Tag Archives: beauty

Two Illustrations from Nature…

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It is the weekend my Dad died nine years ago. It is the week a dear friend died one year ago. A coworker just had a miscarriage. A close friend is going through a divorce.

Illustration number one: This week I was at a work retreat up the coast. There was pine, dry grass, and dirt that acts like chalk on your shoes. The sunrise was obscured by a heavy fog being blown over the hill. As I climbed the hill I stepped into a copse of pine. I turned my head into the breeze to catch the wind in my ears and I caught another sound. It was so loud I looked around for what could cause this “pat pat pat”. Droplets had formed on the tip of every needle of every pine. I thought of the fog, how like grief, heavy, pervasive, and obscuring the view at three feet. And I thought of the trees, every day reaching out and into; by will and persistence making tangible something good and life-giving, watering themselves.

Illustration number two: Today we drove down the coast. We stopped just south of Linda Mar at a battery held aloft still by a truculent chunk of granite. High above the water and rocks, the walkway around seemed to drop out of sight with a certainty that made me hold my three-year-old’s hand tighter. Surely it would mean death to ever step past that edge. And yet, as we walked closer, we were surprised to find slopes, not gentle, but like many things in life, surprisingly survivable.

 

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Land’s End Landscape…

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I have been coming to Land’s End Trail of mornings. I sit on a bench in the chill and mist and watch the grey ocean spread beneath me like the dull side of a piece of aluminum foil crumpled and pressed smooth. It rolls out to the wide Pacific on my left, and on my right under the bridge and between the fingertips of reclining landmasses. My nose threatens to run and my shoe grinds a bit of sandy dirt as I settle.

The fog is thick and heavy just above the water, a single stanchion of the Golden Gate Bridge visible as if I am under Lady San Francisco’s skirts catching a glimpse of a sacred ankle. The shoulders of Marin are a curve more sensual today, the tops and less modest tips hugged by the lacy undergarment of fog.

Two lights, one standing on the last rock before the ocean, the other midway between that and the bridge blink on and off slowly, conserving energy for their eternal task. A fog horn sounds from somewhere, its own little joke, since visibility is perfect on the water. Small dots of light scratch white lines into the grey past the point. If the law would have these craft leave their lights on until an hour or two past sunrise it would be hard to know by the filtered light exactly when that was. A single fishing boat is in front of me, a red light at the top of its mast, deciding to rest inside the arms of the bay, comfortable to sit here with me.

To my right I can see where the ocean is making the shore, the never-ending group project of seven seas. Black rocks and blurs of darker textures spill across the sand here and there as it curves to meet the red bridge. The bridge swallows it all into its width or expectorates it, possibly the initial seed of fruit from which the earth springs forth. The road to the top is a perfect Bob Ross zig of paint scraped between the darker green of Presidio trees and descending speckle of beach shrubs. The road looks from this angle to curve straight down to the bridge, but I know it disappears over the hill, taking a turn and under a damp stone underpass before drawing its line of red light to join the others who for some reason are leaving the city at this hour.

Behind me to my left the grit trail runs straight disappearing abruptly into the cypress forests, standing on long stems, all looking like they have been treacherously betrayed by their hair product and a sudden gust of wind. Small dark birds bounce or zip, its hard to tell, across the path. And I can hear the incessant hiccough of a sprinkler on the golf course. I cannot tell if the smell of humidity is coming from there or from above. Occasional strings of birds indistinguishable from each other at this height fly low across the water until they complete a picture of a zipper with their reflection, unzipping and zipping as they ever alter altitude. The much larger pelicans fly closer so that I can make out colors and single indignant feathers.

I dab at my nose and shift my weight on the wooden bench to the other buttock. I wonder how long I’ve been sitting here. It’s grown warmer maybe; but I’ve gotten colder as my blood has cooled down from walking.

The lights are going out on the cars driving over the hill. My fishing boat has turned off its red light and is pulling out into open water. Lady San francisco has hiked up her skirts past her knees, and the view is a bowl in front of me, so much, with rivulets spilling out to the west and east and into my lap.

Train of Thought…

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I can’t be who everybody wants me to be. I’m skilled not brilliant. I’m passionate not a force. I have energy for now. I am creative but slowly. I’m disorganized. I can’t multitask. I’m not big BIG picture. I’m not fine detailed. I’m Barbara. I draw pretty pictures not daring ones. I love showing people the love of Christ. I want to live every moment. I hate not having enough energy. I hate letting moments slip by. I hate thinking about the hours of television that could’ve been a novel. I hate leaving art projects undone. Why can’t all the projects be finished instantly? I’m disgusted by the idea of leaving something undone when I die. But I find it improbable and most likely inauthentic to who I am to ever finish everything at the same time. I want to meet Jesus now. And I’m frenzied for living another day. I love my bed. I love to climb in. I hate to get out of it. I love being in my mind. I love being creative, letting my mind work. I love it when my thoughts keep me up till four solving problems, unable to rest when beautiful visions are being built. Yet I scroll down my phone clicking back and forth between email, facebook, twitter, and wordpress, just to make my mind be still so I can sleep. I don’t know who I am. I don’t know what God wants me to offer. I find out in the second. This is it. This is what you have to give. I’m tired. I’m crying. I wish others could see life as I do sometimes. It’s a gift this, the view, the creation, never bored in my mind. What would I do without characters talking, images parading. Just images, just stories, nothing grand, nothing that will affect the tides of politics or social justice. They’re not even true. They’re fiction as true as I can make them. I love stories. Some crazy story this, me, here, now.

