Tag Archive | seasons

The Goose Family is Home Again! Happy Spring!

3 in pondI got up from my desk and walked over to the patio door. “Oh, look, Floey, the Goose Family has returned.” A goose made a big splash as it landed on the water. The honking got even louder as another goose landed. “That looks like Gilbert and Gloria. Let’s go out and welcome them.”

“Who in the world are they?” asked Floey. “And what in the world are they?”

“Oh, that’s right, Floey. You’ve never met them. I’ll introduce you. Oh, look, here comes one more. That must be Grace. I bet Gregory won’t be far behind.”

I clipped Floey’s leash onto her collar and opened the patio door. Even though the sun was shining, it was a little cool to go outside without a jacket, but I couldn’t wait.

Floey looking at pond w ice“Welcome home, Gilbert! Hello, Grace! Hi Gloria! So good to see you again! Where’s Gregory?”

“Hi, Marian,” honked Grace. “Gregory will be here soon. He was busy teaching some of his favorite Lenten hymns to some teenage geese out in the countryside. He told us to go ahead and that he’d catch up with us later.”

Gilbert swam over close to the edge of the pond where Floey and I were standing. “Where’s Abbey? And, who is the new pup?”

1 walking on ice“It’s so good to see you again, Gilbert. This is Floey, short for Florence Nightingale, the nurse. Come on, Floey, you don’t need to hide behind my legs. The goose family shares the pond with us every summer. They’re wonderful neighbors.”

Floey peeked out from behind my legs. “Nice to meet you,” she said, but she stayed very close to me.

Gloria swam over to join our conversation. “Nice to meet you, too, Floey. But I’m anxious to tell Abbey all about our trip. Is she inside?”

“I’m afraid not, Gloria. Abbey joined her friends and family in heaven last November. She brightened our lives for eight years, but then she had to go home. Floey joined us shortly afterwards.”

Gloria responded, “So sorry to hear about Abbey. She was my best dog friend ever.” Gloria looked off into the distance for a moment. Then she turned back and looked directly at Floey. “I’m glad to meet you, Floey. I’m sure we’ll become good friends, too. Do you like to sing?”

Floey facing camera - icy pond behindFloey smiled. “I love to sing. And I have a really wide range – all the way from bass to soprano! Really! And I can sing every note in between, too. Listen…” She started with a low growl, then barked a few notes in her midrange, and ended with a howl that kept going higher and higher.

“Wow! We’ll be glad to have you sing with us,” she said to Floey with a smile. Then, she turned to me and said, “You know what song I think of whenever I’m sad, or when I think about a really good friend, like Abbey, who’s no longer with us? I think of ‘Near to the Heart of God’ by Cleland B. McAfee.”

Gilbert looked at Gloria, and nodded his head. Together they sang the first verse and refrain,

There is a place of quiet rest,
Near to the heart of God,
A place where sin cannot molest,
Near to the heart of God.

O Jesus, blest Redeemer,
Sent from the heart of God,
Hold us, who wait before Thee,
Near to the heart of God.

Grace heard Gilbert and Gloria singing and she swam over to join them for the second verse.

There is a place of comfort sweet,
Near to the heart of God,
A place where we our Savior meet,
Near to the heart of God.

As the goose trio was singing the second verse, another goose circled overhead, and then splashed down onto the pond. It was Gregory. He cleared his throat, looked knowingly at the three singers, and then sang the third verse as a solo.

There is a place of full release,
Near to the heart of God,
A place where all is joy and peace,
Near to the heart of God.

The four of them sang the final refrain together, a perfectly blended 4-part choir. Both Floey and I had tears in our eyes when they finished. I said, “That was just beautiful. I’m so glad you are all back home with us. Welcome, Gregory. Now that you’re all here, I know spring has come.”

“Sorry we couldn’t make it for the beginning of Lent like we usually do,” honked Gregory. “This has been a terrible winter, and we just couldn’t fly north for the longest time. We started out several times, but we always had to turn around and go back south. I’m sure glad we’re finally here.”

