Saturday, August 9, 2014

Many Sheep Cross the Sky

      Two of the Lord's finest souls were called home this week. This post is                   dedicated to them.  
      Frank Greer, my boss and principal of the school where I taught for 12 years, known fondly as "Sarge" to me.  I can't think of him and not smile.
      And Chester Crandell, who taught my own children, and who's dear wife Alice       worked alongside me in my classroom. He later became a state senator and flags fly at half mast in his honor this week.
      May Father bless you both and keep those you love in his tender care.

“To gladden the eye and delight the heart of man.” That’s what the scriptures say. That’s why Heavenly Father’s creations are so beautiful. He made them that way on purpose just for us. How grateful I am for that love. The love that created beauty.

 Well, may we never pass by God’s creations without noticing how lovely they are.  And I hope He’s pleased to see the joy in our eyes.

Years ago, when our family first moved to the mountains from the city, we were suddenly surrounded by awesome natural scenery every day and night. It was impossible to ignore and often stopped us in our tracks. 

One day at lunch recess I remember standing on the grassy school playground where I was supposed to be watching kids. Instead I was turning in circles as I looked up into that impossibly bluest of blue skies.  Enormous, puffy, white clouds raced on the high winds. Clouds never looked like that or moved that fast in the city. I was fascinated by them.  
One of my students was standing nearby, a Navajo boy. He looked up intently at my face with a puzzled expression and said kindly,  “Many sheep cross the sky. It will rain soon.” I guess he thought I was looking for an explanation. 

Truly, living on the mountain, each day, each season, brought beauties….some that took your breath away.

Well, all good things must end, they say, and that dreaded day came after more than 12 years. Our nest emptied and our selfish children refused to give us any of the grandkids to keep in our little house in the big woods. They were all down in the nasty old city, our posterity were. We couldn’t talk them into letting us keep even one sticky little grandbaby or annoying teenager even though they had plenty. They were all lowlanders again, as the mountain folks called them. If we wanted to be near kids and grandkids we had to move.  A wrench in so many ways, it wasn't only the beauty around us but the mountain people we'd miss. Some of the finest folks on earth lived in this high country. 

Sadly we both found jobs and moved back.

We had grown so close to nature up here that I was sure that trading Ponderosa forests and mountain lakes for traffic jams and dust storms would be really hard. It was, but I was surprised at a lesson I learned.

We bought a tiny little “spec” house right at first. It was just a place for temporary shelter while we settled back after years of mountain life. School had already started and we'd look for something permanent later. The house was built for someone else who decided against it, but was ready for move-in right away. Both of us were adjusting to new jobs and the house had its good points…..the kids and grandkids were nearby, stores were right around the corner, (Not a 50 mile drive over sometimes snow covered, winding, mountain roads), and best of all every kind of restaurant my husband could think of could be found somewhere in the city. (That didn’t stop him from driving us 400 miles to another state for a burrito as big as your head because Sunset magazine had an article about one though.) Despite its good points there was a downside. The house was one of those “ticky, tacky boxes all in a row,” with the red tile roofs that sprawl all over the southwest. You have to count your way down the block to find where you live because every one’s the same, sort of thing. In this suburban neighborhood I certainly didn’t see any hope of finding any connection with the land or animals that had become such a big part of our lives in the woods. This was the city…… albeit the outskirts….. there’s no nature here, I thought.

Well, I was wrong. There is nature here….though a different, smaller kind. Sometimes you have to be very still to experience it, but it calms the soul, nevertheless.

For instance, a small yellow bird with green feathers shading its head comes every day to the palo verde tree just off the back patio. It hops among the green branches, lime colored leaves, and yellow flowers. A vine hangs down from the arbor that I had Guillermo build for me, dangling a purple flower right in the open doorway to the little library we made from the spare bedroom. We knocked out the windows and put a French door that opens onto a tiny courtyard we built there between the house and block wall. Hummingbirds never fail to stop to drink nectar from the blossoms while I sit next to the little fountain that Larry hung on the wall for me. The honeysuckle we planted just months ago now almost covers the whole thing. The tiny courtyard’s only 10 feet wide but is filled with old pots of bright fuscia bouganvillia and hearts and flowers spilling onto the brick pavers. The doors to the little library are usually wide open if the AC's not running.  One hummer even ventured inside once, standing still in mid-air…… pausing….. I think, to listen to the music we had playing while we sat on the loveseat next to the shelves filled with my books. Bees and butterflies flit to the potted Mexican lime tree that always has some blossoms no matter the season. Its little limes are the most flavorful I’ve ever tasted……the fresh, limey smell fills the kitchen whenever you slice one to put in your ice water. Two lizards visit daily, doing pushups on the wall…their blue bellies showing bright under their tan scales. I see them so often I’ve named them Lucky and Lucy though I’ve no idea of their gender. 

On restless nights when sleep doesn’t come easily I go and sit on the bench outside our bedroom, a soft breeze moving the leaves on the trees now as tall as the house after only a few months. In March that breeze brings the heady scent of orange and lemon blossoms which perfumes the air across the entire desert Valley. I look up to see a few familiar stars visible above. Even in the light of the city I can find the dippers and the North star. Orion is often there, too, guarding those below with his sword at the ready. Certainly not the clouds of stars we could see in the white swath of the Milky Way on moonless nights on the mountain, but somehow comforting, nevertheless. It turns out that we made a trade of sorts when we moved back to the desert……stars for sunsets it was. Sunsets are often spectacular here, of course. Reds, oranges, and purples paint the darkening western sky almost every night. We had to drive to the Rim overlook to see sunsets on the mountain. Too many huge ponderosa pines blocked the view. But whenever we returned home after being out after dark it was always someone’s job to run and turn off the porch light. Then we could all stand and stare up at the millions of stars so dense that they made a dusty white path across the black night sky. The Milky Way for sunsets…that was the trade.

There are other small pleasures here, too…….soft night breezes and the sounds and smells of freshly cut grass even in winter ….that sort of thing. 

So we stayed in the little “spec” house…… longer than we intended.....husband now saying, “It’s big enough for just us two and I don’t want to move furniture.” Now years have passed in this temporary, just until we get settled again place.

Even though we miss the spectacular beauties of the mountains I now believe it’s true what the old hymn says….“there is beauty all around.”

Wherever you are, look for it and be gladdened and delighted. I think it will make Heavenly Father happy.