Thursday, August 25, 2016

A new favorite coffee mug

A new favorite coffee mug 
We’ve always liked the earthiness of wood-fired pottery and not long ago friends took us to a cool potter’s studio near Amery, Wisconsin, where Sarah Dudgeon has been throwing and firing pots in an old country mercantile store that is also her home for about 20 years. There is an attractive charm to the setting – a creative tumbling of plants and color and chaos. (see her facebook page Dudgeon Pottery or go to the website) Sarah’s work –much of it with botanical themes – is gorgeous.

Dudgeon Pottery in an old general store near Amory, WI
Pottery has been an affordable way for us to support artists as we purchase gifts for others, and, of course, for ourselves. We excuse our obsession with the the thought that some day, when we die, our children will have the joy of dividing it among themselves. Uh-huh. The one that caught my eye that day had leaves and stems of a coppery golden sheen on browns that fade into a turquoise green background – I liked it even more when I held it in my hand. Not only for its beauty but for its functionality. It’s not uncommon for people with RA to have swollen sausage-like fingers. Yes, on certain days, mine look almost edible. So a handle designed to fit four fingers and a thumb on top distributes the weight of coffee and mug so there is minimal pain in getting that caffeine lifted to your mouth. Extremely satisfying. 

A load ready to come out of the kiln
It causes great gladness to witness how some people in this fallen world are able to combine their calling or vocation with what they love to do even when it is hard work and will never make them rich in money. But as you look around her site it is clear that in the diversity of color and plants and textures there is an unmistakable richness and warmth to the life she has created.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Gentle Giants

The Scott County Fair had a draft horse show last Friday and we watched the six horse hitches for the mares division. There were ten entries from all over the midwest. At one point there were 60 horses in the arena - all thundering past the stands pulling coaches- the announcer liked to call them "Gentle Giants." When I stood beneath one who was getting all gussied up before the completion - her mane braided, her tail be-ribboned and her hooves shined - it looked like a spa for horses. Anyway - I stood beneath one of the mares and her lips rested on my head. That's how tall they are. The winner of that division was Percherons from Cheyenne, WY.   They are Percherons. Black beauties whose breed originated in France. 


Their synchronized beauty, their power and grace move me. Sometimes to tears. Silly me. But there is a theology to them that causes me to wonder. I mean wonder as in speechless. Amazed. A horse can be controlled with a bit and bridle if you know how. But there is something wonderful about the one who will come to you when called without being coerced. That is what God asks of us - to come to him. To not be like a horse that has no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come. (Psalm 32:9) 

Friday, July 22, 2016

Monday, June 27, 2016

Dinner en Blanc

Setting up tables all along the bridge 
Lots of salmon, salads and chocolate
Last night was the annual evening gathering - the Dinner en Blanc - a pop-up picnic where hundreds of people dressed in white gather for a feast made "spontaneous" by the organizer. Begun in France in the 1980s, now thousands of people join together in cities all over the world. People of all ages and walks of life come together to celebrate an evening of friendship and feasting. Here where I live, people waited for the announcement of the secret destination which comes an hour before the picnic, then all hurry, gathering up food, wine, candles, tables, chairs and even fresh flowers and lanterns and converge on the spot. Last night was my first time attending with seven other friends. There is something strangely metaphorical and spiritual about it. To see such a great company of diners all in white sharing moments of laughter and gestures of kindness: "You forgot your cheese? Here, share ours!" - I couldn't help but wonder if the supper of the Lamb might be a tiny bit like this. 
A best friend

As the sun set over the Mississippi River, light flashed from downtown skyscrapers, the breezes over the Mississippi River calmed and cooled, slowly candles and lanterns lit the old Northern Pacific Railroad Bridge # 9 and for a moment, I forgot the troubles of life and settled into the beauty of a balmy night and the leisurely conversations that flowed from table to table. Life isn’t always like this. Some day. Some day….

