I Love Music

My darlings,

How can it already be August 18th???  This summer has come and passed so quickly.  There have been so many fun outings and trips I’ve done in the past several weeks.  So, allow me to share with you now that I am coming off the most incredible week of concerts I have ever experienced………!!!!!!!!

I could write volumes about how much I’ve appreciated music’s healing power in my life in the past year.  But I won’t belabor the point, because I fear that words cannot even capture how much I love music and value it in my life now.  Just hear me say this, “I LOVE MUSIC,” and multiply it by a factor of like 10,000 million gzillion.  So you get my point.

So I’ll try to capture the amazingness that was this past week full of live music with a few pictures and comments.

So Iron and Wine opened the show at the Idaho Botanical Gardens on Thursday night. It was really just Sam Beam playing acoustically by request--people up front would just yell out songs they wanted to hear, and he would oblige. He was so amazing--sounded so clear and just like he does recorded. It was hard for me to listen, in a way, because his music is basically the soundtrack of the spring that my husband and I met and fell in love. It brought me to tears hearing all those songs that played while we were getting to know each other and hanging around in each other's dorm rooms, and then kissing and laying in bed together, wondering what would come of this young love. I was tempted not to go to the concert out of my fear of how I would feel listening to him, but I'm so glad that I went. Most of this past year I've tried to rise up to challenges rather than let my fear of them keep me from the experience. Music hits me so deeply now--it cuts through all my thoughts and arguments and memories and just hits me right in my soul. After he came offstage, Sam walked along the fence and just greeted and talked to everyone who came up. I shook his hand and told him thank you for playing and sharing his music. I told him that in a way it was hard to listen to for the memories it invoked, but that ultimately it was healing. He was so gracious and also said thank you for my kind words. He is such a gifted writer; I love the way he tells stories with his songs. He only played for an hour, but when I went home I listened to him for like two hours, and just let myself bawl my eyes out in remembering that sweet time with my husband--then boyfriend, now ex-husband I suppose. It's so painful, yet so freeing to just lay on my couch for hours, listening to music and letting my tears fall down my face. I feel overwhelmed in the moment, but I know it's more overwhelming thinking of holding all that in for the rest of my life.

So Iron and Wine opened the show at the Idaho Botanical Gardens on Thursday night.  It’s an incredibly beautiful concert venue that’s basically a lawn in front of the Boise Foothills.  It only holds a few thousand people, so it feels quite intimate.  Sam Beam played solo and acoustically by request–people up front just yelled out songs they wanted to hear, and he obliged. He was so amazing, sounding so clear and just like he does on record.  It was hard for me to listen, in a way, because his music is basically the soundtrack of the spring that my husband and I met and fell in love.  It brought me to tears hearing all those songs that played while we were getting to know each other and hanging out in each other’s dorm rooms, and then kissing and laying in bed together, and then wondering what would come of our young love.  I was tempted not to go to the concert out of my fear of how I would feel listening to these songs, but I’m so glad that I went.  Most of this past year I’ve tried to rise up to emotional challenges rather than let my fear of them keep me from the experience.  Music hits me so deeply now–it cuts through all my thoughts and arguments and memories and  excuses and just hits me right in my soul.  After he came offstage, Sam walked along the fence and greeted and talked to everyone who came up.  I shook his hand and thanked him for playing and sharing his music.  I told him that in a way it was hard to listen to, for the memories it evoked, but that ultimately it was healing.  He was so gracious and also said thank you for my kind words.  He is such a gifted writer; I love the way he tells stories with his songs.  He only played for an hour, but when I went home I listened to him online for like two hours, and just let myself bawl my eyes out, remembering that sweet time with my husband–then boyfriend, now ex-husband, I realize.  It’s so painful, yet so freeing to just lay on my couch for hours, listening to music and letting my tears fall down my face.  It’s overwhelming in the moment, but I know it would be more overwhelming to hold all that in for the rest of my life.

So here is one of my favorite Iron and Wine songs:  The Trapeze Swinger

 Please remember me, happily
 By the rosebush laughing
 With bruises on my chin, the time when
 We counted every black car passing
 Your house beneath the hill and up until
 Someone caught us in the kitchen
 With maps, a mountain range, a piggy bank
 A vision too removed to mention
 But please remember me, fondly
 I heard from someone you're still pretty
 And then they went on to say that the Pearly Gates
 Had some eloquent graffiti
 Like 'We'll meet again' and 'Fuck the man'
 And 'Tell my mother not to worry'
 And angels with their great handshakes
 But always done in such a hurry
 And please remember me, at Halloween
 Making fools of all the neighbors
 Our faces painted white, by midnight
 We'd forgotten one another
 And when the morning came I was ashamed
 Only now it seems so silly
 That season left the world and then returned
 And now you're lit up by the city
 So please remember me, mistakenly
 In the window of the tallest tower
 Call, then pass us by but much too high
 To see the empty road at happy hour
 Gleam and resonate just like the gates
 Around the Holy Kingdom
 With words like, 'Lost and found' and 'Don't look down'
 And 'Someone save temptation'
 And please remember me as in the dream
 We had as rug-burned babies
 Among the fallen trees and fast asleep
 Beside the lions and the ladies
 That called you what you like and even might
 Give a gift for your behavior
 A fleeting chance to see a trapeze
 Swinger high as any savior
 But please remember me, my misery
 And how it lost me all I wanted
 Those dogs that love the rain and chasing trains
 The colored birds above there running
 In circles round the well and where it spells
 On the wall behind St. Peter
 So bright on cinder gray in spray paint
 'Who the hell can see forever?'
 And please remember me, seldomly
 In the car behind the carnival
 My hand between your knees, you turn from me
 And said the trapeze act was wonderful
 But never meant to last, the clowns that passed
 Saw me just come up with anger
 When it filled with circus dogs, the parking lot
 Had an element of danger
 So please remember me, finally
 And all my uphill clawing
 My dear, but if I make the Pearly Gates
 I'll do my best to make a drawing
 Of God and Lucifer, a boy and girl
 An angel kissin' on a sinner
 A monkey and a man, a marching band
 All around the frightened trapeze swinger

So the headliner that night was Brandi Carlile.  I wasn’t very familiar with her–only had heard a few of her songs on the mainstream radio–but had heard that she has the best and most unique female voice currently out there.  She was SO amazing.  They totally rocked the house, and I loved so many of her songs.  I wish I had such a strong voice and could move people as a singer the way she and other musicians do.  She also has amazing hair, I might add…  And, she’s from Seattle, so how could I not like her..?

"The Story" So the headliner that night at the Botanical Gardens was Brandi Carlile. I wasn't very familiar with her--only had heard a few of her songs on the mainstream radio--but had heard that she has the best and most unique female voice currently out there. She was SO amazing. They totally rocked the house all night, and I loved so many of her songs. I wish I had such a strong voice and could move people as a singer the way she and other musicians do. She also has amazing hair, I might add... And, she's from Seattle, so how could I not like her..??
 All of these lines across my face
 Tell you the story of who I am
 So many stories of where I've been
 And how I got to where I am
 But these stories don't mean anything
 When you've got no one to tell them to
 It's true... I was made for you
 
 I climbed across the mountain tops
 Swam all across the ocean blue
 I crossed all the lines and I broke all the rules
 But baby I broke them all for you
 Oh because even when I was flat broke
 You made me feel like a million bucks
 You do and I was made for you
 
 You see the smile that's on my mouth
 It's hiding the words that don't come out
 And all of my friends who think that I'm blessed
 They don't know my head is a mess
 No, they don't know who I really am
 And they don't know what I've been through like you do
 And I was made for you...
 
