Fear

In 2016 Terry and I were enjoying an evening at the park with our just-turned-one year-old grandson.  Suddenly a dog got loose from its owner and raced by me, the leash wrapping around my leg, throwing me to the ground unconscious and bleeding.  I had always loved dogs and parks and evening strolls.  But now I was fearful of dogs and didn’t ever want to return to the park.

I recalled that after a car wreck when I was 18, my mother would not allow me to quit driving.   She assured me that I would have to get back on the road sooner rather than later.  Thank goodness she did.  I once was volunteering to drive folks to the polls to vote and encountered a woman who had had a similar experience in her teens.  She never drove again. How limiting!  I did not want to cripple myself in that way.

So I knew after the episode with the dog that I needed to conquer my fear.  I searched quotes about fear.  I wrote in my journal and  posted on Facebook as a way to process that trauma.  And in due time I acclimated to being around dogs and I did go back to the park. 

A poem endures in my memory that addresses this very situation:

“I will not die an unlived life. I will not live in fear of falling or catching fire. I choose to inhabit my days, to allow my living to open me, to make me less afraid, more accessible, to loosen my heart until it becomes a wing, a torch, a promise. I choose to risk my significance; to live so that which came to me as a seed goes to the next as a blossom and that which came to me as a blossom, goes on as fruit.”—Dawna Markova

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.Shalom, Kate 

Hope’s Café Bonus: “We must travel in the direction of our fear.”—John Berryman

Homeostasis

For whatever reason, this word has kept floating through my mind lately.  You may recall from some course along the way that it means, simply put, “the ability or tendency to maintain internal stability in an organism to compensate for environmental changes. An example of homeostasis is the human body keeping an average temperature of 98.6 degrees.” homeostasis definition sociology – Search (bing.com)

But this word has broader implications for the upheaval and division we are now encountering in society.  I recall in some upper-level sociology course in college, the professor’s describing a family in therapy who had become quite dysfunctional in the midst of the problems they were experiencing.  He asked what might be your first question.  I responded that I would ask when was the last time things were going well and what was different in their lives then.  This, in a nutshell, is how I understand what is happening in our world now.

 There is a drive toward “homeostasis,” toward what feels like “how it used to be when life felt more nearly normal.”  The problem isthat what felt more like normal to me, to which I struggle to return, is different, sometimes vastly so, from other folks’ experience of “normal,” to which they struggle to return.  These are often opposing visions which means my efforts can clash with  those of others as they seek to find their “homeostasis.”  We have a shortage of tolerance for each other’s difficulties and are quick to see “the other” as evil.  Admittedly, it is currently hard to find common ground. 

However, I recall reading a book some years back called Conservatize Me by John Moe, a professed liberal who sought to immerse himself for a year in conservative circles in an effort to learn more about this worldview and those who espoused it. He discovered he could find some common ground.   I remember admiring him for his willingness to challenge himself to expand his understanding in the way that he did.  I prefer that to name calling, threatening, even resorting to violence in the face of what we find offensive.

 May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.Shalom, Kate 

Hope’s Café Bonus:  I once witnessed a counter protester at a peace rally with a sign “Peace Sucks.”  I thought: really???  Later, when I was called on to speak at a rally myself, I said that I considered there was some merit to what the counter protester posted because, I said, peace requires us to go within ourselves and confront our own capacity for hostility or even violence.  We likely prefer to think of ourselves above that.  Maybe that means we need to look more deeply.

Soul Weary

Pandemics, extreme weather, extreme politics, violence in response to even the most petty disagreements…..is anyone else exhausted?  My mindset has always been that you can endure many things because “this too shall pass.”  I now recognize that likely the majority of these situations will be with us for years to come. 

So how do we ground ourselves?  My Insight Timer is a godsend in helping me focus to meditate and pray.  The Timer opens with a quote of the day.  One day this week the quote was: “I meditate so my mind doesn’t complicate my life.”  That struck home!  Meditation helps me clear the Brain Clutter I accumulate!  For me, this practice is essential.

