Leaving Iowa and entering Nebraska, the speed limit increased to 80 miles per hour. The Impreza hummed louder on Interstate 80 and drove through congenial weather. Doug continued quizzing me on state capitals and I struggled most with Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
We arrived in Winston, Oregon to visit Etta, eight-four and still flexible and spry. She can stand straight, spread her legs two feet, and bend at the waist, back straight, to touch the floor with both her hands, nearly flat to the ground.
We’ve stayed in touch with Etta for decades, especially after her husband died. She lives in her own home within a treed area, and loves getting together because we talk freely about spirit and love.
Etta hopped in the car with us, and we drove up, up, up, to see Crater Lake, still surrounded by snow and magnificence. The English language has no words to describe the water’s superb blue color.
Crater Lake is one of 423 national parks in the USA.
For more than a hundred years, in the lake, floats a Mountain Hemlock tree trunk, dubbed the “old man.”
We had lunch under a blue sky.
“ And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.”—Luke 2
After Memorial Day, with an old-fashioned map of the United States, that listed the capitals, populations, and distances of and between states, Doug and I got in our Impreza and left New York to drive west. Our goal was to stay in Washington state for a month and visit family and friends.
Times have changed since the first of June and I have no plans to travel now. So, I will write a series of blogs on our trip west.
We carried our covid-vaccination cards in our wallets to be on-the-ready to show and sooth concerns. Each state we passed through and each business we encountered had their own guidelines which were easy to respect and follow.
Iowa was our first stop, to visit a cousin and her husband.
We caught up on family news. Although the topic of covid came up, it wasn’t the highlight of our conversations. We compared and shared how we’re adapting to our world’s different circumstances and yet keeping our sanity and happiness.
Our cousin established a huge garden and opened it to neighbors. They also showed us extraordinary paintings, accomplished by our cousin’s husband and their daughters. They raised two talented, wise daughters who were living independently in nearby towns.
On the road again, Doug and I tested one another on state capitals.
Sometimes, Doug would give me clues, when I couldn’t remember a capital. “It’s a big river between Washington and Oregon.”
Columbia, South Carolina.
“It ends with furt,” he told me. Nope, I couldn’t get it. “It begins with Frank.”
“Admitting to our self that person is God’s own likeness sets us free to master the infinite idea.
“The less that is said of physical structure and laws, the higher will be the standard of living. The more that is thought and said about moral and spiritual law, the further human beings will be removed from imbecility or disease.”—21st Century Science and Health
My last week was a kaleidoscope of time periods, no one time period more distinguishable than another.
On a whole, it was a glimpse of eternity. A glimpse of, no time.
My husband and I traveled to visit family on the other side of the United States.
We stayed with his family most. Although we’ve been connected by marriage for thirty-eight years, I can’t remember a time without knowing and loving them.
My husband and I also stayed one night at a cabin in which I went to regularly on weekends with my family. Many of the old knick-knacks still hang on the wall and sit on the shelves. Weird hot-chocolate cups, still there.
With that sameness, came evergreen trees in the forest that have filled in and reorganized the scene. The spaces we used for sledding, walking, and corralling horses, we can’t so much anymore. Yet, it felt like yesterday when we were sledding on snow and walking and riding through the woods.
The potential to do that, and more, is still there.
Good memories, bad memories, mostly good memories. But it felt like one big blob. Is it a dream?
I guess it doesn’t matter if it was a dream or reality because all those thoughts together can glorify God, the love I have and do feel despite an inability to define it clearly.
When I watched the sun rise over the tree tops and felt the breeze that moved the tree branches, I could glimpse an unending life that survives my dreams and realities.
I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. 2 I will glory in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. 3 Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together.—Ps. 34: 1-3
A conversation about divine mind-healing at your fingertips.
This book, From Science & Religion to God, is a briefer, modern, narrative of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, written by Mary Baker Eddy in the 19th century.
Ideas in From Science & Religion to God discuss how to use timeless spiritual truths to filter information and discover spiritual knowledge. You learn how to give mental treatments to balance mind, body, and spirit.
