Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Summer Fun

Over at Blondie's Bits, she goes through a list of her top ten fun activities to do during the summer. It sounded like a great list (and since I'm all about lists) so I decided to do one myself. Some of these things may not sound like fun to you, but to us they'll be a blast!

1. Refinish dining room table and chairs (once we buy the unfinished chairs, that is). We have my grandma's very old round farmhouse table. It's solid walnut (except for the veneer around the sides) but the top is in very bad shape. Since the pedestal is in good condition, we're hoping to gently refinish the top so we don't have to keep it hidden by a tablecloth. We are also planning to buy four unfinished mission style chairs to go with it, and then stain them to match.

2. Go hiking to the Walls of Jericho and Dismals Canyon. These are our goals, anyway. The Jericho hike is a tough one, so we're hoping to build up our hiking muscles over the summer and cap things off at these two sites.

3. Go to an outdoor theater or musical performance. I don't know what, or where, or when. But it would be stupendous!

4. Visit West Virginia. We're going up to see a friend for her birthday. Last year we went to Pipestem State Park and talked about the philosophy of literature and its role in classical education. This year, who knows what fun we'll get into!

5. Eat at Johnny Rockets. Ooooohhhh - their milkshakes are fabulous!

6. Camping in the back yard (sort of). Make a bonfire in the back yard (we have a fire ring where we burn yard debris), cook hotdogs and make s'mores. Then sleep inside, in the air conditioning, in our own bed. What could be better?

7. Go see Harry Potter on opening weekend. Yes, I admit it. I'm a fan (and so is the philosopher!) We saw the fifth movie in IMAX at the Smithsonian in DC. I doubt we'll get that fancy this time.

8. Chow down on summer's harvest. We'll definitely eat lots of fresh produce from our garden and from the farm too. Yuuuummmmmm.....

9. Pools and hammocks. Spend time in our pool and relax in the hammock. (Well, the philosopher likes to swim. I'm more of a "read in the hammock" kinda girl!)

10. Complete home decorating projects. We want to build a Wardian case and make a faux window sash for a windowless room.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

15 Years in a Flash...

So, the philosopher and I will be celebrating 15 years of marriage this Friday. I can't believe it's been FIFTEEN YEARS. Wow.

We started dating in 1990, both still in college and young and crazy like most college kids are. We graduated, and he asked my father's permission in my dad's study (not realizing at the time that my dad's guns were hanging on the wall behind him. ::heh::). He promised my dad he would always take care of me and treat me right. He proposed on the beach near his hometown and I was completely clueless, even when he went down on one knee, until he pulled the ring out of his pocket.

We lived a very sparse and poor life our first few years in Miami and Tallahassee. Then we moved out of our comfort zone (well, ok, out of *my* comfort zone) to Virginia. We bought our first house. It was in need of major TLC, and we doled it out happily, learning how to strip paint and frame new walls and hang insulation and do plumbing and electrical repairs. I cried when we sold our stone cottage, but we moved back to the deep south and that made it easier.

Now we're in another series of "life changes" as the philosopher continues to look for full time work and finish his book. We've almost finished the TLC on our second house (I think we're fated to buy old houses and fix them up!) We've discovered new things we like to do together, like hiking and astronomy. We'll probably end up moving again with another adventure on the horizon. But through it all we've loved each other and trusted each other and supported each other. He is my true love and my best friend, and I thank God every day for bringing us together.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Oh, the Places You'll Go

So, as I mentioned a little while ago, the philosopher and I have started hiking on a regular basis. With the advent of digital photography, we can also indulge our propensity to take photos of pretty scenery (both flora and fauna) as well as the occasional majestic vista. On our trip to Little River Canyon back in April, we got some photos of some incredible wildflowers, and yes, a majestic vista as well. And since I think they're beautiful, I thought I'd share them with you, my faithful readers (both of you!) ::grin::

This is a view from the upper edge of the canyon near Eberhart Point Trail, looking back down the river. There's an incredibly steep drop-off at the edge of the rocks, and you can see almost down to the canyon floor. Definitely not a place to be wobbly on your feet!

As soon as we hiked down into the canyon (the trail was well marked but *incredibly steep*) we started seeing beautiful early spring flowers. Since I don't want blogger to take away my bandwidth, I'll only post a few, just to tantalize you!

The first one is Blue Dogbane (Amsonia tabernaemontana), the second is called Fire Pink (Silene virginica), and the third is a wild iris. We haven't identified the exact species of the iris yet, but we're still working on it!

We're definitely "ambling hikers" - we like to stop and look at things, and smell the flowers, and take pictures, and enjoy the views. So our hope is to find some hiking buddies who feel the same way. There are a lot of folks out there who see hiking as a challenge - get from one place to another - but for us the joy is in the journey. And as we go on more journeys, I'm sure we'll document. And you may even get to read about it here! (OK, stop rolling your eyes.)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Church: Theology or Community?

Our little Anglican church plant is suspending services until September. We've lost several core families over the past few months, and have been unable to replace them. The congregation (what's left of us) is torn in regard to the direction we should go, and our priest (a full time high school teacher) is burned out trying to herd us cats. So, with the permission of our Bishop, we are suspending services until a congregational meeting in September, at which time we will decide the parish's future. In the meantime, our priest is urging us to attend some other, larger, healthier church so we can worship corporately and be spiritually fed.

