Over the past few days I've been playing with contacts and glasses a little more than usual. Not only do I have my graduated lenses (complete with clip-on shades I picked up at Walmart), but I also have several combinations I can choose with my contacts. This depends on whether  I want to see really well in distance (helpful with the sign part of driving, but not the map part), or go with the monovision thing, which allows me both, although each are a tad blurry. Contacts also necessitate my other sunglasses (recently purchased at Daffy Doug's Discount Center after having left my first pair in Key West...) 

This morning, I chose the monovision, since I wasn't going to be driving, and we were attending an Anglican church, which would require attention to the liturgy. As we settled into worship, I realized how wonderful it was to focus on one thing. Instead of turning my gaze on my husband, then God, then myself, maybe others, back to myself, then God, I could set my sights on God alone. As the praise team led us in worship, I rested in the vision of a God who's worthy of all my attention.  


...you're planted. Seriously?

This morning's outing to the Bahia Honda State Park had me once again cruising over the 7 mile bridge south of Marathon Key. There are a few interesting sites along the way, a picturesque island and Ohio Key, which is basically one very large trailer park-complete with marina. (These are people who know how to have a good time!) But I'm always stunned by this this pine tree, comfortably situated on an old railway bridge built in the 30s and now (obviously) in disuse. I've seen trees in some odd places, but this takes the cake. All sorts of questions pop into my mind concerning water and nutrients. But mostly I'm inspired...
I need to keep a sharp eye out so the "shoulds" don't take over my to-do lists. I'm realizing how sneaky they can be. Take my current reading list, for instance. Why do I want to read these books? So I can become smarter? Impress more people? Feel good about my status as an "educated person?"

Or am I drawn to this book because there is wisdom or delight here for me - encouragement to live the life of fullness and freedom my soul truly desires?

Part of the hope for this time of vacation was to be less intentional and a bit less reflective. (Can one do that while still being open to writing a blog?) My success is proportional to my ability to be out in nature, and keeping my mind from musing overmuch!.

This poem, another from Wendell Berry's book "Given: Poems,"  was a found treasure this morning.

Sabbaths 2000

I know for a while again
the health of self-forgetfulness,
looking out at the sky through
a notch in the valley side,
the black woods wintry on 
the hills, small clouds at sunset 
passing across.  And I know
that this is one of the thresholds
between Earth and Heaven,
from which even I may step
forth from my self and be free.
This morning, while Dan was writing, I decided to hang out at the Tropical Crane Point Hammock, a botanical preserve not far from our digs here in Marathon. After walking the grounds, I sat down with a bag lunch at the point, soaking in the sun, mesmerized by the play of light off the rippling gulf and the swirling designs in the coral turned rock I was resting on. All of a sudden, there was a bit of commotion off to my left, and to the sound of cheers and applause, a small flock of brown pelicans and cormorants swooped down in front of me.

Right! I remembered. The wild bird center was going to be releasing some now healthy birds this afternoon. Our guide had mentioned this when we stopped by earlier in the morning. I looked at the pelicans with interest. There were many reasons they had entered the sanctuary: torn pouches, emaciated bodies, swallowed fish hooks. But the one thing they had in common this morning was that they were being set free.

One of the cormorants got the idea fairly soon. He flapped his wings, and then taking a long arc, disappeared behind a nearby rookery. But the pelicans seemed a bit slow on the uptake. I heard one of the vets say, "they're so happy," but it looked doubtful. They looked a little stunned, actually. There was a bit of flapping wings, but not much other movement. Technically they were free, but practically a bit stymied. 

Just then, a white pelican (in "party dress" according to later conversation) flew by. Whether it was the festive plumage, or just the shock of seeing one of their own kind airborne, the pelicans gathered courage. The wings started flapping more vigorously, and soon one after another pelican was cleaving the afternoon breeze.

I'd like to be a party pelican. To move beyond knowledge of how to fly, to being comfortable in the air. Finding the updrafts, riding the currents, able to pull up out of a dive. To live out what freedom looks like. And encourage others to come along for the ride.

