Tag Archives: collections

Nature In The Concrete Jungle


Surprises from my trip to New York…

I never expected to find much nature in The Big Apple. All my life I’ve heard and read about the spectacular skyscrapers, the lovely brownstones, the dilapidated tenements with their rickety fire escapes. But the only reference to nature I remember is the book title, “A Tree Grows In Brooklyn”. So on my recent adventure to the big city, all I expected to see was …big city.

But, like any other city, New York has refreshing spots of natural beauty as well as an impressive skyline. Granted, that “natural” beauty has in most cases been designed and inserted into the cityscape. Still, on the way to St. Patrick’s Cathedral with Jenny and Jere, I was delighted to see a beautiful garden with fountains and hundreds, if not thousands, of blue and lavender hydrangea blossoms. Mom Cutshaw grew incredibly gorgeous blue hydrangeas in her backyard garden, and anytime I see them I think of her.

 nyc hydrangea garden

nyc single hydrangea-1

The carriage ride around Central Park with Elizabeth, Susan and Katie Jo showed me more of the nature New York has to offer. We saw huge rock formations, trees, shrubs and flowers of all kinds, including Japanese dogwoods in bloom. The weather for our trip was as perfect as we could have asked for, with mild temperatures, sunshine, breezes and low humidity. The only rain we had was the day we landed (and it was gone and the sun shining on us again by the time we reached the hotel) and the morning we left to come back home. I feel a little bit spoiled that my first trip to New York was as beautiful as it was!

The happiest “nature moment” for me came as we walked to meet our carriage driver. I had prayed and hoped against hope that I would have the chance to add to my feather collection on this trip. As Elizabeth and Katie Jo and I hurried to meet Susan and our driver, I spotted a beautiful white feather, more than 2 inches long, on the ground. This was almost too good to be true! So I asked my companions to wait up while I grabbed it and tucked it safely inside my bag.

nyc feather

 That pretty white feather is such a blessing, as all the feathers in the collection are. It reminds me of God’s watchful, loving care. Once again I imagined that my feather came from the wing of some guardian angel God had assigned to watch over me and my friends. Wherever it came from, it is a reminder that His eye is on the sparrow…and the pigeon, and the singing tourist enjoying the beauty of New York for the first time.

Pearls Of Great Price


There are many kinds of value…

I love jewelry.  I have loved it since I was a little girl.  My earliest memory of wearing a piece of jewelry is the time Mama put a little heart necklace on me when she got me all gussied up in a dress no doubt made by Aunt Ruby for some Pixie Pin-Ups pictures.


Ever since then I’ve been hooked on all kinds of jewelry.  Gold, silver, (rose gold is a real favorite!), with gemstones or not, rings, earrings, bracelets and necklaces are all fair game for me.  From the daintiest studs to enormous earrings, as fashions have changed over the years, I have experimented with different jewelry styles.  But there are some items that are classic, timeless, always right, always appropriate and always ladylike.  Like pearls.

As far as I know, Mama never owned a strand of genuine pearls, but she had good pearl earrings that I borrowed for dressy occasions until I received some pearl earrings of my very own.  For Christmas 1991, my sweet husband gave me a beautiful, luminous 18 inch “princess” length strand of pearls.  I was thrilled!  To this day I think they are the prettiest pearls I’ve ever seen.  I wear them for dressy occasions and, because pearls are part of my chorus’s concert attire, I wear them for concerts as well.


And sometimes I wear them with casual clothes just because they are beautiful and I love them.  However I wear them, I take good care of them because natural and cultured pearl jewelry is expensive and I want them to stay as beautiful as they always have been. Someday I’ll be gone and someone will inherit my pearls along with my other belongings.  I hope that someone will receive as much pleasure from wearing them as I receive.

