Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Loose Moose

Worldly worry always seeks to lead a human being into the small-minded unrest of comparisons, away from the lofty calmness of simple thoughts. Soren Kierkegaard

My wife and I were out for a walk the other day and had just about returned home when a passing motorist warned us to be careful as there was a mother moose and her calf just a few doors up the street. Being the nature lover that I am, and knowing there is nothing more dangerous than a wild animal protecting her off-spring, I decided immediately to go check it out.

We figuratively flew into the house (as I would never “literally” run), where I grabbed my camera so I could digitally chronicle our latest adventure. Yes, the Call of the Wild beckons, and woe betide the one who misfortunately deigns to get in the way!

We hopped into our car (more like a tin box on roller skates than armored personnel carrier, but (alas) it is what it is). I was confidant it would give us time to vamoose if things got ugly (and, yes, moose ARE fairly ugly, to be sure). I was also pretty sure the momma moose would have to stop laughing before she could give chase for the sake of her darling little baby, so there WAS that.

It seemed awfully silly to drive a hundred feet or so from our house to where the moose were purported to be cavorting (yet, it really was the wise thing to do), and lo and behold: there they were! The good news is that both creatures were relaxing well off the road, so danger was pretty minimal.

My camera has a decent telephoto lens, so I was able to snap a few shots that, for an action junkie like me, were pretty snooze-inducing. Still, there is no thrill like seeing a moose up close and personal.

It was ironic as we’d gone out on what I had intended to be a “photo safari” a day or so earlier, always on the hunt for breath-taking scenery and creatures of the wild, but had been pretty much skunked on both counts. Much to our disappointment, there just wasn’t anything “out there” to be captured on film or memory card.

Instead, it turned out we had to come home to capture the excitement of real life critters that amuse, (a-moose?), and amaze.

I shouldn’t have been so surprised, of course. We have it on good authority by no less a figure than Dorothy that “there is no place like home.” She said it, I believe it, and so that settles it! Unfortunately, there were no lions, tigers, or bears (oh my), but there was the moose, and that, as they say, was that.

Life is funny that way; it seems we humans go looking for fun and exhilaration – searching high and low, hither, thither, and yon – while the greatest delights are so often to be found right here where we dwell.

When all the excitement was over and world order restored, I found myself looking back on all we had seen and done and discerned that there was one thing that had been left undone – one thing left untended in all the hub-bub and unbridled haste with which we had scrambled to “get our shot” – the kindness of a stranger – a neighbor – who had bothered to stop and warn us of danger lying unseen around a corner.

I am sure she does not think of herself as an angel of mercy or a messenger sent by God, yet she demonstrated that very characteristic by which the people of God are often measured: thoughtfulness and compassion. She did not drive past, she slowed and stopped; she didn’t stop, pull out her cell-phone, and prepare to capture the potential carnage for the evening news, she warned us of the dangers.

I am sure we thanked her for the alert, but in our haste I am just as sure my thoughts were more about getting my camera than a heart-felt appreciation that we have such a good neighbor (and live in a community filled with such good neighbors).

I don’t know who our benefactor is or was, but I do want her to know that I appreciate what she did. The Lord smiles upon her in this, our valley – of that I’m very sure!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Stepping High in the Valley

Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest – Psalm 55

The other day I was walking back to the church from the Post Office in Virginia City when I caught my toe on a bit of planking. I am normally pretty careful when walking on uneven surfaces, but somehow the beautiful weather had distracted me and soon I found myself pirouetting along the board-walk, making every effort not to become “one with the wood.”

I am glad to report that I survived the incident. In fact, not only did I remain upright, but I found myself laughing hysterically the rest of the way back to the church. I don’t know if anyone saw me (or heard me) – and if they had, they may well have looked to see if Cirque de Solei was in town – but no, I looked the Grim Creeper in the face, and I lived to tell about it, and if that wasn’t worth a hoot and a holler, I don’t know what is.

I think it is important to be able to laugh at oneself. I am not the most graceful biped around, as it is, so I have learned not to take myself too seriously.

One day I was serving communion and found the going slower and tougher. Wondering why I was struggling so hard to deliver the sacrament to the faithful, I looked down and discovered my cincture (the rope clergy wear around their robes) had come loose; it was wrapped around my knees and ankles.

Now, if that didn’t beat all! I simply shook my legs a bit and let the rope fall to the ground, stepped out, and continued to serve communion sans girdle: Problem solved!

I like to think of myself as a problem solver. Among my favorite movie lines is the one in Apollo 13 where Gene Kranz (played by actor Ed Harris) barks out: “Let’s work the problem, folks!” There’s no use panicking, it seems, until it is time to panic. Until then: stay calm, identify the problem, and then apply the solutions as they’re identified.

