Streets Full of Splendid Strangers

"How much larger your life would be if your self could become smaller in it; if you could really look at other men with common curiosity and pleasure; if you could see them walking as they are in their sunny sefishness and their virile indifference! You would begin to be interested in them, because they are not interested in you. You would break out of this tiny and tawdry theatre in which your own little plot is always played, and you would find yourself under a freer sky, in a street full of splendid strangers."
-G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

A scribe came to Jesus and asked Him which of the commandments were most important. "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind, all your soul and all your strength, and love your neighbor as yourself," Jesus replied.

I'd never considered before how these commandments take the focus off me. And I'd never considered before that having something else to focus on besides me and all my junk could be such a blessed relief.

My amazing sister, Jessica, this past year made a new decision: to love God with all her heart, and to try to love her neighbor as herself. I remember talking to her after she came to one of the our church worship gatherings-where we were asked to describe some of the benefits we had found while following Jesus. She said a big one for her was realizing that it's not all about her, that there's a bigger story going on than her own little life saga, and I totally agree.

I've long felt now that one of the reasons that God tells us to love Him, to focus on Him and give Him worship is so that we can have some relief from all the wretched self-absorbtion that has plagued us since Eden. Just to focus on Someone pure and just, right and good, the Person in Whom all wholeness and beauty find their source, has been such a balm. Finally, a few minutes off from the round-the-clock scrutiny of my so-called life, the 'tiny and tawdry theatre where my little plot is played out' ad nauseum. I used to think it was some sort of divine egotism for God to demand that his followers worship him, but now I see it as an act of a mercy-like water to someone lost in the desert, our worship should be tinged with, "boy-are You a sight for sore eyes!"
(and props go out to miss f. glasses for the pic. i looked up ole gilbert keith chesterton on flickr, and ta-dah! i found a real live person that i actually know. so thank you, franny! and everyone go and read her blog.)


Musings of a Tree-Hugger

The oak trees are glowing again, with that green-brown-yellow moss that spreads itself in clumps all throughout their twisted branches. I love this time of year for many reasons, mainly because of the rains that restore the moss to verdant health. These are scrub oaks (Quercus agricifolia) and are native on the central coast of California. John Muir waxes rhapsodic about them in Mountains of California (really, he gets a bit silly), and much has been done to protect them from development and disease, the recent killer being Sudden Oak Death, a form of phytopthera, of potato famine fame.
Form vs. Function
This morning B and I are doing our part on our little parcel of land, yes, I've dragged him out for a bit of dirty fun in the garden. The hillside on the side of our property boasts several trees, redwood, scrub oak, elder, Ponderosa Pine and dogwood. These tree's understory plantings are diverse, as fits each tree-rhodies, azaleas and camelia beneath the redwood, and the nascent plantings (one or two seasons old) of California native drought-tolerant shrubs (salvias) and groundcovers (ceanothus) beneath the oak. The native scrub oak needs completely dry soil in the summer, it's roots are highly susceptible to root fungus, which grows in warm wet soil. So, the plants surrounding the oak need to follow suit. Directly beneath the oak, however, is a good bit of shade, and finding plants for dry shade is the classic gardener's conundrum. We refuse to go the route of many of our neighbors, who have definitely chosen function over form by planting copious amounts of ivy & vinca beneath their trees. Yech. Instead, we have salvaged two beat-up (ahem)-rustic-wood chairs, which rest at a precarious angle beneath the oak, ready for hailing traffic and passers-by, and for giving the squirrels something to chase each other around. Hopefully someday soon we will figure out how to grade the hillside so that the chairs sit a little less precariously, and can hold more than squirrel weight without tipping forward.
"My name is the Lorax, and I speak for the trees....."
Our friend Matt was recently regaling us with tales from his own crusade to save some neighborhood scrub oaks, only his story has gotten a little more press. Read a bit about it here.
The diversity of groups that are involved in protesting the University of California, Berkeley's decision to cut down a grove (92 trees) of native scrub oaks in order to build an athletic facility is fascinating: I originally thought that it was the usual assortment of crunchy Earth-First-ers ("Level 5 vegans who don't eat anything that cast a shadow"-one of my favorite Simpsons lines), but the 3 lawsuits that have been filed against the University are backed by such unlikely bedfellows as the Panoramic Hill Association (rich Berkeley-ites who don't want their views obstructed), the City of Berkely, and a Native American group, who claim that the grove of trees is actually an Ohlone burial ground. Since a number of bodies were uncovered when the neighboring football stadium was built (Go, Cal!), it's pretty likely. So, it's the longest urban tree-sit ever, it's been going on for over a year now, and who knows how it will end.
Our friend Matt thinks it will most likely end in what he called an 'extraction'; UC Berkeley going in and (violently) removing the tree-sitters from the trees;it all sounds grisly and a very unpleasant way to have to descend from tree to earth. I will be sorry to see the UC system flex it's muscle yet again, sorrier still to lose such a stand of oaks, and the sorriest that people will get hurt trying to save them. I don't know what a good solution is, and I just feel sick about the whole thing.


Strange and Plain Things: a Christmas Play

Well, that's over.


Rosa's Poetry Archives

Well, tonight we had our last dress rehearsal of the Christmas play for church and we are feeling pretty good about it. Of course there are lots of last minute changes, and now I'm going to be in it. Which was sort goes against one of my main objectives, namely, to not have to be in the play.
I'm going to be reading a piece of poetry by one of our local poets. I'll post that one later. Also being read is a piece by a long-time favorite, who passed away this year, Madeline L'Engle. Here it is:

Advent, 1971

When will he come
and how will he come
and will there be warnings
and will there be thunders
and rumbles of armies
coming before them
and banners and trumpets
When will he come
and how will he come
and will we be ready

O woe to you people
you sleep through the thunder
you heed not the warnings
the fires and the drownings
the earthquakes and stormings
and ignorant armies
and dark closing on you
the song birds are falling
and the sea birds are dying
no fish now are leaping
the children are choking
in air not fit for breathing
the aged are gasping
with no one to tend them

a bright star has blazed forth
and no one has seen it
and no one has wakened.


Rosa's Recipes Vol. 2

Rosa's Jambotta:

(for Jessica and Ian in Australia)

This recipe was handed down from the mists of time through Eleven (aka Annie), who got it, believe it or not, from one of the mentally ill clients she used to work with. The etymology is uncertain. But the dish is fabulous! We eat it with salad and crusty rosemary garlic bread.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup brown rice
2 cups water
1 jar/can Marinara sauce, (we use the 28oz. can from Trader Joe's.)
4 or so lean Italian sausages (or chicken breasts)
1 large onion, chopped
2 or more cloves garlic, minced
1 large red pepper, chopped
1 can sliced black olives
1 cup (or more!) grated cheese, many will work with this dish.
Preheat oven to 425.

This is a casserole of the old school which means you assemble everything and then bake it in the oven. So, start with the brown rice. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add rice, bring it back to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer. Simmer for about 20 minutes, maybe 23?
While you're doing that, cook sausages in olive oil, add onions and garlic until they are translucent. Add red peppers and olives and saute everything together until they are all happy together in the pan. (At this point, I take out the sausage-or chicken- and slice it up and then return it.) Add your marinara, and adjust seasonings, maybe some more garlic? Some red wine?
When the rice is finished, either add it to the pan you are using, if it is oven-proof, or transfer it to a casserole dish. Mix the rice in with the marinara and other sauteed ingredients.
When it is all assembled in the dish, sprinkle on the cheese, and bake at 425 for 30 minutes.


(glad you liked the chili!)


