Snow 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.
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.
The 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?
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.
“…Whatever is pure, whatever is lovely…dwell on these things.” (Philippians 4:8 NASB)
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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?
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.
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.
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
We returned to the Metolius, which was beautiful and remarkably mosquito-free.
Posted in camping, hiking, Nature, special places, summer, Travel, Uncategorized | Tagged awe, beauty, camping, hiking, nature, summer | 1 Comment »
Spring is a wonderful time of year. I love all the flowers bursting into bloom in every color imaginable. My own yard hosts pink and white dogwood, red and white and purple rhododendrons, fragrant yellow azaleas, red camellias, violet hyacinths, white apple and plum blossoms, and so much more–not to mention the sunny yellow dandelions that dot our lawn.
Spring makes me want to get out and do new things, to see new places, to wander secret trails in the woods. When the sunshine pokes through the Oregon clouds, I want to shout praises to God for the amazing beauty.
Last year my special “new thing” was the publication of my first book, a middle grade novel entitled Picture Imperfect, about photography (Yes, I do like to take pictures!), a wayward cat, an annoying aunt, and a girl trying to find her place in the world and in her family. This year I am so excited to announce that Picture Imperfect was named Book of the Year in the children (8-12) category by the Christian Small Publisher Association. I am so thankful for this honor and so grateful to my friends who have supported and encouraged me in my writing.
Is there something you have always wanted to do? Somewhere you feel God calling you, perhaps. What better time than spring to learn and grow and try something new? Let God grow you in a new direction and see what beautiful blossoms spring forth.
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Beaches are special places for me. When I was a child, my family spent a week at the beach every summer, and I loved long walks, looking for sand dollars and exploring caves. As I grew up, the coast meant time to get away by myself and talk to God. Now I love to spend time with my husband walking along the sea. And I usually have my camera at hand to catch the various moods of the beach. We just returned from an anniversary celebration in Seaside, Oregon—a lovely time despite rain and a windstorm that doused the lights for a while.
A few of the things I love about the beach in winter:
- The ever-changing patterns of the clouds. Clouds change constantly at the beach. White and fluffy one moment, dark and threatening the next. Never the same, but always fun to watch—although I prefer to watch storm clouds from the window of my motel room.
- Sun through the clouds. Oregon beaches specialize in clouds, and many days are gray and drizzly. So it can be a wondrous delight when the sun slices through the clouds, highlighting the waves and turning wet sand into glitter.
- Reflections on the sand. When the sky turns briefly blue, the wet sand reflects its color, reflects the jutting ocean cliffs, even reflects the people walking peacefully down the strand.
- Small things of beauty. When I can take my eyes off the clouds and focus on the sand, small jewels appear. Rippling patterns in the sand, bright agates, delicate shells. Splendor in miniature.
- Wide open spaces. Low tide pulls the water out, exposing broad expanses of land. The beach stretches out like a wide prairie of sand, seeming to go on forever.
- Beach grass. As the ever-present sea wind blows, tough ocean grasses sway and bend, rippling in constant movement, an echo to the changing sky, companion of the rolling waves.
- Sea birds. Above my head, the gulls twist and glide with the wind, their raucous calls blending with the ocean’s roar. When I was young, I would pull out my bird book, frantically trying to separate them into species, to determine whether one might be a new addition to my life list. Now I watch quietly, less concerned with their identity and more appreciative of their talent for riding the breeze.
- Serenity. Winter beaches stretch out wide and free, lacking the crowds of summer. My footprints often fall on virgin sand, as I drink in the open space, the sea sounds, the fresh salt air. I still talk to God in the peace of the beach. Sometimes I even sing praises, my off-key voice thankfully drowned out by the pounding surf. Always I feel peace fill my soul, as the breeze blows away my worries and fears, and the pulse of the ocean brings a peace beyond understanding.
What do you love most about the beach?
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Picture Imperfect, a novel for girls ages 8-12
Goodreads Giveaway for Picture Imperfect: Win an autographed copy of this middle grade novel! A girl, a cat, a camera, an annoying aunt with something to hide. Fun, mystery, and good values! Enter now! (And please share with your friends. The more, the merrier!)
