Meantime, Back in Greenwich

With the switch to Daylight Savings Time coming soon, it seems timely to revisit Greenwich, England.

You’ve heard of Greenwich Mean Time. Folks here seem to have invented time itself. Well, to be more accurate, they invented how to measure time, and I am thankful for that.

Clocks, antique timekeepers, and all sorts of devices for astronomy and navigation are featured throughout the Royal Observatory here, which was founded by Charles II in 1675.

The Great Equatorial Telescope (1863) is impressive.

To fully appreciate what’s on display at the Royal Observatory, you have to realize the problem of being lost at sea and the problem of longitude.

Back in the 1700s, longitude was an urgent problem, especially for sea-going nations involved in international trade. The precious lives of sailors and the valuable cargoes their ships carried made navigation at sea a matter of life and death. Skilled sailors, out of sight of land, could only find their north-south position (latitude). They had no methods or instruments to accurately calculate their east-west position (longitude). They did not know where they were!

Unfortunately, mapping the night sky and trying to predict the complex motion of the Moon does not work so well on cloudy days at sea. So after lots of trial an error and a big invention competition, the problem was solved by the development of a portable clock that could keep accurate time on board ships.

John Harrison, an 18th century clockmaker, made the first practical marine timekeeper, a monumental development in navigation.

Way back in 1775, Harrison claimed that his clocks were a hundred times better than those made by his contemporaries.  And a few years ago, this clock, titled “Burgess Clock B,” set a Guinness World Record for being the most accurate mechanical pendulum timekeeper of its type. It uses a radical theory proposed by Harrison, and it varied by only half a second in 100 days, finally proving in 2015 that Harrison’s claim was correct.

If you have time to read it, the book Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time tells all about Harrison and how important longitude is to navigation. My sailor husband highly recommends it.

The biggest tourist draw at the Royal Observatory is not the clocks, though. It’s the Prime Meridian of the World. That’s zero degrees longitude, where the eastern hemisphere and western hemisphere meet.

And it’s a prime spot to stand in line outside to take a selfie.

The Prime Meridian covers 12,427 miles from pole to pole, but most of that is an imaginary line that doesn’t show up in a selfie.

Inside and away from the crowd, I couldn’t resist standing with one foot and one daughter in each hemisphere.

Learning about longitude and time made me ponder it for a while. How do we know where we are? Where does time go? Why does it disappear faster and faster the older we get?

Frequently in motherhood, when I see my kids growing taller and notice the years flying by so quickly, I want to panic like a sailor lost at sea. It’s easy to feel like time is running out and I don’t know where in the world I am. It’s easy to wish for some way to stop the clock or maybe even turn back the hands on the clock.

But I don’t truly want to go back in time. Not really.

One of my favorite authors, Ann Voskamp, writes: “I watch the hands move grace on the clock face. I’m growing older. These children are growing up. But time is not running out. This day is not a sieve, losing time. With each passing minute, each passing year, there’s this deepening awareness that I am filling time, gaining time. We stand on the brink of eternity.”

Likewise, author Elizabeth Foss writes: “No, I don’t really want to stop time. But I do want to fill it. I want to fill it with gratitude and grace worthy of the days I trade for them… I want to take each one of these days…and really live the story [God] intends. I don’t want time to stand still, but I do want to still my soul and fill the time with His blessings.”

The idea of filling time with gratitude and stilling my soul encourages me.

My prayer is that God would teach me to number my days so that I gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12). My prayer is that, as I count the days, that I make the days count. And my prayer is that I would walk carefully and wisely, making the best use of my time and understanding God’s will for me (Ephesians 5:15-17).

 

 

 

 

 

A Kingdom of Glorious Splendor

The fresh, woodsy scent of balsam fir fragranced the living room as I hung three new ornaments on our tall, skinny tree. Each ornament came from a royal palace – two in England and one in France. All three were souvenirs of our family’s first summer vacation in Europe – a trip somehow squeezed in between frequent jaunts to the dance studio, the orthodontist and the library.

Visiting a palace is a humbling experience.

Even before you set foot inside, the high gates, uniformed guards and long “cues” remind you that you are one of many foreign tourists, not really a guest.

Inside, massive collections of fine art and treasured possessions join with expensive décor to offer an impressive glimpse into the personal lives of the kings, queens, princes and princesses you read about in history books. Looking at Queen Victoria’s own doll house as we stood in her childhood bedroom, the very room where she was born, was a memorable moment.

