About alivingpencil

Hi, I'm Carol. My life is full of solid joys, deep sorrows, and aggressive hope. I search for truth, beauty, goodness, amusement, and comfort in books, music, worship, photos, conversation. I'm fond of the *idea* of gardening, writing, exercising and practicing scales. Cooking is the best fun with a friend. I like to talk, but it's harder to write.

Have and Behave

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I made a connection!! When my grandson misread “have” rhyming it with “gave” — the heavens opened, the light shone, the ground trembled. Could there be a bridge between have and behave?

Longtime readers of this blog know that I get terrifically close to tipsy on be- prefix words. New readers: I can’t explain it: I just love them. Betake, benumbed, befuddled, besought, beribboned. And on and on.

Have comes from Old English habban “to own, possess; be subject to, experience”

Behave comes from be- intensive prefix + have in sense of “to have or bear (oneself) in a particular way, comport”

::Happy sigh::

Isn’t life delicious?

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Taking Notes

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We honored our friend’s dad’s life today…and I took notes. I believe a memorial service can be one of the best seminars on living. It is satisfying to see the end product of a life well-lived: friends and family whose lives are forever changed by the love, faithfulness,  care and kindness of an ordinary man.

Although I’ll pass on Bob’s favorite sandwich: peanut butter, lettuce, and mayonnaise.

During the eulogy, all fourteen great-grandchildren were named. You could see each one sit up straighter when named. Individual names are so much more personal and potent than a collective number.

I had shared with the family a nice touch from the last memorial service we attended in February, and they incorporated it into today’s service.  The moderator asked groups of people to stand (and then sit). Grandchildren, great-grandchildren, in-laws, fellow church members; the greatest rising was in response to “if you have ever hunted or fished with Bob.”

A well-worn and scuffy truth was on display today: the highest way to love your children is to love your spouse. Eleven years ago, my husband and I wrote about Averil, Bob’s wife:

This Repeated Wedding Procession

And Grace Will Lead Me Home

Alive Inside

One theme of my life is exploring the power of music. A thread of music can squeeze into the tendrils of my soul and touch me in a profound way. It upholds the spirit in prison camps; it can spark a bloodless revolution, as it did in Estonia.

Alive Inside is a magnificent documentary that shows Alzheimer’s patients waking up, as it were, and responding in glorious ways to music they remember. There are sections that I want to transcribe into my journal.

It’s available on Amazon Prime. I enthusiastically recommend it.

Listening In on Grownup Conversations

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When I was a child, my bedroom was an upstairs windowless closet with a slanted roof. There was barely room for a bed to the left and a dresser to the right. A lonely light bulb hung from the ceiling. My dresses floated from a pole across the ceiling. Don’t think Dickensian: I loved my own cozy cocoon.

The room was at the top of a stairway that had two ninety-degree turns. As the youngest in a home where parents sent their littles to bed at 8:00 p.m., I often sensed that I was missing out on the important stuff of life. I’d hear the murmur of conversations that I wanted to be part of. I would tiptoe out of my bedroom and down the five steps to the landing where the stairs turned. As close as could be and still remain out of sight. Hugging my benightgowned knees, I would strain to hear the grownups talk.

Even when I didn’t understand the talk, I enjoyed the aura, the camaraderie. When laughter erupted, I sat in the darkness and smiled.

That, my friend, is how I feel reading C.S. Lewis’ academic work The Allegory of Love. I’m sitting in the dark, listening to the adults, not quite understanding all the fine points, but basking in the atmosphere. Smiling when I grasp a point, soaking up the delicious banter.

Happy to be in the company of such witty erudition.

Like that little girl long ago, I need patience. Lewis quotes Latin, Greek, French, Old French, Old English without translation. He writes about writers whose names I’ve never before heard. He uses words that have never come close to my radar.

Sometimes the words are clear. It was the misfortune of Jean de Meun to have read and remembered everything: and nothing that he remembered could be kept out of his poem.  Yeah, I think, I’ve heard sermons like that.

So I will continue sitting in the dark, craning my ear, hoping to hear something wonderful. Why? Because I’m stubborn; but mainly to be in the delightful company of CSL.

 

A Winter Travelogue

We wanted to honor our friend (my next door neighbor from Lombard, IL) and his family at his memorial service six hours away. The Pacific Northwest has been pounded with winter storms this weekend. As we studied the radar it looked like there was a break in the weather, when we could thread the needle and get through. We decided to give it a try. Except for a few dicey spots, the trip was a blessing.

Chapter 1  Setting Off

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This, my friends, is Eastern Oregon.

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Dry pavement. Yes!

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Deer crossing

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Welcome, Holly! This sign has been a source of delight for decades.

Chapter 2  Investment Opportunities

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This stark landscape reminds me of the Midwest. Or Scandinavia.

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A fine barn

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I imagine homesteaders lived here once upon a time. Or, perhaps a school?

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The detail on this fine old barn thrills me.

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Roof needs repaired. Air conditioning free.

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It was Tiny before Tiny Houses were cool

 

Chapter 3     Birds and Such 

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We’ve never seen so many hawks on posts. Here, there, here again. Sidenote: I over-helped my son write a paper on the red-tail hawk in 1993. I’ve never forgotten the scientific name: buteo jamaicensis.  Isn’t it weird what sticks to the inside of your brain?

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This horse has been studying and applying the Marie Kondo method.

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 Hawk perched in a tree.

