggs and the gander became more aggressive than ever. One time, as my husband was filling their water bucket from the other side of the fence, the gander charged. Even with the full blast of the hose in his face, he very nearly went over the top of the fence and into my husband’s face. A force to reckon with, for sure!

We moved to Washington in April that year, leaving behind the geese and their future family. Our good neighbors back in Idaho promised to care for them until the young hatched, then transport them to her father’s farm. We heard all went well, since her father knew all about geese. As we settled in here, we decided to once more get a pair of geese, and had a few for many years. Most of the time we enjoyed them and the ganders, while feisty, were manageable and predictable. We had mixed luck with goslings, the females occasionally hatching their own, many times failing. There was also the problem of raccoons sneaking in and raiding their share in the night. Finally, I decided to try incubating some eggs in the house. And so, that is how I ended up with a small flock of tiny goslings on that lovely spring day, waddling and pipping behind me, thinking I was their mother.

That gander scared the life out of me, charging the fence and honking. I knew that he had never seen these young before, did not know they were his own and would surely end their young lives quickly. I backed away, thinking the goslings would follow - but was badly mistaken. They did not seem frightened at all, calmly nibbling at the tender grass and boldly tempting fate, I thought. The gander continued his tirade, following them all along the fence until, one at a time, they slipped through to his side. I was appalled, but obviously did not understand the way things were, because somehow that gander did know. He settled down, gently nibbling at each tiny, fluffy body and rounding them up until he had them all under his wings. Then, sedate and stately, he proudly led them off to the goose.
The lost were found and they were his forever more.

“I will be a Father to you,
and you will be my sons and daughters,
says the Lord Almighty”
2 Corinthians 7:18

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Roadrunner Farewell

The last prayer having been said, I reached into my pocket for the tiny bird. I handed it to my husband, who stepped forward and carefully placed it on the small box containing Pop’s ashes. There were smiles and surprised murmurs from the few guests; we thanked them for coming and helped Mom back to the car. It is never easy to say good-bye to a loved one, but our final gesture had been decided weeks before and we were at peace with it.

How does one sum up a father’s life? Surprisingly, the tiny wooden Roadrunner seemed to do just that for us. Carved in the later years of his life, it was but one of a whole cabinet-full of birds and animals. He and Mom had spent their many retired years thoroughly enjoying their life together. Taking pride in their home and yard, Pop enjoying watching the birds and squirrels. He built bird houses, feeders, and carved the Robin, Hummingbird, House Finch, Magpie and Meadow Lark. They drove their small motor home throughout the U.S., claiming it was best to see what our own country had to offer first. Pop kept a record with his carvings - Ibis, Cardinal, Blue Jay, Bald Eagle ... Each fall they headed down the Oregon coast - Loons, Gulls, Pelicans, Killdeer... Wintering in the Palm Springs area of California, he captured the Cactus Wren, California Quail, and yes, his beloved Roadrunner! They especially loved their own part of the world - spending time each summer camping and hiking in the Tetons of Wyoming. We joined them there as often as we could and have many fond memories of the times we shared together in this magnificent place. And so we have the carefully carved Chickadee, Mountain Bluebird, Stellar’s Jay, “Camp Robber”, Western Tanager and Red Winged Blackbird.

The earliest of Pop’s carvings are dated in the late 1930’s and ‘40s. In his young married years he worked as an engineer helping to build the Fort Peck Dam in Montana. My husband was born there. World War II and the Navy took them to New Jersey, after which they returned to Fort Peck, until a new job took them the New York, then a final move to Idaho Falls, Idaho, where they remained. Those early carvings are of a primitive style, but still show his exacting nature and attention to detail. After those, work, family, church, and his civic organizations took up most of his time, as we have no evidence of any more carving until his retirement. His fine woodworking took other forms however, with finishing projects in their home and lovely pieces of furniture.

