Category Archives: Writing

Winter Hike

I dress warm; leggings, sometimes sweatpants over the leggings, sweatshirt, thick socks, heavy coat, hat, and gloves:

The greatest, warmest gloves ever. Extra thick wool.

The greatest, warmest gloves ever. Extra thick wool.

I park the car and open the door and press back against my seat while Dexie leaps over me and out the driver’s side. I take off at a dead run and imagine I’m a horse or a deer; leap-running up the trail. Long strides. I think…

I’m cold. I’m cold. I’m cold.

I run along and go up hill, up, up and pass the place I usually stop because I’m tired from the uphill running and want a little break.

I was so cold I forgot I was getting tired. I love winter.

And I’m not tired, and I’m not cold anymore. Up, up, up to the top and I look over a little ridge. I can see a faraway northerly view of the rolling hills since its winter and everything is bare. I slow down to a jog.

I should take a picture.

But quickly decide to pass. How many pictures of bare trees and faraway northerly views of rolling hills do I really need?

I've got a couple hundred of these bad boys. Haha

I’ve got a couple hundred of these bad boys. Haha

I slow to a brisk walk- it’s muddy today and there’s a lot of leaves on the trail. I start running again to pass under a huge tree that leans precariously over the trail. The terrain gets rockier. I consider doing a grand-jête. The cold winter air, the lovely northerly views of bare trees; it just makes you want to leap. I reconsider. Again, the trail is rocky and covered with leaves; not the ideal terrain for leaping.

Been there, done that, have a gnarly scar on my thigh to prove it. I am not, in fact, a ballerina.

I do a little leap anyways, without the running start. I feel a twinge in my knee.

I’m not 12 years old. Be careful! Go Easy!

I trot gingerly over the rocks and walk carefully when the trail starts to slope downward. My thoughts begin to drift. I think about school work a little but my thoughts are not focused just fleeting ideas.

Capstone Project. Oy.

Do spiders hibernate?

Ooooo nice rock.

I make it down the rocky part and start to jog again. I come to a little trail crossing.

I like this little crossing.

(as you can see my thoughts are often very, very profound)

I make it to a steep curved part; when I first ran this trail I slipped in the mud here. So I walk up that part. I walk a flat stretch and look around. I feel hot now and heading down the hill I think about the creek near the bottom.

What if I just jump in real quick to cool off?

The run back up the hill would probably keep me warm.

I probably wouldn’t get hypothermia.

I leave the trail and cross through the brush and find the creek bed totally dry. I guess I didn’t notice that before.

Duh it’s winter.

But I’m still surprised anyways; we’d gotten a lot of rain. It’s all frozen though.

Duh it’s 20-something degrees out.

I think about canoeing.

At Centaur Chute the water would probably be low now; it would probably be easy to make it up to the mouth of the Missouri this time of year. The key would be bringing rubber boots in case you have to portage that one shallow part. Smoochie and I should do that. We could get a babysitter.

I’m still standing there staring at the dry creek bed. Too dejected from my foiled ice swimming I don’t think to look around for any cool rocks. Dexie finds a little water down a ways and she wedges her whole body in it and takes a long drink.

Well at least someone’s getting to ice swim.

I don’t think I actually want to ice swim but it is still fun to pretend.

I cut back through the brush and notice a slew of wood ear mushrooms.

They really do look like ears.

I don’t care how delicious they are I’m just not brave enough to eat wild mushrooms and choose to photograph them instead. I take a few shots and set back up the hill. The way back is pretty much all uphill. I mostly walk but still breathe heavily and my heart pounds. I hear all sorts of birds; see a few. I stop a few times to take some deep breaths, to listen.

When I get close to the car I run the last bit.

Ahhhhhhhhh

Refreshed and rejuvenated.

***

So typically I do about 2 miles and it takes roughly 30 minutes but I never actually time myself or think about hiking/running/walking in any certain way or with any real plan. It is very freeing and nice and I just find the forest (or probably any trail) a wonderful place to be and wanted to share that!

In other news…

Woooo! The boys especially were thrilled with the Patriot’s Superbowl win.  I attended Wesleyan University in Connecticut, so have a soft spot for all things New England. Coincidentally, Bill Belichick (also an alumnus of Wesleyan) was the keynote speaker at my graduation!

And now here are some pictures completely unrelated to any of the above (ha!):

Dexie

Dexie

A warm day enjoying bunny castle

A warm day enjoying bunny castle

Butkus

Butkus

Best friends

Best friends

Bun Bun lounging

Bun Bun lounging

The bunnies were loving the sunshine and rolled, dug and binkyed about!

The bunnies were loving the sunshine and rolled, dug and binkyed about!

Jumping

Jumping

Front flip!

Front flip!

Happy Monday; hope your week is off to a good start!

