Saturday, June 24, 2006

Prospect View

Several years ago, I took a class at the University of New Hampshire. I forget the name of it, but it was subtitled something like "the use of space in 19th century American literature." As I love 19th century American literature, it wasn't exactly a hardship, but we did read some of the more obscure works in the American lit repertoire. One class was all about the "prospect view" and we read stuff that had us looking at things from a perspective that we aren't used to...the view from above. It changed everything about the way I literally look at things. The view from above is vastly different from eye-level, actual experience...and yet that perspective helps you understand the context of the actual, eye-level experience.

Trouble is, we don't always have the time...or make...or take the time to step back to get the prospect view. We're often so busy just living our lives that all we see is what's in front of us that we have no idea what's around us. I remember the first time I rode through the town of Bolton on a bus. I'd lived in that town for nearly 20 years and had ridden/driven through it on my way to AUC or church thousands and thousands of times. I thought I knew every inch of its roads. And yet early one morning I rode a bus through Bolton on my way to the airport for my first Youth Ensemble tour. I was sleepily looking out the window, watching the familar sights of my town pass by when all of a sudden I realized I was seeing a town I'd never seen before. In a car, you see things essentially from eye-level. In this big coach bus, I was seeing over fences and roof tops...and seeing things of that town I'd never seen before! I literally experienced the prospect view.

Today, I experienced two prospect views, very different from the one above. I was planning to go to camp meeting for church, but nearly there, found myself turning off into the Eastwood Cemetery just over the line into Lancaster. It's where both sets of grandparents and one uncle are buried, so I've been there many times before. The year my grandmother Aastrup died was a turbulent time for me at work (I was teaching at SLA at the time), and I'd often go park by her grave after work and listen to music while I caught my breath and refocused. But it's not just the five family members there that make this cemetery interesting to me. It's the fact that in the space of the two"blocks" on either side of Prospect Road where my grandparents are buried (one set at each end), there are probably 3 dozen other people that I know. Some are college classmates, some are parents of friends, some are colleagues, some are students tshat I taught, some are my college teachers, some are Adventist pioneers who died before my time, but who are featured in denominational history texts enough so that I feel as if I know them.

It fascinates me that within that small space, there are so many people that I've known, or know of. Every now and again I like to imagine what the Resurrection Day will be like when all those Adventists rise up and look around them and see others they've known (because if I know so many of them, surely they will know each other, too). I'm sure there are probably other cemeteries that have a concentration of people buried there who know each other...small town church burial grounds, for example. But somehow this seems different to me. I'd like to be there on that day. I think it will be incredibly exciting to meet so many friends on their way to meet Jesus. This morning, as I drove through the cemetery, I reflected on the lives of each one as I passed them, longing for the day when we all get to heaven.

From there, I drove out to Prospect Hill in Harvard where the Sears (of Sears, Roebuck fame) once lived and where the Alcotts spent 8 months in a commune called Fruitlands. This, too, is a place I used to go to when I was in college and then later when I was teaching at SLA. It has an amazing view clear across to Mount Monadnock (on a clear day) and is one of the best places I know for sunsets. It had been raining much of the night and morning, but had just stopped, creating a mistiness rising up out of the trees that the camera doesn't do justice to. I sat and thought about how my life has changed since the first time I parked at the top of that hill 33 years ago. So much I could never have predicted! I'm not so sure I would have wanted to know then what would happen. But I am glad for how things have turned out. The Prospect View today was about being content with my life as it is now, no matter how different it is from my early plans for it, and about living so that I have no regrets when my time is up.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Have a Nice Day...Start a Revolution

That rather cliched phrase has just taken on an amazing new meaning for me. It 11:50 p.m. and I am sitting in my living room watching today's Oprah show that I taped earlier and am just now getting to watch. I have a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes...and I am officially in love with Jon Bon Jovi. OK. Before you pass out from's not the's the words...and even more, the enormous generosity of someone working in one of the most selfish and materialistic professions: rock super star. Only he's not at all selfish or self-centered. He and the band gave Oprah and her Angel network1 million dollars. It overwhelmed me. "Give to live," they said. "I love your music, but I love your hearts more," she said.

