Thursday, December 29, 2016

Birds, Bovines, and Ovines, Oh My! Christmas Down Home in NC

 Birding at Chez Wallace
 Pop and Mom Cardinal (actually there were LOTS of cardinals)
See what I mean?
 Hello, Tufted Titmouse!
 Carolina Chickadee!
Hello, little bull!
 I love these Belted Galloway cattle!

Angus mother and child reunion...
 Sheep stare at me...
 I see Ewe staring at me...
 And they bleat at me! Tres Amigas.
 Sheep...bleating and staring...
 Look, an ottoman on the move!
 Ottoman at rest...
 "Um, yes, your wool does make your butt look big..."
 "Well you asked for my opinion!"
 Sheep graze while the Great Pyr that guards them dozes.

 On our way north, we often detour through Max Meadows, VA, to see these sheep!
 The grass is always greener on the other side...
 They are marked as to whether or not they are pregnant

 Hay! This picture makes me laugh, every time.
 Awwww...I love this picture...I hope she's okay.

Like the ewe above, we all face uncertain times in the coming year. The nation will inaugurate a new president on January 20th, and given the person to be inaugurated, that event will stand in sharp juxtaposition to the day of national remembrance for the martyred Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the cause for which he gave the last full measure of devotion, along with so many other men and women. But we are also reminded that some 230 years ago this coming summer, our founders met in steamy Philadelphia and hammered out a document that still serves as our protective umbrella. As with all umbrellas, it is imperfect. Let's face it...sometimes it rains sideways or even up! Our outgoing president has said many times that we should ever aspire to construct a more perfect union. Perhaps in uncertainty there will be opportunity; in conflict, growth; in chaos, a space for new paradigms to emerge. I stand ever beside Lincoln, who long has challenged me to be not just a more engaged citizen but a better person: "We are not enemies, but friends. We MUST not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it MUST not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they WILL be, by the better angels of our nature." May it be so. 

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas 2016

This is our annual Christmas poem, from hearts broken by 2016. It is a reminder of the travails of a certain refugee family long ago, and the fears and woes of our world today. It is a Christmas lament, written for anyone who feels cast out, without shelter...anyone whose refuge, whose Zion, was shattered by 2016. Peace on Earth, good will to all is our fervent prayer.

Dear Friends and Family,

We sat down and wept

Since we sent out last year’s poem a number of things happened which made Mike write a lament for our annual poem. We lost two people in Mike's family (Aunt Helen and Uncle Barry). We lost Dana's dad’s wife Amy. The head of Dana's department at work died after a very brief fight against brain cancer. Mike’s school cut several positions; his was one of them. Our nephew Brandon deployed to Afghanistan. Dana's priest is retiring next month. And Donald Trump is the new president-elect.

And remembered Zion, our refuge

In response to all of that, it feels as if our safe place, our refuge, has been shattered – we grieve, we wail, we post epic rants on Facebook. And, we decide to move back to North Carolina, possibly in late winter or early spring. Dana will keep her same job, and Mike will spend time with his father and replenish his emotional resources. Whatever 2017 brings, we’ll face it with feet firmly planted on the red clay of home.

The Poem

By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down,
yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.
Upon the willows in the midst thereof
we hanged up our harps. For there they
that led us captive required of us songs,
and they that wasted us required of us mirth,
saying, ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion.’ How
shall we sing the LORD'S song in a strange land?

                                    Psalm 137: 1-4

It is a season of lament—
Unwed mother, pregnant, stunned, shunned.
Older tradesman viewed with cynical suspicion
As he cares for the living vessel of Presence.
Zion shattered, they cling to each other and God.

It is a season of great worry—
New accounting, and, always, taxes to be paid.
Difficult journeys to be taken and retaken
With no clear vision of what the future holds.
Quo vadis? Where are you going? Do you know?

It is a season of homelessness—
In one fell day, secure shelters can vanish.
Cast off, adrift, wandering, we wonder…
Many of us feel mocked, displaced, rejected.
Is there room for us at the tables being set?

It is a season of faith leaps—
A weary couple seeking a new life, yet again.
Together struggling with the real, hard now,
Yet ever walking hand in hand the road
Before them, delicate steps, but walking still.

Have faith in this season of uncertainty—
By strange waters we have sat down and wept,
All of us, as we have mourned unsettling loss.
Our refuge shattered, we were unable to sing.
But in time, we each fetched our harps. Amen!

We SHALL overcome…

Mike & Dana
Christmas 2016

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Fluffy Snow, Cardinal Couple and a Poem from Days Gone By


Alone, awash amidst this sea of spruce
And pine I sit. Into the rising fog
I gaze as if to see some mystic realm.

Enchantment drew me to this holy hill
By promising a glimpse of heaven's bliss,
But haze and heavy clouds obscure my view.
The gloom, my doom it is, I think, to see.

What is it like to dream of future days
And not of nightmares past? The wintry blasts
Come howling through my brain. Yet on the winds
Of pain a solitary snowflake floats.

Someday the snow will fall and bury all
My shame beneath its pristine flow, and I

Will know at last a season of new hope.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Monday Miscellany: Of Sheep and Men

You will recall from The Bug's post that our pre-Thanksgiving holiday included a visit here:
Beautiful Lake Cumberland, Kentucky

Where we stayed in the Lure Lodge at Lake Cumberland State Resort Park

 And saw signs (Sun Dog!)

And Wonders! (late Autumn color!)

After our long ramble from the lodge to Hickory, NC, we visited with family over Thanksgiving, which in my case involved spending time with my father and brother, as well as spending time with The Bug's clan. We were a bit tense going in...The Bug and I stood at odds with many of our relatives this election. We could not comprehend how they could vote for that man, and they could not comprehend how we could vote for that woman. I must say that I felt all parties made an heroic effort to put aside the late unpleasantness and celebrate our love, one for another. For that and many other blessings, we give thanks!
In the season when being one of the "deplorables" became a badge of honor, when much venom has been spewed and many of us look to the future with fear and loathing, this meme made me laugh out loud.

From left to right, Pop, my bro, and me...from a few years ago on Thanksgiving at my brother's house.

This Thanksgiving I had dinner with The Bug's clan in the fellowship hall of a local church. We posed for our annual picture in their sanctuary, and I of course LOVED this window!

And a fine clan it is! (Seriously, a Scottish surname, Tartan and all...)

I spent much of Wednesday and Friday here at my father's house with Pop and bro. In the days of his youth, my Pop helped his cousin build this house for my grandparents (I wasn't even a twinkle in his eye at that time). Now it is his nest, as long as he can manage to live on his own. Thankfully, when he turned 80 he figured he had best stop burning wood for heat, so he had gas heat installed. Up until then, he carried in all his own firewood. We were much relieved to get him to make that call!

 I love to drive past this Lincoln County farm on my way to and from my father's house!
 These Belted Galloway cattle are wonderful!
 I've been taking pics of this Great Pyr for a number of years now.
 More belted cattle.
 And little donkeys!
SO cute!
 And sheep!

 I have a thing for sheep, you know...
The Bug's sister-in-law customized this wonderful travel mug for me!
I do confess the red clay of Lincoln County calls to me...beckoning me to return to the county my ancestors founded, to the place we have called home for nigh unto 250 years. Someday, red clay, you and I will again commune, if only to grow geraniums and such...