The most recent addition to my pearl collection is not of the expensive sort…but its value is beyond measure.  When Aunt Ruby died last August, my cousin Alan had the family gather at his house after the graveside service.  He mentioned that he had her old sewing machine out in his garage and asked if I wanted to poke around in the drawers.  I asked if everybody else had been through them and he said, “Yes, there’s not much of anything in there.”  So I had the chance to gather a few little treasures from Aunt Ruby’s sewing machine.  I took home a couple of little boxes not knowing what all they contained until I sat down for an afternoon of “pilfering” (what Mama used to call it when we went digging/rummaging/hunting for something).  In a tiny old-fashioned medicine bottle were a few random fasteners, the snap kind that Aunt Ruby put on housecoats, as well as a couple of sewing machine needles, the kind that served double duty as ear-piercing instruments.  And there was one small plastic “pearl” button.  It wouldn’t surprise me if she had used the other buttons like that on one of the many little-girl dresses she made for me.

What a treasure!  And I knew just how to use that solitary little button.  It now lives on the gold pin that holds my Confidence Charms, the talismans I wear for every important event in my life. It has found a perfect home there.


Just a little plastic pearl button, not what could be considered valuable…but it’s priceless.

Giving It Up For Lent


When I give something up, I gain something else…

I spent the afternoon yesterday visiting with Aunt Helen and her kids, my cousins Lisa and Mike.  It was a much-needed visit with family I don’t get to see nearly often enough.  For years we have run into each other most frequently at the funeral home, and that is a situation I think we all would like to change.  After some recent events in each of our lives, we might be more likely to make time for visits like yesterday.

I remarked yesterday that I collected feathers but I had not found one in a while, and I was looking forward to springtime when the birds are more active and there might be more feathers to find.  In an interesting bit of timing and providence, today on the first day of Lent,  I found my first feather in months.  It’s not a pretty one.  It’s kind of dirty and pitiful, actually, enough to make me wonder what the little bird might have suffered in the process of dropping it.

But I didn’t think twice about picking it up and adding it to the others I have gathered over the last few years.  It’s pitiful, but I will give it a home.  As Lent commences, I think about how pitiful I am, but God has given me a home even in my pitiful state.  Many religious traditions encourage their adherents to give up various indulgences during Lent, or to take on some extra project to enhance one’s spiritual life.  A couple of times during Lent I have written letters to people telling them how much they mean to me.  It turned out to be a study in gratitude that blessed me more than it blessed the recipients.

Several years ago I decided to read the C.S. classic “Mere Christianity”.  It took time that I could have used tor other pursuits, but what I gained from reading it far outweighed the time I invested.  This year, in addition to eating more sensibly, I have decided it’s time for more C.S. Lewis during Lent, and the book I’ve chosen is “The Problem of Pain”.  I am certain that God led me to this particular book for a reason; after enduring Aunt Ruby’s death last summer and watching numerous friends lose their loved ones, especially parents, in the last several months, suffering has been very present in my world.

Jesus told us that in this world our lives would be filled with trouble.  He never promised is that we would not suffer.  What He did promise is that we would not suffer alone; He is with us in our pain.  As I give up pieces of my time to do extra reading during Lent, I am trusting that God has something for me to gain through that investment.  He always does.


(the opening page before the preface to “The Problem of Pain” by C.S. Lewis, and the sad little feather I found today)

The Confidence Charms


Musician Superstition

Lots of people have superstitions. Black cats and sidewalk cracks don’t bother me, but I always knock on wood. I can’t help it, it’s something I’ve done for as long as I can remember. I don’t even remember how it got started, or when. I only know that I have to do it. It’s almost pathological!

Athletes, performers and musicians often have some ritual that they follow, or some lucky garment or charm that they wear or carry. I don’t believe in luck. Luck, to me, implies something randomly working out well. I don’t believe in random, either. I believe in preparation, blessing and confidence.

That being said, I have a musician superstition of my own, a set of confidence charms that I wear for every concert, solo, audition, interview or any other occasion (musical or otherwise) when I feel like I need a little extra confidence. The collection has grown over the years. When I was a teenager, my only charm was a simple, small gold treble clef that my parents had given me for Christmas or a birthday. I wore this pendant for every musical event that was important to me, from wedding solos to All-State Chorus auditions and performances, to my college choir tours and voice recitals. I gave this charm to my friend Kathryn as she was graduating from college the year after I did. I found a replacement treble clef shortly after that and began wearing it, but it didn’t look like the original.Image

