Snapshots from home

Plenty of folks may say you can’t go home again, and I understand what they mean. But I went home to North Carolina for a bit of rest a few weeks ago anyway. Here are some snapshots and brief thoughts of my visit home.

It’s hard to balance the need to rest with the desire to catch up with dear friends and family, and so I ended up not doing as much of either as I had hoped. I am slowly realizing that it may always be this way on the visits home, the pull of the heart to spend time with those I love and the pull of the body to rest and soak up the nature of this beautiful place.

The cows came up to the near pasture on my hike through this most favorite of places:

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I always love this view but especially when the field is full of cows.

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Fields of gold

I almost missed my chance at taking this hike, so busy hiking and running and walking in other loved places, but if I hadn’t gone, I would have missed the lilies blooming: Continue reading

Reading Watchman

For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman: let him declare what he seeth (Isaiah 21:6, KJV)

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Last week, I stood in my favorite bookstore listening to a customer chat with the man behind the counter. The customer said, “I’m lukewarm about it right now. I’m going to keep reading and wait to see what everyone says about it before I make up my mind.”

The clerk didn’t respond immediately but then said, “Yeah, we’ve been disappointed with the number of people who have called in to cancel their special order because of the bad reviews.”

They were speaking, of course, about Go Set a Watchman.

To Kill a Mockingbird is my favorite book of all time. So when I heard a “new” Harper Lee book would be coming out, I was beyond thrilled. The news quickly soured, tempering my unbridled joy. But I knew I would buy and read the book.

The negative reviews started coming. I skimmed one and then tried to avoid others. Chapter one came out early as a digital release. I ignored it. I wanted to hold the book in my hands, to read its words there first, and—unlike the bookstore customer—make up my own mind before reading any reviews.

I’m going out on what may be a lonely limb to say I enjoyed Go Set a Watchman. Not in the raving, life-changing way I devoured To Kill a Mockingbird. Not without choking through the excessive use of the n-word. Not without wishing for an editor at points. Not without understanding why reviewers might be harsh.

However, there was so much that resonated with me in these 278 pages that I refuse to join the naysayers. It feels too soon for me to fully articulate my thoughts on the book, but I wanted to set down some thoughts now before they get tangled up with the reviews and opinions of others that I can only avoid for so long. (Caution: spoiler alerts ahead)

Continue reading

The need to rest

When I was little, my family made an annual trek to the North Carolina Coast. I would step out of the car and drink in the heavy feel of the humid, salt air and revel in the sounds of cicadas’ deafening buzz. The week ahead promised rest for us all: lazy breakfasts, often concoctions of eggs, cheese and potatoes my brother fried up; piles of books to read; long days at the beach. We would climb dunes, walk the tide’s edge, fall asleep under a beach umbrella, dive for sand dollars, let gentle waves loll us practically to sleep, or high, strong waves quicken our sense of being alive. There was no schedule, no hurry. Nothing but rest and renewal for a glorious week.

I’m more of a mountain girl than a beach girl nowadays, and that’s where the best rest is happening for me. Any good mountain vacation promises hiking, walking and running in familiar, beloved places. The weather is cooler but more humid than our California summer has been so far. My husband and I sit together and read a pile of books (words cannot adequately express my excitement about Go Set a Watchman). We juggle quiet time and visits with family and friends. Most important, we rest.

If you’re looking for a great book about our need for a Sabbath rest, I highly recommend Wayne Muller’s Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives. In many ways, this book feels like taking a deep, fresh breath. It offers rest and encourages an outlook overhaul:

Sabbath is more than the absence of work; it is not just a day off, when we catch up on television or errands. It is the presence of something that arises when we consecrate a period of time to listen to what is most deeply beautiful, nourishing, or true. It is time consecrated with our attention, our mindfulness, honoring those quiet forces of grace or spirit that sustain and heal us. (8)

How can we better consecrate, honor, savor the blessings in our lives? In this season, are you creating moments that will sustain and heal you? What does Sabbath rest look like to you?

A place that brings me Sabbath rest

A place that brings me Sabbath rest

Fear and the sharp, pointy bits of nature

A month or two ago, I began to notice dogs wearing nets over their heads. I couldn’t imagine their purpose, but one day, I asked a couple walking by why their dog was wearing the net.

“Foxtails,” they replied, pointing to the plants nearby. They went on to explain the multiple expensive surgeries ($500 a pop) their dog had to endure after inhaling foxtails. They tried to reassure me. “Your dog will probably be fine because you keep her on a leash. Ours likes to wander through the grass, and that’s where he picks them up.”

I looked at the yellow plants choking out everything else and wondered how on earth I could possibly keep my dog away from them, short of a head net.

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My usual path is lined with these plant beasties, and in some places, they completely span the trail.

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Not to spoil the surprise, but these aren’t foxtails.

Uncharacteristic for me, I didn’t immediately search online for more information. I told my husband about the nets and the thorny plants—we had both wondered about the nets to each other—and he said, “Oh, I hate those plants. They have vicious thorns.”

They do, these yellow plants. Brush against them as you walk or run past, and you’ll come away with scratches. Ouch. But it turns out they aren’t yellow foxtails. Continue reading

Happy freedom day!

My husband and I celebrated the 4th of July this morning with a free five-mile run. It was my first run beyond about three miles for several months, and I’m excited to have done as well as I did. The course meandered through flat, shady neighborhoods where families came out to cheer the runners on. I saw fun costumes—including a guy wearing a tortoise shell back and hare ears on his head. But mostly there was lots of red, white and blue. What a great way to kick off today’s celebrations.

Our garden is celebrating with some natural fireworks (aka agapanthus). Enjoy some shots of them below. They’re the safest fireworks in this drought, but I imagine there will be plenty of real ones later tonight.

I wish you and yours a happy 4th of July! How are you celebrating this day of freedom?

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