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Posts Tagged ‘life’

Newport, Oregon, Nye Beach We sit in the comfy chairs on the third floor of the Sylvia Beach Hotel in Newport, Oregon, gazing out at the gray sky and the rolling white caps. It’s our 36th anniversary, and we came to celebrate in this wonderful book-filled hotel. But my mouth hurts from the tooth that had to be extracted yesterday, and husband is coughing from the cold he caught recently. In our younger days, this might have ruined our special day.Sylvia Beach Hotel

However 36 years give one a little perspective. Seagulls soar past the windows, pushed by the wind. The sun peeks out briefly to light up the waves. Husband sketches a beach scene; I write these words. The ocean beats a constant rhythm into our souls. We are at peace.

Life needn’t be perfect to be good. So many times our expectations prevent us from enjoying the blessings we receive. We want the perfect job, the perfect wedding, the perfect spouse, house, and kids. But life has more glitches than a new computer system, and perfection is a rare commodity here on earth.

Newport, OR beach with gullsMy husband’s uncle had a stroke. While Uncle John partially recovered, he remained weak on one side and had difficulty speaking. A former outdoorsman, he took up painting with his good hand. He made the most of what he had. And whenever he was asked how he was—or many other questions for that matter—his answer was always “Good enough.”

And what’s so wrong with “good enough?” We all have things that keep our lives from being perfect—whether health issues, money problems, disagreements with family or neighbors, job hassles, whatever. We can spend our days bemoaning our problems, or we can accept what we are given and make the most of it. We can enjoy the blessings we are given.dark clouds at beach

The waves keep pounding onto the sand, an ever-changing, but ever-the-same pattern. Dark clouds promise rain. We sit side-by-side, staring out the window, sharing the beauty of the moment. Thirty-six years. Years filled with smiles and tears, joys and frustrations. Not perfect years, but definitely “good enough.”

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Kittens and Babies

grandson1 I read once that the reason babies are so cute is for their own protection. They can be so demanding and so noisy and so much work, but then they smile, and the whole world is beautiful. Same thing for baby animals. What could be cuter than a fuzzy little puppy or a teeny furry kitten with those huge eyes staring up at you so innocent and all?Fiona1

Anyone who has owned a puppy or a kitten knows they can be far from innocent. In December we acquired little Fiona. She was a tiny thing, runt of the litter, so sweet and cuddly. We fell in love with her. But every morning and evening—and a few other times a day—she morphs into something possessed. She tears across the room and across anything in her path—chairs, tables, couches, piano, computer—at breakneck speed, barely pausing for breath. She scratches the chairs, chews up any pens left on the table, zips between our legs as we try to walk. In the morning we find evidence she has been on the kitchen counters, even the refrigerator, and who knows where else?

Feisty FionaHowever, after each wild spree she finally winds down, out of energy. She jumps on my lap, stretches up to sniff my nose, and looks at me with those big, beautiful eyes. And I smile back at her and mutter, “Kitten, you would be in so much trouble if you weren’t so dang cute!”

What can I do? She’s effectively squirmed her way into our lives, and we adore the little beast. That’s how it goes with kittens.Fiona2

Of course, kittens are nothing compared to grandbabies. Want to hear about my grandson? I have a couple hundred pictures I can show you. I’d have even more if he didn’t live clear across the country. I swear he’s just about the cutest baby that ever lived. You sure you don’t want to see some more pictures??

grandson2Kittens and babies: you’ve got to love them!

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Springwater Trail, Boring, OR I did not want to go running this morning. Due to the holidays, weather, work, and a nasty virus that kept me indoors for quite some time, I had not been out on streets or trails for a month and a half. And it had become much easier to sit at the computer than move my feet. Still husband was urging me on, and I knew my body could use some exercise. So I plodded back to the bedroom, changed into my running clothes, and joined my ready-to-go hubby. We drove a short distance to Boring, Oregon. (Yes, there is a Boring, Oregon, and yes, it really is kind of boring… But it does have a Sister City: Dull, Scotland. Honest! You can look it up.) Anyway, we drove to a newly-paved section of the Springwater Trail in Boring. It was a good choice, a chance of scenery to get me started.Filbert catkins

Aspen trunksI wish I could say that I started down the trail excited to be running again and full of energy. No, I’m afraid my run was a slow, very slow jog, and the walk breaks were eagerly anticipated. Still, I did like being out in nature. The clouds billowed above me, and the sun managed to shine through at least part of the time. Yellow catkins dangled from the filbert trees along the path. The white bark of a crowd of aspens stood out against the browns of winter.

