We Gather Together

Thanksgiving. Family, food, fat. Er, I mean, Family, food, fun! Our week of Thanksgiving started early as we gathered together last Sunday, the day when all our family could be present. We had a wonderful day, full of tradition, golden sunlight and laughter. Jim read from Psalm 100 as we paused before we ate to remember all that we are thankful for. We read some little quips on our place cards that began with, “You might be a Redneck, if…you use an old hubcap for your turkey platter”. Or, “the secret ingredient in your stuffing came from the bait shop”. And to complete this homey (homely) scenario, just as we were finishing up our feast, I spotted a couple of muskrats swimming in the pond, called to “Pa” and Jim grabbed his .22. My apologies to our guests and neighbors. I guess not everyone is accustomed to hunting during dinner.

My birthday was on Wednesday, so we had another feast at my in-laws. Grandma Darlene is a fabulous cook, so we enjoyed a roast beef dinner and then waddled off to a pre-Thanksgiving service at church. Then on Thursday, the real Thanksgiving, some wonderful friends included us in their celebration where we sang, ate, laughed and played Pass the Pig and Mad Gabs. It is so good to laugh, isn’t it? Good for the soul.

This morning, I read the following on Writer’s Almanac and thought it was a good concise introduction of both Mr. Lewis and the Inklings. I’m often asked how our store got its name and this seems to sum it up. Today, November 29th, is the birthday of C.S. Lewis, born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1898. His family’s house was filled with books, and he said that finding a new book to read was as easy as finding a blade of grass. Lewis moved to England, and at first he hated everything about England — the landscape, the accents, the people. But he taught at Oxford for almost 30 years, and while he was there he became part of a literary group, a gathering of friends who called themselves “The Inklings.” They met twice a week, drank beer, and discussed their writing. One of these Inklings was J.R.R. Tolkien, and he and C.S. Lewis became close friends, and Tolkien inspired Lewis — who had been an atheist — to convert to Christianity. Lewis became one of the most important Christian thinkers of the day. He published Mere Christianity (1952), but his most famous books are The Chronicles of Narnia, beginning with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (1950). C.S. Lewis said, “Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”

Thinking of C.S. Lewis as Christmas approaches, remember that if Aslan hadn’t come to Narnia, it would be “always winter and never Christmas”. I hope you will join me in thinking about ways to prepare our hearts for Christmas. Find an Advent book and think about ways to make the Season more meaningful, both for yourself and someone else. I read about Christmas for about an hour this morning in a little book called The 25 Days of Christmas: Family Readings, Scriptures, and Activities for the Advent Season and I was particularly moved by a story by Walter Wangerin called “The Ragman”. I am also looking forward to reading a book called Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas by Nancy Guthrie. I’d love to hear what your Advent plans are!

Published in: on November 29, 2008 at 6:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Sad Report

This morning, as the sun came up, I watched my husband from the upstairs window. I could see his blue parka through the morning haze as he gently buried his dog. We got Mayday the Christmas of the really big snowstorm – 1996, I think. We have pictures of her as a little puppy, tumbling and biting her way through the snow drifts, the very picture of health and energy. She has steadfastly guarded our home these past 12 years and she has brought us a lot of joy as we watched her quirky behavior.

She liked to flip her metal dish over and over as a way to tell us she would appreciate something filling it. She was part Golden Retriever, but I don’t think anyone ever told her. She looked like a Malamute and acted like one through and through. Retrievers generally love water, but she hated baths and would not even follow her favorite bone into the pond for a swim. Malamutes are pack dogs. In her mind, Jim was the lead dog and I was w a y down the line of authority. If she had food in her dish and I came near, she would hover over it protectively, as if I might try to eat it. This was somewhat embarrassing as perhaps people wondered if I’d tried it a time or two. She barely passed her dog training class, choosing to exhibit her Malamute stubborness for all the world to see. She did manage to obey a few commands if you had time to let her run through them until she hit on the right one. “Get in your house”, “go over there”, “sit”, “stay”, “lay down”, always started her through random spasms of trying to please – especially to please Jim. She adored him and watched his face intently for his approval. So now, when we come home at night, she won’t be there to greet us. She won’t sit at the door while we eat, making a puddle of drool while she waits for the coveted “people food” scraps. She won’t circle the throw rug trying to find just the right spot to nap. She won’t harass the meter reader and the gas delievery truck driver. She won’t scare some of our best friends. She won’t brush against my black pants or throw up on the porch.

