The Dowdy Deciduous


SONY DSCMaybe autumn by you this year is spectacular. Maybe the trees are blazing with vermilion red and juicy orange and Fort Knox gold leaves.

Or maybe, like me, you are seeing deciduous trees that should be reaching their glory days but instead are fading to a meek grayish-brown. Their leaves hang from the trees as though too exhausted to put up a fight against winter—the kind of gritty brawl  culminating in those vibrant primary-tinted bruises of foliage that won’t go down without a fight. No, the trees here are waving dingy dishrag-color leaves in surrender.

What is the deal? Our hit-and-miss precipitation of the last past season may be responsible. We’ll go for months with almost constant rain and then see weeks of iron skies and parched earth. The leaves may be tired of all the drama and just want to drift quietly to the ground with little fanfare.

Are these leaf-shedders following the spirit of the times, ashamed of their deciduous privilege? Or, conversely, envious of their evergreen siblings? Who knows. And who knows but that autumn might surprise me and coming storming back in a blaze of eye-searing hues.

It could happen.

In the meantime, (and for my Midwest-homesick son living in gravelly L.A.) I will feast my eyes on these visions of Autumn Past.

Happy almost-October!




Apples Mellow, Pumpkins…Yellow?


Where did I learn this song? Was it born into me? I never remember not knowing it.

Apples mellow,

pumpkins yellow,

Tell the time of year.

Nuts are falling, nature’s calling.

Autumn time is here.


The yellow pumpkins always bothered me a bit, but since the rhyme’s the thing I didn’t question.

Recently I learned that the name for that bright blend of red and yellow—orange—is fairly recent in the history of the world. It used to be called red, or possibly yellow. Which is why you have a robin redbreast whose lower regions are actually orange, in our modern etymology.


So maybe my “pumpkins yellow” song is old, old old. Maybe it came down through generations. I sang it to my boys and now I’m teaching it to my grandsons because I LOVE AUTUMN!


It is 90 degrees here on the first day of fall, a temperature no self-respecting Midwest autumn should tolerate. However, the heat and humidity will be kicked to the curb sometime next week and we can pull on cozy sweaters and simmer pots of chili and take long, mosquito-free walks and kick up our heels in the leaves. Happy autumn, my friends!


Humility Efficacy

Seems like just yesterday I posted something here…oh wait.

It was the day BEFORE yesterday!

More humbling


I’m over at Heartwings today discussing deep theological terms like humility and theology, and their significance as it relates to a gang of second grade boys and their mud.

I’d love a visit!

Memory Gloss


Yesterday, September 11, “Never Forget” was all over my newsfeed. It heartened me—all these friends unwilling to let the unthinkable act of terrorism fade from memory.

Remember where you were when you heard? How about the days after? When a man could run down the Bishop Ford Freeway in Chicago waving an American flag and NO ONE WAS OFFENDED? People honked and cried and cheered.

Remember how everyone brushed off the Pledge of Allegiance and our trinity of patriotic songs and actually vocalized them? “The Star Spangled Banner,” “America the Beautiful” and “God Bless America” could—I swear—be heard from outer space. We were busy joining ranks. No energy left to fight with each other for those few intoxicatingly heartbreaking days. We were all just Americans watching out for each other.

How about that Hurricane Harvey? Did you watch coverage of the rescues? The response during and after the hurricane is already legendary. Scenes of people of all ages and ethnicities and incomes and beliefs helping others of all ages and ethnicities and so on. Who is going to argue about statues and checking immigration status while outrunning flood waters?

Hurricane Irma and the wildfires in the west slapped us upside the head. All our technology is just a literal spitting into the wind So we joined with and enjoined each other to prayer, for loved ones in the path of devastation and for hundreds of thousands of strangers. We prayed fervently because a crisis reminds us we’re all family and we all rely on Someone who controls the winds and the flames. To my knowledge no one has yet been censured for encouraging prayers in these calamities.

Why do our minds gouge the moments of disaster so clearly in our memories but gloss over the selfless fellowship and unity that result? For a few brief hours after 9/11 it seemed we were able to lay differences aside and find common ground. Maybe it could last. But no. America has blurred the brotherhood and the last 16 years have mounted division upon hatred upon finger-pointing upon discord. We blame the current president, the past several presidents, the electoral college or the liberals or the conservatives. Oh, and we blame the “other side.” The one that doesn’t stand for the stuff we stand for.

Beautiful things happened while Harvey raged. But what happens when the water recedes? Buildings will be cleaned out and the rescuers will take their boats home. Eventually the hurricanes brewing in the Atlantic will be old news and those crazed wildfires finally die out. You know what scares me almost as badly as the natural disasters? That those panic glasses—the ones we put on to see past ethnicity and politics and our own hubris—will come off. The prayers will dry up and once again we’ll see each other in the cold harsh light of self-righteous judgement.

