Posts Tagged ‘beauty’

Blue

One of the most striking differences between living in the countryside of the Tehachapi Mountains and living back down in LA’s urban sprawl is the sky.  Here, the sky truly is blue.

As a kid, I grew up in the San Gabriel Valley in the 80’s. Back then, days known as “third-stage smog alerts” were frequent. These were the days when you would come home from a day at school and your lungs would hurt as you fell asleep. I remember frequently, especially during the summer, I would feel the dull ache when I inhaled–but I didn’t really think about the impact of the dirty air. As a kid, few things seem to have lasting consequences, and since the ache would be gone by morning, it didn’t bother me much.

I’m lucky to have grown up without many breathing problems, but I knew plenty of friends who had asthma. Measures have been taken since those days to clean up the air, but we just didn’t do as much about it back then. Often the sky was a hazy mix of bluish-gray and light brown, or sometimes it just seemed like a colorless white sheet. But when I would go up to the San Gabriel Mountains for summer camp, I remember marvelling at the sky. It really was blue–a blue that I never saw in my daily life. I remember sitting in the ampitheater of the camp as they would do introductions each year, and the blue sky would distract me. It would be the first thing I noticed every single year. It was entrancing.

Now, as an adult, I find myself returning my gaze to the sapphire sky. The air up here at 4,000 feet is clean and crisp. There are never any dirty, hazy days.  The sky retains its magical blue, and the air just smells different.

It’s sad that children and adults alike can’t all appreciate the sky on a daily basis. I know there are things being done, policies taking effect, and awareness being raised…but I think it will be a long time before children in a city like Los Angeles can gaze up into a clear blue sky.  Creation care goes beyond just environmental policy or the politically-laden “green” movement. Creation care embeds appreciation in the hearts of those who participate, and requires a true understanding of the intrinsic value–not utilitarian value–of the various elements of our beautiful world.

Our children deserve a blue sky. Not only because it is healthier for them, or because there are domino effects of the pollution. These are good and important reasons, yes. But even simpler than that–our children deserve a blue sky because God made it beautiful.

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Spring has Sprung

So much is happening around the homestead, and I feel privileged to watch Spring unfold. My favorite time is early Saturday morning, when Rob and I wake up early, make coffee, and go out to greet the land as the sun rises.  Spring has not been gentle so far; the weather can swing from a warm sunny day in the 70s to the threat of snow within just twelve hours. But we are approaching the time when the threat of frost has past, when all of our seedlings can go into the ground, and when we can embrace each moment of these longer days with the giddiness of children.

The flowers here are extraordinary. I’ve never seen wildflowers like this. There are also an abundance of different types of grasses and ground cover. The diversity gives hints to a picture larger than any human could have ever designed–but, of course, we knew that already! The dandelions are the most extraordinary to me. They lift their faces to the sun and follow it like a puppy might. Rob once said to me, “A weed is just something you don’t want growing there.” And, for the most part, we’ve made an unspoken pact that the only things that might be considered “weeds” on our homestead are things that grow in the food beds. Sure, our grass isn’t perfectly mowed. Sure, it doesn’t look perfect. But it’s beautiful to us, nonetheless.

Here are just a few glimpses of the various happenings around Tehachapi and our land:

The dandelions at a local ranch always tilt their faces to the sun

These purple wildflowers are so striking in person

 

Our new laundry line saves us money and makes our clothes smell great!

Our new potato patch--we'll have both white and purple potatoes!

There’s also some exciting farm updates and bee updates…I’ll post more on that soon. 🙂

Dawn

We’ve finally begun to settle into an early morning routine. I’m still getting used to waking up at 5am, but despite my eye-rubbing and sleepy blinking, I have to say it’s well worth it.

I put the coffee percolator on the stove and make Rob breakfast, pack his lunch, and then settle in for a few quiet moments with my husband before he leaves. It’s still dark out. We sit at the kitchen table as he eats, enjoying the silence and the glimmerings of the sunrise to come. We pull our coats around us…it’s colder here than we’re used to. Yet the last few days have been a little warmer–it was 32 degrees when I got up this morning. I never thought I’d see the day when I thought that was warm, but life changes your perspective on so many things.

Finally it’s time for Rob to leave, and I wait at the window until I can’t see his taillights break through the darkness any more. Then I pour myself another cup of hot coffee and go back to the kitchen table, settling in for the show. It’s one of my favorite things about this house: the morning spectacular.

Our kitchen window faces east, and although there’s nothing but countryside as far as the eye can see, the little plots of land are nestled in rolling golden hills. So as the sunlight begins to slowly stretch across the sky, the hilltops turn bright pink and forshadow what is to befall the rest of the land. It’s gorgeous. If we’re lucky enough to have a cloud or two in the sky at sunrise, the sky looks as if it’s lit on fire. The dark hues of night slowly turn into a lighter and lighter blue, and when the sun finally breaks over the hills the whole countryside turns golden.

This is about the time when our black cat, Midnight, finds the sunniest spot possible and curls up on the floor to soak it in. This is also about the time when I am most jealous of him.

It is these still, brilliant mornings that make me understand why I longed for this life. My inner contemplative is deeply nourished. I still feel like I am living in a retreat house. Like our land at dawn, I feel as if I am slowly waking up to an unspeakable beauty just ahead.

Day by Day

This week has been an eventful one. After the snowstorm, my sickness just kept going downhill.  For the first time since I had mono, I just couldn’t fight it off without help. I think a lot of it had to do with lots of stress and little sleep–stuff that I can usually let roll off my back but that just couldn’t be avoided this time around.

