Tag Archives: musing

The Dandelion

[A 3-minute read]

At the end of its blossom cycle, the dandelion waits for the breeze. It has come again to the pinnacle of its existence. Life-giving nutrients have poured in from the earth, navigating the tubercles, the hair roots, the secondary roots, through the tap root anchoring the plant firmly in the soil.

Day after day, the plant has turned its happy yellow face to the sun, combining water and minerals from below with carbon dioxide and sunlight from above: creating energy. By osmosis through its veins, nutrients get to each cell. I am like the dandelion. My water and nutrients come through my system and into the blood, also moving through veins, deposited in each cell of my body.

The dandelion is all potential and no pretense. When it is ready, it goes. There is no hesitation. The dandelion is faith in action. It is what I would be if I had no doubts. Although I too have potential, I’m often held back by pretense.

Each of the dandelion’s 2,000 seeds has the potential to produce anther plant. There is no pretense in this either; it knows what it is about. It is following God’s command to ‘reproduce after its kind’ The dandelion is certain of its identity, and unconcerned about its future.

A seed may land just a hairsbreadth from its parent, or on a calm sunny day ride a thermal for half a mile. But it matters not to the seed. When it goes, it is ready to go, and it flies without fear. It is ready to go be a dandelion.

The future of the seed is held in the nature of its landing place. If there is good soil with good growing conditions, it prospers. If not so good, it may still prosper, if it is hardy enough. But, if it lands in stones, or water, or on pavement, or becomes some creature’s meal, it will not sprout at all. The seed’s potential to be a dandelion will be lost.

I see myself in this too, spiritual being than I am. Because I have imagination, I unwisely concern myself with my landing pad. My brain insists on knowing about the landing pad before the launch.

However, faith does not work that way. Faith is leap first, look later.

As it is, God has yet to let me down when I leap. In spite of His faithfulness it always seems that, as I ripen into seed, I question whether what He’s prepared will be good, or at least good enough. And – is it safe to go?

In those moments, it is important to remember my advantage over the dandelion. God plants the seed, but I can do my part to help Him prepare the soil. By staying close to Him, by fixing my heart on Him, I remain able to follow His command to be fruitful and multiply.

Yet the dandelion has an advantage over me. It is not a thinking being with doubts and fears and anxieties. It never questions whether God will disappoint. It never ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil like I did. It knows no shame.

The dandelion boldly pushes ahead. It always has more than enough seeds to fulfill what God asks of it. You know what? So do I. The secret is choosing to let Him work and only help when He asks me to.

Not all my seeds may find the best landing place. But I can improve their odds, and that is the best advantage of all.

 

If you liked this essay, you might also like this poem.

(Photo used under CC licence from PiccoloNamek at Wikimedia Commons)

February 1902

February is Too Short

Sometimes, my schedule doesn’t work. What happens on paper, stays on paper, but doesn’t make it into reality.

I’ve been promising that my memoir, Masterpiece (A Love Story) would be released in February.

Well, it won’t. But it will be out soon. I promise.

I could use the excuse that February is too short. But that would only work if the book would have come out on February 30th or 31st.

Rather than bore you with the backstory or deliver any details, I’ll just quote old Robbie Burns.

The best laid schemes
Of mice and men
Often go awry

That’s the only line that is usually remembered from his 1785 poem ‘To a Mouse, On turning her up in her nest with a plough.’

Or, as Burns originally wrote it,

The best laid schemes o’ Mice and Men
Gang aft agley
.

That’s my excuse. The publishing temporarily gang aft agley.

But then, the entire book project has been like that. When I started writing, I dithered for weeks about how much was fit to tell. Or the best way to tell it.

There is plenty of attention to be had in the popular press by Naming Names and Calling Out. The more salacious the better, it seems (see: Augusten Burroughs).

These books are good reads, but nah, not my style.

So I knew I wasn’t going there, but I had to go somewhere. I just wasn’t sure of the direction.

If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there. So, it took me five months to get serious about writing the book I had hoped to finish in six. When I finally settled down to business, still with a six month deadline, I was handed a cancer diagnosis.

That also slowed things down considerably.

