Life at Upton Abbey*

“Breaking” news…

This just in from Upton Abbey: We have a baby chick! I feel like a father!

We knew something was likely to happen eventually when we discovered that one of the peeps we got several months ago turned out to be a rooster. Total accident. At first, we thought we just had a hen with identity issues when we heard some pretty pathetic crowing out in the chicken yard. Alas, it was a real rooster, and a handsome one at that. He is tall, good looking, with a wonderful red Crest and black and dark rust-red feathers. I realized instantly that he was leading man material and so I named him Humphrey Bogart (I call him Humphrey even though it seems there could be an unintended double entendre involved). Nevertheless, as we predicted, his hormonal proclivities appear to have changed the dynamic of the hen house.

We noticed one of the hens, Golda by name, started hanging out in the coop a lot. We were suspicious that she and Humphrey had a relationship.

Indeed they did. Today, to our surprise and delight, Golda emerged with one tiny chick. We here at Upton Abbey are thrilled.

We are concerned, however that we don’t know the first thing about raising a single peep and a pretty protective mama. At this point we are trusting that Golda will do what chicken mamas have been doing for millennia. Otherwise, her progeny is doomed.

I’ll keep you posted, but I should say that the survival of our first home-grown chicken is not guaranteed. After all, there were other nest-mates who didn’t make it because we neglected to gather eggs for a day or two, which apparently confused Golda into sitting on the wrong eggs with the result that some of the nestlings wound up in a bowl in the kitchen.

Meanwhile, Humphrey has been crowing more and louder lately. Way to go, Humphrey.

* Upton Abbey is what I call our country dwelling unit built over my daughter and son-in-law’s garage. Our nearest neighbors are a flock of chickens and two ducks, Helga and Percival Puddles. Percy has been having an affair with LaVern, one of the chickens who … uh, let’s not talk about it.

Red World

During my prayer time this morning, while I was reflecting on the portion of the examen that is called “petition,” I moved to the couch and sat for a few moments looking out the front window at the trees and the sky. The Sun came out from behind the clouds and, uncharacteristically, I decided to lay down on the couch in the sunshine.

I closed my eyes and entered into the warm red-world that happens. I was not hot, which was the blessing. It was warm. And I thought of the Sun 93 million miles away, seething and roiling, sending heat across the expanse until it reaches our small globe. I think of the invisible magnetism that deflects the dangers of our constantly exploding star keeping us safe from its lethal presence. Perhaps I lay there for 5 minutes. During that time I also thought of similar moments when I was a much younger person. Funny how certain feelings and thoughts seem to have their roots in other times and spaces. Life becomes a whole then, not defined by beginnings and ends.

Slow Down to Listen

The Abbey – deck

It is a habit of mine to give names to things. I have named our cars, my bicycle, the chickens… Why? Doesn’t matter, I guess. It’s just fun. I call my house “Upton Abbey” because we live in a second floor add-on on our daughter and son-in-law’s property in Brush Prairie, Washington. Anyhow, these thoughts came as I was praying at home on the deck.

As I come to prayer again this morning, I realize that I need to renew my willingness to listen for the voice of the Spirit. Slowing down to listen is an important skill.

I remember working in the woods, desperately thirsty and wanting water. My crew partner and I,  would walk and then abruptly stop to listen. We were listening for the sound of gurgling water somewhere nearby. Sometimes it was difficult to sort out the sounds. A gentle breeze moving among the trees can mimic the sound of water. Intense thirst completes the illusion. But the point of importance to me this morning is the stopping to listen. I suppose my heart can create an illusion as well, but I must stop to listen nonetheless. Is what I hear –think I hear– the whisper of the Spirit?

Path around Johnston Park gardens

Another time, I was at The Grotto, a Catholic meditation garden, parish and Servite monastery near our home. Nearly every day I would enter by a back gate and spend time praying. While walking the path around a flowing water feature, I noted the sound of the water as though it were coming from my left, not to the right where the water was flowing.

It was only noticeable in one place on the path. One step more or less and I heard nothing. As I paused, I realized the sound was a reflection–an echo–caused by a bench next to the path. In one narrow place, I could hear the whisper of the water.

I’m guessing that these thoughts–the thirst and the whisper–are Father’s reminder to slow down and listen. Thirsty? Listen. Too often unwarranted feelings of urgency propel me beyond the whisper.

Take me back, Lord, to the place
Where I first learned how to hear.
To the path of new beginnings,
When you touched my deafened ears.
Take me to the place
Where I heard your whispered song.
Take me back, Lord, my Father
To the place where I belong.


Transitioning into the new.

“Upton Abbey”

After a year, beginning with a painful, but necessary parting from our home of 35 years, we are finally settled in our new place. I call it “Upton Abbey” since it’s mostly up above the garage at our daughter and Son-in-law’s house. Many have questioned the wisdom of being above anything at our age (how old do you think we are, anyway?) but notice we have a ramp. Our offices are at ground level. Mine is in the front; Jody’s is just behind it.

It’s cozy. One bedroom, walk through closet and a bath with laundry. There’s a deck and living, kitchen/dining space which is big enough to have family dinners and host the house churches from time to time like we used to. It’s all that the two or us need.

We’re grateful that our kids don’t mind having the “old folks” next door!

Family dinner in the making.