I have no idea what Pop expected when I became his first, and only, daughter-in-law. Being one of 5 sons, with 2 sons of his own, he must have wondered a bit at this “earthy”, then 20-something, college tomboy his son brought home. But from the beginning, we had a special bond. His quiet, thoughtful wit, neat, precise ways, quirky sense of humor, and fantastic creativity with recycled materials struck a chord with me. He quickly learned my interests, and I his. We had mutual respect for each other and shared quiet conversations about his art and mine, the natural world around us, and always - birds. We learned so much from him and we miss him.
It was Pop’s fervent desire to leave this life with dignity in a quiet, respectful way - with no undue outside interference. He wanted no fuss, no frills, just a short service with immediate family. For 90 years he had lived his life this way and we sent him off as he wished. But a part of him remains - we see it in the strong, determined stance of a tiny wooden bird with a bright, devilish glint in its eye.

Listen to your father, who gave you life,
and do not despise your mother when she is old. 
Proverbs 23: 22

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.
Honor your father and mother -
which is the first commandment with a promise -
“that it may go well with you
and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” 
Ephesians 6: 1 - 3

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Grower

My handprints mark the walk,
one of many between tall, wooden benches
abloom with carnations.
Poinsettias, mums and lilies marked other seasons.
In winter, the warm, damp, earthy smell.
Air conditioned coolness in summer.
Dad, in his work apron over white shirt and tie,
size 12 rubber boots,
moving up and down the wet walks
hand-watering the plants.
Me, splashing barefoot behind,
jumping over the hose,
dodging his playful spray.

Minute seeds sown;
fine soil screen-sifted over,
misted, and covered with glass.
Seedlings transplanted;
pencil holes poked in soil,
plants carefully placed and tucked in.
Geranium cuttings taken;
sharp knife severed stems,
dipped in rooting compound,
pushed into vermiculite.
Larger plants placed in orange clay pots;
handfuls of dark earth scooped in and tamped down
with a final thump of pot on bench.

Rich, the earth of love;
warm, the glow of caring,
nourishing, the sprinkle of encouragement.
Pruned back when necessary, we grew,
roots deep and firm,
to stand on our own in full bloom.

I still can see
those small handprints
impressed in cement.
That high, whole-arm wave
across rows of green
and the grower’s smile.
His large, calloused hands as gentle with me
as with his smallest of seedlings,
which I was.
Within any greenhouse, I find
Dad’s footsteps echo still.
His handprints mark my heart.


“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful...”    John 15:1-2

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Story Teller

Mom, Dad & 2 sisters - Frontier Celebration
Miles City, Montana, circa 1935

They were just waiting to tumble out. When the time and mood were right, stories poured from my Dad like water from a jar - smooth, measured, sparkling clear in his memory. I can still hear his soothing, gentle voice droning on into the evening, filling me with a sense of security, constancy, family history and ways of the world. I listened with mixed interest and attention depending on my mood, the story, and how many times I had heard it. Now, of course, I wish I had listened better, recorded or written them down. Since I didn’t, most of them are only a mixed jumble in my own memory, but their significance has not been lost.

Once Dad got onto the subject of his early growing-up years on the family homestead in eastern Montana, there was no stopping him. In the early 1900’s his German-immigrant family, like thousands of others, left home once again and headed out to stake their claim on a piece of the West. His dad went ahead, to actually purchase the land. Dad remembered waiting by the front gate at their home in Iowa, running to greet his dad shouting, “Did you get the land? Did you get the land? Where is it?” At six years of age, he expected to see his dad carrying a huge chunk of land home. The reality was quite different.

Family homestead - near Lindsey, Montana, circa 1909

The family - parents and seven children - traveled west by train. Dad told of carrying their food, roasting potatoes in the potbellied wood stove on board. Once on the property, which was pretty forlorn, arid, flat-land prairie, they spent the first year or two in a large, sod house. They were lucky that first year; there was an open winter with no snow nor severe low temperatures. By today’s standards, they were dirt poor & times were very tough. But mostly, Dad remembered the freedom - miles and miles of open country to wander, explore, forage. They lived off of jack rabbits and prairie chickens, began to cultivate and work the land, traded in town for supplies, and somehow survived. In the end, they could not make a living there, eventually sold the land and moved on to town and the greenhouse business. I asked Dad if they were not terribly disappointed with the bleak landscape, the failures, the moving on. “Oh, no.” he said. “We were so happy to have the chance to own the land, to have such freedom. Life is a series of adjustments.”

