On Recreation

Sunset over the Grand Teton mountains

Even the desert fathers believed it necessary to rest and recreate.  Below is story about St. Anthony defending his fellow monks when they once were observed jesting and enjoying themselves by a man who disapproved of such behavior among monks.

So vacations are time to have some fun while enjoying the blessings of God’s creation, even things millions of years old or extinct!

Some have been brought back from near extinction as humans realized we really can have a negative impact on creation or a positive one – human choices and behavior matter.

Even if God takes millions of years to form things, He has all the time in the world to bring His will to fruition.

The animals themselves seem to enjoy frolicking in God’s creation.

So too we humans enjoy God’s creation and each other’s company.

Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park

Though it was June and we saw plenty of snow, not everything white is ice or snow.  The hot springs make beautiful formations from the minerals they spew forth.

Sunrise at Cooke City, Montana, facing west.

From the desert fathers:

“There was somebody in the desert hunting wild animals and he saw Abba Anthony jesting with the brothers.  The elder wanted to convince the hunter that he had to come down to the level of the brothers from time to time.

He said to him: ‘Put an arrow to your bow and draw it.’  He did so.  He said to him: ‘Draw again,’ and he drew.  Again he said, ‘Draw.’  The hunter said to him: ‘If I draw beyond its capacity my bow will break.’  Said the elder to him: “So it is too with the work of God.  If we draw on the brothers beyond their capacity, they will quickly break.  So it is necessary to come down to the level of the brothers from time to time.’

The hunter was conscience-stricken when he heard this and went his way greatly benefitted from the elder.  The brothers withdrew to their place strengthened.”  (GIVE ME A WORD,  pp 33-34)

You can see all the photos I took on my tour of Yellowstone and environs at  2018 Yellowstone Vacation (just click on any icon to view the set of photos).  You can see a select few photos at Yellowstone Favorites and Vacation Favorites.  Meanwhile, back home our best friends awaited our return:

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Picturing Psalm 104:29-35

Previous Post: Psalm 104:23-28

When you hide your face, they are dismayed;

when you take away their breath, they die
and return to their dust.

When you send forth your spirit, they are created;

and you renew the face of the ground.
May the glory of the LORD endure forever;

may the LORD rejoice in his works—
who looks on the earth and it trembles,

who touches the mountains and they smoke.

I will sing to the LORD as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have being.

May my meditation be pleasing to him,
for I rejoice in the LORD.

Let sinners be consumed from the earth,
and let the wicked be no more.

Bless the LORD, O my soul.
Praise the LORD!

Picturing Psalm 104:11-15

Previous Post: Psalm 104:1-11

giving drink to every wild animal;

the wild asses quench their thirst.

By the streams the birds of the air have their habitation;

they sing among the branches.

From your lofty abode you water the mountains;
the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work.

You cause the grass to grow for the cattle,

and plants for people to use,

to bring forth food from the earth,

and wine to gladden the human heart,

oil to make the face shine,

and bread to strengthen the human heart.

Next: Psalm 104:16-22

Unseasonably Springing

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We have had a cold spring in our area.  Winter has held on to the temperatures and brought us snow flurries, while the song birds are heralding spring in trees which are budding while flowers have appeared in fields and flower beds.

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So when the day seemed even remotely springlike, I took my camera and walked the paths at Cox Arboretum.   The weather may not be springing, but I tried to put a little spring in my walk.

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I did see my first caterpillar, ant and  (my favorite) bee of the season – welcome signs of spring.

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In the Orthodox Church we frequently pray for “seasonable weather” which perhaps in our modern minds shaped by media weather reports translates into average or normal weather, though in our hearts we want it to be at least fair weather, preferable good or nice.

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But there is an old Arab saying which has it that “All sun makes a desert.”  We need the rain, clouds and cool weather to make our gardens grow.

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“Unseasonably.”  This to me is a strange word in the vocabulary of media meteorologists.  In the middle of winter they might say on the coldest night of the year that it is “unseasonably cold.”  They seem to mean it is below average in temperature, but in what other season except for winter would we have those bone chilling temperatures?