Truth to tell, I don't really like their kind of music (although I do like "It's My life" because it came out when I was fighting for mine professionally and it was the perfect anthem for me at the time...) but I so love the giving. Jon and the band have a passion for kids...severely underprivileged who don't have enough money for school they provided school uniforms and after-school clothes and back packs and a whole bunch of other stuff to some of Philadelphia's most neglected population, kids who live in a home for underprivileged kids. He built them a playground and equipped them for success in school. His mission is to "make giving a hip thing....You can start a revolution by touching one soul....When you give from your heart, it takes you to a place you can't imagine....What motivates me at this point in my career is the idea of continually giving back...because without giving back, how can you go on? The plight of families, the suffering, moves me to a place where music is trivial. Actions speak louder than words."

When Jon informed the audience that they were each getting tickets to the band's concert there in Chicago, they went crazy. "All I can say to that," Oprah responded, "is 'Have a Nice Day!'" That is the name of the band's new album and the name of this summer's tour. So you see why that old cliche is now layered with meaning for me...along with Oprah and hundreds of others who will be affected by Bon Jovi's amazing generosity.

If I worship and adore anyone aside from God (and I don't) is generous people. People who give when they don't need to, when they have absolutely nothing to gain, when there is nowhere else to turn. We have several such people who help us out at EW/GBA. My sister and her husband are two of them. They are blessed...and they are they give to those who don't have, who would be lost in public school if not for their generosity. Every year, two-three kids graduate from GBA because Lauren and Jerry have paid their way to be there and many more have been able to stay in school because she helps them out. Jerry is the behind-the-scenes source, and Lauren is the one who makes it all happen. She also bakes cookies for them, mentors them academically, calls them at night to make sure they are doing their homework, organizes and coordinates huge fundraising projects for the school and so much more...she's amazing. She is able to do what I wish I could. Give...enormously. Truth is, of course, that giving what you can is big enough. The amount is not what matters, it's the giving at all. And that I can do.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Electrifying Discovery

Today was another hot day, although not as hot as it was yesterday, thankfully. At work, my office is on the back side of the building so it's fairly comfortable without an air conditioner. But when I got home this afternoon, I was quite dismayed to discover that the electricity was off. This is not unusual, as it goes off several times a year...but it was stifling hot in the condo, and without electricity, there was no air conditioner or fan. There was no oven, stove, microwave, TV, radio, CD player, computer...just about everything I wanted to do required, at 3:30 in the afternoon, I sat down in my recliner and took a nap! It was too hot to move, so a nap seemed like a good solution. When I woke an hour later, the electricity was still out, so I went out to my air air conditioned car and drove to an air conditioned store and wandered around for 30-45 minutes. By the time I got home again, the electricity was back on again...and I was back in business for the rest of the evening, a few dollars poorer because, you know, you can't wander through a store and not buy anything!!!

The experience, though, caused me to think about our dependence on electricity. Maybe it wouldn't have been so bad if it hadn't been so hot. It was light enough so that I could have done any number of things, except didn't want to move that much. Seems like there shouldn't be any one thing that could so handicap a person... I think I could be OK without if I was set up to live like that..but coming home with the expectation of preparing a meal in a cool house and doing some work on the computer while enjoying some music just didn't fit in with the plan for the afternoon!!!

Meanwhile, I'm remembering that a year ago, we were in Norway drinking in the beauty of the most continuously beautiful country I've ever been to. The top picture is of lupin alongside the road (and a lake) and the bottom picture is of poppies along a rock wall at the end of the Lysefjord.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Backyard Beauty

My parents have always kept a beautiful yard, especially the backyard where we have always spent pleasant hours talking and basking in the sun. This was true at the Bolton home for 27 years and it is true at their Alfred home now. Yesterday when David and I arrived, we wandered around the backyard and I took pictures as I went. I posted the lot of them on my other blog so you can go there to see all of them, but I wanted to share some here, too.

In the late afternoon I was lucky enough to capture a pair of bluebirds enjoying a bath (I actually took their pictures through the window and screen from the living room.). My mother was thrilled to see them as she had not seen them for awhile. They had had a nest in a bird house towards the back of the yard, but a pair of swallows had commandeered the house and had chased them away. They've been gone for a week or more, but were happily back yesterday.

