Tag Archive | seasons

The Repetition of “Firsts”

Yesterday I picked our first bouquet of fresh flowers from the beds that surround Whispering Winds – an 18″ sprig of bright yellow forsythia standing tall above seven pale yellow daffodils. The fresh bouquet was the centerpiece in the living room for our hymn sing yesterday.

The day before, the daffodils weren’t open yet. The first stars of the landscape were the crocuses in full bloom.

Last week we grilled our first hamburgers and hotdogs of the season.

The week before, we saw our first robins return. Then I saw my favorite birds return – goldfinches.

The very first sign of spring was the return of the geese to our pond – when there was still a little ice on the pond.

All these firsts. They’re the same firsts we excitedly looked for last year, and I expect we’ll be just as excited next year then these firsts will appear for us again.

Why are we so excited to see exactly the same things again this year that we saw last year – and that we’ll see again next year? Crocuses. Daffodils. Pretty soon we’ll see the first tulips and lilacs. This week I’ll probably grill our first salmon burgers of the season.

Daffodils remind me of how much fun it is to have fresh-cut flowers in the house. Once the daffodils arrive, the process of cutting flowers should continue until the last roses of summer.

Robins and goldfinches remind me of long walks along country roads and listening to the joyful songs of the bird choruses.

The geese remind me of sitting out on the deck on a lazy summer afternoon and watching them peacefully float around the pond. I especially love to watch them while I’m waiting to flip the burgers on the grill out on the deck.

The annual repetition of all of nature’s seasonal firsts brings back such pleasant memories. These memories rekindle in us the anticipation of so many more of God’s blessings to come…

As I was thinking about all these springtime firsts this year, I thought of the hymn “For the Beauty of the Earth.” I entered those words into the search box on YouTube.com and discovered a beautiful new tune written by John Rutter for this hymn. Here’s the link to Paya Lebar Methodist Girls’ School (Primary) choir singing it with beautiful images of nature to illustrate it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MHIfRLNYUGw. “For the beauty of the earth … this our hymn of grateful praise.”

What are your favorite firsts of spring, or other firsts that are repeated annually. (Perhaps the first snowfall???) And, what do these firsts really signify for you?

The Goose Family Returns

Gilbert and Gloria Goose on Whispering Pond

Gilbert and Gloria Goose on Whispering Pond

Gregory and Grace, Gilbert and Gloria flew back to our pond last week. I was so happy to see them. It’s an early sign of spring. But it’s also just fun to see our old friends again. I took a few pictures to be able to spread the news that they’re back.

I asked Gloria why they returned so early this year. There’s still ice on the pond. She said, “We wanted to get back in time to be here for Lent.  The Whispering Pond is such a peaceful place to be.”

Gilbert piped in, “I know it’s a little early, but we wanted to be sure to be here in time for the Hymn Sing at Whispering Winds on Sunday afternoon, March 18. Most people don’t think of geese as songbirds, but we really like to sing. We don’t have any sopranos. You need robins and finches for the high notes. But we’ve got lots of strong baritones. Once we catch our breath from our long flight up here, we’re going to start practicing.”

Gregory and Grace Goose approach pond

Gregory and Grace Goose approach pond

Gregory and Grace ambled over to join the conversation. “You know,” Grace said, “most people and even some birds don’t know that the most beautiful music in the world is the music that’s usually sung during Lent. It’s mostly about love.”

Gregory, who prides himself on being the most educated goose in the northern hemisphere, said, “It’s not just romantic love, it’s about God’s love for us and our love for God. Most scholars consider the hymn, ‘When I Survey the Wondrous Cross’ to be the greatest hymn in the English language. Next time you sing it, pay close attention to the words. The hymn was considered scandalous when it was written in 1707 because it was so personal.”

“I especially like the last verse,” said Grace.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

“I agree that Isaac Watts wrote a mighty fine hymn 300 years ago,” said Gilbert, “but my favorites are the spirituals. They’re just so much fun to sing. ‘Were You There?’ is probably the most popular spiritual sung during Lent, but my personal favorite is ‘I Want Jesus to Walk with Me,’ only I would change ‘walk’ to ‘fly.’ Actually, I sing that song a lot, any time of the year.  I like all three verses of this song, but the one I sing the most is the third.”

Gilbert walking alone

Gilbert walking alone

When I’m in trouble, Lord, walk with me;
When I’m in trouble, Lord, walk with me;
When my head is bowed in sorrow,
Lord, I want Jesus to walk with me.

“That’s what I sing when we’re flying into strong headwinds, or when we lose one of our flock. How about you, Gloria? What are your favorite songs to sing during Lent?”

“Oh, I have so many favorites. One of them is ‘Near to the Heart of God.’ I just feel so comforted by God whenever I hear that song. You know, it was written – both the music and words – by Cleland McAfee for his brother and sister-in-law when their two daughters died from diphtheria within 24 hours of each other in 1901.  Listen to the words of the second verse and refrain.”

Whispering Pond - Whispering Winds in background

Whispering Pond - Whispering Winds in background

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.

O Jesus, blest Redeemer,
sent from the heart of God;
hold us who wait before thee
near to the heart of God.

Gregory jumped into the conversation again. “But don’t forget the classic, ‘O Sacred Head Now Wounded.’ That was written almost a thousand years ago by a monk.  Then think about what Bach did to it by providing that amazing harmony. But back to the words, it’s a sad song, but also a love song. Listen to the words of the third verse.” Gregory sang the verse.

Gregory Singing

Gregory Singing

What language shall I borrow to thank thee, dearest friend,
for this thy dying sorrow, thy pity without end?
O make me thine forever; and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to thee.

