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Autumn Choices

dogwood leaves (1 of 1)Fall has arrived, and change is in the air. The heat of summer has passed, and rain has watered the parched ground. Today the sun is shining. October clouds have cleared away, and the sky is bright blue. An autumn breeze blows through my hair as I walk out to the garden to see what is left.daad bean leaves (1 of 1)

A handful of pole beans. Half a dozen over-ripe ears of corn. Some good-sized almost-ripe tomatoes, along with a generous number of cherry tomatoes—Sweet 100 and Sun Gold. But the bush beans are gone, and the prolific zucchini is dying back. The pumpkins and winter squash have been harvested, and their vines lie brown and shriveled across the dirt. The garden is fading, as it always does this time of year.

grapes (1 of 1)Yet around the garden, golden leaves waft down from the maples. The dogwood is gradually turning from green to red. Brightly-colored leaves stand out against the blue sky. Grape vines still carry batches of purple fruit. There is much beauty in this time of dying. And also much ugliness in this time of beauty.

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For every golden leaf there is a brown, broken one. For every purple grape there is a rotten zucchini. For every blue sky, the remembrance of pouring rain—and more to come. I could look down and focus on the mud, the dead leaves, the empty garden, or I could instead focus on the colorful leaves, the fleeting blue of the sky, the delicious fruits of the season. What will my choice be?

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Seeing in Color

Neuschwanstein

Neuschwanstein Castle

When I was in grade school, back in the Dark Ages, we would sometimes watch filmstrips about other countries. (Sorry to the younger people, who have never heard of a filmstrip. It is, basically, yesterday’s version of a Powerpoint presentation.) These filmstrips were in black and white. So were most of the pictures in our text books. Perhaps that is why, when I would think of another country, the pictures in my mind would be black and white. The only images I had of faraway places were those I saw in school or on television. (And television was black and white back then, too.)

Alpsee

Alpsee

DSC03530In May my husband and I traveled to Europe for the first time—specifically Germany and Austria. It was a wonderful time of seeing new places, as well as some very old places. Castles, palaces, even some Roman ruins. We tried different foods, walked on cobblestone streets, went on a boat on the Romantic Rhine, and had fun practicing our very basic German. And we met so many people of many different nationalities. Not all of them were the stereotypical blond-haired, blue-eyed Germanic people. There were people from all corners of the globe. We soaked in the experience as much as we could.

Heidelberg

Woman singing in Heidelberg

Those old black and white pictures in my head transformed themselves into living color. The blue of mountain lakes, bright green leaves trembling in the breeze, pale pink wild roses, multi-colored stained-glass windows of the cathedrals, gold-lined murals in the castles, a whole rainbow of colors. And a rainbow of skin tones that I found quite delightful.

Oberwesel

Oberwesel on the Rhine

I will never see Europe in the same way, because it has become real to me. I wish everyone had the ability to travel to other countries. Perhaps if they did, they would see the world with new eyes. Perhaps we would see that we are all amazing people—each unique with special gifts to offer the world. And all of us brothers and sisters under the skin.

Hellbrunn Palace

Hellbrunn Palace, Salzburg

New Morning

rising sunOur plane sat on the runway awaiting permission to take off. The eastern sky turned pale orange above the distant hills. Mt. Hood highlighted the skyline, silhouetted against the predawn glow. Slowly the sky grew lighter. A sliver of bright gold glinted above the hills for a moment, and then the burning sun rose, illuminating the scene, sending streams of light across the ground. A new day had dawned.

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As the plane soared high across the land, one new sight after another appeared below. Mountains icy with snow. Lakes sparkling in the sunlight. Scenes of such beauty that it compelled me to pull out my phone and snap photos. I felt like an eagle high above the earth seeing the hills and valleys in a new light—almost like I was looking through God’s eyes. So often I concentrate on the ugliness and hate in this land. From here all of that disappeared; all was fresh and new to my eyes, clean and pure.

2017-12-07 09.55.46This is a new year, awaiting our decisions, our actions, our emotions. And each day springs new from the hand of God. Will we grab it selfishly and use it for our own purposes, casting aside any who look or act different, ignoring our neighbors? Or will we accept it as a precious gift and treat it with gentleness and love? Will we take the hand of someone unfamiliar and try to see through their eyes? Perhaps we might catch a glimpse of a beauty we’ve never seen before. The choice is ours.2017-12-07 09.10.09

Autumn Dawn

Sunrise through treeThe early morning sun lit up the fog, giving the yard an unearthly aura. I should get out there with my camera, I thought. But I was still eating breakfast, and the grass was wet, and I was feeling lazy. Still, that light was amazing. I finally roused myself from my chair.

red leavesShoes and jacket on, camera dangling from my neck, I headed outside—only to find the dawn even more spectacular that it had appeared through the window. Dew sparkled on green grass. Leaves were lit up like stained glass windows, as light shone through them. The sun, shining through a tree, shot rays of light in all directions, like heavenly beams in the fog. I snapped picture after picture, forgetting all about my damp feet.

