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!

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?

Wood Feels no Pain

Nails in wood

One of these days I will get around to actually writing a post on my own blog. Till then I invite you to come visit me at Heart”wings.” I’m reflecting on one of the many reasons we don’t “sin so grace can abound.”

The reflection began about forty some years ago at a winter retreat with our church youth group. The leader handed around slips of paper. We were to write down sins that we recognized in ourselves, or burdens we were carrying that we had no right to bear. Then we had to tack them onto a wooden cross at the front of the room. It was to serve as a visual reminder that we are supposed to leave our burdens at the cross, not pick them up again.

Years later, at the memory of that event, my mind went down a different path. You can follow that path here:



When I get in my vehicle I adjust my mirrors, buckle my seat belt, close the overhead garage door, and shift to reverse. Then I wad all my Christian grace into a ball and throw it in the back seat.
What weird force field is activated when a silver-haired, Jesus-loving granny turns the key in the ignition? How do I get sucked into the Dark Side so fully that my perspective changes from “Live and let live” to “Out of my way, jerks?”
Names come out of my mouth that, when I’m not on four wheels, I didn’t even know I knew. “Jerk” is an example. Do you think I use that term in my non-motorized life? It was one of the 2000+ naughty words my sons were forbidden to use.
But set me on the road and life becomes me-vs.-them. Because along with the latent anger, my eyes are open and I see the world with utmost clarity. The truth of “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you” is revealed in all its “Get that granny!” vendetta. I don’t see it from the passenger seat. But once that steering wheel is in my hands I regard every vehicle and construction site and pedestrian in my orbit with new understanding. Yes, their goal is truly to hinder my progress.
Is this a new phenomenon? Did this particularly dreadful manifestation of fallen nature erupt with the advent of motorized vehicles? If I didn’t have all that power flinging me down the road, insulated from the world by steel, aluminum and plastic, would I spend almost every mile on asphalt scolding and slandering that world?
Truthfully, I can’t see myself flicking a whip at a horse to get it to speed up. If I had been born in previous centuries, I’m convinced I would have been a most compassionate chariot/wagon/carriage driver.
And when I locomote on my own two feet? I am the most delightful of pedestrians. I hold doors for strangers, I scoot out of the way of on-comers even if it means promenading through a puddle or slogging in the gutter.
So why, when I am ensconced in the driver’s seat and all power is mine, am I (as some have hinted) a paranoid delusional curmudgeon with a salty vocabulary? Why (as some have hinted) could my unassuming silver SUV be named “Something Wicked This Way Comes?”
After pondering, I think I have the answer. It is depravity. Total and comprehensive and eerily supernatural.
No. I am not talking about MY depravity. I’m the one who waits for a dole (which means “a whole bunch”) of turtles to cross the road even if it means being late. I’m the one who holds the doors of a dollar store open for a swarm (meaning a whole bunch) of pierced and tattooed and black-clad youths. While wishing them a nice day and handing out Jujubes.
No, the depravity is contained in the VEHICLE ITSELF. Or more specifically, the STEERING WHEEL! How could I not see this before? A woman who is the essence of civility everywhere, including the passenger seat, but turns into Helen Wheels in the driver’s side has to be subject to potent forces outside herself.
Until I can work out an antidote to the evil currents emanating from that steering wheel, I’ll try to avoid contact with it. But I have to get out on the road sometime. You’ll recognize me. The one with flames shooting from her eyes muttering what—unfortunately—looks like the word “jerk.”

They also serve who only stand and save a seat for your sorry self


Recently we attended a graduation. Not a cast-of-thousands ceremony with tickets more coveted than invites to Windsor Castle. Nope. Bible College commencement. Still, I was relieved when we arrived early ( say Whaaaaatt?) at the venue—a large church. Plenty of seating. Relief lasted until we saw the long line of cars turning into the parking lot.

“We have to save seats for the rest of the family!” I shouted over my shoulder to my husband, and sprinted for the building. An elderly man saw me coming and tapped along furiously ahead of me but I put on some speed and beat him, along with a little lady in a wheelchair and the pregnant couple with a toddler.

In the lobby, several clueless types stood around chatting, either going on faith that the best seats would wait for them, or because they already had their placeholder on duty.
I’m a self-appointed placeholder. Vivid mental images drive me to it. Ones involving Standing Room Only, anterooms with a fuzzy video feed, or balcony seats so high that George Jetson might buzz by and wave. So if no one else volunteers, I take it on myself to save seats. Sometimes I conscript my husband to help.

Prime seats chosen and the prospective number in our party tallied, my husband and I set to work spreading two humans to cover twelve chairs. We did the One-Bun-on-Two-Seats trick. That was four. My purse saved another spot, my makeup case was commissioned to reserve #6. Our respective programs saved seats Seven and Eight but that left four seats we couldn’t figure out how to reserve. Necessity is the mother of contortion. We leaned forward (uncomfortable in our seat-straddling posture) and draped arms over the seat backs in front of us. It was the perfect position to watch the methods of other placeholders.

Across the aisle from us a young lady tried vainly to make her size 2 sweater cover three chairs. She arranged and rearranged and twisted and finally, in an act of desperate self-sacrifice, yanked on the sleeves and extended their reach by a good seven inches. With brave tears she turned from the ruins of her cardigan and went in search of her people.

Requiring less martyrdom but more coordination is the Stand, Seek and Shoo method. This allows one to mark territory not by physical procurement, but by shooing away any and all approachers. One remains on location, scanning all three entrances. You’ve seen these people. They keep weight balanced on the balls of the feet and regularly sweep a searchlight gaze across the doors to watch for their latecomers. They flap vaguely menacing hands at anyone who casts a sideways glance at the unpeopled seats. When they spot incoming, you’ll see them call, wave, and sometimes whistle at their people, and you know you are watching the elite multi-taskers of placeholders.

The ones that scare me are the Sit and Scowl types. Most of them, I’m pretty sure, were born pre-Baby Boom. They sit smack dab in the middle of a section and glare at passers-by. In times past I’ve had the temerity to point questioningly at the seats surrounding these dour and forbidding folks. And scurry away with a clipped and authoritative “These seats are saved” ringing in my ears.

Our own pragmatic adaptation of various methods doesn’t really have a name. My husband is the more relaxed of us. I try to look serene and at ease, facing the front. I attempt to read the program I have spread open two seats to my left and one row ahead—it is difficult to look at ease when sprawled over multiple seats in two separate rows. I try to avoid anxiously cranking my head over my shoulder looking for the rest of our group because for pity’s sake people are giving us dirty looks. Here I employ the apologetic upward glance, at least 50% insincere because it is mixed with “Maybe if you’d gotten here earlier you, too, could be spilled over all these seats.”

Finally my husband, stretching so his muscles don’t seize up, says, “They’re here.”
We wave casual hands and smile graciously at their thanks and collect up our personal effects. Then we settle down as if this whole placeholder thing were nothing, absolutely no big deal. And inside a smug little portion of our brain is saying “If it wasn’t for me you’d be watching this entire ceremony on a twelve inch screen in the overflow room.”