So that is where we find ourselves, the philosopher and I. Here in the heart of Baptist country, it's tough to find liturgical churches, and even tougher to find orthodox liturgical churches. I was reading a post by Rod Dreher over at Crunchy Con, and near the end he makes some thought-provoking statements about the nature and relationship of a church body to its community life and its theology. He writes:

Anyway, the trick is that you cannot organize a meaningful church community around the idea that the community matters more than the theology, or that the theology is unimportant. If members of the community share significantly different beliefs about who Christ is, what the authoritative teachings of the church are, and so forth, they can only be a community if they agree that theology doesn't matter. Who wants to be part of that church community? A religious community must exist for a clear reason beyond itself, or it won't long exist at all. Right? Church people who bang on the loudest about the need for "community" tend to be those who want to worship the community, at least that's what I've observed.

Still, holding the correct theology is in vain if one's church has little or no active love or community -- unless you think the Christian life is all about learning correct doctrine, as in a classroom.

So that's what I'm pondering. There is not another Anglican church closer than 1.5 hours away. And anyway what's the point of being part of a church where you can barely participate in its life because it's a three hour round trip to get there? So we need to look for other options. Do we ignore the theology and go for a church with a vibrant community life where we can find a niche? Do we go for something that's close to us theologically, regardless of how healthy the community is?

We're not called to be church planters. That has become clear to us - it's like trying to pound square pegs into round holes. And I'm OK with that. God calls us each to different things, and we each have different gifts. More frustrating is the fact that we are isolated. Most of my friends are in far off places, and we keep in touch via email and such. And these friends are dear to me - it's a blessing to have the technology where we can chat about day-to-day things. But locally I've yet to meet any folks we can invite over to share a pizza and watch a movie, or go hiking together, or whatever. So we'd really like a church community where we can meet people, and connect, and get more involved, and share our gifts and talents. But does that mean we're like the folks Rod calls out: "Church people who bang on the loudest about the need for "community" tend to be those who want to worship the community"? I don't think we "worship community", but a healthy church community is certainly important to us. So it's a quandary!

There's no easy answer here, and I'm not really looking for answers in a blog post anyway. ::grin:: There will be lots of prayer on our part, and church visits, and hopefully our path will become clear.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Wilderness Recap!

The philosopher and I went hiking Saturday on the Pinhoti Trail. We hiked from the High Point Trailhead (mm 161.1) near Piedmont to Wolf Ridge (or thereabouts, somewhere close to mm 158). Our forward trek was halted by a surprising find. It was either this or this. It was about three feet long, full grown, and decidedly evil. Basilisk! Anaconda! The Borneo snake monster! Aaaaahhh!

Ok, so I didn't really panic. The philosopher, drawing on his years of Boy Scout camp counselor training and ecology studies, stopped us well in advance of the snake. (He confessed later that as a counselor he was the go-to-guy for all snake identification and eradication. After 15 years of marriage, I'm still learning things I never knew.) He always hikes in front, not only as the spider-web-remover-and-bug-catcher, but also as the point-man-to-identify-all-potentially-life-threatening-situations. Like poison ivy. And dangerous cliffs. And very large snakes. So we stopped, and he moved a few steps closer, very warily. He identified it as either a timber rattler or a copperhead (though he's leaning toward copperhead). As the snake was sprawled completely across the trail and we were on a narrow-ish ridge, there was little to do but turn around. We moved back down a ways and ate our planned lunch. He went back up the trail to see if he could get a picture, but it had moved along its merry way by then.

I've always had a healthy respect for the world God created, and all its creatures. And we plan to go hiking again soon. But I did ask the philosopher if we could pack in a bazooka next time. Just in case.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Wilderness Plans

So, the summer is upon us, which is easy to discern because of the myriad tornado warnings and humid afternoons. And this brings me to the topic at hand. I have recently discovered that I enjoy... hiking. (Stop sniggering!) Not that nasty overnight camping, mind you - I need running water and a soft bed at the end of the day - but day hiking.

So the philosopher and I are planning a series of hikes (hopefully not a series of unfortunate events!) over the course of the next few months. And it may even involve borrowing my dad's fifth wheel, which is similar to this. (Hey - I said stop sniggering!!)

I can already hear the protests... "But you live in Alabama! There's nowhere interesting to hike in Alabama." Au contraire! Here are just a few of the places on our list. Of course, we're hostage to the vagaries of the weather like any other outdoor activity, but hopefully there will be enough dry weekends so we can make a dent in our list.

Guntersville State Park
Buck's Pocket
Cheaha State Park
Oak Mountain State Park
Talladega National Forest

And we've already visited:
Desoto State Park
Little River Canyon

The Pinhoti Trail is also nearby. We've only hiked from the High Point Trailhead to the Davis Mountain shelter and back, but there are a whopping 120 more miles at our disposal. (Though I find it unlikely we'll visit them all this summer. Heh.) There's hope that the Pinhoti will eventually be connected to the Appalachian Trail. There's a 70-or-so mile stretch that needs to be developed, but wouldn't that be awesome?

For the Oak Mountain adventure, since there are so many different trails and it's a bit farther away than the others, we are plotting to coordinate a weekend trip with the Birmingham Astronomical Society monthly star party and my dad's camper. So that way we get a weekend of hiking with the aformentioned running water and soft bed, plus an all-night-star-gazing-fiesta for the philosopher. Score!

So this library nerd may escape the stacks on the weekends to explore the hinterlands of Alabama. And you know what? She'll have an absolute blast doing it!