Sunday, November 13, 2005

Fall weekend

Sometimes I want to stay in Southern California forever because of weekends like this one. Spectacular deep blue skies, temperatures in the 70s. A weekend to live the small, everyday things with eyes wide open. A restoring of the spirit after a week of grey cubicle land.

Which began Friday morning, early. I had volunteered to teach part of the women's study on Saturday, as well as provide the breakfast, so I arrived at work over an hour early to sit in the cafeteria next to the window and read the lessons. I am struck by two sentences in one of the articles, "Peace in a Time of Anxiety," by Nancy Roth.

First, a quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer while he was in prison, in a letter to his mother (my emphasis):
By gracious powers so wonderfully sheltered, and confidently waiting come what may, we know that God is with us night and morning, and never fails to greet us each new day.
Second, this sentence, because of the image of an "inner landscape":
Prayer transforms our inner landscape because it welcomes God's healing, love, strength, and peace into our hearts, our souls, our psyches—our deepest self.
Friday evening I came home and straightaway began preparing pineapple guavas to cook into a sauce for Saturday morning. I am not very good about cooking a meal in the evenings, but it seemed such a perfect balance to the long day inside dealing with computers and paper to wash, cut in half, and then scoop out the guava insides into the kettle, add a bit of sugar, and boil down the fruit into guava sauce.

Then I assembled a basic cheese strata from old bread, cheese, duck eggs, milk, and crisply fried bacon from Niman Ranch using a recipe from the More-With-Less Cookbook. I felt very pleased with myself for preparing it the night before!

Saturday morning I was up by 5:00 to finish preparing the study and gather all the items for the breakfast. I stopped by the grocery store and to buy coffee and some freshly baked pastries from the bakery. (I gave myself permission not to make everything from scratch as I also had to lead part of the study.)

Then to the church to bake the strata and set up the table. I chose one of the African fabric tablecloths my mother had given me (yellows, golds, and greens) and placed a light amber-colored oil lamp in the center surrounded by pine cones from Big Bear.

The lamp elicited many comments and stories from the older women who had grown up with oil lamps. Sadly, I was in the kitchen so I couldn't hear all they were saying. But one woman mentioned that her chore as a girl was to make sure all the lamps were filled with oil. Another woman remembered the REA, or Rural Electrification Administration, and what a boon it was when electricity came to the rural areas. I'll have to ask her more about what that was like.

After the breakfast, one woman led a thank-offering liturgy and then we briefly studied the story of the midwives, Shiprah and Puah, who refused the Egyptian Pharaoh's order to kill the male Hebrew babies.

Saturday afternoon was warm and sunny. I've been thinking of getting hiking boots, so I went over to REI and found the only pair not Made In China. So, of course, they were about the most expensive. Oh well. Then to Eaton Canyon to begin breaking them in.

There is still a small stream of water in the canyon, but the canyon floor is mostly boulders and rocks washed down in the heavy rains last winter. I was going to try hiking up, but the route I wanted to take was blocked off, so I just stayed on the floor. I sat on a rock for a while reading my novel, About Grace, and then boulder-hopped all the way back to the parking lot at the other end of the canyon. I think the boots will work out fine. I wasn't wearing very thick socks as it was too hot, but I had tried them on in the store with heavier socks, so I hope they'll be OK.

After a rest and supper of leftover cheese strata and guava sauce, I began looking for a reference to prepare Sunday morning's class on the lectionary readings. Which took me out to my garage, where I started sorting through the stuff that had accumulated (again) in the garage. The landlord had recently installed a fluorescent light and electrical outlet, so I was able to work in the pleasantly cool night. Two hours later, I had smashed all the cardboard boxes I had saved, "just in case" I needed them, and disposed of them in the recycling bins. I also brought my shredder out to the garage and shredded a pile of old documents.

I eventually found the reference in the house but was so pleased with the dent I'd made in the garage piles, I didn't mind. A bit of study and then to bed.

Up early again this morning to write up the notes for the class. The Zephaniah reading brought me back to the Ph.D. seminar I had taken on the class and to my professor's commentaries on the book. I realized that part of my struggle with Ph.D. work was its relevance for the church. It was very challenging and exciting to painstakingly go through word by word comparing the Hebrew text with the Dead Sea scrolls, Greek, Syriac, the Targums, and Latin texts. And yet how does one teach a text (especially like Zephaniah chapter 1) to a church class on a Sunday morning? What is the significance of that chapter for the way we live our lives today?

Laundry was washed and hung on the line somewhere between Psalm 90 and I Thessalonians 5.

Then to the church for the class followed by the church service, where I was the assistant and had to read the heavy, rather dark texts assigned for today.

Then I rode back home on my bicycle and spent a couple hours sitting on my front porch reading About Grace. It was the perfect book for this afternoon, with its wonderful, attentive descriptions of the tiniest things, like, that "Tiny fronds of frost were growing on the inner pane of the window" of the airplane. Or the letter of recommendation for admission to graduate school the main character writes for a young woman. After a long list of all the living creatures she showed him "one afternoon, when she was ten," he writes,
To live in the tropics is to always be reminded (I find a hornet in my rice, a minnow in my shaving water) of the impossibility of ownership. The street in front of me belongs more to whatever is tunneling up those hundred or so little mounds of red dirt than to any of us. The beams of this apartment belong to houseflies; the window corners to spiders; the ceiling to house geckos and roaches. We are all just tenants here. [...]

"An amazing book," Naaliyah once told me, "could be written about mites." To know her is to realize the thousand forms of inquiry. The least things enrapture her: she used to lie on her stomach and watch a tiny square of reef through a plate of glass for hours (p. 170).
A nap. A hole dug in the garden to bury my rotting vegetable and fruit scraps. And then, just at sunset, a three-block walk—west, north, and west again—to the drive-though dairy for a half-gallon of milk and a pint of chocolate ice-cream and home once more.

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