Monday, September 20, 2010

Chef at Heart

Cassie begins culinary school next Monday. She is excited.

To watch a dream unfold causes reflection. This child of mine has been interested in food preparation all her life. Cassie has been curious and competent from her first moments standing on a chair watching dinner come together from my practiced hands, to helping me flip pancakes or roll cookies, to where she is following her own cookbook recipes and creating lavish meals for us, her willing family.

Late March of this year found Tom, the girls, and me exploring wine country for the first time. Exciting to discover what is essentially grape farming. Row upon row, acre upon acre, valley upon valley deliciously and decidedly planted and pruned. We vowed we'd return when the leafless grape vines hung heavy with grapes in the fall.

Yesterday we returned at Cassie's prompting. The same vineyards, transformed, welcomed us with aromas sweet and varied, sights magnificent.

But more met my attention, more than I anticipated. I'd hopped out of the car to snap a few photos. It wasn't but moments when a strolling figure entered my camera's viewfinder. It was college-bound daughter heading for the vines. Still curious. Still unstoppable. Still independent and competent. Staying in the background I watched, curious myself. Silently she inspected, breathed the aroma, tasted the fruit. She sighed. Pensive. This world of grapes and wine-making beckons her. She has to know.

Stirrings in my heart let me know this was the beginning of something great for Cassie. For all of us.

Culinary Arts. Blessed she is to know what she wants, to have a dream she is free to follow.

She's in the kitchen right now - making big, soft pretzels for the first time - patiently waiting for me to accompany her in buying required college books. There's a strange lump in my throat. I don't quite understand why. I am happy for this child, eager for what is ahead, not at all sad or afraid. She'll be living here at home all year, going to school just as she did high school last year. Is it joy? Is it change?

I don't know. But it's good, whatever it is, and I embrace it.

The fullness of life.

(If you click on the last vineyard picture you can better see Cassie on the left, inspecting the grapes.)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Surprising Grace

An ominous storm blacks out the entire sky ahead as I drive the car to the repair shop early this morning. The Coastal Mountain Range in the far west - north to south - bears the weight of the dense disturbance.

Still embraced by the eastern morning blue that thus far cheers my drive, I grip my steering wheel in anticipation of encountering the looming darkness.

"The only way to receive the help I need for my car is to enter that blustery unknown. The solution lies there."

First instincts are to find a way around, to avoid, to wait out the storm. But the appointment is today. Now is the time. This I can do. This I will do.

Just like any unexpected ordeal in life, the obstacle must be confronted, for enlightenment lies therein - or beyond. Difficulty must be braved. Willingness to be taught or rescued or strengthened or rebuked motivates.

As is natural for my brain, an analogy is derived from my surroundings. The painful prayer of a recent crisis - a dark night of my soul - echos in my mind: "I trust you, God, though my legs feel boneless, my muscles merely rubber. I know you will make something beautiful out of this miserable situation. But, oh God, I need your help, need you to go before me. I cannot see a way out." In time, surprising grace rained down on my fragile courage, my frail trust, my on-the-brink brokenness. Peace that transcended comprehension.

The Master Creator sculpts beauty from life's debris. All he requires from me is a willing mind, a trusting heart, however small and weak.

While this morning's dark cloud situation is simple, my heart rejoices at its reminder of the innumerable shadow-lessons through which God escorts me, most of which are incredibly worse than a heavily-clouded dawn. His grace is evident through all. Grace that illuminates meaning. "There. There is the reason. There is the beauty. There is love, the greatest gift of all."

I am never alone.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ~~Philippians 4: 6,7

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sunday Mornings Then and Now

Sunday mornings. Unwinding. Freedom for listening, seeing, tasting, smelling, touching. Slowness. Harmony. Peace.

For decades I diligently attended Sunday School and church on Sunday mornings. After scurrying to get husband and kids fed and dressed, I'd snatch seven minutes to dress myself including the frustrated yanking of panty hose over toes and legs, my first Sunday prayer being, "Please don't let them snag or tear." Red-faced from all the effort of a wife and mom trying to do the right thing I'd grab purse, Bible, and Sunday School lesson. In self-imposed sensory deprivation I'd hot-foot it to the car, family in tow.

Not a pleasant ritual. Six of us, in the car, crabby, struggling to put on our Sunday Faces which normally amounted to smiling mouths, scowling eyes. I take full responsibility.

I gave it up. Surrendered to a creeping wisdom. Something was awry in that routine, that conditioning. Awry in my attitude. I attend church on Sunday evenings now, when I can, and leave the Sunday morning church thing to others.

In loosening my white-knuckled grip on tradition I discovered enchantment.

Presently, in the restfulness of Sunday mornings dwells an easy concentration which naturally leads to satisfying contemplation. No panty-hose wars, hurried breakfasts, temperamental hair tamings. Time agreeably meanders.

Sunday's serenity has been there all along. Quiet streets. Animal skitterings. The soothing cadence of shoes as leisurely walkers pass my secret patio. Vibrant foliage interpretively dancing with the breezes. Beloved beagle sunning himself, perfectly still but for his breathing and dreaming. Cherished husband puttering peacefully after morning tea and an hour of news shows. Precious children, restful spirits, stretching bodies enticed by a day of freedom and possibility. For me, awareness.

And happy surprise.

Just now as I type on this sunny Sunday morning I am interrupted by Tom and his latest possum, who plays dead. The opossum, not Tom. This nocturnal creature who was in our shed - the opossum, not Tom - has been freed to wildness for his own safety. Random acts of Tom-ness.

For the enchantment of Sunday morning which offers rejuvenation for the workweek, then faithfully returns me home once again, I smile...


...and contentedly thank God.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010


I miss blogging.

Compulsively sharing like I did in years past. Creating posts, spilling my thoughts, sharing comments with others whose blogs I adored.

Facebook and Twitter ate blogging. Like men on Thanksgiving. Never looking back. Just loosened their pants and ate some more.

Old posts still comfort me, remind me, make me laugh...and cry. I sometimes wonder where the creativity came from. And where it went. Is it still in me and coming out in different forms? Yes, I suppose that's the case. Gardening has increased, cooking and baking improved, soul-searching prioritized. Perhaps this is my season of reflection, of soaking up rather than spilling out.

Yes, I miss blogging. Visiting my old haunts feels like visiting ghost towns now; some of my favorite authors last posts are dated years ago. Many blogs have been deleted. Some remain and cherish them I do.

Makes me sad. Facebook isn't the same. It's fun and informative. But just not the same as a well formed post by a thoughtful friend.

Embracing the void, feeling the grief, refusing to move on.


(Hey, this feels really good. Maybe it's okay to blog in obscurity.)