Vulture

V is for Vulture.

We’re getting to the end of this alphabet challenge and I’m starting to feel punchy. I thought about posting my picture taken at Laity Lodge of a turkey vulture and then accompanying it with vulture jokes.

But when I started looking up vulture jokes, they all sounded so familiar. It’s not that we sit around telling vulture jokes here, so I wondered if I had already written about them. Sure enough, yes, I had, in “Vultures (and a box full of Buechner).” If you’re interested in vulture jokes, you’ll have to go there.

I had forgotten that post because, at the time I wrote it, I was in a fog of grief regarding my brother’s death. There are a lot of things I don’t remember from that period.

But Frederick Buechner now occupies a significant chunk of shelf space and I like that.

The other day Andrew Peterson, my original inspiration for a vulture post this go-round, posted a picture of a t-shirt that said “Beek-ner“. The photo was captioned, “A gift from the Buechner Institute at King University. Educating non-Buechner fans one t-shirt at a time.”

Although, really, vultures have nothing to do with Andrew Peterson or Frederick Buechner.

I’m sure you’re scratching your head over this nonsense.

Welcome to my world — a jumble of thoughts and weird associations that I am forever picking through to try to make sense of things.

So back to vultures. And Laity Lodge.

I went on a hike there. We looked over a bluff. The view was spectacular.

IMG_6129And a turkey vulture seemed suspended over the canyon.

Like on a wild stringless mobile hanging over the world, moving on unseen currents, without ever seeming to have to use its broad extended wings.

Andrew Peterson’s song “Nothing to Say” is about a time when he is struck speechless by the beauty of Arizona.  He sings,

I see the eagles swim the canyon sea
Creation yawns in front of me
Oh, Lord, I never felt so small

Maybe he was watching turkey vultures.  They really are quite spectacular.

I see the vultures swim the canyon sea…

They just don’t sound as spectacular. In a song.

But they can be beautiful.

Threshold

T is for Threshold.

Since I had been to Laity Lodge the previous year, I knew where to head as soon as I arrived.  A place called Threshold.

Last year I spent a lot of time inside Threshold. I sat on the cold stone seat.Laity Lodge 109I looked up.Laity Lodge 106This year, when I went in, I found myself looking out.Aviary Photo_130721970378283428I sat outside and looked in.Aviary Photo_130721969521386900I went early in the morning, before dawn, and looked at it in the dim light.DSC03870I tried to take pictures of the sky, which was clear and blue-black and star-studded, or star-spangled, or star-strewn. You get the idea. But all my star pictures look like this.DSC03888I think I need a fancier camera.

Or not.

Because the memory of those stars is etched in my mind.

I spent a few feeble minutes trying to take a picture, but I spent hours, literally hours, sitting on a chunk of limestone and looking up at the twinkling luminaries of the night.

“Why do stars twinkle?” Laurel asked the other day.

“So we can sing songs about them,” I told her.

She was looking for the scientific explanation and read to me from her science notebook.

The stars twinkle because the air over our heads is turbulent and as it blows past, it distorts the incoming light from the stars making them appear to slightly shift position and brightness level in seconds…

I think they twinkle for the songs.

Especially in a Texas sky.

Over a castle.

 

Magnificent

M is for multiple things.

DSC03827

Welcome to Monticello, now synonymous with broken buses

Like MonticelloThat’s where the bus broke down. It’s so easy to mentally go back to those broken down places.

But M is also for Moving  On.  It may be easy to go back, but it’s also important to move on.

M is for Mirrors, because reflection is important.

Frio River from the balcony

Frio River from the balcony

M is for Meals, each one a sumptuous feast at Laity Lodge. More than the food, though, is the sharing of stories that happens over a meal — telling the tales of broken down buses or lives, and finding peace and acceptance even when the whole story is told.

Dining at Laity (photo by Kristen Peterson)

Dining at Laity (photo by Kristen Peterson)

M is for the Moon.  Its light is merely a reflection of the sun’s light. I don’t want to be corny about it, but my friends also reflect the Son’s light for me, and that’s very precious. Because sometimes the night is dark, and the only light we can see is a reflected one.

The moon at Laity Lodge

The moon at Laity Lodge

And M is for each Moment and the Miracle of living life — because each breath we take should no more amazing than that first breath from the womb.

Each blade of grass, each rock piled on rock, each bird at the feeder, each tear, each friend, each mountain, each sunset, each lift-off, each landing, each ( fill-in-the-blank ) — they are all miracles.

We lives a series of miracles most of which escape our notice.

Life is rich. Magnificent, in fact, when we choose to embrace it.

And Magnificent also begins with M.

Bluff

Wouldn’t you know it? Yesterday I discovered the A to Z Blogging Challenge for April, where for the month of April the challenge is to blog every day except Sunday, and use the letters of the alphabet to mark off the days.

April 1st, A, I decided could be Assistance, since that’s what the story was about. Today, I could say B is for Bus, but I semi-promised no more bus stories.

So B is for Bluff, more precisely, Circle Bluff.

I’m no longer telling a chronological story; it’s an alphabetical one, but I hope you’ll bear with me.

The destination for all my travels was a place called Laity Lodge in the wilds of Texas. I’ll have to come back to my time at LaGuardia and Charlotte airports, my short stay in San Antonio, my first real Texas barbecue, and even my drive through the river to get to Laity Lodge.

Let me simply say that Laity Lodge is pretty close to heaven on earth. Pretty. Darn. Close.

I heard someone say “Friggin'” there, so I knew it wasn’t heaven. Still.

A group of us went for a hike on Friday. The fact that it felt like it was straight up half the time was a testament to how out of shape I am.

It was up, but not straight. Straight up is a cliff.

And straight down is the direction I looked once we were up on the bluff.

DSC03879

I wasn’t alone past the rocks.

Apparently there was a sign — “Don’t go past these rocks.”

I honestly didn’t notice the sign.

I just saw all these other people out there and climbed over the rocks.

The view was spectacular.  I kept looking at this little out-jutting ledge, thinking how fun it would be sit on it, and dangle my legs, and really enjoy the view, but when I looked back at our trusty hike leader, she was literally holding her heart in her chest, like it might fall out from the palpitations we all were causing.

So I just took a picture of the ledge.

It would have given me a great view.

I considered sitting here.

Because, really, I never got that close to the edge. See?

Me, taking pictures of the view.

Me, taking pictures of the view. (photo by Kristen Kopp)

And the truth is, the farther away from the edge, the less spectacular the view.

In fact, Evel Knievel said, “Where there is little risk, there is little reward.” I remember watching his daredevil stunts when I was a kid.

But he is also listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the survivor of “most bones broken in a lifetime”. 433, to be exact.

So I risked a little, but not too much, and loved the view.

From the bluff.

Which begins with B.

Looking down from Circle Bluff.

Looking down from Circle Bluff.