Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Long Wait Til the Countdown

The days are getting shorter by about 3 minutes a day, according to our weather person.  This is a hard time of year for me.  Impending darkness.  At least in the northern US we also get to look forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Observances meant to remind us that light will return to this world.  Personally, I'm glad the early church put the celebration of Jesus' birth in December, to coincide with the gradual return of light after the Winter Solstice.  I'm getting anxious to start the countdown, but it's still too early.  We're almost to 60 days, tho.  Sorry. Couldn't resist.  It's a long way off... 

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Happy Lammas (No, Not LLamas)

August 1 marks the midway point between the Summer Solstice and the Fall Equinox.  Like the other midway feasts (May Day, Halloween) it had significance in early agrarian societies.  But it is the one that's been lost for the most part. No, it doesn't have anything to with the South American animal, or the seekers of Tibetian Budhism.

It’s taken me a long time to find information on Aug. 1 or Lammas.  I finally got information in a book on Druids that I ran across at a workshop of Celtic Heritage in America.  I learned, as I suspected, that Lammas is a feast of harvest.  In northern climates, it would be just the early first-fruits.  The word Lammas in Irish is Lughnasadh, and in Scottish Gaelic it’s Lunasad.  Lunasa is Irish for August, too.   The ancient god Lugh, in Irish myth, is god of all arts and crafts.  He is also considered to be the greatest of the gods, and the name implies he has a large head.  Lugh is found beyond the British Isles, too, being depicted in early art from Sweden to the Punjab.  Of course, the Irish added  their own twist, weaving the story that Lugh has now become “Lugh-chromain” which is the Irish word we pronounce as “leprechaun,” certainly a crafty character if ever there was one

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

It's May, It's May!



May has finally arrived, amid freezing nights, wind, and record cool temperatures in many parts of the northern tier.  But at least it's here!  Happy May Day to everyone.



May Day is a carry over of an old festival called Beltaine,which I've found is a celebration of the coming of spring and the fertility of the earth.  It must have arisen in northern climes, because I can really relate to waiting until May for spring to arrive.  It never shows up in March when the Spring Equinox takes place.  At least not in Montana.  In fact, May 1 is the midpoint between the Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice.

Some of you may remember May Baskets we made for family and friends on May Day.  Or perhaps even dancing around the May Pole.  These are probably pagan in origin, but who can argue with bright colors and spring flowers after a long, bleak winter?  I sure can't.

When I worked at Holy Family Catholic School, I encountered a festival I'd never heard of called "May Crowning".  It involves a procession with brightly colored spring clothing and flowers, and it's when the Virgin Mary is crowned with a wreath of flowers as Queen of the May.  If any of you saw the 1990s movie "Sister Act" perhaps you remember the song the nuns were singing which said "Salve' Regina".  That's one of the songs of May Crowning, and it means "Save us, O Queen."  The takeover of a pagan festival by the Church is nothing new, as many of you know.  But it doesn't bother me.  I like the idea that things from our early heritage have been put into new molds and carried on into the present day.  To me it shows that God is over all.  And after all, who made all those lovely flowers?  According to Jesus, he clothed the flowers better than "King Solomon in all his glory."

One spring, my best girlfriend and I found a whole field of daisies near her house.  We picked a huge bunch and handed them out all over our high school (of almost 2000 students!).   By the end of the day, there were daisies to be seen everywhere.  We had such fun that day.  Maybe a few of our classmates even remember it.  Such a contrast to what is happening in school now.  I hope it's not too late to try to spread some joy instead of pain.

So, if you can find some, grab a few of those colorful flowers and crown someone with them.  Happy Beltaine!

Saturday, April 20, 2019

FAITH AND THE RESURRECTION


The following is an out-take from one of my upcoming books, "Where All Worlds End."  I thought it was appropriate for this Easter Season. 

