Innisfree Garden

I can’t believe I’ve lived here for twenty-six years and haven’t been to Innisfree Garden until today. It certainly won’t be that long before I go again to enjoy the peaceful grounds, the lily pad bordered lake, the abindant flowers, and the wonderful rock formations. I strolled around the lake with Jonathan, then we each went to whatever spot had caught our eye to spend time thinking, praying, reading, and just being.

I first sat at a picnic table to eat my lunch, then sketched the view looking down the lake.

After that I meandered along the lake until I came to a shady hill with a cool breeze, right by the 60 foot fountain. There were seats on the hilltop, overlooking the lake, where I sat and pondered with pen in hand, thinking about how to add sabbath rest to my week on a regular basis. I think I’ve decided on Wednesdays. I’ll focus on spiritually and physically refreshing activities on those days, and keep internet browsing, email, and phone time to a minimum, in order to help ground myself in the here and now. That will also give me the quiet time for contemplation, prayer, and open-ended musing that I need in order to stay grounded in who God has made me to be.

After writing for a while, I wandered a bit more, until I found myself enveloped in the fragrance of sun-warmed pines on a dry hillside– the perfect place to sit and sketch.

Finally, rested and refreshed in body and soul, I made my way slowly around the lake until I met up with Jonathan. We then explored, as we compared notes about our day. I’m looking forward to going back very soon.

Bullfrog on lily pad

Partially done sketch from above Corncrib Crossing
Swift Long-winged Skimmer Dragonfly on Lotus bud
One of many benches in strategic nooks

Tiger Swallowtail on Joe Pye Weed

Chicken of the woods mushroom

I hurried through Fahnestock State Park a few weeks ago, bypassing scenery and even ignoring birds in my effort to get back to my car before the cloud of mosquitoes that had appeared drained my lifeblood, or at least my enthusiasm. Out of the corner of my eye I suddenly spotted shelves of bright orange and had to stop for a quick sketch, mosquitoes notwithstanding. I recognized the fungus growing from a rotted log– Chicken of the woods, a mushroom considered to be one of the “Foolproof Four”– four mushroom species which are easy to identify and not easily confused with poisonous species. (See Mushroom Collecting 101: The foolproof four)I did a quick pencil sketch, snapped a couple of photos, then dashed for the car, flapping my hat over my arms to fan away the hungry hordes. I knew the brilliant color and shelf-like growth habit of Chicken of the woods from when I had last seen them.

My father and I had collected some of these from a hardwood tree in his yard (hardwood is important, as a closely related species that grows on conifers is more likely to contain toxins). He cooked them for our lunch, and I can attest that they are indeed delicious. I can also attest to the fact that some people, approximately 10% by some estimates, have an adverse reaction to this mushroom. My father, who ate more of them than I did, was fine, as he had been whenever he had eaten the mushrooms from that tree. I, on the other hand, had barely gotten home before the severe gastrointestinal distress hit.

From now on when eating a new variety of wild mushroom, I will follow the advice to only try a little bit and see how I feel after a while, before enjoying a full portion (See The Long-lived Wild Mushroom Eater’s Golden Rules) I will also content myself with drawing, rather than eating, Chicken of the Woods.

A sketch from earlier on my hike, before the mosquitoes descended on me and drove me from the woods


Musings on Freedom

Loud noise and parties aren’t my thing, so I stayed home when Steve went to a party today, and I’ve had a delightfully quiet, meditative day.

I’ve done laundry and hung it on the line. It came in smelling so fresh and clean.

I picked black raspberries from the canes in our yard and ended up with purple finger stickiness.

I enjoyed the flowers. They make me smile every time I look at them. 🙂

Marigold, red romaine, calendula, green romaine, lemon thyme

variegated Cuban oregano, curry plant, red romaine, marigold, flat parsley

marigold, red romaine, mosqito releling herb?, red romaine, curled basil

lantana, rosemary, red romaine, Cuban oregano

curled parsley, red romaine, celendula, basil, lime thyme

marigold, tomato, red romaine    lime geranium

Bee balm

I also painted a little, did some writing, and read a bit in the book I started a few days ago, all the while musing on the freedoms that have been won for us by those who fought and died many years ago.

Ironically, the book I happen to be reading is Twelve Years a Slave, by Solomon Northup– a true story of freedom lost, when Solomon, a free black man in New York,
was kidnapped in 1841 and sold into slavery in Louisiana. I haven’t
finished the book, but I know that twelve years later he somehow
regained his freedom.

Reading this is making me mull on how precious freedom is, and how deeply disheartening it is to be in bondage. I don’t know whether slavery was worse for Solomon, who had known freedom and so was fully aware of how unfree he was, or for those who had lived in slavery all their lives and, although well-aware of their enslavement, didn’t have any experiential knowledge of freedom. Both are horrifying to read about and imagine.

That train of thought then leads me to muse on the ways I have become free in my own life– from destructive thoughts and habits, from brokenness, from fears, from the tyranny of sin– and also to wonder in what ways I might still be living in bondage to some of those things without even know what I am missing.

In Galatians 5:1, the apostle Paul states, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Solomon Northup didn’t have a choice; he was forcibly kidnapped, but I do have a choice to stand firm in the freedom that Christ has won for me by his death and resurrection. This evening, as I listen to nearby fireworks celebrating our freedom as a nation, I am also joyfully (but comparatively quietly) giving thanks for the freedom I have received as a gift from Christ and praying that I live as fully in it as he enables me to.

Mid-Hudson Bridge July 2009

Kisses from Katie– Book Review

I don’t think
it’s possible to read Kisses from Katie
and remain unmoved and unchanged. Nor is it easy to put the book down once
you start reading it. Katie’s engaging writing draws you into her life
with the thirteen delightful children she’s in the process of adopting and takes you along as she visits and ministers to all sorts of people. People who are struggling with situations most of us couldn’t even imagine, but who have the same kinds of fears, hopes, and dreams we all have.
Written by
Katie Davis, who went to Uganda at age eighteen for a one-year mission trip and
has lived there since, this book opened my eyes to some of the most
economically destitute, but often spiritually rich, people there are in this
world. I’ve heard all my life of people starving in Africa, but I have never
been introduced to them as individuals with faith, fears, and longings I could
relate to. Katie puts her arms around them and shows them God’s love with food,
medicine, tears, gentle care, and the constant message of Christ’s love for
them. She listens to their stories and helps each one experience the dignity of
being a valuable person created in God’s image, precious to the Lord and to
her. She also learns from them, as she sees their gratitude, faith, and joy,
despite the losses and hardships they have experienced.
Young though
she is, Katie lives more selflessly and wholeheartedly for Christ than most of
us would think possible, and she also experiences deeper communion with Christ
and more joy in him than most of us know. Throughout the book, she is honest
about her own struggles and doesn’t put herself on a pedestal or even think
that what she is doing is extraordinary. She shows by her life how one person,
relying on God’s strength and following his leading, can do an extraordinary
job of bringing Christ’s love to those who are often least valued in the world. 
I finished reading
this book last week, but it is still in my thoughts every day, as reading it
has challenged me to rethink my priorities and examine the depth of my faith
and how I live it out. I am pondering how to follow Katie’s example in my own life.
It is unlikely that I will go to Uganda or possibly anywhere overseas to do
missions work, but I know I could live more closely with Jesus, more selflessly
following him and loving the people he brings into my life.