NEW GIVEAWAY: March 11-20, 2016
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Upper McCord Creek Falls
Early autumn is a perfect time for hiking in the Pacific Northwest. The bugs have died down, the weather has cooled, but the sun is still shining. And thus my husband, Gary, and I headed out Tuesday to enjoy the outdoors. Looking through 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon and Southwest Washington by William L. Sullivan, I noticed two short (2-3 mile) hikes in the Columbia Gorge, so close to each other that they were together in one entry. Wahclella Falls and Elowah Falls. Despite our proximity to the Columbia Gorge, we’d never hiked either trail. Time to check them out!
The first one as we drove east through the Gorge (Oregon side) was Elowah Falls–with a bonus falls available (Upper McCord Creek) with a little extra uphill walking. The trail headed gently uphill, becoming a bit steeper on the Upper McCord part. It passed through shady forest, unfortunately close enough to hear the freeway sounds for much of the way, but finally heading back into the woods a bit. The McCord part opened up to a nice view of the Columbia River with Mt. Adams in the distance (I was thankful for the railing here, as the dropoff was steep.) before arriving at a nice, though rather small, waterfall. We explored a bit, then headed back toward Elowah Falls. As we neared the cascade, we could feel the temperature cool, until we came out in the rocky area below the falls, a fine place to rest and enjoy the view.
Elowah Falls hitting the rocks
Elowah Falls itself tumbled down from the cliff like a long, feathery tail, its pattern constantly changing, fascinating to watch.
We left Elowah Falls, deciding to drive the three miles or so to Wahclella Falls and see what it was like. We were glad we did. The Wahclella Falls trail began as a gentle stroll along lovely Tanner Creek. We watched a pair of dippers zipping from rock to rock in the stream, whistling merrily. Sunlight sparkled on the creek, but the path was shady most of the way, a good thing as the afternoon was warming up. The path climbed higher above the creek before dropping back down to the falls area. Which was beautiful. Wahclella Falls poured into a deep pool, which emptied into rambling Tanner Creek. We sat by the falls and ate our PBJ sandwiches, then wandered on–with many photo breaks along the way. Gary had to explore a little cave near the river–apparently it went back quite some ways, but wasn’t high enough for easy exploration. We meandered on through the rocky little valley, across the creek and back up to the main trail. It is a hike I certainly plan to return to–a little gem I am so glad we discovered.
Cave near Wahclella Falls
Amazing that we can live in one area for so many years and yet miss out on nearby places of beauty. Why had we never thought to hike those trails before? It’s a reminder to me to watch for beauty all around, for even the familiar places we take for granted may be wondrous if we keep our eyes and hearts open.
Posted in autumn, hiking, Nature, special places, Uncategorized, Waterfalls | Tagged autumn, beauty, birds, hiking, nature, September | Leave a Comment »
As we edge toward autumn, change is in the air. The heat of summer slowly dies away, replaced by crisp, foggy mornings and cool breezes. Clouds roll in, sometimes huge, fluffy white mountains, other times layers of gray filled with rain.
Leaves begin to turn color. We harvest the garden—plucking the last few ears of corn, a few fat cucumbers hiding under the leaves, red and golden cherry tomatoes, and, of course, zucchini, which is not yet ready to call it quits. Apples redden on the tree. The pantry shelves hold jars of beans, the freezer bags of corn. Blackberry jam and jelly await winter breakfasts. Our garden has done well.
A hush settles over the street, as children head off to school. I drink in the quiet and let it settle into my soul. September. Even the sound of it is soft and flowing, like the afternoon breeze as it rustles through the treetops. Like a treasure you hold, not in your hands, but in your heart.
And in the evening we stroll down the street as darkness falls earlier and the sun sets in a bright sky.
Posted in autumn, changes, gardening, summer | Tagged autumn, blackberries, changes, clouds, gardening, nature, September, summer, weather | Leave a Comment »