My other necessity is getting out in nature.  This week Terry and I were at long last able to drive the Beartooth Pass, a trip that was highly recommended to us from the time we arrived last summer. 

The Beartooth Highway is an All-American Road on a section of U.S. Route 212 in Montana and Wyoming between Red Lodge and the Northeast entrance of Yellowstone National Park.  It has been called “the most beautiful drive in America” by late CBS correspondent Charles Kuralt.  Because of heavy snowfall at the top, the pass is usually open each year only from mid-May through mid-October, weather conditions permitting. 

When it was supposed to close on a mid-October Monday last fall, snow forced them to close it early.  Terry and I had planned to drive it the Saturday before they were scheduled to close it so we missed that opportunity.  We awaited the reopening in May only to have it close soon after it opened, once again due to snow. We were elated this week to finally make this trip. 

When driving east to west, the highest parts of the Beartooth Highway level off into a wide plateau near the top of the pass, then descend to the junction with Wyoming Highway 296 (Chief Joseph Scenic Byway) near Cooke City, the northeast gateway to Yellowstone National Park.  On the way one passes numerous lakes typical of the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Area which borders the highway along much of its route.

Many have enjoyed this drive since the pass was opened in June 1936.  But its history, of course, predates that.  In August 1872, the pass was crossed by Civil War General Philip Sheridan and 120 men returning from an inspection tour of Yellowstone National Park.  Rather than take the long detour down the Clarks Fork Yellowstone River to return to Billings, Sheridan took the advice of an old hunter named Shuki Greer who claimed intimate knowledge of the Beartooth Mountains.  When the road was opened in 1936, it essentially followed Sheridan’s route over the pass.

May we recognize the necessity of making the most of opportunities to renew ourselves in what can be a soul-wearying time.

 May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:

Ice Cream!

Some years ago Terry and I went on a cruise.  One of the pleasures we discovered on the ship were their daily offerings of ice cream and sorbet.  Our favorite was cocoa sorbet.  When we returned home, I found a recipe and we have made it several times since then. 

When we retrieved our ice cream freezer from our storage shed last week in order to make cocoa sorbet for company, we found that our freezer had not survived the move from Tennessee.  No problem, we thought.  In true American consumer fashion, we would just buy another one.  We embarked on what turned out to be a fruitless (and sorbet-less) search. 

I have fond memories of my father’s cranking ice cream in a green wooden bucket. I recall “ice cream socials” as a frequent event at church.  How many of those socials did I attend as a kid, and, for that matter, as an adult? Were my southern roots showing? Did Montanans not make ice cream? This fear was increased when one clerk eyed me incredulously and said, “You mean ice cream you make yourself?”  He pointed us finally toward a little table top ice cream maker that would make two quarts.  We were not persuaded!

Next step:  Google ice cream freezers.  We learned that Walmart was getting a shipment of freezers.  Next opportunity we drove to Billings and happily returned with our prized item.  It seems it wasn’t necessarily my southern roots that were apparent, but my age:  the box containing the freezer was labeled “Nostalgia.”  😊

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:  Cocoa Sorbet requires 3 c. water, 1and1/4 c. granulated sugar, 2 T. corn syrup, pinch salt, 2 t. vanilla extract, 1 c. cocoa powder unsweetened.  Whisk ingredients together until sugar is dissolved and ingredients are well blended and smooth.  Chill for 1 hour.  Freeze in an ice cream freezer following manufacturer’s directions.  Serve and enjoy!  Let’s keep the frozen treat tradition going! 

The Little Stone Church

When I first began the interview process for the position of pastor of this little Congregational church in Columbus, MT., I was fascinated by the original building called The Little Stone Church.  In 1895 the church was officially formed and the Rock School was also built.  The church began meeting regularly in the one room schoolhouse. 

In 1905, the church purchased the building after a new schoolhouse was erected. The town citizens agreed a “proper” church was necessary for the future growth of the community.  Construction of the current building on property adjoining The Little Stone Church was completed in 1914.

