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Archive for the ‘joy’ Category

Falls Creek, WAWe’d been camping for three days without cell phone reception. The campground was gorgeous with tall, mossy cedars and maples. A melodic stream rushed past the campsites. Yet I had a hard time adjusting. It took me three days to finally feel comfortable being out-of-touch. And even that acceptance might have been related to the fact that we would be leaving the next day.

Why do I feel such a strong need to be connected? Well, what if our sons needed something? Sure, they’re grown and have moved far away, but still, you never know. What if I have an email waiting, asking me to take on a new work project or a business trip? If I didn’t answer promptly, I could lose out. Someone else might get that trip to Sacramento or San Antonio.Falls Creek Trail, WA

How did we ever manage in the good, old, days? Hubby and I used to take off camping for two or more weeks at a time back before the invention of cell phones. We might call our parents once during the trip to check in, but generally we just sent postcards. One time we returned home to discover that my mother had spent two days in the hospital. Thankfully, she had been released and was doing much better by then, but it gave me a scare. Would we have cut our vacation short had we known? Maybe, maybe not, but we definitely would have called more often. I’m glad we have cell phones now, so the communication is easier.

Hummocks Trail, WAYet sometimes it is good to disconnect. In the stillness of the woods I can relax and feel closer to God, feel more a part of nature, and open myself up to awe and wonder. I can relax from the stress of daily life, including the stress of trying to keep up with my email and text messages. I can just be me. The world of people can somehow manage without me for a few days, and the likelihood I will return home to urgent phone calls and emails is small.

In a way, disconnecting is actually re-connecting. As I step back from the hassles of my daily life into the greenness of towering maples and the enchantment of birdsong, I connect with my soul, I connect with God. An empty well within me fills to overflowing with joy and peace, as the living water pours through me. Pond, Hummocks Trail, WA

How could I forget how much I need the woods?

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Newport, Oregon beach rocks I love all sorts of walks on the beach: romantic strolls with my husband, energetic hikes to a distant jetty or dune, meandering ambles with a new friend. When our kids were small, I loved watching them as they scrambled around, picking up every shell and turning over every stone in search of something wonderful. However, introvert that I am, nothing quite beats being alone on the beach with a camera.Footprints on the beach, Newport, Oregon

Newport, Oregon: ocean and cloudsEarly morning is the best time; sunset is great, too, if the colors are bright. Any time at all is still nice. Today it was morning: a still morning early enough that the breeze had not yet begun, when the sun rose brightly over the hills, and the freshly washed sand pulled me toward it with magnetic force. After a lovely rest in the Emily Dickinson room at the Sylvia Beach Hotel in Newport, Oregon, I was ready.Newport, Oregon: rocks and buildings in mist

Being alone brings a certain freedom. I can sing praise songs aloud with the pounding of the surf both my background music and my disguise. I can stop to watch a bird circling above or stand and drink in the peacefulness of the ocean as long as I want, with no worries that someone else may wish to move on. I can turn aside for whatever catches my eye—a cloud formation, a small pool’s reflection, a tiny shell, or even just the pattern left in the sand by the rushing waves and beating wind. I can take a hundred pictures, trying to capture the essence of the scene, the special beauty of that particular moment.

Newport, Oregon sand patternsFinally I must wander back to join the others, to eat breakfast, to plan our day. But those moments alone on the beach with my camera have given me images to share, as well as a peace inside that is all my own.

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Ocean Park, WA--pine trail “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.mossy trail, Ocean Park

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.

Pine Shore TrailThe 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.Light through the pines

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The bus to Kamikochi breezes along the narrow road with only a short guard rail separating us from the precipitous drop off to the canyon below. The rocks, the rushing river, the cascading greenery heighten my expectations as we near our destination. Kamikochi in the Japan Alps—an amazing place!

