Quick fix for leaky fountain

Enjoyed for the sound it makes more than the way it looks–I’ve come across lots of prettier ones that don’t sound as good as this one–my balcony garden fountain developed a leak out the bottom. I thought of painting it with tar on the inside but then I really didn’t want to spend the money on a bucket of tar and risk failing to seal the crack that has limited access anyway. I then thought of forcing an empty yogurt container down into the tight space but figured I would not be able to seal around the opening where the water re-enters to be pumped back up to the top.

The solution? Create a new reservoir AROUND the existing one.

Leaving the fountain in the sun for a few minutes softened the tubing so I could pull it and the electric pump out of the way. Then I carefully broke out the bottom with a hammer. I found plastic bottle with appropriate width and trimmed it to desired height with a razor blade.The ceramic fit. I filled the new plastic reservoir with water, plugged it in, and tucked the fountain under the hosta leaves where it has chirped nicely for years.

Décor alert! Moss and the antique cast iron humidifier from my parents’ old coal furnace complement the fountain’s ability to please the ear.


Find what’s yours . . . truly.

copyright 2016 Dan Christensen


“What doth hinder me to be [unified in the body of Christ]?”


Some ideas I’ve distilled through study this morning.

Acts 8:26-40

THEMES Gifts of the Spirit, ordinance approval (for a person who presumably didn’t fit the profile of imagined converts), two dissimilar parties find common ground in the Holy Spirit and testimony of Jesus Christ, the eunuch requests baptism and Philip immediately baptizes him, Philip receives another spiritual gift. Traveling as he did with the eunuch didn’t frustrate his original goals but may have magnified his ability to carry them out.
SEQUENCE Philip, an apostle, follows the Spirit to approach a politically powerful Ethiopian eunuch (which could easily mean the man was not only black but gay).
Philip hears the eunuch reading Esaias [Isaiah] and invites the eunuch to hear the Christian interpretation, bears testimony that Jesus is the one Esaias described.
The eunuch invites Philip to travel with him. Philip gets into the eunuch’s chariot.
Both feel communion with the Spirit, find unity. The eunuch understands that baptism is the mode for making this feeling official. He wants to join the body of Christ.
KEY QUESTIONS 36 . . .  the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? 
37 And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. 
38 And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.
As they come out of the water, Philip is teleported. The eunuch goes on his way rejoicing.
THE WAY OF GRACE Brothers in Christ. Each sharing their gifts. Each moving from grace to grace.
Missing are the baptismal interview questions asking the eunuch to disavow cohabitation, renounce his upbringing. Missing is “I’m sorry, but I need clearance from Peter, James, and John.” Missing is Philip’s rehearsal of dogma that the eunuch may not have chosen his orientation but, by heckalmighty, he better not act on it.
WHAT HINDERS ME? Perhaps it’s simply that I won’t travel with someone else. I am alternately the apostle and the eunuch. The Spirit urges to approach an unlikely fellow sojourner. Do I let prejudice hold me back? BOTH the eunuch and Philip had to be willing to overcome prejudice.
CONCLUSIONS The shared journey in this scriptural account didn’t diminish or invalidate either man. They celebrated what they found in common. Then each went his way greater.
The body of Christ has need of every member (even the frightened bureaucrat who insulates him or herself in policy). Okay. I’ve journeyed with that person awhile, a long while. Sometimes I AM that person. I’ve celebrated what we share. I’ve experienced grace.
MY PRAYER Holy Spirit, send me farther down this road or beam me onto the next!

