The Bullfrog Bell Choir

6 07 2017

Sunset in the North Woods is like having season tickets in the front row to the gentlest, most beautiful production around! Almost every evening, the Sunset Show starts, well, at sunset. If you want to see whether there’s a show on any given night, just look to see if the lights are on. (The rain needs a chance to clean up the theater!) No schedule, no email notices, just look toward the west and check the sky.

On this night, there was enough of a breeze, a day of just the right weather, to keep the mosquitoes at bay. (Sometimes, one must make extra preparations for the optimum experience!) Tonight I just settled on the pier to enjoy the show. It is always enhanced by the lake, its reflections and its surroundings. That crew really knows how to set the stage!

My eyes and ears perked up as the sun was dipping low, the light dimming to the perfect pastel pink-blue. I was ready for the opening number. “Ladies and gentlemen, critters great and small, we present The Bullfrog Bell Choir, for your listening enjoyment,” an announcer should say.

Each frog had its own note, one single croak. Each was slightly different, like notes on a scale, and interestingly, it sounded to me like the lowest, deepest tones were to the left along the shore, with middle tones in the center, and higher tones to the right. As with a human bell choir, each individual gets a note (humans 2, for 2 hands; bullfrogs one, for one voice. This may be obvious, but it always amazes me how the humans holding the bells play in perfect sequence as one instrument to bring forth their songs.

The bullfrog choir, similarly, played in their exquisite sequence: Low, middle, high; middle, high, low… Sometimes 2 or 3 formed a chord, sometimes they sang a fun froggy arpeggio. Often, an emphatic bass note interjected.

One nature-related issue—they were so far into the grass that I couldn’t see them! I’m sure it was planned—I needed to enjoy the music with my ears, while I watched the sunset with my eyes. (No doubt, Nature required this for bullfrog safety as well.) But I was SO curious!

I wonder if the sun, so low in the sky, was their spotlight? Do you suppose they wore bowties? And from whom did they each get their individual sounds, as well as their cues to sing together, each at their own time and in order? And for whom did they sing? Me? Wow!

I wonder…maybe, ultimately, we each have a single note to play in the choir of life in our communities. We don’t have to sing all the notes or know all the songs. Maybe we just need to sing our note when it’s our turn. Maybe that is enough.

So thankful to the Creator-Producer of the evening shows; for nature-music. For making me a part of this wonder!


Raindrops and Grass Roots II

14 03 2017

Note to self…

Self, you are a blade of grass, in the whole scheme of things. Thinking about the vast universe, galaxies, our solar system, our little earth in that solar system, the pinpoint that is you…

Yet, make no mistake, here, in YOUR universe, YOU are important to all the other life around you—in your home, your family, your community, state, nation, people in developing and developed nations—in this amazing created garden you call home.

What a paradox! [paradox-a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded or true.] How can I be both so tiny, seemingly insignificant, yet so unique, valued and important?

I told you last time! But, given the trends in this garden we call home, it bears repeating. Each other. Community. I will give you a “demonstration” of the lesson from nature; the human blades of grass and what they can do when they come together.

The world-wide demonstrations the day after the US elections: Millions of people in dozens of countries declared the messages of hope, mutual support and unity.

One person + one sign = 1 blade of grass

1 million persons + 1 million signs = a vast field holding the earth in its roots, refusing to let it erode.

1 person + 1 post on social media = 1 drop of rain

1 million persons + 1 million comments of unity and encouragement = a powerful flood capable of washing away the trash of lies and bitterness and leaving behind the freshness of positivity and caring.

DON’T BE TRIPPED UP, SELF, BY MISUSING THE “EAT, DRINK AND BE MERRY, FOR TOMORROW WE DIE” ATTITUDE! Yes, it appears in the same Scripture book as the blades of grass thought. It is not applicable here. It is found in the chapter titled “Lamentations.” The destructive forces around us, spiritual and temporal, would love it if you do not root yourself and grow.

What if half the blades of grass didn’t come out? What if there was only a brief shower of public comments? What if only one blade of grass appeared or one raindrop rained?

A judge who refused to retreat to his home and party today, die tomorrow, halted the immigration ban, supported by people and states who followed suit.  Thousands of demonstrators over months called attention to the issues surrounding the Dakota Access Pipelines, and continue to do so.

Yes, you are a single blade of grass, a drop of rain. But never, NEVER say “I’m only”! When a voice (lying, destructive voice) in your head whispers that to you, just speak back to that voice, “YOU ARE LYING. HERE IS PROOF.” Say, “I AM meant to be a part of one grand larger field, flood, world!”

