Monday, April 30, 2012

With My Head in the Clouds

These are quiet, clouded-in, creative days interrupted only by driving down the mountain to take someone to church, to go to the library, to get something at the store. Today I am taking my son to a class, otherwise, we would stay here. The house is in a cloud. One kid is reading, another has been watching endless video demonstrations of science experiments. Now the video is off and he is building an electrical circuit with batteries and wires and light bulbs.

Hello sparrow, help yourself.

 These days offer the kind of solace that makes me want to create, to learn. I’ve been fascinated by birds lately. I picked up a nature guide from the newly remodeled Malibu Library last week and I have been pouring through it, trying to find our little feathered friends. So far I have identified a cute little house finch pair and a flock of California quail, several red-tailed hawks, as well as sparrows and blue jays. I suppose it is a simple interest, not one that will solve humanity’s problems, but it just makes me happy to see them and know what they are. They are beautiful.

I’ve also been learning about gardening. I joined a CSA co-op, so I have been getting fresh organic fruit and vegetables delivered to the door every other Friday morning. I’m not sure it is the best “deal” in the world, but I get some kind of simple pleasure out of discovering what is in the box and finding new recipes for new foods. I’ve discovered chard and leeks and rekindled my love of lentils and quinoa. Those don’t come in the box; they just seem to go so well with farm-fresh vegetables. I read an inspiring excerpt from Scott Jurek’s upcoming biography about his career in long-distance trail running and becoming a vegan. It was interesting, maybe even compelling, but I love cream in my coffee, butter on my toast, salmon of all kinds and an occasional sushi splurge. I think I could give up most other meats, although I might have to make an exception for my brother’s carnivorous food truck delights. His dry-aged burgers from The Flatiron Truck are about the best thing beef can ever hope to be.

The brave little tomato plant.
I also decided to be brave and try gardening again. I reclaimed part of the yard and pulled grass out of one small terraced section. I tilled the ground, added a little compost and planted some green pepper seeds. I don’t have much faith that little green spouts will actually rise from the earth. But I am going to at least give it a try. So far the tomato plant I bought the same day has been flourishing, so maybe the container garden will at least be successful. I’m hoping that the deer won’t venture up the back porch to the container garden area anyhow. If they do, I hope I am there with a camera.

I have also been making bread, not with a mix or a bread maker, but from flour and water and yeast – all kneaded out on the kitchen counter. It started out as a “school” project with my 9-year-old son. But it was fun and rewarding and somehow cheaper than buying good bread in the store; so it has become my latest quest to create better bread. So far I have worked with what I have on hand, whole wheat and white flour, but yesterday I bought rye flour at the store and I plan to make a good rye bread later today.

Now that I am recovered from the marathon I have been running up a private road behind our house. It’s an 800 foot incline through a private neighborhood that ascends to the very top of the mountain where there is a spectacularly rewarding 360 degree view of Point Dume to the north, the port of LA to the south, the entire Valley to the east and of course, Catalina Island and the ocean to the west. The view still amazes me. Even after dozens of treks to the top, I still feel amazed and privileged to be there and have gotten their by my own feet from my front door. I like the feeling of running for the pure pleasure of it. Training for a race has it’s purpose, but for now I am just enjoying running for running. Maybe that is the theme of this season, learning for learning sake, running for running, appreciating the gift of being present.

Not planted or planned, these iris beauties established themselves behind the trash cans. Just because ...

Thursday, April 5, 2012

House Under Feathers

Flying high at our house on the top of the world

Life at the Malibu house has been a surreal experience in so many ways. Seven months ago we traded the whine of city buses pulling up to the bus stop in front of our apartment for the sounds of birds chirping. Sometimes it’s quiet enough to hear the swoosh-flap of a large raven or red-tailed hawk sweeping overhead. But today the world has been especially quiet. This morning I paused near our dinning room window and watched a red headed bird sing. I hear him all the time, but today I could actually see his throat vibrating and his tiny beak opening. A little lady bird joined him and they flew away. It’s that kind of place up here.

When we first considered moving to this house, I was a little nervous about all the details. It would mean a long work commute for Kip, and the kids and I would have to re-evaluate all of our extra-curricular activities. I worried that we might have a difficult time finding a roommate to rent out the bottom half of the house. I started praying about it. I really wanted God to speak to my soul about whether or not we should move out here. Instead of a simple yes or no, I felt that still small voice ask, “What does Piuma mean?”

Piuma is the name of our road. I didn’t know what it meant then, so I Googled it. It means “feather” as in plumage. That meant something to me. All summer, as we were going through the somewhat painful process of trying to sell our condo and prepare to leave life as we knew it behind, I was meditating on Psalm 91. I memorized it and had the kids do the same.

The word feather immediately reminded me of the imagery of Psalm 91, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. … (v 4) He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge.” The whole Psalm is a beautiful promise of God’s protection. When I realized that Piuma meant feather I had a strong sense that God was providing a place of refuge and rest for us, and that we would have the opportunity to offer that refuge to others. So far that is exactly what our experience at this house has been.

The last few weeks have been especially busy with friends visiting. First we had a family of camping refugees who called one Saturday night, just before a rainstorm to see if wanted company. Heavy clouds surrounded the house in a complete white-out and they ended up staying a couple days until the torrential rain ceased and road crews cleared the fallen boulders from the main road. We even made s’mores on the kitchen stove.

My dear friend Heidi and our kids

Then my Uncle Jim, Aunt Candy and their two daughters came for a night. They live in Idaho now, so my daughter was especially happy to see them again. She is almost the same age as their younger daughter, even though she is my first cousin.

The cousins

My brother Tim, his wife Heather and their darling little baby also came out to see our Idaho family. Tim is an amazing chef. He made a bunch of spinach turn into some kind of amazing Asian fusion thing, and he even liked my grilled salmon, despite his earlier skepticism about marinating salmon. Tim runs his own food truck in LA’s hotly competitive food truck industry and has come to make a name for himself in high quality steak from a truck.
Cooking and cooing ... so talented.

Kip was worried I wouldn't give her back.

The youngest cousin of my generation holds the youngest cousin of my kid's generation. Aunt Candy offers a hand.

Cousin A with Cousin S
Reading to a new friend

Later that weekend our dear friends from our West Virginia college days came by with their two kids. Once again we were “clouded” in and didn’t mind the excuses to just relax and catch up on the years that have passed since we spent any time together.

This week I invited a group of homeschooling families that I know from Community Bible Studies up for an Easter brunch/play date. It was the first time most of them had been there, and after the shock of how long our windy mountain road drive is, I think they had a great time. I always like taking pictures of the kids playing together. I think it is funny how the uninitiated always worry that homeschooled kids are lonely, friendless and unsocialized. My experience has been that homeschooled children excel at co-operative play. I love to watch how quickly they work together as a multi-age group and come up with creative solutions. I wish ALL children got the luxury of playing more.
They all love Hex bugs.

Random homeschooled teens and tweens. I say "random" because they like that word. There is nothing random about these guys.

Flying high on the rope swing.
Someone is getting fancy on the rope swing. He was fine. No injuries today.