Find what’s yours . . . truly, danscir52

copyright 2015 Dan Christensen all rights reserved

November 7

I guess it’s not by chance I spent

the morning hours thinking of Mother–
not as a matron lavished with responsibility
the way I grew up knowing her–
but as a young single woman celebrating
I posted a grainy, black and white shot of Mom
a month after high school graduation
dressed in a gown of her mother’s invention–
with capelet and guantleted gloves–
and a crown.
That day, she sang for the town about lands of the free,
flying red, white and blue, the Statue of Liberty–
for whom she stood in effigy–her voice high and true.
(I know because she gave me a private rendition
forty-some years later from memory. That broader occasion
was our nation’s bicentennial and I belonged
to to the campus planning committee.)
She continued to be a statue it seemed to us kids.
Perhaps she was freer than we were–at first–
we, her earned virtue and the right to defend it.
Later she learned that political freedom
was different than freedom of spirit.
She suffered from fear and her realization
that others can think whatever they will.
Independence was not just about nation
but about heart and surrender–
a task she didn’t quite conquer.
In the afternoon, I took a few minutes
to stroll in fall weather. There was a place
where I stepped off the concrete into the leaves–
maple and elm and cottonwood mixed together–
crackling, sending up scent.
Mind and memory knew what it meant:
Mother had found me again after all.

mom as columbia

Find what’s yours . . . truly, danscir52

copyright 2014 Dan Christensen all rights reserved

Fall Back

open hand drawing

Eyes closed, my hand retrieved the reading glasses from my nose.
I let my forearm glide along the front edge of the couch
while the glasses slipped unbroken from my sleepy fingers.
The street had just gone quiet on the cusp of night–
a first cold evening in October of these last
we can still see twilight at 7 (until Daylight Savings
comes again). The room had dimmed.
Scared awake suddenly by my perfect,
theatrical dying gesture–and aware of my aloneness–
I wondered:

Will I make a long exhale
some evening before winter settles in
not noticing how my fingers have released their grip
on instruments of sight?
Will I sense my way alone along a street I don’t remember
ever quite as silent?
Will I then look back and miss this sprawl of body
pressing cushion, and the heavy back of hand
against a floor?

Fall back sunset

Find what’s yours . . . truly, danscir52

copyright 2014 Dan Christensen all rights reserved

Evening Yoplait

better homes perfect mom shopped
My aunt. The young one.
Stylish, with it, uncompromising about her home.
Tonight the silver and Franciscan tableware,
the paintings, grand piano, the tiger maple secretary
keep each other company while I state her name
at this center for intermediate care.
A state-of-the-art equipment room dominates the building’s front:
soaring ceiling, panoramic views,
cascading water sounds against marble walls.
I pass through unfamiliar families in the visiting area–
a gowned woman sits in straight-back chair.
I step over the uneven ring of a carpet stain in the hall
and knock at 202 (where my aunt’s name
has been correctly lettered with double “r”).
Her voice comes through the door, the first
it has noticeably aged in almost ninety years–and weak.
I am not prepared for how small she is.
I try to make her bigger in my mind–
fuller through her cheeks and brow–
and remember how vigilantly she stayed brunette.
I find her eyes.
We converse an hour before she reminds me
how handsome I was with shorter hair.
I guess we are even now.
Manners/Nurture demand she share a snack that arrives
and we would have at the end of one of those drives
to an antique store or to gather dried milkweed
or the longer ones to the coast with others
(her peers among us then have died)
but a half-serving pack of Yoplait
hardly holds enough for her to last the night.
She relents to take it all from the white plastic spoon
I somewhat reluctantly control.
BetterHomes cover shopped

