Sunday, September 28, 2008

"They're flying so fast," Tom said swiftly.

My dad gets a kick of of word games, plays on words, and birds of all sorts. The title of this blog is a nod to the first two (look up Tom Swifties if you don't know about them), and the subject is a nod to the third.

It's a bit out of order, a leftover from last weekend, but I thought it deserved to be posted. I took my dad to see the Chapman Swifts - not the rock group, the birds.

These west coast Vaux swifts gather and flock into a huge chimney at Chapman Elementary School every night in September. It's quite a sight to see and hear the thousands of birds gather and dive into the chimney.

Most of them fit with no trouble, but the last hundred or so would dive in, then sort of bubble out of the top of the chimney. They'd regroup and dive again.

The last bird to make it in got a loud cheer from the gathered crowd and the poor swift who became dinner for a peregrin falcon who swooped in for the kill got a sympathetic "Ahh!"

The Harvest is Plentiful

I must admit, I pick each tomato now with the wistful understanding that the harvest is nearly over. Two buckets full today, but by the end of the week, I expect winter to arrive.

But for this week, I'll keep enjoying the harvest. Here's what I've picked and processed lately.

Garden Salsa (8 quarts medium, 4 quarts mild)
Garden Spaghetti Sauce (simmer away right now)
Dried pears
Shaffer corn (8 quarts)
The last of the beans

This week I plan to pick grapes, pears (from the folks), potatoes, green chilies, and sweet onions.

You should come over. I'll make you a salad.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Coming down off the mountain into the valley, both literally and figuratively, I found that the ideals of the tea ceremony don't always translate to life outside the garden.
Along the banks of the Willamette River is a memorial to the Japanese Americans who were kept in internment camps during World War II, a sort of too late apology for the injustices placed upon them.
There was a palpable irony in the park, though, as it was inhabited by twenty or so street people eating the meal provided by the Portland Rescue Mission. From the tall, thin man who muttered constantly through his remaining 3 teeth, to the couple entangled beneath a blanket, to the man who had managed to cram more stuff in his shopping cart than I have in my house, each one has a story. Each one has suffered and offered injustice.
I heard someone say recently that history is being treated as an open courtroom where we can constantly go back and apologize for past wrongs, as if that makes a difference. As if it's our responsiblity to atone for the sins of our forefathers.

Might I suggest that a better way to atone for the past is to make a better future?

Sunday, September 21, 2008


Chado - the Way of Tea

Wa - Harmony

Kei - Respect

Sei - Purity

Jaku - tranquility

Harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility are the four principles of the Urasenke method of Japanese tea ceremony. I found a bit of each in the Portland Japanese Gardens.
If you were to distill your life to its four basic principles, what would they be?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Oktober Already?

Christmas toys show up in the stores in August. Halloween sales start soon after. And Easter starts on Valentine's Afternoon.

Now it seems they've moved all the local Oktoberfests to the middle of September.

I'm sorry. I can't celebrate Oktober when I'm still picking peas from my garden.

Time flies fast enough. Why do we have to rush it?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

More Perspective

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If you look closely, you can see the bi-plane I caught as I was wading up a canyon last week. A pretty cool shot from a narrow piece of ground.

My brother has a different perspective. He's a pilot and he takes some great photos from the air. You can see some of his pictures on his blog. Or you can check out his new aerial photography business at

From my perspective, it looks pretty good.
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Saturday, September 13, 2008


Despite the show's warning to not use it as a primary news source, I can't help myself. I love Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, the NPR News Quiz.

They always give me some little tidbit of useless information to store away in case conversation lags. This week's tidbit?


Apparently, spies and secret agents are left out of the myspace/facebook social networking loop. At least they were! There's a new social networking system launching this week just for them.

In truth, it's probably a lot drier than it sounds. Still, it's kind of funny.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Disposable Clothing

If someone invented a soft disposable fabric that was disposable, I would so buy it. The way my wardrobe works now is that I buy two or three shirts at a time, wear them the first week I own them, wash and dry them, and then discover a stain down the front of each one.

I bought a new shirt last week and when I took it out of the laundry basket to put it away, I found I'd spilled something on the shoulder. I think it's olive juice. How is that even possible?

Maybe instead of a disposable wardrobe, I need a huge paper tent to drape over myself. Or maybe a hair stylist's cape.

Or maybe I should scotch guard all my shirts.

I don't think it's a reach to compare this to life. It's a mercy God's mercy is new every morning or I'd be walking around a complete mess all the time.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008


There's nothing like bringing a baby into the world. Nothing. The birth of my three children is at the top of my list for wonder and joy. I've also been privileged to be in the delivery room for the birth of a friend's child. And I've been on hand for countless kittens. There's something incredible about new life breathing for the first time.

In a similar way, seeing a new book born makes me proud. Inspiration is, in a sense, the Spirit breathing through the author. I haven't yet seen one of my own books born, but I've had the chance to play midwife for a couple of them. Jessie, my mom's book, may be getting a new incarnation with a new distributor soon. 

I got to hold this little gem last night for the first time. Bon Voyage is the first in a series of devotional books for Christian travelers. This one's for cruise ship passengers. I've seen it in a bunch of incarnations for a couple of years, but there's nothing like holding a book you've waited for in your hands for the first time. 

Congratulations, Laurie!

Friday, September 05, 2008

Another Look

You know how there are things you drive by all the time without really seeing them?

There's a place on the sidewalk between my house and the mall that I've driven past a thousand times. It's a little platform with something sticking up from it and something fluttery wrapped around it, like a tattered flag.

Without ever putting words to it, I've always assumed it was a little voodoo shrine. That's not completely illogical considering I used to live in a place with shrines everywhere you looked, enough that I eventually looked past them as they became part of the larger landscape.

But this is suburbia. In America.

This week, I walked past that spot on the sidewalk for the first time and was surprised to see it was not a shrine at all, but a broken utility pole with warning tape wrapped around it.

Another piece put in the puzzle of what my surroundings look like. Another piece of the African me lost.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Learn From My Experience

It was a beautiful day, the last day of summer vacation. The perfect day for a walk. I parked the van in a sunny parking lot near a well-used trail and shooed kids and dogs onto the path. I grabbed my purse to take with me, along with a bucket in case we found berries. On second thought, I tucked my purse back in the car and hid it under some stuff between the seats.

You know where this is going, don't you? We returned to the van 15-20 minutes later to find a window smashed in and my purse gone.

Another car was also burgled - they lost a wallet.

I called my bank first to cancel my debit card. I knew to do that much. (skip 3 hours of phone calls, police reports, etc.) Dad and I hit the trail and started searching the bushes. Dad found purse and wallet less than a quarter mile down the trail behind a stand of trees. The only things missing were my cash and about $200 in gift cards - my birthday.

I spent a lot of time today trying to recoup those gift cards. I've had about half the cards replaced so far. Some of them I can't replace since I have no receipts or information about where and when they were purchased.

Here are the lessons I've learned:

1. Take your purse or wallet with you. It's way better than getting your window smashed in.

2. If you carry gift cards, keep the original receipt in a separate place. If you give a gift card, give the receipt as part of the gift or hang onto it.

3. Most people are nice. Despite the one bad apple, everyone I talked to in the parking lot yesterday was sympathetic and every customer service person I talked to today really did want to help me. Some went above and beyond what I expected of them. Judy, Mom and Dad, and a city worker named Tim all went out of their way to help.

Thanks for all the help. And thank God - seriously - that no one was hurt.