Thursday, December 31, 2020

As The Sun Sets on 2020

Sunset, December 21, 2020 (while looking for the Bethlehem star)

Capturing the final sunset of 2020 may go much like the rest of the year has gone. It will likely be a bust.

It's supposed to be overcast tonight, with another winter storm on the horizon in Kansas. So my tradition of taking a photo of the final sunset of the year and the first sunrise of the New Year may not be very compelling. 

Awhile back, I saved a daily email devotional that grabbed my attention and set it aside to consider again. It was from Beth Richardson, a familiar name on my Upper Room devotionals. In her introduction, Richardson wrote:

Celtic Christians acknowledged God’s presence in every aspect of living—from waking to sleeping, from birth to death, from mundane chores to momentous celebrations. They perceived God’s creation as a holy gift. Gratitude characterized their way of being as they affirmed the source of life and gave thanks through blessings.
Beth A. Richardson, Christ Beside Me, Christ Within Me: Celtic Blessings, Upper Room Books, 2016 

As I re-read her words, I thought it was the perfect way for me to usher 2020 firmly out the door and welcome 2021 with new hope - even in the midst of a global pandemic. It's a reminder to consider God's creation as a gift, and to be thankful. 

I'm not one to adopt resolutions. (I hate failing.) 
I'm not prone to pick one word as my New Year theme. (Me? Pick ONE word?)
But I do hope I can apply "gratitude" freely in my life - whether I'm considering the end to 2020 or as I turn the calendar page ... To find the silver linings. 

One of my favorite sunset photos from 2020 was taken on Palm Sunday. Usually, I would have been busy helping with a community church service, and I might have missed sunset all together that day. But, we were in the midst of a stay-at-home order, and we were feeling cooped up. So we went to watch sunset at Peace Creek. 

I took this photo of ripples, and it ultimately led me on a search for quotes to go with it. I found a couple I particularly like:

From The World According to Mr. Rogers:

Imagine what our real neighborhoods would be like if each of us offered, as a matter of course, just one kind word to another person. There have been so many stories of the lack of courtesy, the impatience of today's world, road rage and even restaurant rage. Sometimes, all it takes is one kind word to nourish another person. Think of the ripple effect that can be created when we nourish someone. One kind, empathetic word has a wonderful way of turning into many.
Fred Rogers

And from Mother Teresa:

I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.

It's something to remember as I turn the calendar page to a new year. 

I've illustrated Richardson's words with sunset photos from my archives:

Final sunset of 2017

Bless, O God, this tender evening,
The trees, branches raised in praise,

The sky, soft glow darkening into dusk,
The homecoming of young and old.

Bless, O God, this sacred moment,
The quiet pause between day and night,

The birds, flying to safety in bush or brush.

The colors of the sunset—

Orange to red to purple to black—
Creeping across the sky.

Bless, O God, this night to come.
The safety of shelter, the supper to nourish.

Hearts of joy or souls bent in sorrow.
Renewing rest and hope for one more day.

Bless, O God. Bless.

—Beth A. Richardson, Christ Beside Me, Christ Within Me: Celtic Blessings (Upper Room Books, 2016)

 More from the devotional:

Today’s Question

How could offering a blessing at sunset help you notice God as the day closes?

Today’s Scripture

From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the LORD is to be praised.

—Psalm 113:3 (NRSV)

Let's add a sunrise: October 21, 2020

 Prayer for the Week (maybe I'll change it to Prayer for the Year)

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me.
(From a prayer attributed to Saint Patrick)

Harvest sunset


Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Walkin' My Baby Back Home

There is no rhyme or reason for the random music playlist that swirls in my head.

I probably haven't thought of the song "Walkin' My Baby Back Home" since my sisters and I placed my parents' old 45 single on the record player, carefully placed the needle in a groove and gave it a spin. So why did it become "No. 1 with a bullet" on my cattle moving soundtrack hit parade? Who knows ...

Gee, it's great after staying out late
Walking my baby back home
Arm in arm over meadow and farm
Walking my baby back home
We go along harmonizing a song
While I'm reciting a poem
The hours go by and they gave me the eye
Walking my baby back home.
The lyrics fall apart as cattle moving music after those initial words of the song popularized by Johnnie Ray back in 1952. 

Thankfully, other 45s in my parents' repertoire were not evident as cattle walking music during the move of cows from stalks to corrals. It was a calm, unseasonably mild winter's day, so no need for "They Call the Wind Mariah." Another of Johnnie Ray's songs, "The Little White Cloud That Cried" was also not evident in a clear blue sky with nary any clouds - or cattle workers - "crying."
The "babies" being walked back home are still in utero. The mamas are currently in the maternity ward, which should be gearing up in late January/early February.  

I really wanted to dig out my camera long before I did as Randy, a neighbor helper and I drove them from stalks and along the blacktop for a few hundred yards. I snuck in a quick shot as they turned off the paved road and onto the dusty county line (top photo).
That particular group moved fairly easily once we urged them past the barrier. Actually, Randy had taken down the electric fence and was trying to entice them with a bit of hay. 

But old habits are hard to break and it always takes the cattle a little bit to figure out that the fence will no longer give them a little jolt.

The neighbor and Randy wisely kept their mouths shut as we approached the Peace Creek bridge. Three years ago, I was fortunate to escape serious injury from a 4-wheeler accident while moving cattle.

As I've said before, clicking the camera shutter is a right-handed job, as is running the accelerator on the 4-wheeler. So taking photos is not a priority during cattle-moving jobs. I only got a total of 19 photos - most of them fairly similar - during our morning jaunts. Attention to detail: That's why I get paid the big bucks. OK, I don't get paid at all, but you know what I mean. And I realize 19 photos are a lot to some people - just not to me.