I think I annoyed my husband, who likes to keep his running rhythm going, by stopping to pull out my phone and take pictures along the way. But he’s learned to put up with it. I see beauty and I want to capture it. The photo is never as good as the real thing, of course. But it’s like a sign along the way, taking me back to the realness of the moment and helping me remember its fullness.Clouds, Springwater Trail

I made it almost three miles, not bad for my first time out in so long. It was almost fun. And perhaps the spell of inertia is broken, and I can get back into the routine. We shall see. At least I have my pictures to remind me.  🙂

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Foggy morningI hate goodbyes. I dropped my son off at the airport this morning, knowing I would probably not see him again until next Christmas. We hugged, and I watched him pull his suitcase toward the revolving doors. Around me, other people hugged their goodbyes, grasping that last touch, one final memory to hold them until next time.

Why do kids have to grow up and move away? I remember how excited I was when I went away to college. Did my mother cry as they drove away from my freshman dorm? Did a hole open in her heart that only my return could mend? I never thought about it much at the time; I was too busy living my own life.Son and husband

At my age, goodbyes become more common. A little over a year ago I whispered goodbye to my father as he lay silent in a hospital bed, his spirit perhaps already flown. That farewell was even more wrenching, tinged with the knowledge that I wouldn’t see him again until eternity.

sun shining through the fogAnd yet I go on. The sun shines through the fog and brightens the morning. I smile through my tears. Tomorrow my husband and I will be the ones leaving, off to see our other son and his wife. The hugs will be ones of gladness, as we reconnect after many months. The time will be all the more precious due to its brevity.

At the end of every hello is a goodbye. It’s just how life works. But the pain carves passageways for joy, and every farewell increases my longing for that day when goodbyes will be no more.

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WHigh Prairie Trail, Mt. Hoode’d been spending too much time at home working. I was feeling restless. Where should we go? Mt. Hood is always nice this time of year. It’s a bit early for black flies, and the alpine meadows are filled with flowers. So recently my husband and I headed up for a hike to Lookout Mountain on the east side of Mt. Hood.Lookout Mountain 105

We bumped over miles of washboard gravel road to reach the trail head at High Prairie. “Keeps the tourists away,” we said optimistically. And it appeared to be true, as there were only a couple of cars in the parking area. As predicted, the meadow was awash with color—white and yellow daisy-type flowers, Indian paintbrush, and more. We took the trail to the right, as recommended in the guide book. It was a wise decision. View after view of the mountaintop—only seven miles away—opened up as we hiked along. One place a field of red lava rocks added to the mountain view.Lookout Mountain 049

Lookout Mountain 039As we neared the high point, ghostly white tree trunks twisted in tortured shapes, bent by the wind. New kinds of flowers appeared. And talk about views! From the top, where a fire lookout used to stand, we could see mountains all around: St. Helens, Adams, Rainier to the north; Jefferson and the Three Sisters to the south.

Oval Lake, near Lookout MountainWe continued down—and I do mean down, with the path a bit steep in places—to Oval Lake, a couple of miles farther along. A scenic little lake where the deep quiet echoed softly in my ears. There we rested for what I knew would be a grueling uphill slog back to Lookout Mountain, before we hit the downhill path back to the truck. My fears proved true, for me at least. My husband, a runner, patiently waited for me during my frequent rest breaks.

Lookout Mountain, Mt. HoodWe took the old road from the lookout back to the truck—not as scenic as the way up, but a pleasant downhill stroll back to the bright meadow where we began. But now with tired legs, a camera full of pictures, and the peace that comes from spending time in God’s creation. Sometimes I forget, in the busy days of life, how much I need quiet, green places and towering mountains. At Lookout Mountain my soul was fed.     Lookout Mountain 060

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Heinz Field, Pittsburgh“I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now,” wrote–and sang–Joni Mitchell, “from up and down, and still somehow
it’s clouds’ illusions I recall…” And really, when it comes right down to it, clouds themselves are a bit of an illusion. They look like you could reach up and touch them, but if you did, your hand would slide right through, cool and damp perhaps, but without ever hitting anything solid.PPG Place, Pittsburgh

On our recent trip to Pittsburgh to visit our son and daughter-in-law, we saw plenty of clouds, both from below and from above. Some brought rain and snow; some piled up like bright puffy ice cream sundaes in the sky.