Amidst it all, the aftermath of the snowstorm brought about a plumbing surprise. I think it was a combination of things going wrong all at once: the wax seals on both of our toilets breaking because they’d dried out during the 250+ days that the house was empty; a bunch of roots had gotten in our main plumbing line; a downspout positioned right over our septic tank, pouring hundreds of gallons of water into the ground (I know this figure to be true, because yesterday we collected two 30 gallon garbage pails of water in about 5 hours as the snow melted).

In any case, without going into gross detail, our bathrooms were rendered useless and we were stuck ripping out the soggy, nasty carpet in the bathroom. Why anyone would have carpet in the bathroom is beyond me, but that’s how we bought the house. We were planning on changing it out as soon as possible, but necessity stepped in and we got our wish a little early.

So after two consectutive days of plumbing visits, lots of manual labor, and lots of fretting, I’m cautiously optimistic that our plumbing nightmare is over. Now it’s just a matter of dealing with the clean-up, and most of the nasty cleanup is over. We’re in the midst of installing new (tile) flooring, and I think the second bathroom is going to get an entire makeover. But we’ve learned to take things one step and a time. We go day by day. I’m usually pretty good about being a “big picture” person, but sometimes the big picture is a little too overwhelming. Sometimes you have to just put one foot in front of the other, and that’s about all you can handle.

As I write this, the sun is coming up over the hills and breaking through rain clouds. The snow is melting and I see birds dancing through our trees outside. I remember why we moved here in the first place.

I’m looking forward to feeling settled. There are still lots of boxes to unpack and lots of work to be done. And all this before we ever get our hands dirty in the earth or look through chicken-raising books to decide on what breed to get. But it will come. It will come. We’re just taking it one day at a time.

These many beautiful days

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These many beautiful days cannot be lived again. But they are compounded in my own flesh and spirit, and I take them in full measure toward whatever lives ahead.

-Daniel Berrigan, SJ

Autumn

IMG_5903One of my favorite parts of our Utah trip was being able to be present to the onset of autumn. The southern part of the state had just begun to see its early nights of frost, especially in the higher elevations (this was taken at around 9,000 feet).  It seemed a sacred thing to be present to this shift, the Paschal Mystery of the earth, when inherent in the dying is the promise of new life to come.

I often wish that Southern California surrendered to this cycle more deeply, but there are few trees here that become brilliant in the autumn. It just never really gets cold enough. Perhaps this is why I cherish the opportunity to witness it in person. I had a deep reverence for the process of it all.

Sometimes I wonder if I am not patient enough with the natural seasons that cycle through my own life. Certainly it can’t always be summer–the fun, lazy days. And likewise, no winter is forever, even when I can’t seem to get warm enough in front of our fireplace. Perhaps autumn is so bittersweet because its beauty inevitably means a dying back, and yet it is impossible to see autumn without knowing that its counterpart, spring, will burst forth like a phoenix in less than half a year’s time. My own personal cycles of autumn–of the dying back, even when I can attest to the beautiful colors of my inner transformations–sometimes feel overwhelming, and I forget the promise of spring. All I can think about is hunkering down for the winter.

Yet the colors, I think, are in part a reminder to be present–and to acknowledge that all things bow to the passage of time. Even the hard parts.

With every autumn, then, there is inherent hope…even when the bittersweetness dominates the landscape. Hope transcends, because it is part of the cycle. It’s part of the promise.

Stillness

IMG_5362I think that one of my favorite parts about being in Southern Utah was the stillness that descended upon us both. We were removed, inaccessible by phone, email, facebook, twitter, and anything else that could threaten to preoccupy us, to tear us away from the awesome glory that lay before us with each new journey.

Stillness, it seems, is one of the best ways to approach prayer. With stillness comes openness. Stillness forces us to listen to the small, still voice of God.

Stillness enveloped us as we traversed the rim of Bryce Canyon, as we descended into the forested paths surrounding the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, and as we listened to the chorus of crickets as we watched the heavens one night in Zion National Park.  The stillness called to us, served as an invitation to something deeper. There was more there than just pretty scenery.

God’s presence was palpable in those moments, because we were accutely aware of the inner longing that resides in us all–the longing for a deepening, the ache for the beauty of a sunset, the beautiful surrender of self into the larger whole of creation.  For, indeed, stillness doesn’t mean absence–far from it. The stillness here was accompanied by a fullness of senses that is often whitewashed by city noise; here in Los Angeles, there is no house that is far from the hum of a freeway or, in our case, the low rumble of jet engines taking off and landing at a rhythmic pace. In the stillness, though, the whisper of the wind could not be ignored, nor could the small scurring of a ground squirrel. Each aspect of creation seemed to get its due air time. Nothing competed to dominate in the natural inhale and exhale of the earth’s daily activities.

It is this stillness that I continually long for, and I have since riding the ski lifts next to my mom and dad as a young girl. I remember hearing that blessed silence, broken only by the wind through the pines. I think part of me has sought to reconnect with that stillness since my youth. Perhaps that is why my reconnection with the church happened on a silent retreat. The stillness is necessary, because it is natural. It is balanced and reverent. A mutual respect amongst all created things of each expression of life and energy.

Now that I am back in Los Angeles, I am trying to tap into the inner stillness that I know still exists despite the whir and hum and honk and crash that I hear outside. But the little girl in me still longs to find that space in the woods where the only sound is the wind whispering…where I can hear the small, still voice without straining against the competitive voice of the city.