The weeks of summer have flown by. How do I know? Most notably because of the weighing of the largest pumpkin at the Alaska State Fair. Yet, as fast as the days flew by, four words punctuated each day: Love, Strength, Patience and Understanding.
While much of the lower 48 basked in temperatures far too high for their liking, we here in Alaska had what we call a ‘mild’ summer. Oh, sure, we had a couple of HOT days (72 degrees!) but we mainly stayed in the lower 60’s with afternoon convection clouds over the mountains that produced gallons of rain. Not so great for growing gigantic pumpkins or beautiful ‘Best in Class’ floral arrangements. The 1,200+ pound pumpkin that won this year hadn’t even turned orange yet!
Bill has been pulling up pounds of purple and red potatoes, (30 plants/hills down, 150 to go!) processing them into tater tots, French fries or hash browns. He has been making a variety of herb blends with three kinds of dried beet greens, kohlrabi leaves, celery leaves, dill, and various varieties of carrot tops, spinach, sage, and thyme. He’s even concocted a dried rhubarb treat that is a confectioner’s delight! (And the entire neighborhood kids, too!) You can take the farm boy moving away from the farm he grew up on, but you can’t take the ‘farm’ out of that boy, now turned man!
I love that Bill planted the garden rows wide enough so he can “play” on his 4 wheeler. His tiller and mower attach to the back of his 4x4. Up and down the rows he tills the garden. Then he switches attachments to mow the perimeter of the hay field, edges of the garden and the green grass glade on the way to the river. Bubba Grump, our Brindled English Mastiff/Ridgeback mix dog rides with him. Yes…..RIDES on the 4x4!
As my heart swells with joy watching him, I also find tears trickling down my cheeks on occasion. I feel a ‘pang’ in my heart knowing that those days of joining him on those treks are gone. I’ve even been known to whine that I don’t feel a part of our “team” anymore, since he has to cut/stack the wood, do the garden and lawn, the food processing PLUS meals – all things I used to do with him, but now physically (and for safety reasons!) am unable. He reminds me that we are still a team – I get to label the jars, and I did plant the seeds in April in the greenhouse until they were big enough to be planted outside the first part of June. Ok, Ok. But small potatoes in my heart!
As the tears trickle, I realize Bill is demonstrating love for me and others, so we will have provisions during the long winter months. From canning, to vacuum-packaging, to splitting cords of wood, his tangible gifts of love prevail.
Bill is demonstrating his strength by picking up more than his own fair share of work – and never complains, even after working 60+ hour weeks. His strength is shown by not whining, reminding me for every challenge, in every difficulty we travail or danger we have faced, not just the last 6 months, but 42 years, we can be sure of His unwavering strength.
As the long hours of sunlight begin to wane, and the pace for finishing up construction jobs before the snow flies or the ground freezes, Bill’s patience seems endless, never tiring. I swear if he ever did a DNA test, it would show he’s related to the Energizer Bunny……he just keeps on going.
As the fireweed turns bright red, I think we have both done our best to grapple with the hand we’ve been dealt this year. Understanding doesn’t come as easily. Maybe, just maybe, we aren’t supposed to understand what it all means for now.
We feel like we are in a rock quarry or pit of sorts. We feel like dynamite has torn and blasted our very heart. Pickaxes have broken and split parts of my body this summer, leaving it in pieces. There are days that I lay in bed, dozing hour upon hour, feeling disfigured with left-over incision scars, weary of being pounded upon day after day, and hour after hour hooked up to IV machines 3x/week. I feel broken and battered.
As I continue my best to grapple, I realize that rocks are not rocks without a purpose. Some rocks may be left for riverbed, where fresh water will cascade and pound them as they shimmer in the bright sunlight. Some rocks may be used to make new roads – some to places never seen before. Other rocks may be picked up and chiseled with sharper instruments, to make them more functional. (Hmmm. Like my summer of surgery and rehab?!)