Find what’s yours . . . truly, danscir52

copyright 2014 Dan Christensen all rights reserved

Many Mansions

In the plan for her funeral, Grandma requested that a certain town friend sing: “In My Father’s House Are Many Mansions.”  Following that plan in 1964 , Brother Lister stood in front of the choir seats at the side of the Huntington 2nd Ward chapel. I sat opposite, listening with my parents, siblings (except Mark who had left on his mission four and a half months earlier, right before our mother began losing her mother).
It was the first time in my twelve years that someone close had died. The shock forced me to wrestle with life–or how to make sense when life ends. In the way my emotional development allowed, I must have been searching. Sad news had come on the phone: Mother’s voice from five hours away by car. The day of the funeral, we loaded before dawn, wearing our Sunday clothes, to meet Mother there. Grandma’s casket stood open in the front room of her home where I heard each of three aunts express her grief quite differently (I don’t remember what the three uncles were doing).  Mother must have satisfied any questions I asked because I don’t remember them now. On our way to the church, Mother shed tears freely for a minute or two, explaining, “I’m not crying because she died–I know she’s happy.” (Mother’s father had died more than twenty years before.) “I’m crying because we’re going to miss her.”
Then, in the middle of the funeral, Grandma seemed to speak directly–suspended on the music of a clear, light tenor voice: “If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” I absorbed these as her ideas of Heaven. She had untangled some of the mystery for herself. I was untangling something about her.
I loved the song. So, later, when Mother bought the sheet music for us, my sister Susan and I went to work. I probably don’t remember every performance, but ten years after hearing “Many Mansions” in Grandma’s funeral, my sister played the accompaniment while I sang the piece at Hall Mortuary as part of the University’s memorial service for Dr. Hale, the husband of my brother-in-law’s associate and my accounting teacher Larzette Hale. President Taggart had lured the Drs. Hale to Logan after they had all been friends at another institution. The university president’s tribute was especially personal. There at the service, Dad and Mom–listening to us, their fourth and fifth offspring to attend Utah State–enjoyed what happens when the death of one of its members unites a community (what my niece described, for them, the “fun in funeral”). Dad was effusive. He said he’d never heard piano and voice meld quite so beautifully. The Taggarts and Dr. Hale were also grateful.
When I had stood up to sing amidst all the speeches, I remember being very scared. Perhaps the leap required to open one’s mouth is the gateway to expressing the faith of those gathered, echoing the faith of those who have influenced beliefs about the next life–including Grandma.

One year later, Bob and Ginny called to request Dad speak at his cousin Nell’s funeral in Ogden. The funeral would be conducted by the Presbyterian Church but, by bringing Dad into the picture (who brought along the musical number Susan and I would perform) and  the Sign Language interpreter (a local Relief Society sister), the minister found himself sharing a program with those who spoke a slightly different religious language. As carefully as she had attended to affairs in the event of her death, Nell’s plan needed to be augmented a little with what her only heir, a Mormon convert, and her daughter-in-law wanted to hear–including, perhaps, that she had gone ahead to “prepare a place” for them.

Speaking of those of us who speak Mormon–we resonate to the word “mansions.” It goes with our ideas of reward and a notion of distinct levels–earned by achievement–as we inherit the Celestial Kingdom. How do we imagine this reward? Perhaps we envision our post-mortal home as luxurious, where every comfort is the concern of a perfectly-attentive staff. Perhaps that’s why “mansion” was chosen as the Bible became translated into English. Back then, faithful peasants must have been especially drawn to this hope of Heavenly privilege enjoyed by only the highest caste in their society.

The word used in the original Greek is mone, “dwelling; the act of staying or residing.” (I see a parallel in Spanish with the word hacienda. It could be translated into English as “farm” or even “dude ranch” but the term literally derived from the present participle of the verb “to do” which is  “doing.”) In the same sentence we can apply the biblical meaning of a father’s “house” which is “family.” 

Combining these two definitions, can we understand that we belong to a family where acts of living together are accommodated?

A personal word about “house.” A decade ago, I was desperately trying to save my house, a pursuit I deemed worthy of my prayers. I knew those prayers were heard (just assumed the answer was “no”). But now I see how Heaven graciously interpreted the more important meaning of the word I was using. I have been blessed with the most luxurious house apart from any physical structure. My children sustain acts of dwelling, being present, which I now see as infinitely more valuable than the art on my walls or my relative station in the ‘hood.

More shades in the scripture’s meaning: “I will come again and receive you unto myself.” This Savior doesn’t just show us once. He comes again. If we pattern our behavior after his, we receive him also. Dwelling is the act of being present with the Divine.

