“I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now,” wrote–and sang–Joni Mitchell, “from up and down, and still somehow
it’s clouds’ illusions I recall…” And really, when it comes right down to it, clouds themselves are a bit of an illusion. They look like you could reach up and touch them, but if you did, your hand would slide right through, cool and damp perhaps, but without ever hitting anything solid.
On our recent trip to Pittsburgh to visit our son and daughter-in-law, we saw plenty of clouds, both from below and from above. Some brought rain and snow; some piled up like bright puffy ice cream sundaes in the sky.
And from above, they danced across the landscape, finally building up into a soft blanket. Heading toward our landing, the plane sliced into the blanket, and it felt like entering the void, with no way to see above, below, or ahead. Just a field of gray in every direction. Until… until we dove underneath the grayness, and the city lights sparkled below, and all was just the way it should be. And yet, I wonder… is that, too, an illusion?
Posted in clouds, Perspectives, quotations, Travel | Tagged clouds, life, nature, weather, winter | Leave a Comment »
The sky changes so rapidly this time of year. One minute it can be blue, swept clean of clouds; the next minute puffy white cumulus clouds start billowing up, turning gray underneath. Soon Cumulonimbus clouds take over the sky–magnificent, piled high in all their glory.
The clouds darken, threatening rain. And all I can do is watch in wonder. Like snowflakes, no two clouds are ever alike–or so I am convinced. And while the gray stratus and nimbus that bring rain may not excite me, the beauty of those towering cumulonimbus never ceases to fill me with awe.
So enjoy a few new cloud photographs. And look up at the sky to see what wonders you might find there.
Posted in changes, clouds, Nature, Uncategorized, winter | Tagged beauty, changes, clouds, nature, rain, weather | Leave a Comment »
This past weekend was the annual Great Backyard Bird Count. Whenever I could find the time, I stood by the window, looking out at the dogwood tree that holds a seed feeder, suet feeder, and bird bath. The GBBC asks participants to count the birds at their feeders–or in their backyards. Then you enter your count at their site, and it can be compared with thousands of others from around the world. The number to enter for each species is the greatest number you can see at one time. Sounds easy, right? Well, it is when it comes to the big birds–the jays, crows, woodpeckers, and those nasty starlings. The little birds are another story completely.
First there are the chickadees. First, because they show up at the feeder before I can even get it hung up in the morning. However, chickadees are perpetual motion machines, never staying in one place for more than a few seconds. And we have two species of chickadees. Try to get an accurate count of those little guys as they whip in and out of the trees and feeders! The bushtits aren’t much easier, although they are awfully cute for plain, little gray birds.
Then there are the sparrows and related little birds. Juncos, finches, etc. All kind of brown, perhaps with some stripes. House sparrows, house finches, golden-crowned sparrows, white-crowned sparrows… A person could get dizzy trying to keep up. At least the towhees are easy to tell apart from the others. And the lone varied thrush that pecks quietly at the seeds on the ground.
And how about those birds that show up the day before the GBBC and then disappear, only to reappear the day after. The stinkers! And that single Eurasian collared dove that dropped in for the first time the day after. Why couldn’t it have come a day early? Is it really cheating if I add a couple of birds from the next day?? Then there’s that leucistic sparrow-type bird. If anyone can tell me what it is, please do. I am not quite certain.
Time to turn in my lists and add my tiny bit of data to the Great Backyard Bird Count. It is nice to be a part of such a great program–even if the birds don’t always cooperate.
Posted in birds, complexity, Nature, sparrows, Uncategorized, winter | Tagged beauty, birds, bushtits, chickadees, complexity, juncos, nature, sparrows, winter, woodpeckers | 2 Comments »
“Pine Shore Trail” the sign read. I saw it as I walked down from the conference center in Ocean Park, Washington. The trail veered off from the wide path that led straight to the beach. Where did it go? I had to find out, so I followed the sandy track into the woods, through gnarled beach pines and huckleberry bushes into a land of wonder.
Sunshine stretched long fingers through the trees, lighting up the soft green moss that began to take over the trail. Pines spread twisting limbs overhead, making shadow patterns on the ground. The trail meandered through the woods, sometimes narrowing to so indistinct a thread that I feared I might lose it. But then it would widen again, and I would continue on, eager to see what lay around the next bend.