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Waterfowl feeding

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I am drawn to lonely trees

 

Chapter 4  Coming Home on the Rattlesnake

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Driving south towards Lewiston

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I wonder how this highway was named The Rattlesnake?

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Looking down from above

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It descends, slithers along the floor of the canyon (see center of picture),
and slinks upward to the next plateau.

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S-curves superabound

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Sidling up to the mountain

 

Chapter 5  Watch for the Light

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Coming into the Wallowas, spots of blue sky

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A shroud of clouds cannot cover it. The light still shines.

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Light and shadow. And a lonely tree.

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Luminous

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Winter glory

 

Bonus Chapter: Deer and Elk

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Outside of Enterprise, deer feeding

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Outside of Imbler, elk herding

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I don’t have the skill to convey this magnificent sight: about 300 elk

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Walking, loping, bunching together

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Move ’em out!

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Bull supervising the exodus

My Reading Rodeo – 2018

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In 2017 (which still feels like last year, but technically isn’t) I joined a Facebook group and read through all of Shakespeare. It involved about five hours a week; I told myself this was continuing education. In 2018 I wanted to continue deep-reading, but without the pressure of all of [insert author’s name] in one year.

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Thus began my C.S. Lewis Reading Project. I’m reading through his published works at the rate of about fifty pages a week. I’ll admit it: my motivation flagged when I hit some hard spots (his early poetry, for one). But I’ve been promising myself that I’d reread The Space Trilogy (which I’ve been a stranger to since high school) and this year I’m happy I did.

Read with Me
Some local friends and I have been talking about starting a book club, but we’ve not unwrapped that package yet. Besides CSL (which I’m reading with some Facebook friends) the Close Reads podcast has been a continual feast. Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory , the story of a whiskey priest in Mexico, was satisfying on many levels.

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Because they have four more hours in the day than the rest of us, the people at Close Reads started another podcast called The Play’s The Thing. I l-o-v-e the concept of reading through Shakespeare’s canon, one act at a time.

My friend Mary Jo Tate guides a burgeoning group of readers through Jan Karon’s Mitford books on Facebook. We just read Shepherds Abiding at Christmas.

This Is Your Life
Biographies and memoirs, old and new, are always a staple in my reading diet. I read the final six of a twenty volume set, Makers of History. Tara Westover’s Educated was a stunner. And 2018 was the year I made it through a 1K marathon of a book, Martin Gilbert’s Churchill. My favorite memoir was Hannah Grieser’s The Clouds Ye So Much Dread.

Soo-prize, SOO-PRIZE!!
Oh, yes, books surprised me. Nina Teicholtz’s The Big Fat Surprise is in the category of game-changer. Oh. boy. Not only are saturated fats good for you (?!!) but vegetable oils like safflower, canola, and corn oil have been around less than a hundred years and are pretty much guaranteed to make you sick.

Barbara Tuchman wrote about Stilwell and the American Experience in China, and I bet you’ve never heard of this general. He would have been the Allied Surpreme Commander, Eisenhower’s role, except that he knew the language, the people, and the geography of China better than anyone in the armed forces.

Kiddos
I spend a day a week with my four local grandkids. Of course, I read books aloud whenever I can: while they eat lunch, practice handwriting, sculpt playdough, etc. We read through Andrew Peterson’s tetralogy, The Wingfeather Saga. Wow oh Wow oh WOW! I’ve never known them to be so captured by a story.

Health and Diet
For a reason I cannot fathom, it is like a switch turned on this year and I started to really care about my health. This is potentially the most boring paragraph in this blog post, so I will give each book one word: Fasting, diabetes, sugar, cancer, and brain health.

Favorite Authors
I managed to read at least one title of Anthony Trollope, P.G. Wodehouse, Wallace Stegner, Wendell Berry, and Barbara Tuchman. Good stuff!

Reading and Lambing in Advent

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Wednesday was a glorious day watching twin lambs born. These girls above left the pasture, curious to know who was having a get together and why they weren’t invited to the party. And if there was any food for poor wandering circus performers.
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It used to be daunting to be the adult-in-charge (an honorary title) during lambing season. But my Farmer Boy grandson has three seasons under his belt. Here he is checking progress.

While I was watching everything, I was also listening. Gavin patted the ewe, assuring her that she was doing a good job.  Thirteen years old, and a powerful combination of compassion and capability.

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The view to the south from the barn door.

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The maternity ward. Two more sets of twins were born yesterday.

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This is the number 1 assistant. His face lit up when he realized that the lamb born might be his first stock show lamb.

Let’s shift a moment to reading. In the fall of 2016 I started reading the first book of a young adult fantasy,  The Wingfeather Saga. I read a 2-7 chapters aloud once a week. It’s a very interactive time. When some characters listen to troll poetry, pretending to like it, I ask, “Show me pretending to like it.”

Andrew Peterson’s books have engendered meaningful conversations with each episode. This week we read a chapter called The Pain of Remembrance.  Monsters who used to be humans see something that makes them remember what life used to be like. Ouch! It hurts! is their response.

Preston (pictured above) explained: “I think it doesn’t feel like [physical] pain for them. But it hurts in a different way because they can’t go back.”

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There’s always onlookers

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Ethan (face not shown) warming up one of the barn cats.

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Gavin collects the colostrum to give to the newborn before he/she can stand up.

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One latched on and one being licked by mom.

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The smile of a successful start of lambing season.