The Azusa River—flowing gently in places, rushing over rocks in others, clear and fresh water straight from mountain glaciers

Myojin Bridge

 

Takezawa Marsh—dark and mysterious, haunting birdsong echoing through the trees

Takezawa Marsh

The forest—bright greens springing to life on the ground and in the trees; Nirinsou Anemones lifting their clean white flowers, filling the woods with green and white.

Nirinsou Anemones

“Snow monkeys”—the native Macaque monkeys peacefully munching on new greenery, doing acrobatics in the trees to reach the tender buds

Macaque “snow monkeys”

Northern Japan Alps in Chubu Sangaku National Park—looming over us in snow-covered majesty, lit by the sunshine, or hiding in the mists of a rainy day, pure beauty.

Kamikochi.

 

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Oases

Oases are places of rest and refreshment in the middle of the desert.Western Oregon lacks deserts, and therefore, also lacks oases—at least in the literal sense. However, two weeks ago I heard a sermon about oases, given by Dr. Lou Foltz, and the ideas have been simmering in my brain ever since.

 The message was, basically, that the church is an oasis of sorts, where we find spiritual refreshment. However, we can’t live in the oasis. We have to go back out into the desert to live, work, and help others, bringing them also to the oasis.

 That made me think about the oases in my life. Certainly, for me at least, the church is an oasis. I feel revived when I leave Sunday services, inspired to be a better person, and encouraged in my sometimes feeble attempts to serve. But church is not my only oasis. Home is another. When my children were small, home could be a chaotic place, but it was still a place where I could be myself. Now the nest has emptied, and home is a relaxing place, where I think and write, or put on loud music and dance, should the mood strike me.

 Natural places are also oases for me. I love getting out in the woods, walking on the beach, watching the sun set over a lake. The singing of birds and the rustling of leaves in the breeze fill me with peace. I learned long ago that I need my woods time to survive emotionally—and perhaps spiritually, as well.

 But then there’s the second part of the sermon. We can’t live in the oasis. I might like to be a hermit at times, but that’s not what I’m here for. I believe I’m here to help others—through encouragement, through practical gestures such as bringing food to a neighbor, through my writing, through the whole way I live my life. And so I must remember that those oases are not my goal, but simply way stations where I can renew my strength to continue the journey—even when that journey leads me through dry and dusty places.

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They should declare a holiday in western Oregon the first really sunny, warm day of spring. As it is, there are usually a number of UFO reports, citing a large glowing ball in the sky. After a winter of cold, wet days followed by a spring of slightly warmer, wet days, a truly sunny day is like a miracle, joyfully and gratefully received.

 What gifts come wrapped up in this bright day? First, the blueness of the sky. Winter skies, even when the sun does appear, are faded blue, an old, worn baby blanket color, cold and icy. Spring blue is a warm, vibrant blue that settles into the soul like a dove.

 The second gift is green—slivers of grass springing up so fast the lawnmower can’t keep up, the new opening leaves on trees in a hundred different shades of green, all lit by the morning sunshine, an amazing renewal of life that inspires me to get out and be active.

 The third gift is a rainbow of colors everywhere—all the bright flowers of spring. Every day new ones burst open, and I am drawn out to see them and try to capture their essence with my little camera. The sunlight brings out their colors, like a spotlight shining on a stage, and they parade across it in all their radiant beauty.

 I love sunny, spring days for the glorious gifts they bring. What gifts do you find in a spring day?

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More Clouds

I was driving down the road the other day, feeling rather depressed. Life had gotten hectic, and responsibilities piled upon me like woolen blankets on a summer night, leaving me hot and grumpy. I had chores to do, decisions to make, people to care for–the list seemed endless. And then I looked up at the Oregon sky, filled with its everchanging patterns of gray and white and blue. And I felt my burden evaporate into the air, joining those magnificent clouds above.

I’m not sure why I like clouds so much, but they always seem to take me out of myself and lift me to higher places. When light pours through them, it’s like radiance from heaven. When they pile up, tall and dark, it’s a reminder of the power of nature, and of God. And all this from a bunch of water vapor. If that isn’t a miracle, what is?

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