Month: June 2013

Daily Prompt: Rainy days at the cottage

Today’s daily prompt is:

 

Safe inside, toasty warm, while water pitter-patters on the roof… describe your perfect, rainy afternoon.

Photographers, artists, poets: show us RAIN.

I always look forward to a rainy afternoon or evening at our cottage on a lake in Northern Wisconsin. If there isn’t much wind, I sit on the porch and read or just listen to the rain. It’s so soothing. Now that I’ve started meditating, I imagine that a rainy afternoon would be the perfect time to practice meditation.

I also like a good thunderstorm at the cottage, watching the dark clouds gather over the lake, obliterating the sun. The wind comes up, there are flashes of lightning which momentarily light the surface of the lake, followed by crashes of thunder. If I can, I like to witness these also while on the porch, but sometimes instead I have to move the furniture toward the interior of the room and put covers on it to prevent it from getting wet. Then I sit in the front room and watch the storm through the large window facing the lake.

At night or early morning, whether at the cottage or at home, I like to snuggle in bed and listen to the rain falling. It lulls me to sleep. I notice the fresh smell that the rain produces – the smell of wet earth and wet pavement.

If the rain is light and there is no lightning, I go out onto the pier and watch the drops fall onto the lake, making circles that radiate outward.

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????I also take pictures of each stage of the storm from inside, some of which I have already published in a previous post.

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Every year I look forward to sunny days at the cottage, so I can sit on the pier or in the water if it’s hot, and Dale can go out fishing in his boat. But I always hope for a couple of good rainy days too, and a dramatic thunderstorm, which reminds me that nature is in charge.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Fleeting

Fleeting…an image that lasts only a moment. The picture you cherish because you were able to catch someone or something at the best moment. A second later and it would be too late.

Children and animals don’t usually pose for pictures. They are fascinating subjects precisely because they are constantly moving or when they are concentrating on something and you zoom in…they turn their heads just as you click the shutter. You have to be patient to capture those special moments, (and be prepared to take several shots in succession) or very observant to see the small beauties most people pass by.

Butterflies are difficult to capture, since they flutter here and there so quickly. That’s why I like this picture I happened to get as I was on a walk in the woods in Wisconsin:

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Recently I got a new phone with a camera that takes multiple pictures one right after another. In this way I was able to get this series of shots of a boy on a swing in a playground as I was walking in the park.

IMAG0453_BURST001 IMAG0453_BURST007 IMAG0453_BURST008 IMAG0453_BURST009 IMAG0453_BURST010A fleeting moment can also be a tender interaction between a person and an animal, before either subject suddenly disappears or changes position. These are almost always candid shots, so the photographer must seize the moment.

This is a picture of a friend who has been caring for his girlfriend’s cat for some time, and has come to love her as his own. A second after I took the picture, the cat suddenly jumped up and out of his lap.

John & MoxyAnd what can be better than the delight of a child who has a brief moment to hug and feel the softness of a cute, furry creature?

Branlin hugs GingerWhen kids are absorbed in something that they enjoy, it is a great opportunity to capture their concentration on the activity of the moment. Here are some kindergartners “building” in a sandbox.

DSCN5912To capture such “fleeting” memories, I must keep my eyes and my mind open, and my camera ready, to seize those opportunities that arise suddenly, as suddenly they are gone…

Psalm 8 and natural disasters

 

OKtornado2013There is a passage in Leviticus that says something about how God did not have a hand in the natural disasters that happened, but rather appeared in the calmness, the stillness that followed. Last week, our pastor made a connection in his message about Psalm 8 to the recent devastating tornadoes in Oklahoma.

Psalm 8 psalm8

King James Version (KJV)

O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens.

Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.

When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;

What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?

For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.

Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands;thou hast put all things under his feet:

All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field;

The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.

O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!

Some people, particularly fundamentalists, seem to forget the Leviticus passage, and say that God makes natural disasters happen in order to “punish” humanity (or some portion of it). I expect there are more than a few such believers in the area of Oklahoma ravaged by the recent E4-E5 tornadoes! another-tornado-hits-oklahoma-250x250

Our pastor started by saying that insurance companies have a clause in their policies for “acts of God”. But is a tornado an act of God or a force of nature? He said to answer this question, “Don’t ask a theologian or a philosopher, ask a poet.”

I do not believe in a vengeful God that controls absolutely everything that happens to each one of us, like a puppeteer. We were made in His image, as the psalm says: He created us to be “a little lower than the angels”, that is, nearly worthy of heaven, and entrusts us to be the engineers of our own lives. Natural disasters are forces of nature, created by certain atmospheric conditions which may or may not be affected by human activities. Natural disasters have always been part of life on Earth. It is what we do in their wake that matters.

Psalm 8 proclaims the glory and honor of God in nature. We also have glory and honor in us, as the psalm says, that he trusts us to have “dominion” over his creation. We need to distinguish between “dominion” and “domination.” Dominion means that we are entrusted with its (Earth’s) care, not that we should dominate and exploit it. To have dominion is to be in charge of or responsible for something. According to this psalm, humankind is God’s partner in the care of natural resources and all creatures. As we respect God and God respects us, so should we respect our planetary home and all living things, and show our gratitude to both God and the Earth for the beauty and bounties our home has provided for us.