The other two pictures I took today. One is of the beautiful climbing vines off the patio and the other is of a strangely aberrent Mother Hen and Chicken plant. Usually that plant is low-lying to the ground, spreading rapidly. This one for some reason became vertical kind of like a cactus, and had flowers that I've not seen on this kind of plant before. I think it's weirdly beautiful...

Friday, June 16, 2006


One of my former students has a world map on his blog that shows all the countries he's either lived in or visited (there are many). I liked it so much that I went to the site and created my own "Countries Visited" map as well as a "States Visited" map.

32 countries, 5 continents, 49 states. That's a lot of travel that I have no digital pictures for!!!

The maps are actually more impressive than the reality, as I've not really been to every square inch of any state, let alone country. Still, it's kind of cool to see all that red and remember...

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Speaking of Peru =)

Ah, Peru. That was my most recent travel adventure, this time with 12 teenagers, only one of whom was related to me. It was an amazing I wrote about for the February issue of the Gleaner. The article appears below, along with some pictures from the trip.

Mission Trip accomplishes its Missions
By Rondi Aastrup

“Let’s build a church!” With those words, 11 of the 12 seniors at Greater Boston Academy (GBA), along with 12 adults from three Southern New England Adventist churches, embarked on a six-day adventure to build a church in Cabanillas, Peru, as part of Maranatha International’s “1,000 Churches in 1,000 Days” project. For three and a half years, these young people had been raising money for this trip. By the time their plane took off from Boston on November 30th, they had raised the $15,900 needed for the trip (helped considerably by the generous gift of $125 each from the Stoneham Memorial Church (SMC)), and they were more than ready to make their mission-dream a reality.

After a journey of nearly 24 hours, door to door, the group’s first challenge was to get acclimated to the altitude of 12,552 feet above sea level. This was accomplished through the help of medication, self-pacing, and shopping in Puno, the major city on the shores of Lake Titicaca. They also had the thrill of worshipping in the Adventist Church on one of the floating Uros Islands in the middle of the lake. There, they were invited to participate in the service, with the seniors singing, project coordinator Paul Maxwell preaching, and project assistant Nelson Colòn translating.

Work began in earnest on Sunday. With the exception of a few of the adults, none in the group had ever done “real” construction before, so expectations were not high for completion of the project. Maxwell told the group he’d be happy if the Maranatha workers didn’t have to redo what they did. But the seniors went willingly to work—sifting sand for mortar and cement, laying brick, cutting rebar, welding window grates in place, hauling stone, and marking, placing and screwing the roof in position. By the second day, the Maranatha workers knew they had a good, if inexperienced, team. By the fourth day, there was optimism that the project could be completed. And by the sixth day, the church was done.

Afternoons, several women and girls conducted Vacation Bible School for the children of the town. They started with 8 on the first day and ended with more than 70 on the last day. Evenings, Paul Maxwell presented Bible lessons in the church and a girls’ trio provided music. By week’s end, 7 were requesting baptismal studies.

On Sabbath, the group worshipped in the church they had built, top to bottom. The dedication service had a profound effect on the entire group, but especially the teenagers. And later in the afternoon, when the president of the Peruvian Union presented them to a group of 2,000 lay-workers from the Puno District, they were overwhelmed by the gratitude expressed by thunderous applause.

“We went there to help out the people and …we were able to see [them] worship in their new church that we built for them,” commented Julie Rittenhouse. “It really made me feel like I made a difference in their lives and I really enjoyed that.” Rachel Pamphile agreed. “It was one of the most wonderful experiences that I have ever had in my life. . . . It’s one thing to help build a church, but to worship in it with the people that you built it for is something so amazing….It was a life-changing experience.”

That is, of course, the two-fold purpose of mission trips: to make a difference in the lives of others, but also to experience your own life-change. This trip definitely fulfilled its mission.

[Yes, that's me petting a baby llama...]

Public or private?

I'm trying to decide what to do with this blog. Right now, it's just a private one for friends and family members. I've hesitated to make it public because I'm not sure I want to open my life up to strangers. And yet there's a part of me that is curious about who out there would read what I share. I'm afraid that if I opened it up, I might have a lot more pressure to write and that it would consume me. I am already spending a lot more time on this and my Multiply site since school finished. On Multiply, it's built in to see who checks out your pages, etc. but that, too, is open only to family and friends (by my choice).

