Friday, April 25, 2014

Times That Refresh The Soul

There are times which I always look forward to throughout the year.  The early days of spring in Colorado are so unpredictable.  One never knows if it will be a warm sunny day, or a day of wind and snow.  Some days we will have warmth, sun, wind and snow all in one day.  So, having grown up in a climate such as this, I never have huge expectations for a warm Easter celebration, but nearly always, I do host a celebration of some sort.  Mostly, I look forward to a time of renewal during Easter season.  Renewal comes to me through worship, time spent with family, and spending time in nature.

This year's Easter Weekend was so different from those in the past.  There have been few Easters when  my children and grandchildren have not gathered at my house.  This year, none of the children or grandchildren were here.  It seemed a bit quiet.  Quiet is good sometimes.  This year, I knew I just did not have the energy to entertain.  Also, my daughter who lives the closest had been traveling for her job for several weeks and naturally needed a weekend at home before she went on the next leg of work travel.

The Easter Weekend was mostly spent resting.  Good Friday services at church prepared my soul for an even more joyful Easter.  As we left the communion table on Friday night, we were asked to refrain from greeting each other until we reached the foyer outside the sanctuary so that we might remember the Body broken for us and the Blood shed for us.  The memory of a large congregation leaving silently after the service continues to touch me.  A dear friend hugged me momentarily as we made our way to the middle of the foyer, we parted silently and left the building with others still in silence.  In today's world, we have so few times when we actually experience corporate reverence expressed in silence.  As I left the church building, home of the church where I first began attending over thirty years ago, I was moved to gratitude as I reflected on the beauty of the service, the powerful sermon we had heard, and the overwhelming sense of homecoming that flooded my heart and mind.  Seeing the snow covered Pikes Peak looming large in the western sky anchors me always as it speaks of home and links me to my girlhood.

Hoping to buy a home with a view of Pikes Peak when we moved to my hometown in October of 2012, I moved that desire down on the list when we found our current home in the beautiful and peaceful Woodmen Valley.  Now, Blodgett Peak, with an altitude of 9, 423 ft. is a mountain peak I am growing to love as I watch her throughout the day.  At times, I  watch storms descend, rolling down  her sides, or watch as snow softly dusts her crown.  On our way home from church on Good Friday, I captured a view of the sun setting at the foot of valley in which I live.  Blues, and shades of grey or light purple colored the sky. The brilliant focal point of orange and yellow was perfectly framed by the deep blue black purple hues of the mountains that surround the dip between peaks.    (Blodgett is on the left side of the dip.)  Times like these on the journey towards home truly refresh my soul and bring great joy, peace, and hope.

On Sunday, after a joy filled Easter church service, my husband took me to The Margarita at Pine Creek for the brunch.  Our meal, as every meal there always is, was melt in the mouth good.  As we enjoyed eating the coffee cake served before the three course meal, we both spoke of summer and how we looked forward to coming to this place for farmer's market every Saturday.  I go for the produce and the coffee cake we purchase to eat as we listen to local bands on lazy Saturday mornings.  My husband goes for the coffee cake.  Summer is coming, and the harvest.  I don't want to rush things, but it is coming.

Later in the day, inspired by thinking of Easters gone by after my cousin wrote on Facebook how the memory of my beautiful mother's soprano voice came flooding back to her as she sang an Easter hymn in church that morning.  She asked my now nearly 98 year old mother to call her and sing to her.  Yes, mother's voice is still beautiful, and it blesses me each time I have the opportunity to stand beside her in church. I knew somewhere in my photos I had this photo of an Easter Sunday from my childhood.  In some ways, it is the quintessential photo that illustrates much of my earliest family traditions.

Taken in 1952 at my aunt and uncle's home either before or just after church, dressed in the turquoise colored raw silk dress made by mother and patterned after the dress she made herself, I am surrounded by those whom walked through childhood with me:  my mother, my sister, the one just smaller than I, my brother, dressed in coat and tie, my dear Aunt Katherine, my closest friend and cousin, Donna, born just ten days after I, her brother David, and her youngest sister, Diana.  My childhood centered around family, faith, and hometown schools and neighborhoods.  My father, not in the photo, received our smiles. My uncle, one always on the night shift at the railroad, was probably sleeping.
David, Rell, Donna, Sally, Carol and Diana
Alberta (Mother) and Aunt Katherine
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Perhaps it was the posting of this photo that prompted my cousin Diana to invite us to her home for dinner on the Monday evening after Easter to join her and husband as they hosted a gathering for her siblings Donna, who lives in Arizona in the winter, and her brother David and his wife, who spend most of the winter in North Carolina.  She also requested we bring Boston along for the evening so that he and her dog could finally meet and have a play date.  We've been anxious to have Boston and Nelly meet.  They are both golden retrievers.  Boston just turned three and Nelly is one.  

