For about an hour last night, I did nothing. After supper was over, and the kitchen was cleaned up, Cheri still had a half dozen charts she needed to finish writing in concerning patients she had seen at the clinic, so she decided to head downstairs to our family room, and watch TV and type. Normally, I would have joined her, but last night was too nice to miss. You will recall that last week, I wrote about the 107 degree heat index that we were going to experience, and how that contrasted with the -80 windchill we sometimes get in the winter up here in the northland.
Yesterday, however, we had low humidity, and a high for the day of 81 degrees. By the time supper was over, the sun had gone over to the other side of the house, and the temp was about 73 degrees. Light wind – a breeze, really. Something even more shocking for North Dakota was that as we approached evening, there were NO mosquitoes! In the past, I have been literally chased inside, trying to flee the hordes of thousands of those bloodsuckers – by the way, did you know that only the female mosquito sucks blood? – but last night, for some reason, they decided to leave our back yard alone.
When we first moved into the house about five years ago, a delightful part of the backyard was our gazebo. Very cute, almost like a Scandinavian hut, it was a great refuge. There were about 10 little round concrete circles – I called them fairy steps -- that led to the gazebo. The area just outside the back door, however, was not so great. Little wooden steps led you down to a concrete pad – it looked just like all the backyards of the parsonages we lived in, with three wooden steps, and a cracked piece of concrete that was to serve as our outdoor entertainment center. Not so much. So, after a couple of years, we decided to work with our local builder folks, and had them install a large set of back steps, a good-sized block patio, and a brick path out to the gazebo. The results were fantastic – it transformed the back of the house, and we have found ourselves, unless it’s raining or buggy, sitting on the patio instead of the gazebo.
Last night was perfect. As I mentioned, a light breeze blew through the leaves of the maple tree, and the five giant spruce that ring the backyard. We are into our fourth or fifth set of birds for the season. We start with blackbirds, and then robins, then sparrows, and now we are home to the finches and chickadees, and their friends, the mourning doves. The spruce serve as the hotel for each group, and nests are built and rebuilt constantly.
I sat there with my iced tea, and just watched and listened, and at times closed my eyes as the breeze blew by. Not hot, not cold – no one having to mow their lawn, and the very loud neighbor kids must have gone to a baseball game or something, so it was truly peaceful and quiet. When you find yourself in those rare times, when no extra noise is needed, no tasks have to get done, no phone calls to be made or anything other than sitting and being present in that space, it’s possible for your mind to walk into distant places, distant times, and both remember and consider your own life. I think one of the joys of “maturity” that I never experienced as a child was to be able to sit, and not squirm, and not wish I were somewhere else. The quote from the early 1900s which has been attributed to both Satchel Paige and to Winnie the Pooh, but may come from an anonymous fisherman is, “Sometimes I sits and thinks and sometimes I just sits.”
Last evening, I did both. I thought about my 43 years of ministry, and how odd – and relaxing – it is to not be doing that anymore. I thought about family living far away, and some dearest ones who are no longer living. I thought about how nice it is to have at least 1/3 left to the summer and made a commitment to come out in the evening – and just sits. I did think about the future, and when it may happen that this season we are in, that’s not summer, but does direct what we do and how we act, will fade, or that what is odd and strange right now might become simply normal and just a part of life. I wondered whenever it might be that our communities can begin to take the anxiety pressure valve and let that go away.
You know, we have a lot to think about. We have much to muse, and to consider. My hope and prayer for you – and for me – is that we might find more often the back patio on a glorious evening, and en-joy, bring joy into our hearts and our lives. Life is far too short otherwise.
You bring the chair. I’ll fix the iced tea, and we can just sits for a while.
Word for the day: pantagruelian. Big word – pronounced “pant-a-GRUEL-ian” and it means something that is enormous or gigantic. It’s another one of those words that we receive as an adaptation of a character in literature. The French novelist Rabelais wrote five books that dealt with Prince Pantagruel (PANT-a-gruel), and his father, King Gargantua. Both of them were giants, although friendly. Gargantua loved to eat enormous amounts of food (his name comes from garganta, which means “throat.” Apparently, he like to throw things down his throat, but when you are a giant, you get to do that. Pantagruel was a bit of an oaf, or a fool, and the word, though meaning gigantic, really was more used to describe the way one would deal with serious issues with broad and good humor.
So, whether you are gargantuan or pantagruelian, go ahead and order the triple burger – it’ll suit you.
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.