Thursday, October 20, 2016


The word "serendipity," I learned, was coined in 1754 in a letter from one author to another, explaining the happy chance of learning something he had wondered about in a book he was reading. When I look up the word online, I find lots of boundaries for it--it can't be looked for, as it is partly related to chance; it isn't planned, but it can occur in the process of a planned event; it is always happy (there is another word for unhappy things that happen randomly; and it isn't just a synonym for chance as there's the happy element to it, too. I guess I would say that being in the right place at the right time to experience something that might not have occurred at another time or place--and that the experience is happy--is a good way to summarize what I read.

This morning I was walking from my car to my office and just happened to spy a hot air balloon flying low over the south end of campus, just above the trees. It had the morning sun shining on it, making it almost sparkle. I grabbed my phone to snap a photo before it was gone.
It looked like it was just sitting there, balancing on the trees. I just had to smile. Big.  

A few weeks ago, my husband and I were running an errand as the sun was setting. I commented on the beauty of the reflected rays of the snow on the mountain tops. I said, "Pull over. Let me take a picture!" He did and I did. I took three, trying to get some trees in the shot to frame the mountain better than in this first shot. But even in the moments spread from the first photo to the third, the sun had changed; the colors were not as spectacular. The moment was gone, almost as fast as I could say how beautiful it was. 

These are truly serendipitous moments, captured because I was in a time and place at just the right moment to see the beauty. I think of all the moments like this in my life--fleeting, happy, beautiful. Sometimes I try to take a mental picture, but they fade. These moments add something to the beauty of my life. In my church, we have a phrase, "tender mercies," to describe the little ways God blesses us that we might not notice if we aren't paying attention. I think these serendipitous moments are tender mercies. Like a genuine smile or a hug from a friend when you're feeling down, they are small in the big picture but oh so meaningful in terms of our spirit. I need to pay attention. I know there are more of them in my life than I remember. And how rich would my life be if I could record and remember them all! 

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Fences and Sky

Fences and sky
Boundaries and freedom
Fences stretching to horizon,
Boundaries on what I can do,
Where I can go.

Built tough.
By hands meant to tame
Meant to separate
Yours and mine.
Meant to show
What is. 

Beyond the fence is sky.
Open, free, ever-changing.
God’s gift of potentials. 

Fences against sky.
Both frame and free.
Fences leading to sky.
Together: beauty. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

balloons and beauty

We spent Labor Day weekend with our kids and grand-kids in Boise. They have a tradition of going to the balloon festival on Saturday morning. We have tried to go with them before, but the weather didn't cooperate, so the balloons couldn't go up. We wondered about their insistence that we go: we had to get up really early (on a Saturday morning!) to leave the house by 6AM. We stopped and got donuts and milk along the way, but we were at the park just as the sun was coming up. Clouds came and went, but the day was pretty nice (even if a little cool). I have to say, now that I've seen it, I can see why they make the effort. It was amazing. The announcer gives the clearance to inflate, and, suddenly all around us these giant balloons start filling and then rising. We were up close to see them go. And they flew right over our heads, many of them waving, some of them tossing candy from just above us.

Last week I wrote about the glow worm caves. They were something to see! And when I was at the balloon festival, I found myself thinking how beautiful it was--all those varied colors and shapes floating by against the clouds and sky. This time, though, the beauty was man-made, not nature-made. Still, it was breath-taking, and I was reminded that beauty comes in many forms. Now that the leaves are turning, maybe it's time for a trip to the mountains and try nature-made beauty again?

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

beautiful world

Last week I was in New Zealand. I loved the tour of the Hobbit village--all those colorful round doors! But I can't stop thinking about a tour of Waitomo Caves.

For one thing, they are beautiful caverns. Pink stalactites and stalagmites in graceful swirls in every glance. I kept thinking that it was real. Real. It took millions of years to form. But we could see something like this that Disney had made. It could look exactly the same. But this was real. This was created by the beautiful processes at work in nature, not fabricated by man.

The breathtaking aspect of these caves, though, were the glow worms. Glow worms--yes, like the nursery song--are real! They don't exist in very many places. Lots of caves in New Zealand and Australia, a few in the British Isles, one place each in the US (Alabama), India, Pakistan, and Morocco. Rare!

All glow worms are insects, but they are not all the same. The reason for the glow and the part of the body that makes the glow differs among the different kinds of worms. The ones we saw use the lights to attract bugs to eat. It seems kind of gross, in some ways. And when they showed us the webs that string among the worms, that seemed a little creepy. But when the guide took us in a boat, in a slow river, in the dark, without lights, the view was amazing. Magical. Like something I have never seen before. A night sky filled with millions of stars, so close they feel like they hang in your hair. Something beautiful and odd and wonderful and secret. Lovely.

