In Praise of Small Books — A Review and a Recommendation

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Kelly Chripczuk is one of the best writers on the internet. Period. She is thoughtful, lyrical, honest, funny, kind and tender. She and her husband and their four children moved to a ‘dream home’ in the last couple of years, an oldie-but-goodie that needs work and love. And in the process of making this place their own, Kelly bought some chickens. Yup. The real, live things that peck the ground, produce endless amounts of poop and, if you’re really blessed, lay beautiful, edible, sellable eggs.

Now, having chickens in my backyard has never been a dream of mine — I have to be honest, here. My grandmother had them behind her Los Angeles bungalow and they scared me! They pecked everything in sight, including me, and sort of took over the entire backyard. So, I have not ever even considered the blessings that caring for such critters might bring. 

Until now.

Don’t get me wrong — I will not be purchasing  feathered friends anytime soon. But . . . for the first time, ever, the idea is appealing to me. In the process of writing something in a much longer format (which I sincerely hope she will work on, edit, polish and produce-for-purchase), Kelly began to write down her reflections on life and family and chicken-raising — and the result is pure joy.

Only about 75 pages long, this little book is well worth the reasonable purchase price of $7.99 for a paperback and $1.99 for a Kindle version. You can find it here, at Amazon. It is a lovely piece of writing, laced with anecdote, reflection, and humor. As her youngest children (twin boys) get ready to begin kindergarten, Kelly opts to add to her chicken family, purchasing chicks from an ad on Craig’s list, of all things.

What she discovers during her weeks of intentional written reflection is rich:

“After ten years of almost full-time mothering, my babies were leaving the nest. I wondered what I would do and, more importantly, who I would be in the face of  so much open time and space. I felt the urge to pursue a life of writing and spiritual direction rooted in my life at home, but I was afraid to pursue it. I was afraid to fail, and more deeply, I was afraid of losing a new sense of self that had emerged after years of wrestling with my roles as a writer, a mother and a minister of the gospel.

“I wanted chickens, but on some semi-conscious level what I really wanted was something to wed me more deeply to the life I already have. I wanted something to tie me to this place and to help me grow deep roots in the person I’ve become.” (pg.6)

So, right there, you know why I love this writer — and this book. She is a seeker. She is a pastor. She is a mother. She is a spiritual director. She is a writer. So am I — all of the above. Although I am much further along the road of life than she is, and though we have never met in person, we are soul sisters. Like the fine preacher she is, Kelly draws wonderful analogies and truths about God while caring for her home, her children, her chickens. “A chicken’s love for her chicks is fierce; a mother’s love for her children is fierce; and God’s love for us is fierce, too.” (pg. 26)

She ends this little book with an announcement: they’re buying more chickens! And she is pretty sure that adding to the group will be, “a mess, but that’s what happens when you step out into life. Things get complicated, quickly, chaos blooms and yet, somehow, hidden somewhere right in the middle of the dirt and the poop and the brokenness are all the little treasures we covet most, like beauty, joy and love.” (pg. 76)

Treat yourself to this sweet collection of wisdom and wonder. You won’t be sorry.

 

I received an advance reader’s copy of this book. In return, I have posted an honest review.

31 Days of Aging Gracefully: Day 17 — Celebrating the Small

You know what? It really is the little things. Those small spots of beauty and grace that make up our days. Moments, miracles, details. These are the things that speak to our hearts, fill us with gratitude, remind us we are loved, reveal the beauty that is beneath everything. Look for them. Speak them aloud. Say, ‘thank you,’ to God, to the universe, to whoever made that moment happen for you. It’s the best way I know to fully inhabit your life, to see it for the gift of grace that it is, no matter how bad your day may be going, how lousy you feel, how mad you are at someone (or at life in general!). If we can see the small beauties around us, then we can remember who we are.

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Walking through Cost Plus, just lookin’ around, and nearly tripping over a strange little pocketed stand that had drawer hardware scattered throughout. Who knew Cost Plus carried drawer knobs? What I needed exactly, right there in front of me. Cracked turquoise glass ones and lovely soft green ceramic ones. One set for our new bedroom drawers, one set for the ones in my study. Gift, pure gift. And I wasn’t even looking for hardware that day.

