What's It All About?

It's all too easy for days to pass without reflection. It's my hope that through a greater active awareness on each day, that I will be able to consider God's presence in my life and in the world around me. Writing has always been a way for me to round up my thoughts. This blog seems like a good place to park those thoughts for my own benefit as well as the benefit of others. Please take a moment to read what I have written, to offer comments, and to share the ideas with others.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


Stanislaus River-Big Trees park
As I think about the above photo of the river I wonder about all of the things that are present in that space: insects, animals, water, rocks, microscopic forms of algae, various plants,  and who knows what all else! I may not know the name of everything but I do know that much of the life in this habitat functions in an interdependent kind of way and probably on an instinctive and automatic level. There are a great many symbiotic relationships at work that aren't that dissimilar from human relationships. These animals and plants and insects are all fellow travelers with one another, even if they don't know it. And isn't that what we are as human beings? Fellow travelers with one another? We may not always recognize it on a conscious level but much like the teeming life and complex relationships in this river, that fact is always present.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

In Praise of Water and Not Knowing

Stanislaus River-Big Trees Park, Arnold-photo by Libby Fife
Any opportunity to visit a creek or river or lake is one that I try to not pass up. There is something about water for starters that attracts me and then the spaces themselves are really something that grab my attention. The feel and smell of the water creates an emotional connection of sorts. Feeling the water wash through my hands is as tactile as touching a piece of silk, for example.  And being in these sorts of spaces creates the feeling of both being a part of the scene and being completely separated from it. 

On Thursday I drove to Big Trees State Park in Arnold. We are so fortunate to have this beautiful park so close by. It's a place visited by people from all over and on this day I got there early enough to practically have the river to myself! The above shot was taken from the bridge overlooking the river. The river for the most part is fed by snow pack in the Eastern Sierras so generally the river runs pretty well for most of the year. (Though I have seen it flow rather slowly at times in certain spots.) On this day the river was flowing nicely, making a beautiful sound as the water hit the rocks and moved onward. As I stood on the bridge looking at the water and rock formations, my mind only skimmed the surface of the natural processes that must have been at work to create this river. The whole scene seemed overwhelmingly complex. I marveled at something so wonderfully formed, perhaps driven by the work of a creator that I can't see. It's difficult to grasp the idea of something or someone so vast and unknowable. But, I can easily say that I stood in awe.


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Silence and Prayer

Big Chico Creek
Pictures of creeks and any other body of water are a perennial favorite with me.  The peace and tranquility are nearly unrivaled in my mind for some of nature's greatest gifts. This particular section of creek offers a stillness that I wish I could bottle up, take home, and uncork to experience whenever I need it. We have silence here of course (we are in the country) but it's my home and so I am frequently distracted. If only I could own such a bottle and take it down from the shelf as needed. A pipe dream you say? Maybe not. 

For this post I have an article that is a good read. The author makes a case for silence, prayer and the benefits to be derived frm those practices. The link is here.

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Phlebotomist!

I don't know what drives some people to do certain jobs but thank God that they are driven by whatever it is! This morning I went to have my blood drawn. I dislike doing it. Generally, the phlebotomist has to really search around for a good vein. If one vial is required then it's usually OK. Multiple vials present a huge problem. Flashing, collapsing, appearing and reappearing-these are all terms used to describe what goes on with my veins when they know that blood is needed. They have a mind of their own. The poor technician earns his money. The man who helped me this morning was very nice. When he successfully finished the draw I complimented him on his skill and thanked him profusely. As I walked out, I marveled at what makes people do that job. And then I reflected on all of the people who do those sorts of jobs that I couldn't do: doctors, nurses, dentists, hospital technicians of all stripes, surgeons, fireman, policeman, and the list goes on. As I said above, thank God that someone or something drives these people to do what they do. And for that, I am grateful.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

When I Grow Up...

