My Log Cabin in Alaska

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

This is not my home!

My half-finished house -
And my horse eating the roses

It’s been so long since I have taken the time to sit at the garden bench. Life gets in the way, busy takes over, and the simple things get left behind. But if one doesn’t step back and take a breath, the world can become a life threatening avalanche.

A few days ago I was talking with my mother on the phone. It’s something I don’t do nearly enough – it’s that ‘busy’ thing. Of course we talked about dozens of things only a mom and daughter can appreciate, but somehow the conversation came around to the many times our family has picked up and moved, just to follow the adventure.

Often times the house we stayed in for those short periods, wasn’t in the best of shape. But no matter. At least it didn’t matter much to me. What mattered was the adventure itself. The journey. The learning. The experience of witnessing first-hand the miracles of creation as we traveled through desert or mountain, or the fragility of society as we lived in Georgia in the 60’s.

Sometimes the house was so small that my parents had to split the one bedroom so my little brother would have a place of his own, and I would get a curtained off spot behind the sofa. Sometimes we would have a camper between a Quonset and a massive airplane hangar on a decommissioned Army airfield. Sometimes it was only the camper shell on the back of our short-bed pickup. However, the place I laid my head was nowhere near as important as the place I was privileged to see. And Yes! I did help mother with all the domestic stuff like cooking and cleaning up. Back then I thought it was fun.

But what about now? Is it still fun to haul water and cook over an open fire? Yes. It actually is. I guess I got used to the strangeness of pioneer life as a child, so it didn’t ever bother me when I lived in less than stellar conditions as an adult. Hopefully my children can look back on some of these days and finally understand how I could be so happy during the time we lived in an Army tent and had to haul in our water. For me, waking up with the songs of birds and the scent of the earth was close to spiritual. I enjoyed every minute, to include when a three inch tarantula traipsed across the living area one night.

The past twenty-five years have had their ups and downs, living with a combat veteran who went years without treatment for PTSD. As I look back, only a very few years, count them on one hand, did we live in a place with any luxuries at all. And yet those years have been filled with joy, love, adventure, and wonder.

Many times people have asked me how I could live that way. One lady went so far as to ask me in shock, “But, how do you wash?” My answer, “With water, just like you.” She was confused since I didn’t have running water in my home. I explained that of course I have running water – when I run to the store to fill up my jugs! Besides, I'm one of the lucky ones - I have electricity! It is a story often repeated, and still humorous (to me).

The question remains. Why am I happy living in a hut which I built myself. A hut without much room for privacy for two people, and which doesn’t have a proper bathroom or even a hot water tank. (Well, I do have an on demand water heater. It’s just not hooked up yet)

Simply put. This is not my home. It’s the only answer that makes sense even to me. For one thing, I do most of my living outdoors. I only come into my shelter to sleep or prepare food. Yeah, and it’s a place I can plug in my computer and work. Outside I not only do the earthly things I love to do, but I also feel a deep spirituality. I experience a closer walk with God. And I re
alize: I’m happy in this less-than-perfect-house because this isn’t my home.

I am only in this place a short time. A breath. A blink of the eye in eternity. My home is with Jesus, and I look forward to a much nicer place to lay my head when my work here is done. Come to think of it, I have it better than our Lord when He walked this Earth. He didn’t even have a place to lay his head, so who am I to complain?

So, my answer as to why am I so happy living the way I do, is this: This is not my home. I’m only camping out on this pretty blue planet. I’m enjoying the sights and sounds while I can because in reality I live in an unimaginably wondrous mansion which was built especially for me. 

Saturday, October 17, 2015

I've missed you Garden Bench

My last post was many months ago. I come here when I just want to sit and think about what I love. That's what a garden bench is all about isn't it? But I let busy get in the way. I allow the little details of my life to pile up, turning into a log-jam of projects, and I leave no time for me.

Bad Idea!

Take time to do nothing. Sit, think, pray, find your inner self.

The details will take care of themselves.

So very long ago I learned a bit of wisdom from my father. Love what you do and do what you love. Do it to the best of your ability. Do it until it's not fun anymore, then do something else.

We are here in this life but a breath. Oh yeah, it looks like a long road when we're young. But trust me, that blamed road gets shorter with every birthday. And if we're honest, we don't really know what's around the next bend.