Holy Saturday…

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Happy Holy Saturday to you all. I have a friend who takes down all the paintings in her front room on Good Friday. She removes all the beauty. On Easter morning they all get put back up. We did our Good Friday activity last night and laid a black cloth over our Lent box … until tomorrow.

Holy Saturday: Prayer in the Darkness

Where to find it:
A Child’s First Bible: p.226 (Peter’s Denial)
Jesus Storybook Bible: There is no story for this lesson. You can read just p.326, the first page of “God sends help” which is the intro to Pentecost.
Bible: Matthew 26:56, Mathew 26:69-75

Reading:
Today is Holy Saturday. Jesus died and was buried in the tomb. His followers scattered. His apostles hid in a dark room and cried. They were terribly sad. Their friend Jesus had died. They didn’t understand. Where had God’s amazing rescue plan gone? They were supposed to be saved, weren’t they? And now what? They were too sad and too scared to eat or sleep. So, they waited in the darkness, praying.

Lent box activity:
Have a family member place the tea light or small candle in the sand. Have a parent light the candle before you pray.

Beginning question:
When have you felt sad or scared?

More questions:
Have you ever been too sad or scared to eat or sleep?
Is there any part of you that feels like it is hiding in darkness?

Family question:
What was the best part and hardest part of Lent this year?

Family Activity:
Take an extra special time to pray. Pray for each family member in their spots of darkness. Ask that Jesus would bring light into these dark places. If you like, you could go to bed in darkness to prepare yourselves for the light of Easter morning.

Pray as a family:
“Dear Heavenly Father we thank you that you will not leave us sad or scared forever. We thank you that you have come to make all the sad things come undone. We pray that your beauty and new life would come quickly to us. We ask that your kingdom would come to our hearts and make them new. We ask that your kingdom would come to the Earth and make all creation new again, like it was in the beginning. Thank you for this promise, Amen.”

This Morning…

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The beautiful San Francisco spring has sprung and this morning the weather was perfect. So, I hustled two babies through breakfast and into shoes. We were going to meet some friends at Crissy Field.

I drove past Lake St. and the elegant signs that forbid tour busses and vans over ten passengers from going further. I turned right on El Camino Del Mar where every house presents a lavish example of a particular style. The houses hide the view, but at the intersections the Golden Gate Bridge appears large and startlingly close. Then the houses stop halfway down a block where they meet the Presidio woods.

The road twists left as soon as its free of the confining lines of the neighborhood and in a breath we’re on the bluffs with the ocean’s arms open wide below us. All of the hills and ups and downs of the city are lost to the long flat line of blue horizon. The smell is salty and woodsy, the eucalyptus and cypress leave a tangy sensation in your nostrils. In the quiet moments when I stop at a cross walk the cacophony of bird noises breaks through.

The breeze is cool through the window, unchanging in temperature even as you slip from shadow to sun between the trees. Drawing a curving path through the Presidio I still have to follow the google map directions. The roads run into each other and stop, I have to make three turns to continue in the right direction.

We pass clusters of brick houses left over from the Presidio’s army post days. The yards are trim, sloping up from short stone walls. I find myself wondering as I always do what it would be like to live in one of these red brick houses with clean white trim and large square windows, to live in a forest at the edge of a city. The bikers and tour busses are scarce on a Friday morning at just past nine.

We turn left out of the Presidio onto the long flat road that demarcates the water’s edge. I make a wrong turn, of course, because I’ve only been there a zillion times and have to turn around. And then we arrive in the small parking strip tight up against a steep slope over hung with peeling eucalyptus fingering the breeze.

The Warming Hut is open, people emerge with their paper cups, all plastic pieces one hundred percent compostable. The dogs are off leash, the only law the responsible citizens of San Francisco tend to ignore. Trim people jog by and there are many mothers with babies like me. Fishing lines trail off the pier. Pelicans fly overhead like an arrow, of one mind pointing towards China Beach and their breakfast. We’ve seen them there in the mornings dropping suddenly from the sky, slapping the water in a feathered sort of belly flop. Apparently, all more graceful methods of catching fish have been proven less effective.

And as we walk down the sandy path we see that someone has plucked some order from the stony beach and tall rock pinnacles precariously balanced rise here and there in stiff salute. I’m told by my friend that it’s the work of a quiet old Asian man. The Chronicle did a piece on him. He said it was his zen.

The sun can only be friendly in the company of the breeze. It warms my right temple and winks at me over the rims of my sunglasses. I keep my sweatshirt on and take my shoes off. The bright red bridge consumes the view to my left, quite unaware that she is an icon. The sailboats go in and out under her like indecisive chicks. Alcatraz lies low over my daughter’s shoulder. Sometimes the waves get louder and I look up to catch the disappearing wake of a cargo tanker already distant. And the rounded shoulders of Marin across the bay tend to ignore me, as they always do, facing the sea, always out to the open sea.

And we play in the sand and make new friends and we run away from the waves and then we run into them and we get incredibly dirty and eat sandy cheese sticks anyway and squeal when the water insists on slurping the sand out from beneath our toes.

And I remind myself again that I live here in this beautiful place and I’m alive for this beautiful day and these are my beautiful people. And I think in recognizing it and going to all the trouble to write it down and describe it to you I have done something that works in this crazy long history of the world like gratitude. I hope so, anyway, because I am grateful.