 All of these lines across my face
 Tell you the story of who I am
 So many stories of where I've been
 And how I got to where I am
 But these stories don't mean anything
 When you've got no one to tell them to
 It's true... I was made for you
 
 Oh yeah, well it's true... that
 I was made for you...

So a few weeks ago I was home listening to the current recording on Pandora that is Mumford & Sons playing a live show and featuring their new album “Wilder Mind.”  I love that title, by the way.  I’ve grown to love my own wildness–not to resist it or resent it, but to embrace it as a wonderful and integral part of who I am.  Cheryl Strayed’s powerful autobiography Wild helped me acknowledge my own wildness–both its destructive capacity as well as its precious uniqueness.  Thoreau said this:  “All good things are wild and free.”  I am good.  I am wild.  I am free.

"It was my life—like all lives, 
mysterious and irrevocable and sacred.  
So very close, so very present, so very belonging to me.  
How wild it was, to let it be." 
--Cheryl Strayed

So I decided that night, rocking out to Mumford while laying on my couch staring at the ceiling (not for the first time, I might add… :/ ) that there was no reason (not even a Presbytery meeting…) for me not to drive out to see Mumford in Walla Walla, WA.  (Anyone remember that hilarious piece from Mike Birbiglia about visiting “Waya Waya, Washington??”  If you haven’t heard it, click the link.  It’s hilarious.)  So Mumford are headlining a select few shows they’re calling “Gentlemen of the Road.”  They’ve chosen some relatively small/potentially obscure towns that normally wouldn’t be host to a huge music festival featuring one of the biggest bands in the world.  Thus, Walla Walla:  the quintessential farm town meets college town.  It is located in an absolutely stunning part of southeastern Washington.  You know that opening line from “America the Beautiful”

O beautiful for spacious skies

For amber waves of grain

Well that pretty much describes Walla Walla, or at least the drive right up to the town.  There were endless rolling hills of wheat resting under the wide open blue sky.  Slowly the fields transitioned to orchards, where they grow delicious peaches and apples.  And those orchards eventually give way to the onion fields–you know, the ones that produce the famous “Walla Walla Sweet Onions.”  The local minor league baseball team is actually named the “Walla Walla Sweets” (which of course endearingly reminds me of the Lake Wobegon Whippets) and their mascot is Sweet Lou.  I had a few friends from high school who attended Whitman College for undergraduate, but I’d never actually been to Walla Walla.  It is in the heart of wine country–I guess I forgot to mention the thousands of acres of vineyards that also surround the town–and the town is filled with lovely shops and tasting rooms.  The GOTR tour is so unique and incredible because it’s designed to essentially take over a great town for a whole weekend, so that it’s like a full-immersion experience of place, people, and music.  They achieved their intention, if I do say so myself.  The weekend was sooooooo amazing.  Posters for GOTR were plastered everywhere and welcomed everyone to the town for the festival weekend.  Everyone camped on the local golf course across the highway from where the main stage was, and the town was set apart as a pedestrian zone, so basically there were just thousands of people walking around, listening to various shows and enjoying a truly “festive” festival atmosphere.  It was so awesome, and the music was only part of what made it so great.

So a few weeks ago I was home listening to the current recording on Pandora that is Mumford and Sons playing a live show and featuring their new album--

GOTR cement GOTR union jack i heart walla walla pilgrimage to music mecca Sweet Lou Tent City

It took me six and a half hours to get there after work on Friday, when it should have been four.  Mother Nature decided to implement a scorched earth policy on Eastern Oregon, which meant that the freeway closed when the wildfires began jumping the lanes and trying to spread to the other side.  That sounds like the beginning of a bad joke:  Why did the fire cross the road?  …  To burn the shit out of more wilderness on the other side…  At first I was worried about how I’d get there when there is literally one road into Boise and the same road out.  Fortunately the gas station manager told me a way to bushwhack up and around and back down to Baker City, where I could get back on the open highway and keep heading north toward Walla Walla.  I had a spiritual revelation while driving, which is that sometimes our path takes us places we weren’t planning on going, but which ultimately are more beautiful and enjoyable than the direction we were originally headed, and which protect us from dangers we would have encountered had we continued in the original direction we were heading.  My drive took me through miles and miles of Idaho backcountry, and ultimately up through Hell’s Canyon.  IT WAS SOOOOO GORGEOUS.  There’s some crazy part of me that wants/thinks I can actually drive like every single road in the state of Idaho.  I know I won’t ever really do that, but I can say that my unexpected detour on Friday evening took me through an incredibly beautiful part of this state that I now call home.  I’m grateful for that excursion–that it reminded me that most of life is following a series of unexpected turns through wilderness, peaks, and valleys that reveal to us the great beauty of life.Hell's Canyon

So I caught about the last 45 minutes of the Foo Fighters’ epic show on Friday night.  Dave Grohl broke his leg playing a show in Sweden a few weeks ago, so you gotta hand it to him for playing almost three hours of hard core rock from a huge throne built just for him on this tour.

Most of Saturday I enjoyed strolling through town, visiting lots of cute shops and people watching.  I did see a great show by this lovely couple who make music together, Grace and Tony.  I listened to their album the whole drive home, and particularly love this song:

NOVEMBER by Grace & Tony
 Broken bones draggin’ along
 Humming empty words to empty songs
 Falling through the motions to a level I'd never known
 These were disappointed eyes
 Lit by burning bridges all around
 Left alone with what I’d sewn for years and years and years
 I was living right where I belonged
 And then something happened just along the way
 Something picked me up and dragged me through those days
 And I was wrong when I
 Decided I would never meet somebody like you
 You saved this life
 Suddenly a chemistry
 Of good and bad began to work as one
 Dreams of happiness were blown away by total bliss
 November held a love I’d never known
 And then something happened just along the way
 Something picked me up and dragged me through those days
 And I was wrong when I
 Decided I would never meet somebody like you
 You saved this life, this life

And on the eighth day, God created Mumford & Sons.  And it was good.  Like I said at the beginning, I don’t think I even want to try to explain how amazing it was to sit at their feet and sing my heart out and jump and dance and party it up for almost three hours.  They were amazing.  If you ever get the chance to see them, do it, and enjoy every second of their amazing performance.

There are more pictures I want to add of the band, but wordpress sucks and is being stupid now, so it won’t upload them.  I’ll try to fix the problem later.  😦

Lastly, this has nothing to do with the concerts I’ve seen, but it’s a song I love and wanted to share with you all.

 The Civil Wars "Poison & Wine"

 You only know what I want you to
 I know everything you don't want me to
 Your mouth is poison, your mouth is wine
 You think your dreams are the same as mine
 
 Oh I don't love you but I always will
 Oh I don't love you but I always will
 Oh I don't love you but I always will
 I always will
 
 I wish you'd hold me when I turn my back
 The less I give the more I get back
 Oh your hands can heal, your hands can bruise
 I don't have a choice, but I still choose you
 
 Oh I don't love you but I always will 
 I always will

That is all.

Liz

We have an “Art Show”

Hello my dearest darlings,

My goodness–how the weeks fly by!  And now I’m so behind with my updates to you on my projects and goings-on.