I've been listening to an audio book written and read by Elizabeth Gilbert. Big Magic is simply awesome. But her golden words are not new. I've known this most of my life. Many before her knew it and used it, even talked about it. But no one told the story as beautifully as Ms. Gilbert. Big Magic is the energy of ideas. The beautiful electricity that pulses all around us, that gives us what we need to complete a unique task; a lovely dinner, a beautiful piece of furniture, a quilt, a book, or whatever you are doing. Right now, my energy is simply to sit on the bench and look inward.

Maybe I'll be back again soon, dear bench.

Monday, July 20, 2015

How Mama built a quilt - and a family.

When I was little, I used to sit on my mother's lap while she sewed. Sometimes she made dresses for me, sometimes she repaired other clothing. But once in a while she would make a quilt. That was fun.

The first one I remember was something of a crazy quilt. We started it when I was eight years old. My mother never threw away fabric remnants from any of her sewing projects, and I can tell you - that box of scraps was huge. One day she just announced that we - she and I - were going to make something out of that mess.

First step, make a worse mess! She dumped the box, (did I say it was big?) on her bed and spread it out. It wasn't long before that mess got all over the floor. I was in heaven.

Second step, find two pieces, different colors, which we could stitch together. I dug and compared and stacked and dug some more. And I got really frustrated. I couldn't find any two scraps that I could fit together. How was mama going to actually sew them? Answer - of course, the scissors!

We started with a red scrap from the material she made my sundress from, and a blue scrap from my brother's pajamas. She put them face to face and trimmed one side. I helped her pin them together, it was my job while I sat on her lap, and she sewed them together. When she held it up, it looked a little bit like a lopsided triangle with the tip broken off. Our quilt was begun.

I got the idea quick. Find the next piece by the time mama had the last one sewn on. The pile of scraps was getting a little smaller, but the pile of really little scraps at mama's feet was getting bigger. Now I had three jobs. Help pin, find the next scrap, and pick up the little scraps off the floor and put them in the waste basket. That last part bothered me. What if we could use some of those. Mama assured me they were done. I still didn't like it.

It seemed like only a few minutes, but it was hours. Daddy came home from work and it was supper time. But first we had to gather the mess of scraps and put them back in the box. Then she spread the quilt top on her bed. It was about half done, but it was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. But I was still worried about those little tiny scraps in the trash. Mama called me to wash my hands and come help her set the table, but before I did, I grabbed that trash can and hid it in my closet! After supper, while I was getting ready for bed, I carefully dug out all those beautiful little scraps and stuffed them into my pillowcase. I never slept better in my life.

It only took mama and me a couple of days to make the quilt big enough to cover her bed. Now we needed to make it into a blanket. But it was so beautiful just like it was! She explained to me that we would sew it onto an old blanket and then we'd have a new, warm cover. And it would be finished. I thought we would finish it the next day. But mama was busy making phone calls and talking to a lady who came to visit.

I thought we would finish it the day after, but mama was excited about something and she was too busy to work on our beautiful blanket. It was the same the day after. I was sad, but I still had my pillowcase full of tiny scraps.

Then one day mama said we were going to move into a bigger house. It was a brick house with a big back yard and a real big tree. Our new house also had two cherry trees and an apricot tree, and mama said we would plant a garden in the spring. But the biggest surprise was yet to come.

We drove a long, long way and visited with a man and a shy little boy. At first the little boy was afraid of us, so we had to go home and come back another day to visit. Then one day he came to live with us.

I finally had a little brother! I was so happy. His name is Calvin.

But mama seemed to have forgotten all about our quilt.

Calvin was only three years old, and he was still really scared. He didn't have very many toys, so I shared mine with him. He liked my Tonka Truck better than the Barbie dolls. But he would still cry at night.

Mama finally remembered our quilt. She cut a piece from an old blanket which was just the right size for Calvin's bed. Then she sewed our quilt to both sides of the little blanket. Calvin got to sit on mama's lap while she sewed. I stood right beside her and held the heavy side of the quilt off the floor. Mama kept explaining to Calvin that this would be his very own special blanket that would keep him safe and warm at night.

When mama was finished sewing the quilt together, she had some material left over. I remembered my pillowcase full of tiny scraps. I told her we could make a little pillow to match the quilt. It wasn't quite the right shape for a pillow, but it was just the right size. Calvin hugged his little pillow and that night he went to sleep without crying.

The very next morning he woke up laughing and talking to himself. I snuck into his room, and he was playing with all the different colors of his little crazy quilt. Calvin was finally happy with his new family.