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Ditto this small side chair. We had a stuffed chair and ottoman that we moved into our living room. But it was too big and bulky for this new, smaller space. And my daughter could use it. So. . . what about something smaller? And there it was, well-priced, well-made, perfect color. And we love it. Score!

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And, of course, the smallest of our grandkiddos, who also are the ones who live closest to us. They are constant reminders of the goodness of God, the beauty of childhood and the truth that only little ones can speak and live. This was the first day of school for them both — grade 4 for the older one, kindergarten for the younger. And this is their front yard — formerly our front yard — and only a 2 minute walk to their classrooms, after many years of a 15-30 minute commute from their former home. A big change made some small people very happy. And that is gift, too.

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These lovely trumpet flowers pop up at the fence line in our new backyard. They begin life a vibrant purple hue and over the course of many weeks, slowly fade to white. All the while, they lift their heads to the skies and sing to me of beauty and grace.

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One set of those drawer knobs, in place on my wonderful new files. They work perfectly: small gifts, small gifts.

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Look closely now — it’s kind of blurry. But there is a very tiny bird sitting right on top of one of our new patio lights. It’s a hummingbird and this is one of their favorite resting places now. Lovely, small lights now lit regularly by our noisy, fractious, wonderful hummers. We have at least five who frequent our feeders and rest on our wires. I give thanks for both the lights and the birds!

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Just one moment, a single minute of my early morning walk this weekend. Gloriously lit by the rising sun, palm trees silhouetted against the calm sea. Perfection in sixty seconds. Grace. Goodness. Beauty.

I will celebrate the small as long as I breathe.

Where do you find reason to celebrate these days?

31 Days of Aging Gracefully: Day 5 — Finding Beauty

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Beauty shines. It’s all around us, all the time. But, oh! We need eyes to see it. We need intention and we need attention and we need an open heart.

Lord, open the eyes of my heart, the eyes in my head. 

No matter our age, the truth is always the truth. And here’s the truth: our God is a God of beauty, a God who loves beauty, a God who makes beauty. 

And it shines!

Through the back of a pink hibiscus.

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Through the tassels in long grass.

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Even from a string of new lights from Cost Plus/World Market!

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You can find it in the clouds that roil and roll, and the water that glistens below.

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You can see it in the whiteness of the bluffs as they meet the water and in the reflection they create in a pond of scummy slough water.

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And that scum supports a long list of beautiful shore birds. Beauty downright startles in the silhouette of the greater heron, with his elegant white coat and his bright yellow feet.

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And beauty delights us as we eat our dinner and enjoy the momentary quietude of this small winged creature. 

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And, I gotta tell you that it is beauty that smiles back at me in the handiwork of our much-loved son-in-law, who makes it possible for books to sit on their own shelves and files to nestle in their own drawers. He even added a spotlight to make it all look downright heavenly.

Where are you finding beauty these days?

Just Wondering

Giving Thanks, for All of It


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I sit on our lanai, looking out over the bay beneath us, surrounded by tropical mountain tops, colorful flowering plants, and the gentle sound of doves.

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This is a paradise, a gift to us all on this summer morning, and I am grateful. More grateful than I can say.

Those I love are well and happy, playing tennis or golf, doing jigsaw puzzles, playing marathon games of Monoply, taking hikes or bike rides, enjoying the warm, turquoise sea.

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We’re heading out to a special anniversary dinner tonight, and we’ve collected a few things to share while we’re all around one table. A love letter from Dick’s mom to his dad, one of our loveliest discoveries while sorting through 50 years of accumulated stuff the past six weeks. And a letter from his dad, after our trip to this same island 35 years ago to celebrate their 50th. A small photo album from my parents’ 50th anniversary venture to this same place is in that pile, too, along with a letter from me to Dick on our 45th. We have small gifts for everyone to say ‘thank you’ for completing our family circle and to mark this time away together. Yes, we’re all feeling blessed, grateful, and glad to be here.

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Not that it’s been an easy journey to this time, this place. No. Not easy. We lost someone we loved very much on this family journey, although I see him in his son’s faces, hear him in their inflections, their chatter with one another.

All of our parents are gone now, except my mom, who doesn’t remember ever being here — or ever being married, for that matter. Every one of us has had health issues of one kind or another over these years — it goes with the territory. But now, right now, we are well. And for that, we give thanks.