Our church is a part of something called the Advent Conspiracy this year. Check out the website with it's fabulous tag line: Restoring the Scandal of Christmas. We're working at reflecting it's values this Christmas, which are: Worship More, Spend Less, Give More, Love All. There's been a really great art show in the Brickhouse, our coffeehouse/gallery that corresponds with these themes. Anyway, today we talked about getting off the hamster wheel that the 'holiday season' becomes (definitely no longer a 'holy-day') and try to refocus. I agree with it all whole-heartedly. This year has been difficult. I think because there are so many things I want to do, all good fun, even worshipful things, like Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve at Holy Cross Church (getting my yearly dose of bells, smells, and illicit Communion.)
Strange and Plain Things: A Christmas Play
And then there's that other thing that is good, fun, worshipful and creative, but is seeping into our time like water trying to find the lowest point: I'm talking about the Christmas play. We were tapped to help write the thing, which felt extremely gratifying in late August/early September. "Aah! Finally a great collaborative project! Isn't everything wonderful?" That was the feeling a few months ago. Now, it's more like "How did we get here?" Because, you see, B and I are somehow directing the play too! Now, there's plenty of other people involved, and honestly, we've been less involved than directors probably should be (nice to use G as an excuse), but still-life is a little....wacky right now.
Church Life
Let's see, we are the team leaders for the Toddler Room, I'm the church librarian, I also do consulting on landscape design/management of the gardens and grounds, I'm part of the Spoken Word team and now this. Whew! I think all my time couldn be easily eaten away in the context of church life, which is interesting, because I've never been really really sold on church anyway, and often it's been a teeth-gritting experience. But I really like Vintage Faith Church, in ways I haven't known I could like a church.
Jane? Get Me Off This Crazy Thing!...Called Christmas
And so, the dilemma: how to appropriate the tenets of the Advent Conspiracy, particularly the ways in which we slow down and get off the holiday hamster wheel, while still carrying off this production? Which will be very cool, and I hope you all can come. But still, this last week is a mite crazy. Pray for us!


Rosa's Poetry Archives: The Nativity of Christ, Robert Southwell

The Nativity of the Christ
by Robert Southwell, Jesuit poet (1561-1595)

Behold the father is his daughter's son,
The bird that built the nest is hatched therein,
The old of years an hour hath not outrun,
Eternal life to live doth now begin,
The Word is dumb,
the mirth of heaven doth weep,
Might feeble is, and force doth faintly creep.
O dying souls, behold your living spring;
O dazzled eyes, behold your sun of grace;
Dull ears, attend what word this Word doth bring;
Up, heavy hearts, with joy your joy embrace.
From death, from dark, from deafness, from despairs,
This life, this light, this Word, this joy repairs.
Gift better than himself God does not know;
Gift better than his God no man can see.
This gift here the giver given bestow;
Gift to this gift let each receiver be.
God is my gift, himself he freely gave me;
God's gift am I, and none but God shall have me.
Man altered by sin from man to beast;
Beast's food is hay, hay is all mortal flesh.
Now God is flesh and lies in manger pressed
As hay, the brutish sinner to refresh.
O happy field wherein this fodder grew,
Whose taste doth us from beasts to men renew.
(And thanks to Erin Adler for this amazing poem-it'll go in the poetry reader that accompanies the Christmas play at church.)



Tonight was a great night out: my first time at the much-lauded Monday Night Poetry group, at the home of The Molly, and until recently, Camille, of 327 Market. It was at, you guessed it, 327 Market St. We read each other some poetry, ate some coconut ice cream and dark chocolate so strong it puckered my lips. Not knowing the flavor of the poetry commonly read, I brought a diverse selection: Edna St. Vincent Millay (a stand-by), Madeline L'Engle's collection Ordering of Love, and some A.A. Milne. I ended up reading Bad Sir Brian Botany by Milne, which B has memorized with a silly British accent, and Millay's Assault. It was fun. AND, we now have our last poem for the Christmas play, by the group's own Linda Neuschwander. I am so excited (and relieved-the deadline is in two days!)
New poets I discovered include:
Naomi Sahib Nye ( more from her later)
Kay Ryan
Robert Southwell, Jesuit priest from the 16th century.
Here is my freewrite, I can't believe I'm sharing it here, but I guess it's late and I'm feeling fearless....

Draw back the curtains
That your Mother made you
Throw up the sash
Lean out into the night
Breathe deep the cool air
Let sound and scent envelop
Here, beneath branch and twig
And moonlight slanting
As the dogwood soft leaves
Give back a green glow
Into your face.
The cut grass scent
And the laughter from downstairs
Reminds you that spring,
So recently come
Is slipping so subtly
Towards June.


I lost my phone last week. I left it at church Tuesday night after one of the play rehearsals. I was sure I left it either in the sanctuary or upstairs in one of the meeting rooms. I came back on Thursday afternoon, sauntering in, planning on picking it up at the front desk. I had every faith in the church bureaucracy, and assumed it had been picked up by someone obvious, like the custodian or secretary. But, no. I wandered into the sanctuary, slightly disconcerted, and started snooping under the pews. One of the pastors, Josh, was rehearsing a song with someone else, and they stopped and called my phone, trying to see if it was in the room; no. I stayed and listened to the song and gave my opinion (they asked! And the song was beautiful). So, I bumped around the church for a good part of an hour, just sort of looking around, and talking to Sarah, looking forlorn, and unreachable without my phone. I didn't think I'd get like that without it, it's only been a year or two that I've even had a cell phone. So I prayed-a little sheepishly. Sort of, "God? I'd really like to find my phone! I know it's sort of silly, and there's plenty of things that are more important that I should ask you for, like patience, humility and peace in Iraq, but I'd really like to find my phone!"

The strangest thing: I heard inside me this sort of assurance, and it was very specific and even blythe. I don't know how else to describe it, and it sounded like this: "Oh, don't worry about your phone! You'll see it again, and in a very unexpected place!"

"Right," I thought, "that is totally something I would make up if I was pretending to be God answering my prayer." I forgot about it, and went downtown. To the rain, and the shopping, and the missed coffee date with my mom, and the oneheadlightrainywindshielddanger!danger! driving, pollo asado burritos and Dorothy Sayers at Vallarta, and unwanted smiles from B's octegenarian international eco artist boss. An odd afternoon.

Later that night, B and I were at our community group. So, I was sitting there and Richard Rammer walks in, big smile on his face, hand outstretched towards me, and what does he profer? You guessed it, my phone. I was absolutely floored. It was just so......unexpected.
Of course he was at choir rehearsal the night before, and someone found it on the couch, and recognized the picture of G on the screen. And knew it was mine. And brought it right to me.

I think this shows me that: 1) God is listening to me, and doesn't wait for prayers that I would deem pious or worthy of attention 2) I can somehow hear His voice every now and again & 3) I expected to find my phone through bureacracy, and instead it came back to me through community. What a nice thing.
Just little life lessons in the mdst of seeming chaos. More on the seeming chaos later...........


Advent Reading:: No. 1

"A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of consel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
Hid delight shall be in the fear of the Lord."
Isiah 11:1-3

Last year my mother got me a great book-"Advent and Christmas Wisdom from Henri Nouwen." I'm reading through it during this season of Advent, eagerly, hungrily. It's been long since I eagerly and hungrily read anything devotional, anything that really fed my soul. It's a good place to be, standing on the brink of the liturgical year, I never thought that this would be important to me. I never would have expected that the joyful anticipation of Advent would sink so deeply into me, like a bulb planted deep in the topsoil, roots stretching, groping, inching down towards food and drink. The coming of the shoot out of the stump is a mighty miracle, new green growth burgeoning out of gnarled brown bark, small and unlooked-for, but there, and growing all the time.