After the first group was safely ensconced at Peace Creek, it was time to move the heifers from stalks about a half mile from the farmstead. I guess they needed some exercise because it took several attempts to get them rounded up and headed in the right direction toward the corrals. Again, you'll have to take my word for it. I was much too busy accelerating all over the field to document the round-up with photos.

After we got them to the farmstead, the heifers then got a chauffeured ride to the corrals east of our house. The maternity ward is now operational. We are awaiting the Class of 2021 crop of calves - but not too soon.

And bonus: We got it accomplished before a round of winter weather. 


True confessions: This cattle move happened before Christmas, but seasonal blogs were more timely, so they were posted first. On this day when another winter storm is supposed to blow through, I'm glad this job is done. Feeding is still on the agenda today though.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Ghosts of Christmas Past

Best Christmas cookies? An email from Taste of Home had me clicking on the link, even if our Christmas gathering this year happened a fortnight ago.  I have a Pavlov-inspired response to cookies.

Surprisingly, when I clicked it open, nothing inspired me to hit the "print" button and further clutter my kitchen counter with maybe-I'll-try-this-later printouts. My kids should be proud of me for not falling back into the behavior that required multiple trips to the burn pit and Goodwill during a Covid cleaning frenzy.

Anyway ... then I saw another link on the bottom of the email: Vintage Christmas Pictures Through the Years:What Christmas Looked Like the Year You Were Born. (Click on the link to see 60 years worth of photos.)

Since I've been on my share of photo Christmas cards through the years, I couldn't resist.

1956 - From Vintage Christmas Photos (link above)

Even though it was a year early, I thought 1956 - with the rocking horse - looked more like my birthday year than my actual birth year. Well, maybe not quite. Our red rocking horse was wooden and bright red.

Lisa & me - Cowgirls

I wasn't the only one who rode miles on that horse. I evidently turned the reins over to my sister, Lisa, on occasion.

My actual birth year - 1957 - had this photo, a tree dripping with tinsel. Yes, there's a real tree underneath all that silver.

1957 - From Vintage Christmas Photos (link above)

But then I remembered putting tinsel on our trees at home. We were supposed to put the tinsel on, strand by stand. And when it was time to pack away the Christmas decorations for another year, we were to painstakingly remove the tinsel from the tree so it could be used the following year, too. I can't say that I'm sorry that tinsel is no longer the Gold Standard of Christmas trees.

1958 - My Aunt Merlene holding Lisa, Grandpa Neelly holding me, Grandma Neelly and my mom. (My dad must have been behind the camera.)  

1961 - me & Lisa and the tinseled tree

1963 - Lisa, Darci, Kim

I seem to remember more tinsel on our trees than these photos reveal. (It was probably all the individual placement that tricked my mind into believing the tree was covered with tinsel.)

I've been involved in Christmas photo cards for most of my life. It's a family tradition. I starred in my very first one in 1957, as a 6-month-old baby.

By the time 1958 rolled around, I was already sharing space with my sister, Lisa, on the annual missive from Bob and Janis.

Though my brother, Kent, was born in December 1966, he didn't make the Christmas card until 1967. This is the first photo card with all my siblings. I would have been 10, Lisa, 9, Darci, 6 and Kent was 1.

My parents included their children on the family Christmas card until we graduated from college. Since then, we make occasional appearances with a full-family photo, but most of the time these days, the great-grandchildren are the stars in my parents' annual letter. And this year, with Covid, my parents celebrated a little family history of another kind - a retrospective on John Deere tractors' evolution during their years of farming.

Image may contain: sky, cloud, outdoor and nature

Randy and I sent our first photo card in 1981, the year we were married.

We didn't send another photo card until 1985, the year that Jill was born. It was only natural, I suppose, that we continued the tradition with our own children.
Christmas Card Photo - Jill - 1985

We sent one with the three of us in 1986, when Jill was 15 months old. After that, I usually stayed on the other side of the camera and just included the kids. (When you're the one doing the work, you get the most votes.)

Christmas Card Photo - 1986

The first one with Brent was in 1988. Brent would have been about 7 months and Jill was 3.

Christmas Card Photo - 1988

Back when Jill and Brent were little, this annual attempt was captured on film. And you weren't sure what you'd gotten until the film was developed. I have rolls and rolls of film chronicling the misadventures of getting two little kids to look their best in the same frame. 

Here's another of our many attempts in 1988:

The move to digital photography makes the storage problem easier - though it can't help everyone look great in every frame. 

This year, we let a professional handle the front photo. (Thanks to Demiurge Photography, Manhattan, KS).

For the back of the card, Kinley's and Brooke's visits to the farm made the cut. The one with the calf was taken in February - pre-Covid. It seems so long ago. The other was taken during 2020 wheat harvest.

I know that Christmas card letters have their share of detractors. But, I love getting cards and letters from people at this time of year. Even in this electronic communication age, I send quite a few Christmas cards. It's been a way for me to keep in touch of childhood friends and college buddies, along with sending greetings to family members across the U.S. and seasoning's greetings to neighbors. It seems we've gotten a lot fewer this year. 
Today is my mom's birthday. We usually have a birthday/Christmas Eve celebration at my folks. In fact, in my 63 years, I've never done anything different on Christmas Eve.
But there are 32 of us now. We've outgrown the dining room table and expanded into a farm shed. But even then, it's probably not wise to mix multiple households together during a pandemic. 
December 24, 2019
You know, all the kids are having Zoom birthday parties this year. And, now, so is my Mom. Thanks to my brother for getting it set up.
No matter how you're celebrating this year, we wish you a Merry Christmas ... and a better New Year!

Peace on earth, good will toward all.