Not everyone we know and love can say the same thing this day. One friend has biopsies scheduled for tomorrow — brain tumors. Another is in ICU for the second week, recovering from a severe and terrifying health attack. One of my dearest friends is tending a scarily frail husband following a stroke. Another is recovering from radiation treatment, yet another facing into similar treatment very soon. One friend’s unborn child is carrying scary portents in his small body; another is living out the bittersweet reality of Downs syndrome. 

We are such frail creatures, and yet . . . Even bearing scars and infirmities, we are wonders, intricate and profoundly sacred. Image-bearers all, and so often those with the deepest scars are the ones who reflect the clearest image. 

So today, amid the blessings and the obvious gifts, I also give thanks for the scars, the wounds, the struggle. Because these things are what have formed and shaped us, like it or not. We are who we are because of what we’ve lived — all of it. The good, the bad, the beautiful, the ugly. And I will give thanks for it, with hands open and heart unafraid.

A small sparrow lands on the table before me, one talon missing. Standing on the tabletop, this creature is off balance, out of kilter. But as he swoops away, all awkwardness vanishes. And all I see is glory. Glory. GLORY.

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31 Days of Looking for the Little: Pelicans

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I am fascinated by pelicans. Though they are large by bird standards, in the scheme of all the things, from humungous to tiny, I’d have to say that they’re on the little side, wouldn’t you?

First of all, they are silent. Did you know that? Apparently there is no room in that generous beak/throat of theirs for a noise-making mechanism of any kind. Then, there is what they look like — almost prehistoric in their outline, like some fossils I’ve seen in pictures. 

What I really admire is their grace, and their incredible diving ability. They usually hang out with friends, often making a silent, long line like the one in the picture. And when I see them flying up or down the coastline, I always breathe a little more rapidly and begin thanking God for this visitation.

When I’m at the beach, I’m on the lookout for birds, especially for these strangely beautiful creatures. Pelicans are reputed to feed their young with their own blood during times of famine and distress, pecking at their breasts until blood flows and then feeding it to their chicks. The early Christian church often used pictures of pelicans in churches and in other art work.

Why?

Because such sacrificial life-giving spoke of Jesus to them.

I knew there was something special about these birds!

Just Wondering

When It Rains . . .

So . . . remember that post I wrote last week? The one about Love and Fear? Yeah, that one.

About three days after it went live, I apparently had a kind of panic attack, the night before I was to visit the surgeon to learn if I’d be on schedule for this healing process or have to add more weeks on the dang scooter.

That was NOT fun. And it set off a bout of esophageal problems that I’ve run into once or twice before — days of heartburn, back and chest pain, inability to eat much at all. Last time this happened, it took the better part of a month to resolve.

The great news I got at the surgeon’s office (begin partial weight-bearing and physical therapy now, two weeks ahead of schedule) was quickly offset by feeling absolutely lousy and remarkably frightened about it all.

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So much for ‘love casting out fear,’ right? It seems this is a lesson I never quite learn. And it’s not going to get any better as I continue to age, of that I am quite certain. As we get older, a lot of our youthful defenses can’t quite pull off what they once could, and different kinds of intervention sometimes become necessary. 

My kind and patient husband and I went through one long day of medical testing to confirm my own diagnosis of this condition and my gastro doc ‘just happened’ to be in the lobby when I was near his section of our clinic. He promptly did a complete endoscopy.

The confirmation came when he sprayed an absolutely vile tasting numbing agent into the back of my throat and for the 60-90 minutes that stuff numbed me up, I was symptom free. He did find a few small things going on in that department, but apart from the very likely possibility of a spasm in that long tube between throat and tummy, there is no clear reason for this siege.

Except.

Stress brought on by worry.

Man, that’s hard for me to put into writing. So, he prescribed some stomach-soothing liquid medication, and a new variety of prescription GERD treatment.

And also? Ativan, to be taken whenever I feel that panic rising.

Somehow, that feels like a huge personal failure to me. Yet another of the many painful lessons I’m learning as we walk through this L O N G period of recovery and rehab. Deep breathing and the Jesus prayer are not always going to cover it all. They’re just not. 

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Despite my ill health, my disappointment in myself, and my overall fatigue with ALL of this, I wanted to go to church. It was Communion Sunday and Pastor Don was into 1 John 5. Oh, how I needed to worship, to sing, to pray, to hear the Word. And to sit with God’s people.
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I was reminded — again! — that we don’t do this journey alone, we belong to one another. That’s the way God designed and intended the Christian journey to flourish. We gather together, in the same space, and we remember that we cannot do this discipleship thing without the company of others.