In London, Kensington Palace is now home to Prince William and his growing family. And Buckingham Palace is still home to Queen Elizabeth II. But in France, despite its glittery gold gates, grandiose Baroque architecture and expansive gardens, the Palace of Versailles is no longer home to any royalty.

Long gone are King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette. Both were beheaded in 1793 when the monarchy was abolished in the French Revolution.

It’s strange indeed to gaze at the king and queen’s magnificently grand lifestyle knowing how terribly their reign ended. The kingdoms of this earth totter and fall.

While touring the homes of kings and queens was fascinating, at some point, no matter how old or fancy it is or who once owned it, stuff is just stuff. No matter how rich or powerful a ruler is, eventually he passes away and leaves it all behind.

This realization could make life seem rather meaningless. But by God’s grace, it instead reinforced for me what is meaningful and made me long for God’s eternal kingdom.

Can I tell you about the glorious splendor of God’s kingdom? First Timothy 6:15 says our God is the King of all kings and the Lord of all lords. Psalm 145 says God’s kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and His dominion endures through all generations. And 1 Peter 2:9 says we who are God’s children are His special possession, chosen and royal.

One glad day the King of kings will welcome His children into His holy palace not as tourists or guests but as adopted sons and daughters. Members of His royal family!

As King David prayed in 1 Chronicles 29:10-13: “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is Yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and You are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all. In Your hand are power and might, and in Your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. And now we thank You, our God, and praise Your glorious name.”

I pray this gives you hope and joy this Christmas. And I pray that God draws you ever closer to Him in 2018. Merry Christmas!

-Diana

 

Just Call Me Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison once said, “To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.”

He also said, “If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.”

Well, prepare to be astounded, ladies and gentleman, because I took a pile of junk food and invented something that astounded myself. I say this with utmost giddiness because I’m a journalist married to an engineer and rarely get to invent much of anything except stories and an occasional logo.

Necessity breeds invention and as a transplant to Minnesota, I’m here to tell ya, s’mores are a summertime necessity. This is a cabin-crazed, bonfire-loving culture. But how does one keep the key ingredients easy to find and easy to transport from kitchen to fire pit when the fire finally reaches its s’mores-perfect status and children begin begging and drooling?

Well, please allow me to introduce…

(insert drumroll here)

The s’morganizer.

smorganized 048d

This attractive caddy holds two bags of marshmallows, a dozen Hershey bars and 27 graham cracker sheets.

smorganized 047c

Don’t worry. I doubt I’ll be seeking a patent. Technically all I did was spend $11.99 on the caddy at Target and then borrow a black Sharpie from my 10-year-old. But let me assure you I’m taking full credit for inventing the word s’morganizer.

Perhaps next year my engineer hubby will introduce the new and improved s’morganizer 2 featuring a cool way to keep the Hershey bars below 86 degrees en route to the cabin.

But until then, I should simply mention that no Hershey bars were consumed in the making of this invention or in the writing of this blog post. That, folks, is the real miracle here.

Happy s’morganizing!

Spring in Oregon — Part 5

“For I am the LORD your God,  who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar —  the LORD Almighty is His name.”  Isaiah 51:15

In my last post, I mentioned enjoying a treat from the candy store in Cannon Beach — a treat with the same name as a very picturesque site. If you guessed “Haystack,” you were right!

Site Five — Haystack Rock near Cannon Beach. This rock totally reminds me of scenes in the 1985 movie Goonies. It was one of the first movies I saw in a theatre, so I remember it well. As my feet sunk into the sandy beach, I kept waiting to see an old pirate ship slip out from behind that rock!

But the only thing coming from behind that rock was one wave after another.

They say to never turn you back on the Pacific Ocean.

You just never know when a rogue wave might sneak up behind you and wash you out to sea.

But I suppose it’s okay to turn your back if you’re running for dry sand.

The best thing about wearing rainboots to the beach is that your feet stay dry and can slip in and out easily.

The worst thing about wearing rainboots to the beach is that the sand can also slip in and out easily. We inadvertently came home with about one cup of sand, not counting what we left behind in the backseat of Aunt Lilac’s car!

Spring in Oregon — Part 4

“Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea — the LORD on high is mighty.”  -Psalm 93:4

Site Four: Ecola State Park

As the biggest and deepest part of the world’s ocean — 60 million square miles big — the Pacific Ocean is mighty great indeed. And Ecola State Park is a mighty great place to view and photograph these vast waters, as well as the breakers that crash into the huge rocks along the Oregon coast.

Did I mention this state park is mighty windy, too? The tree in the picture below wasn’t just bending in that day’s wind; it grew that way! As we hiked along high above the water, we felt quite windblown as well.