So let’s get to it.  For one, I hope my sister appreciates the title of today’s post.  (It’s an inside joke/obscure ’90s movie reference.)  Now that we’ve got that out of the way…let me show you the project I just finished today:  my gallery wall!

Here is how my living room was arranged before, and you can see my draft of the gallery wall.  Many thanks to Carrie for helping me edit the art and arrange it artfully.

Here is how my living room was arranged before, and you can see my draft of the gallery wall on the floor.  Many thanks to my friend Carrie for helping me edit the art and arrange it artfully too.

And here is my beautiful new gallery wall!  I'm really happy with how it turned out.  I did end up cutting two pieces that had been in my final draft--one large piece will go better in my "kid" guest bedroom, and the other ceramic plate had a wonky hanger so it would have looked all lop-sided.  Otherwise, I love it!!

And here is my beautiful new gallery wall! I’m really happy with how it turned out. I did end up cutting two pieces that had been in my final draft–one large piece will go better in my “kid” guest bedroom, and I realized the ceramic plate had a wonky hanger, so it would have looked all lop-sided. Otherwise, I love it!!

At first I was reluctant to turn the back of the couch against my large picture window.  But I think moving the chairs created a more cozy sitting space.  And the couch now looks toward the fireplace, which will be nice in the winter time (assuming I both learn how to build a wood fire and get the courage to actually do it…).

I think I feel about my art the way others feel toward their books.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, I do have an emotional attachment to some of my volumes.  But since I’ve been utilizing the library and borrowing books from friends more and more, my library isn’t really growing much these days.

My art pieces, however, remain very personal and important to me.  Most of them I bought while traveling to different countries.  Others are either representative of where I grew up, or they actually came from my mom’s house.  The large blue piece in the upper left hand corner is a photograph of a solitary bison in front of the Tetons in winter.  I appreciate it’s delicate, muted beauty, and the solitude displayed by the beast.  Below it are two batik fabric prints that I bought for literally less than $1 while traveling in Calcutta in seminary.  I bought two corresponding ones that I gifted my sister.  I like to buy either matching or similar pictures with two girls in them, and then give one copy to my sister.  So next to those is another sister picture–the two girls fly-fishing in Glacier National Park.  I was surprised how many memories came to me when choosing which pieces to display, and how to arrange them.  The Glacier picture used to be one of two partner prints–the other one gone now as it was my husband’s counterpart:  a solitary man standing on the edge of the dock, looking out onto the waters of Lake McDonald.  My husband worked there at the lodge the first summer we were dating, and I bought these prints when my dad and I visited him for the Fourth of July.  I used to always tease him that that man was him, waiting for me to come to visit him.  I boxed up that picture, among many other beautiful and unique pieces, when I packed up his stuff when he had decided to leave for good.  I’m sure he threw it away, just like he threw away our relationship and the experiences we had shared.  But, sad as that is, I still have my sister and the print that reminds me of her and all the adventures we have (and will) embark upon with one another.  She’s coming to visit at the end of August and we’re going to spend some time up in the mountains.  Perhaps we can arrange for a fly-fishing lesson then…

My sister actually bought me the print closest to my yellow chair when we went to Ireland together in 2008.  It’s of Lucy discovering the lamppost when she first walks through the wardrobe into Narnia.  I absolutely love my newest piece:  “Process,” which is of a person pitting pie cherries.  “Process” has become a word I frequently use, and an activity I frequently engage in as I reflect not only on my life but on the stories of others’ lives that I encounter every day.  What does it mean to “process?”  To take something in, to work with it, to respond to it, to be touched by it, to transform it into something greater…  I don’t know–those are some things that come to mind when I thinking of processing–be it either in the form of picking fruit or listening to someone’s life story.  I suppose the two aren’t all that different–that’s life after all, isn’t it?  Full of sour juices and pits, but also the making of something sweet and delicious.

My vintage Palestine travel poster is from when my husband and I travelled to the Middle East.  I love that old style of travel marketing and propaganda posters.  Actually I recall there being a rather large exhibit of vintage travel posters in the Ben-Gurion airport that we viewed when we were leaving Israel.  They were shocking in some ways as they described the new state of Israel–the reclaimed promised land for the Jews–“a land without a people for a people without a land…”  Don’t get me wrong, I support the existence of Israel, but as someone who has one generation separating me from my full-blooded Indian grandfather, I have a hard time with people who move into a land and claim it for themselves when there are people living there and who have been there for generations.  Ok, enough politics for now.

Below that are two prints from a larger collection of Degas’ ballerina series that I got at a church rummage sale.  I always wanted to be a ballerina, and so of course I love Degas’ work with the dancers.  These used to be in my bedroom, which is painted light pink and is very feminine.  I considered placing them there again, as I still don’t have anything on the walls in there either, but I’m glad that I included them here.  The “Special Citron” fruit label painting is another great yard sale find.  I love all things lemon, and I think the yellow color balances nicely with the other various tones on the wall.

Hmm, what else is there–oh, up above there is the oval piece that is a vintage portrait of an Indian girl shooting her bow.  My mom has a big collection of these type of posters–a fairly pale girl who is supposed to be an Indian, usually wearing a red dress and positioned in some heroic but romantic scene.  Next to that is a little collection of retro wooden postcards from the Olympics at home.  I think I need a bigger piece to fill out that space better, but it’ll do for now.

Well there you go, there is some of my little art collection–pieces found along the journey, either at yard sales with my mom or in exotic lands.  I didn’t realize until the past couple years how important art is to me.  Currently I’m working through a sort of “life transformation” book called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.  So essentially I’m trying to embrace my little inner artist–taking time to create beauty and also appreciate beauty in my life.  Actually, that makes me realize that that’s probably why I haven’t posted much in the past month–I’ve been journaling and writing an awful lot in response to the assignments in that book.  And oddly, having just arranged my gallery wall that is full of other artists’ works, I feel as though I have created a work of art as well.

I’ll close with this Rumi quote that Cameron cites in her book:  “Inside you there’s an artist you don’t know about…Say yes quickly, if you know, if you’ve known it from before the beginning of the universe.”

Liz

Sacred Space

Hello my darlings,

It feels as though it’s been sooooo long since I’ve written–my apologies!  It’s been a busy few weeks, that’s for sure.  What fun I had on my trip to see my good friends in Pennsylvania and in doing my cousin’s wedding in DC.  I survived my own wedding anniversary, and summer has officially arrived.  There have been all kinds of activities and projects brewing at Satis House, so I’ll try to write more throughout this week to catch you up on the goings on.

What I really would like to offer tonight is a piece about the altar that I finally set up in my new house.  I may have mentioned this concept before, but as I didn’t see it in my “Shabbat Shalom” post, I’m thinking maybe I haven’t shared it, so here it is:  “religious envy.”  Allow me to explain.  The rabbi who co-led the trip I took to Israel/Palestine in 2010 shared this idea with us, and I love it.  Religious envy is basically the feeling one has in wishing that one’s own religious tradition employed certain beliefs or practices evident in another’s tradition.  The example he gave, as a Reform Jew, was that he had religious envy of muslims because of the way their full bodies are incorporated in their daily prayers.  He wished that his own tradition had open space set up for people to lie prostrate and move and bow in prayer during corporate worship.

So at some point I identified that I felt religious envy toward buddhist and hindu people who commonly place an altar within their living space.  You may have noticed them at nail salons or Thai restaurants as well–often a simple platform with a statue of the buddha, some flowers, and maybe some fruit or rice placed there as the day’s offering.

