Sunday, June 29, 2014

Food for the Soul

I love potlucks. I love the myriad choices of food, but even more, I love the communal dining experience that a potluck affords. Larry and I have had the pleasure of attending a few potlucks and picnics in recent weeks and each time I have relished the moments. Although I like to actively participate in the conversations, I've found myself hanging back, being quieter at these affairs now and again, just to listen to the laughter, watch the pleasant interactions among longtime friends and witness the camaraderie that comes from dining together. My late mom used to tell me that Sunday afternoons were some of the longest in her week, for as a widow, she was longing for mealtime companionship. Dining with friends, whether at a restaurant or communally at a potluck or picnic, were joyful times that filled that longing with food for both the body and the spirit. I'm grateful for the potlucks and picnics coming our way this spring and summer. Such events bring people together for the sake of breaking bread and dishing out some good ol' food for the soul.

Sunday, June 22, 2014


I have never been good at goodbyes. Yet, over the past year, I have said goodbye to friends who have moved out of town, friends who have moved out of state and friends who have passed away. Life is always evolving and changing.  However, many times it seems to do so at a snail's pace, until something more cataclysmic happens, such as a death or a move to distant parts. I've caught myself in a swirl of memories during those times, recalling happy moments from the past with those special people, wishing I could relive them so I could capture just one additional ounce of pleasure from the experience. The bigger lesson in these goodbyes for me has been to value each moment of each day, living in the actual moment instead of planning, worrying or living in a future that hasn't yet happened or to be stuck in a past that already was and may not have been as rose-colored as my memory chooses to recall. We are only given the present. That way, when the goodbyes do happen, they won't be met with regret, but, rather, with appreciation for having had the blessing of the relationship at all.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Bridges and Walls

Our church's lay speaker gave the sermon a few Sundays ago, a message that has continued to resonate with me these many weeks.  He spoke about bridges and walls.  Afterward, I thought of the many times in my life I've attempted to build walls around me, thinking that I would be safe, free from hurt, free from risk, if only I constructed a wall that was strong enough and high enough to be impenetrable. As I've gotten older, however, I realize that building a wall is a rather fruitless effort. One can never be free from hurt or risk. In fact, in building a wall, one runs the greater risk of avoiding love, fun, adventure and reward. A far better exercise is to build a bridge. Bridges allow one to reach out to another, meet new friends, develop new understandings, cultivate new interests, and perhaps even surprise oneself with the things one can learn, especially about oneself.  That very evening after our lay speaker's sermon, I heard Simon & Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water" and there the concept of bridge building became even more real for me. As Paul Simon wrote in the lyrics to that 1960s hit, we can all be bridges for others' troubled waters, to help lift another up who may be feeling down, in pain or alone. My message to myself these days is to tear down any walls I perceive around me and to, instead, become a bridge. That may be my most rewarding construction yet.

Sunday, June 8, 2014


I had the pleasure of having a few occasions recently to be on campus at the University of Wisconsin - Baraboo/Sauk County and to participate in the interview and selection process for the new campus dean. It was while at dinner with one of the dean candidates that I began to silently reminisce about the many wonderful experiences I have had on that campus over the years. My first recollection was getting a tour of the campus when I was in the sixth grade and having the opportunity to experience its modern 1960s science facilities. Those "modern" facilities are now outmoded and will soon be replaced by a new science facility on campus that respects the prairie architecture of the other campus buildings and gives a nod to the view that can only be described as breathtaking. I, then, thought of my days in Campus Singers, my time on the stage as a member of the Rogues & Vagabonds theatrical group, and how gratefully I listened to George Harrison's "Here Comes the Sun," the signature song that marked the final biology lab (no more dissections!).  But, perhaps one of the most vivid memories for me was the beginning of my love of classical music, thanks to a music appreciation class where Ravel's "Bolero" was played. This was well before the movie "10," which made the musical piece well known to the masses. I was so taken by "Bolero" that I bought an LP record album of it that I played over and over and over.  A liberal arts education opens one's horizons to new thoughts, new philosophies, new perspectives. It did all of that for me and cultivated an appreciation for classical music that remains with me today.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Seeing Green

While on a Saturday afternoon drive with my friend Lou last weekend, we both remarked about the subtle shades of green found everywhere in the landscape. As a child, I thought that every possible shade of green was found in my gigantic box of crayons. However, nature has a way of creating so many shades of green that one can scarcely put a name to them all.  The mystery and magic of this time of year is how one day, the landscape seems barren and dry and brown and then the next, that same dull landscape is suddenly dotted with green here, there and everywhere. Now that we've had a few weeks of warmth, sunshine and a bit of rain, the landscape has become lush.  In addition to the greening of the countryside, Lou and I enjoyed spying the wood violets, the wild geraniums, the bluebells, Solomon's seal and May apples. Our drive took us on many a back road.  At each intersection, we'd spontaneously decide whether to turn left, right or head straight. Thus, our ride took us through the rolling hillside, onto the prairie and even on a Rustic Road that neither one of us could recall ever experiencing. Spring is here in all of its glory and I, for one, am particularly pleased to be seeing green these days.