A raging river

Men may dam it and say that they have made a lake, but it will still be a river. It will keep its nature and bide its time, like a caged animal alert for the slightest opening.

— Wendell Berry

I bought a rain gauge Friday and put it in the ground. From Friday to Monday afternoon, the gauge showed 3.3 inches of rain. There was another round yesterday, and my rain gauge showed another 3.6 inches since Monday. It’s quite possible I haven’t set the gauge in a good place, and we had high winds yesterday that could have blown extra water from plants into the gauge. But we’ve had a lot more water around here than usual.

This area typically gets about 20 inches of rain in a year—measured for some reason from October 1 through September 30—and last year (a drought year), we got just 16 inches of rain for the year.

Last week, as the storm approached, friends on social media began talking about stocking up on storm supplies: batteries, canned food, even MREs. The newspaper offered suggestions about where to get sandbags. I asked my husband if we, in doing none of those things, were perhaps a little too calm about what was coming, and he reminded me we’re high enough above the river that we’d be okay.

In the past few days, I’ve seen young coyotes and deer running hard for high ground, looking bewildered by this turn of events. Ducks have new ponds to swim in. The county has closed off parks near the river. And the river rages.

In some rare sunny moments these last few days—before and after the storm—I headed out with my camera to the river and a nearby dam.

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Water officials began releasing water from the dam in advance of the storm.

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Looking back and looking ahead

Happy New Year! I hope your year is off to a great start.

Four years ago (how can four years have passed since then?), I shared T.S. Eliot’s beautiful passage about last year’s words and next year’s words. These early January days have me looking back at last year’s writing and anticipating what will become of my work for this year.

In December, right on the heels of NaNoWriMo, I had the opportunity to speak with author John Vonhof about my experiences writing a novel in the month of November. My conversation with him is available now as a podcast on his site: Writers & Authors on Fire. I hope you’ll check it out! And if you’re also a writer, his series is a fantastic resource of encouragement and practical advice for writing and publishing.

One thing I didn’t mention in my conversation with him is the twelve pens I ran out of ink in November.

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The fruits of my NaNoWriMo labors: two full notebooks and twelve empty pens

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Christmas gifts

Ah, Christmas. Another one has come and gone. You’ve opened your presents (perhaps already returning one or two). If you hosted Christmas at your home, your refrigerator is probably starting to have some space in it again, though your freezer may still be stuffed.

Some of you may have taken down your Christmas decorations and packed them away until next year, ready to be done with the holidays. Removing decorations at our house often depends on my husband’s schedule, but I love to leave them up until Three Kings Day/Epiphany.

The book of Matthew tells us of one more party after Christ’s birth, one last hurrah, before things got really tough for Jesus and Mary and Joseph (and for their neighbors, too). The story centers on the arrival of the magi.

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship him.” … and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. — Matthew 2:1-2, 9-11

When we think of the magi, we envision kings and crowns and camels and three presents, and that’s often how nativity scenes depict them.

A small percentage of you chose the wisemen as your favorite figures in the nativity, and I, too, love the kings and camels in my own nativity set. (You can see the kings and one of the camels in a post from three years ago here.) Several of my favorite Christmas decorations center on the three kings: Continue reading

Christmas is coming

What happened to December? I blinked, and here we are right at the brink of Christmas. My to-do list feels manageable most days until there’s a delay I wasn’t counting on—like a sick pup earlier this week (she’s getting better). Or the morning spent sitting trapped in a parking lot for 20 minutes waiting for a some-might-argue useless valet to point me to an empty space. All so I could go inside and wait another 30 minutes at the big ham store. (The inside line went much faster than I was expecting, but the ‘bah-humbugger’ in me had already taken over.)

Anyway, Christmas is coming, whether we get everything done just the way we want.

When I polled you a couple of weeks back about your favorite nativity figures, the overwhelming majority of you said your favorites are Jesus, Mary and Joseph (aka the holy family).

Today, let’s remember that Christmas can be as simple as celebrating the birth of the Savior. And also honoring the young man and young woman who traveled to Bethlehem and, while there, brought Him into the world.

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Of all my nativity scenes, these two versions of the holy family are my favorite. The one above because of its simplicity and the one below because my mother painted them for me as part of a larger nativity set.

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Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. —Luke 2:4-7

Merry Christmas, my friends! I hope your travels will be easy, your joys immeasurable and your heart light in the coming days. Even if you still have to wait in line at the big ham store.


A question for you: if the baby Jesus is separate from the manger in your nativity, do you put Him in there as soon as you put up the rest of your nativity? Or do you wait until Christmas Eve or Christmas Day?

Defying gravity

I’ve been thinking about gravity a lot lately. I’m finished with physical therapy for the injury that kept me from running for many months, but during many of my sessions, I got to run on an AlterG Anti-Gravity treadmill.

This high-tech treadmill lets you choose to run with as little as 20 percent of your body weight, all the way back up to 100 percent. When you run on this machine, until you set it back up to 100 percent, you are defying gravity.

During one of my last sessions, after I’d already graduated back to a regular treadmill, my physical therapist showed me a video of a blind runner using the AlterG. It was the first time he had been able to run on a treadmill without holding on with his hands. As he swung his arms back and forth, he exclaimed, “Oh, wow. Oh, wow. This is amazing.”

There are parts of the Advent story that defy gravity, too, just a different sort of gravity. Mary ignored the gravity of her situation and agreed to become a mother out of wedlock. Joseph ignored the gravity of staying betrothed to a pregnant woman and instead believed an angel telling him to stay with her. Together, they and Jesus (and one might argue everyone else in Bethlehem, too) defied the gravity of His birth, and a simple stable became the birthplace of the King of kings.

One of my readers responded this way to last week’s poll about favorite nativity figures: “The whole thing! A stable as the birthplace of the Son of God! How absurdly wonderful!”

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The season of Advent challenges our ideas of where kings should be born, and Jesus’ entire life and ministry was meant to challenge our assumptions about God and faith. My reader is right: it’s absurd and wonderful. Continue reading