Monday, April 30, 2018

Mountains, Valleys and Garlic Bread

The Adirondack mountains in upstate New York are awesome. A perfect place for a retreat with a bunch-o-women you’ve known and loved for many years. Camp of the Woods sits aloft at the edge of Lake Pleasant and helps you push your real world troubles away if only for a little while. Jeans and sneakers, prayer and laughter, tears and hugs – it’s all in the glorious mix. That’s how I spent two of my weekend days and part of a third before I had to take off down the mountain for the valley below.

But there was wonder in the valley, too. Our near perfect grandson (said his grandmother) Sam, was confirmed in the faith in a beautiful old church in Hudson yesterday. For this I gladly left the lofty mountain perch. We carefully made our  twisted way up the tiny stairs in the church turrets to get into the crowded balcony of Holy Trinity where we seated ourselves and peered below. What a sight greeted us. The altar was swathed in golden light and gorgeous flowers. the choir was resplendent in red. The stained glass windows rose around us and told the tale of our Christian heritage. The robed priests added dignity and solemnity to the occasion. Sam and his sponsor, Grandma Johnson, accepted the blessing of the bishop with grace and humility. My eyes brimmed.

Later, at her always lovely home, we celebrated with too much food, fun, games and happy chit chat. I brought the garlic bread. I was, and wasn’t, surprised by the compliments about how good it was. It’s what I always make. So this is how I’ll break it down from a faith point of view then you get the recipe.

The bread is the basic element. The ordinary stuff of life – jeans, sneakers, prayer and laughter. Where we all are most of the time and needing our daily bread. On occasion we require more. Some butter and olive oil, chunks of garlic, herbs – the set apart bits that add richness to life. Sacred things like dedicated altars, towering arches and priestly blessings. They come more rarely but are all the more precious for it. And then there is the sharing. We are made to love and break bread with each other. To rest in the mountains and toil in the valleys together hashing out what life it all about with tears of joy, anger, surprise and release.

It makes me want to share with you my garlic bread recipe. Can’t help it, so here you go.

Garlic Bread

1 loaf of Italian bread cut into medium thick slices and laid out on cookie sheet
1 stick butter melted in a saucepan with ¼ cup olive oil
Add 4 large garlic cloves coarsely chopped and a dash of garlic powder
Half a teaspoon each of dried sweet basil and oregano
A quantity of grated parmesan cheese (you decide how much)
Let butter mixture blend together in pan until bubbly then spread on bread
Place under broiler for 1 minute (or a little longer, but Watch!)

Serve joyfully

Up in the mountain, down in the valley, in all the places of your life, bitter or sweet, lofty or lowly do break bread with someone over this loaf. Life and love are worth it.

Image: Free Digital Photos

Monday, April 16, 2018

Lovely Things

There will always be wars and rumors of war but I’d like to briefly depart from the daily news and remind you today of some of the lovely things. We have them in our lives all around and we shouldn’t let them be pushed aside by horrible and awful, those twin destroyers of our peace and sanity. Pause here with me and consider these.

If you are fortunate enough to live where you can hang your laundry on a clothesline and know what it’s like at the end of a weary day to slide in between wind kissed sheets you are truly blessed. The scent alone can carry you to a sunny, wholesome place, perhaps from childhood, where the troubles of the day drop away as you drift off to sleep. Shun the dryer, make the effort, and it will be worth it. Promise.

Dogs and cats, bluebirds and butterflies. Creatures of another kingdom that neither plant nor reap and yet enrich our lives like nothing else. Gifts that come to us with whiskers and velvet ears, rosy feathered breasts and divinely patterned wings. Sometimes we only catch them out of the corner of our eye, but oh, how we need that. Stroke your furry companion, feed the birds and chase the butterfly. Bliss.

The pure laughter of the littlest among us is a thing to be treasured. Every mother, father, sibling, grandparent, aunt and visiting neighbor will try to get that first giggle from the infant in front of them. It’s one of the few sounds of genuine delight on this earth and we crave it. In the baby belly laugh there is no guile, no agenda and no self. It’s an echo of Heaven coming to us from a tiny envoy who will only possess it for a very short while. If you’re the first to hear it, God has smiled on you.

From the CEO of the giant corporation to the guy who picks up your weekly trash, to the battle worn teacher, each and every one  will pause in the kitchen doorway where baking is going on. Loaves of fragrant bread, the spicy scent of gingersnaps or a bubbling apple pie – they call to us. It doesn’t just say “home” it says “Home at last!” and grabs you by the heartstrings. You want to be there with the world outside of the door you just shut – hard. Sit down, loosen your tie, take off your shoes and feed. Once in a while your soul needs just such. Indulge whenever you can.

We can’t ignore the world. It’s after us. But we can take quick moments to look at what else is there, riding alongside, given to us in full measure. Look for the lovely things. 

Image: My sweet violets

Monday, April 9, 2018

What if?

We’ve had really stinko weather around here for the past few months. Yesterday it was high winds and tomorrow we’re expecting snow. Snow for crying out loud. It’s  April. As I plunged my head under the shower this morning I thought to myself – it could be worse.

What if, while I was all soaped up, with dandruff shampoo burning into my scalp, the water pump in the basement shut off? Then the bathroom grew dark and something began scratching at the door and jiggling the latch? And the door began to cr-e-e-e-eak open? Poor, naked, water-less, shampoo covered me. There I'd be with only a pretty shower curtain between me and the evening headline, "Sasquatch Horrified When Confronting Woman with Burning Scalp Clad Only in Shower Curtain". That would be a lot worse than snow.  

Or how about this? I just got a free sample of some hair color ( a whole box!) and thought maybe I should try it. I haven’t colored my hair in years, but why not give it a go? What’s the worst that could happen? But then, I thought, what if I’m standing in the checkout line at the grocery later that day, feeling all young,trendy and winking at the bag boy, when suddenly a big chunk of my newly colored locks falls out right on top of my package of pork chops? Yeah, what if that happened? Almost as scary as naked me with a burning scalp and a monster at the door. No wonder the stuff was free.

Let’s leave scary behind and go look for happy. We have an old house. Always needs a repair or an update somewhere. It can affect your sanity and clean out your wallet.  But what if I bee-bop out to the mailbox tomorrow morning and find a certified letter inside? From Sweden. Addressed to my husband. Curious, we open it and find some lovely, royal looking stationary with a message stating that he’s the long lost heir to the fortune of Prince Sven Lots-a-Dough? Worth? Eleven million krona or, in American dollars, eleven million dollars. And it’s legit. I’d say we’d get a little happy over that and the old house would, too. 

And what if this were true? I’ve been healthy all my life. My husband of 51 years is, too. Our children and grandchildren share their lives with us and love us. What if I have a large circle of friends and a great writers group. I’ve never gone a day hungry, my closet is bursting with clothes and I have a cozy bed every night. What if that? Maybe I’ll count those all as blessings and thumb my nose at monsters, the possibility of going bald and the impossibility of being married to the heir of a Swedish prince’s fortune.

I think that’s what I’ll do. How about you, do you have a “what if” or two in your life?

Image: Free Digital Photos