Sunday, January 14, 2018

Guest Post by Bea Ward

Bea is a very dear friend, and we meet regularly to talk about what we're reading and what's going one in our lives.  One of our conversations lead to this piece that she wrote to share with us.

            I’ve always loved and admired my dad. He was a brilliant and kind man. The only argument I remember having with him occurred when I was a teenager, of course, and brilliant myself, if not particularly kind. We were arguing about the death penalty, and I was challenging his Old Testament position. “It takes a life,” I countered, “and what can be more important than life?” He knew unequivocally. “Truth,” he said. And that was a defining moment for me, though I’ve never been as certain about truth or the death penalty as he was.

            I stumbled over a curious truth about myself a few years back.

My darkest years were when I had three small children. Harry had just opened a new business and was gone basically 6 ½ days a week while I was at home crying and screaming at wild, self-destructive kids. I was drowning in dirty diapers and toys strewn everywhere. When I looked back on those days, I saw nothing but hopelessness and depression.

            A few years later Harry and I moved to Chattanooga where now that the kids were in school and I was regaining stability, I started a MOMS group to help others cope better than I had. I could at least put trauma to good use.

            It was years after that – years of recounting to myself and those young mothers memories of my frustrations and failures as a parent – that I began reading my journals from those dark years.

            What dark years?! I had written about parties and outings, cute sayings and tender moments, funny anecdotes and relaxing sunny afternoons. There was not a sob or a sigh in any of these pages. All I could think was that I never wrote on the bad days. Unaccountably, I recorded only the good times.

            So my mind today puzzles over truth. How can I know it? How can I trust my own thoughts when I pick and choose them by some undecipherable algorithm?

But my word for 2018 is Grace, because I’m very thankful that for no discernible reason I kept a record of only the good times, and I’m reminded that in my darkest days there were many, many of them. I’m thankful for Jesus, the embodiment of truth and grace. And I’m thankful for Pam, who talks books and ideas with me and wanders around in a maze of former and newfound certainties with me, seeing as in a glass darkly, but hopeful that now as we know in part, then in Heaven we shall know fully, even as we are fully known. The truth is, it’s all grace.

Bea told us Harry is full of surprises.  First, he surprised her
by wanting to come to this event.  And second, he surprised
her by bringing along a poem to read.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Guest Post by Ellie Pickett

Ellie is a long-time friend who taught school with me in Bledsoe County.  She used to teach art at the middle school until she recently retired.  If you visit the Chattanooga Market, you will often find her there with her husband Jack selling her artwork and jewelry.  She is a talented artist in so many ways and shared some of her poetry with us.  I am including with her poems some of her beautiful photography.

Laurel in the Moonlight 
When the full moon climbs a'top the sky
         And Twilight reigns all night 
The shadows dance with moonlit beams
         And join the woodland sprites.

The Laurel once in leather green 
         Lifts up a tambourine
A gypsy in a sequined dress
         All silver clad is she.

As though the stars have fallen
        To light up on her limbs
And sing in silent reverie
        A magic winter hymn.

All glimmering and shimmering
        She winks up at the trees
Who gaze down on the jewel clad lass

And whisper in the breeze.

Seashell Sky

The seashell sky 
     Was the sea
           A thousand shades of blue
     With shallows of aqua 
          Lapping up the shores
              Of an unreachable land.
Reaches of sand spits
       In powdery grey
              Stretching out
                  And blending into violet
      Divide the celestial estuary,
Across which the Wood Ducks
          And Canada Geese
                wheel and glide
To the reeds and cattails
              Of their nests,
    And the harmony 
              Of Peeper Frogs and         
                    Redwing Blackbirds
           Promising the hope of Spring
            In their symphony,
As the tide of the sky
          Is washed in pink pearl,
     And the reaches diffuse and drift
           To become the giant quills         
Of some great waterbird's
                    Flamingo pink shaft
                 Stretching north to south,
     Floating in an aqueous pool
            Of seafoam green 
                 Edged with amethyst
                      Paling to grey,
As the seashell sky closes
       And the colors fade 
            Into  the silence
                 Of the blackbirds,
 'Til the risen moon
         Sits like a pearl

In a black velvet box.

Little Red Maple

   Little Red Maple why do you dare
      Send out your buds 
           when the weather's nor fair?
 (Are you not aware?)
A few sunny days
        never mean Spring.
Aren't you worried
         'bout Winter's cruel sting?
Your blushing red flowers
         will brighten the day,
But North Wind's chilly fingers 
         may turn their heads grey.
Your beauty will vanish,  
         'twould be but a waste.
Why do you bloom 
         in such needless haste?
 Then says the tree:
       You're thinking only of me!
 I am no spring beauty, 
        I am only a tree.
 And my dear feathered friends
      who sing in my arms 
Are short on their food stores
      and might come to harm!
 I must toss up my head
        and dare take the risk 
 To send forth my flowers 
         though Winter's still brisk
Or there'll be nothing left
        for my songbirds to find.
  I must face the weather, 
         I've made up my mind 
 To bloom before flowers
         would dare go outside.
 They'll play in the Spring: 
           I'll be Winter's bride.
 So before yellow mustard 
       and dandelion heads
 Bloom in the fields, 
       all my birds can be fed
By my seeds as they swirl
        and spiral around
 In the sun,  glowing silver,
        pink, and light brown.