I never had made an altar in my own house until last summer.  I started attending my meditation group when I was grappling with my varying levels of personal crises.  They have an altar in the zendo (like the equivalent of the “sanctuary” for buddhists and where the sangha meets to meditate).  Their altar is simple and includes a picture of their teacher–Thich Nhat Hanh–and usually some candles and flowers.

My altar space last summer became so special to me.  Every morning I would get up at 5 a.m. to kneel and meditate and pray and cry and think and wonder what the hell was happening and what was going to come of it all.  I set pictures on my altar of people I love, and I also lit candles and centered an icon on the table.  Since my altar was covered with cloth, I used pins to attach cards and notes and papers with quotes and drawings and poems to the fabric–words I could read to be reminded of all the love I was receiving from so many different directions.

So finally, a few weeks ago, the night before I left for my trip and when I was so restless I knew I wasn’t going to get much sleep anyway, I set up my new altar.  It’s base is a little rolling TV stand that I found for $1 at my local thrift store.  It’s great, because my meditation cushion fits perfectly underneath it, and there is a little shelf inside on which to store my various prayers books.  I’m using the same cloth I did last summer–it’s a white keffiyeh scarf that Arab men wear wrapped around their heads to keep cool in the desert.  (Hmm, I’m sure there’s some kind of metaphor there for me–like the linen is shielding and protecting me and helping keep my wits about me in this desert-of-a-spiritual-season.)  Noticeably absent is the icon–I do need a new one, since my previous one belonged to my previous husband.  But I still have some candles, pictures of loved ones, and other mementos that inspire me each day.  I purchased a bell to ring in and out of my sits (another product of religious envy that I experienced with my buddhist friends–I love the way they utilize the bell to move throughout their meditation, and to initiate a pause in the group’s process at any time).

My altar.

Recently I made a new addition, which is the little pillow you see on the right of the altar.  I made it last week at a staff grief group as part of an art therapy exercise.  Our facilitator encouraged us to use one side of the pillow to express the negative aspects of grief, while the other side would express the positives that can come with/from grief.  I’m really glad about how my pillow turned out.  It shows the brokenness that I felt as I finally began to embrace the many and varied layers of grief in my life.  But it also reminds me that though I am wounded and scarred, I am still a whole person, despite what some/one would say.

Broken.

Broken.

Whole.

Lastly, the chalice that sits at the center of my altar has become very significant to me.  It’s filled with notes written by my chaplain colleagues while we were on retreat earlier this spring.  The theme for our day away focused on “the cup,” and each one of us got to select a cup that had been contributed by another chaplain and placed on a large altar we constructed in that space.  That day we talked all about varying “cups” in our lives–cups we hold, cups we fill, cups we bear, empty cups…  I reflected on the cup as it reminds me of communion–communion not just as the Lord’s Supper but as the Body of Christ–the community in which I live and move and have my being.  The community that rose up to greet me last summer when I needed them most.  Without remaining in communion with all those many people, I would not have emerged from that time with the strength I would need to carry me through this past year.  One person’s note called my attention to the base of the chalice–which has a large crack where it was once broken and has been glued back together.  I didn’t even notice it until it was pointed out.  I realize that that is all of us–that that is me:  an open vessel that was once broken at my base, but which now only lightly bears the scars of those cracks.  A vessel that is still capable both of being filled and of pouring out, growing and healing and becoming whole again.

The cup of salvation.

My cup overflows.  Thanks be to God.

Liz

“Can I get a roll of quarters, please?”

Hello my friends,

(Ok, bonus points for whomever gets the movie quote that is the title of today’s post–not that it’s that original, but it’s from one of my all-time favorite movies.  Here’s a hint:  February 2.  Remember that scene where he steals the bags of money right out of the security truck?)

laundry

I’m sure you’re all dying to learn about my laundry habits, so let me fill  you in on what it’s like to use a laundromat versus doing one’s laundry at home.  As much as I am staunchly independent and highly value my personal freedom, I realize that “independence” is really a delusion.  As John Donne would say:

“No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.”

Nothing that we experience or do occurs in a vacuum.  All of our lives are a result of the efforts of countless others, and all that we do has a ripple effect on this world in which we dwell together.  So I have appreciated needing to use the local laundromat, because it has reminded me of the importance of community.  In my white, educated, professional culture, I can exist pretty comfortably based on the hard work of lots of other people, most of whom I will never come into contact.  Factory workers who built my car and work in oil fields to produce the gasoline that powers it; migrant farm workers who work the fields and facilities that some of my food comes from; factory workers who produce textiles and other home goods that fill my house.  There are many, many people whose toil contributes to the comfort and ease of my daily life.

So why am I going to the laundromat if I could afford to buy my own washer/dryer?  Technically, I have a washer and dryer, but they *might* be original to the house (think 1960), and the washer is broken.  The dryer works, and I’ve used it a few times, but 1) it is SO loud it sounds like the screeching of metal in a high-speed train crash and requires me to wear my earplugs when it’s running, and 2) now that it’s hot out, I can dry my clothes quickly on the line without wasting the electricity.  I want to re-finish my laundry space within this next year, so I don’t want to buy a washer or dryer until I really know how I will design that area adjacent to my kitchen.  So I’ve been going to the local laundry about once every two weeks to get the job done.

I think when we have more money and can “take care of ourselves” pretty easily, we sacrifice the sense of community that comes by virtue of needing to share something with a lot of other people.  There are people I see at the laundromat that I guarantee I would never interact with otherwise, except for in that humble place where we literally air our dirty laundry.  (Actually, hospice chaplaincy exposes me to quite a diverse population, but that’s another post for another time.)  One of my supervisors includes me in a lot of interview panels as we hire new staff.  When she emphasizes the sense of equality that we share on our team between the varying roles, she always says, “None of us is better than the other–we all put our pants on one leg at a time…”  And that’s how I feel at the laundromat.  (Apparently we all take our pants off one leg at a time, too.)  We all have dirty laundry; we all need somewhere to scrub it up and move on with living life.

Dirty laundry is really a great equalizer of humanity, and laundry is a communal activity in many parts of the world.  In many countries, women catch up on the gossip while gathered around a washtub or pool of water where the laundry gets done.  I recall my time studying abroad in Kolkata, India.  Our professor reminded us that we could send away our dirty duds to be washed and pressed and returned by the same afternoon, though he cautioned us:  “The laundry ladies literally will beat your clothes against a rock down at the creek, so if you have anything with buttons or that you really care about otherwise, don’t send it.”  Surprisingly, those Indian laundresses also had some secret to getting whites as white as I’ve ever seen them, short of being brand new out of the package.

I thought I was bad about waiting as long as possible before taking my wash in, but it looks like this person was hopping out of the their dirty clothes right in the parking lot...

I thought I was bad about waiting as long as possible before taking my wash in, but it looks like this person was hopping out of the their dirty clothes right in the parking lot…

At my laundromat, there was a time when I saw a man unloading his wash from his car that was parked next to mine.  It looked a little unusual–there was some kind of exhaust pipe coming through the roof of the old minivan.  When I looked closer, I realized that this man lives out of his van.  The lightly tinted windows revealed how he had retrofitted the inside so that he could fully recline to sleep, and he could cook on a little stovetop inside.  Obviously he was at the laundromat doing his wash before moving on through and out of town to wherever his next destination lay.

