Saturday, July 21, 2007

Summer Appreciation: Mushrooms

After the storm and the rainbow, I was driving along and was distracted by a blur of white. . . .

I had to stop and see if it was what I thought. And it was! A cascade of mushrooms rejoicing in the humidity and softness of the earth. Though I couldn't linger at the time, I felt a compelling urge to get up early the next morning and go see them up close. So I did.

Can you imagine being an ant, or a ladybug, waking up to this overnight change in the scenery?

This one looks as if it might take flight in a strong wind--

And these look happy basking in the sun.

Could those photos of the moon's surface really be closeups of mushrooms??
I've been told that I have large hands, for a woman...

Is it possible that this little message was the reason I felt compelled to return? Was it calling out for someone to come and share in the love?

Well, now you've received the message, too.
Let all things their Creator praise. Even mushrooms.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Made in Italy, with Joy

Occasionally on my way home from work, I stop in at the shop Tuesday Morning just to see if what they have matches something we’re needing at the time. If so, and if the price is right, I might buy something. Most often, I end up leaving empty-handed but enjoy just browsing.

Maybe I should explain that I don’t shop much. I avoid malls, dread the traffic in shopping areas, buy most of my clothes via catalogues or at a thrift shop near my house. Besides the grocery store, bookstores and Hallmark are about the only places I go with any frequency.

But for some reason, Tuesday Morning appeals to me. It’s such an odd assortment of stuff, and usually has that rummaged-through look that reminds me of the outdoor markets of Europe. It doesn’t overwhelm me. And sometimes it has just what I’m looking for.

So, I stop in now and then.

On one stop, I came across the soap you see pictured here. The picture appealed to me immediately, and I was dangerously pulled in when I saw that it was from bella Firenze, that is, beautiful Florence, where I lived for two years.

But I knew I was in love and about to make a commitment when I saw in tiny print on the box, Made in Italy, with Joy.

Made in Italy, with Joy. How could anyone not fall in love with something so sweet? Of course I realized it was a marketing idea. Perhaps the person who thought of it has nothing to do with the making of the soap and sits at a desk all day. Or, since it is “artigianale,” made by artisans, perhaps not.

In any case, it brings to mind a certain street I used to take en route to language school, where I could see and hear the artisans at work, making frames, working with leather….chatting or singing as they worked, sometimes looking up to wave at the blonde American walking or riding by on her bicycle….

Made in Italy, with Joy. I guess in some ways I was made in Italy with joy. Those years were critical ones for my life, forming my faith in important ways. They opened the doors that led to my marriage and the life I have now.

And although my two years in Italy were not idyllic or struggle-free, they were full of an incredible amount of joy that made up for the other. I’m so thankful for my time in Italy.

Well, you won’t be surprised that I bought the soap. Soap wasn’t on my need list that day, and it’s rare that a material purchase brings me joy. But that one did!

How I would love to say with everything I make or do that it was made with joy. Maybe that’ll be my goal for this coming week. Feel free to join me.


And in case you're interested, this soap and others from Florence are available via Amazon, which is where I found the photo.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Hope in Strange Places

Recently I met with a teenager who was raped by a family member. She had not talked to anyone about it, except me. But everyone knows because it was in the news. They just don't talk about it.

The same day I saw a woman with a history of drug addiction who also has a severe mental illness. She has done well on medication, but has run out of some of her meds. Having moved to town recently and not having a car, she has had a hard time doing anything. She thinks she has enough money to pay for a psychiatric appointment, if I can help her find a place that can see her soon. Painfully shy, she almost begged me to continue seeing her, because she feels safe in a Christian place.

After that it was a young woman who answered "yes" to nearly all the symptoms I asked about, ranging from suicidal thoughts to headaches to anger problems to sleeplessness. The suicidal thoughts have been there since childhood. She says she has no friends. No transportation, no income. She stays at home to take care of a disabled family member.

Meanwhile, my co-worker was dealing with a situation I won’t even try to describe. It involves a long history of severe abuse from family members. Because of what has happened recently, we are trying to find somewhere for this person to stay. But because he is not addicted to anything, it’s hard to find an agency that will take him.

I left the office feeling drained that evening. The world I hear about in my office is sometimes a very ugly, sad, barren world. People who don’t believe in the existence of evil should sit in my chair for a few days. (Somehow that makes it more real than watching the news, I think.)

As I walked to my car, I was given a gift. Our blah, beige, concrete block building is bordered by hot, hard gravel. A width of beige-painted cement runs between the building and the gravel parking lot, which is surrounded by razor wire. Close to my car was a circle of charcoal ashes from the grill used for a July 4 lunch today. Nearby was a trash can used by employees who come outside to smoke.

And in a crack in that width of cement, right next to a drainpipe, a tiny spot of vivid purple and yellow caught my eye. I went closer and found a precious little viola growing there in the midst of that ugly, hard, utilitarian landscape.

The closest flowers to this spot are fifty feet away, so I’ve no idea how this little viola wound up growing in that crack. But it did, its beauty the more remarkable because of its surroundings.

And while the seeming wasteland I encounter in my office may seem ugly and barren at times, I have seen hope bloom there over and over. I’ve seen beauty grow there, and life and joy and peace.

"With God nothing shall be impossible."

(Photo of flowers growing in the ancient walls of Zadar, Croatia, from our trip last summer.)

Monday, July 02, 2007

Summer Appreciation: Rainbow

One day last week I was driving home and saw a rainbow. (We have continued to have showers since the storm I wrote about earlier.) I couldn’t see a lot of it, with the trees and buildings around, but it was wide, with intense color. Lovely.

Rainbows, despite their very scientific explanation, still have an other-worldly quality for me, and it was hard to keep driving because I wanted to pull over and just gaze.

For some reason I decided to take my sunglasses off as I looked at it. So I did, and do you know, at that moment, it almost disappeared. I could barely make it out by focusing very hard. I put the glasses back on, and there it was, as intense as before.

I wondered how many people were in a place to easily see that beautiful message from God, but weren’t seeing it because they didn’t have sunglasses on, and the brightness of the day kept them from seeing the colors? (And certainly many missed it because they were going in another direction. Or perhaps in the same direction, but more focused on their driving than I was!)

It reminded me of words from my high school English teacher’s chalkboard. Mr. Wright wrote out a saying each day, not as an assignment, but to enrich our lives. I can’t recall this entire quote, but the second part said, “Better to keep yourself shiny and bright: You are the window through which you must see the world.”

Certainly we are the only window we have for viewing the world. I don’t know about you, but I want to see rainbows through my window!

(I didn’t take this photo, can see it's not Memphis! I’m afraid I also don’t know the rules about borrowing photos from the web. I’ve been assuming that people can make them “un-copyable” if they don’t want them to be copied? Can anyone enlighten me?)