And when you’ve been sitting on your butt for 7+ weeks, these moments of community gathering are essential, believe me when I tell you this. The service was lovely, filled with grace and good humor, lovely music, a well-preached word. And the Table.

Oh, the Table. The remembering and the re-membering and the visual picture of the body of Christ streaming forward to share in the Body of Christ. Yes, yes! I needed this.

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This is the great, old palm tree that stands tall in my backyard. I love it. And when I manage to scooter my way to the chaise lounge that faces it, I sit and stare for a while. And I marvel.

Birds by the dozens flit in and out of it’s immensity. All kinds of birds, from tiny sparrows to red-headed woodpeckers to noisy black crows. And there’s room there, room for every one of them. A safe space to build a nest, to nurture the hatchlings, and to rest, away from the dangers of coyote and bobcat, of riding mower and leaf blower.

I am deeply blessed to be able to say that church has always been such a place for me. Worship is a safe place, a nurturing place. A restful place. I’m so grateful that this is true in my life and that, despite the frustrations and limitations of these weeks, I am still able to be there.

It’s a humbling thing to have to acknowledge that even after many years of following Jesus, and many experiences of grace made real, I still do battle with fear and worry. I am asking for grace, most especially for myself just now. And for gracious acceptance of the limits within which I must live the rest of my life. The physical ones are difficult enough. But the emotional and spiritual ones? Those are proving to be the biggies, the ones that need daily relinquishment.

As always, I’m standin’ in the need of prayer.  

A Muscular Savior

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So. It’s been quite the weekend. Beautiful weather on Saturday, with a little fog wiggling its way along the shoreline, clearing to bright blue skies above city and mountains. A drive by the Old Mission reminded me that spring has indeed sprung, with the Mission rose garden sending glory sparks all round. Brilliant blooms, redolent and heavy with sun and scent.

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And Sunday morning began, as it usually does with pre-worship on the bluffs. This week, there were dolphins. Dolphins! Creatures who speak to me of God with their beauty, grace and sense of fun. I loved catching this glimpse of a shiny tail, splashing the surface.

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Turns out, there was an entire pod making its way south, rolling and skimming along. As I watched them frolic, I had quite a lengthy conversation with God (courtesy of my iPhone notes app) about my own struggles right now. And for the second time during this Lenten season, I was reminded that sometimes resurrection requires death, healing needs a kind of dying first. Not exactly the answer I wanted to hear, but I tried to take it in with a semblance of grace and acceptance.

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Just before I left to drive up the hill for worship, an acorn woodpecker dropped onto a low-hanging branch and tapped away. His cheerful topknot doesn’t show against the intense morning sun, but I caught glimpses of it a few times. Woodpeckers don’t usually come so low, so close to the ground and us human creatures. They’re notoriously shy, despite their noisy presentation, so I was glad to see this guy at eye level.

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The sanctuary had been transformed for our Palm Sunday celebration. The dry branches of Lent gave way to deep green palms, potted plants, lighted lanterns, setting the garden scene beautifully as we walked into the sanctuary. 

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We’ve been creating our own lectionary this year, moving through the gospel of John since last September. John doesn’t tell the story of the triumphal entry; he enjoys playing with the timeline, shifting the emphasis, creating a beautiful, literary, deeply theological gospel. He puts the table-turning — an event which follows right after the palm procession in the other gospels — way back in chapter two, establishing early the picture of a muscular savior, moving steadily towards his final glory, on that hill outside the city gate.

This week, this beginning of Holy Week, we were at chapter 18 and standing with Jesus in the garden. That garden of prayer and betrayal and arrest, a scene painted in strokes of agony and grief and failure by the other story-tellers in our New Testament. But John? He gives us such a different picture! Jesus has prayed for all of us in the preceding chapter, a prayer for his friends and for us. So there is no praying in this garden scene. Instead of sweating-drops-of-blood, we meet a take-charge Jesus, a man who knows his destiny and strides toward it with commitment and energy. 

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It’s a seminal moment, this meet-up between Jesus and the soldiers. The soldiers who were led there by one of Jesus’s own. And Jesus meets them head-on, asking a clear question: 

“Who are you looking for?”