At some point I added the gold heart locket that my sweet husband, Jeff, had surprised me with for Christmas one year. On one side it contains a photo of him on our wedding day. The other side has a picture of our first dog, Ernie The Wonder Beagle.Image

After Mama died, I purchased a tiny gold and ruby cross pendant. Ruby was her birthstone and I wanted something in ruby to honor her.Image

I began wearing the cross with the locket and the treble clef, sometimes on a necklace, sometimes on a bracelet. Later on I found another treble clef charm that looks more like my original one, so I added it to the collection.ImageThe most recent addition is a tiny broken watch, and the story that goes along with it. Mama was notorious for over-winding watches, and her old jewelry box contained several little ones from the 1950’s that no longer worked for her over-zealous winding habits. I added one of them to my collection of confidence charms while I was doing a ministry class in a hospital last year, as a reminder that the present moment is all we have.Image

I wore my charms every night I was on call at the hospital because I never knew what a given night would hold and I definitely needed confidence. Countless times I touched those charms as I prayed for a patient, a family member…for wisdom and compassion as I tried to minister to them.

The charms are currently on a gold charm holder pin, which has been their configuration for a while now. I also have a charm holder pendant that I can wear on a necklace and will probably alternate between the pin and the necklace.Image

Some people might think my confidence charms are silly. I will just say that they are sentimental. Each one has a special meaning and history. They are beautiful to look at and soothing to touch. When I have a special occasion or a challenging day, wearing them makes me feel more peaceful. Someday, along with the rest of my belongings, the charms will be passed down to someone I love, and I hope they give that person the same sense of peace and calm that I wear them for. And I hope that person will feel the love that is passed down with them.

Angels Among Us


Comfort in plastic and concrete


Shortly after Mama died, I was at the house with Dad and I saw something in the kitchen I had never noticed before.  On a small hook next to a cabinet hung a few little plastic angels suspended by metallic gold thread.  They were tiny and cheap, and I found out later that they glow in the dark!  I don’t know where she got them, if they were a gift or if she had bought them herself.  I can imagine that they might have been attached to some sort of small present as part of the wrapping.  Seeing those little angels at this time of bereavement brought me an odd sort of comfort, and I asked Dad if I could take them home with me.  I don’t think he had ever noticed them hanging there either, and he gave me his blessing to take them home.  

I later received a catalog in the mail and, as I was looking through its pages of gadgets and knick-knacks, a picture of Mama’s kitchen angels jumped out at me!  They came in sets of 10 and were very inexpensive, so I bought a bunch of them.  I figured I would use them in craft projects, gift wrapping and the like.  When Mom Cutshaw died, she had requested a closed casket, so I asked one of the funeral home men to slip one of them into her casket, as a little temporary parting gift from me.  And again, one of these little plastic angels gave me a peculiar sort of comfort.Image

Before and since, I have collected angel figurines and jewelry, and I enjoy taking photos of angels where I see them.  A church near my house has a beautiful angel next to its majestic red front door.  She is almost the size of a real person.  On my way home one afternoon when the sunlight was especially pretty, I stopped to photograph the church, its arched door, old-fashioned bell, historic cornerstone and steeple, and especially that lovely angel.Image

From the street as I drove past, she looked like she was made of marble, but up close, I could see that she is really made of concrete.  Whoever made her gave her detailed wings, a flowing, drapey gown, praying hands and a serene face.  A face I found, again, strangely comforting.Image


I took a class last year that had students fill out a form and answer questions regularly before our individual meetings with our supervisor.  One of those questions was, “Where have you found God this week?”  In my faith and my worldview, I find Him everywhere, in big things and small ones…because I choose to look for Him everywhere.  I’m not saying that I can always make sense of what He’s up to or that I understand how He’s working all the time, because I don’t.  But I know He’s there.  

I have found Him in the most unlikely places, maybe more often than in the confines of a church building.  I’ve seen Him in the faces of people who, stricken with their own grief, somehow manage to reach out and comfort others.  I have felt Him in the embraces of my family and friends when no words could offer solace.  I have heard Him in music and birdsong and the sound of ocean waves.  And He has sent me comfort and peace in the form of angels.  Even (or especially) in Mama’s tiny, glow-in-the-dark plastic angels.