Thursday, April 29, 2010

My California Trip

Consisted of:

Visiting relatives

Not only Uncle Brennan and Bill and Kathy who are pictured here but Steve and Wendy and Don too (I was mad at myself for forgetting to take their photos)

Visiting Friends

Brad (Sean's old roommate from USC) and Cathy and Noah

Justin (Sean's present roommate)

Seeing two great museums with gardens

The Huntington Library and Gardens

The fabulous Getty Center

Attending Sean's church: experiencing and appreciating Tommie Walker's music

Seeing The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo because it hadn't been playing anywhere near Colorado

Enjoying lots of fun eateries:

The Carousel

The Trattoria Amici at The Americana

Aunty Ems

The Oinkster

Cafe Beaujolais

Ruby's Diner on the pier at Huntington Beach

Spending time with Sean who graciously allowed his mother to hang out with him and drove her all over the place on those crazy freeways

Thursday, April 15, 2010


I love unusual wildlife sightings. For thousands of years it was probably no big deal  for human beings to observe most any kind of wildlife but in my modern world such occurrences are rare—like precious jewels. My recent gem is a Great Horned Owl who has taken to hanging around our house. For the past month I have heard intermittent hooting and have wondered if it was an owl or a mourning dove.(I am a dumb suburbanite.) And then one evening just before dusk, I was preparing supper when out of the corner of my eye a large pair of wings swooped by our kitchen windows. I followed the flight of those wings as a large bird lit on the branch of a tree 50 feet from our house. Although well camouflaged in the woods, I could discern the outline of an owl. I admired the noble creature through binoculars and marveled at its great puffy feathery body. I thrilled as I realized that it seemed to be watching me too. Then it amused me by turning its head completely around without turning its body, in typical owl like fashion, as it observed something directly behind. Several times it leaned forward and rocked rhythmically as it called hoo, hoo-hoo-hoo, hoo.
I longed for another sighting but assumed that I would have to settle for merely listening to its hooting in the night. However, late yesterday a commotion by a couple crows drew me to a window and there was my owl perched in a tree closer to the house than last time. The crows fluttered around it cawing excitedly while it maintained a dignified posture. Finally they left and I observed the owl in peace. Again I used binoculars and saw that it was staring back at me, direct eye contact—eerie but thrilling. It lingered in the golden glow of the setting sun for about an hour and then plunged from its perch and soared out of view. I’m looking forward to my next sighting.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Spring Skiing

This past weekend I enjoyed a rare surge of energy. We were skiing at Keystone on the last day of its 2009/2010 season. White peaks glistening against blue sky, soft mountain breezes, crisp snow, bright sun and the scent of pine made for a time of wonder and joy. I was able to take more runs than usual and I enjoyed a feeling of renewed confidence in my ski legs and ski feet as I negotiated each trail. It was a pleasant change to appreciate the wind on my face rather than brace against it when we rode the chairlift. At lunchtime, Kim and I flopped into Adirondack chairs by Labonte Cabin’s ‘Beach’ and luxuriated in the warmth of the sun. Life is good when you can enjoy a sense of well being and the beauty of God’s creation.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Cross of Emmanuel

We went to the Good Friday concert at First Pres last night and as usual Jim DeJarnette was wonderful. He not only led the music, directing the choir and musicians, but he led the service as well. In my humble opinion he is one of the few Christian leaders who ‘gets it’ or at least communicates that he ‘gets it’. His faith is real and genuine and he makes Christianity look like something you want to be a part of not only because it would be good for you (a future in heaven rather than hell) but because it is so beautiful and eternally true. He is not exactly a dynamic speaker but he is sincere and authentic and speaks with the kind of quiet authority that I imagine people saw in Jesus.

The theme of the service was ‘The Cross of Emmanuel’ with an emphasis on the meaning of the name, God with us. All of the lovely music, scripture and other parts of the service revolved around this theme.

He started the service by introducing a piece of artwork; “The Crucifixion” painted by Grunewald around 1515. This piece was commissioned for the Antoinite monastery at Isenheim, Germany with the purpose of providing comfort for the patients in the monastic hospital. These patients suffered from hideous, humiliating skin diseases that distorted and disfigured their bodies. When Grunevald painted his crucifixion he painted Jesus, not as some sort of superhero who looked pretty good despite being tortured on a Roman cross, like many other painters of the time, but as one suffering with the outward physical symptoms of some of these diseases in addition to the agonies of the cross. The painting depicts him as having the strange contorted swelling and skin discoloration that the patients of this hospice had. Grunewald was saying to these people, “Look, this Jesus identifies with your suffering. He died for you.”

The service also involved a conversation between Jim DeJarnette and Dan Woolley, a man who works for Compassion International and survived the collapse of the Hotel Montana in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Dan described the horrific physical experience that he endured as well as the rescue that took place sixty hours after the earthquake. Jim’s questions drew out from Dan how he experienced God with him during that ordeal.

Humanly speaking it is easy to focus on Dan as the one who God saved. But Jim also drew our attention to Dan’s companion, Dave Hames, who did not survive the quake. God was with him also, Jim explained. God plucked Dan out of that collapsed building to go back to his country and his family but he plucked Dave out of the earthquake to be with Him. To reinforce that point Jim led the choir in “How Lovely is thy Dwelling Place” by Brahms. He also assured the congregation that God is with each one of us in our unique situations.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Pippi Longstocking II

I recently finished The Girl Who Played with Fire, the second book in the Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson. The book is full of violence and bad language, things I usually abhor in books and movies but I can’t help it—I’m enthralled with the character of Lisbeth Salander. Her character is loosely based on Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking.

I read the first book The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo while traveling in Sweden last summer. It was fun to read it while immersed in Swedish culture and to see some of the countryside and places where the story is set. The book was prominently displayed in all the bookstores and I observed that people were reading it everywhere—airports, bus stations, etc. The Swedish title is Men Who Hate Women. Intriguing. Why did the publishers of the English edition change the name? Did they assume that the book would not sell with the Swedish title?

I love the fantasy of Lisbeth’s extreme intelligence, photographic memory and her remarkable ability to defend herself. It is fascinating to me that the same sense of liberation and delight that I received as a child from reading about the antics of Pippi Longstocking, I now get as an adult from reading about Lisbeth Salander. Although she refuses to see herself as a victim she has a certain underdog status resulting from childhood tragedy with which it is easy to empathize. Then there is the joy and exhilaration when she fights back. I love her sense of justice and moral clarity.

I appreciate how Stieg Larsson’s moral outrage (at racism, sexism and the abuses of power) shines forth in these books. As a journalist he fought neo-Nazi activity in Sweden for many years. I feel sad that he died young and was unable to fulfill his ambition to write ten books in this series. His writing has inspired me to give more support to such organizations as Not For Sale.