I spent the last year writing a historical fiction book. It was a self-imposed doable project that fit the time and space of Covid-19. The book’s setting is northeastern United States so, I could drive my own car, bring my own food, and stay at triple cleaned rentals for the night, while investigating the protagonist’s landscape. But I didn’t have to do much traveling, because most of my research was done from home through the internet. Let me say that in another way. It wasn’t the internet that supplied the bulk of my collected information, it was the services of historical societies and libraries.
Although I have memories of me walking through Saco Cemetery in Maine, last autumn, feeling embraced by the yellows, oranges, and reds of falling leaves while searching for the gravestone of my main character, Daniel Patterson, and memories of me getting lost while driving in circles looking for historical markers, I have a gazillion more memories of me standing in my office at my standup desk, with grandchildren bursting in the room and saying, “Grandma, I made this for you.” I have more memories of me speaking over the phone with, or contacting through a webpage, people who work at historical societies and libraries.
Although I used the internet, it was not the internet that supplied the historical information. It was the people who wrote history books, the people who worked in historical societies, the people who worked in libraries, the people who updated webpages with information who supplied what I needed.
It was the people who haven’t stopped thinking and working, simultaneously.
I know we all get excited over different things. I don’t get excited about shopping or eating anything else other than oatmeal for breakfast, salad for lunch, and potatoes for supper but get me on the phone or online with a historian and I get excited.
“Daniel Patterson, you say, when did he die?” asks Mrs. Elder from the Dyer Library in Saco, Maine. “I’ll call you back.”
But I get excited as I see in my head, Mrs. Elder walking pass the history section to the research department, closed to the public because of Covid, and making efforts to peruse microfiche or digital newspapers. While waiting at home, I write about something else or organize all the paper craft projects made for me by little innocent grand-fingers. Sure enough, Mrs. Elder will call me back with a found obituary that leads me to the United States Patent Department, where a Mr. Salis assists me. He emails me a court documents that sheds light on more of Daniel Patterson’s story.
Daniel Patterson was a man who grew up in Maine during the emergence of the industrial age. He became a dentist in New Hampshire, paid royalties on a patent for vulcanized rubber dentures (superior to wood or metal dentures), escaped Salisbury Prison during the Civil War and walked 400 miles during the night to safety in the north, married and divorced a woman who would later become famous for incorporating spirituality into healing.
What else did I learn? To always double or triple check information.
While most of the historians and libraries were smack-on delightful to work with and sharp-as-tacks, a few were lax and only repeated what they read on the internet, which I already could do from home with a grandchild sitting on my desk saying, “I’m drawing a fairy picture for you, Grandma.”
Although websites such as Ancestry dot com or Find A Grave dot com are amazing, they contain errors. Human errors. No biggie, mere reminders that human beings make mistakes, including the characters in my book. So, I politely thank and disconnect from the person who repeats what they read on the internet, all the while failing to countercheck the information on another website themselves.
Don’t bother getting disgusted, I remind myself. There are nearly three hundred thirty million people in the United States, someone else will make the effort to help me. And this is where I learned to use the internet to contact municipal offices for vital records. It was another place where I exercised my right to give people a break. Let me say that in another way. It was another opportunity to act on the fact that someone will help me, I just have to make an effort also.
I pretty much count on it because, if Covid teaches me anything, it is that the same spirit that motivated a Union man to escape prison and traverse his way over the Blue Ridge and Alleghany mountains, living off the land, wearing the same clothes he was wearing when captured seven months prior, is the same spirit that motivates us today. And I do see people helping people.
Snow has always been my favorite part of winter. I grew up sledding with my sisters and brothers, racing down the hill, through the trees of the Blue Mountains in Oregon. Sometimes, we ran smack into trees, but oh well.
When older and visiting Palo Alto, California, in the summer, on a gorgeous seventy-five degree day, the friend I was staying with, a permanent resident of Palo Alto for seventy years, said, “I love this temperate climate. I’d never move.”
I had to think about what she said.
First off, I was there in July, when it was one-hundred-five degrees back home in southeastern Washington State. The seventy-degree weather indeed tempted me to believe temperate weather had appeal. But to live in it, year round? No dice.