While most of our programming takes place in the larger church, The Little Stone Church serves the community in many ways. AA meets there weekly.  Guitar lessons are now offered there.  Wedding showers, baby showers, memorial services, craft shows take place there.  Periodically other groups request the use of it for various meetings.  I recently instituted a walking group that meets weekly.  Truly this building provides a community gathering space. 

It has been my intention to expand our usage of The Little Stone Church.  We desire to reach out to all people. In this day and time when fewer people seek connection to a church, we seek to offer this space as a place of community and connection.  In the interest of making the stone church the most appealing we can, I had encouraged our leadership to consider cleaning and painting it, updating it. 

So while I was away at camp, several members carried out the work of refurbishing this jewel of a facility.  I can not begin to describe my joy when I returned to find the church polished to a shine!  It is my deepest prayer that this space will serve our community for many years to come.

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus: (It now has a beautiful blue door!)

Anniversary

Thirty- three years ago I made my vows on the back porch of Terry’s lake house.  A small group of family and friends surrounded us.  We have celebrated anniversaries in any number of places since.  Quite a few celebrations took place in North Carolina. Driving the Blue Ridge Parkway often was a top choice. 

  Three years ago I was pastoring for the summer in Florida.  On my friends’ patio, we renewed our vows.  Officiating was a mentor who had been on my Committee on Ministry. That year we took a few days at one of our favorite places, Cedar Key.   So many good memories….

This was our first anniversary to celebrate in Montana and it was most unusual.  We have just returned from a week of being leaders/counselors at church camp. Today I had services to lead and a council meeting after.  We drove to Billings to try out a restaurant we had never been to, where we consumed excellent Asian food in a very pleasant atmosphere.   After shopping for shoes for Terry, we returned to Columbus, made a brief stop at home and then walked a few blocks down our street to watch a superb performance of Twelfth Night in a Shakespeare in the Park series. 

Now he is on his computer in his office and I sit here working on mine.  It isn’t the most romantic of endings.  Yet there is a sense of comfort, familiarity.  We are both pretty exhausted from camp.  Being free to just allow a situation to be what it is seems so valuable.

Thirteen years ago my father died the week of our anniversary.  It was our 20th anniversary and we had planned a celebration with our children and their spouses and a larger party with friends the day after that.  I was devastated by my father’s death.  The funeral home wanted us to have the service on our anniversary itself (long story) and I balked.  We had the funeral the day before and on our anniversary we flew home.  The plan we had had following the parties we ended up cancelling, had been to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway. But I didn’t want to go.  Terry convinced me we should go on with it and we did.  In the midst of my grief, I still was able to find pleasure in the trip.  That reflects another valuable lesson: “In the midst of loss, celebrate life,” as I have noted in other blogs. 

I am so grateful for the years, for the life we have built.  There have been difficult times of course and generally we have managed to navigate those and come out stronger.  Now we face aging together and that presents its own challenges.  Growing old together sounds so romantic when you are young and healthy.  The reality can be pretty tough as health issues begin to impact your functioning and quality of life.

  So I find another lesson is to cherish the memories through the years, while being mindful to make more in the present moment.  They can serve as anchors that will help ground us in whatever time is granted us, in whatever circumstances we may face.

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café “Bonus” (actually a P.S.):  My apologies for a late edition blog.  There was little WiFi and little time to use it when it was available at camp!

Tabula Rosa

            Tonight I went to a writer’s workshop.  You might think that would inspire me to go write home and write my blog.  It seems to have had the opposite effect.  I stare at the blank page, first wondering what it is I want to say.  Then I recognize a pattern.  When I resist writing, there is some thing I am avoiding addressing.  Reluctantly I  admit  what it is:  this week I realized there is a box of belongings that I believe did not make it from Tennessee to Montana.  It contained my Common English Bible, a gift from a dear friend.  An accumulation of mandala books and materials was in that box……along with most of my journals from over many years.  Those journals were full of my diary entries, along with poems, quotes, prayers that had been meaningful to me.  The sense of loss has deepened with each succeeding day.  Losing the journals feels like I have lost a part of myself.

