Tonight I had the good pleasure of having my entire family gathered for dinner. It was a great opportunity for a moral discussion. Being as the aging truck I’ve been driving did not pass inspection this week, it looks like I’m going to have bite the bullet and get another vehicle. “I’m thinking about an older Mazda Miata,” I said.
Of course neither of my daughters knew what that is, so I explained a bit about it. “It’s a two-seater, but since your mom and I only drive about two miles to work and back each day, that’s really all we need. It’s a light car with a four cylinder engine, so it’s efficient and gets great gas mileage. It’s reliable. And since the ones I’m looking at are 10 years old or older, I wouldn’t carry collision on it. It would be cheap to insure.”
“So what’s the problem?” they asked.
“Well,” I replied, “it is a sports car. I wouldn’t want people to think that the hard-earned money they so graciously and generously give to the church is being used for anything other than to do more good.” Everyone saw the problem.
I didn’t like the direction this was going. So, being that we were at Cracker Barrel (no surprise there, right?) I decided to bring our waiter into it. “Sean,” I asked, “are you a person of faith?” My daughters dropped their eyes and groaned.
“I like to think so,” he said.
“Here’s why I ask. I’m a priest…” At this Sean’s eyebrows shot up, so I quickly added, “… an Episcopal priest. This is my wife and daughters.”
“Oh,” he said, relieved. “I was wondering. Hi!”
“Anyway, the truck I’ve been driving aged to the point where it didn’t pass inspection this week, so it looks like I need to get a new vehicle. I’m thinking about a Mazda Miata. Do you think that’s a problem?”
“A Miata?” he said, rolling his eyes. “Why would you get that? I mean why not an older Trans-am or a Corvette?” Clearly my kind of guy. Now we were getting somewhere.
“Well,” I said, “I wouldn’t want the people in my church to feel like their money was being used poorly. If you were in my church, how would you feel if I drove up in a sports car?”
“Heck,” he said, “my last pastor drove a Mercedes.”
I wish I could say that settled the question. And maybe it did. But if so, it too seemed to weigh against the answer for which I’d been hoping.
This is quite possibly the biggest black rate snake I have ever seen. We didn't want to keep on driving because we were afraid it would try and cross the road and end up among the flattest snakes I have ever seen. Eventually we got it to turn around and head back into the weeds so we could pass.
The road was on a farm. A little later we met the farmer. I mentioned I had seen a huge black rat snake. A concerned look came over his face. "You didn't hurt it, did you?"
"No," I assured him
"Good," he said, relieved. "That snake's been here a long time. Helps keep the mice and rat numbers down. He's just like a big pet. We call him Charlie."
"For a moment," I ventured, "I thought about catching him. We have a Vacation Bible School starting next week and it's called Weird Animals. I figured he'd qualify."
The farmer thought about that a moment. "I reckon he would," he agreed.
Did I mention that on this farm there was also a limestone spring creek? That means cold, cold water, even in summer. Limestone also helps create the perfect alkalinity levels for massive aquatic insect populations. And that means... Big Trout.
Many of us will spend at least a portion of our hard earned money to go north during the summer. We do so, at least in part, to find some cool, dry air. This week that air literally came to us. What a gift.
Through the broken clouds, light came into the garden.
Mist laid like a blanket upon it. It began to glow a soft pink.
Couples took the opportunity to enjoy an outdoor breakfast together.
I was glad when my wife joined me, bundled up in a sweatshirt and cradling a hop cup of coffee.
"I like these," she said. Me too. They are, by the way, called "Wedding Band." Fitting, don't you think?
The light continued to dance and play.
It continued to grow. So did the colors.
A gladiolus was about to bloom, and it struck me that the day was filled with promise.
The time will come, I suppose, when I won't be able to hike into remote back-country alone. But it's not here yet. So I got up early and headed up one of the highest mountains east of the Mississippi.
It would still be a while before the sun actually rose, but the dawn light began to grow.
The access point to this area was closed, so getting to the creek meant bushwhacking down a mountainside. It was worth it.
Beneath the falls there was a fish.
Going higher, a lush meadow came into view.
A stream ran through it.
"The stream runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.," Norman Maclean wrote. I listened closely.
Eventually it was time to move on.
Fish on streams like this are not big. But they are wild, and they are beautiful.
The wildflowers were too.
As were the waterfalls.
And the stones beneath them.
Though I did not see any other people the whole day, that did not mean others were not in the woods with me. Mud is interesting because it lets you know who some of those companions are.
I will not always be able to do this alone, and then eventually will not be able to do it all. So for now, I'm going to enjoy journeys like these for all they are worth. The sun was setting for the climb out. It had been over 16 hours since hiking in, but seemed like I had just left.
Nothing is too good for this robin's children. She wants to make sure her children aren't missing out on anything they might need. First she collects worms and other insects she finds in the yard. Then she fills any empty spaces there might be in her beak with suet.
Though I post a fair number of sunrise pictures, sunsets are pretty rare on here. That's mostly because I'm usually home at 5AM when the sun is rising, but not at 8:30 or 9PM when the sun is setting. Tonight, however, I was, and so I thought I'd correct the situation.
Ironically, a couple of the day-lilies the deer left were the target of a large branch toppled in the big storm that blew threw a little earlier with wind gusts up to 75MPH.
Still, the post-storm light was stunning.
A hummer stopped by for one last drink before turning in for the night.
One of my favorite quotes, which I've posted here before, is from G.K. Chesterton:
"Here ends another day, during which I have had eyes, ears, hands and the great world around me. Tomorrow begins another day. Why am I allowed two?"
I take that to mean that one of anything, duly appreciated, is enough. This is the key to contentment, the antidote to greed. It's at the heart of gratitude, and it chokes out self-pity. Life is not fair; truth is, it's extravagant.
All that is good and well--in principle! Actually living it is something else. Take daylilies, for instance. This year, the deer have found new ways into my garden. They have eaten hundreds, probably thousands, of blooms. But everyday I still have at least one (and frankly, considerably more). Is that enough?
There is a challenge here, to be sure. When I walk through the garden first thing in the morning and see all barren stalks, now void of blooms, my first thought is to be put upon, resentful, angry. But then I look around. Here grows another daylily, which sets a great multitude of blooms.
Each one is a marvel, a source of great delight in and of itself.