December 20: On the Edge of Winter Twilight

The velvet hem of Twilight
   Descends swiftly
       upon the winter fields.
My horse's flaxen mane
   waves to the rhythm of her canter,
Two clouds of mist
   billow from her snorting nostrils
As the fallow fields fall away
   Into evening's dusky blue.
Behind me, the hackney bay pony
    Keeps an even pace,
My daughter's face aglow
   With stars in her own eyes.
Sighting the pond, mirror still
  And holding the sky in her hand,
  We halt...
   Along with the snorting of horses
       and the creaking of leather,
    And embrace the silence of nightfall.
We strain in the fading light
    To listen, 
           to see.
From the far reaches of unending sapphire
     Comes the call of cranes,
Many cranes by call
   Still invisible to see,
Until above the black, loosely frayed fabric
    of the treetops
The line appears,
     Smoothly sailing across the sea of sky.
Their haunting cry strikes
           a memory in my heart
    I cannot remember but can only feel
A mysterious longing
            That makes my heart cry.
Across the the western sky
      Still dimly glowing gold
          Above the rim of the horizon,
             And below the even star,
                They journey unhindered,
Cutting the edge of darkness
     To the land beyond.


Monday, January 8, 2018

Guest Post by Phil Kiper

Phil wrote a beautiful piece entitled "Of Lions & Loons."  Below is the transcript of his writing, but you can see video and hear him reading the piece if you go here.  The video footage and many of the pictures in the movie are our own pictures from Canada.


Of Lions and Loons

I am older now, but when I was a young boy I could walk out the back door of my parents’ home on a warm summer morning and hear the dominant roar of a 500 lb. male African lion. From the local zoo, over a mile away, the sound was still so forceful and intimidating that it left no doubt as to who was at the top of the food chain. On several occasions, I have heard it from only a few yards away. You feel it in your chest as much as you hear it. I can only imagine what that sound would do to a person in close quarters in the wild.

I have hunted and fished most of my life, and I have always been fascinated with the natural sounds around me, I have come to realize that these sounds play an important role in the overall experience. I have also come to realize that I am much more aware of these sounds when I am alone.  As you leave civilization and enter nature alone, it takes a while to slow down and tune in to the various sounds that are everywhere.  After a few days of being alone in nature, it is possible to feel a part of it and not seem an interloper.

I’ve heard the different, loud sounds of pheasants, quail, and grouse flushing, barking squirrels, grunting whitetail deer, bugling elk and gobbling turkeys, but I have also heard the subtle sounds various animals make when they move through the woods. I’ve heard the sounds of autumn leaves falling in the forest and a heavy snow hitting the ground.  I’ve heard the sounds of ducks and geese coming in to land just feet from where I am sitting. I’ve heard the sounds of trout feeding on a hatch, smallmouth bass jumping wildly, and schooling giant striped bass chasing shad on the surface of placid waters. 

Since I have retired, I have been fortunate to spend many hours alone in the bush and on the waters of Northwest Ontario, Canada. At times there are moments of complete silence with no sound at all. I imagine complete silence is a rare gift these days.

In Canada I have heard clean water lapping against an untrammeled shore, beavers slapping the water with their tales, a mother bear “woofing” to her cubs to go to tree as I was much too close, and the sound of wind moving through the feathers of a bald eagle as it swooped to snatch a fish from the water. Just recently, on the remote Pipestone River, I heard a bull moose coming to a cow call, grunting forcefully with every step, letting other bulls know that he was fully prepared for a fight. I stood on a shore, alone, late one evening and listened for hours as wolves called to each other across the lake.  

As an old acquaintance of mine once wrote, “Nature is the ultimate humbler.” 

On a soft, quiet night with the Milky-Way glowing above me and the reflection of the Big Dipper shining on the water in front of me, I again stood alone on a lake, and as I watched the northern lights unfurl like blue-green cigar smoke, a distant loon let loose a series of mournful cries that touched something ancient inside of me. 

A poet once said, 
Time wastes too fast…
The days and hours
of it are flying over our heads like
clouds of a windy day never to return -
every thing presses on -

It may be true, “Time wastes too fast,” but as I get older, I understand that time spent in wilderness isn’t wasteful and that all these sounds will travel with me to the end, 

these sounds of lions and loons.