The Crud

Today we are feeling a mite sick, of the sore-throat, snarfling, crud-hacking, lethargic variety. Outside, the temperature is dropping and seeds still need sowing, and the apple tree wants transplanting. Cleaning & child-rearing, my constant companions, also beckon. About all I want to do is drink tea, read, (currently Jan Karon's Mitford novels, one of my ultimate comfort reads), and Christmas shop on Etsy. But the soot sprites and dust bunnies are having sock-hops on every surface in our house, and I can't find my laundry basket to fold all my clean clothes-I think it's under the pile of coats that need to be hung up in the moth aviary we're calling our closet. Clearly, I need to suck it up, or G will be raised by the cast of Sesame Street, and I will end up like some sort of Dickensian Miss Havesham, with cobwebs stretching from bookcase to bookcase, bent over a dim laptop, feeble fingers pecking at the dust-strewn keyboard. Up! Up!
Here I go.



I bathe my face in water fresh,
As the sun his nine rays doth spread,
As Mary washed her Son's fair flesh,
In the generous milk white-shed.

May mercy be my lips' attire,
May kindness to my face be lent,
May chasteness be on my desire,
And wisdom be in mine intent.

Love Mary laid her one Son on
May all the world give unto me;
Love Jesus-giv'n to Baptist John
Grant I give to each one I see.

Son of God, be at the outset,
Son of God, be surety, friend;
Son of God, make straight my way yet,
Son of God at my seeking's end.

-(from G.R.D. Maclean's translations of traditional Gaelic poems; 'Poems of the Western Highlands'.)


Autumn in the Garden

There are two words that, when said together, conjure up the taste of nectarines and dry-farmed tomatoes. And the dusty scent of redwood groves and hot wet blacktop. These two words are, of course: Indian summer.
The synesthete in me sees the colours of Indian summer as I write, for Autumn is about very definite hues: when everything seems to luxuriate in these months of warmth and ripening and colour. The chlorophyll is pulled back into the trees, leaving all those glorious anthocyanins and xanthophylls (reds and yellows) to blaze forth. The liquidambars and dogwoods down the road have been at it all day, clamoring for attention; and the yellow maple across the street doesn't seem to know the meaning of the word 'decorum'. Living here in Northern California, in the land of evergreen trees (redwoods, oaks, laurels, madrones, Ponderosa pines), things can get a bit......monochromatic. That's why when the deciduous trees get going, I'm sitting up and clapping my flippers together like a seal at the circus.
Autumn in the garden is such an interesting time: all about clean-up, and stragglers, leaf piles, mulch and bulbs. And then there's all the Mary Poppins gardening, when I'm putting everything to sleep, drawing up the mulch like blankets on the perennial beds. A real 'Let's Tidy Up the Nursery' sort of feel. When I gardened at the Seamill Centre, this was almost my favourite season, mainly because we got to haul tons (but there it was tonnes) of dead branches and other garden detritus to the fire pit for huge bonfires. We had quite a blaze on Guy Fawkes night, complete with fireworks and effigies........Here I'll have to make do with dancing around my Waste Management Green Waste recycling can, roasting weenies on the Hibachi.

To Do

*Transplant-apple tree, cotinus, lemon verbena, phlomis fruticosa, leonotis leonorus
*Sow seeds: (direct sow) ammi magus, breadseed poppies, eschscholtzia californica (white)
*Clean out coldframe
*Lawn: one last mow, rake thatch, aeriate soil
*Prune: Most perennials, esp. salvias, hydrangeas
*Set up Vermicomposting
*Need: Compost, Mulch, worms (call the Worm Doctor for worm suppliers. No, really, that's how she styles herself. And now I've got They Might Be Giants "They call me Dr. Worm....I'm not a real doctor but I am a real worm..." in my head.) Great.



Bricks in the Cave::by Susan Harwood, A Review

The Bricks in the Cave is a juvenile fiction adventure story that was brought to my attention by the author, Susan Harwood a few months ago and I'm finally reviewing it. It's been hard to sit down and write about it, mainly because I liked it so well, and wanted to do it justice. Here is my attempt. I hope you can get a moment to read the story, find it on the author's blog here. Read it and tell a friend.

The Bricks in the Cave is set in coastal England. (So right away I'm charmed.) The hero of the story, Charlie is being pursued by Ed (the neighborhood bully) along the cliffs above the ocean. He slips and falls off the cliff edge, and ends up in a large cave. In the cave, inexplicably, are stacks of boxes. Pirate's booty? Smuggler's cargo? Charlie opens the boxes and discovers.......large plastic bricks. He builds a staircase and escapes through a hole in the roof of the cave. But who put the bricks in the cave? And why is Charlie and his friend, Simon, being followed? Are they in danger? Will they get even with Ed? It's these questions that move this story along, as well as Susan Harwood's fast-paced, yet detailed writing. The story flows with a nice rhythm, and the resolution is great: an epic scene complete with a neighborhood conspiracy, business tycoons, reporters, glow in the dark monsters and a moonlit cliff. On the whole, I'd say that TBITC is exciting, interesting, funny and thoughtful. And in need of a publisher! Indeed, my only problem with TBITC is that I wanted to carry it around as a battered paperback to read in all my favorite spots, but I was forced to huddle in our damp concrete back office on our desktop, as B was doing some important work on the laptop (I think it was Weird Al videos on You Tube........okay, it was the script for the Christmas play at church. All very virtuous and above board.)

Okay, so here's what I loved, and I hope there's no spoilers.

1. I loved the descriptions of Charlie's neighborhood, and the nearby coast. Especially the gorse bushes, which Charlie and Simon use as a fort. The descriptions of the coastline, the cliff face and the beach really paint the picture well.

2. Pretty early into the story you are given the answer to most of the above questions, and just when you think you understand all that is happening, there's a twist, and you read on, trying to discover just what Charlie and Simon are working on. It really drew me in.

3. Later in the story, the neighborhood children band together to fight for a common purpose, and I really resonated with this. When I was young, I wanted nothing more than to be a part of a group that was fighting crime, or solving mysteries. I wanted a gang, and a clubhouse, and a secret code with which to correspond. At the time I was reading The Three Investigators, Nancy Drew, and The Bobbsey Twins. They all worked together to reach their goal, using team work, skill and a healthy dose of thinkums. I think this appealed to me because I was desperate to belong, and to contribute. And I did have some thinkums, but zero coordination. School sports could never fulfill this longing, on the contrary, it made me feel even more alone; though I was a part of a group, I was a major liability. I was always picked last for teams, and therefore humiliated. Daily. Anyway. Where was I?

4. I really liked what ended up happening with Ed, the bully. I can't say anymore, or I'll give it away. But I think it was excellent, and unexpected. Unexpected mercy and grace.

5. Chapter 22 'Anthony James Needs the Loo' and Chapter 23 'Under the Hedge' are just brilliant and poetic and funny. A good snapshot into the lives of some of the children who live in the neighborhood. I can picture them so well, I can't wait for this to be a movie.

In all, this book needs publishing. I hope it does, and soon, so that G can have a great chapter book to read, she's almost 3, so you haven't got long!

Thank you so much, Susan, for letting me read your marvelous story. Let me know when you are published so we can queue up for our copy!


Tide Pools

Today we trundled off to Point Lobos, at the beginning of the coastline that is known as Big Sur to see the sea. There we engaged in one of my favourite voyeuristic past-times: tide-pooling. For those poor land-locked souls, this is going to the ocean's edge and nosing around in the little pools and crevices of the rocks, slipping desperately on sea lettuce, poking one's finger into the center of anemones and squealing as their frothy tendrils close on said digit; all the while remembering not to turn one's back to the sea, lest it carry you off into the blue Pacific, to sleep with the fishes in an oil-slick.
Competitive Tide Pooling
I love this sort of sport. It requires so little coordination, and there is zero competition. I don't have to worry about dropping balls, or throwing things really far, or being a team player. And everyone looks equally silly, bent over with our bottoms waggling in the air.