On our way down to Florida, I stopped to visit a high school friend who currently lives outside of Tampa. We had a great visit: talked about what it means to be 50- something while eating quiche at a friend's cafe, soaked up son and salt air while walking on the Gulfport beach, and enjoyed some play time with her 5-year-old son. It can be dicey trying to connect with a child you don't know well, especially when your time is limited. You hope that you will be able to move from being a stranger, a friend of the parent, to becoming a friend of the child themself. Perhaps, if the fates are kind, you might even make a memory of your own, which is what happened to us, thanks in part to a lovely children's book M and I read together.
"If You Find a Rock," by Peggy Christian and Barbara Hirsch Lember is a great find. (I have several copies in my shopping cart on Amazon.) On each page, the author introduces us to a different type of rock one might happen upon, and what you can do with your new find. There are memory rocks, worry rocks, and skipping rocks, just to name a few. The photographs of children at play with their rocks makes reading the book all the more delightful. As I turned the pages, I started to smile, remembering how many times I had used rocks for these same purposes, how at one point, rocks were invitations to play or create or even imagine, more than lowly gravel under my feet.

For the past few days, the first phrase of a song from My Fair Lady has been running through my head. The song, entitled "Show me," begins: "Words, words, words...(I'm so sick of words)." The leading lady, Eliza Doolittle, is responding to a young man named Freddy as he tries to woo her with romantic phrases. The gist of the song is - listen, don't tell me you love me, do something about it! Of course, it takes an entire song (and several pages of lyrics) to get this message across, but finally Freddy gets the point. Words are important, but without appropriate action, they're meaningless. The flip side is, words that are coupled with action have real staying power. 

Dan and I arrived at our condo here in the Keys last evening. Once the unpacking was done, we checked the internet for local churches and found several that caught our eye, including one not too far away. This morning, we grabbed a quick breakfast and then headed out into the sunshine. Folks were friendly, and we settled in for a time of worship. After the opening song and call to worship, the pastor invited the children up to the front to hear the children's sermon. One little boy was especially excitable, and during the illustration, the pastor called him out in a way that was not intended to be unkind, but resulted in the boy's dissolving into tears on stage.

The pastor was visibly upset and brought the children's time to a quick close. He asked the worship team to reprise a song from the earlier set, and dismissed the kids to Sunday School. As the youngsters headed down the aisle, the pastor headed to the crying child, and, putting his arm around the boy, walked with him to the back of the auditorium. Upon his return, he apologized to the parents of the child, and to the congregation. He emphasized that leaders were fallible, they needed grace and forgiveness just like any congregant. To see the unpleasant side of their pastor, he said, though regrettable, showed this to be true.  After his comments, he led us into worship, helping us move the focus of the morning back to a loving God, whose grace was extended to us in both words and deeds. 

I was impressed by this young pastor, and by his humility and commitment to both acting and speaking truthfully. Leadership can often talk about the importance of kindness, and modeling community, but to be willing to stop and make things right in a public setting takes a lot of guts. It's the sort of example that a congregation, and even casual visitors, will probably never forget.
We're making our way across Florida, just south of Lake Okeechobee. Dan needed to do some business online, so we pulled into a McDonald's that advertised wi-fi in Clewiston. Following the lead of our trusty GPS, we've passed orange groves and some sugar cane on the way, althoug I think we're missing the everglades.The GPS system, which came with the rental car, has been right on the dot with time and directions; I can see why people fall in love with them!

Last night we visited a Bible Study with Dan's folks and spent the evening musing our way through Romans 8. Life in the Spirit is one of Paul's foci, so this morning I had asked how it was that those around the table noticed the Spirit's nudge. Given our different personality types, ages, and backgrounds, I thought that the answers might be different.

At some point in the conversation, I mentioned that we were trying to focus on peace. Keeping the peace, staying at peace, living in peace-which can sometimes be a challenge when you're on the road with a spouse. Still, we had gotten a good start a few weeks ago on vacation, and were trying to lean into a new skill. Dan picked up the conversation, and as he was talking, the image of a beacon, or a strong gravitational source came to mind.

I like the idea that peace can "pull you in" or pull you along. Maybe it's just a matter of dialing it into our GPS system as a destination that's important enough to chart our day.
After a wonderful stay in Virginia Beach, today we're heading to Atlanta to visit some old college friends. Just a few days ago, Georgia was inundated by 8 inches of snow, a bit of a wintry surprise. The roads are clear now, however, and although there are a few patches of ice in the parking lot of our hotel, it looks as if most of the white stuff has melted.

In honor of thaws, and in the spirit of Sunday praise, I've posted a link to a wonderful poem written by Luci Shaw, whom we also met during college. Luci's many collections of poetry (check her out on Amazon) are full of pieces that are beautifully and masterfully crafted. This poem is published in a magazine called "Image," a journal that "explores Faith, Art and Mystery". It's also possible to subscribe to their ImpageUpdate which highlights different artists each month. 

January thaw
Heading out Friday for points south... (as soon as I finish packing).