“That’s right,” chimed in Grace. “There’s no better place than the Whispering Winds Pond to sing all those wonderful Lenten hymns. They are such good reminders of how much God loves us. I think we need to get busy singing some more. It will be Easter in less than two weeks, and, as I recall, there are 81 hymns in the Whispering Winds Lenten songbook, ‘Songs about the Love of God.’ Now that we’re all here, I think we should start with ‘Let’s Just Praise the Lord.’ That should warm us up good. Floey, why don’t you sing soprano on this one…”

4 geese on pond

Attitude

In today’s reading of “The Monastic Way” Joan Chittister, OSB, said, “The attitude we bring to every day will determine the character and quality of that day.”

For me, that’s a timely statement to read on a Monday morning. That’s when I look ahead to everything on my calendar for the week and everything on my to-do list, as I try to plan my week. That’s a task that really needs to be done with a positive attitude.

starry skyChittister continued today’s reading by quoting Oscar Wilde, “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”

As I look at my calendar for the week I see three significant days coming up – Ash Wednesday, Valentine’s Day, and a “play day.” Regardless of what’s on my to-do list, this should be a very special week. I can see “the stars.”

Last year before Ash Wednesday I took a dozen hymnals down from the shelf and played through all the Lent sections to remind myself of the wonderful church music that has been written for the Season of Lent. I created a songbook consisting of 83 of my favorites from among these hymns and gospel songs and named it, “Songs about the Love of God.” I’m going to add the following item to my to-do list for this week – play through “Songs about the Love of God.” I expect I’ll keep that item on my to-do list for the next six weeks – not because I won’t get it done, but because I’ll want to keep doing it.

Valentines DayValentine’s Day was one of my favorite holidays when I was in grade school. Every year we decorated a great big box and set it on a table in the front of the classroom. On Valentine’s Day, everyone brought valentines for all their classmates and dropped them into the box. In the afternoon we had a Valentine’s party with cake, cookies, and candy. A few students were selected to distribute the cards from the box. We all opened our cards, and then I realized that every single classmate really liked me enough to give me a card. I guess everyone in the class realized that. It probably helped that our teacher had sent a list of classmate names home with us the week before. I remember going through that list and selecting just which valentine I wanted to give to each kid.

Valentine Candy BoxIn addition to the party in school, another thing that made Valentine’s Day extra special was that my brother and I pooled our money to buy our mom a beautiful, heart-shaped box of chocolates – which, of course, she shared with us. I have lots of happy memories of Valentine’s Day.

“Play Day” is something new that Mim and I have started doing a few times a year, when it looks like we both may be having a completely open day on our calendars. Since we started doing assisted living in our home over ten years ago, we are responsible for care giving 24/7. To give ourselves a break, we occasionally schedule at least a six-hour stretch that someone else will be caring for our residents so that we can “play.” That may be going out for lunch, seeing a movie, or shopping for fun (not just for groceries). From 9:00 to 3:00 this Friday is our planned “play day.”

This should be quite a week! In many ways, a mid-winter gift from God.

One more thought to share. Yesterday I read the book, “Great Quotes from Great Women” (compiled by Peggy Anderson, published by Simple Truths, LLC, ©2010). One quote stayed in my mind, and it relates to both attitude and God’s love, apparently the themes on my mind this week. Mother Teresa said,

I am a pencil in the hand of a writing God 

who is sending a love letter to the world.

That quote is packed with meaning. It provides an image that I am going to try hard to remember for Ash Wednesday and for Valentine’s Day, and for many other days, especially days when I need to see the big picture of life, and to think about how I fit into it.

Pencil

Enjoying God’s Many Gifts

Some of the colors of October

Remember how much fun it is to watch a three-year-old tear the wrapping paper off a birthday present, to watch the excitement and delight in her face. She completely trusts that whoever gave her the present has given her a wonderful thing that she will enjoy to the fullest. One of the verses from the Gospel reading yesterday was “I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it. [Mark 10:15 NIV]”