The Master craftsman will reveal the purpose once the chiseling is completed. Some rocks may be left big and strong, while others may be broken and sifted until it is its proper shape and use are realized.
I know I am still very much in my ‘quarry’. I am not complete by any stretch of anyone’s imagination. There are still rugged cliffs in my quarry. Fire, water, storms and more I’m sure will follow in the days ahead. Lessons I learn will continue to make me into who I am to be and become.
Until then, how grateful I am, to walk alongside One who loves me, just the way I am. How blessed I am for His patience and understanding, and whose strength will never fail.
I cuddled up in front of the wood stove on a recent, cool Alaska summer morning. I grabbed the remote control for our television, fumbling with the buttons to find the one that would allow me to watch a pre-recorded show.
Sheila Walsh would be speaking.
Sheila has a gift of making one feel like you are sitting across the table with her. I mean it. It’s like she’s right there in your home, sharing some Tetley Tea (with a spot of milk and a dash of sugar, poured from a tea pot wrapped in a ‘cozy’, our tea cups warmed with hot water before our tea was to be poured, of course!)
I look forward to these Wednesday mornings. My tea cup gets more than filled to the brim.
This week her words of wisdom and discernment admonished me to be still; even in the midst of the raging storm I was in. I chuckled to myself saying “my remodeled body is not letting me do much other than either ‘be still’” when I find the center of the storm, or be thrashed about.
I felt like my boat (my body?!) was going to capsize or maybe even sink as waves crashed around me. Book 2, Don’t Wimp Out was so close to being sent off to be edited. The storm is going to make it be delayed. I longed for the calmer waters, wishing I could turn the calendar back for a “do-over”, and go back to the beginning of May. Instead I got a body “make-over” and I was not at the helm steering the boat.
During the days I would find myself thrashing about, feeling the waves of nausea overtake me as I ran for the porcelain pot. I felt like the ‘Invasion of the Body Snatcher” had taken over my body.
I was more than ready to raise the white flag.
But who would I raise the white flag to? The invaders? To God?
Sheila’s voice interrupted my thoughts.
“There are new beginnings out of the worst of storms,” she said.
“And, remember, storms don’t always announce themselves.”
She finished by talking about finding treasures after a storm.
It quickly reminded me of the 42 inch around glass fishing ball we found as we were flying kites on our honeymoon 41 years ago on the Pacific Coast. We found it the day after a huge storm blew in. There was wild high surf, and crashing waves. The howling winds kept us awake all night storm. Treasures. Storms.
But what treasure could be found as I am forced to give up the deadline for Don’t Wimp Out? What could I possibly look for as my body was being battered by a daily typhoon, being tossed every which way but loose? What? Where? How?
I wrapped my hand around my tea cup, warming my hands. My heart was filled and warmed as well.
Sheila was right. Storms don’t always announce themselves. I can't turn the clock back to the beginning of May for a do-over.
But the One who created me is at the helm. He is bigger than any storm.He promises me that peace is found, no matter what storm, no matter what situation you or I find ourselves in.
Spot of tea anyone?
Twice a year Alaskan’s get pretty excited – well, one more than the other I think!
Today marks the day that we will lose seconds of sunlight, that we have come to bask in. In some ways it is sad even though we won’t see the totally effects of losing seconds of sunlight per day for a couple months. You will still see us looking at our watches, suddenly realizing dinner should have been 3-4 hours earlier! How forgetful we seem when we are enjoying working in the garden (Bill!) or long evenings when the light lingers.
The other day we get excited for is around December 21st, when we start gaining sunlight again!
For those of you who may not know, I had one of the most special Mother’s Day this year. First, I got to (literally) run 2.5 miles around the Alaska zoo with Jamie and the grandkids. My job was to push the stroller, even though I had no takers!! What a delight to see Scott and Samantha’s eyes sparkle, and to have some actual ‘mom to mom’ adult conversation with Jamie. Jamie and Jeff will be gone most of the summer, trailering at the jobs Jeff is supervising - so ANY minutes/seconds I get to be around them are grand! (Even though both were asleep when Jamie stopped by today on her way back up to Denali area where the current job is.) There is nothing like a hug from a daughter who has turned out to be an incredible wife and mother, and taking doing 13 loads of laundry at home, when she had a break to come down! She so amazes me, as does her hubby Jeff.
