Kate From Sheboygan

 

I love throwing around the word ‘Sheboygan’ as if I am intimately familiar with the Wisconsin city. I’m not; Sheboygan brings no connotations to my mind whatsoever.

Until a few months ago.

I did not go to Sheboygan. Sheboygan came south in the form of a delightful 25 year old millennial named Kate, who came with her boyfriend Kyle to stay in our Airbnb room on the southern lap of their hit-all-50 bucket list.

Kate and her boyfriend are scientists. Odds were that, as an English teacher who has lived south of the Mason-Dixon her whole life, I would have few connecting points with two scientists from Sheboygan. Wrong!

Let me describe Kate: engaged! She was a reminder of how rich this life is and to hang on to that. Her bucket list includes skydiving and Nashville. She kayaks and hikes and Cricuts and loves children and is the perfect balance to her quiet companion who is more what I had envisioned a Sheboyganite to be like. And yes, their accents were hard core. Mwahkee; Grammuh (your mother’s mother).

She was not afraid to invite us to our own back porch to talk. Most Airbnbers are properly reserved and that’s as it should be. But, oh, the refreshing one who breaks through and says, “Come visit!” That freedom doesn’t just come from youth. It comes from the heart of a person who doesn’t fear judgment because she herself is not judgmental. She takes in life with pleasure as it comes to her.

Thank you, Kate, for reminding me that God has no end of ideas when forming our personalities; that He had a great time making you; and that He blesses this big world with your warmth.

#iheartsheboygan

PS. Kyle, seriously about the wedding invitation. Kate’s one of a kind; don’t let her get away!

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Real Women Ski Uphill And Other Michigan Moments

When you cannot sew a quilt, you write a quilt; you sew with words. So I will write a quilt of 2000 miles and Michigan moments.

* Robin’s Egg Blue and Lavender 9 Patch Block. The Au Sable Cross Country Ski Trail in the morning. Ice, water, and trees made a pastel glow and the Lord and I talked as I skied. The first wipe out of the day, I heard my body say to its component members, “Oh, we’re doing this again, are we?”

* Crimson Bear’s Paw Block. We started the fourth mile of the trail and I concluded that I have 3 miles in me at a time. The huge paw print in the snow had to be a hangry bear. By God’s grace, trails do end and we regained the car, heaving, and snacked on apples that were the best apples we’ve ever had.

*Meyer Lemon and Olive Green Pinwheel Block. What color is youth? A group from Earlham College spread an enormous cooler full of picnic in front of the fireplace in the Stone Turtle Lodge and snapped, scrolled, laughed, and ate. Remind me to tell Will Sieg about the brilliant girl in the so-cool headband who spread peanut butter and Nutella on a flour tortilla!

*Granite and Pitch Rail Fence Block. Wet, pot-holed roads in hard-working towns between the lovely lakes and woods.

*Silver Silk and Pearl Batik Half-Square Triangle Block. Rolling Hills Trail in the sparkling cold afternoon. Emily Dickinson wrote of that ‘certain slant of light’ on winter afternoons. Yes. Yes, indeed. Spliced with tree trunks, the slant of light lit the snow and inspired us to crouch and go down the hills with poles tucked back like Olympians.

*Solid White Block, ‘062588’ embroidered in white thread in Bodoni 72 Smallcaps Font.

*Desert Camo, Denim, Sandpaper, and Pleather 9 Patch Block. What our car looks like inside and out.

*Muslin and Orange Calico Flying Geese Block. Goodale Bakery in Grayling, MI. ‘Pasties’ are beef stew in pastry pockets that warm the gizzards. Those and a 50 cent bag of popcorn got us through the afternoon. It’s good I don’t live here. The only way to take on Old Man Winter is to stay inside and eat.

*Sunflower Barn Art Block. Sally at Spike’s Keg O’Nails Restaurant. I called Donalyn ‘incomparable,’ but Sally compares. Genuine warmth and interest overflowed from Sally as she extolled her hometown and gave helpful advice. We laughed at her honest comment that cross-country skiing was not her cup of tea because, “I mean, I’m walking and walking and walking and not getting anywhere!” All said in that North Mitten accent.