After church Mim and I took Anna, our assisted living resident, out for breakfast. The morning had begun as a cold, cloudy day, but by mid-morning, the sun was beginning to break through the clouds, and gradually the completely gray sky had turned into a bright blue October sky, with just a few little fluffy white clouds scattered here and there. The sun shone brightly on fall foliage as we drove through the countryside. Yesterday must have been the peak day for fall colors in southern Wisconsin. Anna kept exclaiming with delight at the color of this tree and that, all the way to the restaurant. Even though Anna is 91, she was sure that the “yellow, orange, apricot, and red leaves were the most beautiful autumn colors” she had ever seen. Talk about childlike enthusiasm! We had a leisurely drive, a conversation full of excited exclamations at the beauty of each tree we passed, and a tasty breakfast where we each enjoyed our personal favorites. Anna’s was corned beef hash topped with fried eggs, Mim’s was French toast, and mine was a Greek omelet with fresh fruit on the side. What a way to start a Sunday! Our souls as well as our bodies were feasting!

Mim and Abbey starting down the trail at CamRock 3, a mile down the road from Whispering Winds.

Last Tuesday, Mim and I took our dog Abbey on a five-mile hike down country roads and on trails in CamRock Park. We ambled along for more than two hours. Tuesday was a beautiful day with a bright blue October sky. We hiked through a woodland landscape of every fall color you can imagine – bright red, dark red, rust, orange, yellow, tan, brown, and even some colors not usually associated with fall, like pink and purple.

As we walked the trails, we stopped to take a few pictures whenever something seized our attention –like a patch of deep red sumac in front of some yellow maples, or an open milkweed with seeds just waiting to be lifted out by a gentle wind.

As if all the beauty we saw on Tuesday wasn’t enough, God pointed out even more beauty to me the next day. On Wednesday evening, just as I was ready to leave the farmhouse to go to the condo for dinner, God set a rainbow in the sky. It had been raining lightly, and then the sun came out. I first noticed the rainbow over the trees between the farmhouse and the condo. That was the left half of the arc. As I walked around the yard, I spied the right half of the bow over the farmhouse.

I think God has been talking to me over the last several days through all this beauty in the sky and across the landscape. The Psalms remind us that God often speaks to us like this, without words.

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language
where their voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
[Psalm 19:1-4 NIV]  

How wonderful it is to be reminded that God wants us to notice all the beautiful things around us and to be delighted by them with the enthusiasm of a child.

Happy Autumn! Take time to enjoy it. God wants you to.

The Beauty of Nature – Does it Remind You of God?

I took this picture this morning after a light rain shower. Every rose bush at Whispering Winds seems to be competing for attention this week – to show off how beautiful God has made each one.

Last week God drew my attention to the beauty in nature – in order to draw my attention back to God. What prompted all this mental and spiritual activity? It was the following passage in the devotional book Jesus Calling:

My world is filled with beautiful things; they are meant to be pointers to Me, reminders of My abiding Presence. The earth still declares My Glory to those who have eyes that see and ears that hear.”
[Jesus Calling, © 2004 by Sarah Young, Thomas Nelson Publishers,  p. 165]

The beautiful things we see in nature “are meant to be pointers to Me…”

Sometimes it works. When I see a goldfinch perched on top of a thistle on the roadside, or when I look at a rose bush completely covered with bright pink roses, sometimes I think, God really does beautiful handiwork. Many song writers have had the same thought. That’s why they have written songs like:

These short Asian Lilies promise many more bright orange blooms to come. Look at all the buds!

  • For the Beauty of the Earth
  • Morning Has Broken
  • All Things Bright and Beautiful
  • This Is My Father’s World
  • How Great Thou Art
  • His Eye Is on the Sparrow
  • In the Garden
  • Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee
  • He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands
  • Majesty, Worship His Majesty

And hundreds more. When we see, think and sing about all the beautiful things God has created, we get a glimpse of God.  “The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.” [Psalms 19:1 NRSV]

The best smells of summer come down-wind from a mock orange tree in full bloom.

God has filled the world with beautiful things – from bright goldfinches flitting along the roadside to red-winged blackbirds cawing to each other in the wetlands; from bright orange Asian lilies to the sweet fragrance of mock orange blossoms. Now is just about the easiest time of the year to think about the beauty of God’s creation.

