Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Storm!!

I still find it unnerving to wake in the night to a thundering roar. It sounds like a freight train has been re-routed five feet away from my bed or that a 747 has landed on the roof. "What!?!?!" I think.
And then I remember that I live near a most amazing lake who will sometimes come up and roar for a couple days at a time.

Early on Thursday she was very loud. Several times I went down to the beach just to look at the enormous waves and see how far up they came. During the afternoon you could hardly walk on the beach because the waves came all the way up to the tree line.

Cozy in front of the fire, knitting, sewing listening to A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from Kings College Cambridge, but always with this roar underneath it all. Forty eight hours and no let up at all.
Christmas, snowed in, pondering the mystery of such a great lake, and pondering the great mystery of God choosing to live amongst us.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Peace on Earth...

I think back to years of holiday frenzy--parties,
shopping, making and wrapping presents. Oh and cooking, baking, taking kids to plays, concerts and pageants. Not to mention getting cards out and presents for anyone vaguely associated with the family. And then there was the mall and traffic. By the time we were within a week of Christmas, I felt frantic.

Which may help explain why I love living in Grand Marais during this season. We did have some folks over for dinner the other night and we sang for awhile. A group of women chatted about Christmas past and that pressure. I went to join some women I've come to admire for a holiday gathering. But mainly, I've been slowly making some presents, walking in the fresh snow, and watching the big lake. I listen to some seasonal music on the radio.

I find myself thinking, "Yes, this is how it was meant to be: a time of pondering, of slow beauty, and deep dark nights. Of stitching and praying for someone as I knit or sew. This is how Christmas is meant to be."
I've got to wonder how society has taken such a season and made it so painful and frenetic for so many.
I'm so thankful to be in a place which invites this pace, this waiting, this silent expectancy.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Brooklyn Bridge: Sort of different from Grand Marais

Last week I got to go visit my little granddaughter Esme in Phillie. We decided to take an overnight jaunt to New York City on the bus. We walked a lot: over to see Uncle Steve's office and have lunch with him, to Macy's for a look at the windows, and then down to NYU to meet up with Auntie Anna.
Then we decided since it was such a lovely evening, to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. We saw all kinds of wonderful views of the skyline. But my eyes were really for my little Esme, watching her watch all those things--pointing out boats that are not canoes, sparkly lights in the buildings on the skyline.

Here we are: Auntie Anna, Esme and I
on the bridge. I find myself feeling so grateful: Esme and Anna are new in my life and yet I love them so much.
Brooklyn Bridge and Grand Marais are similar inasmuch as both are filled with wonders for eyes that can see. Love is everywhere!

Monday, November 23, 2009

light intoxication

In these winter months on the North Shore, the sun never climbs very high in the sky. We watch it rise out of the big lake (later each day). In these pictures above, it has just risent. By the winter solstice in December, it rises just to the right of the big tree.

It moves across the sky, pouring into our windows, hitting the lake and bouncing in. We have to turn the heat off first thing in the morning because of the sheer solar energy.

This picture (right) shows the sun near noon. Notice how low it is since we are so far north.

The light seems so present, bouncing off the lake and pouring into the house, I found myself last week feeling "drunk" on the light--overwhelmed by all of it.

The first Christians were accused of being drunk on the Spirit. Maybe this is something of how they felt!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Twig Table!

Last weekend, I had some unexpected free time
and so I decided to take a class at the North House Folk School.
I'd been wanting to learn how to make Twig Furniture,
also called Rustic Furniture. This kind of furniture making
has a long history--since it uses materials that are
all around us, and prunes instead of cutting down trees.

First you make the twig base by hammering
wood pieces together.

Then you make the top, something like making a mosaic. On my top I used mainly different colored willows and some red osier dogwood. I also used some beach rocks that blended in to the colors.

Igot a real kick out of making this, watching the design emerge, using the subtle tones of nature. Since this first project I've made a picture frame as well.
The satisfaction of working with wood, with nails, with color--it's very meditative. I think of my father who often did woodworking for relaxation and creativity. I've decided to keep doing this kind of folk craft as part of my life--to connect with the tangible, to create from nature, and also to sell.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Superior goes wild

I awaken to a roar: like a freight train going by the window. And then I realize--Lake Superior is at it again! The beach that held us sitting on the edge, the quiet lapping of the little waves--taken over by fury!

On Friday, November 6th, there was no wind to speak of, and yet huge waves crashed onto the beach, over the breakwaters in town, over the second layer of breakwaters. We sat in the sun stuffing envelopes at the Folk School as the waves lept like geysers.

Someone told me there must be a storm somewhere else on Superior, and because
she has a smaller surface area than an ocean, those waves will be felt up here on the northern edge.
Just as the poet and essayist John Donne wrote that "no man is an island unto himself," Superior reminds us that a storm somewhere on this lake makes waves on other parts.
May that be true for us: may we be aware of the fact of our connectedness--in matters like health care reform, hunger, global climate change--so that the waves that crash are reminders of our oneness.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Seeing with new eyes

Some friends are making their second annual visit to WindCradle and the northshore. It's wonderful to see them and to have a good excuse to hike and paddle more than usual!
But they are artists....
As I hike or paddle with Lisa and Bernard, I see the world anew. I catch just a bit of what an artist sees. Their view of the beauty of surroundings makes me begin to see the familiar in new ways.
It seems remarkable to me that with the same eyes we can see the same things, and yet they notice light or lines in rocks or ferns in ways I've never seen them.
The gift: helping someone to see more fully, bringing added dimensions to the world. I wonder if that's something we can all do for others as we stand aside another and bring our perspective to them.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Gift of joy and wonder

When we baptize in the Episcopal Church we ask God to give the one being baptized "the gift of joy and wonder in all your works." So it was with much joy that I (along with a bit of help from her parents) introduced my little granddaughter Esme to some of my favorite spots in the great north. She LOVED the Kadunce River, wading and preliminary sliding on some of the tiny waterfalls.