*Sherbert and Wine Log Cabin Block in Amish Solids. Oh, the 9 Oaks Inn. What we owe you! Our nook in the cold. Gas heat and hot water at crucially needed times. And to Bryan – stepping in for the motel’s owners who were sitting pretty in Bradenton, Florida – our thanks. Bryan anticipated a desk job, dealing with working men who wouldn’t need much from him beyond a towel and an ash tray. How could he foresee that the septic tank would back up and the lights would go out and the generator would be frozen and crotchety all in one night? Our hearts bled for Bryan as we heard him out there in the bitter cold with his band-aided fingers whanging some part of the motel generators with a 2-foot crescent wrench, using choice words, and talking on the phone to Bradenton. Little did he know that Andrew was praying against his success because the generators were one thin pane of glass away from our lair and you know they are loud. The fact that Michigan Power and Light got the electricity on fairly quickly takes nothing away from Bryan’s heroics. As we left, I gave him a candle and love from Alabama. (His band-aided fingers are another story altogether.)

*Traditional Fan Block, Indigo Blue fanbase, Spokes of varied white hues – eggshell, bone, vanilla, smoke – on a Background of Daffodil yellow batik. Detroit. Breakfast with Jay and Lydia and the view out their back windows; Redeemer Midtown Presbyterian Church and their call to be the love of Christ to Detroit; sunshine in February on detailed downtown architecture; a Lebanese lunch at Al Ameer where the meat is better than candy; people of every variety; and three little girls playing in their front yard on a blighted street. The width of these experiences compelled us to think about what we are called to do and be in this world. One thing is sure: we cannot coast through this life. Don’t you love a life that is bigger than this world?

                                               

      

                                       

*And then the random crazy block of moments like us stove-up and Andrew referring to cross-country skiing as ‘you know what.’
Or when Michiganders referred to ‘up north.’ Any more north than this and, surely, you have crossed the pole and are headed back south?!
Or the directions including take a ‘Michigan left.’ No joke. That is a thing.
Or the interesting plastic pan in our motel room that was clearly an important amenity and was a mystery to us. Sled? Serving tray? Ahhh, snowy boot holder! Who knew?

Or walking on water! We had never walked on a frozen lake before.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow! We are humbled with gratitude for this trip and this glorious and fallen and beloved world.

November Nomad: Lessons From The Road

Flexibility is the jewel of youth.
I am not young.
Nevertheless, I can roll with it
If the road requires –
Provided certain non-negotiables:
Good coffee, hot shower.
Otherwise, I am Thor Heyerdahl.

I love my children and those I have adopted.
Settled happiness is listening to
Insights and laughter
From the offspring of my youth.

I love mountains. Earth above me is
Ultimate humility.

I love Montreat mountains – Assembly Inn,
Hewed from the rocky side of the bowl that
Holds Lake Susan, cold air straight from
God’s pure storehouses into my hot lungs,
Frost on every brown leaf under the laurels.

I love going to another church and singing –
No, shouting! –
Receiving the sermon from the lips of
A man of God, deep conviction and
Deeper healing. Oh! Thank you, Lord!

I love my in-laws. What I learn from them is,
As another said, A long obedience in the
Same direction. We love to think compromise
Is smart. They teach me it is not.

I love beauty. My heart sings of the beauty of
Antique stores – tiny cream pitchers in striped
Stoneware, sideboards chalk-painted buttercream
Leaving dark cherry exposed. Deep
Knowledge that time is fleeting and I am too.

I love a table of shared food – green curry in my
Daughter’s first home. Bennet Avenue by
Candlelight.

I love my children’s loves. I am speechless over
Their finding their soul’s friend.

I love traveling with Andrew. How many times we
Laugh and say, I was JUST thinking that!

I love going. Well, I hate packing with a
White hatred. But, I love the first vista of
Smoky blue mountains just past Knoxville.
I love woodsmoke and
That fall sun that both slices and mists.

I love the quilt on the wall at
The Yellow Deli – two-inch squares of
Upholstery fabric become, in the hands
Of the artist, a window onto a creek bank,
Shadowy undergrowth and light-tipped leaf,
Silver water over moss and rock bed, and all from
Crushed velvet sofa scraps.

I love hearing God tell me that
He is my rock and I am the
Apple of his eye; I can hear him deeper
When I’m on the road.

      

    

     

   

   

    

            

     

     

     

     

Psalm 17 and 18

Clogging Day Two: Triples and Buck Joeys

Day Two.  Well, you know day two of any conference; some of the bloom is off the rose and it’s not the rose’s fault. You’re tired, you’re at your conversational limit, the comfort zone is still a whole day away, the gals next door turn on the TV at 6:00 am, so you’ve got to dig deep. You’ve sweated through several shirts, but tell yourself, ‘This is a workshop; I’m supposed to look like my son’s rugby bag.’

Also, aside from the immense awe I have for the dancers in the advanced class I attended today, the clacking which invigorates the dancer, begins to try the sleep-deprived brain.  Let me clarify: I observed the advanced class. My participation was to video the teacher’s choreography and one of the professional students, at her request.  The quote of the day came from that class:

“Isn’t there a triple before the Buck Joey?”