            Certainly I am aware that this is miniscule compared to the refugees fleeing war and famine, having to leave so much behind that was integral to their lives.  Separation from who and what matters most to us is heart wrenching, soul crushing.

           Two bedrock ideals sustain me as I seek to respond to this situation:  that in the midst of loss, I must celebrate life and that I must always ask “What am I grateful for in this moment?”  So I celebrate all that survived the trip, especially the few journals that remain, and that my life is not significantly altered.  I still have my spouse, family and friends, a home, a church, meaningful work, my health.  For my life in this moment I am thankful. 

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:  We had a specific writing exercise at the workshop that involved looking at a photograph (or calling up a memory) and writing in response to specific questions about it (e.g. what was the environment, the sensations associated with it, who was there, who was missing or left out).  I thought of other kinds of writing exercises I have been given in other classes. Online I noticed that one suggestion is to write a blog!  So I will add that another gratitude is for the desire to write and also for those who take the time to read my ponderings. 

Impact

From whence the whim came, I don’t know.  But I googled my name.  I still show as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in practice in Cleveland, TN.  Someone once tracked me down when I was an interim pastor in St. Petersburg, FL when she googled me and saw information that I was pastor there.  I didn’t see anything that indicated I now serve as settled pastor in Columbus, MT.  However, there were many sites selling the book I had published in 2017.  But the startling thing was that there was a site in Poland and one in India offering my book for sale.  I was stunned!  Has my book made it to places I never imagined? 

I thought about the book The Blue Sweater, a book to which I referred in my blog of December 2020.  The author had given away a sweater to a charitable organization in high school.  Years later working in Africa she encountered a boy wearing the sweater still bearing her name on the tag inside.     “The story of the blue sweater,” she wrote, “has always reminded me of how we are all connected.  Our actions—and inaction—touch people we may never know and never meet across the globe.”

Exploring the notion of impact, I came across Israelmore Ayivor, who appears to be African inspirational writer and speaker.  He had some fascinating quotes.  Ponder these:

“My father said this to me: “Israelmore, if you don’t make any impact on earth, you will die before you die. But if you impress hearts with what you do, you still live even after you are gone”
― Israelmore Ayivor

“Don’t be a pepper on the eyes of people; Rather be the salt on their tongue and make a difference that influences their sense of belonging to the earth.”
― Israelmore Ayivor

 “You got the eggs in you; the world is fully ready to celebrate the chicks out of your laying labour. Never give up. Go and breed! Go and breed great dreams.”
― Israelmore Ayivor, The Great Hand Book of Quotes

Readers, I pass these on to you.  So be “salt on the tongue” that you might influence others to increase  their sense of belonging to the earth” and “go and breed great dreams!” 

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:  “If you want to change the world, pick up your pen and write.”― Martin Luther.  This makes me think of a story I read once.  A woman recounted how her mother had dreams of being a writer.  She set up a desk for herself with the necessary supplies.  She never got around to writing a poem or story or publishing anything.  But after her death, her daughter learned of all the people who had received her hand written notes of encouragement, gifts of her thought and care for so many individuals.  Never discount your impact on others even if it seems a small gesture to you.

More Animal Tales

Hippo encounters and our education about them were some  of my favorite, though sometimes a bit harrowing, animal experiences on our recent African trip.  At Kafue National Park, I would arouse early in the morning to the tune of Hippo “chatter,” their calls to one another.  Our cabin was right on the water and their proximity to us was astounding to me. 

Hippos have very sensitive skin so they mostly stay in the water to avoid exposure to the sun.  But at night they come on land to feed on grasses and will consume enough to last themselves three or four days in the water before returning to feed again.  However, they have very poor eyesight and sometimes get disoriented on land.  The hippo calls I heard in early morning are one way hippos in the water help hippos stranded on land to find their way back to the water. 

Once on a river trip,  we unwittingly strayed into a hippo’s space.  He was not happy with us!  He followed the boat, rearing up over and over and splashing down in the water, essentially chasing us away.  No worries!  Our guide got us out of there pronto! 

