Thursday, April 27, 2006

Mystery Solved.

It was an oddly warm winter around here. Out in the back garden I noticed a crumple of green in a corner where I hadn't remembered planting anything exciting. It alarmed me, becuase I thought that the weather was so unreasonable that the plants were beginning to venture forth only to freeze in some February regression. It had to be a persistent weed, I decided. Should be interesting to see what happens to it.

Nothing happened to it. That confirmed to me that it had to be a weed. Worthwhile plants have to be pretty special to survive tenure under my black thumb, so I doubted it was a cultivated plant. Spring came and the plant stretched forth modestly like a young child awakening from a refreshing sleep, and one day I noticed flower buds on it. I was thoroughly puzzled.

Now, I'm always going off to the nursery in the spring to find annuals to plant, since perennials invariably die in my garden. I even carefully planted the lamium that my gardening book warned would take over aggressively (which was exactly what I hoped it would do) but it too died. I get a couple of flats of begonias for the beds, and impatiens to scatter around in pots; and then I foolishly wander off to the shade perennial section, where Spring and my emotions invariably get the better of me, and I end up buying things I hadn't at all planned on and have no idea where I will plant.

Sometimes this isn't a bad plan, since I forget all about them and then of course I am not hurt when they die, as I expect them to. And it's such a happy surprise when they survive. Every year we get at least one surprise. You just never know what's next in our yard. In fact I regularly do it with bulbs. I plant whatever appeals to me somewhere in our woodsy yard, and have a pleasant surprise every year.

This year the surprise was this Pasque flower, so named because it blooms right around Easter time. Well, it's two weeks late, but I forgave it. If it lives, it's welcome around here. I had to get on the Web to track down what it could be.

Of course it's poisonous, which is delightful.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Grocery List.

We keep a dry-erase board on our fridge to jot down gorcery needs. (The kids often use it to express their moods and whimsies, though. We've had everything from Bill the Cat up there to Ethel the Bedraggled Albatross.) Yesterday, before heading off to the aforementioned gorcery store, I was making up my list, and saw the following that I had written:

Brown rice

...and at the bottom, Ian had added:


(Which reminds me, I need to buy some lollipops to reward his smiling thoughts.)

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

I'm A Regular, I Guess.

This afternoon I was in the local super-grocery store waiting for the lady in front of me to finish getting her order checked out, while reading the Weekly World News. (Do you know, there has just been discovered a pyramid on the Moon, which, scientists speculate, got there when an asteroid swept across the Nile, and nicked it up into space, depositing it on the Moon. Gosh.)

As the last of the lady's groceries were loaded onto her cart, the checkout gal turned to me and said, "You'd like paper bags, right?" Surprised, I answered yes, and then complimented her on remembering such a small detail. "Oh, I see you every week," she said, "and I get to remembering these things about different people."

"You must have some great believe-it-or-not type stories from your time here," I commented.

"I've been here for ten years, and I can tell a few stories," she smiled, as she rung up my purchases. "There was an elderly lady who came through with only a loaf of the fresh Vienna bread from the bakery in a paper bag. Danged if she doesn't come up, take the naked loaf right out of the bag and plop it on the conveyor belt. "I don't need the bag", she said to me. I told her that the conveyor belt wasn't very clean and that the loaf was now not very clean for consumption. "I don't care" she said. "Don't need the bag." "

She continued (as I'd hoped she would), "Then there was the kid who came up and paid for something by opening his mouth and popping out the change, from his mouth to my hand! I about dropped right there!" she laughed, shuddering.

I shuddered with her. "I'll bet you keep plenty of Purell on hand, don't you." "Yup, she agreed,"I use it alot. My hands are pretty dried out, even with lots of lotion. Boy, you just never know what's next around here."

I love those believe-it-or-not stories, don't you?

Art vs. Vet

My painting instructor, Vicki, is a few years older than me, and one of these tough-as-nails-yet-tender-as-roses types. She is working on her master's, and among those on her graduate committee are my professor, D.W., with whom she worked for a year, and M. H., a lifelong friend who collects art and happens also to be a professor in the Vet School.

Last week Vicki was on her way downstairs heading for a meeting at the Pao School of Art, which is a new, modern affair with a big, airy three-story staircase on either end. She tripped on the last few steps and fell, breaking her foot. She wasn't at class the next day, having gone in for x-rays after a night of pain. After class I went back to the Vet School and reported the incident to DW, who happened just at that time to be talking with MH. Neither man had heard about it. With a wicked grin on his face, MH only said laconically, "Did she trip down those stairs, or was she thrown?"

