My impatient tendencies are no big secret, just ask the Hubs. Again last week this unfavorable characteristic was starkly illuminated. “Patience is a virtue,” Mrs. Danehy would admonish whenever one of her girls interrupted my piano lesson. Forty years on you might think I’d have it mastered? Nope. When my daughter-in-law reminds my granddaughter to put on her “patient pants,” I smile in empathy. I hope she learns more quickly than her GiGi.
Forget about the calendar. Winter is the longest season. A North Country winter is custom made waiting. Just as most of nature slumbers through the cold, we can’t seem to help ourselves from snuggling into flannel sheets earlier and earlier as daylight hours shrink. I simultaneously look forward to and dread winter each year, an internal tug-of-war once revealed in “Winter’s Gift“.
But winter and I have made friends / For all of the reasons that defy friendships / To develop in spite of our differences
I’ve learned to accept her moodiness / And to ignore her bad behavior because / On her good days she is simply stellar
The beautiful synergy between our longest, darkest season and Advent always encourages me. Generations came and went, kings and kingdoms rose and fell, as God’s people longed for the promised one. Over centuries of spiritual darkness, they hoped and longed for the light.
Nevertheless, that time of darkness and despair will not go on forever. … The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness a light will shine. Isaiah 9:1-2
That ancient season played out on an intergalactic scale, a game-changing wait over hundreds of years with implications to eternity. We know the end of the story and how God proved faithful as the darkness of death was eradicated. Perhaps as a result, something deep within me responds during this annual season of hopeful longing.
The North Country sets a perfect stage for Advent reflections. The sun drops below the horizon increasingly earlier as fall slips into winter. Dusk darkens quickly into an inky blackness extending from the riverbank in one direction to forest in the other. Our home perches on the knoll in between, snug and tight against the night. As temps drop we hunker down inside, weary to the bone, relieved for respite of evening. We wait for light of morning and long for the warmth of spring.
The light of day chases darkness away, always faithfully even if hesitantly. Sometimes winter’s sunlight is thin and weak, canvasing the landscape with an ethereal, otherworldly glow. Under perfect conditions, steam rising from the river crystalizes on every stalk, twig and leaf, gloriously transforming the landscape.
Often the North Country day breaks behind the ridge across the river in a blush of peachy pink that takes my breath away. The rising sun streams bold and bright, stark against brazen blue skies. It bounces off ribbons of ice between the banks and skips across snow-dusted cornfields. Cornstalks lie close-cropped and stubbled like an old man’s beard, tripping it up along the way.
Sooner or later, sister sun peeks in my window, calling me out of my cocoon, urging me into my coat and boots for a wake-up walk. I trudge across the fields to the riverbank, marveling at how the mundane has been transformed to exquisite overnight. When in a whisper the morning light transforms snow crystals to diamond dust, I can hardly bear the beauty.
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:12
The 2018 advent season was particularly poignant because the entire year seemed relatively dark with difficulties. One after another, they began in March and piled up until we wondered if we would ever see the end. Inching along unsteadily these many months, invariably, a flash of light swept the pathway to lend encouragement at just the right time. Inspired by these brief illuminations — generous kindnesses, good words, new solutions, wise counsel, fateful conversations, thoughtful considerations — we’ve pressed on, confident in our source of hope.
We may not have seen the end of this season of trials but we are being transformed on the journey. Winter is accomplishing her purpose; we wait for the land to return to fruitfulness. Meanwhile, we will walk in the light.
A few weeks ago the Hubs and I spent a day at the state fair. It is a cheap date and a lot of fun when you time it right. We got lucky, it seems, especially with a break in the heat and humidity. The sky was heavily cluttered with clouds and crowds were down despite three-dollar-Thursday admission. Parking was only $5. Bonus: It was dairy day!
We smiled at the woman carrying a ginormous stuffed animal on a long trek back to the parking lot. We’d no interest in rides, games or trinkets any more than in performances or shows. We were running late due to a ’round about route — neither Google nor On Star GPS could get us to fairground parking without a hitch. Our first priority was lunch. Locally-sourced, if you please. Think Spiedie chicken or Dinosaur Bar-B-Que rather than fried dough and corn dogs. We planned a leisurely tour of agricultural barns and exhibits. Most of all, we looked forward to dairy displays.
Continue reading blue ribbon day
I think every parent has a story or two they’d like to bury beyond retrieval? Something they said or did they sincerely regret? Something they hope and pray their chids will forget? Me, too. I suppose you’re lucky if it’s only one or two. (I have at least a few dozen.) So please don’t bother to continue unless you promise not to judge me!
Continue reading spirit of bart
Thursday might just have been another summer morning except for an unusual pre-dawn sky. I stepped outside to retrieve my gloves and tipped my head to scan an expanse of wispy clouds backlit by the moon. They appeared like breaking waves on a dark sea. A half-halo of rainbow light embraced the moon. It was mesmerizing. Not just another day in paradise.
When we arrive at the barnyard early in the morning, I pull off and park to the side. The Hubs proceeds to a small open shed with calf feeding supplies. He leaves his truck running to illuminate our work. He confirms supplies before stepping into a skid steer waiting nearby.
His first job is to check cows on the verge of calving. A cow in labor sometimes needs assistance. By the time he returns to the shed, I’ve finished preparations. We load buckets of milk, bottles, nipples, pitchers and other supplies on the skid steer. I turn off his truck and walk behind the skid steer to the calf barn, not far away.
On this morning, as I stepped out of my car to exchange shoes for boots, a movement caught my eye. “Cows! There are cows out! Cows!” I yelled, frantic to catch his attention before he took off in the skid steer. He could barely hear me across the distance and over his truck engine.
There’s one major hitch with my she-farmer gig: sleep. More accurately, lack thereof. Women about my age often empathize with my challenge of getting a good night’s sleep. I’m too hot. Too cold. I toss and I turn. Midnight to 4:00 a.m. is no-man’s land. If I get stranded there, I count on 4:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. to redeem the night.
Well, that’s doggone inconvenient as a she-farmer. I’ve often just settled into my “second sleep” when the Hubs nudges me awake with gentle peck. I stumble out of bed with only one thought: I need more sleep. The mere hope of resuming sleep after I finish chores propels me forward.
The concept of second sleep was introduced some years ago on an urgent trek to locate an Amish midwife. Continue reading second sleep
Upright silos are familiar features of North Country landscape. Like iconic windmills of the Netherlands, they were built for another era. Structures rose steadily in the 20th century on small farms with limited acreage. In the last few decades, feed storage has trended to concrete bunks. Some silos are torn down and rebuilt elsewhere. Some, like ours, stand empty in the midst of a farm embracing progress. Others keep quiet watch over barns falling to disrepair.
Once new facility construction was underway, attention turned to clean up of the barn fire site. Included in the mess were two blue metal silos compromised by the fire. Additionally, two 80-foot concrete silos at the main farm stood empty and smack dab in the way of progress. One of those was the monster that almost stole the Hubs’ life in 1997. All four silos were destined to be razed. Good riddance!
Who knew silo demolition could be so much fun? It was like a good ol’ fashioned field day for grands and adults alike. A lot of excitement for our small corner of the word. But when I heard an Amish crew would dismantle all four silos, I was sure I’d misunderstood. Seriously? How does that work? Continue reading silos away!