Monday, November 21, 2016

Here is a footprint story to amuse. A few summers back my wife and I tent camped in Grand Teton National Park. As we arrived at Jenny Lake campground the host told us there had been little worry about bear activity in the sites, however a big bull elk had been pestering folks by nosing around the tents. Feeling relieved about the absence of bears, we just smiled about the critter named Buddy the Elk. We set up our little mountaineering tent on the graveled pad and began to bask in the shadow of the mountains. We put up folding camp chairs in a flowering meadow and read and dozed. I heard a twig snap, and footsteps . . . doe, a deer, crept behind us close enough to touch. Sweet. (Also, foreshadowing, yes it happens) So by the end of the day we are feeling very relaxed and head for sleep as the sun sets. We sleep head to feet side by side in our snug, tiny blue tent. Our custom is to read for a while, which we do with glowing iPads. Laura gives out first and falls into a happy slumber. I continue reading my exciting and somewhat scary adventure story. Then I hear footsteps. Clop, crunch. Shuffle. Gravel grinds under very large feet, attached, by the sound, to something uncommonly large and heavy. The animal, whatever it is, stops on my left side. I sense something very large looming outside, only the thin fabric of the tent between us. Is it a bear? Where is the bear spray? Drat, down at my feet. I calculate how quickly I can unzip from my mummy sleeping bag, pick up and arm the bear spray, unzip the tent, and shoot. That action is not advisable, as there would be snarls, teeth, claws, blood and pain involved. Should I wake up Laura? I find I can’t move, and my heart is pounding, boom boom boom in my head. I close my iPad and lay still as stone. Clop, shuffle. Crunch. Scuffle. The whatever moves on. I lay in silence and breathe for some minutes. The crisis seems to be over. Of course now I am wide awake. So I open my iPad and resume reading. The story continues to be hair raising, probably not the best choice for the moment. After a few minutes, I hear . . . Clop, crunch. Shuffle. LOOM. Now the giant animal is standing on the other side of the tent, with Laura in between me and IT. I freeze again. I hold my breath. I quietly close my iPad. This is worse! Now if I try for the bear spray Laura will get eaten first! I am motionless, wondering how to wake my partner up without making any sound. In the absolute darkness I hear a big huffing breath from outside. I suck in a deep breath and hold it. I am just about to shout! But I don’t. Shuffle, Crunch, Clop. It moves away. Now I just continue to lay there in the dark. Time passes, and I fall asleep. (I also may have fainted). I sleep as though dead. The earth spins. Dawn comes. I crawl out and emerge from the tent. What a lovely, crisp, sunny morning! The sky is blue, and the Grand Teton is a towering morning glory. I fire up the camp stove and start the coffee brewing. I look at the site next door and see a lone orange mountaineering tent set up, with no sign of the young camper who arrived alone yesterday evening, California plates. Laura rises, we have our favorite camp coffee, and after a while meet the camp host again. I have already told Laura about the night visitor, and we inform the host as well that a beastie visited last night. She said it was certainly Buddy the Elk, who loomed at our absent neighbor, a wilderness rookie, after us, scaring him so badly he abandoned his tent, ran to his car, and drove into Jackson to sleep in a hotel. So, Buddy is attracted to the curious, big glowing mushroom things lit up by iPads, phones, and the like. He acts like a huge, antlered moth. He only stands and looks. He doesn't mean any harm. He is just following the light, maybe like the rest of us should.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

I took some time to exercise, sprucing up around the church, and found myself singing "Come and fill my heart with your peace; you alone O Lord are holy . . . Come and fill my heart with your peace; Alleluia." After singing that a few times I opened the back door to sniff the air and spotted a magical creature tip-toeing along the sidewalk by our parking lot. A fox? It has a horn and wings. A foxicorn dragon? Whatever it is, it gave a big smile. As an answer to prayer, I will think of it as a manifestation of peace. When I thanked it for occupying our neighborhood, it thanked me, in return, in a small, musical voice. Its paw when it gently shook my hand was velvety soft.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

I feel myself galvanized today, determined to be a contributor to a safer, more humane world. Rather than live and preach against what I disagree with, taking a negative, adversarial view in an American culture which has grown more dangerous in recent times, I hope to keep walking forward with my head up, eyes clear, and my arms open to conciliation. I invite my friends and readers to join me in a commitment to living by three simple rules. They are easy to remember, harder to practice, but potentially transformative. The three simple rules are: First, do no harm. Second, do good. Third, always stay in love with God. Doing the first well is an important beginning. I appreciate what Ruben P. Job says about how this practice of doing no harm affects my relationships with adversaries. "Each of us knows of groups that are locked in conflict, sometimes over profound issues and sometimes over issues that are just plain silly. But the conflict is real, the divisions deep, and the consequences can often be devastating. If, however, all who are involved can agree to do no harm, the climate in which the conflict is going on is immediately changed. How is it changed? Well, if I am to do no harm, I can no longer gossip about the conflict. I can no longer speak disparagingly about those involved in the conflict. I can no longer manipulate the facts of the conflict. I can no longer diminish those who do not agree with me and must honor each as a child of God. I will guard my lips, my mind and my heart so that my language will not disparage, injure or wound another child of God. I must do no harm, even while I seek a common good." I hope you will join me.

Friday, November 4, 2016

The rain has poured buckets on us here in Western Oregon this October. So wherever I choose to walk on grass or ground I sink and squish. I am not happy with the sogginess, but mushrooms are. I spied a large, orange cap across the church lawn and squelched over to investigate. The warm, wet conditions hatched a batch of very large mushrooms. King boletes are edible and delicious. Raccoons had chawed the largest one mostly to bits, but left a smaller one, a mere 10" across, well enough alone that I could pick it. I dismantled it in my kitchen and set bits to dry in our food dehydrator. The house has a wonderful, rich mushroom smell. I am not fond of grey skies and showers in general, but remembering, from my childhood wanderings, the fun of mushroom hunting in the woods lifts my spirits. When it rains, wonders appear.