I can’t believe how much I miss her already. Her kennel is empty, there is dog food in the garage and I heard a siren tonight before I heard her eerie howl – her pre-warning. I don’t hear her scratching her sides against the side of the house or hear her collar jangle when she scratches her ear. When Jim is out of town I’ll miss her loyal protection. It’s funny how much animals add to our lives.

Maybe, when the appropriate amount of time has passed, we will look for a new dog. But for right now, her memory is enough. When she panted, she looked like she was laughing and when we scratched her tummy, she always sneezed on us. She stepped on our toes, drank from the toilet bowl and buried dog food cans instead of bones, but her good qualities far outweighed the revolting. All our memories of her laughing face will still make us smile. She was 84 in dog years. She was slowing down, becoming old and tired, and now she can rest. I don’t have enough to say about her to fill a book, like Marley and Me or Old Yeller, but she did fill our lives with a lot of joy and she will always be part of our collective family memory.

Published in: on November 17, 2008 at 3:47 am  Comments (2)  

The Frost is on the Punkin

I’m a bit old-fashioned. I like the old hymns and the old poems. I also like Autumn and I’m amazed at the bounty of our Valley. The apples and pears just make me so happy! We’ll enjoy them all winter. In the spirit of the season, one old hymn and one old poem.

Sowing in the morning, sowing seeds of kindness,
Sowing in the noontide and the dewy eve;
Waiting for the harvest, and the time of reaping,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,

We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves,
Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves,

Sowing in the sunshine, sowing in the shadows,
Fearing neither clouds nor winter’s chilling breeze;
By and by the harvest, and the labor ended,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

“When the Frost is on the Punkin” by James Whitcomb Riley

WHEN the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock,
And you hear the kyouck and gobble of the struttin’ turkey-cock,
And the clackin’ of the guineys, and the cluckin’ of the hens,
And the rooster’s hallylooyer as he tiptoes on the fence;
O, it’s then the time a feller is a-feelin’ at his best,
With the risin’ sun to greet him from a night of peaceful rest,
As he leaves the house, bareheaded, and goes out to feed the stock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.

They’s something kindo’ harty-like about the atmusfere
When the heat of summer’s over and the coolin’ fall is here—
Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossoms on the trees,
And the mumble of the hummin’-birds and buzzin’ of the bees;
But the air’s so appetizin’; and the landscape through the haze
Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days
Is a pictur’ that no painter has the colorin’ to mock—
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.

The husky, rusty russel of the tossels of the corn,
And the raspin’ of the tangled leaves as golden as the morn;
The stubble in the furries—kindo’ lonesome-like, but still
A-preachin’ sermuns to us of the barns they growed to fill;
The strawstack in the medder, and the reaper in the shed;
The hosses in theyr stalls below—the clover overhead!—
O, it sets my hart a-clickin’ like the tickin’ of a clock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.
Then your apples all is gethered, and the ones a feller keeps
Is poured around the cellar-floor in red and yaller heaps;
And your cider-makin’s over, and your wimmern-folks is through
With theyr mince and apple-butter, and theyr souse and sausage too!…
I don’t know how to tell it—but ef such a thing could be
As the angels wantin’ boardin’, and they’d call around on me—
I’d want to ‘commodate ’em—all the whole-indurin’ flock—
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.

Published in: on November 7, 2008 at 10:04 pm  Leave a Comment