Notes from Mom in the Innisfree Log

Innisfree, 1950s

One of the treasures of the Colorado cabin is a log that was started by our parents to record the activities of each visit to Innisfree.

Mom wrote the first entry in August, 1957.

Charlie had told us all about Innisfree, but we had to see it to really take it all in. Charlie, Sandy, and I arrived in the Volkswagen, having left the folks in Colorado Springs with fuel pump trouble. They arrived about dark after having some trouble finding the place. We will be forever indebted to the Blanton’s for hamburgers that evening, for we had no supplies.

Our first tour of the Maine building left us wondering where to start. The first night, it was no small job finding places to sleep. There were lots of beds and plenty of cover, but the place had not been occupied by anything larger than a rat for two or three years.

The next morning, we tore into it. I forgot to miss Beth, who was just a few months old and was staying with Aunt Eileen. Mother began to go through the kitchen. She pulled out more jars and coffee cans than could be imagined.

The cabin contained numerous personal items, and we began to realize how dear this place had been to the Smiths, and to other friends who shared memories of times spent here in the mountains. At times, we felt as though we were intruding and trespassing.

Charlie hauled truckloads of bedsteads and other useless utensils to the Exchange – from whence they came, probably, originally.

Charlie and I stayed here a few days [after the folks left] and then returned to Mooreland, then picked up Beth at Norman. 

Marty Richardson, August, 1957
Mom’s 1957 Log Entry

Over the years, Mom, Dad, Grandparents, friends, each of us kids, wrote about our visits in this sacred place.

In these days when everything is so deeply digital, I’m struck by the unique handwriting of each of these individuals. And I find it so comforting to hear that person’s voice as I read the words. While I have been here at the cabin this summer, I digitized the logs from 1957-1983.

The summer of 1983 was the last visit here that Mom made before her death in November from an inoperable brain tumor. I looked specifically for the record of activities from that summer. Mom, Dad, and I were here in July. I recognize the words I wrote in the log that summer. They became a part of my first published article (in Alive Now magazine, 1986).

Images of ritual tying us together with each other and with our past and the past of Innisfree — Trail Ridge Drive, mornings in the kitchen with “Hot Blast,” reading “The Lake Isle of Innisfree,” throwing a rock in the river, feeding the hummingbirds, reading the log, being together and telling and retelling stories.

Beth A. Richardson, July, 1983

And Mom’s last entry in the log …. I wonder if she knew on some level that it would be her last trip to the cabin, her handwriting was so spidery …

I’m still recovering from my second craniotomy (Dec. 10); still suffer absence of strength and equilibrium, but everybody helps. Next year I’ll make up for it. Eleven days is about enough just now. Beth will bus to Nashville on Saturday. The Thomas family is at Martha Ellen’s and a couple from [?], Bill and Maggie at Goodwin’s Riverview. To bed. Charles Crutchfield and in-laws at Echota.

Marty Richardson, July, 1983
Mom’s 1983 Log Entry

This year is the 65th since my folks bought this place — five cabins purchased by five Methodist clergy families. I’m deeply grateful for the gift of this place and for 65 years of relationship with the Goodwins, the Smiths, the Blantons, and the Crutchfields. 65 years of relationship to this land which had a very, very long history before anyone thought to “own” it. 65 years of history in one place is long and rich. I continue to savor each moment in this place where my roots have grown deep.

I leave on Monday to go back to Tennessee and I’ll be back next summer. Until the next time, dear Innisfree. Thank you.

My Dream Job

Thirty five years ago today – December 1, 1986 – I started my dream job at The Upper Room. And, thirty five years later, I am still serving in an Upper Room dream job.

While in divinity school, I had the opportunity to work for Alive Now magazine during a summer field education placement. That was the summer I fell in love with editing. I couldn’t imagine working anywhere but Alive Now, so I did freelance editing and housecleaning for two years until the Assistant Editor job came open. I applied, and a year later I was hired!

I worked with Alive Now for ten years. In 1997, I had the opportunity to become the editor of The Upper Room’s first website. After thirteen years in digital publishing, I journeyed back to Alive Now as managing editor, helping, also, to oversee the production of Weavings Journal. These last five years, I’ve served as the director of prayer and Upper Room worship life and Dean of The Upper Room Chapel.

I’m grateful to the staff of The Upper Room for teaching me, nurturing me, forming me. I would not be who I am today if it were not for those Saints, living and dead, who shaped my life. Rueben Job, Mary Ruth Coffman, Janice Grana, Judy Smith, John Mogabgab, Michael Williams, Hoyt Hickman, Mary Lou Redding, Marjorie Thompson, Deen Thompson, and so many more.

I am grateful, today, and each day, for waking up, going to the office, and working for my Upper Room dream job.

The Ruler

I brought home my last load from the office on Wednesday and am starting to unpack and get things situated here at home. Plastic Jesus is sharing a cubby with Grandpa Tom’s wooden ruler.

More treasures from the office — A ruler from the pre-digital printing days.

Who knows how many years this ruler sat in the office of the Assistant Editor at Alive Now. When I arrived there in the 80’s the magazine was still being produced the old fashioned way. We sent the copy to the typesetters (amazing people who could key in strokes faster than anyone). The copy came back to us on really nice paper with the margins already set. These sheets were glued down on large sheets and marked up by the designer. The boards were then photographed and turned into plates that fit onto the printing press.

My job would be to read through the boards before they went to the production department and check the type and the instructions. That’s when I might use the ruler to try to imagine whether black words on an 80% screen of a color would be easy or hard to read.