I like the four seasons to be noticeable. Clear. And snow in winter is clear. I love watching snowflakes drift. I don’t even mind when a howling wind makes the snow fall at a sideways angle. Give me a scarf to wrap my face in and I’m outside.
This year’s snow in upstate New York where I live now, has been superb. A blessing, after a year of lockdown due to COVID. Not that my year stopped or felt lockdown. It hasn’t. I’ve been practicing violin again and play duets with our daughter on the piano. We play sacred songs, country songs, and broadway songs. I also started writing a book about Daniel Patterson and am nearing the end. Just in time for the snow melt to show dirt. Where we will be planting more trees. How can we not plant trees after watching Diana Beresford-Kroeger in her tree documentary, Call Of The Forest – The Forgotten Wisdom Of Trees?
We’ll also be planting a garden according to Ruth Stout.
But in the meantime, I’ll enjoy the melting snow, keep praying, and clean off my desk.
From, 21st Century Science and Health: “Genesis 1:14. And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years.
“Spirit creates heavenly or celestial bodies, but outer space is no more celestial than our earth. This text gives the idea of the diffusion of thought as it expands. Divine Mind forms and peoples the universe. The light of spiritual understanding gives glints of the infinite, even as black holes indicate the immensity of space. Mineral, vegetable, and animal substances are no more contingent now on time or material structure than they were “while the morning stars sang together.” Mind made the “plant of the field” before it appeared on the earth. The events of spiritual ascension are the days and seasons of Mind’s revelation, in which beauty, magnificence, purity, and holiness (the divine nature) appear in spiritual beings and the universe, never to disappear.”
I purchased the book, The History of Franklin, by Alice M. Shepard, from the Franklin Historical Society in New Hampshire and read an interesting paragraph about dentist, Dr. Patterson, the second husband of Mary Baker Eddy. Below is a draft sketch of what I perceive an important part of history.
Flapping her hands and pointing around the kitchen, Mrs. Patterson said, “I wish you’d clean away all these dental supplies.” Daniel had just entered the back door and removed his hat to hang on a hook. He held a basket with more dental supplies he’d just picked up at the drug store, making Mrs. Patterson’s statement paradoxical. But he walked to his dental office, set the basket on the floor, found a crate, returned to the kitchen and collected his crucible, tongs, and instruments from the kitchen. He carried the crate to office and set it behind the door.
Daniel sat at his desk to pick up and scrutinize the mold he’d made day before yesterday. His plan was to pour silver into the template to form a plate to be used as a palate for the mouth of a little girl born with a hole in her upper mouth. Daniel fretted, was it the right size? Would the silver palate remain in the mouth if connected to her small teeth? Can I insert a thin wire into the cooling silver?
Imagination stirred into a whirlwind, Daniel found Mrs. Patterson and asked, “When can I use the woodstove to melt some silver?”
“Tomorrow morning. I will be meeting with the Ladies Circle at Priscilla’s home all morning and most of the afternoon,” said Mrs. Patterson.
This piece of news elated Daniel. The Ladies Circle put Mrs. Patterson in good moods. Not that Mrs. Patterson wasn’t in good moods other than the Circle’s twice monthly meetings, but Daniel’s newest project demanded an inordinate amount of inspiration and whether Mrs. Patterson knew it or not, her state of mind, in pursuit of betterment, augmented his inspiration.
Daniel attributed his deduction to living in the Franklin area where education was of great interest to its citizens. Not only was the education of children at the Academy highly regarded, but also the education and betterment of adults.
Church attendance was consistent. The men’s Lyceum Association provided public lectures and a place for literary advancement. As for the Ladies Circle, it was founded by half dozen women including Martha Baker, a sister of Mrs. Patterson, and Augusta Holmes, another childhood friend along with Priscilla Clements. The Circle mission to promote literary enlightenment and community generosity was genuinely inspiring.
And the frosting on the cake, “Priscilla’s home” was within walking distance for Mrs. Patterson. Daniel wouldn’t need to harness and return the horse and buggy.
Daniel had concluded that the women also knit hats and other items for people and especially children, more unfortunate, but Mrs. Patterson, not a knitter, gave little evidence to support this particular conclusion of Daniel’s.
He set out the door to find Mr. Bradbury Prescott, the recently established forge shop owner on Chance Pond Brook.
