#George

Easy Day Blessings

Wednesday, November first. All-Saints Day.  My work day is light; public middle schools are closed. Not for religious reasons. Maybe to circumvent the after-effects of massive Halloween candy corn consumption by students. Mid-afternoon I take an unhurried drive to San Clemente. The western sky is dressed in a blanket of soft stratocumulus clouds. A beautiful day the that the Lord has made! When I arrive at my destination, I have messages. My next two students have canceled. I go to nearby Pines Park, on the cliffs above Capo Beach to meditate. My kids loved playing here when they were little. It hasn’t changed much–lush grass, stately pines, walking paths bustling with happy moms and dads and toddlers. The harbor view is stunning an hour before sunset. It is the golden hour. I have time to visit Our Lady of Fatima Church. I say my prayers and admire the Dia De Los Muertos altar, all lit up with fire-colored marigolds. My final student cancels. World Series. I find the ball game on my radio. Blessings!

by Nathaniel

Nun Birds

My wife, Kerry, flies north to the Oregon border this time of year to visit her family and enjoy the pristine wilderness.  I was missing her the other evening when I took a short break from my gig in Laguna to breath the ocean air. The beach is illuminated by lights from the Hotel Laguna. There was a wedding party on their patio. I stood on the boardwalk, above the shallow breaking waves and took in the happy scene.  Kerry has migrated north, but her favorite birds, the “Nun Birds” have returned here. The little birds move quickly in small groups in graceful unison, as they scan the sand for crabby invertebrates. My wife says their habit-like outfits and dignified demeanor remind her of the nuns at her old grade school. The Western Snowy Plover weighs only an ounce or two. It sometimes builds its nest in human footprints on the sand. My wife has missed her “nun birds” this year, but she will fly home soon. Boy, her arms will be tired!

by Nathaniel

The Paschal Mystery

Autumn, for me, starts one morning when my bare feet are surprised by a pleasant nip of coldness from the concrete patio. The air is crisp and clean. After the passions of spring and summer; unfolding leaves, and kaleidoscopes of colorful fruits and flowers, nature seems to be winding down. Foliage is thinning on trees. Branches are becoming bare. But there is one magnificent creature at the hight of her glory: Araneus diadematus, the Cross Orbweaver. In spring the newly hatched spiders are tiny and build miniature versions of the orb web. This time of year their gold and brown abdomens are large, plump and sometimes decorated with a white cross. The span of graceful legs is inches in diameter. I spotted a big one in the park recently. My heart swelled with gratitude, wonder, and a little sadness. Soon she will lay her eggs and die. In spring the cycle begins anew. This is the Pascal Mystery. All things must pass away to be resurrected in glory.

by Nathaniel

It Started With a Prayer

“There are more things in heaven and earth… than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” I have often recalled these words from Hamlet since the beginning of my spiritual journey.  Consumed by anxiety over my wife’s health and state of mind, I felt like I was caught in a vice. Chris Smith was the supervisor of my after-school guitar program. He could see that I was pretty much a basket case. Chris approached me after class and asked, “How are you doing?” “Not good.” He listened attentively as I told my story. Chris is a Christian Minister. I was a non-believer then. He did not preach or proselytize. In a gentle, confident voice he said, “Try praying.” I had tried everything else. If I could not pray now, it was my own foolishness, hubris. The next day my wife and I walked to the church on the hill (St.Edward), and for the first time in my life, I prayed. Silently. Fervently. Slowly, surely, God’s grace has unfolded a vast new world I never dreamed of.

by Nathaniel

Grandpa Was A Carpenter

My Grandpa Fred was a carpenter.  A union man, husband, father, grandfather, and a Lutheran. Fred grew up in St. Lois on the banks of the Mississippi. Before “the Great War” Grandpa spent springtimes shagging fly balls for the St. Louis Browns. In summer, he would hop a freight train and “go on the bum.” He served as a medic in WWI. Some of his war experiences in Europe where horrific, but he moved past them. He was stoic but cheerful. Grandpa married my divorced Grandma (he was also divorced) during the Depression. They met at a dance in San Bernardino. When she knew they were “getting serious,” she asked him, “Do you like kids?” “Sure.”  “Good, I have a little a boy.” He laughed and she quickly added, “I have a little girl, too.” Grandma and Grandpa raised my Dad and Aunt Jean on his rambling Orange Ranch in Riverside. He was joyful and caring with grandkids or strangers.  Masculine, old fashioned.  As much as anyone he taught me what it means to be a Christian man.

by Nathaniel

Finding Home

The past several months have been difficult for my furry friend, Egon. First, his companion, Lucy, a Ridge-back mix, died of old age. Next, we moved away from the only neighborhood he had ever known. About the time he was (grudgingly) settling in, my wife left for a two-week visit to Portland. The Home Owners Association was scheduled to fumigate our “manor” for termites. I had to move to a hotel. Egon had to move to Grandma’s for a couple of days. He likes Grandma and her pug, Monty. But, by this time he was pretty much “bonkers” from all the changes. When I returned home my neighbor came to the gate. “Your dog is loose.” “No, he’s at my mom’s house.”  We went out to look. Egon ran toward us, then laid panting at my feet. He had escaped, crossed six lanes of traffic on El Toro, and run a mile to come home. Our permanent home is with God.  Also, it is sometimes at the new place you didn’t know you liked.

by Nathaniel

Holy Light

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A new morning light slowly brightens our bedroom as I gaze to my left, past my sleepy spouse, to our secret summer garden. Explosions of daffodil yellow, sky blue, apricot, rose, and conifer illuminate a large abstract painting given to us by our artist friend, Hedy Buzan. Last summer as I was strolling with my guitar through rows of sculptures, ceramics, textiles, crafts, and paintings at a local art festival, I spotted this gorgeous piece by my friend. Later, I took a little break from “working” and sought her out, to tell her how much I loved her new creation. With her typical directness, she asked, “When’s your anniversary?” I slightly stammered, “Um…tomorrow.” “Good. Take this home to Kerry. I’ll give you a receipt.” Every time I enjoy this beautiful painting I am reminded of her loving and generous spirit. Our Creator, the Divine Artist, has gifted us with unfathomable beauty. And the Spirit has graced us with the desire and talents to contribute (in our small way) to the masterpiece.

by Nathaniel

Food and Family

Sharing food with family is like a sacramental experience for me. We rarely have the pleasure of seeing my nephew, my sister’s son. For the last ten years, he has been living and working in Bangkok, Thailand.  He recently married a beautiful young woman called Ae (pronounced “A”). My nephew is called Josh (pronounced “Josh”). Happily, the young couple is taking an extended tour of California.  They came to stay at our home for a few days. The first evening I prepared an Indian feast. The food was tasty, not fantastic. But, we had a wonderful time visiting and just being together as a family. My mom is delighted to have Ae as her new granddaughter. The next day, Ae announced she would make dinner. She is, in addition to being a fashion designer, a masterful cook. That night she prepared the best meal I have ever eaten: Tom Yan, a rich spicy soup with coconut milk and three kinds of mushrooms, Pat Pong curry with lime leaves, jasmine rice, and a surprising avocado salad! Welcome to our family, Ae. Blessings. What’s for breakfast?

by Nathaniel