Monday, June 27, 2005
After the fire was extinguished, my husband and I drove up the steep, winding road to see the damage. Acres and acres of beautiful trees were now only blackened sticks on the sides of the mountain. The devastation was sickening.
That happened two summers ago. Just two weeks ago, we took another drive up Storm Mountain. Blankets of lavender, white, yellow, pink, fuchsia, and red wildflowers covered the once marred mass of rock and earth, along with green native grasses. Charred tree trunks still stood as a memorial of what had once happened. Nevertheless, unbelievable beauty had risen from the ashes of a horrible fire.
Firestorms of disappointment, heartache, loss, and pain also come into our lives. We all end up singed, scorched, scarred, and charred---to some degree or another. Our own poor choices may bring ugly consequences. Things beyond our control may ravage us unexpectedly and leave our lives in rubble. Yet the message of Storm Mountain is one of hope. After a time, beauty can once again return from the ashes of our lives by the wonderful grace of God. HOLD ON TO HOPE!
Friday, June 24, 2005
Later my parents lived in a little white house with planter boxes and white pots. Flowers of the fake species showed up once again.
Then one year in late March when my husband and I were in Missouri to visit my parents, my mom asked me what REAL flowers would look good on her porch. I was surprised by her question. I stopped to think a moment. The porch faces East. Morning sun. Afternoon shade. The house is white so any color would look great.
So we talked of geraniums, white alyssum, blue or purple lobelia, yellow marigolds, petunias, etc. My dad was listening to the conversation. He handed me a piece of paper and asked me to write down what we had talked about so they wouldn't forget.
Near the end of April, I called to talk to my mom on the phone. I could hear the excitement in her voice as she told me about the flowers in the planters and pots on her porch. My dad had planted them for her. "It's what I have always wanted!" she exclaimed.
Two or three weeks later, my mother suddenly passed away. When I pulled up in front of her house, I saw her beautiful, vibrant flowers and thought, "She finally got the real thing, but she didn't get to enjoy it for long."
It seemed sad that she hadn't asked sooner. If I had known that she wanted live flowers, I would have done my best to see that she had received her wish. She hadn't asked. I hadn't offered.
Most of us, given the choice, would much prefer the authentic to the imitation--the genuine to the phony. Live flowers. A genuine diamond. Pure vanilla. Real butter and maple syrup. Natural wood. And when is comes to cash, no counterfeit bills for me! But more than all of these, I want genuine relationships without pretense and an authentic faith that weathers life's storms. As often as possible, keep it REAL. (That is except for my artificial Christmas tree! I hate to vacuum up those pesky pine needles.)
Today I will share my recipe for REAL lemonade. With summer upon us, it is great for hot afternoons and evenings. It can be made ahead and mixed by the glass. If you don't have the time to make this recipe, then try Santa Cruz Organic Sparkling Lemonade. Yummy! I buy it at Costco and Vitamin Cottage.
Place 2 cups of sugar and 1 cup of water into a saucepan. Add the rinds of three lemons cut into strips. (Save the juice!) Boil for five minutes. Cool. Remove rinds with a slotted spoon. (If left in the rinds will make the mix bitter.) Add the juice of 8 lemons (total). This is approximately 2 cups. Strain if desired. Store in covered container in refrigerator. Use2-3 Tablespoons per glass of ice and water or carbonated water. Adjust the strength to suit your taste. Option: you can also boil just the sugar and water. Store it in the frig. Then squeeze a lemon each time you want to make a couple of glasses. Happy Summer!
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
While I no longer make the mud pies of my childhood, I still need to get my hands in the brown earth each summer. Give me long days and dirt along with something to plant or prune, and I can work for hours with little thought of life's disappointments and difficulties. Somehow the sunshine and the hard work distract me from what's weighing on my heart. And as I watch my tomato plants grow and purple clematis bloom, I experience the joy of joining with God in my own wee bit of "creation."
I choose the seeds, the plants, the colors. I decide where things will be planted. The color palette of the flowers is up to me. When I take to my yard on a summer morning, I am a designer---an artist of sorts.
So out the door I go! I'll water or fertilize. Plant, prune, or pull weeds! I'll literally smell the roses. As I drink in the beauty, my spirits will lift. The complexities of life will give way to gratitude.
Dirt therapy! Why not try it?
Saturday, June 18, 2005
I thought we had seen most of the Portland attractions on past visits. Nevertheless, I headed for the rack in the lobby filled with tourist brochures. I found one advertising the Japanese Garden. It was in Washington Park. I thought I knew approximately where this was. It would be right on our way. So I suggested it to my husband, and he agreed.
We crossed the river to the west side of Portland and found the exit we needed. We passed the zoo and followed the signs leading to the Japanese Garden. We also noticed signs leading in the same direction that said, "Rose Garden." We wound through the wooded hillside. We came to a large, terraced clearing that overlooked Portland. The rose garden was right next to the walkway which led up to the Japanese Garden.
We parked and started toward the rose garden first. The air was permeated with the sweet fragrance of roses. We came toward the garden and caught our first glimpse of the hillside filled with thousands for rose bushes. Amazing! Glorious! Roses of every color: yellow, peach, coral, pink, white, lavendar, and more. Roses of every type: tree roses, climbing roses, miniature roses, shrub roses, hybrid tea roses, old-fashioned roses.
We spent a long time meandering through the roses, drinking in the beauty. What a visual feast! We still took time to see the Japanese Garden as well. It was also lovely, but for a rose gardener like me, the roses were the highlight.
As we drove away, my husband commented on the serendipity of our day---finding something so wonderful while looking for something else. In our journey through life, we occassionally have these moments. Sometimes we are aware of them, and other times we are too distracted to notice.
When have you actively pursued something only to discover something you weren't even looking for? Have you ever been headed one direction through life only to be frustrated by a detour,realizing later that the detour was a gift? In the midst of great sorrow or pain, have you had an unexpected encounter with grace? On an ordinary day with its mundane routine, have you ever been surprised by an unexpected blessing?
My desire is to have the eyes to see all the serendipitous blessings that come my way---then to say, "Thank you, God!"
Thursday, June 16, 2005
Three of my wee grandchildren, one of my two daughters, and her husband recently left for Bosnia to do humanitarian work for three years. After having them about one mile away and seeing them several times a week, it was unbelievably hard to say good-bye. Often my heart literally hurts. I grieve for all that I will miss out on as the little ones grow and change. I miss the smiles, the laughter, and the exuberance of Brent, Rachel, and Jacob. I miss reading books and singing lullabyes. I miss eating popsicles on the porch swing and watching "Franklin" movies.
I am fortunate I still have two married children and two grandchildren nearby. I am expending my energy on them. Between that and gardening, maybe I will eventually adjust to the separation from five people that I truly love. And it is my hope and prayer that I will again return to my writing with renewed inspiration.
Here is a poem that I wrote at the Oregon Coast several years ago:
By Marlene Depler
I stroll the sandy shore
with my sweetheart
Short steps - mine,
long strides - his.
We search for sand dollars
I see stones washed
smooth in the surf,
and a solitary starfish.
Haze and mist surround us.
We stop for lunch at Mo's.
Seafood soup, slaw,
and, yes, something sweet—