Opening Thoughts for July 2010

In an effort to further prime the pump for blog writing, here is my latest installment for the church newsletter:


Most of you have been going to the grocery store long enough to know that “Contents May Settle.” As a result of this settling, there are so many more raisins at the bottom of the box than at the top. Raisin Bran is what I’m talking about, in case you didn’t know. (Yes, here’s another opening ramble from the breakfast musings of your pastor.) And these aren’t just regular dried grapes; they’re raisins that have been sweetened to the point of rendering them almost candy. Wow! What a difference there is between both the taste and the nutrition content from the top and the bottom of the cereal box. Could somebody check my blood sugar, please?

You’ve probably noticed the same thing with other products. When you buy potato chips, you get half a bag of free air as a bonus. The chips huddle at the bottom and scrape their salt from one another, creating an oily, salty slick of crumbs that could cure meat.

This type of gravity-induced retreat from the mouth of the eater happens in many products, including some which aren’t even food, like laundry detergent. That’s why dry contents are measured by weight, not by volume.

What method, would you say, do most Christians use to measure their contents? …by weight, or by volume? That’s a throwaway question really, because talk about “most Christians” does not help us get to a point of personal faith impact. What we really need to consider is how we measure our own content. Weight is a matter of substance, how much stuff is really there. Volume is a matter of how much room you take up. Volume, also, is a matter of how loud you get (another way of filling space).

How are you measuring the contents you carry? And has the shelf life of your contents caused a settling that maybe compromises the real value of what is there? It’s just a question…I need to go brush my teeth.

Published in: on June 28, 2010 at 5:50 pm  Comments (4)  

Nothing Much

My dog likes ginger snaps. Pretty cool, huh? Now Faulkner and I can snack out of the same box.

Published in: on March 26, 2010 at 1:33 pm  Comments (2)  

The Four-Day Weekend, Part 2

Saturday and Sunday happened in usual fashion, except that I did go see Angels and Demons on Saturday afternoon. It was a very suspenseful and high action movie that I enjoyed, but I always find the gratuitous killing of many law enforcement officers to be a disturbing thing. I worshipped and rested Sunday, and then…


That’s right, I finally made it back out in the kayak! And it was such a beautiful day for it. This was Monday, Memorial Day. I’m in the QCC Q700X, and Debra is in the LL Bean Calypso.


Kayaks are great vehicles for getting up close to whatever’s growing along the shore.

Being in a small boat on a river with dark edges is a perfect blending of relaxation with adventure. These places make me breathe easier.

And this trip was our first chance to kayak in the rain together.


In all my time on this river, I’ve never seen other paddlers unless they were in my group. So it was a pleasure to encounter canoeists and kayakers throughout our trip this time out. The combination of holiday plus the lilies in bloom upstream at Landsford Canal State Park brought the paddlers to the river.

This channel, sliding through shade between two parallel islands is a favorite part of the Catawba for me.

Here is a closeup of a very small lily colony, located a mile or two downstream from the state park. The large colony of them at Landsford Canal (see recent posting for photos) is reputedly the largest concentration of Rocky Shoals Spider Lilies in the world. Of course, while the phrase “in the world” is accurate, better perspective is given when one realizes that their entire range is limited to just three states — South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama.

Back at the house, grilling happened, but rain made me relocate the cooking under the garage roof.

Giving thanks usually comes at the beginning of the meal. But sometimes it comes while cooking, or lighting the fire, or buying the pineapple, or discussing the menu, or riding home wet, or glancing around to see her on the water.

Published in: on May 29, 2009 at 8:11 am  Leave a Comment  

The Four-Day Weekend, Part 1

I picked up Debra at 3:55 AM on Friday morning, and we headed for Lugoff. Lex was waiting when we got there, and we started loading his car with all our equipment. We were on the road again before 5:00, heading to Florida. The three of us were taking our best shot to see the Greater Sandplover, a stray bird that normally lives in Asia and Africa. This individual is only the second ever recorded in North America, and we hoped it would still be there. Storms with gale-force winds and abundant rain earlier in the week had made finding the bird difficult for some other birders, and rainy, windy weather was still partly in the forecast.

