Monday, October 28, 2013

Thursday we celebrate the strangest of American holidays—Halloween. 

For years I tried to ignore or reinvent it, which the Christian church attempted since they first met the Celts and their Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The festival of spirits loose on the earth was entirely too popular though, and All Saints Day didn’t catch on as a replacement.

As adult converts to Christianity, we were fanatics. So we planned alternatives to ghouls, witches, and Freddie Kruger. We hosted Noah’s Ark parties at church, and the kid dressed like animals. We didn’t let our kids go trick or treating. (They still grumble about it.) 

Then I became an elementary school teacher. There was just no way to ignore October 31st.  I wanted to keep the sense of fun, but temper the hoopla with some redeeming shred of learning. I found a book that delighted the kids, and still had some intrinsic value in a well-told story and lovely water-colors. 

The Witch's Hand, written by Brit Peter Utton, is imaginative, full of striking images, puns and enough thrill to keep kids (ages 6-9) hooked.  Son George sees a “horrible, brown, crinkly thing” on his father’s bulletin board and wants to know its origin. The dad hesitates, “no, I can’t tell you - it’s too scary.” But of course he recounts how the witch tried to kidnap sleeping George. Mummy (it’s England, remember) battles the witch and rescues her husband and son. The surprise ending diffuses any remaining fright and adds humor. 

I've further mellowed over the last thirty years, enough to make spider and eel costumes for my hard-to-please grandson. 

However I am doctrinally skeptical about our church sponsoring a big trunk or treat event. My husband asked if there would be any kids in witch or ghost costumes. (We are after all, twenty first century puritans.) With a touch of Saturday Night Live humor I suggested that he and I could sponsor the pit-of-hell playroom for the little pagans.  

But I think we'll just serve soup.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Sprigs: Autumn Decorations Vermont-style

We saw these along the highway in Vermont. This is serious effort to celebrate any season!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Sprigs: Glorious Flowers Greet Fall

Glorious color in this late display along Highway 601 in Surry County, NC makes up for the trees. They're only turning brown. 

I saw a car stopped by the side of the road here, and the family had plopped the baby in its car seat in the midst of the flowers for a photo. 
I was sorry I didn't have my camera along to take their picture.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

This time of year the flowers turn brown and the deciduous trees look dead. 

Looks can be deceiving. 

This weekend Bill and I visited a church in one of Chicago's most violent, most drug-infested inner-city neighborhoods.  It's not on the top ten tourist sights.  Instead, it heads the unprinted "don't go there" list.  If you imagine crumbling buildings, trash on the street, and few flourishing businesses, you're right.

But what you could never imagine is the difference one church has made over the last thirty years. 

Sunday we worshiped in the gym used for youth sports. We heard the choir from Hope House, their homeless shelter for men. They provide housing, substance abuse counseling, and job training. We met Fred whom the others call "prof" because he's spent some time in college as well as other less positive places.  He was cheerful and articulate, not what I expected from a guy in recovery. 

Their church's spin-off ministries include health services--birth through geriatrics. A beautiful new facility boasts a top-of-the-line health club. 

They have a legal center. 

Students can join sports, the arts program, and after school tutoring. In a joint effort with the Chicago Botanic Gardens, local kids grow and sell their vegetables from their community garden. 

As well, they created a development company that built numerous homes and helped the area residents buy them. Their sliding-scale apartment building is beautiful.

Statistics and some first impressions would tell you it is a decaying community. It's not. New life, spiritually and physically, thrives here.

Likewise, there are seasons of life where all appears to be in decline. 

I think of a friend's mom, who in spite of her advancing years, was still very much alive. When Dot was  94, and in assisted living, she went to the gym with her daughter. She walked the treadmill at 2 mph for about five minutes. When she had to move into the nursing home this Catholic lady exuberantly sang Baptist hymns with the rest of the residents. She made new friends and encouraged one man to play the piano because he still could! She focused more on what she could do more than what she couldn't.

Lord, may my attitude be as good.

We went to Chicago to visit friends who are in time of difficulty. Family crisis, job loss and ill health have clobbered them. Even though the circumstances look grim they don't believe all is lost, they trust God. 

If you know someone who looks around and sees more ebb than flow, reach out and be the bright spot they need so that "their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love". (Colossians 2:2).

Because looks can be deceiving.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Sprigs: Time for Seeds

I love the last harvest of all--the seeds that form on the dying flowers. Plentiful and free, they guarantee plenty of filler in the garden for the following summer. Just remember they won't be true to type. The colors narrow to predominant dark pink in the zinnias. The cosmos keep a little more variety, but you won't find that the two toned reproduce abundantly.

I like the different ways the seeds develop: the tightly packed marigold seeds in little bunches, the cosmos like exploding fireworks, and the zinnia seeds crispy and held together at the center of the bloom.

purple millet

This is my first year for millet. I started it from seed. I won't collect any this fall, but wait and see what they do on their own. The millet is a nice purple until the seeds develop. First they are colorful pinheads, and then they grow shaggy and fall.

cleome and pendants where seeds grow

Cleome may be hard to get started, but they add tall color at the back of a flower bed.

 Zinnia seeds.

 I've had marigolds grow from seeds that were at least three years old.

progression of seed development

What seeds do you keep? Which have been truest to the original plant?