The Wonderful World of Fairy Tales

Another special experience I had frequently in those sometimes slightly magical years of childhood is one which, I do not doubt, millions of other American children shared with me in a similar way.  I refer to it in the singular because it was a regular program.  And the regularity of it along with the cozy, familiar frequency, is part of what made it special. That was, The Wonderful World of Disney.

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For me the most special time of the week was Sunday evening after coming home from the beach, having a bath, getting into the PJs and then watching The Wonderful World of Disney.  (Eventually The Wonderful World of Color) There was, and still is, something about fantasy and magic that touches on the spiritual.  The same as with Somewhere Over the Rainbow, fantasy touches that place in us that longs for something we can’t see.  Something deeply good that is out of this world.

Disney took the fairy tale genre into color with cartoons and amazing animations world famous for more than half a century now.  Those early movies transported me over the rainbow at least for a little while, and I do believe that God used them to touch on my longing.

Famous for his (posthumous) influence on C.S. Lewis, George MacDonald was a master story teller contemporary with Lewis Carrol and Dickens.  His best works were his original fairy tales.  He wrote for both children and adults.  Both he and Lewis believed that there is often more truth in fairy tales and fantasy than what we see with our uninspired visions of ‘reality’.

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For more about MacDonald:

https://blog.bookstellyouwhy.com/george-macdonald-master-of-fantasy-religious-thought

 

Investigating the Disney youtubes from that time I found that the song, When You Wish Upon a Star was a theme song that has stayed with me.  I didn’t even know that I knew the lyrics!  And I realized that as a child wishing was like a form of prayer for me.  I wished for certain things very hard and I can recall looking out at the stars as I did so!  I believe now that God heard those wish-prayers.  God himself is the answer.

Did you grow up watching Disney or reading fairy tales?  Did they have a spiritual impact on you?  Have you ever read MacDonald or much C.S Lewis?  What about Tolkien or other fantasy writers?

 

 

 

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Experiences of a Sense of God’s Presence in my Early Life (Continued)

This is a continuation of my ‘series’ if you will, on answering the question: In what ways have I been aware of the ‘movement (or Presence) of God’ in my life? This post follows on from a previous one about my childhood.  I’m keeping this one short although there is more to come.

I feel a bit silly writing this one, but I’m sure people have had stranger experiences.  Perhaps, as you read this, a memory of something happening to you as a child, or even recently, which you can’t quite explain or remember well will come to you.  Is there something which left an impression on you of ‘other-worldly-ness’?

As you read, you might like to consider: have you felt something of God growing up even if you had no ‘religion’ or maybe even despite it?  I’d love to hear your ruminations and recollections!

The Mysterious Young Stranger

Could he have been an angel?  There was an ‘older boy’, perhaps as old as 12, who used to walk me through the narrow path which led from the school yard to the street near mine.  I say ‘used to’ like it happened many times.  The truth is I don’t remember clearly.  It may only have been once though I seems to me to have been a ‘season of visits’.  Or it may have been a season of vivid dreams for that matter!

He didn’t walk me all the way to my house from school, and it wasn’t my older brother even though he would have been at the same school then.  I imagine that he had fair hair and wore the typical clothes and shoes of a 1963-ish Northern Californian boy.  That is, a horizontally stripped blue and white t-shirt tucked into jeans rolled up over high top tennis shoes.  With some clarity I do remember sitting on the curb with him and just chatting.  I have no idea what we chatted about – perhaps about God.  The main thing I recall is that I felt quite safe and protected with him.  I felt better about myself because of him. I do wish I could remember more. I was telling a wise friend about this strange memory once and she suggested that perhaps he was an angel!  It is wonderful to think that God may have manifested nearness to me in this way.

Whatever else he was, he was a friend.  A friend who shared goodness and a touch of God’s nearness with me.

“What draws friends together does not conform to the laws of nature.” – Rumi

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Perigrinatia’s Reflections on Wilderness Wanderings

So, I feel inclined, as I blog again, to reflect on my ‘spiritual journey’.

