Sunday, October 24, 2010


Weddings are odd affairs. They are wonderful, joyous celebrations that everyone wants to be invited to and to be a part of. They are also (let's be honest here) oddly uncomfortable. Unless the wedding is for a family member, most of the time you know only the bride or the groom, perhaps both, and maybe one or two other guests. Otherwise, you're in a roomful of strangers charged with having a good time
and celebrating the choice of others to join their lives together. It's a mixed bag, to say the least.

I attended a wedding last weekend. My dear friend has made the choice to join her life and future with that of the man she loves. The wedding was in DC, so I flew out for the weekend and stayed with my best friend who lives in the area. She agreed to be my "date" for the wedding so that I would have someone to talk to (besides myself) during the festivities.

And festive it was. My friend is Indian. These women know how to do color. There were greens and pinks and oranges. There was turquoise and yellow. And there was gold. Gold thread, gold bangles, gold necklaces, gold earrings, gold Maang Tikka (hope I'm using the right term here) - the piece of jewelry that sits in the part of the hair and drops down onto the bride's forehead. This wedding was a feast for the eyes.

The ceremony was a mixture of Indian Orthodox Christian and American Lutheran. There were traditions from each religion included and a priest and a minister performed the ceremony together. The reception was also a mixture of cultures in both the food and the festivities. The guests who shared our table were delightful dinner companions from a variety of backgrounds. There was free-flowing and fascinating conversation and a great deal of laughter. When the time came to leave, I found myself wanting to stay.

In so many ways, this wedding was a celebration of inclusion. There were a bride and groom of different cultural backgrounds and different faiths. There were guests of different faiths and different backgrounds. Indian, American, Christian, Lutheran, Gay, Straight, Democrat, Republican, Old, Young - every conceivable 'opposite' that you can think of was represented in this gathering. And all were gathered for one purpose - to celebrate love.

Omnia vincit amor - the Roman poet Virgil is attributed with being the first to say it in his Eclogues written in 42 BC - Love conquers all. Since that time, the sentiment has been expressed over and over, in every language, by poets, screenwriters, novelists, and priests. It is easy to dismiss it as a Pollyanna-ish sentiment, something expressed by a pre-teen girl who dots her "i's" with hearts or butterflies. But last weekend, I saw it in action. And a beautiful sight it was.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


"Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful, for beauty is God's handwriting." Ralph Waldo Emerson

I spent a couple of hours this afternoon washing my windows. It's a chore that I remember my mother doing while I was growing up. Back then - it was a much bigger deal. We had storm windows and screen windows. In the Spring, you took the storm windows down and put the screen windows up for the summer. In the Fall, you reversed the process.

Putting up the storm windows in the Fall was a little bit tricky. You had to time things properly which isn't as easy as it sounds. Rapid City, the town in which I grew up in western South Dakota is a bit of an anomaly in the northern midwest. If you look at the map you would assume it simply gets cold around mid-October and stays that way until April. But Rapid City is in the foothills of the Black Hills. The weather patterns there are not what they are in Minneapolis, where I now live. It was not uncommon to have 70 and 80 degree temps on occasion in October and November and I remember many a Thanksgiving day (and even the occasional Christmas) with the windows wide open.

In addition to the timing, it was simply a lot of work. The windows were big and heavy. It took two people to put them up safely. Before putting them up, you cleaned the outside of the inside windows and the inside of the outside windows. Then the window went up and you cleaned the outside of the outside window. The project took all day. Thankfully, my mother was smart enough to label the windows on the inside of the storms - back bedroom, east window, top and bottom. Without that help we might never have finished.

Today the job is much easier. My windows unlatch and fold down so I can clean them from the inside of the house. The exception is the front bow window and the window on the north side of the house which cranks out. They require the step ladder outside. Otherwise, I don't even need a step stool. A little Windex, a few paper towels, and I'm good to go.

There's something very satisfying about having clean windows. The house seems bathed in light. Everything outside looks brighter and more vibrant. The colors on the trees are vivid and it is easy to forget that there's a piece of glass between you and them. You can clearly see that honeysuckle that's still managing to bloom on the trellis on the back deck. It looks crisp and clean. The beauty becomes clearer.

Of course, all that light brings other things into clearer focus. You can see the cobwebs you missed the last time you ran the vacuum. You can see the fine layer of dust sitting on the surface of that lampshade. You can see the couple of spots you missed when you painted the ceiling last summer. You can see the bumps and imperfections in the walls, the smudge on the corner of the coffee table. The flaws become clearer.

Our vision is a gift, certainly, and it can also be our enemy. In all things, we get to choose what we will focus our attention on. I can spend my time looking through the filter of my newly washed windows and see the flaws in my home. Or, I can choose to ignore those flaws, and focus on the beauty that is before me. When I go to work, I can choose to focus on the difficulties - the negatives. Or, I can choose to spend my time seeing the good in others and the positive events that are happening around me. When I experience relationship with others, I can focus on their flaws and shortcomings. Or, I can choose to see the good in them - the special and unique being they have been created to be.

Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho once said "You can become blind by seeing each day as a similar one. Each day is a different one, each day brings a miracle of its own. It's just a matter of paying attention to this miracle." In this, he challenges us to use our vision - to choose what we see, and to choose wisely.

Today's view is of (and borrowed from) Hendersyde Farm -