“Ginna?”  Jael’s voice interrupted her memories.  “I think I’m losing my faith.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I can’t seem to pray anymore.  The Lord has left me—that’s what it feels like.”
“But in The Book he tells us, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’  You know, Jael, I think you’re the one who so often quoted that—especially when we were wandering lost in the Galaxy, trying to find Maia—Mother Earth.”
“But when we found it, the problems were still the same.  I thought at first that the Lord must be testing us.  But now it seems that it will never end.”
“What will never end?  The world—or our troubles?”
“Both, I guess, Ginna.”
“Well, you know The Book warns that as this world draws to a close, there will be many who scoff and try to make us believe that the Lord is not returning.  But he has warned us so we can be prepared to fight against these challenges.”
“I know.  I remember telling my sister about that.  But what if I can’t believe it anymore myself?”
“That’s the little voice in your mind that lurks in the dark and whispers, ‘There’s no way out.’  But it’s a lie.  Don’t believe it, Jael.   I know how it feels, though—I’ve been there many times.”
“You have?”
“Lots, especially when I was struggling to be a good single parent to my daughter, only to have her turn her back on my faith and all I stood for.  It was almost enough to make me want to die.”
“But things are better now, aren’t they?”
“Yes, Jael, they are—when I’m actually in my own time, with my loved ones.”
“Including your new husband, I take it? I bet you miss him right now, while you're here in my time.”
She only nodded—somehow her voice was lost in a wave of emotion.
“I’m sorry we messed up your life to try and help my sister.”
“Please don’t feel badly, Jael.  I came because I care about her, and she needs me.”

Suddenly he gave a high-pitched cry and gripped her hand in a fierce hold.
“Ouch!" she cried.  "What’s the matter?”
“I’m sorry, Ginna.  I just had to grab onto someone so that he wouldn’t take me away.”
“So who wouldn’t take you?”
“I think it was the Serpent, or one of his demons.”  Jael was sweating and panting by this time.  Ginna quickly began to massage his arms, and pulled his head down into her lap. 
“Breathe long slow breaths, Jael.  Think of the most beautiful, calm place you can.  The Serpent is gone, remember?”
Gradually his breathing returned to normal, and Ginna did her best to calm herself also.
“Ginna,” he murmured at last.  “How can we know for sure the Serpent is really gone—or that what The Book tells us about the Lord is really true?  What if it’s just a story or myth someone made up?”
“Jael, you saw the Evil One with your own eyes!”
“I got a glimpse—yes.  But I didn’t see the whole battle, remember?”
She took his hand gently.  “I know.”
"I feel so weak and useless sometimes.  Especially since the Serpent held me captive so long. ”
Now she pulled him into her embrace.  “That’s why the evil ones can get to you.  But keep on being brave, Jael.  I know the King still has plans for you.  Besides, have you already forgotten what The Wise One, Johan, told us just the other day--about how many tests of historical reliability The Book has passed?”
“Please help me remember, Ginna.  I think I’m sinking into the depression that seems to run in my family.”
“You’re just emotionally exhausted, Jael.  I would be too, if I was facing what you are—especially after all the other things you’ve been through.”
As she collected her thoughts, she continued to slowly massage his temples, and run her fingers through his blond hair.  Again, she had that quick electrifying sense of her younger brother’s presence—just for an instant.  At last she spoke:
“Well, I know you and Johan have talked a lot about the creation and the beginning of all things--”
“And about the end times, too.”
“Let’s look at some of the historical events recorded in The Book.”
“Right in the middle of Earth history?”
She nodded.  “Let’s look at the central element of the Believers’ faith—the resurrection of the Lord.”
“I remember reading somewhere that if the resurrection is false, then all of the beliefs in Christ are for nothing.”
“That’s right, Jael.  It even says that in The Book: ‘And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless, and so is your faith.  More than that, we are found to be false witnesses about God’.”
“Where does it say that, Ginna?”
“It’s in a letter by Paul, to the Believers in Corinth.  That was a city in ancient Greece.”
“But what does it have to do with us?”
“But didn’t you notice how Paul said if the resurrection isn’t true, then everything he was preaching was a lie?  Think of the early Believers, and all the persecution they faced.”
“Like what Believers have faced here, and in all of the Galactic System.”
“That’s right,” she tried to smile.  “Believers have been persecuted in all ways imaginable down through time.  But stop and think of this: would all these people who were persecuted and killed have gone through all that, if they knew their faith was based on a lie?”
“Of course not!  But how could they know it was true?”
“They were basing their faith on the testimony of those who went before.”
“Recorded in The Book!”
“That’s right, and in other writings, too—by godly men and women who also trusted in The Book.  And if we go all the way back to those men and women who were eyewitnesses of the resurrection--”
“Oh, I remember talking with Johan about the value of eyewitnesses!”
“Okay, good.  So, the people who actually saw the risen Lord were among the first ones who gave their lives for the faith.”
“So, what does that prove?”
“Think on it, Jael!  They were the ones who would have known for certain whether the resurrection was true or a fake—right?”
He nodded, looking puzzled.
“They were the ones who went through all kinds of physical and mental torture for their faith.  And they were willing to endure all that because they knew their faith was based in fact, not fiction.”
“Okay,” he nodded slowly.
“More than that, though,” she smiled.  “The Lord gave us a few extra details to make sure we could trust the evidence.”
“Like what?”
“Well, it was a group of women who found the empty tomb first--”
“Why does that make any difference?”
“Because back in that ancient time, Jael, women were of little consequence.  They couldn’t vote or hold citizenship.  They weren’t even permitted to worship with men—and their testimony was not allowed in a court of law.”
“But they were the first eyewitnesses?”
“And when the men, the disciples, went to see for themselves, it was just as the women had told them.”
“Okay, so their testimony was more valuable then?”
“Yeah, and I think it was the Lord’s way of giving women some of their first hints of freedom.”
“Is there anything else unusual, Ginna?”
“Well, there was also unfriendly testimony.”
“Unfriendly?”
“Right.  The enemies of Christ also knew he had risen, and they tried to invent a lie to cover it up.  Over the centuries, many people have tried to come up with excuses for the resurrection—like maybe the disciples stole the body, or the soldiers guarding the tomb were bribed.”
“But they weren’t?”
“Actually, the soldiers were bribed--but not by who you think.  It was Christ’s enemies who bribed them.  They were told to start the rumor that the disciples had stolen the body.”
“Which was not what happened was it, Ginna?”
“Of course, it didn’t happen.  If it had, why would the religious leaders have needed to start the rumor by paying off the soldiers?  They could have just left things as they were, knowing the truth would eventually come out.”
“And did the truth come out?”
“Yes, it did, but not the truth the religious leaders hoped for.  Nearly every disciple in that time was martyred for his faith.  Would they have died for something they knew was a lie?”
“It’s not very likely,” Jael smiled slightly.  “I guess you’ve convinced me, Ginna.  I’m afraid to let any of my doubts and questions out when I’m with the others, especially my sister.  So, I’m really grateful that I can truly be honest with you.”
She smiled and sighed. “I’m glad, Jael.  Having questions and doubts isn’t a sin, you know.  It can be a way to help us grow—by seeking the truth even more, and really knowing why we believe what we do.”