I also love living next to the ocean, as well as all the past times it affords that don't include actually swimming around in it very much. The following can be yours for the taking, in our little part of the world: walking beside the sea, surfing, sailing, boating, playing volleyball (an evil sport) next to it, visiting the near-by Boardwalk, which consists of riding roller coasters, eating horrible crap food (dip n dots, funnel cake, deep-fried Twinkies) and then being sick all over strangers. And let's not leave out the ubiquitous girl on roller blades wearing a bikini, and the stoner drum circle, and hippie twirl dancing. This is essential, esp. if you are trying to become one with the cosmos.
Visitor from Brobdignag
There is something so calming about peering into the tide pools-small puddles of salt water that sustain so much life, and I can feel myself slow down and try to focus in on everything that is happening in each microcosm. Hermit crabs scuttles under a piece of rough and textured seaweed. Red leather anemones, orange and purple starfish, chitons and blennys hog the show, along with the brilliance and vivacity of rock and plant, in which the overcast sky, suffused with afternoon light, causes hidden tints of reds, purples and greens to shine forth. Today I was completely engrossed in the rings of grey that graced the stones about us, and found myself remembering the childhood love for small things, things contained and cosy in a tiny world. I used to adore diorama projects at school for this same reason, and puddles on walks with my papa.
I was going to add some of my photos from today, but I am truly an abysmal photographer, and my camera's clunkiness doesn't help matters. Instead, pop over to Jon Assink's blog, and check out his photos from the day. It definitely helps to hang out with great photographers! (Ahem, Dave S.!)


My Dratted Bible Study

So there's been some objection about my last post, in which I refer to "my dratted bible study." The feeling (I gather) is that I shouldn't be using the word 'dratted' to refer to something like studying the Holy Bible. Honestly, I'm trying to find something nice to say about this study. Probably the best that can be said from it is that in a desperate attempt to get out of it, I managed to memorize the order of the books of the Old Testament, organize my spice rack, clean my kitchen, re-read Madeline L'Engle's 'Wind in the Door', write ranting blog posts and watch way too much You Tube with B.
"S, S, What Begins With S?"
What's the big deal, you ask? I'd have to point to the gross liberalities the writer of this study tends to take with the Bible. She ends up doing that thing I hate to come across in children's literature-when the author decides everything needs to rhyme, so they end up using terribly awkward verse and archaic words that are totally unsuitable for children. The study writer really painted herself into a corner. Everything needs to be about the early life of Samuel, and it needs to start with the letter S. So when the Scripture doesn't match up with her lesson, when it starts to deviate from the formula-does she change the formula? NO! She changes the Scripture, giving it a spin that might have had ole' Samuel spinning himself.

Now, the last thing I want to be is all snarky and nit-picky, but it's because it's important! I dragged myself out of the house to hang out with a bunch of women (which already sounds hard-I imagined it to be all dried flower arrangements and insipid sentiments. And I was wrong! The women there are really the saving grace of these 6 weeks) because I thought the Bible was important, and I wanted to hear what it said, not just someone's teachings that pull in Scripture here and there. So there it is. My dratted bible study.

Now because God seems to like the hard cases, somehow, He is managing to speak to me through all this. Maybe that is the benefit: I feel like I am panning for gold, hunched down beside the creek, sifting through the silt, pebbles and fool's gold; searching for the real thing, hoping to strike it rich


Holy Trinity?

This morning I was sitting on my bed trying to do my dratted bible study when G came in my room, hands tightly clutched together. "These are my babies," she told me, depositing handfuls of air into my lap. "How many babies do you have here?" I asked. "Three," she told me, "and their names are Jesus, Baby Jesus, and God-Jesus."


Mission Park Elementary School Cake Walk Champion 2007

I married a man who wins cakes, relentlessly. Raffles, cakewalks, school carnivals, town festivals, if the prize was cake-related, he was the Man. The Cake Man. When he was 16 he rocked a cake walk in the town of West, Texas (which is in west Texas, believe it or not. Have you noticed that Texans are somewhat....less than sibilant with their town names? Sheesh.) It was a 4th of July Town Festival and he just started winning cakes. By this time he was riding high on three years worth of victorious cakes. The Eagle Scouts cake raffle, the school carnival cake walks, he was the Pied Piper of cakes, a cake magnet. I think by the time of the Texas cake walk he was entering cake walks for the thrill involved; I think he planned on throwing them back. He bought his ticket, stood on the starting number in the circle and the music began. I imagine polka music at first, followed by some country western ("we have both kinds!") and then, scrraatch! *SFX: Sound of record needle scratching against record, just believe me, all you who've never heard that.* The music stopped. He won a cake. And another. And another. He said that after the 5th cake people were starting to revolt. Rumors started flying, the cake walk was fixed, that damned furriner was taking all their cakes; the California Cake Walk Kid was robbing them blind. I can just imagine them, starting to feel for their .44's, eyes narrowing. He started giving cakes away. He won more. Finally after NINE CAKES IN A ROW, he lost & you could almost hear the guns slide back into holsters. He never walked another cake walk, figuring he better quit while he was still alive. They take their cakes walks seriously in the Lone Star State. Beware.
So I bring this up because today B and I went to Salinas to pick up G from a 2 night stint with Grandma (woohoo!). We met them at the little school carnival around the corner. When G first saw us she started to run towards us on the lawn with her arms open wide, her red hair glinting against the green grass, blue eyes flashing. "Hi! Hi!" she yelled. It was a moment.
Grandma followed behind, slowed by some bulky parcels in her arms. "Guess who won her first cake?" she said. Yes, our Amazing Miss G cleaned up at the school carnival cake walk. Dark chocolate with rainbow sprinkles.

Cake Walk Gene vs. Hobbit Feet Gene
Apparently there's a Cake Walk Champion gene, and my daughter has inherited it. I'm glad B passed on this trait, I'd much rather have cake winners in the family, rather that than say, some of the other possible family traits like myopia (both of us), lateness (me) or the hairy, hobbit feet gene which is definitely from his side of the family.....
I always wanted to have an all day concert with local punk bands that had a cake walk in between bands because then you could bill it as a 'Punk Rock Cake Walk', words that sound really great together.
I haven't been around the local punk scene since high school (just a couple of semesters ago, really *cough cough*) so I've settled for a 'Root Beer Float Blanket Fort Party' which is also really hard to say. But very fun to do. Maybe we need to have another........

And a word to Susan, author of 'The Bricks in the Cave' -I love your story! I'm trying to write a book review to do it justice, which is hard. I've blog rolled your site, meanwhile, and hope to have a review soon! Thanks for checking back!


Musings of the Walker::Kirsten, Dundee

Introducing Musings of the Walker, a blog by my friend, Kirsten (Walker), of Dundee, Scotland.
I first met Kirsten in YWAM, at the Seamill Centre, where she was a student and I was on staff as the groondskeepahrr. She hearkens from Athelstaneford, a town of too many syllables for me to pronounce with ease. Athel___ford is, I believe, near Edinburgh. Kirsten's one of the few people I know who's house has a name: The Manse (her father is a Church of Scotland minister. -Kirsten, do you mind this much disclosure? Sorry!) I remember in particular a great night of busting out old tunes in the red-tiled kitchen of the Seamill Centre, when we were on dish duty with her. Since she grew up in the (sniff!) Church of Scotland and we were hymn fans, we ended up harmonizing on a robust rendition of 'Praise to the Lord', you know, the one by that superstar of 17th century hymnody, Joachim Neander. And besides having one of my favourite Scottish accents, she has the distinction of being the person who first introduced me to that great Scottish slang word, 'mingin'.
Kirsten is currently living in Dundee, which is sort of in the middle of the country, north a bit from Edinburgh by 45 minutes or so (help me out here, Kirsten, or Jessica). She's been there for a few years now, sharing the love of God in a city that needs it.
I appreciate that about her, that she is trying to be faithful to share the good things in her life. So, check out her blog, and do be sure to ask her about what she got up to at St. Andrew's Uni. I don't think St. Andrew's ever quite recovered from Kirsten's student years there.....