My second gift was a train trip up to Fairbanks with Tim, and to dink around Fairbanks for a day. I can’t even begin to put into words how amazing that trip was. He even got me to try beer (not my cup of tea!) and we visited the University of Alaska Fairbanks museum, went to North Pole, talked to Santa (don’t blame ME if you get coal in your stocking this year! It was a trip of a lifetime..
The reason I have been “radio silent” has not been because of the above, nor, unfortunately my feverish work on Book 2 Don’t Wimp Out, which is close to being ready to submit for first edit. While things have been going smoothly and well for me of late, the wee hours of the day after Tim and I came home, my body totally shut down. Literally.
I ended up with a 2+ week vacation at our local hospital with an abdominal issue which is not uncommon post colon cancer, and ended up with another 11” incision, several infections and my body literally shutting down.
I am home now in my own cozy bed. I realize that losing 20+ lbs. and nutrition levels tanked, this bout will take a bit longer to recover from than I had hoped. The hands of the surgeon who has now saved my life four times has definitely altered whatever summer plans Bill and I thought we had.
I am pretty much off the grid: no phone calls PULEEZE! And don’t expect quick answers if you text, or emails. Thanks for cutting us slack and grace through this all. I am weary, I’m worn, but willing to work on finding the gladitude in each moment.
Let me know (text or e or snail mail!!)how you added the new word to your vocabulary: GLADITUDE.
Hidden…..do you ever feel that way?
I know up here in Alaska, “Spring” is “hiding” from us as snow continues to cover most of the ground, even though our roads are bare and dry. The sun shines brightly, but the temperatures hide in the 20-30’s in the morning, with icy windshields and brisk breezes.
Today, we may be unable to see the final outcome of the plan that is ‘hidden’, but if we look close, we may just see come clues. For us, the frost heaves are starting to show. Where the snow was squishy grassy, muddy driveways, and the step you take on snow you think should be solid, will land you up to your thighs. You may wonder as I did: “how in the world will I take my next step, with one leg buried and the other leg knee bent and sinking in slushy muck!!
But we know that seasons do change. We see the evidence of it every year. It seems like spring or even summer may be concealed for a very long time, but we can rest assured it will arrive, all in due time. When the appointed time comes, we can reveal in getting into the greenhouse or rototilling the ground for the seeds waiting to be planted. Believe it or not, many Alaskan’s think because the temperatures are above freezing by noon, that coats are optional. That includes even me, the original, always cold Ice Queen with my chemo-induced neuropathies! :0)
So until Spring truly arrives, let’s not be downcast. Let’s celebrate the time to focus our eyes on the time at hand. This day. This time. For the lessons we learn during this waiting or hidden time will not be for naught. Take the time to truly be still and listen to the song in our heart, to hear the voice that will never lead us astray!
The calendar says it is spring. The tree buds starting to emerge signal spring. Mama Moose are getting ready to calf. Baby chicks arrive in the post office. Our daylight hours let us awaken to more light, and our evening hours linger and lengthen, as we ignore the clock, forgetting the dinner ‘hour’: a testament that spring is DEFINETELY here, or at least on its way. Hurray!
But what to my sleepy eyes doth appear? Is this white fluffy stuff coming down from the sky? Somehow I don’t think it is fluff and stuff nor angel’s dandruff falling from the heavens! The last time I checked, SNOW falling meant ‘WINTER’, not SPRING! Until this morning, the main roads were dry and daytime high temperatures hovered short sleeve comfort of high 20 degrees F.
AUGH! We could even see patches of brown soil and weathered grass in spots around our home of respite and renewal.