My earliest memories are of his bedtime stories. Begun with my older sisters, the tradition continued with me, so that if I close my eyes and concentrate, I am transported back to that time. Safe and warm under the covers, my dad seated on the edge of the bed in the dark room, I listen to tales of Br'er Rabbit, Skunk, Wolf, Coyote, Fox and other creatures who cavort across the screen of my imagination. They ramble through the stories, interact with each other, scheme, get into and out of more fixes than I can imagine in my everyday life. They have such fun - long days to run wild, frolic, invent, create. And they aren’t always good, either - they get into plenty of trouble, always with appropriate consequences. They are never abused (not even by today’s standards), but they have to make their apologies, spend time in their dens, right whatever wrong they have committed. They have wise, loving parents, who understand them and their indiscretions - who show them the way. There is always a moral to the story.

Back then, I did not realize these stories were a reflection - a re-creation - of my Dad’s childhood. I did not realize the impact they would have on my life.

For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’...
Mark 7.10

Friday, June 11, 2010

Undercover Activities

Clearly, I remember catching sight of 2 neighbor boys crouched down among the weeds behind our fence. Wandering over to see what they were doing, I discovered they were attempting to light a small fire in some paper trash. I played often with these boys and we all knew the rules: matches were not for playing with. Afraid of being labeled an accomplice, I quickly turned to leave with their admonishment ringing in my ears - “You better not tell!” I didn’t - quickly busying myself with some play in the back yard. It was not long before the weeds and grass, grown tall and tinder dry through the long summer, caught fire with a vengeance. Flames moved quickly down the line between the gravel alley and our wooden fence, a cloud of smoke rising above. My dad, working in the greenhouse or shop, luckily noticed it and pulled a long hose out to quickly extinguish it. I continued playing and when questioned, swore I knew nothing. I did not want to get in trouble - from either my parents or those boys, who often threatened to beat others up, although they never did. Later in the day, after gentle prodding and explanation of just how serious the situation might have become, I finally did tell what I had seen. I do not remember what happened after that, whether my parents called the boys’ parents or just kept an eye on them, but I was off the hook - at least in this instance.

Do NOT feed the sea gulls!” I always informed the kids at my summer camps. One young boy, however, could never resist, and daily spent some of his lunch time at the railing, his back to me and his hands out of sight. Somehow, he did not think I would find it suspicious that he took extra slices of bread or that a number of sea gulls frantically circled overhead above him. He only smiled sheepishly as he lost outdoor privileges.
Working in the garden, I came across a stem with several clumps of what looked like spit. Curious, I gently poked into the foam, revealing a tiny, soft, green bug. Further exploration revealed a bug in the center of every mass of foam that I found.
Immature bugs, or nymphs, spittlebugs earn their name from these small patches of “spit” they create along the stems of plants and meadow grasses in late spring and early summer. While feeding on plant sap, these nymphs provide themselves with a moist habitat and protection from predators. Mature adults, called froghoppers because they resemble tiny frogs, feed on plants too, but create no spit. They have hard bodies and, like frogs, can leap a great distance in a single bound.
Well-disguised and working undercover, spittlebugs can harm plants if present in large numbers, or if a secondary infection moves in. Now that I know how to recognize them, I keep my eyes open and carefully squash each one that I find on my garden plants, leaving wild plants to fend for themselves.

Years later, I asked my dad how he had known that I knew something about how that fire started. He had found my behavior strange, he told me - continuing to quietly play while a fire raged in the alley. Although I had attempted to shield myself with an invisible bubble, my father knew. They always do.