I live in a very diverse neighborhood.  Susan says that there are around 30 different languages spoken in our part of town.  On my nightly walk around the park, there is always a large group of Southeast Asians playing volleyball and soccer.  It reminded me of the huge city park in New Brunswick, NJ, where I did my residency.  My fiance at the time and I played a lot of tennis there in the spring before we got married.  We called it “the United Nations of municipal parks,” because it was so incredibly diverse.  The Dominicans played baseball; the Japanese played tennis; the Indians played cricket; the African-Americans played basketball; and the Latinos played soccer.  I wish that I came from a culture that valued community to that degree–that I had some kind of ethnic connection with dozens of other kids and families and could spend recreational time with them on a regular basis.  At the laundromat, there are usually several muslim women wearing headscarves, and many Mexican men washing up there work clothes–usually by that point just wearing a white tank top and their many tattoos covering their muscular arms.

It’s good to put ourselves in positions that humble us and where we feel a little vulnerable.  The first time I went to the laundry that song popped into my head, “One of these things is not like the other…….”  I felt sort of nervous that I didn’t quite know how everything worked, and I was kind of afraid of making some idiotic mistake and being the “over-qualified” person who would need to ask for help just to turn on my washing machine.  Or what if I started using “someone else’s” machine without knowing it right before they got there–kind of like when a new person comes to church and is afraid of sitting in “someone else’s” pew.  Fortunately everything went fine, but I was definitely aware of how comfortable my life is on a day-to-day basis, and how sheltered I am by living alone and not really “needing” to be around many other strangers if I don’t want to be.  Most people in this world don’t have the luxury of personal space–they live in small dwellings crammed with a lot of people in village-like settings.  Again, ultimately I long for that kind of community where people are truly dependent on one another, and yet I confess, I love having a house all to myself–to experience solitude and peace and quiet as part of my daily lifestyle.

I fully expect that eventually I’ll buy my own washer and dryer set and get back to my routine of doing laundry at home.  But I also expect that I’ll miss the little cultural exchange that is going to the laundromat.

Liz

PS:  One final perk about going to the laundromat is that there is an awesome Mexican taco stand right next to it.  Dee-lish.

laundry mexi dinner

Raspberries!!!

Hello dolls,

My apologies for neglecting you all for the past near-two weeks.  Lots been going on, to say the least.  Since I have so much to catch up on, I’ll try to write some more succinct posts (no guarantees though…) over the next couple days so I can update you on all that’s been going on at Satis House.  I’m also going out of town next week, so I may try to write a bit while I’m away, but it’s likely that I’ll have another slew of posts to throw at you once I return to SH.

So, let’s cut to the chase–the raspberries are in!  Or at least, coming in, slowly but surely.  Last week the mercury leapt up into the 90s [heavy sighhhhhhhh, I guess it’s June in Boise……..], and suddenly, there were red ripe raspberries on my bushes!  I picked these first three (see picture below) and had to slap my hand away from picking ones that weren’t quite ripe–weren’t springing from the vine when I tugged at them.  As I sat out on my rocker, enjoying my patio and the marvel of homegrown berries, I listened to many bird songs coming from my big tree.  With all the yard waste that is piled up there, tons and tons of birds have been hopping about and singing their sweet songs morn and eve.  My neighbor Susan said that my piles of brush were perfect quail habitat, and what do you know–indeed, I have quail now!  But, as much as I love all my little birdies, I was none too impressed when just as I was thinking about how much I love the birdsong, a robin swooped down, di-rectly into my raspberry bush, and distinctly “plucked” an UNRIPE pink berry from the vine, and then proceeded to fly away with it in its mouth.  I know.  I was seriously offended.  My mouth was actually agape, and I *may* have whispered under my breath, “You bastard….”  And the only thing that made me feel better was knowing that the berry wasn’t even ripe, so it couldn’t have tasted that good…

It did make me laugh, though, thinking of that great scene from Spaceballs where the computer gets jammed, and Dark Helmet wipes his finger across the screen and exclaims, “Raspberry!!!”  (Get it–“jammed”–raspberry, like raspberry jam, ha ha ha……)

TTFN,

Lizzie

There's only one man who would dare give me the raspberry:  Lone Starr!

There’s only one man who would dare give me the raspberry: Lone Starr!

First fruits.

First fruits.

The News from Satis House

Hello friends,

Well it’s been a busy week at Satis House, my lovely home, up on the Boise Bench…

As you can probably tell, lately I’ve been listening to an awful lot of Garrison Keillor’s “News from Lake Wobegon.”  His taglines and cadence may begin to creep into my writing, which of course would not be a bad thing.  After catching up on about the past year’s worth of Lake Wobegon podcasts (hey, don’t judge me–it only took a few hours to get back to Memorial Day of 2014 in 10-15 minute installments), I think I need to develop some conclusive salutation to my blog posts similar to his weekly farewell:  “Well that’s the news from Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.”  After all, I believe myself to be quite a strong woman, indeed.  And while I don’t have any children of my own, I would say all the grandchildren in our family are surely above average.  Now if I could only find a good-looking man to round out the trifecta……  (Which reminds me, the work continues on my neighbor’s rental-soon-to-be-listed house, so no update on who my new future neighbor might be, but I’m still hoping maybe some good-looking, ambitious, young-ish single guy might move in.  I’ll keep you posted.)

I believe I could be quite happy in Lake Wobegon.  Some of my favorite aspects of the news updates are hearing Keillor’s cynical opinions on marriage (hey, can you blame me?) as well as his strikingly accurate commentary on religion in society today.  Someday I’ll write a Huffington Post article arguing that he is the most accurate voice on how religion has changed in America in the past generation.  He makes a lot of knocks on the Unitarians, but then again, who doesn’t?  Also, my favorite character is of course, undoubtedly, Pastor Liz–the recently installed pastor of Lake Wobegon Lutheran Church.  I could be her–maybe I am her??  And I love the observations Keillor shares about what’s going on in Pastor Liz’s life:  Is she dating someone new?  Who was the guy she brought to the church Christmas party?  What does she do on her day off when she’s not in town?  In real life, I might not last too many years as the single, female, solo pastor in a small community, but I could see myself enjoying being the under-the-breath talk of the town for a spell.

So anyway, here’s the skinny on house/yard projects that went on this past week:

The peonies blossomed while I was away for Memorial Day.  They turned out very beautiful and were quite fragrant as well.  I expected them to be white, so the pink was a nice surprise.  Alex finished trimming “the hedge from hell” and also took down the final two shrubs that needed to bite the dust.  Yay, thank you Alex!  It’s always good to have a friend who’s handy with a chainsaw.

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Also, my friend Amanda had me over to teach her how to make pie crust.  She created a list of 30 things to do before she turns 30 (in August), and learning how to make pie crust was one of them.  She did quite well, and it sounded from her that she learned some new technique tips.  I shared a metaphor between making pie crust and bathing a baby (which, again, being as I’ve never had a baby, I’m not sure why this came to mind, but it did, and I think it makes sense).  I gather that when one is learning how to give a baby a bath, one tends to be overly sensitive, thinking that the baby is super fragile and needs to be handled with extreme gentleness.  Not that it should be roughed around too much or anything–I mean, it is a baby after all–but it’s my limited experience that babies are actually pretty tough, and can handle a lot before getting too upset.  (And if you doubt his, just be in the hospital when a new baby is born, and watch the L&D nurse throw that baby around as she washes its hair and wraps it into its first burrito swaddle.)  So that’s also my philosophy about pie crust.  I follow the time-tested wisdom of not over-mixing it originally, keeping it as chilled as possible, giving it time to rest in the fridge, etc.  But when it comes to rolling it out, I think it turns out worse if the roller views it as sort of wimpy and needing to be handled with the aforementioned extreme gentleness.  I think it rolls out a lot better when rolled with confidence, and flipped over and patted with flour a few times.  It should be solid enough to be twirled around and slid on the counter without sticking, and you should be able to fold it over on itself once, and then again, in order to transport it easily to the pie pan.  So, we made a few strawberry-rhubarb pies and chatted it up, and it was fun.  Now I give Amanda my blessing to turn 30 and confidently bake herself a pie to celebrate.