Silly British Town Names

The following town names are all true, and for their veracity, I point to the 1999 Ordnance Survey Motoring Atlas of Britain. (Now in tatters, aquired on our honeymoon.) This list was compiled long ago, after several silly late nights with the Elevens. Feel free to add any that we've missed (this list is by no means exhaustive. Those Brits are way too prolific with their silliness.)

Towns named after animals

Catbrain (been there! Above Bristol.)


Dog Village


...and body parts

Upper Sharp Nose

Lower Sharp Nose

Long Nose Spit


Devil's Elbow



Guy's Head



...and a lot about bottoms and stains

Prat's Bottom

5 Mile Bottom

6 Mile Bottom



Toot Hill Butts (actually a road near C.S. Lewis' house in Oxford.)




....strange & unpleasant diseases





and the ones about food:




Bacon End




Cheesefoothead (one of my very favourites)


Chew Magna

...now that's too silly:

















.....I've left the best for last (drumroll...)

Great Heck




BBC's Gardener's World

So this is my secret gardener crush, except that I'm married and er...straight. Maybe I wish she was a friend? Who am I kidding-it's envy. Pure and simple. I want her hair, I want her job, I want her dog. Isn't that just lovely. She is one Alys Fowler, the garden manager at Berryfields, the garden where the BBC's Gardener's World is filmed. Have a peek at her blog, which is interesting and well-written. Watch her video on winter pruning- she knows her stuff. And tell her Rosa sent you. We're old friends.
"One's television is brilliant...."
Everyone always says that British TV is more interesting, and I'd have to agree, but then again, I like TV shows about British garden history and period reality shows like Regency House Party, as well as cute little shorts like 'What The Romans Did For Us' which has that distinctly public television/shapeless-cardigan-with-holey-elbows feel. Yep, I'm getting old.
Hobbits, All
One more reason to love the Brits is for their centuries-old love affair with gardening. Case in point, Gardener's World, which is prime time, (Friday nights, I believe) and watched by everyone. Not just old people and crunchy yuppies, but everyone. The Gardener's World presenters are all good-looking and rugged as they put poly-tunnels over their lettuce beds and create little habitats for hedgehogs at the edges of the garden. They appear so at ease as they pot up cuttings, create wildflower meadows and do a hundred little things that would utterly confound me. While B and I lived in Scotland, the Chelsea Flower Show in London had live coverage, all weekend long. Can you picture that happening in the U.S.? I can't.
And strangely, a lot of these gardening superstars have names that sound like stage names, so well are they suited to their jobs: Bob Flowerdew, Pippa Greenwood, Alan Titmarsh, Bunny Guiness. But then again, the British are known for their propensity for silly-sounding names, as evidenced in my next post.........


Tree and Leaf

Yesterday found me walking down to the little wooden bridge that spans the first murky splashes of Ferndell Springs; which tumbles in fits and spurts until it throws itself over the edge of the canyon into the confluence of Bean and Zayante Creeks below. I held a little hand in mine and we flung leaves into the abyss. Not very abyssmal, at the point of it's inception it is little more than a glass of water spilled over the redwood forest floor. Someone had hung a hammock nearby which G and I decided had been placed there expressly for our comfort. And we swung gently midst the ferns and withered blackberry brambles; with the redwood tree tops above us- all viewed from a deliciously lazy angle. Crows flew overhead, and each tree's pinnacle seemed impossibly far away; we laughed at how spindly they seemed as they swayed in the breeze. I live in verdant splendour and it is good to feel myself a part of it. I also like that G, at 2 1/2, knows the difference between a redwood tree and an oak tree. "That's right, honey, the Sequoia sempervirens is a gymnosperm and the Quercus agricifolia is an angiosperm."

( I hope the kids won't make fun at her at preschool, maybe we should have waited until kindergarten to do botany flashcards with her.......)

So, last night I borrowed a book of C.S. Lewis' poetry from the Elevens and came upon this gem.

The Future of Forestry

'How will the legend of the age of trees
Feel, when the last tree falls in England?
When the concrete spreads and the town conquers
The country's heart; when the contraceptive
Tarmac's laid where farm has faded,
Tramline flows where slept a hamlet,
And shop-fronts, blazing without a stop from
Dover to Wrath, have glazed us over?
Simplest tales will then bewilder
The questioning children, 'What is a chestnut?
Say what it means to climb a Beanstalk.
Tell me, grandfather, what an elm is.
What was Autumn? They never taught us.'
Then, told by teachers how once from mould
Came growing creatures of lower nature
Able to live and die, though neither
Beast nor man, and around them wreathing
Excellent clothing, breathing sunlight-
Half understanding, their ill-acquainted
Fancy will tint their wonder-paintings
-Trees as men walking, wood-romances
of goblins stalking in silky green,
Of milk-sheen froth upon the lace of hawthorn's
Collar, pallor on the face of a birchgirl.
So shall a homeless time, though dimly
Catch from afar (for the soul is watchful)
A sight of tree-delighted Eden.'

(Taken from 'The Backward Glance'.)

And a last note: searching through Flickr found me this photo and proof that the internet is actually a tiny place, for I stumbled across the photostream of a flesh and blood friend of mine, Peter Thomsen; who really does take exceptional photos and drives a very nice 60-something VW Bug, (white, rag-top) which Brad & I try hard not to covet. And then there's the vintage Vespa. It's really not fair, actually, but we've forgiven him for having such cool stuff, and like him all the same. Thanks for the photo, and hello to the missus!



It's so depressing to write for a whole half hour and then to delete it just as you are changing the font size, selecting all the text and then scrolling down just a mite too far. It's hard to believe that it's all gone. And believe me, it was good. I'm fed up. Where's my pen and paper? Forget this!


Plays, Poems and Blogs, a Typical Sunday

So many things happening: the VFC Christmas non-play script is nearly all finished, we have been working our little fingers to the bone, all typety-typety after G is asleep. It's been so great to work with a team of such creative and inspired people. I've loved the collaboration we have going. Today we had the first meeting after church for anyone interested in helping out. It was a little unnerving-setting our little script out like a toy boat on the water. So far so good!

My favourite part of the whole non-play is that we will be inviting poets in our community to write original pieces about the coming of the Messiah, specifically about the longing and expectation. ( I keep thinking about the hymn title,"Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus.) A few of these poems will be read during the play, sort of modern day versions of the Old Testament prophecies concerning Jesus. So, if you are a Vintage poet-please write!

