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Black phoebe on a fence post

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Isaiah 26:3

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As yesterday was Memorial Day, my grandpa was very much on my mind. The first generation son of Ukrainian immigrants, he served in the Army in World War II. There were no war protests. No volunteer only armed forces. It was just what you did. You served your country. And serve he did in  spear head campaigns in North Africa, and Italy, and later following Patton’s Army into Germany. He was a military police man and a cook.

My grandfather was also a newly married man. His pretty young wife, my grandma, was understandably quite anxious and upset about his being away and at war. So upset was she that a friend decided to offer some encouragement. The friend gave her a plaster plaque with the majority of Isaiah 26:3 in relief :

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed upon Thee.”

Before my grandma died, she told me the story of the plaque. When she died, it was the one possession I really wanted. A memento tying me to them both. I too have tended to be anxious but with God’s help over time am becoming less so… when I remember to keep my mind stayed on the Lord, and on His love and omnipotence.

Not to discount any of that. In regard to veterans, it is very necessary to recognize the sacrifice of those killed in battle. Obviously they paid for a cause with their lives. I might argue, Veterans’ Day is just as sacrosanct to those who may not think so. Some die on battle fields and are laid to rest. Others die or die in part on battlefields but must go on to try to live out the rest of their lives with an unseen handicap.

In hindsight, I have no doubt that my grandpa suffered from PTSD; but they didn’t call it that. It wasn’t recognized. Not the dime a dozen diagnoses of today type. The knitty gritty down and dirty mud red with blood kind. The kind he quietly dealt with. The kind Marines at Camp Pendleton deal with every day.

A young man under thirty can not do five to thirty tours in Iraq and Afganistan and walk unscathed. I honor the dead. I pray for and have incredible compassion for the walking dead. God has the power to resurrect anyone, but it’s not always done in our time. My prayer is that the peace that passes all understanding would be had by all our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and other service members who have died and then gone home from the battlefield to try to live again.

Moreton Bay Fig Tree

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Gorgeous tree planted March 6, 1875 by Henri F. Gardner in honor of his wife and first son on the day of his birth. This tree is so large and sweeping in its scope in real life. The photo doesn’t do it justice. Note how the size of the car compares to the roots.

The road to Heaven

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Attended a long time friend’s wedding this weekend. It was truly a wonderful day. The ceremony was at a Catholic church where the bride teaches elementary school. In addition to all the friends and family, there were lots of her current and former students. The altar boys were in fact altar girls who were also former students.

The church happens to be the same one my parents got married in some four decades ago so it held some extra fascination for me. I sat on the groom’s side as my family and I have known him back to elementary school days. One of my brothers was the best man. I teared up watching my brother, the groom, and the other guys standing up for him tear up. This was the last of them to get married. The rest had all done so quite young about twenty years ago.

Not only was I enthralled with the wedding itself, but with the building and the art work in it. I was baptized in the Catholic Church as an infant but my family left just before my First Communion.  I was raised in evangelical land and while I embrace the tenants, must admit my camp has produced some questionable stuff in the name of art.  In particular, a large wall hanging in the back, and the mosaics for the stations of the cross caught my eye.

But, there was more than what meets the eye in the service. The message the priest delivered was heart-felt and wonderful – and yes, scripturally sound as well. In addition to some of the more traditional fare, he told a story. He related that his father died when he was twelve years old. His mother would come home after work and unwind by working in the garden.He would go out with her but was not permitted to pull weeds as he had not acquired the ability to discern between weeds and regular garden plants.

When he was in high school he began to ask a lot more about how his parents met and what their relationship was like. On one occasion as they chatted his mother admitted she had been engaged to another man before she met his father.

“Why didn’t you marry him? Why did you end up marrying dad?”

“Well… I married the man I knew would lead me on the path to heaven.”

He never forgot that answer. How important it is to pick a spouse who would lead one in the way of the Lord and what is good and righteous.