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Saturday I finally had my yard sale to get rid of the crap that’s been taking up the majority of my tiny garage since I first moved here in the middle of winter.  The turnout was pretty disappointing and I didn’t make much money, but I was joined by my delightful friend Christie, which was great.  (Sorry–forgot to capture it with a picture!)  The weather was cloudier than expected, but at least it didn’t get up to 90 degrees, as the forecast had predicted.  And fortunately I had the discipline not to absorb any of my goods back into my house, but rather I took a carload of stuff to donate to a nearby thrift store.  So now I can move on with cleaning, painting the walls, and sealing the cement floor.  Hopefully I will find a fabulous sort of “industrial-chic” light fixture to add some glamour to my garage.  Because every girl needs a glamorous garage–just sayin.’  That’ll probably be this week’s job, so I’ll keep you posted on the progress.

Saturday night I had my dinner party group from church over for a lovely evening meal on the patio.  I haven’t yet invested in any patio furniture, but two of the guys were nice enough to haul out my ancient and weighty dining room table.  They had to take the scenic route through the garage door and around the side of the house, and then through the back gate, as the table was about a centimeter too wide to get through the back door.  So then I was doubly glad I had my yard sale and had providentially cleared a path for them to waddle through.  I absolutely love dining outside.  It reminded me of how Italy or France feels in the summertime–warm air and warm breezes, delicious food, chilled wine, and lots of laughter.  In my CSA box this week I got lots of fresh greens, so I used them and the radishes to make the salad.  The last time our group met was just before Thanksgiving, when I was still in the negotiating phase of buying the house and was having a moment of doubt that it might not go through.  It’s strange how long ago that feels, but it was really only about 6 months ago.  So much in my life has changed since then, but all for the better.

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So with today, I enjoyed the sabbath, sitting on the patio once again, finishing a few books as well as finishing off the bottle of white we opened last night.  I fear the heat has officially come to Boise–alas, we reached 90 today I think–so I should probably learn both how to turn on my sprinklers as well as my air-conditioning.  I supposed I should be grateful that I made it to June without needing either, but I’m sad thinking that the heat of summer is already upon us.  It is rather oppressive to a girl who grew up in an area that is consistently in the 40-60 degree range, and where “even when it’s sunny, it’s raining,” as my former husband used to say.

I’m preaching next Sunday, so we’ll see how much progress I can make on the garage project while reading Calvin and exegeting my passage (which I have yet to select…) in my spare time.

Well that’s the news from Satis House, where the woman is strong, there’s hope of a good-looking man, and all the nieces and nephews are above average.

Pastor Liz

Media vita in morte sumus

Hello friends,

Well I’m home again at Satis House, after spending a Memorial Day Weekend away at Camp Sawtooth.  It was my first time there, and I’m so glad I went up.  It is a Presbyterian camp tucked away in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, about 20 minutes west of Ketchum–the town where the Sun Valley lodge and ski resort are located, for those of you non-Idahoans reading this.

The camp directors always welcome volunteers to come up for an opening work weekend.  Since camp is only open half the year, we needed to spruce it up, clear out the fallen trees that came down over the winter, and get it ready for weeks of campers to come this summer.

Being at camp reminded me both of the few summers my church youth group went to camp at Camp David Junior in the Olympics at home, and also of the Presbyterian camp that I served as a counselor for two summers in college–Rainbow Glacier Camp, outside of Haines, Alaska.  “Camp” is universally a magical place–no matter where it is or when one goes there.  Camp is one of those “thin” places where the distance between humanity and the sacred narrows, and where we get a glimpse of life in the kingdom of God.  I love how a group of strangers can come together as the body of Christ, united in service to God and the church; how those people can take a few acres of wooded wilderness, and turn it into heaven on earth.  I think camp is the place where I have most experienced life abundant–life to the fullest.

Y’all know I’ve been doing a lot of work on my own house, so it felt good to get out of the valley and contribute to something larger.  My neighbor thought it was funny that I chose to spend my holiday weekend doing more manual labor, but I was really glad to make the trip and experience some time at camp.  It was more than the projects though–it was really about encouraging the camp directors as they head into another vibrant season of camp, and of working with many other volunteers who also love camp and are committed to its ministry.  I was actually fortunate because I got assigned pretty easy jobs:  Saturday I was on fire watch, burning piles of brush on a bonfire and coming away smelling like campfire (which it really wouldn’t be a camp experience without coming away smelling like fire, right??); and Sunday I got to limb about 8 trees about 8 feet high, so now when people walk to the bathroom they don’t have to bring a machete and fight their way through the thick pine branches.

Sunday morning was particularly enjoyable as we celebrated Pentecost Sunday with worship in the memorial chapel, built by the parents of a young woman who had enjoyed camp as a child and who succumbed to cancer at age seventeen in 1955.  Being as it was Memorial Day weekend, and as someone who works with the dying, it caused me to pause and to think about what redemptive fruits will develop in the future from the seemingly senseless tragedies that people suffer every day.  I’m sure losing their talented and beautiful young daughter was unimaginably painful for that family.  And yet, they built a house of God in her memory–a place where the young and old alike have worshipped the Lord while at camp for the past 60 years, and will continue to do so for decades to come.

In a similar experience, on Monday morning when I left camp to drive home, I stopped and visited the Ketchum Cemetery.  The writer Ernest Hemingway died in Ketchum in 1961 and is buried in this cemetery.  I had visited his grave once before, but I wanted to stop again–both to see his grave but also just to wander around, acknowledging the graves of many veterans buried there in particular, each of whose grave was decorated with an American flag stuck in the ground above it.  I sense that I am developing an odd relationship to cemeteries.  Again, as a hospice chaplain, the form of worship I conduct most frequently is that of the funeral–a gathering of witnesses to acknowledge both a life lived and a life died.  Nowadays people either are not religious enough to want a funeral, and/or plan on being cremated, so there is no graveside service to conduct.  But occasionally I do lead a very traditional funeral, begun with a chapel service and followed by a procession to the cemetery and a graveside committal.  You would think that being someone who spends a lot of time with the dying, and who offers many prayers of commendation for the deceased, that I wouldn’t want to spend anymore time with the dead or in cemeteries than I already do.  And yet, there I was, called to the graveyard for a moment of quiet reflection.  I appreciated just being able to walk around, reading the names and dates on headstones, wondering what life was like for those people who died many decades ago; wondering how their families grieved when they died.  One grave was for a baby girl who died at ten days old.  There were many graves of veterans from World War II, and even some from as far back as WWI, as Hemingway himself was.  I wonder how those mothers reacted when they received that knock on their door and were informed that their son had been killed in the war.  So many stories, buried in that sacred ground–another thin place where life on earth ends and the eternal life begins.

Media vita in morte sumus.  In the midst of life we are in death.