Being the tattletail I am, I told Vicki this today before class walking alongside her as she hobbled with a heavily bandaged foot and a walker. She got a grim, determined look on her face and looked down at the floor at her foot. "Well, now, I wasn't the one who got fingers bit off because I stuck my hand in a horse's mouth", she retorted.

When I returned to the office, DW confirmed that MH indeed was missing part of one of his fingers from that very incident.

Mercy, but I am going to miss these people!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Spring Cold.

No, we are not talking about the weather here. I have a weekend cold, which is such a bore. It started Thursday evening with a dry throat, blossomed Friday in a painful throat that throat lozenges did not do much for. Then it stealthily crept up the back of my nasal passages and ambushed my sinuses, leaving just enough sore-throat soldiers behind to make it hurt when I sneeze or try to blow my nose. It's an unusually fast-moving bug, but fairly typical. The next step will be a rib-rattling, head-loosening cough.

If it does not stop there, I will develop full-blown pneumonia. Then shall I lie on my death-bed, with my children and beloved husband gathered around, my room full of flowers, the pastor sympathetically holding my hand and praying, with my best friends patting my forehead with a cool damp cloth, or down in the kitchen preparing comforting stews and breads and pies to encourage my family to take nutrition. But then there will be sweet music and an angel will escort me to Heaven's bliss.

I have to go do some luandry now.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Their Country's Dear Defense

I have a new musical obsession: William Boyce

This painting makes me wish I had known the man. He looks at once kindly, humorous and full of joy, the sort of person who would squeeze your shoulder if you were feeling blue, who treated his horses with affection, and who would point out happy little details of the countryside all around while on a carriage trip.. (A later engraving shows him rather florid, but I like this one better. All those Georgian English guys got fat and florid, but that doesn't mean their hearts changed.) I don't know how it is that I have lived so long and missed this wonderful composer. Perhaps it is that he was pretty much a contemporary of Handel, and has been overshadowed. But if you like Handel, I urge you to check out this man's music. It is truly lovely.

One of his arias has gripped me, but as with so many things, I have taken it out of context and adapted it for my own purposes. It is an aria from his New Year's Ode, written in 1774, the words of which are:

"Myriads, myriads, they see; their country's dear delight; their country's dear defense. And glory in the sight." The words refer to an English Army coming to the rescue of its country, but they put me in mind of the familiar story of 2 Kings 6:

15 When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. "Oh, my lord, what shall we do?" the servant asked.

16 "Don't be afraid," the prophet answered. "Those who are with us are more than those who are with them."

17 And Elisha prayed, "O LORD, open his eyes so he may see." Then the LORD opened the servant's eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

I wish there were a way to play the song here, but it is enchanting, and I shall remember it when I am feeling afraid. For, my brothers and sisters in Christ and I, we are of a different Country, and there are more with us than against us. My Dear Delight and Defense is Christ Himself, but His armies are for me. May my eyes, and yours, be opened in time of need!

Just A Little Mad.

There is something about spring that drives me a little mad. I know it isn't just me, at least. In college students it's called Spring Fever. There are other names for it, too, I suppose-- a common and blessed human 'affliction'. Perhaps it's only Thanks. Or a whiff of the Hope that my brothers and sisters in Christ look for which will last forever, not just for a season.

Oh, may Heaven be an eternal Spring!

We have a dogwood outside our livingroom window. Many people love dogwoods only for their pretty white flowers, but this one doesn't usually produce flowers. That's just fine with me. I rejoice in it for its leaves, watching them emerge. They appear as microscopic buds, all pointing to the sky, never straight out or towards the ground. Then they begin to elongate, and take on the freshest and most delicate of greens-- is it a color or a mist? They lengthen subtly day by day, looking exactly like tiny green flames; a whole tree full of Spring Candles, always pointing upwards. The morning sun seeks them out and illuminate them; they are the lights of early morning. At about an inch long, they begin to divide into two, and curl outwards, stretching into wakefulness.

Later they will unfurl and spread into their full, almond-shaped selves, bobbing cheerfully as they catch the raindrops which coat and polish before dripping reluctantly off their graceful tips. In the late summer their color dims just a little before deepening into variegated crimson and green which glow in the sun of autumn-- may I age so well! And in winter, after all these leaves are gone, the slender twigs will catch the snow and be draped as lace against a leaden sky, or coated with crystal ice, glittering in the thin winter sunlight. Or, simply etched and dusted with hoarfrost, just before those microscopic proto-buds emerge shyly once more, like a maiden emerging naked from her bath, reaching for her filmy robe.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

A Good Day.

