West Virginia Morning: The Million Little Oblivions

Yesterday, when I came home from work, I picked the rest of the kale from my garden. It was a long overdue harvest (and the fence is not yet fixed so I figured I better get busy). I worked diligently down each row, still clad in my work clothes, letting the burn of the evening sun remind my skin of younger days. Something of the smell of sun on soil stirred the memory of our family garden when I was a girl, and I was lost for a time in a rhythm of steady picking and the company of ghosts.

The kale is cleaned and waiting to be added to a soup, but this morning I couldn’t resist sautéing a little red onion in a dollop of bacon grease, dropping in some greens and tomatoes, and scrambling an egg over all that goodness. It’s my favorite springtime breakfast and it felt like a celebration.

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Today is Jeffrey’s last day of school, so I was up early to make his “hello summer” breakfast: special pancakes and a side of sausage. I sent him off with a full tummy and a mamma kiss, and sat at the kitchen table in wonder of the way the earth spins so quickly these days.

As I sat before my celebration breakfast, I watched out the window for the sparrow—the persistent little bird that has taken over my bluebird box. Every spring it’s the same thing—I pull nest after sparrow nest from the box, trying to dissuade the scrappy things from inhabiting. But they always outwit me, building replacement nests with such speed and alacrity that inevitably; the eggs are laid before I can dispose of their bed. And I haven’t the heart to toss them. Instead, each morning I watch for the sparrow head to emerge so that I might simultaneously cuss and praise her grit.

I watch her lift herself up out of the box and fluff her feathers on a nearby branch. And as she pushes off for whereabouts unknown, light comes. It’s the same shaft of light I welcome each morning—brought by a peeking sun funneled through neighboring houses and over rooftops. There is nothing remarkable about that falling light; it’s just an everyday miracle. The way it announces the day and sheds over the backyard, lifting my heart as it spreads like spilled milk on the table.

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As a buttery bite of kale crisps on my tongue, I watch the light move across the yard and I realize, as Christian Wiman says, “the million little oblivions of which the day is made”—all everyday miracles.

Good cause for celebration.

Playdates with God: Vandalia Gathering

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Little pockets of music everywhere. Under trees, on the lawn, center stage. We walked the capitol grounds to a soundtrack of West Virginia heritage. It was the Vandalia Gathering, a festival celebrating the rich culture of our home state. Every Memorial Day weekend musicians and storytellers from all over gather to make music together, dance, and listen to the liar’s contest—a tall tale telling to take all.

I watched a young girl march the stage with her fiddle. She sat in a metal folding chair, feet dangling, toes trailing the floor. And then, just like that, she started to play. Her long hair swayed each time bow met string and I am always amazed at the lift and lilt created from this union. People were sitting on hay bales and lawn chairs, rapt. A fawn-colored hound dog sniffed my fingers and rubbed his pink nose into my palm. The air was scented with roasted corn, funnel cake, and laughter.

Vandalia was the name of a 14th colony, proposed in 1768, that would have included most of present-day West Virginia and Kentucky. It was named for Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III, who was an avid patron of the arts, an amateur botanist, and a descendant of the Germanic tribe the Vandals. The plan never came to fruition due to the political tensions that developed between America and Britain. The word “Vandalia” came to be associated with all the richness that encompasses mountain living. This is what the Vandalia Gathering celebrates, a way of life; all that is strong, and good, and beautiful about life in these hills.

There were little pockets of music everywhere. And it made my heart sing.

Every Monday I share one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find God and know joy. Click on the button below to add your link. I try to visit a few of your stories every week, so if you are a new visitor, be sure to let me know in the comments so I can welcome you. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us.

Laura Boggess

Playdates with God: Harvest

We’ve been enjoying the garden; canning, cooking, eating from her table. This is a post from last summer when we were deep in the same. Makes me hungry…

The garden’s days are waning but still the tomato plants are heavy with fruit. There are mounds of peppers and some cucumbers too. So Sunday after church, Jeff and I spend the afternoon in the kitchen. We seed and core tomatoes for the puree, dice, chop, and roast until our valley home is filled with the aroma of love.

The spaghetti sauce simmers and I get out our favorite book of salsa recipes. Something must be done with all these jalapeno peppers. The basil is looking peaky too, so I dig around in the cupboard to see what I have to make pesto with. There are no pine nuts, but pecans will make a rich blend, so I press the garlic into the processor and think heaven must smell like an Italian deli. The pesto goes into an ice cube tray for freezing individual portions.