The shining green and gray wood felt like something straight out of Middle Earth. I trod lightly on the spongy ground, half-expecting to see wood elves peeking out from behind the trees or a sleeping dragon bedded down in the moss. I followed the path until it disappeared into a grassy lake of water, left from previous rainstorms. Then I wandered a bit through the woods and finally back to the main trail. I left the magic land behind, but, like Merry and Pippin in Fangorn Forest, I grew just a bit younger after drinking in the mossy wonder of that place.
Posted in Coast, hiking, joy, Nature, special places, Uncategorized | Tagged beach, beauty, joy, Middle Earth, nature, winter, Woods | 2 Comments »
The sky was turning from black to deep blue when I stepped outside the retreat center where I was blessed to spend time with a couple dozen of the nicest writers I know. The moon’s brightness faded as day softly arrived.
Pastel pinks and oranges tinged the eastern sky as I padded down the sandy trail to the beach. The sky above turned pale blue. Past the trees and the beach grass, the ocean pounded out its rhythm while gulls flew overhead and a flock of sandpipers skittered away at my approach.
Color rose higher in the sky and spread far past the eastern edges. Waves and wet sand reflected the dawn. The empty beach lay silent before the sea, whose vastness breathed peace into my soul.
I stepped where many had walked before, and yet the freshly washed sand held no trace of their presence. It spread before me in wavy patterns, new and untouched, awaiting my footprints. I prayed that the marks I left behind would be true and my path straight.
Morning arrived in beauty. I greeted it with joy and songs of praise.
Posted in Coast, Nature, special places, winter | Tagged beach, beauty, life, nature, winter | 2 Comments »
Oregon winters include a mixture of white and gray. Not to mention that clear stuff that drips from the sky. We adapt to gray skies and rejoice when blue appears—which it actually did for several days recently. Unfortunately, blue skies in the winter mean cold days, colder nights, and, where I live, a biting East wind. A bit of a mixed blessing, but still nice to see.
Last week we had a particularly beautiful, frosty day. Fog had drifted in and frozen on the trees, bushes, and whatever else it reached, creating scenes worthy of Christmas cards. Unfortunately, we discovered this while on the road, and I hadn’t brought my camera along. So all I can offer is a close-up from my phone.
Then the days warmed up, bringing fog that dripped, rather than froze. Gauzy gray skies were backlit by the sun struggling to break through. And for this day, at least, light proved stronger than the clouds, bringing another sunny day. Now we are back to gray and rain, but hey, I’m a native Oregonian. I can handle it!
Posted in clouds, Nature, winter | Tagged changes, clouds, contentment, nature, rain, weather, winter | 2 Comments »
Treasures come in many forms, sometimes quite unexpected. But an old pack of cigarettes?
My father died a couple of months ago, and so I am spending time at his house sorting papers and cleaning out cupboards and drawers, in preparation for an estate sale. The process brings back many memories, as I unearth old photo albums, wall hangings I remember from childhood, and other memorabilia. It can be a bittersweet time.
Yesterday was another day of interesting finds as I began going through his desk. An envelope containing half a dozen two dollar bills. Hmm. Wonder what those are worth today? A drawer full of those address labels that charities send out, hoping you will donate. If Dad had lived another hundred years, he couldn’t have used all of the labels he had there.
Then I pulled out something different. An old pack of cigarettes that looked like someone had started to open it and then stopped. Odd. My dad used to smoke. He had tried many times to quit, but never quite succeeded. Until my mother died of lung cancer. Actually it was the kind of cancer usually caused by asbestos exposure, rather than cigarettes, but there was some speculation that secondhand smoke could have played a part. I never saw my father with a cigarette after that.
Now here was this old, yellowed pack of cigarettes. But there was something different about this package. Securely taped to both sides of the pack were Bible verses. On one side: “Galatians 5:7: For freedom did Christ set us free: stand fast therefore, and be not entangled again in a yoke of bondage.” And on the other side: “John 8:32: And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
This must have been the last pack of cigarettes my dad ever purchased. I could imagine him picking it up when he felt the urge to smoke, reading the verses, and then placing it back in the desk, gaining strength to resist one more time. How telling of my dad’s character that when he became determined to quit, he turned not to hypnosis or a patch, but to God. And he found what he needed to win the battle.
Treasures come in many forms, but I never expected to find one in an old pack of cigarettes.
Posted in blessings, cancer, changes, death, decisions, Faith, Family, People | Tagged attitude, changes, death, decisions, life | 4 Comments »