Praising Him in the Storm

Thursday, October 27, 2016

What is on my mind tonight.

I'll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
And every tear I've cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm

{casting crowns}

Country Life

Monday, October 17, 2016

I woke up this morning to find a thin, cold fog reaching in at my slightly-open window, and a freezing little breeze nibbling at my toes. It’s October. The leaves, while still gorgeous, are past their peak, and are now falling in successively thicker clouds of swirling color whenever the wind gusts. Last Tuesday we were greeted by the shocking sight of snow capping Hunger Mountain. And day by day, the chill in the air increases in its rush towards winter, interrupted only briefly by short sunny days that fill our house with natural warmth and remind us of last summer’s beauty.
What a world away from the California non-winters I am still used to! :) Yet there is so very much about this cold land that I have come to love. Not the least being the awesome skiing (starts in 55 days, 8 ½ hours)…..
This morning, as I admired the pink-streaked sky and the brilliant ball of sun inching above the far range, my mind wandered deliciously back to a morning in California last August.
It was cool and quiet in the Valley. We awoke early, our eager ears picking up the sounds we knew so well: magpies calling to each other in the mulberry trees, and the unmistakable, friendly noise of sprinklers in the orchard. With an hour before our first meeting of the day, we decided to take a bit of a risk: drive out behind our old home, through the wonderfully familiar almond orchard with all the trees we named as kids, back to our favorite cornfield.
We used to walk there nearly every day for many years. We’d meander through the orchards, munching on stray almonds left behind by the harvesters, until we came to the dusty farm road that runs the length of a huge field of corn. It was always peaceful out there. We were always barefoot (keeping a weather eye out for malevolent goat-head bushes), the dogs would run along with us, and there was plenty of white sandy soil in which to cool our toes.
{fresh almonds = perfection}
On this morning it was all the same. The same as it was 13 years ago when we left that little spot of hot and dusty paradise. Memories came rushing back in a torrent as Mums and I parked our zippy Jetta beside the tall corn and stepped out into a world we knew so well. The corn had the same look to it. The almond trees still stood, solidly, a carpet of nuts on the ground below from a busy shaker’s work. I took off my shoes and felt the cool earth under my feet, heard the wind rustle softly through the corn stalks, smelled the crisp sharpness of smoke from someone’s burnpile.
We stood there for several minutes, just letting the familiar sights and sounds and smells envelope us. It was amazing. It was perfection.
Now, looking back on it, sorting through my copious pictures and re-living it through all the memories, I can almost feel the warm sun again and catch the whiff of faraway garlic from the farm down the road. And just when I realize I miss it, the sun achieves its goal of topping Hunger Mountain and I feel the sudden delicious burst of warmth; the thin clouds of fog fizzle under the sun’s influence, leaving a clear picture of breathtaking reds and yellows and oranges where a simple green forest used to be, and I realize that I actually am smelling garlic. Hmm. Should have put my garlic-work jacket some other place. Ha.
That has been Ibby’s and my occupation this last week: opening, sorting, bagging, digging, and planting 60,000 cloves of garlic by hand. It has been a saga! :) Long, and satisfying, and grueling, and enjoyable.
And every single day, without fail, by the end of the afternoon there is only one thing I really, really want. There’s just something about smelling the strong, pungent aroma of fresh garlic all day long with hardly a break, handling the smooth, hard cloves and listening to the papery sound of the protective layers as we peel them away…
I just want fettucine alfredo.

California Journal snippets

Saturday, October 8, 2016

{walking in our favorite cornfield}

I squeezed myself into the little blue airplane seat, noting sleepy passengers ahead of me and a stranger’s large, manly boots coming ooching along the floor under my seat. He seemed to be stretching his legs out as far as they would go, getting ready for a good long nap. 

I moved my feet out of the way and settled in to take picture #137 from the foggy window, then decided against it. We hadn’t even taken off yet, after all. I guessed I already had enough documentation of the tarmac, a strip of yellowish grass beside the pavement, a small plane preparing to take off, and an airplane employee standing outside, expertly juggling his little orange guide-sticks.

Next up…time for some coffee, and lo and behold, I was already hungry. Flying is exciting and flying makes me crave tasty things like chocolate and granola bars and bread-and-butter, which I had stowed in my computer case. I might as well enjoy it before it became a squashed, unrecognizable lumpkin. Meanwhile, the seat belt warning sounded in my ears and the plane jerked forward along the runway, as I listened eagerly for the pilot’s announcement and wondered hopefully if it might be Jack, our favorite United pilot. (Ha. We only know one United pilot. But Jack’s the best anyway.) 

If I have my pilot’s license for a hundred years I won’t ever lose that feeling of thrilled wonder as we zoom up through the clouds, leaving terra firma far behind. The rush of pressure as the wheels leave the ground, the unpredictable turbulence, and the sensation of floating at 30,000 feet…aaaaahhhhhhh. Complete amazingness!!

After a brief layover in Chicago, we began the long flight towards the wonderful, beautiful, fabulous land to which we were headed. Finally we were getting close. I remained glued to the window, with baited breath and an excitedly beating heart, waiting for a first glimpse of California. I assumed we’d be coming over Reno first, and that would be my cue that CA was just over the horizon. 

{coming over the bay}

I waited. And waited. Why does Reno look so different? –I thought- I don’t remember that landscape…something doesn’t seem quite right… I watched, curious, as oddly familiar yet totally unexpected scenes formed far below – fields, orchards, and roads… the snaking blue ribbons of canals crisscrossing the land, and a small town. Foothills finally came into view. I gazed down at the twisting curves of a freeway as it followed along the base of the hills, and I thought suddenly –“wow, Reno must have a freeway just exactly like the one going through Patterson”…[in the Central Valley of CA]…and then it hit me: That WAS Patterson down there.