Find what’s yours . . . truly, danscir52

copyright 2014 Dan Christensen all rights reserved

Mrs. Crawford

I remember my elementary school had a small staff: Besides the cooks and custodian (there was no librarian; music, speech, and reading teachers split their time with other schools), there was just the principal, Mr. Cooper,  and the secretary, Mrs. Crawford. 
ImageEvery month, I stood in a line that stretched along the inside counter of the cramped office and sometimes into the hall. That’s how we bought lunch tickets. Mrs. Crawford took cash or check ($5, which later went up to $5.20). She never asked for my name but quickly wrote it in her small uniform cursive across the bottom of the palm-sized ticket. If I had been a day or two late bringing my money, Mrs. Crawford took out her lunch punch to make the ticket reflect how I was in the black again. I watched her go through the same process with other children in line. She seemed to keep all our names and accounting in her head.
At lunch time, we lined up by class and handed our tickets, one by one, to be punched by Mrs. Crawford–who stood in the hall by the milk cooler. She then bundled each class’ tickets with a rubber band and returned to her desk behind the glass wall of the centrally-located school office. Passing by in the hall through the years, I watched her type or carry on other office business–sounds muffled by the glass. During my monthly visits inside, quite in keeping with the near-silence, Mrs. Crawford seemed economical with words.
I knew her voice but she usually spoke through her work. She knew me. I knew she knew my parents. I knew I could depend on her to be fair. I trusted she was taking care of me and my siblings in every way that was within her power. And she was always there–there through my elementary career and those of my little sister and brother. (I don’t know who manned the office when my older siblings were grade schoolers.)
Oh yes, there was another service Mrs. Crawford performed for the school: She played the piano for our singing programs and rehearsals. The teachers would wrestle their large classes of us baby boomers onto the multi-purpose risers. Then our tall, long-limbed, close-cropped dark-haired secretary–clad in white blouse, dark skirt and flats–would appear in time for the down beat. 
Come to think of it, those were some of the few occasions I saw her in the auditorium/gym/cafeteria. She usually held down the office while the principal supervised lunch or convened the rest of the school.
Interestingly, like her work digs, Mrs. Crawford’s house sat on an exposed street corner at the center of our LDS Ward. There were no privacy fences for the front or back yards. Seeing what was going on at the Crawfords could be part of any car trip from home.
For a few years, we saw her at church too, on Sundays, where my father, who was bishop, called her Sister Crawford. She played the prelude and hymns for Sunday School. It is the sight of her at the piano and strains of music that come to mind. 
Her husband never showed at church. I have little impression of what he looked like. I have a suspicion he was why Mrs. Crawford asked to be released from her piano assignment. My father said she told the Sunday School superintendent no one listened anyway. She stopped attending after that.
The Crawfords had two daughters: Rhondalon, the older, who was reserved like her mother but fair and as elegant as her name, and Sharon, the younger, who was a little awkward and rough at the edges. After graduating elementary school and junior high, Sharon and I rode the same bus and ended up in the same high school speech class. She had not grown into her wild, dark beauty. She voiced rebellion in her speeches. Later that year, she had a baby.
Mrs. Crawford left her job at the elementary school to raise her new grandson. I don’t know, but I think I sensed a certain joy, driving by, as she tended the baby in the yard. The family barbecued and sat out often under the now-mature trees. Across-the-street neighbors visited in the lawn chairs.
I continued to travel on that street until I graduated from college. Five or six years after that, one Sunday afternoon in early summer, my wife and I attended church with my parents. Our baby was restless so I decided to lull him in the sunshine. With a soon-sleeping infant in my arms, my stroll took me three blocks from the church. I took the shaded path to Mrs. Crawford’s door (retracing steps made as a deacon and Boy Scout when I carried the envelope inscribed “Jones Crawford,” her husband’s name, soliciting donations, except now I was a student grown up and a former neighbor). 
I said something about walking by, thinking of her as a long-ago friend. She invited me into the small, square front room. I looked at family photos. She told me her grandson was a tall, handsome teenager, that he had moved in recently with his mother and new step-father but that she still kept his room for him. They were very close. Her older daughter was accomplished. No visible regret that she and Jones had divorced. She had taken a position as an administrative assistant at the school district office. I told her my recollection that she had memorized the name of every student at the school. She said she thought everyone deserved to feel important. I don’t remember if I thanked her for her music.
I have since lived long enough to have grandchildren of my own. I hadn’t thought of Mrs. Crawford for many years. But, this morning, her story popped into my mind. It took me a while to remember her first name–Barbara. I didn’t find an obituary on the internet but it looks like she died in 2010 at eighty-three; it was there I found the spelling of her older daughter’s name. I described most of this today to church men, finishing a point about redemption. I left it for all of us to ponder how the story applies.

Find what’s yours . . . truly, danscir52

copyright 2014 Dan Christensen all rights reserved