Two times he asks. And two times, they answer, “Jesus, the Nazarene.” Each time, he says clearly, “I am he.” The second time, he even adds these words: “If it’s me you’re after, let these others go. . .” releasing his disciples. In John’s version, they do not flee, they are set free.

They are set free!

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Peter — of course,  it would be Peter! — whips out his trusty sword and cuts of the ear of the servant of the Chief Priest. And Jesus will have none of it. NONE. He turns and says ferociously, “Do you think I will not drink this cup? This cup given by my Father?”

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This is one strong dude here. A man who sees his future clearly and embraces it, suffering and all. Not because he is a glutton for punishment; not because the Father is a sadist of some sort; not because the forces of Rome and religion are victorious and he is a loser. NO. 

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Those who arrest him, even he who betrays him — these are not the enemies in John’s rendition. They are the necessary implements who put God’s redemptive work into action, the players who take Jesus down that road to the cross and eventually, to another garden. The EASTER garden. The one where we learn the powerful truth that we are indeed free. Free at last!

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In John’s telling, Jesus is Christus victor, the one who triumphs over sin, death, the grave. Over brokenness, betrayal, pain. Over anxiety, depression, illness of all kinds. Over it all. 

And he does it without flinching, without second-guessing, without question. 

For me, this year, this is the picture I need. It is yet another reason why I am so deeply grateful for all four of our gospel accounts, for their unique vision, purpose, structure, story-telling.

Some  years, I need to read about Gethsemane — to weep with Jesus, to pray fervently, to try to stay awake, to be faithful.

But this year?

This year, I need to hear Jesus say, “Who are you looking for?”  And I need Jesus to tell me I am released — I am set free, I am blameless. And I need Jesus to model for me courage and commitment and unflinching resignation — no, scratch that. Unflinching welcome of the pain that lies before him.

An embrace of the dying that is to come, looking ever forward to RESURRECTION.

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Headed into surgery on this foot in early June to repair (hopefully) a badly torn tendon
and to break and reset a congenitally off center heel bone.)

I need to hear the “I am,” the clear, calm cry of identity that John puts into the mouth of our savior at least eight times throughout his gospel. “I am” — he tells those who will listen — I am the living water, the bread of life, the light of the world, the gate for the sheep, the good shepherd, the resurrection and the life, the way the truth and the life, the vine.

And here, right here in that last garden?  “I am,” says Jesus. “I am the one you seek.” 

That old, strong, breath-filled name that the God of Israel gave to Moses. That name that could not be spoken, but only breathed. That name, that name. “I am.”

Oh, Jesus.

Be the “I am” in my life!

Stride right through the pain and confusion, the uncertainty and the fear, the injury and the hard work of breaking and mending. Help me to see you, strong and steady. Help me to hear you, clear and calm. Help me to know you, to know you.

To see and remember the beauty of the roses, the joyous abandon of the dolphins, the cheerful tapping of the woodpecker, the green beauty of the palm fronds, the flickering lamps of the soldiers, and your gift of freedom and release to those who are your friends.

Thank you that you call me exactly that, your friend. I’m counting on that.

 

My deep thanks to Don Johnson, Jon Lemmond, Bob Gross, Martha Johnson, Jeanne Heckman and every member of the worship team and the office/administrative staff who contributed to yesterday’s celebration. I look forward to the events of this whole week because of your dedication and creativity. 

Q & A: Week Six – Holding the Reins Lightly

This week’s ‘Living the Question:’ How do I make all the pieces fit?

Next week’s Question: Why do bad things happen to good people?

Links to each post in this series can be found in the introductory portion of this post.
Waterlogue (3) shoreline viewSo, it’s been a week.
Not one of my favorites,
and I’m looking for the lessons in it.
So far, I don’t like what I see.

Because what I see is the truth:
some days, life stinks.
People you love deal with worrisome things,
you feel like you’re caught
in the middle of a personal
third-time’s-a-charm kinda deal,
only there’s no charm to be found.

And that close encounter with a good God
you had last week?
Well, that’s last week’s news.

But then. . .
you read words that nourish,
or you spy a photo that 
gives your soul wings.
A bird calls,
the breeze blows,
and the sun shines brightly
on the water.