If this makes you want to know more about these two characters, they are featured throughout The Peaks at the Edge of the World Saga.  The first four books are available, and there are three more to come.



Thursday, April 11, 2019

The Power of Sound Alone

The sounds of spring have finally arrived!  Each morning now, I wake to birds outside my window.  No more the deep, cold silences of winter.  With an occasional raven croaking, "Never more."

It amazes me how just a sound can trigger a host of memories.  I've read that this power of association is unique to the human brain.  (If you're interested in learning more about this, look up the work of Dr. Stephen Hayes and his colleagues.)

When I started teaching music to preschoolers 15 years ago, one of the things we did was listen to the music of nature, especially the sounds of birds.  It was then I discovered what was buried in my own memories.  Just the sound of a Black-capped Chickadee's  "de-de-de" could evoke the feeling of snow and cold as I walked from the garage to the house in winter.  Or the "cheerio" of a Robin brought all kinds of images of spring showers on the sprouting grass.  And, in Michigan, the "trillee" of a Red-winged Blackbird made me feel the warmth of summer and the steaminess of our cattail marsh in the summer humidity.

Another sound that calls up many images is the honking of Canada Geese as they fly over in their V-formations.  This can come in fall or spring, depending on which way they are flying, and always makes me think of my own travels north and south.  And now, here in Montana, I also listen for the first song of the Western Meadowlark and the mating call of the Ring-necked Pheasant.  And then there's the chattering of a flock of blackbirds in nearby trees.  Images come to my mind of them flying in unison, swooping in incredible patterns and circles, as though they are a single organism, even invading our yard for a short time.

.

It's incredible what our minds can store!

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Is It Change or the Wild That Counts? Or Both?


Today I ran across a book of poetry and quotes about wilderness that I made in response to a canoe trek I took in Minnesota's Boundary Waters back in 1970.  Nearly 50 years ago--hard to believe so much time has passed in my life since then.  It was a very formative time in my life, influencing much of what I have become.  As I was reading the quotes I chose from Thoreau, Aldo Leopold, Theodore Roosevelt, and others, I was surprised to find one unsigned poem.  I have a feeling I wrote it--otherwise it would be identified with the author's name. It was a long time ago, 1970, but as I re-read it, I could tell the words had originally come from within me. And I was surprised to find that my 18-year-old mind had thought such deep things.  But then, maybe not so surprising, for I was a very philosophical person back then.  Maybe still am.  So here it is.