A world in which we need each other to be fully—and uniquely—who we are and who and where we were meant to be.

Love, YourSelf

Thanks. I needed that.

Brush the Snow off the Roses

23 06 2016

Remember when we had snow in April here in the Midwest? I thought I’d post this now and give you a smile…

Brrr! April 2 and huge swirling flakes are piling up on the spring flowers and turning the coldest ground white. What a shock/challenge/disappointment/surprise for the happy daffodils and crocuses and snowdrops and even roses  already primed for their spring show! Geeez! Will warm weather ever come?

However, I kind of enjoy the (near) April Fool’s day snow. God’s April Fools joke, I say. When it snows in early spring, I get all smug, mentally put my hands on my hips and say to the snow, ‘Nyah, nyah—you’re not going to last long—it’s spring and you’ll melt away—VERY soon!’ And it makes me happy. Encouraged even.

Like my grandsons looking for a chase, ‘na, na na na, na, you can’t get me’. Daring whomever—to prove them wrong. Challenging me to overcome, to win the race.

When the soft petals of my life are startled by chill snow, I want to remember I can just brush it off. The hard white ground will give way to green, and already has started to yield. I want to remember the strength of attitude, the confidence of knowing the freezing, swirling snowy challenge  threatening me at a tender, vulnerable time won’t last.          Can’t last.

Nyah, nyah, you can’t get me! My sun will melt you with its power and warmth! In the grand scheme of things, you will pass, and I will grow and thrive and live in colorful, passionate joy!

[As you walk outside today in your shorts and sunglasses, say to yourself, “See? Proof!”]


The Spider and Reckless Self-Abandon-Part 2

28 01 2015

I know it’s midwinter, but I’m still thinking about that spider and her web. I wondered if hanging by a single microscopic fiber still was as precarious and frankly, foolish as it sounded.  Then I read more about her and her surprising feats.

That thread she’s anchored to? It has some pretty amazing qualities: Elasticity. Steel can be stretched 8% and nylon 20%. Spider silk can be stretched 140%. (That somewhat explains my ability to feel the tension of it as I walked into the fiber stretched across my path.) . Although the thread is about 3% as thick as a human hair, it can stop a bee flying at full speed. Tensile strength—the greatest stress a material will tolerate before failure. Silk is stronger than most natural materials and about half as strong as steel. Unlike other materials, including steel, it remains flexible in extreme cold. Strength per weight. Spider silk is considered to be 10 times stronger than Kevlar—the material used to make bullet-proof vests! It is so light that one pound of fiber would stretch around the equator. It so thin the human eye cannot see it. (We can see an object with a diameter of 25 mm. at a distance of 10 cm.). The only way we can see it is when sunlight reflects off of it. Hmmm…

The silk comes out of 4-6 organs in the spider’s body called spinnerets. Each of these “spigots” is a few thousandths of a millimeter thick. These several strands are twisted together, producing a thread 1/30 of the diameter of a human hair—and 5 times stronger than piano wire! Moreover, spiders have 7 different glands that produce silk, which is made up of proteins, for different purposes. Some produce sticky material for the thread; some produce walking thread; attaching thread; thread for encapsulating prey; thread for cocoons.

As you might imagine, scientists have studied the spider’s web, yearning to harvest or re-create its fiber’s capabilities for human use—better bullet-proof vests; lightweight support cables for bridges and other construction; surgical procedures, and many other possibilities. Alas, it is proving difficult.

Yet–there is a fascinating piece of textile that went on exhibit in 2009 at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. It was made from the silk of more than a million spiders, and is the only one of its kind in existence in the world! The process as described in an article on the science website WIRED is staggering. Seventy people in Madagascar collected golden orb spiders for 4 years, while dozens of “spider wranglers” extracted about 80 feet of silk from each spider. It was then spun together into thicker threads and woven into a lovely golden textile piece.

Another remarkable part of the history of the study of spider silk is that the means of “milking” the spiders was first developed by Father Combue` and his associate, M. Nogue, in the late 1890’s. They had deduced how to safely extract the silk from the wild spiders and even return them to their habitat to “donate” more silk several weeks later. From the silk they had produced “a complete set of bed hangings”* which were exhibited at the Paris Exposition of 1898. Though the hangings have since been lost, their work nevertheless has continued to facilitate study and fascinate scholars a century later!

I now take back one thing I said about the spider in my previous article. She is not reckless at all! She may set out with TOTAL self-abandon, but not RECKLESS self-abandon. She has every reason to be secure in her daily “leap of faith.” I still desire to be like that spider, now more than ever. Not only does she have a sure anchor upon which she “hangs” (sorry for the pun) her entire life. The fiber she depends upon to hold her has qualities endowed by Nature which are mysteriously superior to human-made materials and so far unable to be reproduced in spite of a century of human inquiry and research. I want to be able to depend upon a Lifeline superior and more dependable than what we can explain or re-create.