Every time I build a quilt, I remember that first crazy quilt. And I hope the person who will get the next quilt will love it as much as Calvin loved his.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A Walk in the Woods with the Lord

‘Twas a cold and rainy day. Gosh that sounds hokey. But face it, more than two days of cold weather in Texas is just bad! And that sounds whiney since I lived so long in Alaska. But at least Alaska is honest about its cold weather. Texas is just plain mean! And I’m sitting here feeling the effects, all worn out and uninspired. So I was staring out my upstairs window, trying to think of something new to write in one of the three pieces I’m currently working on and I thought of a thought I had a couple of decades ago. It made me feel better, so I thought I’d share it.

Another walk in the garden with the Lord

About twenty five years ago I found myself struggling terribly with a number of stresses. I went for a walk in the Piney Woods of East Texas; actually I was trying to run away. I intermittently cried and yelled, throwing blame and drowning in guilt over things which I finally figured out were beyond my control. It took a while, walking down that game trail, but I began to calm down and see things around me. Presently I saw a huge pine tree, a Loblolly Pine that had a broken trunk and had fallen. The tree seemed healthy, all its needles were intact, green, and the bark looked good. There had been no wind, no other trees were down. I left the trail to go investigate

Now, you know that God moves in mysterious ways, and his voice is not always booming. Sometimes the message just comes through as a tingling whisper. As I studied this giant tree (the diameter of the trunk was nearly three feet) I noticed tiny bugs under the bark. They were pine bark beetles, I learned later, but for me they were a message from the Lord.

The message was this; you may look strong, healthy, and may stand tall in your community, but sometimes little things get under your skin. These little things will fester and make you sick. They will cut off your spiritual circulation. Literally they will cut you off and make you grow sick and weak inside. You may be grand on the outside, but you are dying on the inside, and if you don’t rid yourself of the little bugs which are draining the life out of you, you will fall.

I was perplexed. That tree simply had no way of defending itself against the invading beetles. I thought it was unfair, to say the least. I was also having some trouble getting past the similarity of the fate of that tree and my own life. I sat and pondered. Okay, so I have little bugs under my skin. I, at least, do have a way of defending myself, of ridding myself of those bugs. (That’s another story altogether)

I was feeling somewhat better and continued on my way. Down the trail I saw the coolest piece of vine. It had been cut from a tree by the forest service, but I liked it. I don’t usually pick up anything from public lands, but I picked up this piece of dry vine, something to remind me of the inspiring day I had experienced.

This piece of vine was only about three feet long, all curly from winding itself around the tree branch it had grown on, and it weighed less than three pounds. I continued my walk, vine happily clutched in my fingers. I was finally feeling more like myself, the walk was really refreshing. The five mile loop I chose that day took me through some of the prettiest forest in that area, and I was nearly half way through. Then my arm began to ache, just a little, sort of a stiff elbow. That surprised me since I am a strong person, physically, and can carry heavy items or work in a garden all day.

I pondered this new mystery, this tiresome ache in my arm, and it hit me. I had picked up, and admired, something that had been wringing the life out of one of God’s creations. It had been physically cut away and cast out, but here I was, picking it up and carrying it like it was something wonderful. The pain it caused wasn’t devastating, just annoying, something I could ignore if I wanted. That is, until it was too late.

I got the message from Jesus fully then. When little things get under your skin, get rid of them. He, alone, can get rid of those pesky parasites. Try to deal with them yourself and you will be choked to death, or the life will be sucked out of you. We are to lay our burdens at the cross – and leave them there. Don’t pick them back up, and don’t pick up anyone else’s burdens either. Give them to God and let him deal with it.

It still amazes me how God can talk to me, not in church, not even through a Bible, but on a sunny afternoon on a walk in the woods, or even a cold rainy day in the corner of my office.
In case you might be wondering, the photo is Denali, Mount McKinley, the highest mountain in North America. It's one of my favorite photos taken a few years ago during a road trip through Alaska.
I'd like to hear from you, post your thoughts on inspiration.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

And Still I Plow Forward

Summer time is busy time and that's just the way it is. I used to think I could do anything (and do it better than anyone else) I believed I was Wonder Woman (I think I lost my magic bracelets) And I knew I was Supergirl (my cape seems to be a bit ragged)

Still I plow forward.

This week I have built a workbench in the blearing heat of Texas, planted a tree, fought fire-ants to no avail, put up turkeys (yea, it's a farm we raise our own meat), took care of my still injured hubby, did a whole pile of writing and not sure any of it is readable, did a whole pile of editing and hope I didn't miss another 500 mistakes, kept up with the housework 'cause it's the best excuse for not going out in the heat, and designed my display table for my first big book event!