Monday, June 6, 2016


I was eight years old for one of my first encounters with “heartbreak.” Our game little dog, Bing, was kicked in the head by a horse after I told him to chase them. He died from that injury and it broke my heart. Most of us could “fill in the blank” with instances of needing to let go of someone or something we have loved.

So it was a section titled “Heartbreak” that attracted me to Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words by David Whyte. Heartbreak seems like a part of life we know all too well. Who wants it? No one. But in our difficulties with letting go of people or things we have loved, Whyte’s words offer some interesting insight:

He writes:
HEARTBREAK is unpreventable; the natural outcome of caring for people and things over which we have no control.

There is almost no path a human being can follow that does not lead to heartbreak.

Heartbreak begins the moment we are asked to let go but cannot, in other words, it colors and inhabits and magnifies each and every day; heartbreak is not a visitation, but a path that human beings follow through even the most average life. Heartbreak is an indication of our sincerity: in a love relationship, in a life’s work, in trying to learn a musical instrument, in the attempt to shape a better more generous self. Heartbreak is the beautifully helpless side of love and affection and is [an] essence and emblem of care.

Heartbreak is how we mature; yet we use the word heartbreak as if it only occurs when things have gone wrong: an unrequited love, a shattered dream… But heartbreak may be the very essence of being human, of being on the journey from here to there, and of coming to care deeply for what we find along the way.

Over the years, as recent as last week, like everyone I know, I’ve had to let certain things go remembering that as Christians we find in Jesus what can’t be be found anywhere else: Christ came and is coming again to heal the brokenhearted and save the crushed in spirit. (Psalms 34:18). That is a great solace and it would be my coda to Whyte’s observations.

Hoping that you, too, find a broken heart is not the end of your story.
Thanks for stopping by.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Bedroom Vault

Ned Bustard of Square Halo Books  released a new book I was privileged to see in manuscript form earlier this year. Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grownups is filled with linocuts, etchings and mono prints all in black and white. The printmakers art form is not one I’m familiar with nor have I cared much about it but as I read the pages and studied the illustrations I was won over by the form, and the beauty of artwork I had over-looked. The book explores the many stories of the Bible that make “nice” people uncomfortable. Murder, rape, sex, war, mayhem of all sorts. If I was God I probably wouldn’t have included them. But the older I get the more I “get” them and am thankful they are part of the canon of Scripture. What a sentimental weak Christianity if Scripture only included the pretty and the palatable! I much prefer the inclusion of real life as we know it – both the beauty and the ugliness which can, at times, seem unbearable.

The work of Steve Prince is represented on several pages. His linocuts move me deeply - I think it is the pain and suffering that appears on the faces of his subjects. And yet their bodies tell a story of quiet, committed love with a subtle note of tenderness and joy. So today I’m posting the art and the explanation that accompanies I Corinthians 6 where Paul references sexual love in marriage.

Slow Dance by Steve Prince (used by permission)

     "A married couple are dancing in their bedroom to a love song that is playing on their old stereo phonograph. In the next room a television is blaring, but separating them from the noise of the world is a wall bearing a symbol of their covenant vows and a symbol of faith that covers their marriage. A sliver of the ceiling shows two intersecting barrel vaults forming a 'groin vault.' The groin vault in this print symbolizes the pelvis regions of the couple's bodies: the two complimentary vaults stabilize the building as the two complimentary pelvises stabilize the marriage. The wife is wearing a translucent negligee for their time of coming together. A runaway slave motif can be seen on the husband's pajamas, symbolically alluding to the fact that - in spite of the great pain and separation African Americans have endured from generation to generation - this two have found love."       

Perhaps this has been more meaningful recently because we look forward to a wedding in the family and our own 48th anniversary - a reminder of covenant vows pronounced to one another long ago.

P.S. Note to my readers: Whenever I’m gone from here for any length of time, I fumble for ways to explain my absence as if I failed to turn in my homework or had disappointed someone whose life depended on me. Hogwash. Although I know I lose readership, no one except myself expects regularity or even misses the posts. So here I am, back AGAIN, and very thankful that you’ve stopped by. But I can’t make promises about how long before the next one.