Liz

First Fruits

Hello darlings,

So today was very exciting as I got to pick up my first box of fresh produce through my CSA (community-supported agriculture) share with Peaceful Belly Farm here in Boise.  So now for 17 more weeks, every Wednesday afternoon I’ll get to hop on over to a neighborhood host’s house and see what vegetable surprises await (actually they send an email out the day before telling us what we’re getting–it’s kind of a spoiler alert, but I know it will get me even more excited and I think it will be helpful in terms of recipe planning).

I signed up for my half-share last fall when my friend Debbie took me to Peaceful Belly’s harvest festival.  It was basically my version of heaven–glorious sunshine with just that tiny hint of a crisp autumn breeze; lots of happy people enjoying good food; an overall sense of both abundance and satisfaction; and live fiddle music playing in the background.  The farm opens up and invites all their members to come glean from the fields, celebrating the bounty of the harvest and wrapping things up for the season.  It is incredible how much produce they produce–there were rows and rows and rows of tomatoes, squash, herbs, flowers, raspberries, potatoes, pumpkins, and all kinds of other good stuff.  People were like kids in a candy store–picking their goods straight off the vine and hauling overflowing sacks to their cars.  And, to top it all off, there was fresh apple cider being pressed in the barn, and a pretty amazing potluck for lunch, too.  (People who garden are inherently good cooks, I’ve decided.  Although it’s hard to mess up a dish when the quality of the ingredients is so high.)

Of course at that time I wasn’t planning on buying a house, but now that I have, I’m extra glad I had bought my CSA share as I won’t really be growing a whole lot in my garden this year.  You all know I’m in the thick of the “demolition” phase with regard to my yard/landscaping/future garden spaces, so I think I’ll have to be content with just growing a few tomato plants (the first of which actually came in my produce box today, yay!) and surviving off the fresh organic produce that my wonderful farmers are raising for me.  That sort of reminds me of whyI love being an aunt–I get to enjoy the fruits of my brother’s and sister’s labor (meaning, their kids, and her labor, literally, I guess…) without doing all the hard work of actually raising them.  Ha!

So my first basket included a bag of spinach (which I put in my smoothie every morning), a bunch of bok choy (which I'm going to have to figure out how to cook), a bunch of turnips (again, don't think I've ever eaten a turnip), a bunch of fresh oregano, a bunch of kale, and as I mentioned, an heirloom tomato plant that purportedly will produce flaming orange beefsteaks weighing on average 9-12 oz.  [Squeeeeeeeeal]  I'm so excited.

So my first basket included a bag of spinach (which I put in my smoothie every morning), a bunch of bok choy (which I’m going to have to figure out how to cook), a bunch of turnips (again, don’t think I’ve ever eaten a turnip), a bunch of fresh oregano, a bunch of kale, and as I mentioned, an heirloom tomato plant that purportedly will produce flaming orange beefsteaks weighing on average 9-12 oz. [Squeeeeeeeeal] I’m so excited!

I’ll be away for Memorial Day weekend, so I need to start mowing (rhymes with chowing–not “mowing” as in when I get back Monday afternoon I’m going to have to start mowing my lawn immediately…) down seriously on all this fresh produce so not one bite gets wasted.  So I decided to start with the kale tonight and make a simple kale slaw.  I’m not exactly kookoo for kale, and I appreciate the Smitten Kitchen‘s quote, “The world would be a better place if we all stopped pretending that kale tastes good…”  While it can be a bit tough (make sure you pull the ribs out all the way), I do find that it is fairly neutral in flavor and tastes yummy as long as it is tossed with a delicious dressing.  So I whipped this baby together in a few minutes with some random ingredients in my cupboard/fridge:

Kale Slaw

Shred a bunch of kale, slice or chop one or two green apples, slice or chop about a half cup of red onion, and add some nuts or seeds for crunch (I used pine nuts but I think almonds or sunflowers seeds would work well, or whatever you have/like).  Mix the dressing:  1/4 cup mayo or yogurt, 1 T apple cider vinegar, 1 tsp sugar or agave/honey, juice of a lime, and some salt and pepper to taste.  Pour dressing over the fresh ingredients and toss it all around.  Proceed to wolf if down, because it’s super yummy.  The dressing is pretty light too, so don’t be surprised or ashamed if/when you eat the whole bowl in one setting.

Be creative and add whatever either needs to be used or what you think would taste good.  The dressing is a bit sweet like standard coleslaw dressing.

Be creative and add whatever needs to be used or what you think would taste good. The dressing is a bit sweet like old-fashioned coleslaw dressing. It would be good with some thin slices of radish (hint, hint, for all you “full-share” CSA folks out there…) or thin shavings off a fennel bulb.

Enjoy, and nighty night,

Liz

Shabbat Shalom

Happy End-of-Monday everyone!

Ok–confession:  I realize I probably should have posted this to usher in the sabbath, or at least while it was still the weekend, but as you’ll read below, I was busy actually observing the sabbath, so here’s my sabbath message, three days late.

I did have a wonderfully relaxing and looooong-feeling weekend.  I say “long-feeling,” because it wasn’t really a “long” weekend.  After all, I only had my usual Saturday/Sunday off after making it through the M-F/9-5 grind (which isn’t really a grind for me as I love my job and the many interesting people with whom I work).  But, this weekend felt particularly long because the sabbath did what it was supposed to do–it slowed me down, so then time slowed down, so then the weekend felt like it was about five days instead of only two.  It was “nice” because in fact the weather was bad.  “Bad” weather for Boise means the sky wasn’t full-on blazing, blistering sunshine all day–in fact the sun barely peeked out all weekend (Hallelujah, praise Jesus for once!).  You see, being someone who grew up in the area of the country that by contrast gets the least amount of sunshine, let’s just say it’s been a “challenge” for me to adjust to the sunniest part of the country.  (You know the Twilight vampire books/movies?  Those are set close to where I grew up–which my former [thank God] mother-in-law used to always tell people when she first introduced me to one of her socialite acquaintances:  “This is Liz, our daughter-in-law.  She’s from Washington where those vampire books are set…”)  Some days I just wissssssshhhhhhhh it would be cloudy and gray–and I pray for rain, not really in the biblical sense, but more in the selfish sense so that I can hole up inside with a good book, my furry blanket, a cup of tea, and no guilt.  When you grow up somewhere with very little sunshine, you both learn to do anything you want outside no matter what the weather is like, while also learning that when the sun pops out, you better get out and soak it in because it’ll likely be covered up in ten minutes, and you might not see it for another ten days.  So here, it’s really hard for me not to feel guilty when I want to be inside reading and it’s a beautiful day out.  Whenever my mom visits, every day she’s like, “Oh my gosh, what a beautiful day!!!”  And I want to be like, “Every day is a beautiful day………can’t I just have an ugly day for once?!?!”

So almost all of last week, including the weekend, was ugly (again, according to Boise standards), and it was beauty for my soul.  I actually had penciled it in my calendar to have a yard sale this weekend.  My garage is about half-full of stuff I wasn’t able to get rid of before I moved in the middle of winter, and the OCD part of me is dying to heave it onto the driveway and dole it out to my neighbors in exchange for some bucks.  But, again, the weather did not cooperate for that to happen this weekend.  That’s okay, because at one point last week I walked into the library to pick up a book I had on reserve (Lynsey Addario’s memoir about being a war photographer, It’s What I Do, which I highly recommend you do–read, that is.  As a hospice chaplain, I found a lot of similarities between her draw toward death and destruction and my calling to ministry.  More on that later…  Although it reminds me also to recommend a phenomenal movie I saw last summer with Juliette Binoche–A Thousand Times Good Night–so watch that too and let me know what you think, k?) and walked out with a sackful of several other selections (phew, thanks for sticking with me through that last sentence).  So this weekend, I proceeded to spend lots of time holed up inside, covered by my furry blanket, drinking tea, reading my stack of books, and not feeling guilty at allllllllll.  I made it through 3 out of 4, so I considered it a pretty productive weekend.