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We seem to have had an unseasonably cold spring this year, though I don’t know if the weather data would affirm that or whether we have been well within what is normal for this time of the year.

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A little ditty, I remember from my youth:  “Whether the weather be fine, or whether the weather be not, it’s not a matter of weather or not.  Whatever the weather, we’ll weather the weather, whether we like it or not.”   Searching on the Internet, I see that limerick has many avatars, none of them exactly as I remember it.

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You can find all of my photos from my walk at  2018-4-26 Cox Arboretum.   Despite the weather, the birds keep singing every morning.

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Two of Every Sort of Animal

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The story of Noah taking the animals in the ark mentions at one point taking two of each kind of animal with him.

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But the Noah narrative is actually made of two versions of the story woven together in one tapestry and makes no effort to harmonize the two versions.  The other version mentions taking seven pairs of clean animals and birds.

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When the animals follow Noah into the ark as if he is the chief shepherd to all animals, it is the first time in Scripture that the animals are said to follow the dominion of humans.

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The story portrays humans and animals in a harmonious relationship with humans having proper dominion over the animals.

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Inside the ark itself the story suggests another paradise with humans and animals living peaceably together, though outside the ark the raging waters will threaten death to all.

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“And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female.

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Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground according to its kind, two of every sort shall come in to you, to keep them alive.

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Also take with you every sort of food that is eaten, and store it up; and it shall serve as food for you and for them.”  (Genesis 6:19-21)

The ark was to be a protective storehouse of plants and animals that God would keep safe from the chaotic torrential downpour that would inundate the world.  As destructive as the deluge might be, God was preserving all the species on earth.

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What a menagerie of animals was brought together – just like in Paradise.

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“… they and every beast according to its kind, and all the cattle according to their kinds, and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth according to its kind,

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and every bird according to its kind, every bird of every sort. They went into the ark with Noah, two and two of all flesh in which there was the breath of life.

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And they that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him; and the LORD shut him in. ” (Genesis 7:14-16)

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All of the above photos were taken at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.  You can view all of my photos from there at SDZSP 2018 .   Photos from a previous visit are at SDZSP 2012.

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2017 A Few Favorites

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While most people published their favorites lists for 2017 weeks ago, I’m just now getting around to sharing a few of my favorites from among the photos  took in 2017.  Above:  nature itself shows us that creatures are competitive in survival.  No “Disneyfication” of nature.  I love watching the birds at the feeder in winter, but love is not the default mode for them.  They compete for survival.  Only humans are capable of the Christian love which takes us beyond our genes and self-preservatoin into the realm of free will and choice and love.  Self-denial turns out to be a key in what it is to be human.

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Even as the storm approached at sunset, I could see beauty in the world.  It was early spring and the leaves were not yet out.  There was a chill in the air – but the colors were eye catching.  I enjoyed the moment – literally the moment, for many things pass away quite quickly in life even when we feel they last for a long time.

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Spring comes and I am glad for it.  I am not a winter person.  Spring bursts forth with life and hues and scents, all speaking of life and the Creator.  I’ve paid far more attention to these details since having a camera.

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Sunrises and sunsets are stunningly wonderful to observe.  They can be awe inspiring, and yet because they are a daily occurrence, they seem invisibly mundane to so many.  No wonder the ancients felt dawn and dusk were hours of prayer.

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From the smallest of creatures comes great things.  We forget how dependent we are on insects for example to pollinate plants for our food.  We stomp on them for the fun of it, and otherwise ignore them thinking we could live without them.

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There are human wonders as well at which I marvel.  Humans have been gifted to do marvelous things through math, science, engineering, art and architecture.  We are capable of great works and of creating things not only pragmatic, but beautiful.

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And I often just enjoy whatever it is I am blessed to see on a given day.  Nothing special, and yet everything is special.  You can view all of my favorite 2017 photos at Fr. Ted’s 2017 Favorites.  Favorites don’t necessarily mean “best” –  they are personally the ones I enjoy the most.

The Sun – Serving God and Humans

“… the sun knows its time for setting.
You make darkness, and it is night,

when all the animals of the forest come creeping out.

The young lions roar for their prey,
seeking their food from God.

When the sun rises, they withdraw

and lie down in their dens.

