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Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

IMG_1481The air was cool, the sky cloudy as we drove up Mt. Hood toward Mirror Lake on June 19. While it had been a favorite hike early in our marriage, we hadn’t been there in years. At first we thought we missed the parking area, a little turnout on Highway 26. But then we realized that tight parking area had been closed in favor of a shiny new parking lot just up the road—with lots of spaces and a permanent outhouse.

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A new parking lot meant a different start to the trail, as well as new bridges along the way. The new trail was wider than the old, probably bulldozed through the woods. The hike, now a mile or so longer, eventually hooked up with the old trail, as we meandered through patches of purple rhododendrons, working our way uphill. When we reached the lake, the space opened up. Rhodies were everywhere, along with tall stalks of bear grass, huckleberry plants with tiny green berries, and other blossoming plants. Clouds hid the mountain, and wisps of fog drifted across the lake, whipped by a breeze that rippled the water. On this day Mirror Lake did not live up to its name.

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We hiked on a ways past the lake, seeing even more wildflowers and some nice views. But the fog was growing thicker, and we realized that the nearby mountain would not appear today. We reminisced about the time we hiked up to Tom, Dick, and Harry Mountain and saw swarms of hummingbirds feeding on the flowers in a meadow below the ridge. We didn’t make it that far this time, but turned back so we could eat our lunch at the lake.

 

Despite the clouds, it was a good hike. I much prefer hiking in cool weather rather than hot weather. And the flowers were wonderful. Nature has so many moods, and the quieter beauty of a cloudy day can be as lovely as the brightness of the sunshine. But it would have been nice to get a view of the mountain. I guess we will just have to return sometime and try again.IMG_1546

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clouds and reflections (1 of 1)What is it about the beach? Why does a feeling of peace seep into my entire being as I walk along the shore, coat zipped up against the wind?

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Perhaps it is the pounding of the surf, like the heartbeat of the ocean, secure and constant. Perhaps the open sands stretching out before me, fresh and clean from the outgoing tide. Or the calls of the soaring gulls echoing over my head. Or even the clouds, constantly changing and moving, giving a new perspective with each passing moment. Perhaps it is all of these with a little added magic that draws me in and fills me with joy.

dark beach clouds (1 of 1)My husband and I spent a couple of days at the beach recently, celebrating 40 years of marriage. Our hotel room overlooked the ocean, so its steady beat was ever-present. We were fortunate to have sunshine for a good portion of the visit and enjoyed several walks on the beach. Of course, beach weather can be fickle, and we did get caught in one downpour, thankful we had worn our raincoats when we ventured out into what was then sunshine and mostly clear skies.

bird tracks on beach (1 of 1)The shore has so many aspects, from the vastness of the ocean to the tiny details of pebbles and bird prints in the sand. It opens my eyes to wonder and my soul to God. Nature’s beauty is easy to see, but God’s glory is all around us, even in the most unlikely places—in the city, at work, in our everyday lives. Even in those bundles of contradiction we call people. I pray I can keep my eyes and soul open, wherever I find myself.people walking by water (1 of 1)

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snow in woods (1 of 1)

Are we ever satisfied with life as it is? It seems I am always looking forward to the next thing. At this time of year, I want spring to come. I’ve had enough of the cold, the early darkness, the slippery sidewalks. Then when spring comes, I look forward to summer—camping trips, visits to Pittsburgh to see the kids and grandkids, evening walks. However, summer gets too hot, and I complain and look forward to fall. And then, silly me, I wonder where the year has gone.

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Snow fell this week, very unusual in March in our part of Oregon. When I asked a friend if she was ready for spring like I was, she talked about what a blessing it was to sit by her window and watch the snow gently come down. This friend has suffered incredible grief and pain the past year, and yet she saw the snow as a blessing. She could enjoy the moment for what it was. I was both humbled and encouraged. Surely I, too, could savor the beauty without wishing the time away.

prints in snow (1 of 1)This morning we woke to more snow, a soft white covering over the usual dirt and mud. The sun broke through and made the whitened tree limbs sparkle. Rabbits had left their little trails across the yard. Sounds were muffled, except for the soft chiming of ice bits hitting the ground as they fell from the trees. I grabbed my camera and headed out. This might be the last snowfall of the season, and I needed to capture it. To soak up today’s beauty while it lasted—because today is where I live my life. And this moment is, indeed, a blessing.

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rainbow (1 of 1)Have you ever taken a walk with a rainbow?

Yesterday my husband, Gary, and I went out for a late afternoon walk. The sky overhead was a gloomy, threatening gray. While our weather app said it wouldn’t rain, Gary brought his umbrella just in case. Not for him—he doesn’t mind walking in the rain—but for his fair-weather walking wife. And, as this is an Oregon winter, rain soon began to fall. He handed me the umbrella, and we strode on.over house (1 of 1)

Then, as the rain continued to come down, light burst through from the sinking sun, sparkling off the wet bushes and the growing puddles. I began scanning the skies. Where there is sunshine and rain, there ought to be a rainbow. Sure enough, one started growing in the northeastern sky. It grew brighter and brighter, and I kept pulling out my phone to snap photos. We hadn’t seen such a distinct rainbow for a long time. We could even see a paler double rainbow above the main one.

rainbow2 (1 of 1)“The pot of gold should be right over there,” Gary commented. Yes, one end of the rainbow was adding lines of color to a shrub across the road while the other end colored a tree behind a neighbor’s house. As we kept walking, the rainbow seemed to follow us, as rainbows do. It moved behind other houses, over fields, the elusive pot of gold shifting to different spots. And still the rain kept falling. For nearly half an hour, that colorful arc kept us company as we walked. Even the rain looked dazzling with rays of sunshine lighting it up.rain (1 of 1)

Then the rain slowed to a gradual stop, and the rainbow faded from the sky. We ended our walk, moods brightened by the fresh air and the beauty we had seen. And I wondered, how often have I missed the beauty of the rainbow because I was too busy concentrating on the gray skies and the rain? Rain and sunshine are so intertwined in life, and sometimes it may seem that the clouds will overwhelm us. But God’s light can break through even the darkest of clouds and reveal the beauty that is there, just waiting for our discovery.

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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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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

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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)

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