Each week on Wednesday, George Yandell, the Rector of the Parish, or other invited parishioners, share their thoughts on any topic that they choose. The most recent are presented here.”
October 25, 2023
By Reverand George Yandell, Rector
Nancy Womack and I were backpacking in the Smokies in late fall some 37 years ago. We’d hiked up to Parson’s Bald for the first night’s camp. The next day we hiked on the Appalachian Trail over Gregory Bald toward Russell Field. It was a cloudy, cool morning. As we hiked near the bald, we passed under ancient oak trees, their leafless limbs looming above us. Out of nowhere, a great gray owl flew silently onto a gnarled old branch right above us. We stood without moving, as he looked at us and we at him. After a bit, we started hiking slowly past the oak. The owl flew on in front of us and lighted on another high branch above the trail. We approached his perch, and again he sat motionless, watching us. This pattern continued for over 20 minutes. We were the only humans anywhere around and he the only other being we encountered.
After the encounters, we paused in the trail, silent for a bit. As we sipped from our canteens, we grinned at each other, then started laughing with delight, then babbled to each other- “Can you believe…… Did that really happen….. What must he have been thinking….” We agreed it was a series of mystical encounters.
As we resumed hiking, the views from the top of the bald extended limitlessly for 360 degrees. I felt so grateful to be right there with Nancy (my cousin and Godmother). When we got to the Russell Field shelter, we went through the pattern we’d followed so many times before- gather wood, get the fire going, lay out our sleeping bags, walk down to the water pipe in the side of the hill, fill our water bags and canteens, back to the shelter as the mist drifted down, attach our ponchos to the chain-link bear guards at the open side of the shelter to shield us from the wind and rain. Then we sat at the fireside and sipped Merlot as dusk settled in. As far as we knew there were no other humans anywhere near us.
As I recall now, we didn’t talk much through dinner. It felt to me that there was nothing much to say. Then as we slipped into our sleeping bags, Nancy said aloud, “Thank you, George for getting us out on the trail for this incredible day. And thank you God, for the wonder and awe you offered us.” We both said, “Amen,” and drifted off to sleep
October 4, 2023
By the Reverand George Yandell, Rector
The gray kitty was on my lap as we sat on the side porch at dusk last week. We watched the shadows creep over the yard. Then a tiny light drifted in front of our perch- a lightning bug. As it flew slowly up and down, I thought, “This is last lightning bug we’ll see until next summer.” Gray kitty couldn’t confirm my assumption, but I sensed he agreed. We’d watched them all thru’ the summer, sometimes 20 – 30 drifting in front of us.
Each evening I’ve been trying to spy Saturn in the early night sky to the west. The trees make it hard. And each morning before dawn I’ve been out to view Jupiter riding high above, the Pleiades and Orion framed against Jupiter’s path. Venus is so bright in the eastern sky she shines through the leaves on the oak trees. Haven’t been able to find Mercury yet- the ‘blue wall’ of Mt. Oglethorpe obscures its rising against the brightening dawn.
Maybe it’s because I’m getting more sentimental as I age past 70, but I am driven to feel and see all I can of nature’s glory. I often hear Amos’ words in my head when I’m stargazing: “The One who made the Pleiades and Orion and turns the deep darkness into the morning, and darkens the day into night, who calls for the waters of the sea, and pours them out onto the surface of the earth,
September 1, 2021
By the Reverand George Yandell, Rector
I’m not up on current trends, but in a number of interviews on NPR in the past weeks, and on the Late Show, when the interviewer/host asks questions, the interviewee often has responded, “Absolutely!”
Example (made up by me): “In your research you’ve discovered that cats like catnip. Is that true?” “Absolutely!” the interviewee responds, with vigor. Exactly what’s absolute about that question? Do the cats respond by touching a button labeled ‘Absolutely true’? Do the cats prefer catnip over everything else, including tummy rubs? “Absolutely!” I doubt it.
The Microsoft dictionary here on my computer has this definition: “Used to emphasize a strong or exaggerated statement.” My American Heritage dictionary defines it this way: “Definitely and completely; unquestionably.”
So what part of the catnip question is strong or exaggerated? It’s a QUESTION.
Absolute Vodka came to mind. On its website, it offers an answer to the question:
Is Absolut Vodka and its production process vegan?
YES. All Absolut products are absolutely vegan, thus they do not contain any animal products and no such products are used in the production process. We do not use any animal derivatives, either directly in the product itself, or to filter the product. We do not use bone chars in any process. And no catnip. (My insertion.)
So Absolut vodka is also absolutely everything. What’s going on with this superlative?
May 26, 2021
By the Reverend George Yandell, Rector
In mid-August 1991, my cousin Nancy and I rendezvoused in Butte, Montana. We planned to take three days to acclimate to the altitude before we began our 12-day Sierra Club backpacking trip in the Pintler-Anaconda Wilderness area. That hike was to take us up to the continental divide, then hike north from high-country lake to lake with a mid-hike supply. Dr. Wayne Chamberlain was the guide and leader of the trip. (An anesthesiologist from Helena but who hailed from Memphis, where I lived at the time.)
The day before the hike, the trip leaders descended on our motel with all the food supplies. Nancy volunteered to have the loads of freeze-dried food brought to her hotel room (next to mine) and help sort it out. I had no idea what that entailed. They got started sorting the food into separate packets for each meal for 18 people for 12 days. That meant 36 large parcels with more than 72 packets labeled by day and meal. We each ended up carrying @ 15-20 pounds of the ‘Commissary’- the food, the cooking pots, the water bags.
The sorting day was August 19. There was no room for me in the sorting space, so I watched TV- special coverage of the fall of the Soviet regime. Boris Yeltsin was standing on top of a tank in front of the Soviet Parliament building. I rushed into Nancy’s room to tell the team what was happening.