What disaster will get Americans to quit digging around in other Americans for something to dislike—skin tone, religion, party affiliation, economic status, lineage, stance on various issues? Why can we remember where we were when we heard about the attacks of 9/11 but can’t remember how much we loved and needed each other in those frightening days? Why will we remember the beauty of those flood rescues but forget that the language of compassion should drown out the differences in our native tongues? Why were we so aware of our UNITED States then and so forgetful of what unites us now?

Pray God we take the mental equivalent of fish oil or whatever improves our memory, Pray our total recall isn’t limited to the catastrophe itself. Let’s rub off the gloss that obscures the heartfelt political/religious/color blindness we experienced for a brief time. We don’t want another tragedy to help us remember.

Engaging (or, How About It?)


ring-2350560_1920You know a daunting way to go on a first date? In a bathing suit. Yep. This cute guy I’d been intrigued with for several months had been intrigued with me too. He called and asked me out. To a water park in Wisconsin Dells that he’d helped build.

I have no great love for swimsuits and less love for pattering about in public wearing one. But I did it. We had fun, and I learned more about the inner workings of water parks, slides, filtration systems etc. than I knew there was to know. More dates ensued and Labor Day weekend one year later we were at the Dells again.

In that year we’d gotten close, and at one time he’d even let the “m” word slip. But he had already gone through a horrific marriage and Biblically-sanctioned divorce. I was in my middlin’ twenties and determined not to send out vibrations of marriage desperation. When we walked past jewelry stores in the mall I looked in the opposite direction lest I appear to be hinting.

We were both more relaxed this second trip up to the Dells. The whole swimming suit/water rides/drag a big inner tube around thing was less daunting. We went on a duck ride down the river. (Ducks are those amphibious vehicles left over from WWII.) Pretty romantic. Maybe, I thought, maybe he will propose this weekend. Or at least propose the idea of proposing. The duck ride ended with no mention of marriage. Like good Christians we thought we should try the under-visted Biblical Gardens next, where we felt less than piously comfortable with all the unchangingly pious expressions on the various life-size “Jesus” figures. Still, it was a pretty location. Maybe here, on a bench overlooking the nativity scene in the tall pines, maybe this would be the place to discuss the possibility of entering into holy matrimony. It wasn’t.

Or possibly, I thought, after dinner, as the sun set and the air cooled, possibly it isn’t going to happen today.

That evening my boyfriend wanted to take a boat ride to Stand Rock for the Indian Ceremonial program. It would be chilly on the water so he ran back to the pickup to grab his jacket while I worried that all the other tourists flooding in would mean we’d miss the boat.

We didn’t. The sun was all the way down; I sat next to the railing where, if it hadn’t been ink-black out, I could have watched the water churn. The thought of all that cold water gave me goosebumps and I twitched the jacket from my boyfriend’s lap and pulled it on.

You would have thought I’d pulled his fingernails out while calling his sainted grandmother scurrilous names. He demanded to know why I’d grabbed the coat. He dropped to the floor and scrabbled under the seats, muttering something that didn’t sound complimentary. I watched with interest but not much concern. He could, on occasion, become excitable. I was just getting warm and cozy but obviously he needed the jacket more than I did, and I handed it back.

It was the right, good-girlfriend thing to do. He hugged it close and popped back onto his seat as though nothing had happened. We shuffled off the boat with the rest of the folks, found seats in the amphitheater and watched the ceremony. I don’t remember much of it except a performance of the not-quite-native Indian Love Call. (When I’m Calling You-oo-oo-oo-oo-oo)

At intermission my boyfriend nudged me and handed me a beautifully wrapped square box. The one he’d been had under the jacket. The one he’d been so certain had gone over into the churning water when I grabbed that jacket from his lap. (To this day he swears that if it had, he would have dived in after it.) The box was sturdy, squarish and chunky with some heft to it. It’s a stack of those fancy soaps was my first and only thought.

Not soaps. Inside the wrapping I saw a chunky squarish box. Honestly, folks, I still had no clue. Engagements happened via a ring slipped from a man’s pocket and onto a woman’s finger. Not via a chubby box.

Inside the box sat two rings. Both had diamonds. I puzzled over this. Multiple choice?

Then my boyfriend breathed those magically intoxicating words. “How about it?”

I responded with something equally soul-stirring. I think it was “Why are there two?”

My boyfriend, it turned out, hadn’t watched the same romantic films I had. He’d bought the engagement and wedding ring as a set, had the jeweler wrap them, and presented them to me as “Will you answer too-oo-oo-oo-oo?” echoed from Stand Rock.

To cover my anticlimactic initial reaction I squealed (more like a quiet squeak, we were in public, after all) and kissed him. The one he indicated as the engagement ring went on my finger. My now-fiancee, continuing our unscripted scene, breathed a sigh of relief when it slid all the way down.

“Why do I always think you’re so much bigger than you are?”

Any wonder that I said yes?