Who can discern his errors?
Forgive me my hidden faults.
Psalm 19: 12

He who conceals his sins does not prosper,
but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.
Proverbs 28: 13

Therefore, since through God’s mercy, we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.
1 Corinthians 4:1-2

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Entertaining Strangers

Well!” I thought. “He sure doesn’t belong here.” How long he had been coming we had no idea, but from the looks of things he was sure making himself at home. A stranger - too big, too aggressive, too gray...... Grabbing the binoculars, I homed in on the pole feeder and the large shape occupying it. After observing carefully and checking a field guide, I pegged him as an Eastern gray squirrel. No, he does not belong here.

Numerous in the eastern half of the U.S., this now-common denizen of city parks is not native to our part of the country. First introduced in Washington in the early 1900s, they have since been repeatedly released in parks, campuses, estates and residential areas. To say they have adapted well would be an understatement.

20 inches long, from the tip of his nose to the tip of his tail, this tree squirrel is nearly twice the size of the average 12 inch long Douglas squirrel or Chickaree that is native here. The little guys have reddish- or brownish-gray upper parts and orange to yellowish under parts. The big gray is clearly gray-colored with reddish overtones above; its under parts are whitish. A full half of its body length is the prominent, bushy gray tail bordered with white-tipped hairs.
Noisy little Chickarees are found in stands of fir, pine, cedar, and other conifers throughout Washington. Although particularly fond of Douglas fir seeds, like all tree squirrels they eat a variety of seeds, nuts, tree buds, berries, leaves, and twigs. The grays prefer deciduous hardwood or mixed forests with nut trees, especially oak-hickory forests. They feed heavily on hickory nuts, beechnuts, acorns, and walnuts. Grays are well-known for their nut-burying skills, and a great many new trees have sprouted because of them. In recent years I’ve found quite a few hazelnuts as I’ve dug about the yard. I moved several that had sprouted and they are now small shrubs. Both of these squirrels are opportunists and will eat fungi, insects, and occasionally birds’ eggs, nestlings, and frogs.

They both construct nursery nests in hollow trees, abandoned woodpecker cavities, and similar hollows. Where these are unavailable, they will build spherical or cup-shaped nests in trees, attics, and nest boxes. Although they sometimes invade buildings, generally speaking the Chickarees do little harm and provide great pleasure to those attuned to watching them. The grays, on the other hand, have a nasty reputation for gnawing and nesting in buildings. As I said, they are adaptable.

In some areas where the number of Eastern gray squirrels has increased, the Chickarees have decreased and it is easy to put the blame on the grays. However, given that these squirrels have different food and shelter preferences, it’s more likely that increasing housing and other development, and loss of coniferous forest is responsible of any decline in the Chickaree populations.

It’s easy to distrust the stranger - to take a quick look and not like what we see; to catch whiff of the rumor or the reputation and look no further. The unknown is always suspect; time and effort breed familiarity - and who knows what we might discover?

Keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.
Hebrews 13:1-2

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Joy Song

As we usually do, we walked in silence, carefully maneuvering the dirt trail as it wound through the woods between trunks of huge ancient cedars and moss-covered maples. In mid May, this part of the world is a virtual sea of green with new growth erupting everywhere. Fresh and new, with none of the ragged bug nibblings nor dust coatings that come later in the season, each stem and leaf stood out from the others as clearly as in today’s best quality High Definition TV. Only this was the real thing. Lining the path as far ahead as we could see, spring blooms added a sprinkling of color - native Geranium, Bleeding Heart, Fringecup, Star Flower, Trillium, and others I didn’t know. Dainty, delicate Maidenhair ferns trembled as we passed, while stately Sword Ferns stood at attention, their new growth stiffly upright, leaving older, browning fronds to sprawl out near the ground. Overhead, those giants of this valley - the venerable maple trees - spread their branches and speckled the sky with sap-green leaves, creating the effect of a massive, hushed cathedral. Within Dosewallips State Park, Maple Valley can be a magical place.