Pictureless Post

Disclaimer: this post isn’t actually picture-less. Ha! But it does involve more words (and less pictures) than usual.

Today (March 3, 2016) I saw a bunch of blooming white snowdrops and small yellow crocus and thought that was a good enough reason to write a blog post. Alas, I don’t have pictures of any of the cheery spring flowers from today; but the bulbs in our yard are growing fast and soon spring will be in full swing and photos like these:

The other day

The other day

Shall be replaced with photos like this:

The other day

The other day

Our weather is indeed capricious. All of the pictures here are from roughly the last 10 days. Snow, sun, hot, cold; winter is Missouri is the best! No wonder it’s my favorite season; you get all four seasons in one; talk about variety! Who could ever be bored?!

We’ve seen lots of wildlife lately; Smoochie saw a coyote. I’ve seen a fox, a great blue heron and several Barred owls. Also, Dexie chased a groundhog right in front of me when we were running in the forest. It was a big fluffy groundhog that looked like a teddy bear; a desperate and angry teddy bear. Lumbering clumsily down the hillside, stopping at times to stand its ground to a barking Dexie. It must’ve known she wasn’t brave enough to eat it (she eventually left it alone). Dexie’s daily routine involves cornering possums and chasing deer around our house after the sun sets. On another recent jaunt in the forest she cornered a possum against a tree and I watched as it fainted (very convincingly).

Dawn and dusk are good times for animal-watching. Even if I just go out on my front deck and stand there for a minute I will likely see a bat if it is close to dusk (at least on one of our warmer days!). We’ve been wondering about the snakes. Did they spend the winter in the tree? Did their eggs ever hatch? I wonder if that big skink will appear again this spring (at least I think it’s been the same one!)? And I also wonder if that copperhead on our front steps last year was just a loner or part of some copperhead community den living under our front deck; is that paranoid?!

Animal-ing (I think I’ll trademark that) is a fun hobby. It is sort of a mindless and enjoyable to just think about the animals you’ve seen lately, take pictures of animals, read about animals…

I snapped this today near our home. 18 deer/turkeys in this photo!!! It almost looks fake!

I snapped this today near our home. 18 deer/turkeys in this photo!!! It almost looks fake!

Baby’s class (called the (kid-named of course): “Cantaloupe Camels”) was brainstorming ideas for the spring semester project. The kids are supposed to pick the subject matter for the project (part of Reggio philosophy). The Cantaloupe Camels picked “Fire”. And got vetoed. I was all for the fire project. I mean, it’s not like the kids had to set fires, they could’ve learned about famous fires, or learned about what is flammable or fire retardant. Famous paintings featuring fires? Candle-making? I mean, pyromania is just one aspect in the wide umbrella of the topic Fire, right?

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And 2016 is the Red Fire Monkey Year according to Chinese calendar.

So basically Baby’s class is in touch with the universe. But I get it, they’re 3 (turning 4)…maybe it was a little too extreme. And so, Fire Project is postponed till Pre-K (win!) and the runner’s up project topic is: Animals!

Baby’s teacher sent out an email asking parents for help with direction on the Animal project. Here’s an excerpt:

So far the Cantaloupe Camels have successfully spotted fish, several birds, a dead snake, a crayfish claw and lots of animal evidence (scat, fur, feathers, prints). But where are all the animals? The children tried feeding the animals bread, hiding behind trees, fox walking very sneaky and sitting very still. Still, no new animals seen in weeks. The plan must be reconsidered.

We want to know what animals prefer to eat in order to better be able to serve them. If you have information or experience in this topic, please get back to us with how you can help.

Questions to consider:

Are there native plants that attract animals for a food source or other reasons? What plants are getting nibbled by your house? Have you planted anything specific to attract animals or insects? What type of feeders, if any, do you use? How can we feed the animals without disrupting the ecosystem?

Thank you for taking the time to make this project awesome! The Cantaloupe Camels are determined individuals and continue their search relentlessly.

So I can’t really think of any good tips for this animal project. Like I said, Animal-ing™ is a lovely mindless pursuit for me and might involve an hour in the woods with no animal sightings at all. How will this project develop? Je ne sais pas. I just hope it doesn’t involve a trip to the zoo (far too pedestrian an idea for Forest School). Haahaha

The thing about real animal-watching is that it is an ephemeral thing: fleeting moments, that you really can’t plan for or predict. I spend loads of time in the woods which is why I’ve seen so many animals in the past few weeks. But, a field trip to the woods doesn’t guarantee an animal-sighting, much less an entertaining display of action (e.g. happening upon, say, a snake mating). But what about the searching; isn’t that where the meaning lies?