A mile or more in the west, the brisk walk urged Daniel with gladness for the breeze. Coming upon the forge, Mr. Prescott was soon found and pleased to show Daniel his newly added furnaces and machinery. He’d set up with business orders with railroad companies and locomotive builders.
“What can I help you with, Dr. Patterson,” asked Mr. Prescott with a loud voice. But he had to speak loudly to compete with trip hammers, thundering furnaces, and pounding of iron.
Daniel explained the need for very thin wire, amenable to bending but not breaking.
Mr. Prescott pondered Daniel’s request, body standing still but mind searching the piles of metals laying around the forge yard. “Follow me,” he soon said.
The two men walked the yard until Mr. Prescott reached under a pile to pull out a very thin wire, amenable to bending but not breaking. “Let me know if it works,” said Mr. Prescott as he handed it to Daniel, who promptly returned home before his five o’clock patient arrived.
That evening, Daniel again studied his drawing and measurements of the girl’s mouth. Mrs. Patterson wrote at the kitchen table when reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the assigned reading for the Ladies Circle.
Up early the next morning, Daniel lit the woodstove and stoked it until it was hot. He melted silver in the crucible atop the stove while studying his drawings and measurements of the child’s mouth. After pouring the liquid into the mold to cool, he cut two pieces of short wire and shaped them into loops. As the liquid began to solidify, he inserted the ends of loops into the sides of the plate of silver now resembling a palate.
He carried it to his office to let cool for another day. A few patients stopped by his office for some dental work and then Daniel boiled his tools and lay them to dry on a towel.
He could hear Mrs. Patterson entering the front door, returning from the Ladies Circle. Daniel gasped, looked around and gathered all the dental supplies in his arm. They passed one another as he was leaving the kitchen. “How was the Ladies Circle?” Daniel asked, slinking to his office.
“I know exactly what you’re doing, Mr. Patterson. The kitchen looked like a factory the whole time I’ve been gone today. Is that not correct?” asked Mrs. Patterson with a smirk.
In the morning, Daniel reviewed his notes again, unaware of the piece of bread Mrs. Patterson put in front of him.
“You need to eat, Daniel,” said Mrs. Patterson.
It wasn’t her instruction, but her use of his Christian name, Daniel, that touched and pushed his single-mindedness into something more.
“Excuse me,” he said.
“You need to eat. You’re ready for the Nesmiths,” she said.
Mrs. Nesmith came with her daughter. The brave girl sat in the dental chair, leaned back, and let Daniel insert the silver palate while hooking the loops around her tiny molars. Daniel was thoroughly relieved to feel the plate slip up snugly into the top of her mouth.
He felt Mrs. Patterson peeking inside the office door and turned to look. Husband and wife smiled at one another, then Mrs. Patterson took a step in and asked the girl, “Would you like a slice of apple or a piece of cornbread to eat?”
She answered, “Cornbread,” and her mother brashly exhaled a loud release of stored angst. If the child’s ability to speak more understandingly maybe she will be able to eat more than liquified foodstuff. The mother’s void of angst was instantly filled with empathy as Mrs. Patterson hugged her gently before going to the kitchen to cut a piece of cornbread for the child.
Dr. Patterson and the child’s mother watched as she ate with obvious liberation. Daniel told Mrs. Nesmith, “As she grows, this palate will need to be resized or rebuilt.”
Mrs. Nesmith, trembling and with a tear in her eye, nodded and said, “Mr. Nesmith will pay you shortly.”
Mr. Nesmith came by an hour later and paid generously. Daniel mustered the strength, not to refuse the generosity, but to humbly accept it.
After a supper of fresh strawberries, peas, fish, and cornbread topped with pure maple syrup, Daniel read to Mrs. Patterson from, Ivanhoe, by Sir Walter Scott. Enjoying the story, Daniel instinctively began adding dramatic tones and nuances for about an hour, animatedly swooping his arm with a regal force when reading:
When Israel, of the Lord beloved, Out of the land of bondage came, Her fathers’ God before her moved, An awful guide, in smoke and flame.