The manuscript was eventually finished. Unfortunately, I hadn’t really edited anything in some years, so I forgot how long it takes to turn 80,334 good words into 68,437 better ones (see: Farming Rule #1).

Seeing as how I had never published a book before, I underestimated how long that might take. Optimism does not always pay out in coin. It can feel good at the time, but…

Then, to top it all off, I also took a well-deserved holiday out of the country in a sunny place. Cancer treatment during a British winter creates that kind of craving.

All of which is to say that you, Dear Reader, get to remain in anticipation a little longer.

March, I think. Yeah. Sometime in March.

Meanwhile, here’s a little taste to take the edge off.

I sat down to begin this account for the umpteenth time. He sat across from me.

Surely you are going to tell them the whole story.’ he said.

That wasn’t actually a question. It was a command. I had been dithering for days, turning over in my mind just how much – or how little – of my story was fit for people to read.

I was planning, self-editing, trying to make a way in a wilderness of words….

You will know when you are done telling the story,’ Jesus said, ‘and then I will take you by the hand and together we will edit it into My story. That way, I become the Author and the Finisher. It is My story that changes the world, Beloved, not yours. Telling what I have done changes hearts and minds, and brings people to know and understand who I created them to be.’

He chuckled then. ‘God knows they all need it.’

Meanwhile, I’ll be back here next Thursday. See you then.

If you want weekly inspiration, and a reminder about fresh content, follow me on Facebook at PleasantLinesWriter.

Calendar Image from Wikimedia Commons, Theo van Hoytema / Public domain

Half Man could have helped here

Half Man

[A four-minute read]

One of the most difficult jobs I ever attempted as a farmer was to re-hang a 4′ x 9′ barn door. You’d think this could be simple, but no.

Hanging doors is a touchy business for us amateurs, even when the thing is ‘pre-hung’ in its own frame. This one was not. It was a homemade door I hastily crafted (if that is the right word) to fit an odd, trapezoidal opening of non-standard size.

It wanted a ‘custom’ job, which was beyond my capability at the time.

Just as I was not a craftsman, the aforementioned ‘barn’ wasn’t really a barn. You know, a happy red barn like you see in country landscapes. This odd structure (variously called ‘the garage,’ ‘the barn,’ ‘the shop’ and ‘the lean-to’) was built onto the side of the house, with a roof pitch that made it ten feet high on the house side, but less than six feet high on the other.

The builder didn’t bother to frame a rectangular opening for door, much less install a door. Well, that’s country living – things often remain unlocked, or door-less, as the case may be.

But a door was a priority for me, because the space would soon house lambing pens, and store grain and hay, and be used as a wood shop. None of this was feasible with a gaping hole open to the wet and windy Oregon winter. But, because there was so much to do before my first winter on the farm, it was a hurry-up job.

Every farm has a long list of necessary projects. Farmers who can’t prioritize, fail. Sometimes, ‘making do’ is the best available option when there are 10 priorities and only time for six.

(If you ever wondered why farmers collect baling twine, ends of rope, odd boards, extra cinder blocks, assortments of miscellaneous nails, used feed sacks, seemingly useless metal, abandoned bathtubs or tools that need repair – well, anything that could conceivably be useful someday likely will be.

The odd boards get knocked into a feeder, cinder blocks are useful propping up a trailer axle during a tire change. Miscellaneous nails – any building project. Used feed sacks are great one-time liners for wet areas. An abandoned bathtub waters livestock. The list goes on.)

Back to the matter at hand. I knew the job would inevitably need to be re-done, and hoped it could wait until spring, but no.

A late winter storm finally blew the door akimbo. This was the fault of another undone project: sealing cracks on the other end of the barn, cracks that allowed 80 mile per hour winds too much free rein.

(It goes without saying that the crack-stuffing project being left undone was the fault of this farmer. This farmer could possibly complain it was all the result of the Law of Unintended Consequences, but no.)

Regardless, because the rain was now blowing in and it was mid-November, it was time to act. So I undertook to remove, fortify and re-hang my 4′ x 9′ barn door.

Did I mention it was originally built in two parts, as a Dutch door? This multiplied the number of steps, and the amount of jigging and fitting and blocking and shimming and other internal recriminations.