And you remember.
You remember that this is
what it means to be
a human person,
living on planet earth.

There is so much pain,
struggle, outright evil.

And there is so much beauty,
goodness and wonder.

Together. Always together.

And most of it is way beyond
our power to control.
Yes, we are invited into a
partnership, of sorts.
A dance, with the God of the Cosmos,
who chooses to work stealthily,
covertly, through very leaky vessels.

Like you. And like me.

And there is no explaining it,
not any of it.
Except to say
it is, indeed,
a mystery.

And the bigger mystery,
at least to my eye,
is this one:
the good stuff.
All the good stuff:
the beauty of creation,
the selflessness of some,
the revelations of modern
science and technology,
the miracle of a true friend.

Large or small,
new or old,
I cannot find a way to
tell you why there is anything
redeemable at all
in this crazy, wide world.

If I think about it at all,
which I do, on occasion,
I ‘get’ the bad stuff,
the ‘nature, red in tooth and claw.’

But I can’t for the life of me 
figure out why
a hummingbird hovers
so perfectly,
or when love happens,
or why it lasts.

I can’t reason it out,
make it fit the facts.

So I’m learning to live in the 
valley between,
holding two realities in
creative tension,
very, very loosely.

And in the process,
I’m learning more about God
and more about myself
than I sometimes wish I knew.

But then, that’s the way with questions, right?
That’s the way with questions.

Waterlogue (4) paddle surfer

Not sure I feel exactly upright this week, but looking at this photo, ‘watercolored’ through a phone app, reminds me that it’s good to keep afloat whenever possible! Just these few quiet reflections for you all today as I continue to recuperate from the flu. I did find this wonderful comment today, from one of our regular conversationalists to another in the comments section of one of their blogs. A lovely summary statement of ‘making the pieces fit,’ I think. Please let me see your words on this important question. Maybe by wrap-up day, I’ll have a few more to add, but I’m not countin’ on it!

“I feel like a ‘work in progress’ too! What else can we be unless we determine to stop growing. Sometimes the chisel cuts, sometimes the smoothing away of rough corners hurts. But unlike works of art we take part in our creation and moulding. And we know that the desired outcome is nothing less than to make manifest our unique beloved perfection.” – from Juliet’s comment on Joy’s blog

Click on the froggie to link your specific blog post. It looks different because it is different. Starting last week, they changed the system.

The Sliding of the Seasons

Today is the day after, the sliding day, the one that marks the shift from one special day on the calendar to an entire season of special. We chose to be quiet this day, to stay at home, eat leftovers, enjoy the freshness of the sky after rain.

So I sit in my usual spot, computer on my lap, and I drink in the richness of the gifts with which we have been lavished.
IMG_3713Sixteen of us gathered at our son’s home, to feast and laugh and say ‘thank you.’ The chiminea was lit, the appetizers spread, and we carefully helped my mother maneuver the short distance from car to house.

IMG_3695Our gifted daughter-in-law had a spread worth gaping at, with contributions from her mother and my older daughter, and a magnificent bird, smoked after brining.

IMG_3693The table was laid, complete with candy turkeys and bright colored decor, handmade by the 3-year-old at nursery school.
IMG_3705Laughter floated on the breeze, children implored Poppy to play games, food was warmed and presented and appreciated.
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IMG_3696We have about four vegetarians and one vegan in our number, and Rachel and Lisa had prepared several scrumptious dishes that they could pile on their plates. We all had a Feast.
IMG_3699And dessert? Fuggedaboutit. An amazing collection of things divine and delish. Joel contributed hand made Bordeaux candies, Lisa baked pumpkin cookies and hand-sized apple pies, Rachel a decadent bourbon/maple pumpkin pie. I added some lemon pie squares and mom contributed a box of See’s Nuts ‘n’ Chews. Yeah, we had enough to eat.
IMG_3692Luke played a little piano, the kids and young adults played a little dominoes, and to cap off the evening, those not interested in watching football had a lively conversation about lasers and accelerators and all things strange and wonderful. My mom didn’t understand a lot of it, but she loved it. I think it helped her to remember who she is – a vibrant, interesting, interested woman who is always searching to learn more. The words will be lost, but the emotions will stay around a while.
IMG_3709And as we carefully got mom back in the car for the drive across town, I took a last look at that candle in the middle of the table. It seemed the perfect closing image for the day – one small light in the midst of it all, a beacon, a reminder of this next season of holy waiting, this time of Advent.
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On Sunday, I will begin a daily small series, an Advent journey. A photo, some scripture, a few words of reflection, a prayer. Nothing grand, nothing splendiferous, just a small offering of thanks and worship as we slide into the next season.