Next Sunday afternoon, June 17, everyone is invited to Whispering Winds for a hymn sing. We’ll sing whatever hymns you want to sing – but I’ll “prime the pump” with songs about the beauty of God’s creation – like the songs listed above. We’ll gather together in the living room and sun room about 3:00 and sing for a couple hours, with breaks for homemade cookies and lemonade or iced tea as needed. Even though we’ll start our hymn sing with hymns about the beauty of God’s creation, come prepared to request your favorite hymns whatever they are. We have plenty of songbooks, and if we have the music, we’ll sing whatever songs you request.

My dad is in the center, with my mom next to him, and surrounded by their grandchildren. The picture was taken in 1986 at a family gathering to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.

The day of the hymn sing is Father’s Day. My dad would have loved coming to this hymn sing. His favorite part of going to church was singing together with everyone. He usually slept through the rest of the Sunday morning service, but he was always wide awake to sing the hymns. He especially liked “Nearer, My God, to Thee.” I can still hear his voice singing it loud and clear, even if he had just come out of a deep sleep.

If you’re planning to join us Sunday, please call (608-212-6197) or email me (MarianKorth@Gmail.com) so I have an idea how many batches of cookies to bake. But if you decide at the last minute to just show up, that’s fine, too. We’ll be delighted to see you.

 

Cookies and lemonade will provide the nourishment to keep us singing.

 

 

Remembering My Mom – and Yesterday’s Sermon – on Memorial Day

My earliest memory of Memorial Day is going to the cemetery with my mom to put flowers on the graves of my grandparents. I remember asking her, “Why are we putting flowers on their graves? They weren’t soldiers.” And she responded, “Memorial Day is for remembering everyone we love who has died.”

Letter my mom sent to me 35 years ago

With that conversation in my mind this week, I went to a box full of old letters – correspondence that my mom had kept dating back to the 1920’s. I had wanted to share some letters between my mom and her brother in this week’s blog, but I guess the letters I’m thinking of are in another box. Instead, I came across a letter my mom had sent me, postmarked October 6, 1977, only 35 years ago. Mim and I lived in Chicago at the time. As I re-read this letter yesterday, I gained new insights into my mom’s attitude toward life, particularly in the context of the sermon I had just heard in church earlier in the day.

In the sermon, our pastor quoted Helen Keller. “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”

My mom wrote this letter when she was 69 and my dad was 73. The letter is a snapshot of their normal routine in their retirement.

Tuesday p.m., October 4, 1977

Dear Marian,

It’s so long since I’ve written to you I had to look up your address – isn’t that awful? … Last week we had special meetings at church every night – and he preached about 1-1/2 hours each night, so we got home around 10. The week before was prayer meetings in homes every night. And we did get awfully tired.

I thought this week we could relax a little. Ha! Sunday we went to Richland Center [to visit a retired pastor in a nursing home] – got there in time to go to church. Got home about dark. Monday morning Nancy [my sister] and I went to the woods to pick hickory nuts. In the afternoon I made the deposit [my mom was church treasurer] and then dug carrots and juiced 4 pints of juice, and pulled weeds. This morning I went to a Women’s Aglow breakfast in Fort. This afternoon Stella Jarlsberg and I went to Verona to see Stella Lillesand [in a nursing home]. Tonight I’m going to get Sally and take her to the Women’s Society (I have to help her dress) to hear about Dagmar’s travels [a retired missionary]. Tomorrow I take Donna and her baby to Milwaukee to visit her sister who is expecting a baby any time. Thursday morning I take Sally to get her hair fixed. Thursday afternoon we are probably going to Stoughton to help look for a car for Danny [my brother]. Friday I may take Sally to Madison to the Eye Clinic so she can order another pair of glasses. Friday afternoon Nancy’s 4 kids come for the weekend. (My blood pressure is rising just writing this – maybe I’d better quit!) I do have to go now, but at least I got a start. Will finish it later…

Wednesday a.m.

Didn’t get home until 10:15 and then I didn’t feel like writing. Now I have half an hour before we go to Milwaukee… Daddy just came in now. I told him not to talk so I can finish this. But I guess I ask the impossible.

Wednesday p.m.

Well, we went to Milwaukee today – left at 10 and got home about 5. Then I went out and harvested some garden as it is supposed to freeze hard tonight. I picked some little tomatoes (red) for you. Are you coming to get them?