People go out to their work
and to their labor until the evening.

O LORD, how manifold are your works!

In wisdom you have made them all;

the earth is full of your creatures.

(Psalm 104:19-24)

Springing to Life

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It has been pretty chilly in this part of the world lately.  We had some warmer days in February!  Above a wild Dwarf Iris.  Outstandingly beautiful.

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Above, another view of the Dwarf Iris.  A marvelous wild flower, which like many flowers can be viewed for only a short time before the flowers disappear.  Generally in the Bible the flower is a symbol of fading or temporary beauty.

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Peonies are cultivated and have flowers that do last a short while.

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The center of the Peony – the purpose of flowers is to produce seeds, not just beauty.  We cultivate flowers for their colors, shapes and fragrances.  In nature those attributes are needed more to attract pollinators.

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I was totally enamored by the color of the cones of the Weeping Blue Spruce above.

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Looking down on the Spring Larkspur it had a geodesic dome shape.

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Dogwoods were still in bloom the day I did my short walk at the Cox Arboretum.  You can see all my photos at Cox Arboretum, April 2017.

 

A Misty Fog

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“It is he who made the earth by his power, who established the world by his wisdom, and by his understanding stretched out the heavens. . . . and he makes the mist rise from the ends of the earth.  (Jeremiah 51:15-16)

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The Prophet Jeremiah tells us that it is the same God who created the universe who makes fog appear on earth.   Yesterday morning was one of the foggiest days I’ve seen for a long time – perhaps a sign that God the Creator is still at work on earth.  A combination of a warm winter day with lots of moisture in the ground produced the dense misty fog.  It made it a difficult drive – for one could only see about half a block ahead.

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It did remind me of the second creation account in the book of Genesis where a mist came up from the earth just before God created the first human.

These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created. In the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up—for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no man to till the ground; but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground— then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.  (Genesis 2:4-7)

In the Wisdom of Sirach, there is an interesting interpretation of the above Genesis passage, for the mist turns out to be Wisdom who says:

“I came forth from the mouth of the Most High,
and covered the earth like a mist.
(Sirach 24:3)

You can see all the photos I took in the morning fog at Foggy Morning 2-20-2017.  The weather pattern may repeat itself again later this week so we may have more heavy, dense fog.  It would be great if it were the Wisdom of God.

Look at the Birds Whom the Heavenly Father Feeds

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A Red-bellied Woodpecker lands kicking up some newly fallen snow.  A beautiful bird, I must say.

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According to Matthew 6:26, we are to consider the birds:   “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” (Matthew 6:26)

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Having fed a little, the woodpecker takes off, true to the proverb.  He didn’t toil at all to cause the seed to grow, but he was able to feed on it.

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Lots of feathered friends join the feast.  The cardinal adds a little color.

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A Tufted Titmouse finds a seed, or maybe drops it for other birds who can’t hang on to the feeder, and wait below on the ground for the seeds to fall.  “… some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them”  (Matthew 13:4).

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The tiny Chickadees are usually first to arrive at the feeder.  Their chirping seems to be the all-clear signal for the other birds to follow.

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Feeding the birds allows me to imitate the Heavenly Father who also feeds them (Matthew 6:26)   I do it for the fun of it.  The Nuthatch can hold on even when up-side-down,

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All of the photos in this blog were taken from my bedroom window.  I put the birdfeeders out there to enjoy the birds.  The Hairy Woodpecker is a frequent visitor.  Though small, the other birds seem to give him lots of space.

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The snow doesn’t discourage visitors to the birdfeeder.  I on the other hand find myself more confined at home during such weather.  I continue my recovery from the spinal fusion surgery.  As mentioned several weeks ago, I no longer need a cane to walk, and the surgery has for the time being relieved the pain.  However, ice and snow put a freeze on my life and I avoid going out on it when possible.  I still have to wear my back brace, and have many activity restrictions.  The riskiest thing I do is picking up the camera to take photos from my window as the camera is near my weight lifting limit of 8 pounds.

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You can find the Bewick’s Wren other photos I’ve taken recently around my birdfeeders at Birdfeeder 12-2016  or  Birdfeeder 1-2017.

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