Sometimes Writing is Like Washing Eggs

I pulled the photo album from the shelf, the binder bulging from photos and story. I flipped through the black and white pages of faces unknown and known.

  • Of Mom and her siblings on the front steps of a South Dakota farmhouse.
  • Of elementary-age Mom with dark hair between her blonde-haired sisters, Sylvia and Joyce.
  • Of mom as a teenager dressed in jeans and a long-sleeved shirt, next to her brother, Glenn, helping their dad with the haying on their 480 acres.

I turned pages until I came to a section of memories my mom had written before her death four years ago.

Her history. Her story.

A tale about eggs.

Yes. Eggs.

“Eggs were a year-round cash crop for the family,” Mom had written. “Many chickens were raised and eggs needed to be picked daily. Evening after evening Lillian (my grandmother) would sit in the kitchen and wash more than 200 eggs. If she missed a few days, she could have 1000 eggs to deal with.”

Every night my grandmother washed eggs. After the laundry with a wringer washer. After feeding grandpa and eight of the twelve children that were still at home. After the dishes in the small, white ceramic sink. After mopping the floor from the muddy footprints of twenty feet. After prayers and tucking into two bedrooms.

After it all, Grandma washed eggs. With circular movements, Grandma washed off the dirt, blood, and chicken poop. Sometimes she would be so exhausted, she would fall asleep while still sitting in the chair. Jerking awake, she would pick up one egg, and then another, going late into the wee hours while the cuckoo clock on the wall ticked off the minutes.

Daily. Monotonous. Un-glorious. Necessary.

Life.

I was contemplating my grandmother’s endless eggs last week while I was doing the unexciting task of editing a manuscript, taking apart sentences egg by egg. I wanted to wait until I felt inspired. I wanted to work on a creative, fun, and new project. I wanted to go clean the kitchen. I wanted to read a book. I wanted to go sort out a closet.

I wanted…(you get the idea!)

Instead, I looked at verb choice. Commas. Sentence fragments. I read my editor’s notes and made changes. I checked a reference for accuracy.

So much of writing is about washing eggs.

What eggs do you have to wash this week?

 

Against the backdrop of the Sonoran Desert, Lynne Hartke writes stories of courage, beauty and belonging–belonging to family, to community and to a loving God. Her book, Under a Desert Sky, was released in May 2017 with Revell/Baker Publishing. She blogs at www.lynnehartke.com. You can find Lynne on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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Discovering Deep Secrets in the New Year

The Crosscut and Massacre Grounds trailhead usually has only a few cars parked in the dirt lot on the side of the First Water turnoff, but today we struggle to find a parking spot in the rows and rows of vehicles. The trailhead is named after a group of miners who lost their lives here in the 1800s, purportedly by a group of Apaches. Jacob Waltz, a Dutchman, claimed to have found that mine, but took the secret location to his grave, adding one more story to the legends and lore that surround these mountains.

We are not joining the thousands who have gone searching for the gold hidden in the area, but have taken the 45-minute drive from our home because we are looking for a different type of treasure.

Snow in the desert.

We cross the creek bed several times before climbing a gentle slope to a saddle. A dusting of snow covers the surrounding cholla and brittlebush, but our destination lies before us. The Superstitions are clothed in white.

Mollie, our rust-colored mutt, does not know what to think of her first frozen adventure. She stays on the trail, but as we stop to take photos of saguaros and prickly pear with their uncommon winter hats, Mollie forgets her fear and bounds after birds and other creatures, her tail a curled flag behind her.

The snow deepens as we dip into a narrow basin, the trail hedged by mesquite and hop sage bushes, the pink flowers peeking out of their white blanket.

 

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“It’s like Narnia,” my husband comments as we step around boughs weighted with snow, referring to a scene from the book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. The children in the story find themselves accidentally entering the world of Narnia through a wardrobe or closet.

As they step further in, pushing their way through the winter coats, the children are surprised by how much room is inside. Fur coats give way to pine boughs. Wooden floors give way to snow-covered paths.

Although it had first appeared small and confining, the wardrobe actually was a doorway to great adventure. The lives of the children would never be the same.

Cheryl Sacks and Arlyn Lawrence write in their book, Prayer-Saturated Kids, “[The children] discovered when they stepped into the wardrobe, the inside was larger than the outside” and “that the further up and further in you go, the bigger everything gets.”

1 Corinthians 2:9-10 (NLT) states, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him. But it was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit. For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets.”

God’s deep secrets. I long for that here on the trail, in the desert. The thought intrigues me. Speaks to something inside me. More than secret gold lost in these hills, I desire to discover God’s deep secrets here in the new year. In my life. In my writing.  

What a treasure!

