Thursday, May 20, 2010

Tree House for Sale

Constructed in 1996 with improvements/additions in 2008. Needs to be moved. A thirty-six square foot frame construction house perched four feet off the ground on four 4x4pressure treated posts. 80% green construction, from mostly salvaged materials. Shingled roof. One room. No electricity. No plumbing. No fireplace. No taxes. Natural light. Excellent ventilation. Sleeps one comfortably. Sports a large plexiglass (replacement) window, and two small escape hatches (one hidden in the floor to surprise bad guys). The additional entrance door is accessed by a drawbridge ladder. To discourage attack, appropriate warnings are painted on it. Friends may use the brass knocker to request entry. An additional interior ledge, accessible by ladder, is designed to hold a warrior type so that he may fling water balloons or shoot water guns at enemies below. Sold “as is”. Presently inhabited by a robin and her young. Lease is up once they fledge. All offers considered.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Gift From the Sky

For the longest time I couldn’t understand Dad’s work. His birds looked like fishes and his fishes, birds. Both flowed, drifted, swam, soared in their respective spaces. I just couldn’t figure out which was what. It was like Lucy Van Pelt asking for Schroeder’s rendition of “Happy Birthday”. Make it simple, or I don’t get it.

It’s not that Dad couldn’t draw or sculpt realistically. Just he was trying to show something different. It’s inside on the outside. The animal’s essence. It didn’t help he was a quiet man and never explained himself. Or when he worked, he entered such impenetrable concentration the house could have blown up around him and he wouldn’t have noticed. Not one bit.

He was in his world, and I was in mine.

The first breakthrough came when I showed him my portfolio for Parsons’ admissions interview. “Hey Dad, what should I bring?”

He flipped through and said, “All of it.”
He suggested I apply to Philadelphia College of Art as it would involve a commute instead of dorm costs. I told him I was considering a double major and Parsons was the only school to offer both subjects. He said nothing more. When the acceptance letter came, Dad smiled. That meant he was deliriously happy.

Being young and naive I carried a really heavy course load, and working involved a lot of odd paying gigs. I returned home that first summer. When Dad found out I hadn’t visited museums because there was no spare time, he was horrified. “They’re free on Tuesday nights!” He promptly booked two seats on a chartered bus trip with a bunch of white haired rich ladies to see the Constable show at the Whitney.

It was amazing. Sure, Dad knew sculpture, and hung out with artists all the time, but as we drifted from painting to painting, he described what Constable was trying to accomplish, contemporary artists, and what set Constable apart. It was revelatory. Dad was smart, eloquent and passionate about anything visual. His mind sucked up huge amounts of information and processed it. But he never talked before. Until then he had always just been my dad. The guy that pounded rocks in the cellar. At that point he became a mentor.

Once back in school Dad sent clippings of articles he thought would interest me. We even had short conversations on the phone. Nothing major, but it was a start. This continued through my working years and after I married.

Arthur and I had just moved to South Dakota, (what Mom considered slightly beyond the civilized world). While looking out the window of our new digs, I saw a bird land in the front yard with a violent red mark on the back of it’s head. It gleamed like nail polish. “What a rotten thing to do to a bird", I thought. Then in a flash of yellow underwings, another alighted next to it. I immediately called Dad. He’d know.

“It sounds like a flicker”, he said. So it was.

Art and I continued on in that rural pastorate. It wasn’t a good fit. It ground us into the dust. We’d escape on our day off. While driving south from a day in Pierre, I spotted something hovering in the sky. It suddenly plummeted into a gully. Fifteen feet from the car. With a couple massive wing sweeps it disappeared back into the blue. Though the markings weren’t distinct, it’s wingspan was unmistakable. We had encountered an immature Bald Eagle.

As soon as we hit home, I grabbed the phone and told Dad. He said, “I saw a Golden Eagle once. All reddish brown. It was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen”. The silence following spoke clearly. I knew what he meant. I finally understood.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

We’re Looking for a Few Good Women

It was a terrible time. Your country sold it self to other gods. Again. Another nation took over. Again. These attackers were merciless--violent–powerful--raping, pillaging, and murdering wherever they pleased. Even their women loved their violent men because they knew they’d be getting stuff when they came back from raids. These ladies didn’t care what it cost in human lives. And it wasn’t just that these guys invaded, they actually set up shop in your backyard. They took over cites and had been living in them for years. Whole sections of the population were destroyed by them, it wasn’t safe to travel, and no one dare fight back. Everyone felt beaten down. And who should come to the forefront? Your mom. Your mom is willing to stand up. She sets up a little shop, plop in the middle of the whole country. A place where people can go for answers and wisdom. She tells it to them straight. In a funny way she’s under the invader’s radar. Because she’s just a mom. No biggie to them.

Judges 5:7 "The peasantry ceased, they ceased in Israel, until I, Deborah, arose, until I arose, a mother in Israel.”

What qualified Deborah to be judge and prophetess?

She didn’t see her self as some big shot or the wife of some big shot, but someone who filled the gap during a really tough time. She didn’t see herself as a judge or prophet hot shot strutting around on donkeys like Jair’s sons, but as a mom. She didn’t work out of some nice house to give judgement, but under a tree. A place of hospitality where you could sit in the shade and talk. Out in the open. Easy to spot from the distance. The tree even had a name. It was a very specific place. She was always there for whomever came to her.

Deborah was wise. People came to her for judgement. She knew her bible. Sure, she was centrally located but it was still a trek. Samuel made a circuit, this lady stayed put. Her judgements must have been worth the distance, especially as travel was dangerous and time consuming. (They went in round about ways to avoid Sisera.).

She had compassion. What bothered her about her current times? The peasantry ceased in Israel. Common people had been devastated by Sisera and his big bully chariot riders. And when Israel went out to battle, what bothered her? The fact the guys had no spears and shields. Maybe it was like the time the Philistines took over. Israel had to go to Philistia to get their farming implements sharpened because the Philistines took everything away. So when King Saul went against Philistia the people took their mattocks and plows to do battle.

Deborah didn’t mince words. She told Barak to go. She told him because he was chicken and needed “mom “ to go with him into battle, a women would defeat Sisera. She said the people had chosen false gods and tied that into their troubles. She was openly critical of the tribes that sat on their duffs while other tribes took their lives into their hands and fought. She was just as encouraging to those who did good.

She had faith. She trusted God would give victory in a time when others wavered. God told her, and she believed Him, not the nay sayers around her. God fought in miraculous ways. He caused the Kishon to flood, He enabled the Israelites to obtain swords (perhaps from their attackers) and defeat them, He set His stars against them, and the angel of the Lord cursed them.

She had guts. She went into battle. Now what middle aged mom you know would go with an army of volunteers who had no real weapons, to fight against seasoned soldiers in chariots?

She gave glory to God. The song of Deborah and Barak takes up more space than the description of the times and battle. She may have noted the people chose false gods but she said from that time forth Israel would know the LORD (the covenant name of God) delivered them and they’d talk about it wherever they went.

So, are you a mother in Israel? Some of you are. Ask yourself, are you wise, compassionate, straight talking, believing, gutsy and giving the glory to God alone? If not, buck up and be a mom. In times like these we need all the moms we can get.