And what could be better than sitting by the big lake throwing rocks into it. We are pleased to say that there are still a number of rocks left on our beach, even after her best efforts to throw them all in!

And of course she had to try out a little canoe ride.......we poked the nose of the canoe into the Boundary Waters, so we'd know she'd had her first BWCAW trip.....It'll be a few years before we get to the first overnight one I'm afraid.
And while I know she's unlikely to remember all of this...I'm glad to be a part of helping to instill "the gift of joy and wonder" in all God's works. And seeing someone else's joy deepens mine--what a gift.

Monday, July 20, 2009

nature--big, little and funky

The beauty of the great north takes many forms. The lakes reflect light onto the trees and the ancient rocks glow in the setting sun. Clearwater Lake is one that stretches into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and makes for great paddling.

And then there is the beauty of different plants and animals: ladyslippers hiding in the woods on a summer hike (this is the South Lake trail off the Gunflint Trail.)
We've seen so many beautiful birds here-orioles, rose-breasted gross beaks, indigo bunting, pelicans, eagles, osprey. Ravens seemed mainly annoying, until we started reading about them in a book called THE MIND OF THE RAVEN. We began to be fascinated by them: these are a few of our local friends, who like to look in the window or pick up bright stones.
Nature captures attention, intrigues in a number of ways: the prayer from the baptismal service, "give this child the gift of joy and wonder in all God's works" worked for me!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Building a Labyrinth

Okay you've got to admit it--most people don't have one of these in their front yard. It's about 45-50 feet across and is called a "Modifed Chartres" labyrinth. In other words, it's in the style of the one in Chartres Cathedral in France, which was built around 1200 or so.
Why a labyrinth? The idea is this: many of us struggle to sit down and pray or meditate--involving the body can help us center. As you walk toward the center you empty yourself of some concerns. In the center you pause to pnder before making your way out.
This is not a maze! You don't have to make any decisions except the one to enter and walk it.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Love of Dog!

In the last couple weeks I've had the chance to talk about my book, Dogspell: The Gospel According to Dog. Here I'm reading at Drury Lane Books in Grand Marais; I also did a talk related to the book and our god images at the Sacred Ground Center in St. Paul.

As I read from the book, and see
people's reactions,
I remember how hard it is for us to
remember that we are beloved.

Or as one person said at this salon
at Drury Lane Books, "How different would the world be, if we believed, really
believed, we were loved?!"

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Water reflecting,dancing, flying

Water seems to dominate
our world up in the great north.
We sit on the beach looking at
all this liquid space. Often our retreats begin on the beach.
Sometimes the lake roars;
sometimes it reflects light.
Sometimes we paddle on it;
rarely we swim in it.

Or we go to the inland lakes to paddle or hike. This is Daniels Lake in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Light there reflects off the water onto tree trunks and rocks, which the native peoples called "dancing spirits."

At WindCradle, from the deck, the living room or the dining room we see the light of the lake dancing, reflecting.
And sometimes it seems that some
of the light gets caught on a bird's
wings as with this Indigo Bunting.
All this light, reflected, dancing, winged...speaks to me of God.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Spring in the Northland

Spring comes late here. But we sure appreciate it. Living in Cape Town with its Mediterranean climate, spring was nothing, since winter was nothing. Minnesotans joke that our weather builds character, and that may be true. Or as one friend put it, "No one moves to Minnesota for the climate!" But....this week I went to see some members of Spirit of the Wilderness Church up on Seagull lake, and of course we had to go paddling! (My kind of pastoral visit!) The water was still very cold, but calm, and a loon broke the surface of the water right next to us, water drops on her head. Lovely.

Since this is a fly-way, there are also lots of migrating birds passing through. The other day I was bowled over by the bright orange of an oriole, the bright scarlet of a rose breasted gros beak, the intense yellow of a goldfinch, and then along came an indigo bunting. Such exuberant color after months of muted tones.The world is also alive with water, snowmelt feeding streams, rushing down ravines that will be dry in a month or two. And the waterfalls are stunning, roaring, spraying, making rainbows here and there. And those baby green leaves on the trees; plants poking out of the ground.

As we hike, it's hard to tell what is poking through--what this little funnel of green or this tiny leaf will be. Some will be the spring ephemerals which only last very briefly; some are the beginnings of ferns that will become waist high.
I'm thinking about the new life in each of us, and how it's hard to know early on exactly what that life will look like later. I'm hoping for lush green growth as I cooperate with the great spirit.

Monday, April 27, 2009

WindCradle and how she got her name.

WindCradle is the name of the retreat center I'm starting on Lake Superior's north shore.

The rocky beach is almost always empty and wild. Sometimes the lake is so glassy smooth, you can't see the horizon. Other times, huge waves crash so far in, Lake Superior looks like an ocean in a big storm.

If you were standing on the beach looking out, there are points of land on either side, and they look to me like enormous arms that hold and rock. Windy and yet cradled.

That paradox--wind tearing at your hair and clothes and large arms cradling, holding safe--they speak to me of God and of the way we learn. In my years as a teacher, I could see that students needed the balance of challenge and support. Too much challenge, not enough support and it's too stressful to really learn. Too much support and not enough challenge and it's BORING.

As a retreat leader, canoe guide, writer, priest (as well as teacher) I am for that balance of support and challenge. And my hope is that WindCradle will be a place that allows people to find comfort as they grow, grow as they find comfort.