Everyone was silent for a moment. Then Gregory added, “I especially love the first and last lines.”

Grace said, “There are so many songs about God’s wonderful love for us and our love for God. I really like to sing Stainer’s ‘God So Loved the World,’ and ‘Beautiful Savior,’ and ‘Love Divine, All Loves Excelling, and … “

Gloria chimed in, “and ‘Jesus Loves Me’ and ‘The Love of God.’ One nice thing about the music we sing during Lent is that we can sing most of it any time of the year. It’s not like Christmas carols that we can only sing in December.”

“Talking about all these songs makes me want to sing,” honked Gilbert. “Let’s start practicing for that hymn sing right now.”

As they started to sing, I walked back into my office, but I left the patio door open. I think I’ll be hearing lots of songs in four-part harmony – like a gospel quartet – over the next few weeks. Maybe I’ll hum along with them when they’re practicing on the pond or flying overhead.

Geese returning to Whispering Pond

Geese returning to Whispering Pond

“A Season for Every Activity under Heaven”

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven….
A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance…. 
[Ecclesiastes 3: 1, 4]

Two friends of mine died last week. One was a high school classmate. Nicki had a very bubbly personality – she was always happy and a fun person to be around, until the last few years. Unfortunately she suffered a long, steady decline from early onset Alzheimer ’s disease. My other friend had been our next door neighbor in Chicago for 13 years. Elaine was also a kind, happy person – always a joy to be around. She was older and her health had been deteriorating over the past few years. She was almost 90 when she died. Both friends have now completed their time of suffering.

As it says in the Bible, life provides ”a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” For me, last week was a time to mourn the deaths of my friends. Now it’s time to move ahead to some happier times. The village of Cambridge is here to help with that by hosting a “Frosty Frolic.”

Cambridge is a nice little town. Some of the businesses decided we needed a special celebration to help us enjoy winter more, so they came up with the idea for a “Frosty Frolic” for this weekend. My brother, Dan Korth, is participating in the celebration by hosting an open house in The Carpentry Shop as well as in his home. He’s inviting people to stop in to look at a fancy bar he’s building in his own family room. The bar is an ornate 1890’s era supper club style bar. I always enjoy looking at his projects. He’s come a long way from his first carpentry project.

Dan's first house

When Dan was a little boy, he knew exactly what he wanted to do when he got big – build things. He built his first house when he was seven. I helped him. That’s the two of us in the picture, hard at work.

Dan got quite a bit fancier in his buildings over the years. He built lots of houses in and around Cambridge. He also became intrigued by the challenges of remodeling commercial buildings. One of his more unusual projects was gutting the old Chevrolet garage on Main Street – that had originally been built as a wagon factory – and rebuilding it as retail space, a collection of eight Victorian-style shops. The building currently is the Rowe Pottery store. Another interesting project was across the street. He remodeled the old feed mill into a rustic restaurant.

Remodeled Farmhouse

One of his best projects was remodeling the farmhouse we grew up in, what is now Whispering Winds Retreat Haven. His starting point was a modest 1500 square foot two-story house with three bedrooms and one bathroom. He doubled its size, turning it into a 4-bedroom, 3-bathroom house with a fancy front porch. (His son – carpentry runs in the family – later added another bedroom and 2 more bathrooms.) The remodeled farmhouse has been quite versatile. The house has served as a bed and breakfast, an adult family home, and now as Whispering Winds Retreat Haven.

Dan has always said that he loves what he does for a living. He can’t imagine retiring. He’s having too much fun. He no longer builds houses. He just does the really fun stuff now – building custom cabinets and furniture.

Dan Korth in The Carpentry Shop

The Carpentry Shop, located right next to his house, is where he does all his work. He has a showroom filled with a variety of furniture and cabinets:

  • mission style chairs
  • end tables
  • book cases
  • a fireplace mantle
  • a wine cabinet
  • kitchen cabinets
  • a kitchen island on casters
  • an umbrella stand
  • and whatever else he feels like building.

Customers can buy furniture off the floor, or they can brainstorm ideas with Dan and have him build a one-of-a-kind piece of furniture or cabinetry that’s perfect for their needs.

The Carpentry Shop Helpers with Dan

If you can’t make it to Cambridge this Saturday, you may want to go to the FaceBook page for “The Carpentry Shop” and look at some pictures of his shop, his furniture, and his helpers.

(Note: It takes three shop dogs – Piper, Holly, and Sadie – to replace me as his helper.)

If you can make it to Cambridge, the town will do everything it can to be sure you have a great “frosty frolic” while you’re here. It may help you remember that “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.”

Here are some of the special things you can do in (or near) Cambridge on Saturday afternoon this week:

  • Jump into Lake Ripley through a big hole cut into the ice as part of the “Dip for Dozer” fundraising event.
  • Watch the big ice chunks from the hole be transformed into beautiful ice sculptures with the help of a chain saw under the guidance of Jim Murray.
  • Enjoy a free wine and chocolate tasting at Katy’s Corner on Main Street in Cambridge.
  • Shop the sales in the specialty shops for which Cambridge is so well known.
  • Tour the studios and workshops of local artists and craftsmen, including a potter (Mark Skudlarek), a recycle artist (Simone Mausser), and, of course, a furniture and cabinet maker (Dan Korth).

More details about all of the special activities happening at Cambridge’s Frosty Frolic can be found at  http://www.visitcambridgewi.com/events.htm#Frosty%20Frolic.

Whispering Winds still has rooms available for the weekend. If you can stay two nights, you can have the second night free. Call 608-212-6197 for details.

It’s time to enjoy the season of winter – before it’s gone!