Skiing With Caribou

Caribou on a frozen lake

I left Alaska long ago, yet it doesn’t take much to trigger memories of old friends and the adventures that were uniquely Alaskan. While going through a pile of musty notebooks recently, I came across some notes that brought to life one of those adventurous Alaskans.

Dean was a schoolteacher and pastor, a barrel-chested gnome of a man who loved the wilderness and could enthrall an audience with his storytelling.

One frigid night, Dean was skiing alone across Alaska’s beautiful frozen Lake Louise, three and a half hours from his home in Anchorage, headed to his son-in-law’s cabin on the opposite shore. A brilliant aurora played overhead, reflecting off the snow-covered ice. All was silent except for the whisper of his skis. His parka hood fell across his face as he pushed on, head down, enjoying the rhythm of skiing.

Suddenly, he became aware of odd clicking noises around him. He threw back his hood to find himself surrounded by a close-packed herd of caribou, moving past him in the same direction. They divided as they saw him and flowed past about twenty feet to either side. The clicking sounds came from their ankle tendons rolling past small bones in their feet. They carried their huge antlers high to avoid entangling them with those of their neighbors.

As Dean moved one way, then the other, the animals moved too, unafraid but keeping the same distance away from him. Dean skied along in the midst of the caribou until he saw the light from the cabin ahead. As he moved toward, the mass of beasts parted to let him through, then closed again.

From the shore, he looked back at the herd of caribou clicking on down the lake beneath the banners of color swirling in the sky. He hated to leave that wild and beautiful scene, but the warmth of the cabin beckoned. He turned toward the light in the window.

 Whenever I think of caribou, I remember Dean’s story as if I had been there myself.

photo credit: Harde de caribous en hiver / Herd of caribous in winter via photopin (license)

Time Management–A Happier Way

    I just read an article in Reader’s Digest about the failings of time management, that icon of our American way of life.

    The author dared to say that as we slice and dice our day’s allotment of hours into smaller and smaller pieces, we become increasingly less satisfied as well as less efficient. For months now, it’s seemed like I’ve been flying down a mountainside on a sled propelled by urgency to hurry-and-do-and-make-lists-and-accomplish-t.h.i.n.g.s. But this simple statement knocked me off my sled. I fell into contemplation like a child tumbling into a soft, fluffy snow bank. I felt the sense of urgency loosen its grip.

    The moments of my day drifted by, as enjoyable as falling snowflakes. I prepared a good breakfast for my husband. We savored our time of Bible reading, prayer, and discussion. We talked about trusting Jesus enough to put the events of the day on hold in order to spend time with him. Sarah Young, in her book Jesus Calling, says that if we put communion with Jesus first, because he is omnipotent he will bend time and events in our favor, helping us accomplish more in less time.

    That proved true as I checked e-mails, brushed our cat and trimmed his toenails, and dusted and vacuumed the house, and tossed a load of clothes into the washer. Housekeeping can be an onerous chore, but as my mind followed the thoughts Jesus sent, the time flew past.

    I’d promised to fix a meal for a friend recovering from surgery, so I found a recipe online and began a baked stew while wondering what to fix for our lunch.

    All these activities were things I’d planned for the day.

    Then friends called, wanting to see our new house. I told them we’d love to see them. Hank came home from running errands. I put the stew in the oven to bake, fixed grilled cheese sandwiches, and we had lunch.

   The friends arrived. Because of their declining health, they brought with them very negative attitudes. Now that they can no longer carry on their lifelong busy schedules, they have trouble seeing their lives as worthwhile. As we listened, we made several positive responses that seemed to brighten their mood.

    Later, I finished fixing dinner and found the address of the friend who’d had surgery. We delivered the meal, came home, and ate our half of the baked stew.

    I addressed a mailer for one of my out-of-print young-adult books I wanted to send to a cousin. While Hank cleaned the kitchen, I skimmed the book again. I felt a little guilty. Time out to read wasn’t on my schedule, and boxes of books and papers in the office were still waiting to be unpacked, sorted, and put away. But then, as I skimmed, I realized the writing really was pretty good. That renewed my interest in turning it into an e-book. So was the time wasted?

    No, it was another example of the way the Lord gently nudges us into doing what is good for us and good for other people. He allowed the unscheduled visit of our friends so that we could encourage them and also to be aware of how many people around us need the attention that we can give. The steady but leisurely pace of the day left me feeling satisfied, not frustrated.

     And the things I did that weren’t on my schedule turned out to be the biggest blessings of all.

Mom Rescues My Valentine Dress

This post first appeared in Sun Breaks several years ago. It’s one of my favorite Valentine stories.

When quality fabric was less expensive and ready-made clothing was much more costly than it is now, many women sewed for themselves and their families. My mother stitched clothing for her three daughters, two sons, our father and herself.

She taught her daughters the craft as well. Sewing didn’t come easily for me. I spent lots of time ripping out mistakes and starting over, but one mistake was so bad, I had no idea how to fix it.

I was a new teacher, and like other women teachers in those days, I wore dresses and skirts to school. My students, even the boys, seemed to appreciate my pretty clothes, most of which I’d made myself. One day I found a lovely soft piece of red corduroy printed with rows of tiny white hearts and flowers, perfect for the upcoming Valentine’s Day. I knew my fifth graders would enjoy seeing their teacher in something so appropriate.

I bought the cloth and took it to my parents’ home so I could use Mom’s new sewing machine. Carefully, I pinned the pattern pieces in place, cut them out, and began to sew. The top, with its softly draped collar, fitted perfectly. So did half of the flared skirt. I stitched the other half together. Oh, no! I had two half-skirts for the right side, none for the left. And no extra fabric.

Frustration welled. I’d wasted my hard-earned money and ruined my dress. I balled up the pieces and threw them into my mother’s rag bag.

A few days later, Mom stopped by my apartment with a gift…the Valentine dress, exactly as I’d envisioned it. Not until I inspected the reverse side of the fabric could I see how she had recut and fitted pieces together so skillfully the seams couldn’t be seen. The corduroy nap even ran in the right direction. What patience–and the designing skills of an engineer–it must have taken to accomplish that.

My students loved the dress, and so did I. Every time I wore it, I was  reminded again of my mother’s love.

Me in my Valentine’s dress, on my 1962 honeymoon.