I can not remember the precise wording of his mother’s answer but got it quite close. I sat there soaking that in and smiling. Having always wanted to be married and have five little boys (girls are okay too!), there have been times when going to weddings has been quite difficult. Now sitting watching one of the last of us dinosaurs of singleness standing with happy tears in his eyes and a genuine smile on his face holding the hands of his long-awaited bride, I felt great peace and joy. And what the priest had to say, made it even more so. I am still waiting on the man who will lead me on the path to heaven. Not in the negative stereotypical way of lording it over a person, but leading in a Christ-like manner.

A wonderful wedding was followed by a fun reception. Bride and groom have been season ticket holders and great Angels fans. So, they had the reception at the Diamond Club at Angel Stadium. I am not a pro-sports fan but have to admit, it was a great venue. Fun, beautiful and first class. And catching up with everyone who came back to So Cal for the occasion made it all the more fun.

Silly me. Was having so much fun visiting out on the terrace I totally missed the bouquet toss. Oh well. Still waiting for the one I caught in 1999 to work its magic.

re-union

There are reunions for the sake for celebrating milestones, or sentimentality, or blood ties. And then there are re-unions. The kind where you get together with folks you love so much and are so close to that even though you are reuniting, it’s almost as though you’ve never really left. Getting back together flows so naturally it’s almost like you’ve never been apart – except for a little time and physical convenience of proximity.

I was blessed with one such reunion about two weeks ago in northern Arizona and had the good fortune to be part of such again tonight. My immediate family and a family we did so very much with back in the day got together for our favorite pizza tonight at my folks’.

That entire family relocated to Washington state a few years back leaving an empty space in our hearts and more spaces in our calendars – especially around the holidays, and church related gatherings.

But how wonderful to share a meal together again out on the patio followed by a volleyball game. Perhaps even more loud and raucous than in the past as numerous children have been added (in my case only a dog so far. But, boy was she a hit!)

It’s truly re-union when it’s just as warm and comfortable and lacking in pretense as it always was. No nervousness. No posing. No striving to impress – because you know you are walking a  path of unconditional love and acceptance together the way it has always been. I want more of my relationships to be continual re-unions -especially with my Christian brothers and sisters.

Another gift from God in the garden

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The plan was to have a little mini orchard in the little mini condo yard. After a lot of reading the plan was to get one Reed avocado tree and one Sharwil avocado tree.

With those two there would both a type A and B so there would be cross pollination. There’d also year round or nearly year round fruit once they began to bear. Reed’s growth habit is tall and thin. Sharwil’s is shorter than many avocados. Hopefully those growth habits would be easier to heavily prune than some others so there would be compliance and peace in HOA land.

In the last quarter of 2012 I placed an order with a nursery on line for the trees. Reed is not uncommon but Sharwils can be difficult to find. Both rank well in taste tests. Sharwil consistently lands at or very near the top.  The trees were to ship in February or so from a mom and pop nursery farther north in CA. I had never seen or heard of a Sharwil locally.

By the end of March, I had not been billed, nor had I heard anything from the nursery. Late last month, I received an email. The nursery had run out of Sharwils. I could be on the waiting list for next year. They apologized for the late notice as there had been a death in their family. I felt bad for them. I could wait a year. I said a prayer, “Lord, I know it’s not a big deal, but I’d really like to plant my avocados this year. If it’s okay with You, would You work it out so I could plant my trees this year?”

With other things that have since transpired, I kinda forgot that prayer and the trees. I notice the  empty slot where they were to go, but have been busy. Yesterday, I decided to load Luna in the car and go to a nursery that has high quality trees and plants at the Irvine (Not so) Great Park Farmers’ Market.

Unfortunately, the vendor did not have any lemon trees yesterday. He advised the Meyer lemon trees were slow and would not be ready for about six to eight weeks or so. I was bummed as I wanted to buy from him but really don’t want to wait til high heat to plant the tree. Luna and I wandered over to the community garden to see if any UCCE Master Gardeners we know were there.

One of my favorites, a retired Marine who I have often worked with in the orchards was there. He and a friend were taking a lunch break so Luna and I joined them. When I told him about the lemon and the avocados he told me he had seen a Sharwil at a small nursery in Fallbrook recently and gave me their card.  After a nice visit, we went home and I sent the Nursery an email as they were closed and that’s what their website said to do.