Last Tuesday was busy, but it was a good day. It started out, of course with a very productive time with the Lord, in which I asked Him to guide my path through some decisions and help me to do service to Him in my work and in ministry in a timely way.

Then I went in to the studio, where I have been spending many hours working on a two paintings, one being a smaller version of another. Working on paintings these days has been so wonderful. I haven't enjoyed painting like this for decades, and it's mostly due to having just the right teacher at just the right time. She's filling in some very concrete details about color theory that never did get addressed in my college years. Or maybe I wan't any case, I'm being mightily blessed, and I thank God for this opportunity.

I like painting in the mornings. There's activity at the school, but usually no one in the studio at that hour, maybe one other person. Sure enough, when I got in, no one was there, and I happily laid out my things and got right down to work. Presently the door opened, and in walked T., a gal from the class above mine, who sometimes is in the studio at a similar time. I groaned inwardly. T. is a talker. She is certainly pleasant, but she is a bit nervously compulsive about it, the way troubled people sometimes are, and I would probably be amused if only I wasn't trying to concentrate on my painting. That plus the fact that I never wear my hearing aids while painting makes it very difficult for me to fix on the task at hand: I am trying to make polite responses to whatever she is saying and not appear surly (when I feel surly about the interruption, to be honest).

So, of course T. starts in talking. She asks me to have a look at her painting 'because you'll be shocked'. Her assignment has been to overlay one painting with another, and still another, making a statement needing interpretation. It's meant to be a large painting-- about 4x5-- and T. has started out with an iconic painting of St. Martin, with a pilgrim in supplication, arms outreached, by his horse's side. On top of that is a painting of red-flowered vines with hummingbirds, actually rather interesting and pretty. Overlaid on this is an ouline suggestive of the distinctive spiral steps of the Vatican. At this point things are beginning to become confusing, but it's still thought-provoking. But the last thing she had done was to take red paint and liberally splatter it all over the entire painting. It looks like a massacre has occurred in the studio! I literally gasped when I saw what she had done. It was upsetting, to say the least. T. saw my reaction and said, "What do you think? You don't like it, do you? I'm shocked myself, but it's a part of the assignment. I want to wipe all this red off, but I'd have to paint it all over again." All this time, I'm staring at this painting, trying to think of why it shocked me so. It isn't just that the red paint is so vandalistic. It's what's underneath it, that has been ruined. St. Martin, the garden, the beauty of the Vatican staircase...

As I try to make sense of the painting, I think aloud. I tell her that the painting has certainly become shocking, and that it is indeed hard to "like". I think it's because (I tell her) it's as if someone evil has taken a can of blood and thrown it all over images that are meant to be beautiful and good. I tell her that I am an evangelical Christian, and that the red reminds me of blood. In some respects, this has a bad connotation; in other ways it has good ones, as in the shed blood of Christ. So, to me, it becomes in one sense like a statement of what Satan has tried to do to God's poeple and His creation: the Garden, His people, and the good and lovely things they try to do to express their love for Him. Satan has ruined all that.

On the other hand, the red becomes like the blood of Christ. I told her that if she would continue to paint just a little on top of the red, to paint in again perfectly certain parts of it, like say a hummingbird and a flower, and the hand of the pilgrim and the Face of St. Martin, and a small curve of the stairs, it would speak to the redemption that Christ's blood accomplishes to all Creation. His death looks bad, but it brings forth life, and His world will be redeemed.

By this time, T. is amazed. She is asking me about the Gospel, and I tell her that we if we are hidden in Christ, we are saved from the righteous wrath of God, as we make Christ and His blood our sacrifice, and hide behind Him so that nothing of ourselves shows, only Him.. of course all this is in the most basic language I can put it in.

T. expressed amazement at this and asked where I go to church. "I want to come to your church and hear more about this," she says, a tear rolling down her face. I tell her, and she writes down the name. Pray for T. She is an emotional lady, older than the average student, and her life has not been easy. But I thank God that He shocked me out of my plans and into His at just that time. In art schools, believers are far and few in between. Pray for the harvest among the art schools of this country, and pray for the believers in them, that they may love the lost, and speak redemption to sinners therein.