Lake Alpine 2015-Picture is not related to post! :)

Is it possible to find God in the full range of human emotions and behavior, however inappropriately expressed? As I stood in line at my local drugstore yesterday, the woman ahead of me and being helped by the cashier was pitching a fit. I see no other way to describe her behavior short of it being a child like tantrum. And yet that is maligning children somehow since their young minds are not fully formed and they have not yet learned the fine art of restraint. This was an adult woman probably well into her sixties. I have no way of knowing her circumstances or demands other than the ones that she loudly stated: she was in a hurry, had only five minutes, that someone else was in the wrong and that she wanted the manager right now! I was embarrassed for her, truly. When it was my turn to be helped I went out of my way to be kind and polite to the clerk. I then walked out of the store wondering about what I could learn.

What occurred to me afterwards is that humans probably aren't meant to treat each other like this no matter the circumstances. It just isn't nice. And while the full expression of human behavior is both fascinating and repellent to me, I have to wonder about all of us being made in God's image. Are these kinds of interactions what our creator had in mind? We are flawed in the worst ways. Is this part of the plan? I don't know but I can only say that the if the above scene had to happen (and I am not sure that I believe unkindness and cruelty are part of the overall design) for some reason then that moment that I witnessed shouldn't be wasted. It's a reminder to me at least to do better, to try harder and to be as sensitive and aware as possible for as much of the time as possible. 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Self Portrait and an Article

Self Portrait!-photo by Libby Fife 2011
Having an active internal life is both a blessing and a curse. The good news is that there is someone to be with all day. The bad news (sometimes) is that the someone is you! Integrating and accepting the various parts of your mind and body, your spirituality, your past, present and future, are all things necessary for continued growth, both mental and physical. How do you accept all parts of yourself including the ugly parts that you would like to keep stashed in the closet? It's all part and parcel of being yourself. Acceptance is the key to happiness. To being closer to God. And to a smooth and graceful, gradual slide into middle age and your older adult years. My reading has provided several takes on this idea. I offer up one today by my new favorite writer and guide, Parker Palmer. The link to the article is here. Be a little patient, read through the article, and let me know what you think. Or just digest a few bits and benefit!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Signs and Wonders

Lake Alpine-photo by Libby Fife
This is a classic "Libby" shot and just for fun!

I recently (re)learned two lessons that I thought I would pass along.

Whatever your undertaking, no matter how small or how large, do it graciously. It's a blessing to be able to do anything really, if you think about it.

The second thing I learned is this: expect the unexpected not only as a possibility but as a gift. People do things, little things, that grab your attention and turn you on your ear. Be ready for whatever comes in your direction. You will be surprised. Learn to appreciate all of the signs and wonders that flow your way.


Friday, July 3, 2015

In The Gap

Lake Alpine-Lakeside Trail--photo by Libby Fife 7/2015
One of the recurrent themes in the reading that I am doing is that "God meets you wherever you are." (That's a conceptual and loose translation of the idea and variety of expressions that are out there.) It's difficult for me to really understand this idea. I did come across an explanation in Margaret Silf's book, Inner Compass. She describes God as being wherever it is that you truly want to be. She describes acting as your true self as opposed to acting as your false self. Roughly speaking, the two points describe how we sometimes need to live on a daily basis and how we would really like to live if we weren't constrained by social conventions, the need to earn a living, or family obligations. As an example, if someone asks you how you are doing you might reply that everything is fine. That's socially acceptable. You probably wouldn't say that everything was screwed up, thank you very much, and that you were despondent. It's an extreme example but there is this gap that exists between how things are and how we would like them to be. Our realities are frequently grounded in falsehoods, as I suggest in the above example. Once you acknowledge that there is this gap, this tension, then you are on your way to living more honestly. The idea then would be to move towards a truer position, one in which you are acting and thinking honestly before God. When that happens, where that happens, that is the place in which God meets you. 

So often I show pictures of nature. Why is that? Well, it's what I do for starters. I take photos of landscapes and objects to use in my artwork. But, I also get something else out of the images. Nature is very complex of course but it also just "is." It's basic: living, dying, growing, existing, sharing, taking, and providing. All processes done without too much thought. It's a very honest (if not brutal at times) position from which to operate. I think about the above statement, of God meeting you where you are, and  of questioning how to see this every day. I wonder about looking to nature (and hence to God) for that answer.