A text from my sister asked me what childhood memory I have of Christmas. I remember receiving a bright, deep purple bedspread that resembled shag carpet of the 1970s. Two-inch long shag. Sounds awful doesn’t it? Well, it was.
I shared a room with this very sister and therefore, we had a bed each, meaning she also received an identical gift and we had not one, but two of these imperial purple beauties gracing our small abode.
Our family of seven lived in an old farmhouse in the state of Washington, built before wall-to-wall carpet was a thing. In other words, the place had old linoleum flooring. So, maybe the bedspreads were a form of compensation for lack of carpet.
That Christmas morning, we five kids sat giddily around the tree, unwrapping gifts.
When unwrapping the soft package, I noticed first, the purple. I like purple, not lavender or violet, to fluffy, but dazzling bold purple, so this gift was looking pretty good, until I finished unwrapping and stared at the hunk of shag material. “It’s a bedspread,” said Mom.
Mom was perceptive. I’m sure she heard me think, “What is this?” I’m sure she also knew my verbal, “Thank you, Mom and Dad,” was strained. But that could be because we all knew, every gift was purchased by Mom from the Montgomery Ward catalog. Dad did not shop unless it was for a potato harvester or pipeline.
I sweat under the heavy coverlet. But sweating under shag aside, this gift, I attribute to my present day attitude toward gift giving. Super nonchalant.
The attitude started as “helpful hints.” I’d tell Mom what I wanted. She abided and even made it easier by asking me to mark, a month before Christmas, no next-day delivery back then, my druthers on the Montgomery catalog pages.
After getting married, my attitude took a necessary diversion. It believed that I enjoyed the first year of selecting gifts for in-laws who I so badly wanted to be a part of. But, Christmas Eve, when the in-laws gathered, I could tell, the blouse I got my sister-in-law wasn’t what she liked, therefore the next year, I simply wrapped the gifts I choose along with the sales receipt, for easier returns.
The in-laws abided by doing the same. But “returning” items irked me. So, my attitude shifted to a protest. Hopefully, I said it kindly, but I said, “I don’t want to draw names anymore, thank you.”
At first, the in-law family was a bit curious as to my request.
Which by the way, my request wasn’t reversed by my husband, who himself has zero patience for shopping expeditions of any type. He did not offer to shop for his family.
But after a few Christmas gatherings, and the in-laws watching me nonchalantly, smugly, sitting in a chair eating Norwegian Lefse, not opening ridiculous gifts, low and behold, gift giving plunged in the important factor.
Did we notice? Not really, because my ever-growing family knows the best gifts are singing carols, saying grace with one another, and laughing until the cows go home.
Have you ever traveled to Marrakesh, Morocco? If it wasn’t for our eldest daughter, I probably wouldn’t have traveled to this imperial city, sometimes spelled Marrakech. But many years ago, our daughter wanted to visit Marrakesh. With me.
She was living in southern France at the time. I, in New York.
“After seeing some of France, we’ll fly to Morocco,” she emailed me.
Why not, I thought.
Before leaving New York, I went to the closet and pulled out the big green book. The World Atlas.
Thank goodness for indexes but searching and aligning cartography coordinates still required patience on my part to locate where I was going. France I could point to on the map but not Marrakesh. Not even Morocco. I learned its basically south of France, flying over the Alboran Sea.
Marrakesh sits west of the foothills of the Atlas Mountains. The description was vague. Words in my head. But off I went.
In southern France, we galivanted through historical spots for a few days then headed to the airport to catch a plane to Marrakesh. The particular airline we booked with didn’t bother to assign seats. It was a race of the fittest and the fittest got to the plane first and selected all the isle seats. The rest of us had to climb over them to get a seat.
After arriving in Marrakesh, we took a cab but were dropped off in a tight spot and told we’d have to walk the rest of the way. A boy, looking about nine years old, confidently offered to lead us to our place of stay. We followed and gave him a tip.
I’ll add here that our daughters know how to travel affordably. We don’t go to touristy (read, expensive), places of stay. I’m the forty-, or fifty-year old staying at hostels with a bunch of young backpackers. Fortunately, they don’t give a hoot and we all eat macaroni and cheese together.