It put me in mind of my dad’s axiom that there are many farm jobs that require a “Half Man.”

When I was growing up on the farm, I was often his Half Man.

Half Man holds ends of boards, serves as a ground guide, cinches rope, stands on things that need to be held down, leans on things that need to be held up, serves as the rough carpenter’s scrub nurse, draws water, runs errands, attaches and detaches items from the tractor drawbar, keeps first aid handy, and learns new vocabulary when Dad struggles against a mechanical challenge.

That day, I really needed Half Man, and didn’t have him.

So, all by my lonesome, I took down the two half doors and removed the hinges. Half Man would have held the upper door while I removed the hinges. In his absence, I had to take out all but two screws, one in each hinge, to keep the door barely attached. Then – one handed, I had to unscrew one at a time, while holding the upper door as it was balanced atop the lower door. Thankfully, there was no wind that day. The bottom hinge removal was next — an easier job.

When the door became wind-damaged, the door frame was split and needed repair, so that was done next. The hinges needed to be moved inboard of the damaged area a half-inch. That meant dropping a plumb line and drilling starter holes. Half Man could have done that while I moved on to brace the doors.

The door sections should have been built with crisscrossed 2×2 to keep them from warping, but no.

No time to do it then, but high time to do it now. Half Man could have made it easy to install the supports. The screws needed to go through from the outside surface, through the door and into the braces. Without Half Man to hold the door, I had to do it backwards.

After gluing the braces against the inside of the door, I flipped the door over and marked screw holes, measuring carefully along a chalk line. After drilling more starter holes, I changed the drill bit to a screw head bit, and installed the screws.

Half Man still didn’t arrive in time for re-hanging the lower half of the door. I had to use wood scrap shim (see saved items list above) to ensure the door had the necessary clearance off the slab. A cinder block (see saved items list above) and some scrap lumber (see saved items list above) kept the door panel from falling over. Endless adjustments for level. Install hinges – lower door hung!

That was the easy part. The upper door panel presented a huge challenge. Its bottom surface was almost chest high, and the top higher than I could reach. Half Man was still not walking up the driveway to assist, so he was not present to hold the upper panel during hinge installation.

So instead it was time for that farmer’s friend known as “The Work-Around”. It’s what farmers do when they have the wrong tool, the wrong supplies, inadquate resources, a lack of skill, or in my case, several at once.

I stacked the top door panel on the bottom door panel. This was actually easier than it sounds, because the top panel has a 1×2 running the length of the bottom surface, hanging down in front. This overlaps when the top door is shut, locking it against the lower panel. With the bottom door shut and braced, I hefted the top panel into place.

Next, I would tack the top panel to the lintel and the bottom panel for stability while installing the hinges, but no.

I was now ready to fire Half Man out of spite if he ever showed up.

The person who had sided the building (not me!) had been sloppy cutting the siding, so some of it overlapped the opening. This wasn’t a problem when the door was originally installed, but was a complete block to the door swinging freely because the hinges had been moved. Unfortunately, the amateur now attempting the retro-fit (yes – me!) did not notice this before beginning the reinstallation. So, the upper door came back down.

(See vocabulary-building exercise referenced above).

After an interesting and ergonomically unsatisfying session with a claw hammer, a prybar and a Sawzall, the siding was hacked back, and I was able to proceed with door installation.

I hoisted the upper panel once again, held it steady again with one hand while quickly tacking it again to the bottom panel with a pair of odd screws (see saved items list above). A long 2×8 board (see saved items list above) kept it from falling outward while I again tacked the top of the panel to the lintel.

So far, so good. The lower half is now installed, closed and latched. The upper half is sitting tight on the lower door, nailed to the building and braced, so it can’t go anywhere.

The hinges were quickly installed, the tacking screws removed and the job was done.

There was one serendipitous side-benefit to working alone. One of the upper hinges was slightly off vertical, which made the door self-closing. An improvement! Well, – I was told to always leave things better than how I found them.

Elapsed time: 5 hours. Projected elapsed time with Half Man on duty: 2 hours 30 minutes.

All of which goes to give proof to Alan’s First Law of Farming: “Everything Takes Twice As Long As Expected.”

It’s corollary? “Half A Man Makes It Twice As Fast.”