Two questions have inspired me to start writing once more.  The first is: ‘What have I brought back from my various ‘adventures’ in foreign lands?’   Not meaning my material souvenirs, but rather what I have gained from rubbing elbows with the different people I have met; what has been worked into me by adjusting to such new-to-me cultures and what about the infrastructure often less convenient than here?  How did I manage culture shock? And most importantly, and how did I grow spiritually through my travels?  I hope that anecdotal reflections on my material journeys will shed light on these questions within the over-riding one.

However, this journey began well before I ever ventured overseas.  I began ‘wandering’ as a child.  It seems to have been in my DNA. And much of my time could metaphorically be considered ‘in the wilderness’ in that I often felt lost.

Which leads to my second guiding question, ‘In what ways have I been aware of the movement God within my soul throughout my life?’  If you believe, as I do, that God is omnipresent, then God would have been there every moment of my life long before I was aware of anything.  But awareness of God, or Spirit if you will, is often subjective and hard to pin down.  Nevertheless, I’d like to begin at the beginning for now.  Although I might choose to jump around in my narration later!

I grew up with very little ‘religion’.  My first experience of church was when I visited a friend’s house, at the tender age of 5, to spend the night.  Permission to do this was only given if I agreed to go to church with her family.  So I went along and I remember very little of this encounter which now makes any sense.  The exception being that I do recall my friend’s mother inviting me to “accept Jesus” into my heart by praying a simple prayer.  I cannot recall what I thought of this idea then, but I was quite malleable and did as I was asked.  I don’t have many clear childhood recollections, but I remember this episode with some clarity. I believe that this was my first conscious encounter with God moving in my spirit.  I believe I was given the impression at that time that this person, Jesus – whoever he was, cared about me.

The youngest of five children with an overwhelmed mother, I was often left to my own devices.  I would wander the neighborhood and visit elderly ladies who must have spoiled me with cookies.  (Parents weren’t so concerned about keeping track of their kids in those days!)  I would play alone in the school yard or our backyard climbing the plum tree.  I loved to swim and must have been given swimming lessons quite young (or else my parents had little fear of the possibility of drowning) because I had lots of time alone in our small, circular doughboy pool.  I remember many peaceful moments of light sparkling on the water and peeking through the grape arbor and I think God seemed very near then.

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Music is very powerful and many songs from those great early Disney movies along with others such as The Wizard of Oz made a deep impression on me.  On one occasion alone in the late afternoon in the school yard while swinging high on one of those tall chainlike swings they had then, I sang Somewhere Over the Rainbow and wished that I could go there.  That was my idea of Heaven.

[As an aside, I’ve since learned that this song has musical power because musically speaking Dorthy is “longing for high C”.]

http://www.upworthy.com/theres-a-reason-so-many-people-love-somewhere-over-the-rainbow-a-songwriting-expert-reveals-it

This song made me yearn for another world, the something deeper, something magical that children, and adults want if we’re honest.  As C.S. Lewis put it, “I have found a desire within myself that no experience in this world can satisfy; the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

There were other instances in my childhood when Heaven drew me and I felt the presence of God hovering near.  Perhaps I’ll reflect more on them here soon.

Thanks for reading!  I hope that you check out the link above if you’re interested in music and find out how that song worked.

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Back in the Saddle Again

 

Dear Faithful Friends and Gentle Readers,

As you are reading this you may be wondering why I haven’t blogged for such a long time.  Or you may be well aware of the reason for my absence from my own site.  You may have even helped me out, prayed for me or been in regular contact supporting me as I have been recovering from the rug being pulled out from under me last October.  If so, THANK YOU!  You may know as well that although I still have the medical diagnosis of ‘Stage 4 cancer’ (no cap on that word on purpose!), I am feeling (albeit hair-lessly) almost normal again.  I am pain-free, strength and energy are returning and I’m endeavoring to use my time more purposely now than I was able to for many months while going through chemo.  I’d like to say that I’m 100% “healed”, but the scans don’t show that yet.  I’ve had faithful prayer and I’m hopeful that I can live out many more years to come!