Adventblog 2007

And we're attempting to pull off an advent blog-really it's blatant plagiarism, sorry, Neal-but hey, feel flattered, because it's a great idea. Basically, we're inviting people to sign up to post a blog entry on a day during the season of Advent (first Sunday in December through Christmas Day). Most likely through the Vintage Faith blog address. The idea is that on your day you can post prose or poetry (original or not), a devotion, picture or whatever you like........ I participated in Neal's lentblog and it ended up being quite meaningful to me. For the first time I took part in Lent, a season with which I'd had little to do. We should start announcing it within the next month at church.......


tired but coming back to life

This week has just felt monumentally long. I am tired and just grumpy all day. I stayed home from work on Wednesday after a weepy breakdown on Tuesday night, blubbering into the marinara sauce on the stove. (A new all-time low!) I think I need to change my schedule around, because I really want this going back to work thing to work! I'm trying to jam too many things into one day, and it shows. I am at one job in the AM with G, and then we rush home for lunch and a quick house-cleaning before our little baby friend comes over at 1:30, she stays until 5:30. In theory all of this should work, but there I am, blubbing in the spaghetti. I think I can shift things around so that I don't do both of these jobs on the same day, which is, I think, the only answer to the blubbing problem besides just giving up one of them all together.
But on a happier note, B is singing to G one of my favourite Sesame Street songs, "Breakfast Time", a duet between Ernie and Cookie Monster. Good old Jeff Moss, who also wrote 'People in Your Neighborhood'. B's sweet and noble tenor is one of the things that first endeared him to me, along with his goofy repetiore. And G sits beside him, busily rubbing a handful of scarlet runner beans, harvested from our garden. She is officially sweet and clean, being lately come from a bath, nice and damp, clothed in slippery red pajamas. I am glad for my life, and I remember all the good things God has given me, even as I record them. I'm off to read doggie books. Arooff! Aroof!


A Morning Quote

'I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now that I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.'

-Thomas Merton


In Which I Am On A Chesterton Kick:
Gold Leaves

Lo! I am come to Autumn,
When all the leaves are gold;
Grey hairs and golden leaves cry out
The year and I are old.

In youth I sought the prince of men,
Captain in cosmic wars,
Our Titan, even the weeds would show
Defiant, to the stars.

But now a great thing in the street
Seems any human nod,
Where shift in strange democracy
The million masks of God.

In youth I sought the golden flower
Hidden in wood or wold,
But I am come to autumn
When all the leaves are gold.

-G.K. Chesterton

I especially love the line 'where shift in strange democracy/The million masks of God. Very Up With People.

Thank you, Andy Goldsworthy for this picture. (And as always thank you for being such a loyal rosa-sinensis reader. Love those rock stacks!)



Jesus welcomed children, even used one as an example before all His friends. "If any of you want to enter the kingdom of heaven," He said sternly, looking each in the eye,"You must become like one of these." I love Jesus' shock and awe teachings. Love your enemy; turn the other cheek; if someone asks for your cloak, give him your tunic as well; along with my personal favourite shocker, 'I and the Father are One.' Not the thing to tell a group of extreme Orthodox Jews if you are trying to garner a following. And then there's this one: instead of jockeying for position, become like this rugrat, and then get back to me. I love it. I was musing upon this idea last night and I was reminded of something GK Chesterton once said.

'The sun rises every morning. I do not rise every morning; but the variation is due not to my activity, but to my inaction. Now, to put the matter in a popular phrase, it might be true that the sun rises regularly because he never gets tired of rising. His routine might be due, not to a lifelessness, but to a rush of life. The thing I mean can be seen, for instance in children, when they find some game or joke that they specially enjoy. A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not abscence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, "Do it again"; and the grown up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again" to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike, it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we."
-G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

photo credit: rr rocketman (nice one!)


The Unabashed Fecundity of God

I went on a silent prayer walk today, as part of our church's leadership retreat. The leader of this retreat told us to look for God in the ordinary things, and to trust that He would speak to us.
Here is what I discovered:

Purple-throated salvia mexicana 'Limelight' blossoms, surrounded by lime green calyces. Pheasantberry heavy with it's scarlet fruit, reminiscent of the dearly missed Laundry Garden in Seamill, Scotland. A Salvia apiana leaf, glowing pale grey in the noonday sun, mysterious scent of dry California hills & split rail fences, And you, scented pelargonium, with velveted tufts against my cheek, you are just too much. These items held in my hand were a riot of colour, and I was at once struck by the unabashed fecundity of God, the feasting, the revelry, the richness of His creation. His richness versus my meagreness. My own poverty of spirit, the paucity with which I love others, and see the world. I am one who has measured out her life in coffeespoons, like T.S. Elliot wrote in the The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. What a stark contrast: His wild and jovial nature vs. my wooden and staid responses. I sat there in the little mission chapel garden and held a handful of God's garden of earthly delights. Looking around with new eyes, I saw it everywhere. The elegance of water reflected on stone and lily pads floating on green glass.

"In quietness and rest is your salvation"


Juneau, Glaciers, Alaska,

This is the Grand Pacific glacier, seen at the end of the Tar Inslet, in Glacier Bay, Alaska. My camera is pretty ancient, so it's not the best, sorry. But it was hard to capture any image with such a monochromatic landscape. It was as if the sky, land and sea were all mufffled and subdued. When the ship cut it's engine so that we could float gently alongside this glacial beauty, it was absolutely silent. All that I saw, from the ship's railings to the diaphanous blue turrets and minarets of the glacier's seracs were enveloped in a grey mist, like a cloak from Loth-Lorien. (Did I really just use a LOTR elf reference? Oh dear. Hey, at least I didn't start writing in elf runes. Cart me away when that happens, okay?)

Oh-and here we are at the Mendenhall glacier and Mendenhall lake which was strewn with icebergs. Our Juneauian (?) friend, Treavor used to swim in it when he was a kid. I guess there was a hidden sand bar that somehow made it much warmer to swim in, and tourists used to take photos of Treavor and his wild Alaskan clansmen swimming near the icebergs. This glacier is receding, although not all of them are receding, some are growing, but Al Gore keeps that one pretty quiet, dontcha think?

Okay, too tired to type.
Next time at least one from this list:
*My Most Embarassing Moment on the Cruise (In Which I Crash A Life Boat Drill)
*Update on October in the Garden (Key Ingredient: Procrastination)
*Review and recommendation of 'The Tale of Desperaux', by Kate DiCamillo
But later, later.
Good night kittens, Goodnight mittens!


Message from the Frontier State

It's hard work being on a cruise. First, there's all the decisions. Like, should we have dinner on the Lido Deck (Deck 9) at the buffet-style restaurant, or fancy sit-down dinner at the Vista Dining Room (Deck 3) or just mojito shooters at the Crow's Nest (Deck 10?) Maybe I should just stay in and order room service.......just like yesterday, and the day before that. There's just so many ways to get fat in one week! And then there's the outfits-the glitter or the velour track suit? Decisions, decisions. .....
But Alaska is just so fabulous. Right now I'm in the hospitable home of the Mahle's, native Alaskans who kindly spent the afternoon showing off their capital city, Juneau. We climbed the twisty streets to the local Orthodox church, to see where my old friend Cana came to meet her long-distance love, Basil, and had mango waffles and Americanos in a homey coffeehouse.
We cavorted around with the Mendenhall Glacier, icebergs, sock-eye salmon and all, and even managed to run into a BLACK BEAR, which made all my Alaska dreams come true. Yesterday was spent in Glacier Bay, up the Johns Hopkins and Tar inslets, communing with the mighty Marjorie and Grand Pacific glaciers. Glaciers are the color of a blue Slushee, with Oreo cookies crumbled on top. Their tops are covered with seracs, beautiful towering spires, jagged and crowning. The whole bay was silent, looming and majestic. The silence was broken only a couple of times by loud cracks in the glacier, when we would all stand together, breath held, on the Promenade Deck, waiting for a possible glacier-calfing. (This is how you get icebergs.) Tomorrow it is Sitka, and the next day is Ketchikan. We're all having a great time, and Alaska is glorious.
And lastly, a quote by Mark Twain, the master of understatement:
"A man who keeps company with glaciers
comes to feel tolerably insignificant by and by."