Clouds from aboveAnd from above, they danced across the landscape, finally building up into a soft blanket. Heading toward our landing, the plane sliced into the blanket, and it felt like entering the void, with no way to see above, below, or ahead. Just a field of gray in every direction. Until… until we dove underneath the grayness, and the city lights sparkled below, and all was just the way it should be. And yet, I wonder… is that, too, an illusion?   Pittsburgh, March, 2013 342

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Ocean Park dawnThe sky was turning from black to deep blue when I stepped outside the retreat center where I was blessed to spend time with a couple dozen of the nicest writers I know. The moon’s brightness faded as day softly arrived.Ocean Park dawn

Pastel pinks and oranges tinged the eastern sky as I padded down the sandy trail to the beach. The sky above turned pale blue. Past the trees and the beach grass, the ocean pounded out its rhythm while gulls flew overhead and a flock of sandpipers skittered away at my approach.

Ocean Park, WAColor rose higher in the sky and spread far past the eastern edges. Waves and wet sand reflected the dawn. The empty beach lay silent before the sea, whose vastness breathed peace into my soul.

I stepped where many had walked before, and yet the freshly washed sand held no trace of their presence. It spread before me in wavy patterns, new and untouched, awaiting my footprints. I prayed that the marks I left behind would be true and my path straight.

Morning arrived in beauty. I greeted it with joy and songs of praise.  Ocean dawn

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Dad 2011Treasures come in many forms, sometimes quite unexpected. But an old pack of cigarettes?

My father died a couple of months ago, and so I am spending time at his house sorting papers and cleaning out cupboards and drawers, in preparation for an estate sale. The process brings back many memories, as I unearth old photo albums, wall hangings I remember from childhood, and other memorabilia. It can be a bittersweet time.

Yesterday was another day of interesting finds as I began going through his desk. An envelope containing half a dozen two dollar bills. Hmm. Wonder what those are worth today? A drawer full of those address labels that charities send out, hoping you will donate. If Dad had lived another hundred years, he couldn’t have used all of the labels he had there.Galatians 5:1

Then I pulled out something different. An old pack of cigarettes that looked like someone had started to open it and then stopped. Odd. My dad used to smoke. He had tried many times to quit, but never quite succeeded. Until my mother died of lung cancer. Actually it was the kind of cancer usually caused by asbestos exposure, rather than cigarettes, but there was some speculation that secondhand smoke could have played a part. I never saw my father with a cigarette after that.

Now here was this old, yellowed pack of cigarettes. But there was something different about this package. Securely taped to both sides of the pack were Bible verses. On one side: “Galatians 5:7: For freedom did Christ set us free: stand fast therefore, and be not entangled again in a yoke of bondage.” And on the other side: “John 8:32: And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

John 8:32This must have been the last pack of cigarettes my dad ever purchased. I could imagine him picking it up when he felt the urge to smoke, reading the verses, and then placing it back in the desk, gaining strength to resist one more time. How telling of my dad’s character that when he became determined to quit, he turned not to hypnosis or a patch, but to God. And he found what he needed to win the battle.

Treasures come in many forms, but I never expected to find one in an old pack of cigarettes.

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Sunset, 2012The year comes to an end as the sun sets, a little brightness showing through the gray clouds. Isn’t that how it seems to go? So much bad news in the paper each day, so many sad stories online, so much anger and despair in the world. And yet still the light shines through, giving color and beauty, bringing hope. One year fades into the sunset, but dawn comes again with the brightness of a new day. Another chance. Let’s make the most of it.

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Family is one of the most important things in life. I’ve heard that many times, and I really believe it. But often I get so busy that family gets ignored, particularly family that doesn’t live in the same house. I intend to call or visit, but time flies, while I crawl along, loaded with the chores of everyday.

Last weekend I spent time with family. My brothers, husband, sister-in-law, and I took our father to the beach for two nights to celebrate his upcoming 90th birthday. It was the first time I’d been to the beach with my brothers since we were kids. And it was wonderful!

We spent a lot of time remembering adventures—and misadventures—we’d had when we were little. “You know,” one brother said. “I can’t blame any problems I have on my childhood.” So true! We had a good childhood. Our parents weren’t perfect (although they didn’t make any more mistakes than I did with my kids!), but we always knew we were loved, and that they would be there for us anytime we needed them. That sense of security made childhood a safe place to explore and learn and grow.

We walked on the beach once the sun cleared out some of the clouds—at least all of us did except for my dad. Legs no longer steady enough for beach walking, he sat by the picture window, content to watch the crashing waves and kaleidoscope sky.

If any man fits Paul’s description in Philippians 4:12, it is my dad: “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation…” He has been widowed twice, survived four types of cancer, been on three-times-a-week dialysis for years, and yet I rarely hear a word of complaint. “The secret to happiness is not feeling sorry for yourself,” he told me.

I’m so glad we could all spend the weekend together. It’s good to be with people who know and love me just the way I am. Not all families are like that, I hear. I feel so blessed!

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