Our last morning at Kafue, we were about to walk to breakfast when we discovered a sleeping hippo had parked himself right at our front door.  Yikes!  Hippos are known to be extremely dangerous and we were not about to rouse him.  We had been told to never approach animals, to return to our cabin immediately if we came across any in our path.  What to do?!  We learned later that we had an airhorn by our bedside to call for help.  But I finally was able to get the attention of the cleaners at the cabin next door.  To our astonishment, the staff person who came over gave the hippo a few whacks on his back, gave him a shove with his foot and the hippo proceeded to move maybe 6 feet, laid back down and went right back to sleep.  Our rescuer smiled and said, “Oh he is one of our residents,” a hippo who frequently makes himself at home there without incident. 

Later that morning, I was sitting on the deck while Terry was at the office paying our bill.  I heard a big splash in the water and knew it was “our” hippo.  I grabbed my phone and walked down the steps, while maintaining a safe distance, to catch a photograph.  He put on quite a show for me, dipping down in the water, rolling over (at least as much as a hippo can roll), and opening his mouth very wide.  His display  simply felt a little like a friendly communication, maybe “Come back soon. We’ll miss you.”  I miss them, too.  Waking to the melody of their hippo calls was a gift I cherish from our trip.

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:  Who knows where early morning thoughts come from but I woke up thinking about the comic strip “Pogo,” the iconic comic by Walt Kelly published from 1948 to 1975.  Kelly briefly used one human character in his strip but found animals much more adaptable to comics.  I am reminded of when I saw children in therapy.  I always had animal figures because often children could more easily express feelings through the use of them.  We are enriched by animals in so many ways.  I was heartened to learn that efforts to reduce poaching have been increased in Zambia and other African countries.

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

Our trek to Africa yielded a multitude of animal encounters.  Our first experience was a trip to Lilayi Elephant Nursery where we saw the baby elephants fed.  They receive a giant baby bottle filled with a special formula every 3 hours.  It takes them about 90 seconds to consume it!  This orphanage—all the babies are rescues after their mothers had been killed by poachers— is one of the projects of the Game Rangers International, established with the intent to preserve wildlife and resources. 

The adventure we had at Victoria Falls probably warrants its own blog.  But I must include here the ginormous giraffe who nearly trampled us in its effort to reach a particularly appealing tree whose leaves apparently were irresistible.  I had no grasp of how large giraffes are.  The zebras were most fascinating to me.  They were everywhere at Avani where we were staying, grazing on the grounds, unperturbed by our presence, quite indifferent. 

My zebra fascination led me to explore further information when I returned.  Found throughout different regions of Africa, the three living species of zebra are the plains zebra, the mountain zebra, and the Grévy’s zebra. All three belong to the genus Equus, which also includes horses and donkeys.

The Grévy zebra, found only in Ethiopia and Kenya, is named for Jules Grévy, a 19th century French president who received one from Abyssinia as a gift. It is the largest of the three, weighing as much as 1,000 pounds. Plains zebras are a bit smaller, weighing up to 850 pounds. They have a range that extends from South Sudan and southern Ethiopia to northern portions of South Africa. The smallest species, the mountain zebra, weighs as much as 800 pounds and is found in South Africa, Namibia, and Angola.

The width and pattern of zebra stripes vary widely by species. The Grevy’s zebra has narrow vertical stripes covering its entire body, including its ears and mane. The striping pattern of the plains zebra varies by location; they have either black striping and a primarily white body color, or lighter, dark brown stripes overall. Mountain zebras have a white or off-white body color with black or deep brown body stripes that are spaced close together. They do not have stripes on their bellies, and those on their head and body are narrower than the ones on their rump. Even within each species, no two zebras have the same stripes; they are as unique as fingerprints.

Stay tuned for next blog for more on our African adventure!

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:  Zebras have been bred with horses and donkeys which results in zedonks, zorses and zonies….

*Zebra information obtained from Treehugger site.