It's original title was "Is It Man That Counts?"

'How can you be so no-caring?' a boy demanded,
Staring into the old man's eyes;
'Do you want all our life to die
And leave nothing to show our lives ranged?'

'Every animal dies,' the old chief would say
And gaze with deep-seeing silent eyes
About the village around them.
'Timeless is not changeless,' he would repeat.

But a boy's heart-strength is different
And his restless feet thus wandered,
Searching over forest-depth and countryside,
His mind straining with searches just as deep.

He drank in the wildness 'round him,
Knowing in his animal-part
It had no time, no beginning,
And no end?  Their village

Already was shrinking, the forest depths
Pricked by hard, cold disruption,
A steeling chill so unlike winter--
More senseless--as rape or pillage.

And as the Wild spread its winter
Blanket, with its natural death,
He prayed that this might be
The end--to die as wild things died.

Then as the cold and steel creeping in
On them increased its breath to a roar,
He knew it wasn't death that was coming--
Just as the old man had tried

To tell.  It was what the Wild was really
Made of; so though their villages--
And all men--passed; the Wild would
Sustain itself--timeless because it changed.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Chapter 6 - " A Turning" -- from "A Voice in the Past", Book I of The Journeys Saga






“Have you figured out what I’m supposed to be doing here?”
          “Is that you, Cinda?” 
          It sure is good to hear Lexi’s familiar voice again, even if it is just in my head.
          “Who else would it be?” I sigh.
          A slight chuckle comes into my mind, not exactly from the person lying next to me.  I can see Elka is sound asleep, and looking down my body where I lie beside her on the narrow bed, I see Elena is too.
          “It seems like my insisting on staying here on the island came from Elena herself, not me,” I say to Lexi in my head.
          “I’m not sure.  All I know is we’re here for a reason.”
          “But what am I supposed to do?”
          “Just be here in your ancestor’s mind.  The thing that’s supposed to happen will flow out naturally.”
          “Are you sure, Lexi?  How can we ever know?  I mean, what if Elena would have done this anyway?”
          “Think about it, Cinda.  Do you think a thirteen-year-old girl in the early Nineteenth Century would challenge her father the way Elena did today?”
          “I don’t know.  Maybe not.  But Elka argued with him, too.  Was that your doing, Lexi?”
          “Perhaps.  These differences they have in religion run much deeper now than in our times.  Anyway, the sisters are here with their estranged grandparents.  Something new must come from this.”
          “I guess so.”  I gently roll onto my side.  “I just wish this bed was more comfortable.”
          Her chuckle echoes in my head as I doze off.
         
***

          As the weeks of autumn passed, Elka and I helped Nanna search the low hills of the island for the wild berries she needed to make jam.  We also peeled and chopped vegetables from the garden located behind the cottage.  Most of these went into a large crock filled with sour vinegary wine.  The smell was familiar from our own mother’s kitchen.
          “It’s so good to have help with the sauerkraut,” Nanna said almost every day.  “I guess I’m not as young as I used to be.  Every year the work seems harder.”
          “How old are you?” I asked one day.
          Elka gave me a sharp stare, and I realized this probably wasn’t a polite question.
          But Nanna just grinned.  “Well, let me see.  I was eighteen when your father was born in 1811.   Hans and I had been married two years then.  Yes, I was born in 1793, so that makes me 54 now.”  She reached up and pushed a stray curl of graying hair back into her kerchief.  “Getting older every day, my dears.”
          I found myself wanting to say 54 wasn’t very old, but felt I’d said too much already.  And I knew the hard work of farming and fishing took its toll here, whether one lived on the mainland or the islands. With a start, I realized I didn’t know anyone over the age of 60.
          “Nanna, I hope you’ll live forever,” I heard my sister say.
          “We all will--in a better place,” Nanna smiled.  “An afterlife with no pain and no tears.”
          “Are you sure?” Elka asked.
          “The Word has promised it, Liebchen.  I believe it and that settles it.”
          “But what about our different beliefs about baptism?”
          “Don’t let these men’s arguments distress you, girls.  All that matters is we trust in our dear Savior.”
          “I do trust in his salvation bought for us,” I murmured.
          Nanna patted me on the shoulder.  Das ist gut.”
          Elka smiled at me across the top of the table where we were chopping vegetables.