So I’m looking forward to getting back into the blog saddle again.  My blog posts that I intend to write in the future may be anecdotal reflections on my peregrinations (or wanderings if you prefer, but isn’t that a great word?) or more spiritual in nature since I’m on a more spiritual journey these days.

You’re so very welcome to join me on this journey and I heartily invite you to comment, question and help me to get going again please!  You see, I’m not working yet, or maybe won’t again.  I’m not sure.  But I’d love to write more and more and maybe one day when I grow up I’ll be a ‘real writer’ and make some money!  (Actually, I did get paid for writing once.)  I’ve honestly been planning to write again for months, but I’ve felt ‘stuck’.  So I think the secret is to write only a little at a time and not let myself get overwhelmed.  Enough for today then!  See you soon I hope.  oxoxo

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The End of The Grand Canyon of The Tuolumne Backpacking Trip

The Last Day and Conclusion

We learn more about what is inside of ourselves when we push ourselves, or are pushed, out of our comfort zones.  I found out that washing socks in cold river water is not sufficient to get them really clean and that wearing ones that aren’t 100% clean results in bad blisters!  I also found out that I need people more than I knew and that I need to say so.

Julie woke everyone up about 4:30 with a gentle rise and shine around the camp.  I got up in a flash and took the tent down in record time.  I got myself ready and put the last few finishes on my pack more quickly than ever.  But not quickly enough.  Before I was quite ready I saw all the campers, except for “the sweep”, lined up in military formation in the dark and heading out behind Julie.  I was ‘gobsmacked’- dumbfounded.  Devastated. I had thought there would be a few leaving a little bit later.  I didn’t think I’d be the last one – again. And I had no idea whatsoever how much it would bother me.  I’m sure now that others had no idea either.

Feeling sucker-punched I somehow rebounded enough to finish packing and then drag the pack to a log of the right height in order to strap that ape on my back again.  I hesitated before doing so causing ’S’ to wonder if I needed help.  He was casually taking his tent down and in no hurry.  I reassured him that I was just catching my breath and waiting for it to get light enough as I, for one, didn’t want to hike in the dark.  The truth was that I didn’t really want him – or anyone at that moment – to know how I really felt.

Finally, with a heavy heart, I got my boots moving down the trail to the bridge over the Tuolumne near where I’d happily swam that day rest filled day before.  It was a gentle trail to begin with and I would have enjoyed it if I hadn’t been reeling from shock.  I felt like crying but wouldn’t because I thought that would make it all worse.  After I‘d gone on for 1/2 mile or so I stopped and put my iPod on.  The music both helped and hindered.

The trail gradually began going up away from the river getting steeper.  Eventually I gave voice in my thoughts to my feelings as the music ministered to me forcing unwelcome tears.  Like an infected sore it all had to come out – that anger, that senseless sense of abandonment and betrayal.  So much for community!  As Richard has spoken of in a discussion of community referring to Henri Nouwen’s book, Spiritual Direction, we need community for growth, but community is far from perfect and hurt is inevitable.  Our woundings, from our too often painfully imperfect childhoods, may be broken open again.  Abandonment was one of mine and that wound was screaming things about the group which weren’t really true, although they felt it then.  I said to myself I’d never sing again and certainly wouldn’t ever tell anyone how this early morning being left behind ‘alone’ was affecting me!

After a few miles S caught up with me.  It was good to see another familiar face despite the state I was in.  I had come to think of him affectionately as a faithful sheepdog making sure I didn’t stray.  He stayed reserved and let me go on alone after a brief rest and chat assuming, I suppose, that I wanted to hike alone.  He had no idea of the storm raging inside my heart and mind.