As the sun warms the mountain, we stop and listen. After quieting our breathing, we experience something I have never heard before: the sound of the desert melting.

 

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Sometimes new sounds … deep secrets … can only be heard in the standing still. The stillness beckons me to leave my ordinary world and discover Narnia.

Is it time for you to enter into that place? To quiet your life and meet God? To step further in and discover how much bigger everything gets as you open the door to prayer and enter the world of God’s secrets?

Perhaps if you are quiet enough, you will experience your own melting and you will find yourself walking on snow-covered paths that lead you to adventure.

 

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Against the backdrop of the Sonoran Desert, Lynne Hartke writes stories of courage, beauty and belonging–belonging to family, to community and to a loving God. Her book, Under a Desert Sky, was released in May 2017 with Revell/Baker Publishing. You can find Lynne on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. This post originally appeared on her blog at www.lynnehartke.com when it snowed on New Year’s Day 2015.

Birding, Writing, and Who Cooks For You?

Roadrunner. Quail. Red-tailed hawk. White-winged dove.

I don’t recognize very many birds in the Sonoran Desert where I live in Chandler, Arizona–a lack I want to rectify, so on an early morning in June, I show up to the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix wearing proper birding attire: khakis, a long-sleeve cotton shirt and a broad-rimmed hat. Around my neck are binoculars that I scavenged from the bottom of a camping bin underneath first aid supplies, water bottles, a hot pink fanny pack, and mosquito netting. The thin strap is already cutting into the skin of my neck.

As a newbie, I am welcomed and handed a tri-fold official birding checklist with the names of 102 birds commonly found on these weekly jaunts in the gardens.

“All the brown birds confuse me,” I admit to Annie, a talkative regular who comes to the gardens at least three times a week.

“LBJ’s,” she says, “Little Brown Jobs.” Annie sports a harness-type strap for her binoculars so the weight is removed from her neck. I make a mental note.

New lingo. New equipment. I have more to learn than just bird names.

A man joins the group who just returned from a quick tour of one of the garden loops.

“Mallard with six babies,” he proclaims, “over on the pond.”

“Whoaaaaa!” the entire group exclaims in unison. If this was a vote for homecoming king, I am convinced he would be awarded the crown.

“Also saw a bullfrog nearby,” he admits.

Heads shake. Tongues click.  Eyes lower.

“Maybe there will still be four or five babies when we get over there,” says a heavy-set woman in a droopy hat. People nod hopefully.

Bullfrogs eat baby ducklings? Who knew?

“Puffin at ten o’clock,” says a man attired in denim.

A puffin! In Arizona? All eyes swing to the spot in the sky where he points.

An untethered metallic balloon floats among the clouds. “Happy Graduation” adorns the silver front.

A puffin. Birding humor.

For the next ninety minutes we explore the various trails. Official birders make check marks on their lists. I make notes in my small journal as I stick close to Andre, a white-haired gal with deep tan lines and a deeper knowledge of Arizona birds.

We see a Gila woodpecker taking a dip into an organ pipe cactus bloom. We count twenty-one white-winged doves looking for food under the palo blanco trees. A Gambel’s quail duo keeps an eye on seven young chicks. We focus our binoculars on a baby curve-billed thrasher in its nest in a cholla cactus, the long thorns warning off intruders, but not deterring its mother who returns with red fruit from a neighboring saguaro cactus.

Binoculars aim. Cameras focus. Pencils record.

“Listen,” Andre instructs. “Do you hear that?”

Woo-WOO-woo. Woo-WOO-woo.

“A Eurasian collared dove,” she says. “The second syllable is the longest. Not native, but it has spread across the United States since it was introduced to North America.”

“How is the call different from a white-wing and a mourning dove?” I ask.

“A white-wing sounds like ‘who cooks for you.’ A mourning dove has a different rhythm to it’s call, usually five syllables. Coo-OOO. Coo. Coo. Coo.” Andre sings the songs of the doves while I take notes.  A cactus wren scolds us from the branches of a mesquite tree.

“Look!” I point to a roadrunner lurking beneath a succulent.

“Good eye,” Andre says. The sun glints off the bird’s feathers as I get close enough to snap a photo of the blue and bronze skin near its eye. Several people pat my shoulder as they mark “roadrunner” off the list.

For a moment I am one of them. A birder.

“Who cooks for you?” a white-winged dove asks as I gather my four pages of notes and head to my car. A LBJ flies over head. I am determined to learn his name the next time I return to the gardens.

Where are you learning new things to add depth to your writing?

 

Lynne Hartke’s first book, Under a Desert Sky, was released in May with Baker/Revell Publishers. When she is not writing or blogging, she is out hiking desert trails.