***

          A day or two later, I was again hunting for berries along the sandy hills overlooking the eastern shore.  The wind was picking up and getting colder by the moment.  Elka had already given up and headed back for the cottage, but I felt sure I could find just a pint more.  It was all we needed to complete the last batch of jam.
          Just as I spotted some of the purplish fruit nearby, my foot slipped into an unseen hole.  A horrible snapping sound rose from my ankle as I crumpled to the ground.
          ‘You should’ve known better than to be out here alone,’ a voice in my head scolded.
          There was no point in trying to answer, even though I wondered where this unfamiliar voice came from.  Instead, I tried to rise to my feet.  The injured ankle couldn’t bear any weight, and I lost my balance in the sand.  As I crashed to the ground again, I began crying for help.
          ‘There’s no one here to help,’ said that strange voice again.
          Finally I managed to get up to my knees, and using the shrubs around me, I crawled higher up the sand dune.  There was nothing in sight but empty fields.  The grain harvest was finished and the livestock had been moved to the sheltered pens for the winter.  If only Grandpapa were here.
          Then I thought I saw a flash of blue color in the distance, down near the shore.  Again I called, this time as loud as I could, “Help!”
          The blue dot of color became a shirt, and the arms inside it were waving.  Then the sea winds carried a voice my way, “What’s wrong?”
          “I’ve hurt myself,” I called through cupped hands.  “I can’t walk.”
          “What?”  The figure couldn’t hear my words because the wind was blowing the wrong way.  So, I waved my arms and called for help again.  By now my injured ankle was throbbing.  I felt a rush of relief as the figure began to run along the beach in my direction.
          By the time he started up the dune toward me, I could see it was a young man near my age.  “I’m so clumsy,” I sighed when he was close enough to hear.  “I fell and hurt my ankle.”
          He quickly climbed up and took me by the hand.  “Can you put any weight on it?”
          “No.  It hurts too much.”
          “Here, lean on me.”  He moved to my side and put a strong arm around my waist.  “Why were you up here alone?”
          “I know it was stupid of me.  My sister and I were gathering berries for our Nanna.  She got cold, but I wanted to find just a few more so we could have a full batch.”
          He began to move down the hillside, helping me hop on my good leg.  “I’ve never seen you around here before.  Who is your grandmother?”
          “Helena Hansen, wife of Anders.”
          “Oh.”  He seemed to be wondering what to say next.
          “I know,” I added at his silence, “The family that split.  My father is named Hans Hansen.  My sister and I only met our grandparents a couple of weeks ago.”
          We’d reached the beach by this time, so the going was easier.  He didn’t speak for a few minutes but just continued to help me across the sand.  He seemed to know exactly where my grandparents’ cottage was.
          “So you’re from this island?”
          “Born here on Fohr,” he grinned.  “By the way, my name is George.”
          “Thank you for coming to my rescue, George.  I’m Elena Hansen.”
          “I’m pleased to be of assistance, Miss Hansen.  I guess I should give my full name too.  George Edward Heinrichsen, at your service.”
          By this time we were in sight of the cottage, but for some reason he slowed as we came to the gate of the winter pen.  Before I could ask why, my sister was running toward us.  “Elena, what have you done?”
          “You know how clumsy I am,” I sighed.
          George stopped and waited until Elka arrived on the other side of the gate. 
          “This is George Heinrichsen, Elka.”
          “Thank you for helping her,” she nodded.
          “My pleasure.  Can you support her from here?”
          I looked up at him, wondering why he seemed reluctant to go through the gate.  But he smiled at me as he said, “I have to get back to work helping my father with the fishing nets.  May I call for you later?”
          I knew I was blushing and looked down at the clods around my feet before I whispered, “Yes, of course.”
          Then Elka said, “Here, let me help.”  She stepped into his place and I shifted my weight onto her shoulders.
          “Thank you again, George,” I managed to say through the pain flaring in my ankle as I moved it. 
          He didn’t speak again but did take off his hat and made a small bow.
          “What a nice young man, Elena.” 
          “Yes.  I’d still be stuck in the dunes without him.”
          “You were fortunate.  I hope you’ve learned your lesson about going out there alone.”
          “Yes Mother,” I half-mocked.
          We giggled softly as we slowly and painfully made our way to the cottage.
          “He seems to like you,” said Elka.
          “He was just being polite.  No one else was out there to help.”
          “Oh, I think we haven’t seen the last of George Heinrichsen.”
          I didn’t reply, but I was hoping to see George again, too.