Not every solution is a good solution, of course. I am reminded of NASA’s (allegedly) spending millions to develop a pen that would work in zero gravity. Meanwhile, the Russians found pencils worked just fine. Uff da!

Sometimes my explorations get the better of me. The other day I bought a new computer to replace my old laptop (which was getting a bit dodgy). I got it home and, without going into too many details, managed to kill it – turning it into a $400 paper weight. I tried everything I knew from my twenty plus years of working on computers to bring it back to life, but all to no avail. I could hear Death chuckling quietly off in a corner of the living room.

I finally decided to swallow my pride and called Tech Support. The dude on the other end asked me to unplug the laptop, wait a moment, and then plug it back in.

Through all my years of working and playing with electrical devices, the first thing one is ALWAYS supposed to do is unplug the item, wait a moment, plug it back in, and see what it does. A laptop has a battery, so it never even occurred to me to unplug it, but … that’s all it took to restore the computer to life and full functionality. Uff da (again)!

It would have been very foolish to have not reached out for help (and goodness knows I can be the fool at times), and in the end, it was very much worth it. The solution was easy, but only in hindsight did it become obvious.

That’s just the way life is. I may not be all that graceful on my feet, but I do want to learn how to be filled with grace in my life and relationships.

I have learned that when I get tripped up, I can blame the hazard, I can blame my clumsiness, or I can remember to pay attention. As someone once said, we often fix blame, but it is better to fix the problem – so I choose to fix problems; that makes my walk much smoother in this, our valley (while Death whimpers alone in a corner). 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Away From the Valley

Your throne, O God, endures forever. Psalm 45

Barb and I are finally home from our summer vacation. We’d gone over to the Seattle area to visit our kids and family, see the sights, and enjoy a little R&R from the daily grind of living in paradise.

Despite the fires in the state of Washington, our trip west hadn’t been too bad. The air was a bit hazy, but the fires hadn’t reached their peak yet. The weather was typically hot as we began our excursion in the heady dog days of summer. We spent the first night in Wenatchee, taking a break from the drive and wanting to enjoy the glorious trip through Stevens Pass during the cooler, prettier hours of morning.

It was late afternoon when we found a motel in which to spend the night, but the room wasn’t ready. The desk clerk suggested we could go get a bite to eat and come back, if we were hungry. Since being hungry is my normal state of being (the chief means of determining at any time whether or not I am alive and/or awake) we decided we could do that. The hotelier suggested a couple of options a “block or two away”, so we decided to hoof it (and give my fitness tracker something to count).

Well, I hate to complain or suggest the folks in Wenatchee have a wicked sense of humor or lack of understanding of what entails a block or two, but we walked for a while and never came close to the suggested eateries, whereupon we turned around, hiked back to the hotel, got into the car, and made the journey the old fashioned way (by horseless carriage). Did I mention we were near triple digits and Amazonian Rain Forest levels of humidity?

Well, we finally got our meal (which was served at a glacially slow pace), returned once again to the hotel where we secured our room, and melted into a puddle of goo that was eventually restored to human form the next morning around dawn. We ate the rubber-egg and smelly-foot sausage breakfast they had prepared for their guests, then checked out and hit the road. To borrow a line from my good friend Bill over in Virginia City, we decided the best view of Wenatchee is from the rear view mirror of the car.

Anyway, we continued our journey traveling across the Cascade Mountains through Stevens Pass, which is one of the prettiest drives one can imagine. Highway 2 is a cute little two-lane blacktop that winds though the forested hills along the Wenatchee River and passing though such quaint villages as Cashmere and Leavenworth on the up-drive, and then down the west side of the pass through Monroe and on into Everett.

One of the things that makes the route so delightful, beyond the sheer beauty and majesty of the Alpine-like peaks and valleys, is the fact that so few people travel the old highway. Most folks cross the state down along Interstate 90, and why not? It’s a lot faster, there are more lanes to choose from, and it is easier to get around all the big rigs and campers that clog the roads in summertime.

While speed is nice, and lord knows my foot gets heavier on the accelerator the closer I get to my destination, the plain fact of the matter is I enjoy the more leisurely pace of the old highways; I enjoy passing through the small towns and villages that dot the landscape, providing victuals for the weary traveler, places to gas up the car, and shops in which one can while away the time checking out locally grown or crafted goodies.

I like a road that actually requires a driver to actually “drive” – accelerating, decelerating, and steering around bends, curves, and blind spots; watching for wildlife and hikers alike; climbing up into the bright sunlight on the hills, and down into the valleys with their dark shadows. Now THAT is driving!

At the end of the highway, of course, was our destination. Our trip didn’t end there, naturally; it had really only just begun. And that is a parable of life, isn’t it? We are always on a journey, and even when we arrive, there is still more that lies before us, and that’s when the fun really begins in this, our valley – and beyond.