Perhaps this hesitance to hold on to my privacy is similar to my demand to my family that when I die, my diaries (some 30 of them by now) are to be burned (without reading them!). I hardly write in my journal any fact I think the last time I did was when I went to Peru. That makes me sad, as I used to love writing like that...but I get terrible hand cramps...hence, my gradual shift over to blogging...

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Norway in the Office

Awhile back I wrote about the escapes I have provided myself in my office. I finally got a good picture of one of the paintings I've hung there. When our family was in Bergen last summer (a year ago already! I can't believe it!), we spent one day taking the "Norway in a Nutshell" tour from Bergen that took us first on the Bergen Railroad, then on the Flam Railway (a fabulously beautiful descent from Voss through the Flam valley with waterfalls & rivers), then on a fjord cruise on the spectacular Aurlandsfjord and the Naeroyfjord branches, on a bus trip up the crazily steep Stalheimskleiven canyon road that has a breathtaking view at the top, and back to the picturesque coastal city of Bergen where we were staying.

When we arrived in Aurland, we had a couple of hours to shop before boarding the boat to cruise through the fjords. I bought this painting in one of the shops.

We also tried on dozens of beautiful Norwegian sweaters. Eventually, each of the adults ended up getting at least one, although I bought mine at the Fish Market in Bergen the following day. When we took our family Christmas picture in December, we all wore our sweaters. They are lovely to look at, and people always comment on them...but they are also hot and scratchy if you don't wear something long-sleeved under them...which makes them hotter!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

A Rose from Julie

Friday night began the weekend-long celebration of the Class of 2006. The first service, Consecration, was a lovely hour and a half full of music and love. Katie Drexler sang Fairest, Lord Jesus with Julie and Connie accomanying. It was exquisitely beautiful. I thought it was nice that the class asked Katie to be part of their celebration. Turns out, she was the only "outsider" to be included in the entire weekend.

Pastor Mark gave a funny and meaningful talk and the seniors paid tribute to their parents and family members. Julie gave flowers to all of us and I got roses from a few others as well.

As expected, when I got the flowers home, the cats tried to get at them, but I managed to find another place they couldn't get to. The picture above them is one Kaitie painted me a few years ago.

Martha spent the night with me. She took good care of me, doing my dishes, making me tea, and making me breakfast the next morning. I enjoyed having her with me for the night.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

A Rose from Christopher

Tonight was Christopher's graduation from 8th grade. He is his class treasurer and graduated with highest honors, earning himself a $600 scholarship from SLA. I am so proud of him!!! As I was sitting in Machlan Auditorium watching him, I thought back to the 9 months I spent as his nanny when he was 4-13 months old (and Kaitie was 3). He was such a happy baby! I loved rocking him to sleep, singing to him until he fell asleep. He was so cute! Now, he's a smart, funny, athletic young man going into high school... Time has flown by!

He gave roses to all the ladies in his family. When I got home, I put mine in a vase and tried to find a place that the cats would not attack it...Teddy climbed onto the table to smell and then bite at the baby's breath. I finally had to put it up in a book case! Those cats get into everything!!!

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Petra, Jordan

This morning when I opened my Yahoo page before checking e-mail there, I saw that the featured "Destination Spotlight" was Petra. Immediately I was transported back to July 1993 when I was on my last major tour with the New England Youth Ensemble. This tour was to Egypt, South Africa, Israel and Jordan. I loved it! Every day was an incredible experience, each one better than the one before, each one more interesting than I ever imagined possible.

To get to the canyon where the ancient city of Petra lies, people have the option of walking in or riding a camel or horse. I remember Dr. Harvey rode a horse in, but I walked in with Donny and Corey and others. We were cautioned to keep covered, that the sun was intense in the canyon, but many in our group were so hot they couldn't keep covered...and later paid for it. Thankfully, I resisted the urge to uncover.

It was an incredible sight once inside the canyon. Some places were very well preserved. Others were eroded by the elements and human neglect. I tried to imagine what it would have been like when it was an operating city...but it was hard. There's nothing in our context that's even remotely like it.

Someday (maybe this summer), I will scan my prints so I can post them and do other computer-related things with them (like powerpoint slide shows, etc.). For now, here's a small taste of what Petra is like.