Traditions in Watching and Waiting

Hurricane Florence is about to make landfall along the coast of North Carolina. It will probably be the last Florence, the name will probably be retired, because Wilmington is currently forecast to have 30-40” of rain in addition to storm surge and wide flung winds. It’s not looking good.

Closer to home, we are looking at rain for three days, estimates are 6-10” with local higher possibilities depending on rain bands. Winds should be down, but with how wet the ground is, trees still might come down, and we might lose power.

Hi Florence

And at home, I’m looking at the creek in our back yard, wondering if it will jump its banks again, and if it does, how high the floodwaters will rise. The house has flooded before. It might again. I’m having a hard time figuring out when I need to make the call for us to leave, if we need to. I really don’t want to wake up to a flooded house with my baby in my arms.

The NOAA weather radio will be on alert. The phones will be charged. The car will have supplies in it. What more will I need to do?

It is our family tradition to watch the weather when a storm is coming. I remember watching the weather channel when Jim Cantore was a newbie. Now we get to look at the various social media accounts of meteorologists as they give updates from their living rooms and home offices (Thanks Brad Panovich).

And everyone in my family, from North Carolina to Georgia, all the way to Macau, is checking in on each other as we make sure we share our plans ahead of the storm.

Its a tradition.

We prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

The kits are packed, the snacks are stored, the laundry is done, and the storm is coming ashore.

Now we hope that the floodplain drains before it brings the water to our doors. We might get to spend some time with friends before the weekend is over.


The Gloaming

Last night the gloaming was exceptionally beautiful. It’s one of my favorite moments in the day, especially after a rainstorm. The sun is setting and the world becomes golden and everything glows. The moment is perfect for photography, lights emerge and highlight what has been hidden, greys become silver, greens become verdant, and the impossible seems possible. 

Its what I think of when I imagine that magic is possible. Creation takes on a glow and shines. 

I grew up with stories of magic that ranged from Tolkien to Ms. Piggle-Wiggle. From the magic-filled dreams of the BFG to the transformative power of the witch in The Beauty and the Beast. Even Santa Claus had his own magical pomegranate seeds that helped him deliver his gifts each year. (Persephone, Much?) 

Stories about magic allow us to imagine a new world in the place of the one we inhabit. They allow us to think beyond our normal constraints and imagine a place where all we need is a wand or the power of our will to transform the world. 

But the magic in the stories wears out. The carriage returns to a pumpkin at midnight. 

The power active in the BFG is really in the courage of the small orphan Sophie rather than in the dreams cast by the giant who catches, blends, and carries them. The stories teach us that our power comes from our ability to imagine a better or different world. 

I believe in magic insofar as it is that sign that with the proper application of will and the unification of force, we can change the world. 

I’d rather carry a wand than a weapon any day. 

Navigating the Crowd

I have always been fascinated by how things move. Even as a young child I was one of those who played on the beach by building dams and waterways in the sand, watching the different gullies being etched away, detecting the ebb and flow of the tides, following the eddies in the lee of the jetties, trying to predict how it would all flow together. And sure, this is part of my greater love of water, but it has also deeply informed how I watch other things move. Especially crowds. 

I don’t know exactly when I started, but by the time I was hitting puberty, I knew how crowds worked. I can predict their movement. I am easily aggravated when I know the best way to do something and the designers clearly do not. (Don’t get me started on bathroom design…) Probably the first time I remember really being aware of crowd disfunction was at a women’s conference and all of us were trying to get to the exit, and none of us were moving. Everyone was putting themselves first and so keeping anyone around them from going where they needed to go. (Is it irony that this was a Christian conference? I’m thinking so. We have so much to learn.) 

Since then, I’ve watched crowds at theme parks and ball fields, traffic patterns on hi-ways and parking snafus, people who are oblivious in conferences and airports, and the thousand other places I’ve been since. I get annoyed at people who don’t understand that they shouldn’t block an entrance, but simultaneously recognize that I have been thinking about the crowd around me while the individuals in the crowd are concerned with other things. On some level I know that I am over-thinking how the crowd moves, but I also want each individual in the crowd to know the best way for the crowd itself to move. I don’t believe that is ever going to happen. I’m not even sure it should. 

When I was in Tokyo my sister informed me that the cultural pedestrian right of way is passing people on the right (always take the left side of the sidewalk when facing oncoming walkers). I religiously adhered to this in the same way that I always take the right here in the United States. Sometimes I would forget, and it would cause a pause between the two of us. But, because I was a visitor in a new culture, I always corrected to fit the culture norm. I consider it one of the most important things about travel, observing and respecting the culture of those with whom you walk, both metaphorically and literally. Don’t walk into people seems like something that shouldn’t have to be said, but I am constantly surprised of the number of times this feels like a relevant reminder. 