Perched on one giant rock in the distance is Tillamook Lighthouse.

Since the tide was out and the wind was less fierce closer to the water, we did some exploring.

Ever confident and determined, my youngest built a dam and made a lake where the water was flowing into the ocean.

She’s just the kind of person who digs in deep and likes testing the natural cycle of things.

The fact that the water kept overflowing and destroying her dam really irritated her. Why oh why must all the water flow into the ocean? Perhaps it is more determined than she.

Meanwhile, my oldest daughter searched high and low for seashells.

Finding three whole sand dollars and several sand dollar pieces overjoyed her. This big discovery was more than two years in the making. She’d searched and searched with great determination but never found sand dollars while we were in the Florida Keys.

Our delightful and memorable visit to the Pacific continued in Cannon Beach with lunch — featuring sandwiches with Tillamook cheese and a quick trip to the candy store.

Stay tuned for my next post; the treat I bought myself at the candy store has the same name as the next picturesque site!

Spring in Oregon — Part 3

Site Three: Columbia River Gorge

Another highlight of our Oregon visit was seeing the Columbia River Gorge while en route to all those waterfalls I mentioned earlier. Being wild about waterfalls, I overlooked the gorge for a bit. Sorry about the pun.

I would say I skipped it for a while, but who can skip over a gorge like this?

Well, maybe some skipping was involved…

The Columbia River is the border between Oregon and Washington State. These beautiful snow-covered mountains are officially in southern Washington.

See the tiny dome-like building perched way over there on that cliff? It’s a scenic overlook.

We got closer. This is the view from the parking lot.

If you learn nothing else about the Columbia River Gorge, learn this: It’s wildly windy. The wind comes roaring across the Pacific Ocean and whips relentlessly through the gorge.

That wind put one daughter’s Columbia jacket and the other’s North Face fleece to the test just long enough for me to snap a few pictures. Then hatless and frazzled, we took cover in the dome-like building. Here’s what it looks like inside.

Pretty, huh?

Spring in Oregon – Part 2

“Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls…” Psalm 42:7

Waterfalls mesmerize me. For a shutterbug, almost nothing else captivates like the roaring rush of water cascading over rocks in the lush and verdant Pacific Northwest.

As a small child, I spent many family vacations chasing waterfalls on the Olympic Peninsula and near Mt. Rainier in Washington State. My mom was a shutterbug, too.

Later, as a young adult, my husband proposed to me at my favorite waterfall — Sol Duc Falls in Washington — making waterfalls even more memorable for both of us.

As a parent now, I think passing along this multi-generational obsession with waterfalls to my children is imperative because waterfalls display God’s glorious creativity. Thankfully, waterfalls are more than plentiful in the great state of Oregon. And my dear aunt knows the perfect route to enjoy several breathtaking waterfalls in an easy half-day trip.

Site Two: Waterfalls along the Historic Columbia River Highway.  First up is Latourell Falls. This stunning waterfall is visible from the road, but a short downhill hike takes visitors close enough to feel a little spray.

As we continued eastward along the scenic route in a van named Big Red, we caught glimpses of several smaller waterfalls. At our next stop, we thoroughly enjoyed a quarter-mile hike starting at this waterfall at Benson State Park. Isn’t it heavenly?

Thanks, Aunt Sheila, for capturing this shot of us girls in front of the falls.

My dear Aunt Sheila is married to my Uncle Gary, who is by far the most experienced hiker I know. He led us on a little quarter-mile adventure up a path that rose high above the highway and railroad tracks. See the train hiding in the trees below?

We had to carefully cross over a few slippery rocks under this trickling little waterfall.

But don’t worry, the little sister kept her shoes dry this time.

In just a few minutes, we arrived at Multnomah Falls Lodge. Seated near the cozy fireplace, we delighted in a delicious and memorable lunch with aunts, uncle and Gramma. Tunes from Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring set the uplifting mood as we overlooked the Columbia Gorge and watched a few more Union Pacific trains race by. The big sister was certain we were seeing just one train go around and around in circles because the engines all looked just alike — yellow with an American flag.

After lunch, we went up with Aunt Lilac to see Multnomah Falls.

Then Uncle Gary joined me and the girls for a quick hike up to the bridge.

And so our waterfall tour ended on high at the gorgeous Multnomah Falls.

One spot we saved for next time is the falls at Bridal Veil, an adventure that requires more of a hike than our crew could handle that morning. We must go back!

NOTE: Read about our other recent adventures in Oregon here: Spring in Oregon — Part 1.