Welcome Pinetoast to the blogosphere! He's starting off chronicling our unlikely adventures on a cruise, of all things. Only the love and deep pockets of a parents could get us on board this beauty, the Noordam. We leave in two days, and nothing is ready. Laundry is undone, suitcases in a mournful slump in the Blue Room (office cum garbage tip), hair uncut, G's thinking about getting sick, my eyes are crossing with sleepiness. I was so happy to see Piney want to blog that I dropped everything to sit down and give him a proper (if not cross-eyed) welcome. Go check it out! This is the best way, maybe, to hear about our cruise. I expect ole Piney to be spending plenty of time in the internet cafe aboard the ship, while I am doing latch hook rugs, line-dancing classes and shuffle board competitions. Sounds like a blast. A good way to celebrate Mum's 60th birthday, splashing out by taking her kids on a cruise to Alaska. The Great White North, Piney calls it.
For the record: books I am bringing on our trip:

1) trying to read more of the Good Book

2) The Treasure-Seekers by E. Nesbit (E. Nesbit is a rare jewel well worth finding. This book is hu-larious.)

3) The Railway Children by E. Nesbit (A very satisfying and cozy sort of book.)

4)Blessed are the Cheesemakers by Sarah-Kate Lynch (untried territory, trusting to Mum's good taste.)

5) The Tea House on Mulberry Street by Sharon Owens (definitely of the Rosamunde Pilcher/Maeve Binchy School of Literature, good cruise fodder.)

I have vague feelings that I should be reading The Call of the Wild, but that just sounds too much like school for me to bother with.

This is it so far, and I'm a little nervous about how short this list is. What else should I bring? (*worry*)
If all goes according to plan, we'll be visiting the mighty Mahle's, our friends and neighbors from the Seamill Centre, in North Ayreshire, Scoland. (We lived on the same hall.) They live in Juneau and we are so glad to spend the day with them there. Okay, my eyes can't focus any longer. Time to say goodnight.


Gone Again Is Summer, The Lovely

i stood in the garden,
face held aloft,
nose slightly twitching
at the change
borne on the skirts of
the wind that came
billowing through the trees.
sweeping away
the detritus of summer:
oak leaf, cob web, grey twig,
dust upon dust.
Like so many unwanted nannies,
clutching hats and
inside out umbrellas,
taking their leave(s).
In earnest does God keep His House.

(Okay, so Shelley said it much better:)

O Wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn's being,
Thou whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing.

Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,
Pestilence-stricken multitudes O thou,
Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed

The winged seeds, where they lie cold and low,
Each like a corpse within its grave, until
Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow

Her clarion o'er the dreaming earth, and fill
(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air)
With living hues and odours plain and hill:

Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere;
Destroyer and preserver, hear, oh, hear!

-Percy Blake Shelley (1792-1822)
photo credit: etolane

Morning Prayer

O Jesus Christ, all thanks be to thee
Who has brought me safely through last night,
To the morning joy of this day's light,
To win everlasting life for me,
Through the blood that thou didst shed for me.

O God, for ever praise be to thee,
For the blessing the bestw'st on me-
For my food, my work, my health, my speech,
For all the good gifts bestowest on each,
O God, for ever praise be to thee.

I pray thee now to shield me from woe,
From sinning, this night to consecrate,
God of the poor, and I poor and low,
O Christ of the wounds, thy wisdom great
Along with thy grace on me bestow.

May the Holy One make claim on me,
And protect me on the land and sea,
Step by step leading me on my way
To the City of everlasting day,
Peace to the City that lasts for aye.

-Poems of the Western Highlanders


My New (So-Called) Life

There's so much going on right now. I am so tired! Today, I fell asleep in traffic -no, I wasn't driving-and when I close my eyes to pray over our dinner, my eyes go all unfocused & bleary when I open them. It reminds me of when G was an infant.
Today was the first day of my new life, the day I officially re-entered the workforce, after nearly 4 years since my last 'proper' job . Now I trot off, with G in tow, to a preschool in our nearby burgh, where I am a teacher. This is a job I had in a previous life, when I was young and carefree (married with no children). I really liked it back then, and I hope I can do it again. This work scenario has so many great things going for it; for instance, we can stay a one car family, as my commuter car is a jog stroller. Nice. Also, we don't have to pay for childcare, which can really be the thing that swings the whole deal. (You have to make sure you make enough money to pay for childcare, and then enough on top of that to make the whole thing worthwhile, otherwise you are just working so you can afford to pay for childcare.) So. It's not the garden dream job that I'd coveted (they never called me back, but who needs them anyway? Nyah.)
So, I taught preschool all morning, and then came home to CB waiting on our doorstep. CB is our new little baby friend who comes over 3x a week in the afternoons. This is another job, one that again, has zero commute and no childcare costs. So far so good. B and I figured out that we're working 4 jobs between us. Which sounds sort of dreadful, but it's not so bad so far. Talk to me again in a couple of months, and pray that you don't find me drooling & gibbering to myself in the corner.
God grant me strength!
Oh, and next week we're going to Alaska. Aboard this tiny ship. I hope they don't ask me to row.
(Thanks, Mum!)


Swallows and Amazons Forever!

I 'd have to say, in response to Franny's blog, that if I were able to pick books to bring on a desert island, it seems most prudent to bring along picks from one of my favourite genres, the juvenile adventure. The seminal series of this genre would have to be Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons, as well as Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie. What makes these series so great (and so particularly handy) is how they spend so much time describing how to do things. Swallows chronicles the Walker children and their boat (the Swallow) as they sail on one of the northern lakes in England, possibly Windermere. They spend the summer on an island, and do battle with the mighty Amazons, two girls who live across the lake. They declare a truce and spend the rest of the summer camping, whittling, spying, and eating pemmican, whatever that is. There's loads of unintelligble sailing jargon, all tacking and jibs & hoisting main sails. It is enormously satisfying in much the same manner as Kenneth Grahame's Wind in the Willows & E. Nesbit's The Railway Children.
The Islanders
When we were moving to Scotland, I was bemoaning to Eleven that I didn't have anything to read on the plane. She turned up at my door with a real gem, one of those "Where have you been all my life?" sort of things, (like Sufjan Stevens and Nutella.) I'm talking about Roland Pertwee's The Islanders, set in the West Country (Devon?) of southern England, sometime soon after the first World War. A generous, slightly eccentric old man gives a teen age boy and his two friends the run of an island on a river, somewhere on his massive estate. They can live there and come and go as they please, but they have to live by their wits, and by the work of their hands. What ensues is a book full of adventure, and much practical instruction, perfect for the next time I need to hunt my dinner with a rifle, lash logs together to make a raft, ride out with the neighborhood Hunt, or outwit the Gypsy kids that are poaching fish. It is such a cozy and satisfying read, as I said to Eleven, it was like eating lots of toast with a big mug of sweet milky black tea. **fake Scottish burr** Och aye! Verra verra cozy. I wanted to curl up in it. Unfortunately, it's pretty hard to find, but I always ask for it when I'm at good bookstores. ( Recent attempts include: Bell's Book's- Palo Alto, The Linden Tree-Los Altos Hills; but I struck out, alas.) I suppose I could try searching for it out in cyber space, but I like having a quest. Many things are very easy, these days; it feels good to have something that I can't instantly access. If you run across a copy of it, I'll pay you handsomely for it! At any rate, check out Arthur Ransome's wiki entry, because it is fascinating. A surprising tale full Russian expatriates, smuggled diamonds and MI5 British Intelligence.
Little House
I add Little House books because of their endless & interesting descriptions. Pa making a door for their log cabin, Alonzo and his sister during the harvest on the family farm, all of her books describe life at that time with such vivid and yet practical prose. I found her detailed descriptions of tasks oddly absorbing when I first read them, and I used to imagine that I was with Laura and Mary in their earthen home in On the Banks of Plum Creek.