When I watch crowds, it is always a dynamic observation. I know how to interpret these people in each individual place, and each group can move slightly differently depending on whether they are hungry, scared, joyful, tired, friendly, cautious, or anxious. Interpreting on the move can have advantages, but it also means that sometimes I leave people behind. I’m learning how not to leave people behind, but instead lead those with me so that we all get to the same place at the same time, together. It’s taken me over thirty years, but I have learned that getting somewhere together, with your people with you, is more important than getting there first. It is all about learning how to navigate the crowd. 

I Love You

I love you. 

We might not have met yet, but. 

I love you.

I love you because you are made in the image of God. 

God knit you together in the womb of your mother and loved you and said you were very good. Supremely good. God loves you and I am working on learning from God. 

And so, I love you.

God says you are worthy of love. God says you are worthy of friendship and welcome and grace. It is part of your intrinsic being, no matter what you do or say. God loves you and wants you to share that love with those around you, so that you can experience even more the way that God loves you. And I want to keep learning about how God loves. 

As I learn, I love you. 

God is the only one who is perfect. God is the one who gave a perfect son to show us how love can be perfected in life here on earth, and I am working each day to be made perfect in love. I don’t expect to get it right today, tomorrow, or next year, but that doesn’t give me a reason not to work at it right now. I’m trying to love the way God loves. 

Loved, I love you.

If we are strangers, if we have never had the chance to meet and share around a table and celebrate that God loves us the way we are, I hope and pray you would give me a chance to show you how much God loves you by loving you in my own imperfect way. I won’t always get it right. I will make mistakes. I have scars and wounds and memories of times when I didn’t feel loved. 

But, or even because of these things… 

I will love you. 

Pi(e) Day

I have a grand total of two kinds of pie that I like. (I will allow that there may be others that I have yet to try, but two so far.) They are Key lime pie and my chocolate chip pie.

I am always tempted by Key lime pie on a menu, even though I rarely order it. My favorite experiment last spring was making little Key lime pies in tiny mason jars to take out on our picnic for Easter lunch. I think it is the clear cool tang of the lime mixed with the smoothness of the cream that keeps drawing me back. I’m going to have to make them again.

But the pie that has been part of my cooking repertoire since I started cooking is my chocolate chip pie. I must have gotten the recipe from momma from somewhere, but twenty-three years later I have no clue where. I’ve claimed it as my own, and it continues to be my best pie.

I remember making it for the first time for a covered dish at the Open Door, where dad worked in Columbus. I made it, we brought it, and then when we went through the line, we couldn’t find it anywhere. One of the women who was preparing the dishes for people to have them took one look after cutting into the deliciousness, and moved it to the kitchen so the servers could have some.

The second memory I have with it was when I made it for a dessert cooking competition in Woodbine, and I won. The reason I was given is that the judge hates walnuts, but there are walnuts in my pie, and he loved it. I won an apron for my feat. (I don’t win many things, so winning this was special. One of my few happy memories at Woodbine.)

I know I made it a few more times, because I had made it often enough to memorize the recipe by the time I was in Peace Corps. The United States embassy families opened their homes to all the Peace Corps Volunteers to celebrate Thanksgiving. And my host asked me if I wanted anything special. I wanted my pie, so they let me make it, buying fabulous chunk chocolate and letting me have free reign. The family’s Kenyan cook made a homemade piecrust for me to use, and we dined on delicious memories for dinner. (He also made a pecan pie, and it remains to be the best pecan pie I’ve ever eaten, better than any southern cook I’ve ever had, it was more like candied pecans in a crust than anything else.)

I make the pie for anyone who loves chocolate and it does not disappoint. It’s rich. It’s decadent. It’s good with vanilla ice cream. And, it is good both warm and at room temperature (which really does make it perfect to take for a covered dish). And, now that I’ve altered my diet, it is just as good vegan.

I’d love to make it for you, if you come to visit. Just let me know so I can make sure I have everything I need. And, if it is a while until I see you again, you can make it at home:

(Award Winning) Chocolate Chip Pie

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup flour

2 eggs (or 2 T ground flax mixed with 6 T water)

1/2 c (1 stick) melted butter (or earth balance)

1 t vanilla

1 cup chocolate chips (vegan, if available)

1 cup chopped walnuts

9″ deep dish pie crust

Mix flour and sugar. Blend in eggs. Add butter and beat until creamy. Add in vanilla. Stir in chocolate chips and walnuts. Pour in pie crust and bake at 325 F for 60 minutes until set. Cool on rack and serve with vanilla ice cream if desired. (And why wouldn’t you?)

the Pie
My Simple Pie (gosh, that’s an old picture, but, you get the gist)

Postscript: Upon further reflection, I can come up with at least one other pie that I like, my dark chocolate frozen silk pie. But. No whipped pies. No meringue. No fruit pies. No cobbler. Apple crisp is ok, but only the way I make it. Normal pecan pie loses out because I don’t like the gel syrup filling. Pumpkin pie is a no because: pumpkin. Bake me a cake instead.