Jeff and I stand side by side and scoop fresh salsa onto tortilla chips—I like it spicy but he prefers the mild. We can some of it to keep for the winter, along with the spaghetti sauce, and my eyes are full for the blessings of the vine. The pickles will have to wait for a bulkier yield, but I dice up a cucumber for a salad at dinner time and taste clean joy.

It’s a delicious way to open the eyes to the world around, I think. A delicious way to unfold. But we are not ready to open to full bloom just yet. This place of tender love is sweet medicine.

Besides…there are still more tomatoes.

How do you embrace the God-joy? Every Monday I’ll be sharing one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find Him. Be with Him. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us:

The Playdates button:

Playdates with God: Art Walk


Listen! The only things that matter are your footfalls and the steady beating of your heart. Stand in a patch of sun spilling through the canopy of trees. Slide your hand across the skin of a mossy rock. Close your eyes and inhale the scent of the years of decay that created the fertile soil where you stand.

In this forest, you have everything you need for resurrection. Let your soul awaken from the long sleep.

Listen? There have been messages left behind. Paw prints and hooves, scat…initials carved in a tree. Everywhere you go someone has gone before. You will never be alone in this long journey. If you try, you can feel the unseen. Have you tried? Have you offered up your reason, have you let go of the weight of understanding? Lift up the need for proof and let the wind carry it. Then you will find evidence—deep inside of you. Open your heart to possibility. Let hope bloom in your inside places.

Today, touch everything with love. The spider spins in secret but the morning dew gives him away. There is nothing in your heart that is not known.

Listen. Is there not wonder in every living thing? Is there not beauty in every blade of grass?

Close your eyes. Do you see?

The five winners of Billy Coffey’s new novel When Mockingbirds Sing are Heather, Linda Stoll, Sharon O. Susan Etole, and Amy Jones. Congratulations! I’ll be in touch but if you see this first, email your snail to laraj@suddenlink.net. 

Today at The High Calling, Nancy Franson leads us in our discussion of Chip and Dan Heath’s book Decisive. Join us? You might want to join the network while you’re over there.

How do you embrace the God-joy? Every Monday I’ll be sharing one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find Him. Be with Him. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us:
 The Playdates button:
 

Bark Butter and other Small Joys


Flowers—and other growing things—like water. It’s amazing how much more they cooperate with being beautiful when they get some. So this morning I get up early to water the flowers and my tiny vegetable garden. There is a new raised bed in the back yard, waiting for me to fill. Yesterday, my father-in-law brought me a load of soil and we spent the afternoon shoveling and mixing and dreaming that empty bed full. All night long I slept on images of earth and roots and good things to eat.

This morning, I comb my hands through the loose soil—locating any stones or sticks or large clods of dirt. I break up the lumps of dirt, letting the soil stain my fingers; letting the smell of earth fill my lungs. I find some broken pieces of pottery, a bit of a tin can, and some unidentifiable plastic. Already it’s the kind of day that has a drop of sweat trickling down the small of my back. There’s a Cardinal in the maple tree making a fuss, asking me to please leave so she might visit the feeder in peace.

I pick some green onions and look over the wilted lettuce. It will need pulled up in the next couple days if it is to be worth anything. At that thought I feel my heart make room for squash and cucumbers.

I need to cut the dried blooms off the lilac, but already it’s getting too hot for that. I pull a few weeds around the bee balm; shake my head at how quickly they grow. The feeder needs filled so mamma Cardinal can have some breakfast so I go back inside and get the sunflower seeds. I pull out a container of bark butter—a recipe one of my patients told me about—and carefully place the block in the suet pocket.

My boys are sleeping in. Teddy is finished with school for the year and I can almost feel the contentment of his breathing through the walls. Jeffrey still has three days next week.

“NO ONE goes to school on the last day, mom,” he said to me yesterday. And he had that look on his face that I have seen on my own in pictures of a young me. Monday will be Step-up Day—the day all the eighth graders go to the high school to see what they are in for next year. I shake my head again. How quickly they grow.

Later, Jeff and I will go to the nursery to pick out some more pepper plants and blue lake pole beans. And who knows what else. This is the happy: being together, moving slow through the day, tending the earth.

How about you? What does Sabbath look like for you?

Bark Butter Recipe

2 cups of crisco
2 cups of peanut butter (I used crunchy, but it doesn’t matter)
4 cups cornmeal
2 cups rolled oats
2 cups bird seed or sunflower seeds (I put some overripe berries in too)
1 tsp. of honey

Stir it all together. I then pressed mine into small Tupperware containers to shape them into a size similar to the store bought suet cakes. Then I just pop them into the suet pockets of my feeder and let the birds enjoy!