One of the great things about living back in my hometown has been how much time I am now able to spend with extended family.  Just as in our childhood, we cousins really loved to be together and just lived blocks from each other.  We went to church together and to school together.  Diana and I both returned home to Colorado Springs within months of each other in 2012.  Diana to us, she is Dian Regan Curtis (click to visit her website) to those who read and love her books.  After the tragic death of her husband in 2010, she returned "home" to marry a man she had known since junior high.   He was also a widower.  Her husband is a great guy and fabulous cook, so it is always a treat to be invited over for dinner.  Last Easter, they had spent the day with us at our home in a celebration that included several generations of cousins.  

Nelly and Boston got along extremely well and were very excited to meet and play together.  Boston was a bit of a bad boy.  He ran through the garden that had just been planted that morning.  He got in the pond and played while Nelly looked on with a disapproving and envious eye.  He took a bone from Nelly and would not give it back even when it was time to go home.  I hope he gets invited back again.  

Boston is keeping that bone safe from Nelly
After dinner, just as it was getting dark, we went out onto the patio and sat around a fire pit to continue enjoying the early spring evening.  Diana and S have one of the best lots in all of Colorado Springs.  From anywhere on the back of the property, one has a perfect, unobstructed view of Pikes Peak, and the Garden of the Gods.  Their home is frequently visited by deer, bear, and coyotes.  

Dian Regan Curtis
As you can see, we had to bundle up to go out into the night air.  Thankfully, Diana had a closet full of warm coats that we could borrow.  It had been a warm sunny day when we left for dinner.  Once the sun went down, it was a perfectly beautiful, crisp, cool evening.  It reminded me of evenings from our childhood when we sat before a campfire and listened to the stories told by our aunts and uncles.  Storytelling is part of our family heritage.  Diana made storytelling a successful career.   

Here is a photo of our hosts, the happy newly weds, with Nelly who just recently turned one.  S has to deal with two red heads.  I'm sure this keeps him on his toes.
With my iPhone, I took this photo of my cousins who were also in the photo taken in 1952 shown shown earlier in this post.  These three have always been as much a part of my life as my own siblings.  Donna, and I are especially close.  (I wrote a blog post about Donna.  You can read it here: Cousins Ready Made Friends For Life.)  She lost her oldest daughter to cancer in September, so now we share the sorrow of losing a daughter.  
Yes, our history is very linked.  Here we are on our very first Easter celebration.  
Mother, Rell, Aunt Katherine
Sally and Donna

We've come a long ways since those baby days, but our bonds are deeper than ever.  Time spent with my cousins always stirs up memories of long ago when our gatherings included our grandparents, our aunts and uncles, and a houseful of cousins laughing, teasing, telling jokes, and playing games.  Now, only my mother and one uncle remain from the generation that went before us. I think it the bond and shared history that comes from spending time with my cousins that refreshes my soul.  Laughter is also good medicine.  I've always loved the wit that I find in my family.  They never fail to make me laugh with the great wit that so many display.  

For instance, Diana shared this on her facebook page just after she invited us and our dog to her house for dinner.  
 I told her I wasn't coming to her house for dinner again unless I knew for sure she used commas.

Thankfully, my husband also loves my cousins and looks forward to spending time with them.  He grew up never having a cousin.  Now, he has been adopted into my family of cousins.  Needless to say, our early springtime celebrations have been just perfect, just what we needed this year.  I'm so very grateful to be living in this place at this time where I am surrounded by great beauty in the world around me and the love and laughter of those whom I have known since my earliest days.  

That man next to me, and his dog, they also fill my heart with love and joy.  I am blessed.  


Jeanie said...

Such beautiful memories from both recently and long ago and so well shared in beautiful words and pictures. I especially identified with your joy in the views of the mountains and your thoughts on how special cousins can be.

A Quiet Corner said...

As memorable as the old photos were for you to post and ponder, it seems that you were blessed with "the real thing" this Easter. The views along with smiles resonate love!...:)JP

Arkansas Patti said...

Ha ha, commas would have put a different spin on that poster.
I envy you being close to your cousins. I only have one on each side of the family that I never see due to distance.
Sounds like you had a wonderful Easter.

Barb said...

This is a feel-good post, Sally. I love those old photos!