Buds are waiting to open, with their love uncovered and cheers warming our hearts as we once more gaze in the wonder of the season. But alas, we must wait a bit, at least where the thermometer is concerned. Until then we will have to be content to display spring in our hearts, springs in our step, offering a spring smile. As we prepare for the spring season, where the soil of our lives will be ready to till and plant new seeds of growth and fruit. As we go forth, our hearts will sing with an increased tempo, as we waver not.
Until the final snow piles melt, as with the fears and frustrations of a long winter season, we can be assured that ahead, even if not seen for the moment, rivers of life, rivers of joy, will be spanned with a bridge of hope, renewal and of new things to come. Trust and patience will be our garden tools, just as we have ‘waited’ in years gone by. The promise of spring is just that: a covenant, a promise of what is to come. Our job is to persevere and prepare.
Catch you later – I’m going to go help Bill pick out which seeds we will be ordering!
“You are called to the place where YOUR deep gladness and the WORLD’S great hunger meet.” Frederick Buechner
I have long believed in the following anonymous saying given to me 46 years ago:
“What you do, what you say and who you ARE,
Touches people in ways you may never ever know.
For you are like your shadow…..you extend to where you may never be.”
Our world is in a place that most of us have never experienced before. Opinions, actions/reactions and decisions made differ widely. Uncertainty fills the air. As I watch the events unfold each day, I can’t help but be convinced that each of us can make a difference for good, and make our world a place of unity vs. divide.
We make a difference by answering our call to the place where our attitude of “gladitude” touches another, right at the end of our hand: by a word, by a deed, by just ‘being’ for another person. By your living life “at the end of your hand”, grasping the opportunities before you, the world will change,
Whose life will YOU touch today?
“The Ides of March” yes, they bloweth through. From what we see on the Weather Channel, it is not just Alaska that has 60mph winds, but so does the East Coast. I’m sure they appreciate the snow we sent to go with the wind!
I am mesmerized watching the spruce, cottonwood and poplar trees bend and sway together in simplicity and in sync, as if they were one. I find myself gazing a bit longer than planned, as the boughs are lifted hither and yon. Soon, a pair of eagles join in the sway, high overhead.
The whistling sound of the wind startles Bubba Grump, the dog. He wanders from room to room, finally settling in front of the crackling woodstove. The sights and sounds are simple acts of nature, reminding us the wind, like the seasons, have marked the days since time began.
After watching the wind blow and eagles soar, I remind myself to walk in the simplicity Bill and I have chosen as our standard. I will work unhurried, with soft instrumental music accompanying the sounds of the wind. As I dig deep it will be with purpose, embracing the quiet moments, humbled by all I have been blessed by.
I will remind myself to stop every so often, to look outside for the eagles as they soar high above the swaying trees, framed by the snow covered Talkeetna Mountains.
I have come to a place in my life where I am ever grateful that we have chosen simplicity in our lives and in our home the last 40+ years. We have worked hard to not succumb to the ‘busyness’ of the world. While some of our lifestyle has been dictated by circumstance, “Simplicity” and “Peace” have been and are a choice, even on our busiest of days. And for that, I am forever grateful.
Blow on “Ides of March”!
Does minus 25 with clear blue skies and the sun shining brightly qualify for March Madness? (Go Gonzaga!)
This time of year, the ‘tweener’ months, remind me of the “Push-Me/Pull-Me” animal in the classic movie, Dr. Doolittle.
While we love the fact we finally have a ‘winter’ after 3 years with no snow, the seed catalogs that are arriving taunt me, beckoning me to “buy me NOW!” SERIOUSLY?!
It will be May before we can even think of planting seeds in the ground! (I won’t mention Bill succumbed to the taunts! He has slowly been stocking up when he sees a seed display at the store, and finds his specialty seeds for this year’s delights!)
As I look out my office window, the skies are a brilliant blue and the sun is streaming so bright I have to close the shades a bit to type. There is still 2-3 feet of snow on the ground and plow piles 6-7 feet high. What’s wrong with this picture?! It’s March already!! No wonder many Alaskans are fleeing for Hawaii next week for Spring Break!