As we walked, soaking up the ambiance and noting thick growth of moss, shelf fungi and nurse logs, a single, clear melody drifted into our consciousness. It’s not unusual to hear birds singing in the forest, especially in the spring, but this one was distinct. It sang solo and loud - no one sang back. A few more twists and turns of the trail brought us closer to the songster and we stopped, scanning the undergrowth until we spotted him. There ahead, among thick vegetation on the forest floor, a small dark brown bird perched on the tip of an upright dead branch and sang his heart out. Enthralled by his extended complex song, we edged closer, sure that he would fly away on seeing us. But he did not. Twitching about on his small podium, stubby tail held stiffly upright, he clearly sang for all the world to hear - and that included us.
The Winter Wren is a tiny woodland bird whose song is as elaborate as its plumage is drab. Although a common, permanent resident of western Washington, it is somewhat shy and secretive, so is seldom seen. It eats mostly insects and spiders, so does not frequent feeders. It is found most often in closed-canopy forest such as Maple Valley, but lives in other forest types as long as there is dense understory. Only the most observant - and fortunate - humans find them creeping about among brush piles, fallen logs, and stream banks in these areas. In Spring, males establish and defend territories and attract females by singing, so this one’s solo performance served a very important purpose for him. To us it was pure, melodic joy being poured out into endless forest and uplifting our very souls.

We moved on quietly, leaving the little wren behind to flit through the undergrowth and continue his song. And as we proceeded through this green cathedral a song rose in my own heart - “Sing out, earth and skies, sing of the God who loves you! Raise your joyful cries! Dance to the life around you!...
Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
Worship the LORD with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Psalm 101:1-2

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Simple Pleasures

Surveying the space I had for my armful of clothes - one small drawer roughly 12” X 18” X 5”, 3 or 4 coat hangers, plus a chunk of space in an overhead cupboard - I felt the familiar thrill of preparing to “rough it.” We were packing for a short camping trip and I was reminded, yet again, that we really don’t need much. The basics are just fine with me.
My affection for simplicity goes way back. As a child, my family would occasionally spend a week at a remote “dude” ranch that bordered a wilderness area in Montana. I can still picture and smell that mountain retreat. The smooth log walls of the cabin, the kerosene lanterns, cast iron wood stove, icy mountain stream that served as our cooler, and the outhouse through the woods are all still vivid in my memory. Being a child, I was not the one to start the fire in the chill of morning, light the lamp at dusk, or tramp to the stream to retrieve the watermelon, but neither do I recall any of the adults complaining. We all just kicked back and enjoyed the solitude, riding the horses & fishing the streams by day, visiting and playing cards by a crackling fire in the evening. There was no such thing as room service; dishes and cooking utensils were included in the deal, but we had to haul our own bedding and groceries along. It was my first glimpse of what pioneering might have been like. I found it fascinating and always hated to leave when the week was up.

As newlyweds, we treasured weekends and summer vacations at my family’s cabin at the lake. We shared a suitcase, unrolling our sleeping bags on the front deck, the pitch-black dome overhead filled with a million twinkling stars. Meals were nutritious, though simple - often barbecued. We took turns doing the dishes after each meal and I remember it as time of much chatter and laughter. As the cabin evolved to better serve the growing family, we claimed a small storage shed as our private space. Fishing gear, outdoor furniture, barbecue grill, various tools, building and plumbing supplies were stored in this little outbuilding. But for years after we moved away, returning there for only one week each summer, we enjoyed a small, roughly built bed attached to one wall in there. We fell asleep to the hoot of an owl and awoke to sunlight glistening on various odd pieces of pipe, hammers, saws, and fishing poles suspended overhead. A warm breeze often wafted in through the homemade screen door, billowing the burlap “drape”. I loved it there.

Simple needs, simple tasks - I’m reminded how important they are. We take off for the country to enjoy barbecued chicken, macaroni salad and fresh green beans; dishes done together with water heated on the stove; visiting with family and friends by a campfire, with an impossibly magnificent creation above; awakening to the twittering of birds; piping hot coffee freshly brewed; a hike through thick, mossy woods or to a nearby shore; reading and dozing in the sun (or to the patter of rain, if it falls); a time to reflect and refresh.
A change of clothes, some food, shelter, warmth, water, an active mind and body, good company, someone to love who loves you, meaningful work, communing with nature and our Father above. What else do we really need?

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.  1 Timothy 6:6 - 10