As the day wore on and there was no reply, I called. No answer. Still no machine or message with hours, etc. I called a bit later and a man answered on the first ring. He checked stock. Two Sharwils. He had plenty of Reeds and Meyers. Probably wouldn’t get more Sharwils til later in June. It was almost two. They closed  at four today. I asked him to put the nicer Sharwil aside as I was on my way.

Luna and I made the one and a half hour drive. We got to the small and slightly remote location. The man we spoke to on the phone was a young guy. Gentle and quiet and quite pierced. The place was very mom and pop and bare bones. Wouldn’t fly with real housewives of Orange County types. So I knew why the former Marine chuckled a little but didn’t give details as to why.

I got outta there with great customer service and three nice little trees for $54 even – including taxes. Even with gas for the trip that’s less than I would have spent locally – and still haven’t been able to find a Sharwil locally.

I thanked God on the way home. For a safe trip. A new resource for garden stuff. And for the tree and the prayer for it I had almost forgotten about.

Another little reminder that God hasn’t forgotten the desires of my heart even when it seems that way. There are still a couple things that seem really big to me that I am waiting on. Right now, I am gonna focus on what’s at hand. And taking care of another little reminder of His love that will hopefully grow strong and bear much fruit in the future. And guacamole!

fine young gosling*

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The little black bump at the bottom of the large crack in the egg is the beak of the little one working its way out.

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aaaawwwwww!

aaaawwwwww!

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Some portion of the mother and each of the seven sibs can be seen in this photo guarding their hatching family member. Alternately mom and/or the kids would cover the egg completely.

*Please be advised: while a certain Canadian actor with the surname of Gosling is young and fine, the following is not about him.

I love watching feathered friends throughout the year. But this time of year brings more fowl fun. Local ducks and geese are especially busy here in South OC suburbia on man-made lakes and ponds.

At the one here in the HOA hood, the ducks are very chatty, engaged in lots of quackery. Some of the females have bald vertical stripes on the backs of their heads. Without any homework, is it safe to suppose it is related to some sort of mating activity?

The Canada geese close at hand have no young so far, but slightly farther south where I volunteer there is a pond with eight goslings. The interesting thing about the young brood is that the mother built her nest within literal arm’s reach of a gazebo. She had built the nest of loosely arranged palm leaves in plain view.

A friend told me he had seen eight eggs and thought from a distance they were hatched. When we were done with our meeting, I went with camera in hand to have a look. There were seven dry goslings and one mother goose very ill at ease with my presence. Recounting I thought the eighth egg must have been stolen or a dud.

I looked at all the empty egg shells in the nest and then realized on egg was cracked but not open. As I eyed it I thought I saw movement. No. Just my imagination. Wait. There it was again! The eighth little gosling was working its way into the big wide world. Just a little behind its sibs; and taking little breaks between efforts to push away the rubbery membrane between the shell and its air space inside the egg.

I snapped numerous photos of the young ones, and the egg while the nervous mother eyed me suspiciously and made slow threatening drawn out subdued noises somewhat reminiscent of a honk but lacking the punch. And hissing. I love it when geese hiss. For some reason it makes me laugh, maybe because I get to see their funky serrated tongues. But, it is a reminder to back off a bit and not be too much of a tease.

I got the bright idea to capture the magic moment baby poked through on video. When I finally got an okay angle finagled through the gazebo’s railing and was engrossed with the struggle beneath that rubbery membrane, I was ambushed. Mother goose approached and nailed my camera lens with her bill. I was so taken aback and shocked I lost about two minutes off my life!

Shortly after that, the seven adorable siblings and mother took turns shielding the emerging eighth from my view. Feeling guilty for causing the mother such stress, I left so the magic could unfold without voyeuristic human eyes. I was grateful to see something so wild and wonderful unfold in such close proximity, if only for a short time and eased on down the road. (Down here is not a play on words as in goose down.)