Of course. We were coming into San Francisco, not Sacramento like last time. Yes, there was the Pacific ocean coming into view, and I felt my eyes prickling, and a lump forming in my throat, and before I knew it we had landed. We were really, truly, actually in California. This was going to take another Kleenex.

{road to the home of dear friends!}

I’d stowed my suitcase carefully in the overhead compartment, but I felt sorry for that compartment, because my suitcase weighed at least two tons. Feeling more blonde than ever, I lugged the thing down with slight difficulty and it immediately rooted itself firmly in the skinny aisle. My heart pounded a little harder as I tried to move as fast as possible and not think about the line of people waiting behind me; they seemed very quiet, and my frantic attempts to dislodge my heavy luggage drew curious, sympathetic gazes.
Then I realized it would be a lot easier to pull the suitcase along behind me instead of trying to push it forward. I leaped over it and turned around quickly to grasp the handle, but came to an abrupt halt, as I nearly crashed headlong into a young, handsome man who was just beginning to step over my luggage. He retreated and offered a polite apology. “I wasn’t sure what you were doing,” he said with a grin.
“Um, possibly hurdling?” I suggested, the thrill of Olympics season still heavily in the air (it helped to be flying with United, proudly advertising their support of Team USA).
He chuckled.
I finally extracted my suitcase from its firmly stuck position and almost ran through the fast-emptying plane, then located Mums, and we joined the rush of people surging into the San Francisco airport. It was warm, and there was a tantalizing smell of food in the air. I realized I was starving again: it was past lunchtime and my mind wandered deliciously back to memories of California lunches. California is a good place to be hungry. Because California has In ‘n Out Burgers.
We waited for a very long time to pick up our checked bags, and then, as I dragged what felt like a heap of concrete behind me, juggling my computer case, my squeaky-wheeled little carry-on, and an obese suitcase, I envisioned my upcoming burger. It was probably only about 20 minutes away now. I could almost taste it: the melting cheese, the savory beef, the crisp lettuce, the fresh onions. Just a few short tasks to do first, like picking up our rental car and finding our route and loading our luggage into said car.

The air train zipped us away from the airport, and deposited us in a lonely spot where a shuttle was supposed to arrive soon. At last we were really outside, unfettered by airport walls and thick security glass, free to take deep breaths of real California air and watch as palm trees swayed in a hot breeze. The roar of traffic was all around us, a constant rumble of tires on asphalt and a blaring of impatient horns, but I closed my eyes and blocked it all out. Soon we would be out in the country. And even here, even in all this bustle and the maze of overhead roads and on-ramps above us, here we were in California. I could hardly believe it.
The growling from my stomach brought me back to reality, reminding me of the minutes slowly slipping by. Where was the shuttle? Our rental car pick-up was miles away off site. We stood by our pile of luggage, waiting, still waiting, until we spotted the lovely sight of a van coming lumbering down the road towards us. Lunch was back on the horizon!
The shuttle pulled up and immediately everyone sprang into action. We were at the head of the line, but at the very last moment a whole crowd of people rushed up from the other side, threw in their bags, and jumped into the seats before thirty seconds had passed. Ohhhhhhh no, don’t tell me…the vision of my juicy burger fizzled from before my starving eyes and I watched with dismay as the van doors closed. The driver was incredibly kind and apologetic. “I’ll radio the guy with our other shuttle,” he said, “I think he’s stuck in that traffic jam over there. It should be only about twenty minutes now.”
Ah, well, these things happen. Hey, I was in California. Nothing else really mattered at that moment…
{this is what happens when you're trying to take a pic but the wind is blowing a gale...}
One hour later, we arrived at the rental car location. It was mid-afternoon now and the sun was beautifully hot, as I gazed up into the pale blue sky and thought happily of the days ahead of us. There was a long line for rental cars but by this time, the burger in my mind had faded to a dream, like an old, yellowed picture from another era, distant and remote.
My senses revived when I realized we were nearly through the check-in process. I had been acting for the last while on a sort of hunger-induced autopilot, but suddenly my eyes cleared and I saw that we were getting out our ID, signing the last papers, and listening to the friendly Mexican guy’s instructions about the car. My stomach gave a leap of new-found hope and the abandoned dream of a tasty lunch screeched into my consciousness once more. The rental car guy reached for our keys.
“Hey,” I heard myself saying, trying to keep the tone of a dying person in the wilderness out of my voice, “Do you happen to know if there is an In ‘n Out Burger around here?”
He leaned back and smiled widely. “Yeah…they’re good, aren’t they,” he said with conviction, chuckling with a look of complete understanding. When you’re a fan, you’re a fan. “There’s one less than a mile from here,” he added, and chuckled again at the sight of great happiness coming over my face.
Life was looking really, really good.
And it was even better ten minutes later, after loading our luggage into our spiffy white Jetta, and zipping down the deserted street. There it was: lunch (more like dinner now), waiting for us, a tasty reminder of California. I’m not a fast-food person but… In 'n Out Burger gets a pass. :)
I sighed contentedly as we left the crazy hustle and bustle of weekend traffic in San Francisco. It felt like we were living Jonny Diaz’ “Breathe” – the countryside opened before us, the city died away in our mirrors, and I rolled down the window to let in the warm California air, rich with the scent of fields and dust and growing garlic and half-burnt woodchips. It was good to be back. It was good to be home.
{this was essentially our backyard when we were growing up...we'd walk out here every day}
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