The positive aspect of those miles was that I did not feel abandoned by God.  My music was gently reminding me that Christ’s love is faithful even when we behave and/or feel wretched.  Human love fails. Christ’s love is perfect and He promises to “never leave us or forsake us”. We can only trust in Him 100% alone. I don’t doubt that many people would say that they have felt forsaken in dark moments, but later realized that they were not.  But I felt His comforting presence and also gradually began to realize how ridiculous I was being to think so badly of the others.  They were afraid of hiking those switchbacks in the hot sun and of not being able to do it.  They had chosen to be together.  I had not told anyone when I was leaving and only assumed that there would be a few others leaving at the same time.  Assuming things makes an ‘ass out of U and Me’ (ass u me).

It was probably only about 2 hours before I caught up with the last two of the group by which time God was whispering to my soul to stop being silly and walk with others as I realized I needed to do.  So, after passing them once, I stopped and waited for them to catch up.  Then I found out that one of them was having difficulties and the other was helping her.  I felt bad for not seeing this before and my sense of loyalty overcame my self-centered focus.

I stayed with them the rest of the journey.  Helping someone else, or at least wanting to, helped me.  We played 20 Questions as we walked and actually had a little fun!  My loneliness subsided and my soul became more balanced again.  The rest of the climb was still very hard, but there was beauty helping us too. We passed through a wet, sloped meadow of Quaking Aspens such as I’d never seen before.  The hard switchbacks were behind us and we hoped the hardest part had been overcome. Wild flowers were everywhere and the air was becoming cooler.  The higher elevation changed what we could see around us.  The sense of accomplishing this dreaded part of the trip buoyed me up.

The rest of that climb was still quite a challenge and we had to rest often, refill our water bags, take in snacks and deal with our infirmities.  Out troubled companion got help from S and John who carried some of her stuff.  We 5 became a group and I was grateful for that.

HardenPanoramaLjkeHarden Lake was a turning point for me when I sensed that we didn’t have so much farther to go and were already at quite a high elevation again.  As it turned out the last few miles were quite a slow slog along a gravel road that seemed to never end.

But finally there was Richard’s rich red truck welcoming us back to White Wolf.  UnknownOh the joy of that moment!  I’ll savor it always.  Getting into his truck and sitting on a comfy car seat again. Ahhh.  And he’d already been to the store, bought a burrito and saved a half for me!  I had been looking forward to ice cream but this somehow was even better.  Oh, and Julie had a few beers to share one of which I exultantly enjoyed.  My blisters still hurt but those first moments back in a little bit of ‘civilization’ were so special I could easily ignore the little bit of pain.

The rest of the evening was similarly special as we all enjoyed real showers and clean clothes along with food that wasn’t previously freeze-dried.  I slept in a big soft bed that merced05night with clean sheets and the sound washing over me of another friend, the Merced River, just outside the balcony door.  It was heavenly.

The next morning I realized how much I’d missed my Bible too and gave thanks for the Gideons.  Gideon Bibles are often still kept in motel nightstands and I hope they always will be.  The one I found spoke volumes to me as I welcomed familiar the passages jumping off the pages into my sore soul with The Spirit’s energy rejuvenating me.  More unexpected tears flowed which then I welcomed. I felt like my soul had been freeze-dried too and was now becoming full-bodied again, restored.  I had an unplanned mini-retreat right there.

The end of the group experience was a great breakfast at Julie’s comfy ‘Casa del Sol’ Cabin.  She graciously hosted us once again after leading us all week with such care.  After eating, still gathered around a real table seated on cushioned chairs, one of the group shared her essay on the book of Job and suffering.  Not exactly celebratory, but for this trip and my own experience it was quite fitting.  A lively discussion followed which I didn’t jump into.  But then I realized I needed to share something of what I’d gone through the day before as a way of ‘repenting’ my somewhat childish, emotional thinking and saying that I would never sing again!  Having been so enlivened in the motel room I felt The Spirit’s prompting to express my ‘take’ on suffering – it’s ‘purpose’ – at least as I could see it especially in my life from that somewhat traumatic trip coming then to closure.  So I shared of my pains throughout the week and what had happened the morning before as well as a little about a close friend’s Stage 4 cancer.  I quoted Romans 8:28 AND verse 29 as explanations for God’s purpose, which I see as: Conformity to the person of Christ – not Comfort.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.”  Romans 8:28-29 (New International Version)

This seemed to be well-received and I was thankful that many prayed for my friend afterwards.  We also brought the table-time to an end with prayer.  This was a great way to conclude the trip.