I’m not remembering which was our first digitally-produced issue of the magazine. For a few years, the magazine was produced sometimes in the old way and sometimes in the new way. By the time the magazine was redesigned in the late 90’s, it was all digital production.

I loved the hands-on tasks of those early days of printing. And I’m so amazed to have gotten to see how much things have changed in technology since I started working at The Upper Room.

I remain deeply grateful for this wonderful work.

Related post: “Saying Goodbye to the Office.”

Saying Goodbye to the Office

So many people have lost so much this year. I’ve been fortunate in many ways. I have kept my job. I’ve not lost any friends or family to this disease. And I’ve even thrived by being able to work from home. When, six weeks ago, we learned that we would be working from home permanently and would need to clean out our offices by the end of the year, the grief of this time of massive change really hit me.

I’ve had an office at 1908 Grand Avenue for over thirty years. As I’ve worked through the process of cleaning out, throwing away, digitizing, and packing, I’ve felt both deep loss and profound gratitude. The people with whom I have worked these years have shaped and formed me. The Holy One has guided my path through the most amazing jobs. I have not reached the end of this journey just yet, but things will never quite be the same again.

I’ve been taking photos of the treasures in my office as a way to help me remember the stories; as a way to help me let go of possessions. I’m hoping to share a few of these photos with you.

This plastic Sacred Heart of Jesus has been with me since before I started working at The Upper Room. It was a gift to me from friends celebrating my calling as I began Divinity School. We were at a camp in Colorado for some days of renewal. We ate together, laughed, and sat up late at night dreaming about how to change the injustices of the church. The presentation of this plastic Jesus to me was a lovely affirmation of my calling — and a reminder not to take myself too seriously.

Jesus has graced a shelf in all of the eight offices I’ve inhabited. Now Jesus will watch over me in my office here at home.

I am grateful.

P.S. Friends, The Upper Room is not closing.   We are just going to be doing our work in a new way. The chapel is closed now because of Covid. Hopefully it will be open again after things are safe again.

Drink Deep

O God, you are my God, I seek you,
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
-Psalm 63:1, NRSV

Drink deep
with eyes
with ears
with nose
with mouth
with hands
with heart.

I sip coffee, dark and smooth with a hint of cinnamon.

The wrens scold me as they carry food to their young the bird box on the front porch.

I lie in the lawn chair and watch clouds form, transform, and disappear.

I stack a smooth river stone to the pile on top of the bridge over Cave Creek.

The river roars in the canyon below. Its sounds lift my spirits, my heart.

I walk to the river at dusk and watch the ouzel hopping from rock to rock, stopping to preening its feathers before roosting for the night.

I smell the cool, earthy moisture by the river and the hot dustiness in the kitchen.

Vivid memories inhabit me. I breath them in with gratitude. In this place, I am surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.

Drink deep from the present moment. The living, healing Spirit lives here.

The Unwinding

How strange and wonderful that I can wake up in the hot, humid south and go to sleep in the cool mountains of Colorado.

Today is my first full day of seven here in this beautiful place.

I took two naps after lunch and then walked down by the river to see what was blooming and what I’ve missed in my two-year absence.

I stopped to visit with my favorite wildflower. The shooting star by the river was still there, yellowing and dying back so that it can bloom again next spring.

What comfort to find this place of stability in a world that is ever-changing and often feels out of control.

Now I need to unwind, to let go of the chatter, to be let myself be fully present to this time of rest.

Dear Doughnut Fairy

Dear Doughnut Fairy,

I don’t know who you are, but I wanted to thank you for this amazing gift you left for me this morning with the security guard.

The guard was so responsible. He did not eat the doughnut, but, instead, called me to come get it.

I am so grateful to know that Good Still Exists in this crazy world of ours. And yes, there ARE STILL Magical Doughnut Fairies spreading joy and doughnuts throughout the universe.

Yours, ever-so-gratefully,

Beth

Love Wins

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Last night I performed the marriage of Brian and Sarah. It was a beautiful ritual celebrating the love and commitment of a special couple. In the ceremony we called the name of Brian’s mother, Linda, whose memorial service I assisted in last December.

Many of the same people gathered again … this time to witness, to promise support, to toast a new family being woven together in love. There were times of great joy and times of tender sorrow.

As I prayed a blessing for Sarah and Brian, a single tear rolled down Brian’s cheek. Sarah reached up to wipe it away. How can I doubt the power of love when standing next to such amazing grace, incredible beauty, vibrant life which moves forward even in the midst of the brokenness and death of our world.

God, you are amazing.
You created us to love,
To live, to laugh, to heal.

Open our eyes, our hearts, our spirits
To your Love working
In our lives, in the world.

Brush away our tears
With your gentle spirit
And infuse us with the hope and assurance
That in the end, love is always there.

The Saints Are Singing

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The saints sing loudly on tune (and off)
Welcoming their newest colleague.

“Phyllis Natalie Alexander Tickle,
You are finally here.
We’ve been looking forward to meeting you.”

“Sit down with us on the porch —
Here, you take the rocking chair —
And tell us one of those stories from the farm. …
And your laugh — it’s as great as they said it would be!”

“Oh. You have an appointment?
Well, what are you waiting for?!
You’ve got people to see.
Come back here at sit with us anytime.”

“You’ll be back? It reminds you of home?
Well, thank you kindly.
Bring your husband next time …
And anyone else you’d like to bring.
So glad to have you here after all this time.”

 

“Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen.”
The Book of Common Prayer
Quoted by Phyllis Tickle, 1934-2015
in The Divine Hours

Photo: Taken by Beth A. Richardson at The Upper Room’s SOULfeast 2010.