In Marrakesh, we stayed at a place in the medina, the older part of town with narrow, maze-like walkways paved in brick. The medina was built before cars. A long time before cars. Therefore, the reason the cab dropped us off outside the area.
During the week, we listened to prayers throughout the day, amplified over loudspeakers throughout the town. We admired gardens, palaces, mosques, and got lost while sharing walking space with donkeys and carts and vendors. We took a cooking class. The teacher made us go to the market to buy our ingredients and spices.
After forming bread dough, we carried it to the local baker. A man, situated down a few stairs, adeptly moving in front of a large stone oven. He wielded a long-handled paddle to put bread dough in the oven and twenty minutes later bring out baked loaves.
“Return in an hour, after cool, get loaf,” he said.
It was a community oven. One oven for surrounding neighbors.
Surely, it saves on air-conditioning personal spaces. Marrakesh became more than words in my head. It became a genuine place of interesting experiences, knowledge, and traditions. My souvenir? Images of hardworking, sincere people, willing to take stands for safety and understanding one another.
Trust in the Lord, and do good; so you will live in the land, and enjoy security.–Ps. 37:3
While our granddaughter walks a few feet, indoors, to her laptop, to attend virtual school, I remember walking a long driveway and riding the school bus 45 minutes to the nearest rural school. Eight hours later, in reverse. We each, however, have jobs to do after school.
In the fall, my job took me to the freshly harvested 400-hundred-acre potato field. The job required tumbleweeds, a pitchfork, and matches. Fire.
Southeast Washington state, where I grew up on the family farm, grows bounteous crops of tumbleweeds. Highly combustible tumbleweeds. Capable of igniting infernos especially when mixed with dry cheat grass and sagebrush, common vegetation on the west coast.
You can imagine, I was trained to apprehend fire. I don’t fear fire as much as anticipate the need for immediate action to make sure the good caused by fire outweighs the bad.
I appreciate cooked food, but I also follow Smokey the Bear’s instructions on proper fire handling. I support laws prohibiting celebratory fireworks. And it became natural to install solar panels to counterbalance climate change.
When a kid, fire was used to counterbalance the tumbleweed threats of fire and of barricading plows.
Because the weeds are round prickly conglomerates of stems that grow three to four feet in height and width, the bunches made it impossible to plow the ground. So, with pitchfork in hand, I’d walk the field, jab tumbleweeds and carry them to pile. Once the pile was fairly large, I’d strike a match and produce a bonfire.
Four hundred acres required a lot of piles.
To save matches, or rather, to save myself from getting frustrated because the match sticks kept breaking, I first built multiple piles of tumbleweeds and lite only one pile. Within half a minute the pile was in flames. I’d then jab the pitchfork into the fire and pull out a clump of burning weeds before running, carefully, with the clump to insert into the next pile to catch it on fire.
I came home smelling like smoke and with an appetite for dinner.
No longer a kid in the potato fields, today, the smell of smoke continues triggering an appetite for improved strategies to counterbalance devastations produced by fires. I keep an ear open to the genius-spirit that moves people, calmly, persistently, and solidly, to design improved strategies, despite the howling noises produced by blame and animosity.
When young, I learned to plow fire breaks around fields and houses to help reduce fire damage. It helped but plowing isn’t a cure-all, because of countless shifting variables, because of unknowns.
Unknowns exist, no matter how much human beings believe they can know or control everything. But unknowns aren’t as scary when we’re open to the genius-spirit.
Even in the face of today’s weirdness, practically mocking our controlled schedules, I see the genius-spirit moving people to develop approachable programs to fight fire damage or help children learn. It’s happening. And I can support its many forms by grabbing clumps of this enlightened genius, before leaving behind, and moving away from, my burning outgrown passions.
We read in 21st Century Science and Health: “Pay attention! Make sure that the motive for prayer doesn’t embrace the desire for human admiration and instead encourages pure sentiments. It is physical emotionalism, and not Soul, that triggers a nervous passion for God. Allow spiritual sense to guide your higher experiences, because fanaticism and self-satisfied devotion do not promote spirituality. God is not influenced by human beings. The divine ear is not an auditory nerve. The Divine is all-hearing and all-knowing Mind, recognizing and supplying our every need.”