Orange lichen

Orange lichen

Forest floor

Forest floor

Reflection

Reflection

Mindfulness, patience, a quiet meditation on the existence of animals; aren’t those good Animal-related project topics for three year olds?! Hahahahahahah

How about paintings of animals? If I had to plan the thing I would probably go the art-show route. An art show of animal paintings. Performance art? Animal topiaries? Something like that. When Spy boy was just a little spy he also did an animal project at Forest school (back when the school didn’t have a forest!) that culminated with an animal parade in which the kids created their own type of animal and designed their own costumes for an Animal Parade.

Baby Spy as part giraffe/part hawk

Baby Spy as part giraffe/part hawk

If you have any good tips for Baby’s class about the direction of the Animal Project/responses to their teacher’s questions, please leave them in the comments!

 

A Narrative Service of the Liturgy

I’ve scanned in the entire bulletin from our church service this past Sunday. At our church we follow a liturgy, which is a specific order of worship. There are a few different variations (they change with the church seasons and communion is only part of the service on the second and forth Sundays each month), but it is always structured and there are few enough variations that it is easy to memorize many of the “usual” prayers and responses and songs that we sing (if you go often enough). I scanned the whole thing in because usually we follow the service along in the Lutheran service book (which has the various layouts of worship in the first part of the book and all the hymns fill the rest). The bulletin typically has an abbreviated order of service (like an outline). But last Sunday the whole thing was printed up in along with italicized notes about WHY we do each little “part” of the service. I thought it was really interesting and wanted to share:

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I always regard our church as taking a sort of academic approach to understanding Christ (and the Bible).  The bulletin is quite plain. Black text on plain white paper. A simple design on the cover. I love how it is so simple and unadorned. To me, the words, the messages and the meanings become the very clear focus. Focusing on Bible passages (at least for me) takes a lot of concentration. People have entire discussions (or write entire volumes!) on mere verses. The words are not like the sentences I’m hammering out here. They’re God-breathed. It really is a “living” work and every verse is a chance for an amazing encounter- direct (!) –with God. But it takes focus and concentration. Clapping or crying or waving my hands would not facilitate the concentration, I personally, need to grasp the messages of the Bible. Not saying I don’t sometimes cry/have an emotional response as a result of a deeper spiritual understanding—I just like taking this sort of “academic” approach first.

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(back of bulletin)

(back of bulletin)

It’s never too difficult to catch which part of the Bible is being studied during service (even when accompanied by Babyzilla). The verses are always printed on the back of the bulletin!

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The hymns have lovely old syntax and multisyllabic vocabulary words that sometimes stretch on for measures. Truth be told, I don’t really know what a measure is in music-speak. But I enjoy the opportunity of the hymns to hear AND see the notes, even if I can’t technically “read” sheet music. (Side note: the hymns from the service were not printed in this handout: we sang them out of the book). Maybe I’ll borrow a hymnal for some more “scanning in” next week!

Perhaps you’ve scrolled to the end of this post and haven’t actually read a word of any of the pages (I so painstakingly scanned in)? The following are some questions I considered during/after this service and I think sharing these questions may reveal why I find this so interesting. Perhaps after considering all of these questions maybe you can scroll back up through the pages and at least check out some of the italicized blurbs and see what you think in relation to how you worship or praise or understand the notion of “church”. I won’t directly answer things I consider in attempting to answer these questions below (this is an essay, not a book!), but if you leave a comment I will be happy to continue the discussion!

If a church has lots of “bells and whistles” (i.e. a “band”, more “contemporary” music, colorful logos, video components, etc): Do you think these things are distracting to the messages?

What about the church service as a “stage” (literally and figuratively) to share our God-given talents? Art, music, design? What place (if any) do these things have in a church service?

Is there anything wrong with using such “bells and whistles” if the main goal is to attract more people (because obviously the churches with the “bells and whistles” certainly DO attract LOADS of people)?

What do you think of the idea of the “perfect prayer” (The Lord’s Prayer: the prayer Jesus tells us to pray in Matthew 6:9-13)? Do you say this prayer at church?

How significant is syntax and diction when it comes to the language used in a church service? (an example of this would be “The Lord bless you and keep you” instead of “May the Lord bless you…”

What are the benefits of eliciting an emotional response during a church service?

The theater can elicit a very emotional response, but going to a show is not the same as attending church; how are they different?

How do you think attending a church service should differ from attending a “show”?

Do you feel like an active participant when you attend church or an audience member?

Do you think using sheet music (as in a traditional hymnal) is significant in singing songs in church? (At least for me it sure is educational and has that “academic” feel I’m drawn to)

What are the benefits of following a consistent order of service?

Do you think there are any negatives to following a “strict” order of service (a liturgy)?

What about social media (streaming church services/virtual bible classes, etc.) and not participating live (in person)? Is that church?

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew 18:20)

Please discuss among yourselves. Or here. And I do hope, Internet, God is among us at Spy Garden website. Perhaps it doesn’t qualify as “church” but it’s still a sort of gathering…or is it?