I love observing the Sabbath, and sometimes I wish I had been raised either Seventh-Day Adventist or as an Orthodox Jew, not so that I could have less religious freedom as a woman and an even more restrictive diet imposed on me than I already impose on myself, but rather so that I could count on having the full sabbath experience every week–you might say, “religiously…”

Shortly after I graduated from seminary, I went on a trip to the Middle East that was both a study of the religious roots of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict while also a cultural exchange between Christian seminarians and Jewish rabbinic students.  It was an amazing, life-changing experience–in some ways good, in other ways, not-so-good.  I got engaged while on the Sinai Peninsula, which was pretty amazing at the time, but we all know how that turned out, so there’s that.  Aaaaanyhoooooo,  definitely one of the highlights of the trip was when shabbat came, and we Christians went to the Friday night service with our Jewish partners, followed by a dinner with them and either family or other friends they knew in Jerusalem (because which American rabbi-to-be doesn’t have either family or other friends in Jerusalem, ready and waiting to host shabbat dinner?  I know.).  My roommate, Molly, was hilarious–she’s a gay Reform rabbi who does stand up in New York while not bat-mitzvah’ing (err, let’s just say I was much better at Greek than Hebrew…).  Anyway, we went to dinner at her fabulous friends’ chic apartment near the Old City.  Her Canadian-gone-alliyah-friends served a lovely and simple shabbat dinner, which we enjoyed from the patio deck in the warm summer night.  I particularly remember sipping a few shots of espresso vodka and eating the most delicious chocolate mousse I’ve ever tasted (well, maybe second place to C’est si bon at home).  So having that “authentic” sabbath experience taught me the importance of truly taking time to stop at the end of the week, to celebrate what happened in life over the past seven days, to pause, to worship, to gather with friends, and to enjoy the pleasure of good food [and drink…].  I’ve always had a fantasy that maybe I would start a weekend ritual of hosting a shabbat dinner at my house every Friday night, complete with a little candle-lighting ceremony and some sort of prayer ritual.  I don’t think I have enough friends to do so at this point (not to mention that I currently don’t have an oven either, and that my refrigerator presently lives in my garage), but maybe that dream will come true one day.

Until then, I’m still trying to experience a real sabbath on my weekends.  True, there are weekends that are more full or booked with other activities–I preach about once a month for various local congregations, sometimes have weekend church meetings, and in the summer I’m hoping to do at least a few backpacking trips which require some preparation and a few hours of driving.  But for all my other “normal” weekends, I’m so grateful that I can enjoy lots of unplanned time to rest, read, enjoy the quiet space around me, and simply be.  My sabbaths do still include going out–usually to the farmer’s market, an indie movie, and to church on Saturday nights, if not also Sunday morning–but mostly I have enjoyed staying home, sitting on my patio, and going for a walk around my park to get a bit of fresh air.

So even though it’s Monday night, that means only four more days until we can light a candle and again wish one another, “Shabbat shalom.”

Liz

Yard Waste-1, Me-0

Hello all,

It’s been a busy week at Satis House, as you can probably tell given that I haven’t posted anything since Monday.  I guess it’s really been a busy week away from Satis House–an evening appointment, a couple outings with friends, a special church meeting, etc.

But, I did manage to work on the ever-looming mountain of yard waste that I keep referring to and which still lives in my backyard (I’m starting to understand how the Dad from Better Off Dead felt about Lane’s Camaro that lived in a cocoon in his front yard until he and Monique finally fixed it up…).

Earlier in the week, my aforementioned neighbors and another friend helped me haul our neighborhood-owned wood chipper over and park it out back.  It sat there until Thursday, when I finally had a free evening to get to work and start turning some brush into mulch.  I was proud of myself initially for actually getting the thing started (it only took three tries…), and then I was humbled by the sheer volume of organic matter that was facing the chipper.  Here’s a good picture that puts into perspective what a daunting task I am facing:

Ok so the perspective from which I took this picture does kind of falsely exaggerate how big the pile is, but I still like how tiny it makes the chipper look.

Ok so the perspective from which I took this picture does kind of falsely exaggerate how big the pile is, but I still like how tiny it makes the chipper look.

I mean, no complaints about the chipper–it is a Troy-Bilt, which is a quality brand, and I’m getting to use it for free, after all–but it’s definitely a “home”-size version.  Once I charted shoving the sticks in, I realized that I need an industrial-sized chipper if I’m ever going to see my lawn again.  At one point, I watched an episode of “Ask This Old House” (which, PS, is totally my new favorite show on PBS, followed closely by the original “This Old House”).  Roger (the garden/landscape expert and my favorite character) was helping a young woman do essentially what I’m trying to do, which is unveil her lovely house by cutting back and digging out several enormous shrubs.  He did the chainsaw work (like my friend Alex did for me), and her job was to drag the branches away and FEED THEM INTO THE INDUSTRIAL-SIZED CHIPPER(!!!) they had parked on the curb.  OMG, I totally wish I had rented that sucker and done the same thing–just instantly shredded everything as it was being cut so it didn’t accumulate into such a mass/mess.  Alas, I didn’t shred-as-I-go/went, so now I’m playing catch-up.

So after about 45 minutes of tossing in the sticks and trying not to pull a Fargo (although at one point I did trip over some vines and my head landed next to the chipper, which was a *li’l* bit too close for comfort and left a huge bruise on my hip), the thing got jammed and/or ran out of gas and turned itself off.  Frankly, I was ready to be done, so I was okay with it.  And it was at that point that I accepted defeat:  yard waste-1, me-0.

So I promptly called Roberto, the guy I think I mentioned earlier who was trolling the neighborhood in the middle of winter looking for houses that *clearly* needed help with the landscaping.  And, to no surprise(!), he stopped at mine, had a look around, and gave me his card, which I have taped to the inside of one of my kitchen cabinets, along with all my new neighbors’ phone numbers written on various scraps of paper (again, I love my neighbors).  So on Friday Roberto did the drive-by again and said it’d be $250-300 to haul everything away.  I didn’t have him start right away, as I still am entertaining the fantasy of renting an industrial-sized chipper so that I can keep the mulch my branches will produce.  (Okay, so I guess I haven’t “technically” accepted defeat–yet.)

At least I have a little bit of mulch to show for my work.  If I only had a rabbit cage or a hamster, I could use it for bedding…  It was a nice evening, though, and I give myself an A for effort.  There is something so satisfying about doing physical labor, wearing my carhartts and getting all sweaty and dirty outside after a day of listening, reflecting, and meditating for my day job.  And, there was a beautiful thunder and lightning storm that blew through town just as my work was wrapping up (that’s why the pictures are kind of dark).  Being that I am the lady who loved lightning (five points for anyone who gets that literary reference), I enjoyed sitting on one of my stumps, breathing in the fresh air and watching the black clouds and lightning bolts storm on by.

Liz

chipper.4

My handiwork for the night.