Oh, yea! I get to go showcase my little book with all the good writers of Texas at the Texas Word Wrangler festival in Giddings! And I don't have a clue what to expect. So I do my research, pray, and plow forward....we will see what happens next.

But, I don't remember taking any time for me, and as I sit here trying to make sense of my keyboard, I realize that I'm not listening to the advise of my friend Candilynn. Take time to clear out the gunk, let the brain cells rest a bit, meditate and refocus. Now, where's my schedule book, I gotta pencil that in somewhere!

Wow, even the computer is tired, it won't upload my picture of my new tree!

Eventually when you keep plowing forward, you will bend something that you didn't mean to bend.  I think I will get a pretty picture and just look at it for a while, nothing else, no plowing.

What do you do to unwind, unplug, and relax the brain muscle?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

A Review: Ascending Spiral by Bob Rich

Ascending Spiral: Humanity's Last ChanceAscending Spiral: Humanity's Last Chance by Bob Rich
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Such a thought provoking story I have never read before. Do I believe in reincarnation? Hardly. As a Bible believing Christian I believe in one life, one death and the resurrection of the eternal soul…. And just what does that mean. As an open minded intellectual I humorously entertain thoughts of what or who I may have been, or might become in different lives because of something that has just happened to me.

And the Question still begs for an answer, “Why am I here?”

I chose this book partly from curiosity, partly from personal need, and partly from a drive I had no control over. As a person who focuses mainly on children’s books or much lighter and predictable Westerns, I first found this book to be hard to read. But it was harder to put down. And now that I’ve turned that last page, it will be impossible to forget.

I followed Pip through his life. I struggled through many of ‘his’ other lives, and when I gaze at the myriad of stars over the Texas plains at night I really do wonder how many others are looking down on me. “What is my purpose here?” I feel the struggle as life continues, and the surprise as I begin to realize that one soul has moved on to a new lesson. Then more surprise as I discover that the soul may be able to choose the lessons. “What could possibly be next?” I was driven almost to the point of stress as Pip’s life became complex and confusing, the story bouncing from one time frame to another and back again. But, Isn’t that how life goes as we mature, grow, and find success?

I love the ‘spiral’ motif. It is motion, it is economy of motion. It can lift but it can also drill, or be a feather drifting lazily to settle in the shade of a willow tree. Do we spiral toward a more complex lifestyle or to a simpler one? Like Pip, I have choices. How can I know that each choice I make will result in peace of heart and mind for me and my children? And what about the temptation to choose wealth or just a tiny dab of celebrity? I pray that my choices will result in my being able to ‘pass’ this lesson, but even more than that, that my choices will result in my children being able to also learn and pass their own lessons.

Thank you, Bob, for your writing. And by the way, I’ve been a conservationist, and mostly off the grid, for a large part of my life. I now live in a ‘tiny house’ and the solar panels are on the way. And, thankfully, just as with Pip, the ‘taker’ has become the ‘giver’, the ‘destroyer’ has become the ‘builder’, and I hope that the stubborn will soon learn enough to become the teacher.

View all my reviews

Saturday, August 3, 2013

A Review: The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde

Published October 2nd 2012 by HMH Books for Young Readers
(first published November 4th 2010)
I chose this book and bought a copy because I won the second in the series in First Reads through Goodreads and I just had to read the first in the series! Although I do enjoy dragon stories, I may not have selected this book to read without some other motivation, personally I prefer Westerns or horse books, and I must say that without this author and these books my reading experience has been lacking.

I enjoyed the fresh and subtle plot and the twists along the way which kept me engaged. I love, love, love the detailed descriptions and the colorful language (which was used as a point to separate the classes and was distained to the point of humor). The characters and made up creatures were fun and believable in a fantasy sort of way and I felt a true connection to the heroine, Jennifer Strange. One of the best elements of this story in my humble opinion is the melding of old and new. Medieval dragons, trolls, [and what in the world is a Quarkbeast?] and magic all combined in a world of cars, telephones, and computer code is just cool. And I appreciated the very hidden messages of conservation, loyalty, and standing up for one's own beliefs.

I quickly got into the story as young Jennifer, an orphan, a foundling indentured into work as manager of magic in the aging hotel full of mostly retired sorcerers. She faces her challenges with wit and courage that belies her age. I laughed with her, I feared for her, and I grieved as she faced her greatest challenge.

I recommend this book to young people, it will expand your horizons, and to adults, it will renew your belief in goodness.