I think the Creator of this marvelous creature and her amazing fiber must pretty superior and dependable. I wonder if there’s a Lifeline there for me.                                                                                                E-votions 1-28-2015

*I used several sources from the Internet to compile the previous facts about spiders and their webs. The website listed below details the story of the history and production of the textile on display in New York.                              

Reckless Self Abandon–Lessons from a Spider

23 09 2014

Amazing spiders! The first thing that grabs me (Ha!) is the web. I encounter, in many places and various sizes, that ornate wagon wheel web, having a center, straight spokes radiating outward and parallel strings of webbing circling evenly from the hub to the outer border.

Walking down the path to the lake in the morning, I often feel myself break through a single fiber of web, like a runner breaking through a tape at the finish line. I feel more than see it, at least at first, because it is unexpected and undetected. Then, through the glint of sun and my awareness, I see a couple more strands that I easily pass through as I walk on. The woven webs I see are inches wide, with structure and the ability to snare prey as well as stay attached in the wind. But these single fibers that go across the path are several feel long! What happened here? I imagine the spider starts out and attaches to her first point. She manufactures her filament (issuing from her body!) that is strong enough to hold her weight. (Where does she store all her materials?) Gravity guides her initial path, down, down, until she hangs suspended in mid-air. I wonder if she stops after a certain distance, regroups, rests, resets her machinery and gathers her materials for the next run. I think her next guide must be a breeze, which she must ride like a trapeze until she contacts (bangs into?) another (relatively) solid place on which to anchor the rope of her latest snare.

But in this case the snare did not materialize. As I investigate, I see there is only this single thread, which I, a much larger part of this same creation, stroll right through. This spider’s marvelous work is strong enough to stretch and hold me a moment before my effortless break of her filament.

What happened here? All that work and no food to come of it? Why? How?

IMG_1395I like to imagine that she eventually succeeded in catching her food and enjoying her hard-earned meal. I know she found at least one more solid anchor-spot, because that filament had stretched tautly across the path I walked. The web-snares I see all about give me hope maybe her third attachment was a little closer than the second and that she succeeded in her web-building from that point on. I’ll never know. But there is much I did observe, and do know, which is one reason why I call her ‘marvelous’. (I’ll share another reason soon…)

This creature set out from a single anchor point, doing what she was created to do, spinning that fiber. No GPS, no measuring out the area, calculating supplies, seeing her second anchor-point. That’s not her way. She attaches to one point, then spins, and spins, literally hanging by a thread, awaiting the unseen forces that will empower and guide the next steps in her journey. I imagine she is buffeted by the breeze, or even the wind. Does she hope I won’t come along and, well, do what I just did before? Can she and her web withstand the rain? Does she drop down to an anchor point below? How far does she have to spin and dangle before that happens?

I don’t think she can see the entire web plan; she does not know where this web-string will take her, yet she spins and swings, soaring, yet anchored securely, until her next step is revealed.

Christians, Jews and Muslims believe in one God. Many say, “A higher power”. I have a Single Anchor in whom I trust. I wonder if I ever can aspire to launch forth from that single anchor, entrusting my life to its hold, with such reckless abandon. Even joy? I wonder if I can spin and spin and work and do what I’m here to do as best I know it, even if I’m swaying in the breeze or cut down, until the next step becomes apparent and I can look forward to sustenance in the near future. It might be more fun and less worrisome, just spinning away confidently with reckless abandon…