#1Nana said...

Love the old family photos. Since we were immigrants to the US, we never had much extended family. I had one cousin here in the US and I used to babysit him. Our grandchildren have no cousins on our side of the family so we make a point of getting together with their second cousins every summer. There's something very special about that family bond, isn't there?

Weekend-Windup said...

Sounds you had a very memorable Easter with wonderful climate. Beautiful memory pictures!
I liked all your post and i am the follower of your blog. I would like you to visit my blog and be a member of it.

DJan said...

You are a very fortunate woman, with a wonderful family and great connections. I am so glad to see you so happy and fulfilled, Sally. Sending you lots and lots of love. :-)

Jeanie said...

I'm so glad you had just the Easter that you wanted and needed -- and that you had the remarkable experience of spending such a grand evening with your cousins. I feel that way about my cousins, too -- the Ohio ones. That vintage photo is a prize! Those connections become richer over time only if they are nurtured and fostered. Good for you! It sounds simply perfect.

And so are the views!

I saved that comma picture! Wonderful!

Olga Hebert said...

I am glad to hear that you had this lovely time, a beautiful post.

Haddock said...

Agree to that.... Quiet is good sometimes.
Was gazing at that 1952 picture. Did any one in the picture think that after half a century the same picture would be displayed around the globe with the click of a mouse?

Terri Tiffany said...

As always I love reading your posts. your Easter sounds like it was a wonderful day. Moving back home sounds like also it was a really good decision. How nice that you are surrounded by family.

Betsy Adams said...

Sounds like a wonderful Easter weekend. Your Good Friday service must have been very meaningful. I always say that one has to experience Good Friday before understanding the true meaning of Easter morning....

A quiet Easter was probably a good thing ---and then the Monday night family gathering just became icing on the cake!!!! Sounds wonderful.

Thanks for sharing.

Friko said...

This is such an uplifting post. I am always deeply moved when you speak about your family and your life in the midst of them, and how much joy you derive from your ordinary life, whether holidays, holy days or plain weekdays.

I know you carry a great sadness around with you and that nothing in the world can ever make you forget, but I am glad that you have these people you love and who love you.

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

What a beautiful, life-affirming post, Sally! How wonderful that you're back in your hometown, close once more to family and your rich history there. That means so much! And how great that your animals are included in family celebrations! It just feels so warm and inclusive and healing, sharing your joys and the deep sorrows with your cousins.

Linda P. said...

I loved hearing about your church service, your time with cousins, and Boston's antics. When our first golden retriever was still a puppy of about six months, we lived in a neighborhood where people gathered in the cul de sac each evening. Everyone took turns throwing balls to our golden. She was lovely and gentle with all the children in the neighborhood but an active and naughty young golden otherwise. Our next door neighbors opened their door as the adults carried equipment out for their young children. Our golden, long housebroken, apparently thought anything outside the confines of our house qualified as "outside." She ran in their open front door, pooped on their carpet and ran back outside again to fetch the next ball. Fortunately, we (and she) were forgiven.

Jean said...

What a lovely Easter weekend you had with cousins. Sorry to hear Boston wasn't on his very best behavior, but then, our Lab SELDOM is when other people are around. She's go totally bonkers with another dog around, I'm sure! Weather in CO sounds as unpredictable as weather in ME.

Rose said...

What fun that Boston was invited for dinner and a play date as well! A few years ago we discovered that our Sophie's sister had been adopted by a friend of my husband. It was always fun to have Sassy over and watch the girls play together; I always wondered if they knew they were related.

Such a lovely post, Sally. Your reminiscing brought back memories for me, too. In fact, I posted a photo on Facebook the Thursday before Easter of my brother and me all dressed up for Easter services. I always got a new dress for Easter--which my mother made, of course--and had to have white gloves. And holidays were always spent with a large group of cousins. Love those look-alike dresses of you and your mother and sister!

Kay said...

I'm so happy for you, Sally. You have such strong family ties with extended family. It's so much fun to see your old family photos. I have a few cousins I'm close with, but mostly everybody is into their own lives over here.

LC said...

I share that fluctuating energy level with you. But you are so open to experiences that make new, different great memories as well as experiences that revive those early precious memories. This post was inspiring and the photos were such a delight. Thanks for sharing!

Perpetua said...

This is such a lovely post, Sally, full of the joy and strength you derive from your faith and your family. A quiet Easter sounds just right for you after your health worries and to have this quiet and special time rounded off by such a happy family gather is perfect.

I love the old photos. We are of a generation and your memories stir up mine.