Sally called me tonight that she has an appointment to see a skin specialist on the Square in Madison (she had skin cancer once) on Friday at 11 a.m. So we’ll go there and the Eye Clinic. Evy Fossum is going along to help her as I know there’ll be parking problems. Then I have to take Evy to Fort when we get home to see her mother who is in the hospital…

Thursday a.m.

It’s morning but I don’t have time to write more as I want to mail this. Daddy wants to go to Stoughton this morning before I pick up Sally. I got dinner in the oven – scalloped potatoes and meatloaf…

You should see the flies upstairs – hundreds! So I’ve got to clean up there today.

Next week I have Reading Circle here – we’re reading The Bible and the Bermuda Triangle.

See you soon, I hope.

Lots of Love,

Mother

My mom didn’t have a spectacular ministry, but she did what she knew she could do to help meet the needs of the people in her life. What a model for us to remember on Memorial Day.

As Mim and I walked Abbey this morning, we walked by the gazebo at Whispering Winds to check on the robins that hatched last week. The robin parents were out gathering breakfast for their babies, and the babies were eagerly awaiting their return. The adult robins aren’t going to change the world, but they can keep their babies fed. We all have our own ministries.

Hungry baby robins in their nest near the gazebo at Whispering Winds

Being Thankful Today – not just on Thanksgiving

Today’s about as far from Thanksgiving as you can be in a year, but I want to talk about being thankful anyway. Being thankful was on my mind a lot last week.

On Thursday, I went to the county jail again to play the piano for the women inmate’s worship service. During the testimony time, one of the women talked about how blessed she felt and how thankful she was. She was back in jail because she had been caught drinking while she was out on probation. She had made a dumb mistake, and she was sorry. But what bothered her most was that her daughter who was in college was extremely angry at her for messing up. Her daughter wasn’t about to forgive her for making this mistake. The mother had been praying for her daughter and had been praying that they could be reconciled. The inmate was delighted to report that God had answered her prayer. Her daughter had sent her a wonderful, loving Mother’s Day card. She was ready to forgive her mother. The mother couldn’t be more thankful. God had heard and answered her prayer. Her daughter had forgiven her. And her daughter wanted her to know that she loved her. She was overflowing with thankfulness.

Also on Thursday, my partner Mim told me about a new book she had just started reading, Living Life as a Thank You: The Transformative Power of Daily Gratitude (copyright © 2009 by Nina Lesowitz and Mary Beth Sammons, Viva Editions). The book is all about having an attitude of being thankful every day in all things.

Friday morning visitor on the deck of our condo.

On Friday morning, I looked out on our deck and saw my favorite kind of bird, a goldfinch, about 18 inches from the patio door. I took this picture through the window. What a great way to start the day! Last week had been a hard week for me because of Mim staying at Whispering Winds for a little getaway, leaving me in charge of our resident (with major assistance from our caregivers Kathy and Nancy). Nonetheless, it was considerable responsibility and stress added on top of my normal routines. Seeing my favorite bird on the deck was a bright spot, a special treat to be thankful for. I was also thankful that there were no crises to deal with when I was in charge.

On Saturday, I spent time working outside at Whispering Winds. I picked the asparagus (yes, it’s still coming), and I started the huge, unending task of weeding some of the flower beds around the house. But the best part was enjoying a beautiful day. It was hot, but there was a gentle breeze. The roses are bursting open, especially in the old-fashioned shrub rose bed. I took a few pictures with my cell phone to show you what it looks like at Whispering Winds these days. Too bad I couldn’t capture the smell with the camera – these are the fragrant roses. Not hard to remember to be thankful on Saturday!

This really is the place to take time to smell the roses. These old-fashioned shrub roses are the fragrant kind.

When I told Mim I was writing this blog, she said there’s a really good poem in the book that I might want to share with you. Here it is.