At 10:15 we pulled into Hugenot Memorial Park and found a place to leave the car. (This is located east of Jacksonville, out on the coast of Duval County.) We grabbed our scopes, binoculars, raincoats, and started walking. Other birders were standing around a large group of mixed shorebirds, and we knew we were in the right spot. The bird had been cooperative all morning for those who were there earlier, so we had good hope. We didn’t have to wait. It was among several hundred plovers and sandpipers, but with a little pointing and scanning, we all picked it out and had leisurely, upclose scope views. That was nice. Here’s a picture of the scene (the Greater Sandplover is in this group, but too far for the camera to show detail):


We continued there for a few more hours, enjoying the bird and the people who came long distances to see it. One gentleman had just flown in from Rhode Island to see it; he liked watching the bird through the scope. As we stood there searching the birds for something different, a Red-necked Phalarope flew in, and we got great scope views of this normally pelagic species. That, also was a new one for me.



Lex and me

On the walk back to the car after noon, rain started, and wind pelted us with sand. We were gritty and soaked on the way to find something to eat. Not knowing the area, we solicited recommendations from the locals. Both people we asked said the Sandollar was the place to go. We did, and it was worth it. Debra tried the cashew-crusted curry grouper; Lex and I had grilled mahi with dill and caper sauce…all of it very good food!

I saw two guys come to the buffet line and recognized them as birders from Tampa who had shared part of the morning with us. I walked over to see what else they had found after we parted, and they told about finding Leach’s Storm-Petrels over the surf at Little Talbot State Park. That is another pelagic species not normally seen from land. So after finishing at the restaruant, we headed up A1A to Little Talbot.

I find it hard to take unblurred photos of armadillos; they’re deceptively quick.

If you are ever in the area, pay the small entrance fee and just drive through this unspoiled fragment of coastal Florida. It is a beautiful place. We parked and walked up onto one of the boardwalks so we could scan the ocean. After a little while I found dark slivers of movement cutting over the waves. As they came closer, even flying over the beach itself, we were able to get positive identification as Leach’s Storm-Petrels, my third new bird for the day. It has been a long time since I got three new birds in a single day east of Texas.

It was mid-afternoon, and we had seen what we came to see. So we drove back home. I only had two-and-a-half hours of sleep the previous night, but the adrenaline kept me going all day. We made the vehicle transfer back at Lex’s house, drove to Lancaster, dropped Debra off, transcribed my bird records, and I was in bed by 12:15. That was a great way to spend a Friday!

Published in: on May 28, 2009 at 10:02 am  Comments (1)  

Let Me Share a Secret Family Recipe with You


Grill a bunch of stuff.

Chop it all up.

Serve it with chips.

Published in: on May 26, 2009 at 7:05 pm  Comments (3)  

Kitchen Project


I have been aware for some time that many of my herbs and spices are past their optimal potency. I received a set when I first moved out on my own after college. That was 1985, and I still had them, some untouched. Another set came in the form of a wedding gift in 1987. Others had accumulated over the years, from what source or unto what purpose, I have no clue. There were 40 different spices in my cabinet, and multiples of most of them. For example, I had three different bottles of dill — two weed and one seed…I never used any of them. There were four different oreganoes, three different nutmegs, three of parsley flakes, three of coriander, two of marjoram.

Marjoram. What is that?

There was tumeric, thyme, and two different fennels. I even had a full bottle of tarragon, which I am convinced is poisonous to me. …poppy seed, caraway seed, mustard seed…

Sixty-nine bottles and boxes and jars of the stuff. The label of one bottle was completely worn off, and I couldn’t identify the contents. It smelled familiar. I kept it, not because I think I’ll use it, but because I need to identify it before I dispose of it. Yes, I said “need.” Leave me alone!

All which were twenty or more years old were automatically dumped, and any that smelled stale or weak followed. It felt good to clear the space, to divest myself of the unhelpful items. With that out of the way and the cabinet freshly reorganized, I was ready to set about the next project, which was spending the afternoon making my personal recipe of homemade chili. But I had to go to the grocery store first; I had no cumin.

Published in: on January 26, 2009 at 5:02 pm  Comments (14)  

Walking Through Early December








All this, and the company of friends, in South Carolina’s low country, anticipating Charleston food. It was a nice day.

Published in: on December 18, 2008 at 8:07 pm  Comments (4)