The Gift of Travel – Part 5: Cruising to Dresden — A Photo Essay

So . . . already, I cannot keep it to the number I had hoped.
We saw so.much.goodness.
(More likely, I took too.many.pictures.)
So, this post will be about getting to and enjoying Meissen.
The next one will be about Dresden.
Then on to Saxon Switzerland (a national park, not a country),
and probably two posts on the Czech Republic, especially Prague.

You can find Part 1 here,
Part 2 here,
Part 3 here,
and Part 4 here. 

After our immersion in Reformation history, we cruised all morning the next day
to the city of Meissen, which houses the famous porcelain manufacturing company.
The first couple of dozen pictures were shot during that lovely,
relaxing time on the water — pictures of farmland,
changing topography, small villages,
animals, people on bicycles. . . just the ordinary stuff of daily life,
but somehow, as seen from the deck of a river boat,
things of extraordinary, often breath-taking beauty.
I think that — above and beyond the riches of history, the extravagance of
rulers past, the lure of museum treasures —
the richest kind of gift from this experience is this one:
the extraordinary ordinary,
the downright deliciousness of dailyness.

At last, a stork in the nest!
You have  undoubtedly noticed that the terrain is beginning to change:
sloping hillsides, rocky cliffs here and there,
vineyards and more villages.
This whole stretch was so very lovely.

 A bicycle and walking path paralleled the river for miles and miles.

Just before lunch, we drew near to Meissen, a city almost completely unharmed
in WWII. It’s majestic castle/fortress loomed over
the entire harbor area and seemed to beg for pictures
from every conceivable angle.

 The waterfront area was charming and we docked very near this row of houses.

Boarded our busses and proceeded first to the Meissen plant,
which is in the heart of the town and employs over 600 people.
Our guide was a remarkable woman of about 60.
She had grown up in Communist Eastern Europe
and her family was known to be Catholic.
She was humiliated in school, made to stand in front of the class,
and later, despite being an excellent student,
was denied access to the finer colleges.
She once held a ‘job’ at Meissen that had no function.
For eight hours a day for FOUR YEARS,
she went to work and had nothing to do.
That right there is its own kind of hell.

This is the Meissen insignia
and if you’re blessed to own any of their fine porcelain ware,
you’ll find it somewhere on each piece.

As we entered the ‘manufaktur,’ as the locals call it, these charming girls
were just getting out of school.
Loved the pink socks.

I have to tell  you that I could not afford anything from the seconds table,
much less something from this boutique.
Yikes.

 The tour did help me to understand what goes into making this lovely stuff,
and that helps me (a little) with the pricing.
We moved from room to room,
each artist had a box with audio tapes in various languages.
With a push of a button, music and narration began,
and each one did his or her part in the ‘assembly line.’

First the basic shapes are formed on a wheel.

Then the finer details are made by hand and prepared for the first firing.

 The first layer of paint goes on at this point.
And then I think they’re fired again.

This woman adds another layer of color and a finish and the pieces
are fired for the last time.

I would love to have seen one of those ovens, but that was not part of the tour. :>)

 There was a small museum, which contained
this organ, whose pipes are made of porcelain;

this gorgeous urn, which was about two feet tall;

these delicate figurines, which were my favorites;

and a special exhibit of a variety of flower arrangements. . .
made entirely from porcelain.
Loved looking at them — but would not care for the maintenance one bit.

We chose an optional walking tour up to the fortress complex and loved
the views and the general feel of this lovely small city.

Even the manhole covers are beautiful.

This right here? This is why my knees still ache!
(All the stairs everywhere plus the cobblestones make for one miserable
arthritic, I’ll tell you.)

We thoroughly enjoyed our tour of this town and came back to the
boat almost reluctantly.
But soon, the quietness of the river did its magic,
and we tucked in for our time in Dresden the next day.

Entering the city of Dresden, going under a low bridge just as a tram crossed over the top of it. Yes, we’re into a much bigger city now.
More adventures to come!

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