WEATHER REPORT
by BJ Gallagher

“Any day I’m vertical
is a good day”
– that’s what I always say.
And I give thanks
that I’m healthy.
If you ask me,
“How are you?”
I’ll answer, “GREAT!”
because in saying so,
I make it so.
And I give thanks
that I can choose my attitude.
When Life gives me dark clouds and rain,
I appreciate the moisture
which brings a soft curl to my hair.
When Life gives me sunshine,
I gratefully turn my face up
to feel its warmth on my cheeks.
When Life brings fog,
I hug my sweater around me
and give thanks for the cool shroud of mystery
that makes the familiar seem different and intriguing.
When Life brings snow,
I dash outside to catch the first flakes on my tongue,
relishing the icy miracle that is a snowflake.
Life’s events and experiences
are like the weather –
they come and go,
no matter what my preference.
So, what the heck?!
I might as well decide to enjoy them.
For indeed,
there IS a time for every purpose
under Heaven.
Each season brings its own unique blessings.
And I give thanks.

© BJ Gallagher 2009

(Note: You can learn more about this poet, speaker, and prolific author from her website, http://www.bjgallagher.com.)

The wild cranberry bush in bloom in front of Whispering Winds. This bush provides lots of red berries that the hearty birds are thankful for all winter long.

Asparagus Story

Lonely asparagus stalk

The first edible sign of spring has arrived – asparagus. I discovered the first lonely stalk standing proud, about 8 inches tall, yesterday. Nearby were a few shorter stubs. There wasn’t quite enough for a meal, so the little clump is still standing.

Asparagus was my mom’s favorite vegetable. She started a couple patches growing on the edge of the lawn before I was born – sometime in the 1940’s. The asparagus I saw yesterday represents the direct descendants of these roots.

Early in the spring, my mom and I would go searching for the first asparagus shoots peeking above the grass. My mom held the paring knife and I held the empty plastic bread bag. As soon as I saw a tiny shoot, I’d shout “Here’s one!” My mom would bend over, cut it with the knife, right next to the ground, and hand the shoot to me to put in the bag. We didn’t bother to let the shoots grow tall. The shorter they were, the tenderer they were. Anyway, my mom was too eager to get some to eat. By May, when the weather was warmer, the asparagus grew so fast that we’d get plenty of tall stalks, enough to freeze packages to have throughout the year.  Depending on how warm it was, we’d repeat our asparagus search every two or three days.

Asparagus stubs

You would think that with the excitement of picking the asparagus, and my mom’s love of the vegetable, that I would like to eat it, too. No way. I hated the stuff. The flavor was too strong for me. My mom would make me eat one bite – not one stalk – one inch-long bite every meal she served it.

It wasn’t until I was an adult living in Chicago that I began to appreciate its flavor and texture. When we moved back to Wisconsin, about 20 years ago, we discovered an easy recipe for appetizers that made me love asparagus almost as much as my mom had loved it. Basically, you flatten a slice of bread with a rolling pin. (Optional, you may want to cut off the crusts first – we usually don’t bother, but it makes the appetizer look prettier.) Spread cream cheese with chives on one side of the bread. Place three or four stalks of asparagus together in the middle of the bread, and fold the sides of the bread over the asparagus. Place the asparagus-bread roll, seam-side down, on a cookie sheet. Spread butter on the top of the roll and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake at 400 degrees about 10 minutes. Just thinking about these appetizers makes me want to go out right now and pick the asparagus shoots I saw yesterday.

Asparagus Appetizer

In a typical spring (who knows about this year!), by late April, we have so much asparagus we eat it every way we can think of – quiche, strata, soup – and we give it away to whoever will take some. We also freeze a lot, just as my mom did. By June, we let it go to seed so that we can enjoy it again next year. The cycle of life for our two asparagus patches has probably been repeated about 70 years so far.

Isn’t it amazing how God designed all of nature!

After I checked out the asparagus yesterday, I walked around the grounds of Whispering Winds – listening to the birds singing, smelling the hyacinths, and taking pictures of the daffodils, budding lilacs, the redbud tree, the forsythia, the bleeding heart… I even had a short conversation with Gary Gopher again.

I plan to add some of the pictures to the Whispering Winds FaceBook page and the website later today or tomorrow. You may want to check them out. Or, better yet, come to Whispering Winds to see, hear, and smell spring for yourself.

Forsythia and Redbud outside the Sun Room