All these books rank high on my list of cozy literature...I mean, sure I want adventure-but do I have to go outside?!!



I knew my poor little introverted self was sorely suffering when, after getting in the pool with G & grandma yesterday, I swam out to the deep end and floated there on my back, all the while exulting silently, "I'm alone! Finally, ALONE!" So, G is staying not one, but TWO nights in Steinbecktown, and I am alone in a very quiet house.
My little G is fabulous, stupendous, and I love her fit to burst. She is also very very vocal (I mean she is a real gibber machine ). And at such a volume-her Papa plays with her sans hearing aids. She is all about gathering information right now, piecing her universe together, but while B has the patience to explain all manner of life to her, I weary of it.
"Why? Why?" is her sing song chant, all the live long day, and I feel like Bill Nye the Science Guy explaining why she can't play with the electrical cords ("because the ekeltricity will come and get you!") and why the ice melts all over mommy's bed when she leaves it there (grr!) But when I get to the end of all my patient explaining, usually there is still one last, "Oh. ..........Why?" that lets me know that although she sometimes has words beyond her tender years, she's without a lot of the reasoning that is required to fully absorb the answers to her many questions. I mean, she's still only two and a half.
Lately I've heard of friends who have really been struggling with the health of their daughter, and I know I have so so much to be thankful for, not the least that my little lovey can speak at all. What's the famous prayer? "God, give me the strength to endure my blessings?" So, I'm trying to take a lot of deep breaths, and to share the joy of life with our little Investigator (hence the trips to grandma's) and to remember that this too shall pass-probably much too soon.


Tuesdays With Milton


'O mighty-mouthed inventor of harmonies,
O skilled to sing of Time or Eternity,
God-gifted organ-voice of England,
Milton, a name to resound for ages;
Whose Titan angels, Gabriel, Abdiel,
Starred from Jehovah's gorgeous armouries,
Tower, as the deep-domed empyrean
Rings to the roar of an angel onset-
Me rather all that bowery loneliness,
The brooks of Eden mazily murmuring,
And bloom profuse and cedar arches
Charm, as a wanderer out in ocean,
Where some refulgent sunset of India
Streams o'er a rich ambrosial ocean-isle,
And crimson-hued the stately palm-woods
Whisper in odorous heights of even.'
-John Milton
photo credit: David Stepka

What I Am Currently Reading, Because Lists Are Fun; An Addendum

The Two Towers by JRR Tolkien
An Experiment in Criticism by CS Lewis
Behind the Lines by AA Milne (poems written during the first 9 months of WW2)
Morning By Morning (daily devotions) by Charles Spurgeon
Gospel of St. John (so far, Jesus is talking to Nicodemus at night about birth, wind and snakes.)


I like CS Lewis' description of a 'literary person' that I read today: "..the first reading of some literary work is often, to the literary, an experience so momentous that only experiences of love, religion, or bereavement can furnish a standard of comparison. Their whole consciousness is changed. They have become what they were not before......scenes and characters from books provide them with an iconography by which they interpret or sum up their experience. They talk to one another about books, often and at length." ('An Experiment in Criticism').

I was terrible at sports, shy, gawky & pale in a school full of future Baywatch extras. Picked Last For Kickball could be my epitaph. Somehow I discovered that I liked to read. Finally something I was good at. Besides, it took little coordination to hold a book, and I could stay inside, away from the great eye of Phoebus that would burn my Celtic skin and make my squinty near-sightedness even more pronounced. (I was classic Indoor Girl, and Indoorness is one of the first things that endeared me to Pastor Dan, the ultimate Indoor Boy.)
So, books. This became my identity: book plates, bookends, book store gift certificates, these made up my Christmas haul each year. And I was fine with that-heck, I was grateful for the identity; glad to have some sort of label to hang my hat on....
It was mysteries at first: Bobbsey Twins, Encyclopedia Brown, Three Investigators, Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew.These led into the harder stuff: Agatha Christie in fifth grade and then Stephen King at my dad's house in the summer (reading The Shining at night at your dad's house in the woods is a real mistake.) And then to my dad's trashy pulp fiction; one summer my grandpa found me reading Jackie Collins and dragged me down to a bookstore and filled my arms with P.G. Wodehouse's Jeeves & Wooster novels, as well as Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes adventures. (Thanks, Grandpa!)
In high school it was the Beat poets (Kerouac, Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti, et al) with many trips to the fabled City Lights Bookstore in SF and surrealist writers like Paul Bowles, Camus and the one about the guy who turns into a bug.........oh, and Oscar Wilde b/c of Morrissey (what a poser I was!) J.D. Salinger, O. Henry, and for some reason, Baroness Orczy's The Scarlet Pimpernel were all favourites.
I've long loved children's literature, particularly the juvenile novel, or what I used to call 'chapter books' when I was first reading them. Madeline L'engle is good for dozens of these, and I once met one of my heroes, Beverly Cleary, at a book-signing in Carmel. Oh the Judy Blume books that I've pored over! All about bras, periods & other subjects of preteen angst.........
In all this I never considered myself 'literary'.... probably because I'd never read Anna Karenina, or Wuthering Heights and didn't particularly want to. I just liked to read.
It's somehow a relief, this Lewis quote: what makes a person 'literary' depends more upon your personality than about your *sniff* literary pursuits.
So by now I've figured out that God speaks to me through story, through words and allegory, and I see now that all along He was waiting for me to read with "eyes to see'-to read through the words on the page as if they were windows looking into another place. I like Dr. Mullholland's exhortation in 'Shaped By the Word': to approach the Scripture with awe, and think of it as iconographical, as a window into heaven, so that through our reading of the Word we can get a glimpse into that Other Place. How good of God to speak to us each in turn, in the way that we can best listen.

Read Your Way Through the Garden: Choice Tomes From Garden Literature

  • A Book of Salvias by Betsy Clebsch
  • Botany for Gardeners by Brian Capon
  • Making Bentwood Trellises by Jim Long
  • RHS Encyclopedia of Plants & Flowers
  • Rose Primer: An Organic Approach to Rose Selection & Care by Orin Martin
  • Start With the Soil by Grace Gershuny
  • Sunset Western Garden Book
  • Sunset Western Landscaping Book
  • The Book of Garden Secrets by Patent & Bilderback
  • The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Botany
  • the Gardener's Table: A Guide to Natural Vegetable Growing and Cooking by Richard Merrill & Joe Ortiz
  • The Gardener's Year by Karel Capek
  • The Hutchinson Dictionary of Plant Names: Common & Botanical
  • We Made A Garden by Margaret Fish

lotsa latin: rosa's botanical & etymological ruminations

  • vespertinus: flowers in the evening
  • vernalis:spring
  • veni vidi nates calcalvi: we came, we saw, we kicked butt. This was printed on a T shirt I bought at Abbot's Thrift many years ago. It encircled the NEA symbol. I wish I knew why.
  • superciliaris: shaped like an eyebrow ex: sturnella superciliaris, the White-browed Blackbird
  • rosa-sinensis: species of Hibiscus: Hibiscus rosa-sinensis. Lit. Rosa of China, so named by British plant hunters.
  • placentiformis: shaped like a cake ex: discocactus placentiformis
  • nudiflorus: flowers before leaves show ex: flowering quince, magnolia
  • nivalis: growing in or near snow ex: galanthus nivalis (common snowdrop)
  • muralis: growing on walls
  • mirabilis: marvellous, wonderful
  • formosa: beautiful ex: dicentra formosa, a.k.a.western bleeding heart/dutchman's breeches/lady in a bath
  • carpe vitam: get a life
  • Carolus Linnaeus: Latinized name of Carl von Linne (1707-1778), Swedish naturalist considered the father of plant taxonomy. Whatta guy.