Monday, November 30, 2009


Thirty-five thousand people were waiting at the Jordan Creek Town Center mall in West Des Moines when its doors opened at 12:01 a.m. Friday --- Black Friday --- according to the morning news. “Black” because the Friday after Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the season in which merchants hope to sell us so much stuff that black ink can be substituted for red in their account books, but you already knew that.

I awoke somewhat later thinking of minute steak (called cube steak now for what I assume are aesthetic reasons) cooked my favorite way (dredge four minute steaks in flour and brown; place in baking dish, sprinkle an envelope of Lipton dry onion soup mix over, cover with tomato juice and bake for an hour at 350 degrees, thank you Kristin for the recipe). So acquiring steak was the sole purpose of my only Black Friday shopping spree --- at HyVee. Now I’m feeling guilt for not doing my bit to boost the economy. Should have bought bananas, too.

That evening, I took a walk at moonrise. Now, when nature has stripped itself to winter basics, is a good time to listen to the wind and hear the trees talk, see the shape of things, appreciate the infinite shades of black, brown, tan and gold that have replaced brighter colors and hear the silence that remains after the departure for warmer places of the birds that chatter and sing in other seasons.

With the exception of three ducks, paddling madly across the marsh pond and leaving a substantial wake on its mirror surface, I had the place to myself. The ducks, probably spooked after a few weeks now literally under the gun, spotted me as I walked out on a gravel spit toward them, rose in perfect formation, passed through the tree line and turned upriver toward other resting places.


Saturday afternoon, I washed the front windows --- a job postponed as long as possible in the hope of ensuring a clear view out throughout winter.

There’s something to be said for washing windows, clearing away the crusted dust that has accumulated. But less to be said for disassembling and reassembling combination windows --- eight surfaces of glass per window to clean punctuated by considerable acrobatics.

I guess the process is preferable to the old way --- replacing wood-framed screen windows with heavy and clumsy glassed storms often from somewhere up a ladder --- but there are days like Saturday when I wonder.


Squeezed between Black Friday and Cyber Monday (today, which I understand to be the official start of the online shopping season) was the beginning of the first of my new years, the first Sunday in Advent, unnoted by the substantial majority I suspect, including most of those who had engaged in that midnight vigil at Jordan Creek.

John the Baptist preparing the way of the Lord in front of the still-empty stable on the side altar flanked by pine branches filled with birds, lighting the first candle in the wreath of the season, the candle we call “Hope.”

We live in interesting times and I’m still thinking about an odd occurrence at St. Andrew’s several weeks ago. We came out of the church as services concluded and into the parish hall for coffee to see several young women milling around in the parking lot looking somewhat confused, several speaking into cell phones.

Someone went out to invite them in and discovered that they were Girl Scout leaders (the parish hall is used during the week for scout meetings and also for gatherings of leaders). As it turns out, none had remembered when scheduling a leader meeting that services usually are held in churches on Sunday mornings. I thought that memory lapse peculiar, but perhaps it wasn’t.

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