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Backpacking Continued, Days 3- 4

Pate Valley, Wednesday Evening after a refreshing dinner. 

With our day of rest in question, we had a discussion about the pros and cons of staying at our campsite there and resting, as had been originally planned, or looking for another campsite in the morning and moving on at least a few miles in order to minimize the stress of the 3,500 foot in 5 miles challenge looming large on Friday.  Everyone who wanted to speak up did, it seemed, and eventually we reached a consensus to stay and rest.  It was also decided that Friday morning that anyone determined to would leave even before daybreak.  No one wanted to face the switchbacks in the later hot part of the day.

So Thursday was a day of taking it easy after all; swimming, exploring Pate Valley and playing cards.  Most of the group hiked to see the Native American Pictographs and other archeological remains of the people who once called Pate Valley their home.  There was also said to be a sacred burial ground nearby.  Julie had stories to tell of this which she may contribute later.

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Here is a link to more great photos by other backpackers of the past:

https://explorerdj.smugmug.com/CaliforniaWild/Yosemite-Tuolumne-River-82013/Scenics-Yosemite-82013/i-pWw3RfN

I decided to stay and rest my leg with the pulled muscle.  (I had no more trouble with it after that thankfully.)  It was great to sit in my chair by the river in the morning, to write, reflect and draw. I noticed how all of the granite river stones were worn round by being smooth-river-stones-wall-inkblueskytumbled against each other.  It made me think of how people who stay in community become like this with sharp edges worn off.

Later in the afternoon, when it was quite warm, I spent a good chunk of time in the swimming hole by the bridge which we would cross in the morning.

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The swimming hole was just perfect. I love lazy summer days.  When I came back to camp I stayed chilled and it was fun playing cards with Richard, eating starters courtesy of Tamar again and then hor-derves as well before dinner!

After dinner we were surprised with delightfully hilarious entertainment from the young trail crew across the river who were celebrating halloween early!

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They gave us a talent contest which was crazy and full of unexpected variety. We had to decide the winners and it was a tough call.  One of the them, my favorite, gave us the most well spoken rendition of this famous poem I have ever heard.

Jabberwocky, by Lewis Carrol

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:

All mimsy were the borogoves,

And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!

The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!

Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun

The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand;

Long time the manxome foe he sought—

So rested he by the Tumtum tree

And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,

The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,

Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,

And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through

The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!

He left it dead, and with its head

He went galumphing back.

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?

Come to my arms, my beamish boy!

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”

He chortled in his joy.

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:

All mimsy were the borogoves,

And the mome raths outgrabe.

That evening we retired early and many slept out under the stars as it was quite warm at night there.  Almost everyone was fully ready to break camp before daybreak.  I thought I was ready to pack up and head out at least with a few of the other less super-hearty-campers at dawn.  But it was not to be.

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Through the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne continued…

Before going on with the story here is a photographic interlude courtesy of Richard and others who kindly shared photos…
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This is from Tuolumne Meadows at the start when Julie was explaining about the high mountains and what grows at the various elevations we were to pass through.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Throughout the journey we were keeping our eyes open for one of these!

 

 

 

 

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It was always welcoming to come upon one of these old signs, but we learned that the mileage was usually inaccurate.

 

 

 

 

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A few of us taking some time for thoughtful reflection including Laurie, ‘Gandalf’ and yours truly.

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Stalwart Judy chilling at the ‘grotto’ on Wednesday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Friend, the Tuolumne River

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The passes, our challenges

 

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‘The Kitchen’ in Pate Valley with Tamar making much appreciated hors d’oeuvres; Sylvan exhibiting the mushroom he’d found and some of ate and lived to tell the story (kind of slippery texture!); Julie and Sylvan making oatmeal or cream of wheat.

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