And to think I almost missed it! How much beauty have I missed because I was too comfortable to leave my warm house? How many unique experiences have I let pass me by because I was too fearful to change my safe routine or too set in my ways to step outside the little boxes I created for myself? God gives us so many chances to find beauty, to learn, to grow. But sometimes we need to step outside before we can find them.autumn maple leaf

Busy, Busy, Busy

Cathedral Rock

Cathedral Rock, Sedona, AZ

I can’t believe how busy I have been this year. Work has taken up my time, and I have not visited this page for a long time. I have a post or two written, but I forget where I put that notebook. Could be because we installed new carpeting in the living room–which includes my writing alcove–and not everything is back in place yet. I will eventually find it. In the meantime, I figure I could at least post a few pictures of the pretty places I have seen this year when work slacked a bit.

Bell Rock and Courthouse Rock

Bell Rock and Courthouse Rock, Sedona, AZ

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Deschutes River, OR

 

 

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Lower Lewis River Falls, WA

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Metolius River, OR

And finally, what kept us busy in late July through mid-August. And we just love walking around on it–and have begun a new habit of removing our shoes when we enter the house. (My writing alcove is over to the right, now filled with desk, computer, printer, filing cabinets–and my old piano.)

new carpet

the new carpet

So, what has kept you busy this summer?

Snow and the Afternath

snowy-woodsSnow falls silently in the darkness, covering the ground, piling up on the bushes, coating our little Honda Civic in the driveway. In the morning it still falls, creating a fantasy world of white. On Facebook everyone posts pictures of their yards and streets. Children rush out to build snow people. I walk in our half-acre woods, camera clicking, trying to capture the beauty before it melts or blows from the trees. Snow covers the mud and dead plants of winter. It muffles the sounds of cars and trucks—those few brave enough to venture out onto the slippery roads. Peace flows through me as I drink in the fresh beauty.snowy-street

On the second day, no more snow falls. Skies clear, temperatures dip further below freezing. We walk on our quiet dead end road, enjoying the blue skies and the white fields and yards. I throw out extra sunflower seeds for the birds. My husband chops wood for the fire—at least we can keep our living room warm. Then we settle in to work, relax, and watch the squirrel in the feeder (as does our cat) and the birds fighting over seeds.

squirrel-at-feederThe third, fourth, fifth days… Cold, windy, white—we take our walks, but hurry back in to sit by the fire, watch some football, go online, maybe get some work done. The woodpile diminishes. Where the sun hits the roads, ice melts or gets torn up by tires, only to refreeze later in the day, more slippery than ever. Meetings are canceled. Church is canceled for the second week. My husband’s concert is canceled. The snow becomes dirty near the roads, marred by footprints in the yard. Wind blows it from the trees. Where is that pristine beauty we saw just days before?snow-on-fence

Beauty comes and goes. It flits into the everyday with glittering wings, inviting us to stop and marvel. When it stays too long, the magic is lost and it becomes ordinary—or even an annoyance. How sad—because each day has a little bit of splendor hiding within it. We may have to search, may have to keep our eyes open. It is much easier to see the ugliness and focus on the darkness. But these times of beauty give us hope and keep us moving on, even in dark times.

footprints-in-snow“…Whatever is pure, whatever is lovely…dwell on these things.” (Philippians 4:8 NASB)

Posing at Upper Meadow

Posing at Upper Meadow

Written July 11, 2016

Picturesque lakes, mountain meadows, views of jagged peaks, a forest being reborn after a disastrous fire—all elements of the beautiful Canyon Creek Meadows hike from Jack Lake, not far from Camp Sherman, Oregon.

Getting to the trailhead from our campsite at Smiling River campground on the Metolius River was a bit challenging. Finding the forest road signs to make sure we took the right roads and bouncing along miles of washboard gravel were the main issues. They were quickly forgotten once we hit the trail.

The morning chill didn’t stop a group of school-aged children from splashing in Jack Lake while their teacher/caretaker watched from the shore. It made me shiver—don’t kids feel the cold?

Ghost trees

Ghost trees

We hiked through open pine woods—including several areas of bare “ghost trees” left from a 2003 fire. Small pine and hemlock were growing back, an encouraging sight. Farther along the forest got thicker as we entered unburned regions.

Lower Meadow was a green oasis of merging streams and flower-filled fields, although most of the flowers were yet to bloom. Apparently late July-early August is peak season for blossoms. Still we did see lupine, Indian paintbrush, cat’s ears, and other flowers scattered about.

lunchtime

lunchtime

Crossing a couple of small creeks, we ascended higher (and a bit more steeply) to Upper Meadow, which provided a spectacular view of Three Fingered Jack, still spotted with snow. As we hiked the even steeper trail past Upper Meadow, we had to cross a couple of large patches of snow before reaching the open rock area that led up to a viewpoint. The view was already amazing, and I was hungry and tired, so I wimped out and found a big rock to sit on while we ate lunch. My husband hiked a bit higher to a notch in the rock, but decided that was far enough. While a tricky scramble up a rocky hill will supposedly give views of the other Central Oregon mountains, we never made it there.Canyon Creek Meadows hike view

The hike down was lovely and we took the loop trail from Lower Meadow, which seemed empty of hikers but teeming with mosquitoes. (Could there be a correlation between the two?) Canyon Creek tumbled along next to the first section of the loop, milky with glacier water. More ghost trees stood sentinel around us, poking like needles into the deep blue sky. When we returned to Jack Lake, the group of children was gone, and a serene stillness filled the air.

Jack Lake in the afternoon

Jack Lake in the afternoon

We returned to the Metolius, which was beautiful and remarkably mosquito-free.

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