But not me! I’m reminded once more to not rush the season we find ourselves in. For, if we do, we might miss the delights set before our very eyes. The icicles make for incredible photos. I never tire hearing the neighbor’s kids with their squeals of laughter, sledding, snowmachining or getting the dogs in the middle of a snowball fight. Even I can’t resist throwing a cup of warm water over my head when it is this cold outside, watching it vaporize in an arching cloud over me! We find ourselves humming a theme song of “Slip Sliding Away” as we make our way across a parking lot or down the slippery path to the frozen river.
The wonder of this March Madness continues as we watch the 7 “local” moose routinely come by to prune our willow tree branches and my lilac bushes, or kneel as if they were praying to find a morsel of hay beneath the layers of snow. Last week, one moose bedded down on the back side of the hot tub. It startled Bill when she stood up ever so quietly while he was IN the hot tub. Only a moose can disappear before your eyes!
And the Northern Lights displays? OH MY !! Watching them pulse and roll across the night skies make you realize sleep is way overrated!!
So SERIOUSLY! Don’t rush the ‘season’ you are in! Open your eyes! Don’t miss the "nuggets" before you!
I have started to write several times this week, but each time, what I have written just didn’t seem “quite right”. Then last night, as I was nodding off to sleep, I knew what I would write.
Sunday night, we lost an important part of our family, my brother, Bob's wife, Melanie. As my brother so aptly shared with one of my siblings, “Melanie’s heart was so big that she gave, and gave, and gave some more, to so many people. As CEO of Columbia Bank based out of Tacoma, WA, she gave locally, regionally, around the Northwest, the nation and around the world. Her heart unexpectedly stopped.
While Melanie’s heart may have given way, she is remembered deeply in many of our hearts. I pondered ‘why’ and ‘how’ Melanie’s life and example had impacted my life so deeply, especially since our connection was rarely ‘in person’ but more in letters, phone calls or emails. On my rare trips "Outside" (I live in Alaska) our schedules never seemed to mesh.
Melanie’s life was one that had been sown deeply, with roots that were firm. Her roots of faith, of family, of giving, of honesty, going the extra mile, being a pioneering business woman in a ‘man’s world’, using humor, being ‘real’ and establishing relationships with all she encountered bore much fruit. I remember her advising me: "Remember: the bank/work is not ‘me’, rather it is the PEOPLE who make the bank/work: from the janitor, to the staff, to the executives". It is a lesson I have tried to model in my own life over the years, in my line of work. I work hard to put people, relationship, faith, family and respect first.
Melanie’s faith help keep her grounded and rooted. She knew she was not the Master Gardner, but rather one of the ‘branches’ on the vine. Melanie knew that branches need to be pruned, challenged, stretched, so it could grow stronger and bear much more fruit. That was evident in the way Columbia Bank grew over the years and the network and relationships she had. Melanie knew the Master Gardner had chosen her, had groomed and gifted her; she knew what her assignment in life was. Melanie knew her priorities of faith, family, friends and work, as well as her boundaries. Faith and family were always first. She was the Master Gardner’s friend. As a friend, she knew the fruit she would bear would last…..forever: in each life she touched.
I can only hope to be as deeply grounded, rooted and remain, like Melanie, to be called a friend to all, (especially of the Master Gardner!) and to be faithful in my life assignment, with faith and family first.
Are you willing to be set aside? If you are, WHEN you are, how will you react?
When rough times hit, often it is NOT of your doing, but you will have to walk over and through them, so as to make the way smooth. There is a saying: “tough times don’t last but tough people do.” When you come out on the other side, you will find wisdom gained and your territory enlarged, to encourage others on the way.
Care Tuk is a nationally known speaker, educator, and retreat/workshop leader. She has been a school, hospital, and home health occupational therapist for more than 30 years. She has been named as a Top Business Woman in America and recognized for her work with youth, disability outreach and awareness, and the American Cancer Society.