“Yes,” said instructor Andy Howard, “yes, there is!” They all nod. Not only does that change EVerything, it seemed to sum up this whole fun experience for me.

Which leads me to the sheer delight of following the caller as he says things like “SaMANtha, Mountain Goat, Turkey, Scotty, Charleston, the aforementioned Buck Joey, and the matchless I’m Gonna Get Cha!” And all those steps can go left, right, and backwards, so you’re either ‘back home’ or facing the back wall or sitting beside Clogging Mom who is like any other Sports Mom – convinced scouts are everywhere and it is her responsibility, nay, her joy, to direct their attention to her starlet.

I got a kick out of the cloggers who came from Wisconsin or Michigan because they were wearing jackets with hoods. It is 90 degrees in Fontana Village, but I guess where they’re from they put on jackets in August and take them off in July. So September is clearly a jacket month no matter where you are.

An evening bluegrass concert capped the day allowing freestylers to take the floor and follow their heart. A three year old girl with two white-blond french braids jigged like one who understood the art form at a cellular level, like Grandma must have at the Sugaring-Off Dance in the Big Woods.  And then a husband and wife danced so entrancingly, so perfectly fit together, so gently looping their arms over shoulders and around waists, like figure skaters only warm and accessible. Like maybe we could all do that.

So, yes, there is triple before the Buck Joey. Bank on it.

   

Floods And Scars

How hard it is to watch others suffer.  Of the many recent images, one stays with me. A man – elderly, sparse hair – is being helped through Harvey’s brown flood to a waiting flatboat. Bad enough at that. But he is shirtless. And his chest has the long, livid, vertical scar of recent open heart surgery.

And I think, Wow, Lord. This man? This scarred, scared man?

I keep my theology straight and remember where floods and scars originated – two people in a garden rejecting the greatest offered Love, Love that kept offering through His own scarred back and hands and feet. He knows scars. He loves rejectors.

But why are the most vulnerable ones, the poor, the already scarred, taken through the water while I sip my coffee in the broad daylight?

A whisper: ‘I am doing something.’

In them. In me. My guilt is wasted time. He is doing something, and He will strengthen those in the water to cling to Him and those on dry land to send out rescue boats of every shape and size.  The other comforts are still true, too:  Good will come out of this, good we cannot see. We need waking up. We are on our knees and not drunk on pleasure. This will bring healing; it is the saline flush of a filthy wound.  My close friends Charlie and Leslie, in the water right now, proclaim this truth with tears and praise songs.

Lord, Lord! Keep us soft.

When Angels Smile On Bennett Avenue

I talked with God this morning,
About a certain street, said, Lord,
Spread your wings, Lord,
Send your angels too, to bear us up and
Bless the souls on Bennett Avenue.

I talked with James next door
In the quiet of this morn. He said
A devil last night rode him hard,
But today is new; another day,
He’s looking up, On Bennett Avenue.

I talked to Gayle this morning,
And she shushed
Her two dogs sharp so I could hear
Her say it’s true, they had
Each other’s back on Bennett Avenue.

I talked to four sweet girls last night,
Working lovelies, heart and mind;
Their laughter rang out late and loud;
And strong their faith, too. Deep their thought
For this old world on Bennett Avenue.

I talked to a man and woman last night,
He is dark and she is light,
And their hands held and my heart
Sang true a parent’s song of peace
And tomorrow on Bennett Avenue.

I helped along a child of mine;
Smoothed the quilt, folded clothes,
Swept the fine dark hardwood floor,
And left the love of candled meal
To shine on Bennett Avenue.

And this is not a scholar’s take
On all the knots that need unknotting.
It is a woman-mother saying,
It’s sweet and fine, for this old world,
On Bennett Avenue.

Hints Of Fall

Hummingbird sups warily at the
Red-prismed glass feeder. He has been here all day
Defending his patch.
Occasionally he is strafed by a rival,
Or bombarded by the squirrels higher in the
Pecan tree. The squirrels are in full fall gorge-mode,
Gnawing a fraction of the million pecans into sharp
Shells and shavings all over the walkway,
And dropping pecans heavy as padlocks
From the nethermost branches,
Onto the tin roof in shocking
Explosions.  All day. On their smoke break,
They chase each other round and round tree
Trunks, claw-skittering up the bark, using touching
Limbs as a high way in the air. Their tails swish-
Dancing for balance, they hop the power lines,
Mouth full of fat pecan, and steal off secretly to
Stow their victuals against a coming bleak day.