New Life in Springtime

20 04 2014

New Life! Like spring! How cliché. What an overused analogy…or is it?
act of burying—planting—every seed, bulb, rootling is to bring life, for the potential within to multiply and grow and transform. Even to the smallest parts of life we can see: the cell must divide to multiply; a “split” atom bursts with untold power and energy. Gold and silver are melted down in fire to refine and purify them and make them precious and useful. How relieved we are when the spring comes, the weather warms, and the chill and bleak and cold white starkness slink into the past. We see green blades emerging from the ground where last month there was frozen snow. We look for the first flowers to emerge, snowdrops, crocuses, daffodils, first just green sprouts, then buds, then color returns to our world. Following them, the trees begin to bud.
Springtime (coincidentally?) is also the time Christians celebrate Jesus’ death and resurrection, and I am reading Walter Wangerin Jr.’s Lenten reflections entitled “Reliving the Passion”.
He speaks of the “Merciful Paradox.” “Where then, is our window into heaven, to see and know and believe the nature of God?” He answers: “In his crucifixion, his death, his separation from God. That is how we enter the door of Heaven…”
Not in the miracles, the healings, the prayers is God revealed, so much as in Jesus’ death. The ultimate sacrifice. Willing to be abandoned so that we would not be. Willing to die. Came to earth to die, according to his own description of himself. Ironically, paradoxically, when the world gets dark, the earth quakes and the Savior seems to have died, when the end seems to have arrived, is when life begins. He has left the tomb–alive! And in the separation, God comes closest. In Jesus’ death, God redeems. The centurion recognizes in Jesus, the man dying on the cross, the Son of God. The curtain in the temple, separating the Holy of Holies where God dwelled, tore from the top to the bottom, allowing full access to a no longer separate and unapproachable God.
Paradox: As God goes, God comes. Death, resurrection. Jesus returns to heaven—the Holy Spirit is given to us, dwelling within us. Tragedies in our lives often make us stronger. Tear down, rebuild. In disasters, there are helpers, always helpers.
If Jesus in God died and was buried to bring LIFE ,then surely  there must be hope in our dark times. Meanwhile, we are promised strength for the journey. Let your losses, all your little (and big) deaths be your life-givers. Let your time in a dark place be a seed underground, just waiting its time, its spring time to burst forth—or at least sprout bravely with potential to grow and thrive.
The dark soil is a safe place in which to  “germinate;” to wait; to prepare for the death of the acorn and the emergence of the oak; watch the mustard seed produce a plant that offers a home to many birds. The teeny crocus that gives to those who see it great joy that spring is finally near—there is warmth and new life coming soon.
And so again, nature mimics and declares heaven. Heaven we cannot see is reflected in the nature we can see. Even paradoxes and mysteries unravel before our eyes sometimes. Was there a profound, universe-redeeming, life-giving death and resurrection which holds the promise of life today?
The crocus seems to answer—YES!

Wind Chimes

6 09 2013

Well, I sure don’t feel very confident in producing this blog, as you handful who are reading it know :-). But I had an aha! moment recently sitting on my back deck overlooking the beautiful condo parking lot…

(It’s not that bad–we live next to a park. If I face to the left, I have trees, grass and the sound of kids playing. If I stand up to look at more of the park, I have a gigantic maple tree that gives shade to the benches below all spring and summer, and in the fall, the MOST blazing show of red in town!)

There are flower boxes perched on the railings, with deck 2happy geraniums and trailing vinca vines which sway with the breeze. I recently purchased a climbing black-eyed susan, which grows with gusto and really enhances onecorner of our little outdoor space. There are          also two tall plant hooks which I’ve attached to the corners of the deck. Some years they have held hanging baskets. This year a wind chime my dad made for me hangs on the right side, while the left side just stands in a silent swirl.

In our neck of the woods, er, city, there have been some mighty strong thunderstorms lately, as well as significant winds warning of their approaching forces. Since one must be considerate of one’s neighbors, I had hung the center ringer on the railing so it would not hit the chimes so forcefully and often, thereby creating what many would call noise as opposed to the lovelier…chimes.

This morning, however, provided me a lovely gentle breeze by which to sip coffee and read and think and daydream. I noticed the chimes simply hanging, not chiming, because the ringer was off to the side,moored upon the deck railing. I released it and it played for me. Long chime, short chime, low note, high note, enhancing my morning with its music, lilting and swaying, rapid chords and single, varying notes, louder, softer as the breeze nudged the center line and its tone striker, a white plastic teardrop shaped oval, lovingly sawed from a template by daddy.

photoThe chiming enhanced my day. It inspired and motivated me. There may have been a few other people nearby within earshot, maybe fewer who noticed, maybe a couple who also savored the music. This music seemed a concert for one–ME! The chime itself is not a lovely shiny copper one with varnished cherry wood to suspend it–it is metal conduit, hardware store chain and the aforementioned plastic. BUT, dad had cut the 5 chime lengths to precisely to be harmonious together and to resonate with a pure clear sound. The plastic teardrop is the perfect striker. More importantly, I love it!

I am like the wind chime. This blog is subject to my discipline, setting aside the time, sitting down and writing, choosing photos, posting. The wind chime cannot make its music unless the center is free to be moved by the wind. As long as it hangs in the center where it is needed to swing freely, it will not play, and nobody will hear the music.

You are like the wind chime, cut specially to sing a certain song, hung in the place where your music is available to ennoble and inspire those who can hear and take notice of it. Provided your center has been released and is free to be moved by the breeze, you can allow yourself to make the never-to-be repeated unique-for-the-moment song sent out.