A disaster such as a tornado is not an act of God, but rather an event in which there is an opportunity to find the acts of God in the aftermath: this is when God makes himself known. The presence of God can be felt in the peace and calmness when the tornado has passed, the quiet in which people can emerge from their hiding places, in which they realize with relief and gratitude that they and the loved ones that they have been sheltering are alive. It is a time when people who have lost homes or loved ones are comforted by others. God is there when those who have compassion – neighbors as well as complete strangers – come to help those in need. God is there in the resolve and determination of those affected by the disaster to pick up the pieces and rebuild. God is there in the community as it rebuilds, or with those who decide to leave.

A post circulating on Facebook asks whether insurance companies or government intervention should give money to the victims of an area repeatedly plagued by natural disasters. How many times should there be compensation for those who continue to live there? The problem is, where should those people go? There is some kind of disaster – natural or manmade – everywhere, and that place is their home. How much money, then, should be given to refugees to relocate in a place that is different and unknown for them, and where they may have no family? In my opinion, what should be done is to provide the community with the resources to build more protective shelters, in schools, in community centers, and in homes. What kind of materials are more tornado-resistant that could be used to build homes and other buildings? Perhaps there are none that are practical for that purpose.

On the other hand, there are storm chasers who drive toward and into tornadoes in order to study them, and in fact, three were killed recently doing that. By collecting data that helps scientists to understand the exact nature of tornadoes and the conditions under which they form, these storms can be predicted more accurately and sooner, giving people more time to evacuate. God has given us the intelligence, the capacity to analyze the forces of nature to better understand them. Should we try to control them? No, but we can lessen their impact by lessening those activities which help create superstorms. Tornadoes and hurricanes are natural occurrences, but the alteration of our atmosphere due to pollutants may have increased their size and frequency. This is where God is: in the effort to understand our world in order to help those who live here. 

earth

Daily Prompt: Food, Marvelous Food

(June 4) If you could get all the nutrition you needed in a day with a pill — no worrying about what to eat, no food preparation — would you do it?

No, I don’t think I would, although I might like the option on a day in which I don’t have time to eat. But I cannot nor would not want to imagine a world ????????????????????????????????????without the taste of sweet chocolate, juicy strawberries or barbecued shish-kabobs!

The pleasure of eating is something we all experience. Having to eat forces you to slow down – maybe just a little if you eat fast – and reflect on how your day is going, talk to a companion, or entertain yourself with reading or TV. Everyone is in such a rush these days that they don’t take time to interact with others and to enjoy the pleasure of delighting their taste buds. When I was growing up, my family of seven all gathered together to have dinner. It was rare that we were allowed an exception to watch a favorite TV program. It was a time to converse with family members and to display good manners: “May I please be excused?” was a required request to leave the table. I don’t think I would know the names of most of my parents’ friends or much about the lives of my brother and sisters if we hadn’t spent time together at the dinner table.

Nowadays, it seems that many families do not have that time together – whether it’s no longer valued or because everyone is in a rush. Sometimes schedules don’t coincide: children come home from school when Mom and/or Dad have gone to work, or an older sibling works the late night shift so is still sleeping at dinner time. Kids have electronics in their rooms to entertain them. They might munch on their fast food while playing a video game or watching TV. I’m not sure they even pay enough attention to the food to enjoy it or think about the taste. The purpose of eating to people who eat on the run is to satisfy their hunger – they have to eat. These are the people who probably would like to take a nourishment pill.

But sitting down and eating a meal is an important part of our society, even of humanity. If at home, someone has to take the time to prepare it – which they may or may not enjoy doing. This also takes time, but it also adds to the appreciation of the meal. Many of our celebrations center around food: banquets at weddings, barbecues on the fourth of July, buffets at a variety of gatherings.

quinoa with shrimp & beans, plate of colorful raw veggies
quinoa with shrimp & beans, plate of colorful raw veggies

It’s an excuse to get together and catch up with friends, family and acquaintances. It’s a time to meet new people – many people meet their future life partner at a wedding, funeral, anniversary or birthday party.

What would life be without the simple pleasure of an ice cream cone in the summer or a brownie at a potluck? What can beat treating ourselves to dinner at a nice restaurant with those we love to celebrate a special occasion? Food can have nearly an infinite variety of tastes and textures – some we like, some we don’t. It’s a conversation piece. Food is a prominent part in most, if not all, cultures around the world. Food played an important part in history – when would the New World have been “discovered” by Europeans if they weren’t on a constant quest to obtain spices from the East? Perhaps we would be speaking a Native American language today. Without food, our history would be completely different.

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Rural villagers in southern Peru share a meal of mostly potatoes, their main staple.
Rural villagers in southern Peru share a meal of mostly potatoes, their main staple.

So before the next time you sit down to eat, take the time to arrange the different foods on your plate. When you sit down at the table (and NOT in front of the TV), look at your plate and appreciate the variety of tastes, colors, textures and nutrients before you even take a bite. Then take that bite – but don’t rush! Savor it. Talk to whoever is with you. Be glad for our Earth and its bounty of food. Without it, life would be terribly dull!     

Baked brie with peach jam & pecans served with buttered French bread (at The Vine in Minocqua, WI)
Baked brie with peach jam & pecans served with buttered French bread (at The Vine in Minocqua, WI)