Marjorie Ashby Steiner
It is with great pleasure that Terry and I begin to share our lives with all of you.
I have led and continue to lead a wonderful life. I am entering the beauty of the autumn of life with its spectacular colors, warm sunny days and abundant harvests of experiences.
I had what I consider a great childhood, with challenges that taught me to work hard and persevere. In many ways I am a “typical” example of an American life. I graduated from high school and went to college to become a scientist and a teacher. I married Jim, my wonderful husband and good friend, and birthed and raised three children I love dearly. I am now also a grandmother of two delightful grandsons. All through these years, I have been a constant participant and theological explorer in Presbyterian Church life. I fulfilled my dream of being the best teacher of young children I could be in the public school system. And now, after 28 years of teaching, I am retired.
But “retired” would not adequately describe my current life…
Life can be so full that one is bursting with joy. And life can be such a challenge, that you just want to sit down and quit! I have experienced it all. But for me, over and over, I have felt deep within me a voice that does not let me despair for long. I call this voice God. It could also be called Spirit, The Divine, or even the Ground of Being, a term that came from theologian Paul Tillich (1886-1965). Philosophers, theologians, great poets, spiritual teachers, indigenous leaders, and ordinary people have been describing this feeling, pull, or call that we all experience, but do not always pay attention to.
What have I discovered? Happy and sad, productive and non-productivity, and what we choose to call good and bad, sit together. Life is not one or the other, it is both. Life can be so many things…
Somehow “typical” has over time become not so typical. This is the part of me I look forward to sharing. This God within me keeps calling, and slowly I have answered. I have embarked on writing a book with my sister Terry. We have called the book The Light Gap.
This morning as I was waking up, I was dreaming about kayaking. Today I am in Northbrook and it is 10º outside. No kayaking today!
However, in the summer, all I have to do is go out my door and down the 50 steps to be right on the lake near Eagle River Wisconsin. One of my favorite things to do is get up very early as the sun is rising, meditate on the pier, then kayak around the lake. The eagles fly around the edges, then find a tall white pine for perching. As soon as they spot a fish, they swoop down and grab it with their talons. I usually find the blue heron hiding near a tree that has fallen into the lake. If it is a lucky day, I will see the merganser duck family or the otter family playfully swimming to the shore. Some days, I stop in the center of the lake, and drift as I sit quietly taking in the beauty of the day.
One day I was out in the evening time just before dark, and saw an eagle swoop down, catching a fish that was too big for him to take airborne again. Right before my eyes, I saw him begin to swim! I had no idea they knew how to swim! He used his wings and began a butterfly type stroke. Upon reaching the edge of the lake, he hopped up on a log and began eating. I was so close I could hear the crunching of the bones. I sat mesmerized, as over time, I heard their familiar squawking. The female came in and took her turn eating. Then their immature offspring arrived to finish the fish.
Taking the kayaks to some of the wonderful, wandering rivers in the area is another favorite for me. The quiet, relatively slow pace as we travel down the river gives me time to think and to dream. My friend knows all the bird calls and calls out the bird’s names as we hear them. Every once in a while, she hears a bird that she has not heard in years.
Often a hike is in the plans for the day. Being enveloped by the beautiful hemlock and maple forests of northern Wisconsin is renewing. As we chat about this and that and take in the scenery, our spirits are soaring. This past fall a group of friends hiked 13-miles on the Hidden Lakes Trail.
This is the same group that bikes together. We have a number of routes that we take on the hilly, back country roads and on bike trails. These are serious bikers, so I made the decision to buy a new Trek road bike a few years ago. 30 miles was the longest ride for me this summer, but some do many more miles in a day. I have made a goal for myself to keep in better shape over the winter this year so I am ready to go this spring…
Winter is my time to volunteer in many capacities. But, perhaps we will have enough snow this winter for me to also get out cross-country skiing.