Image result for photo of waitomo caves

Tuesday, February 2, 2016


I caught my grand-daughter with watching a movie on her mom's phone:

I don't know why she decided to watch her movie in such a position, draped up the stairs. It must not have been too uncomfortable, though, because I think she watched two episodes of Bubble Guppies.

I am amazed at little children's attachment to, interest in, and facility with technology. This grand-daughter is 2 years old. But she can use the correct remote to turn on the TV and switch viewing to Netflix or Amazon, depending on what she wants to watch. If she plays with my phone, I have no idea what the settings will be the next time I use it. She found the remote to the digital frame we have; the next thing I knew my son in Boise was calling asking me why I was sending two pictures a minute to his email account. I wasn't doing it. Somehow Tatum had figured out that she could email the photos from the digital frame. Since she doesn't read in the traditional sense, I know she didn't know the email recipient, but still. . . she was doing it.

So, when I think how attached I am to my phone and all it does, and when I think of how fast technology changes, and when I think of all these 2-4 year-olds who use any kind of technology like they were born to do it, I do wonder about the future. If I, who came late to technology, still find it difficult to live without it, what will they do? At least I have meals where I leave the phone somewhere else and look at/talk to the person I am eating with. I see couples at restaurants who never talk because they are both on their phones. I see my own grandchildren texting each other when they are in the same room. Is this our path? Technology has so many benefits. I love it. But I can also see its challenges. I hope little people like Tatum are up to it.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016


We drove to Idaho this past weekend to visit with one of our sons and his family. The road was fine, but we went through several patches of thick fog. For long stretches of time, it was hard to tell the sky from the ground.

Even when the fog lifted at brief moments, the world beyond the fog was all white and gray. In the fog, my eyes strained to see very far ahead of me, but I had to wear sunglasses because the glare was so intense. It was bleak and it was beautiful.

I am reminded that the way we look at things can often make them become what we want to see or expect to see. The angle I look from, the lens I use. . . all of these make a difference in my seeing. I try to keep positive, to look from a position of goodness, but sometimes life events make that difficult. I hope the hours of driving, of striving to see well, will be a good reminder to look well, to see good no matter what.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016


I had to give a keynote address a few months ago. The theme of the conference was "Students as Explorers, Teachers as Guides." I developed the center of the talk to teachers by comparing different kinds of guides I've had experience with through the years with different kinds of teachers.

When I went to develop the part about students as explorers, I tried to consider all kinds of explorers. I was giving the address at a conference in Yosemite, so, naturally, I did some research on explorers in that area. That was very interesting. But I also considered explorers in my own life. As I did so, I recalled that both sets of my grandparents had moved to Alaska when my parents were still in high school, before it was a state. I know what the state was like when I was growing up: primitive in so many ways compared to the way we live here and now. I think about how long it would have taken them to get there and how seldom they would have been able to see the family members left behind in Oregon and Idaho. Leaving like that--moving to somewhere far away and without the communication conveniences of today--would have been a difficult choice to make. But both sets of grandparents did it.

What an example of exploration, of the risk-taking and adventuring explorers through the ages have needed. I have that in my heritage, and I shouldn't forget it. I am proud of people I came from.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

ice and snow

I am not a fan of winter: ice, snow, cold, and more cold. Yes, I was born and raised in Alaska and lived there the majority of my life. People think that means I must like winter or at least be used to it. I'm sorry. Extended time in dark winter does not make a person like it. It could be just the opposite. My father-in-law and I used to dread the signs of impending winter in Alaska: when the fireweed blooms at the top of the stock, when termination dust shows up on the mountain tops. We'd call each other, naming the signs, dreading the oncoming winter together.

And, after two years ago this week when I slipped on ice and ended up with a smashed wrist and (ultimately) three surgeries over 4 months to resolve the issue, I'm even more negative about winter. I walk very carefully and drive carefully and dread going when it's slick. Our house is on a hill, on the very spot where cars seem to spin out (going up) or start the slide (going down), so I know the sounds of slick before I even look out the window. I dread the big piles of dirty snow that get plowed up along the sidewalks and then turn to ice as the days warm and cool. It's all yuck to me.

But then there are moments of beauty in winter that make me pause and consider the other side, too. The shimmering icicles. The moon on the fresh snow. The loveliness of snow falling softly through the glow of streetlamps.

And so I try to remember that there is beauty around me, even during the winter. And there is beauty in people I might not normally like. . . and in so many other aspects of life. I can find beauty if I look for it.