With winter solstice approaching fast, I am truly enjoying the quiet, restful beauty of this season…
when candlelight is as lovely for breakfast as it is for supper,
when the night frosts restore beauty to every dying leaf,
when we can read a book to the cozy crackle of the woodstove warming the house,
and I can watch the sunset while I’m making supper.
Some of my ancestors came from Norway, a place very similar in latitude to where I live now. Over there, they have a word for what I’m trying to describe, a word that’s gotten a bit trendy in the United States in recent years. But trendy or not, I do think those words in other languages that we don’t have an exact equivalent to in English are so interesting and rather delightful. If you’ve lived anywhere where the winter nights are long, or the winter is harsh, you should appreciate the word “hygge”, a single word coined by fellow people of the north to describe the way we not only cope with but find true pleasure in this dark, cold season.
I hope that, not matter where you are, you are enjoying your own version of hygge as we enter this winter season—or that you will take this as inspiration to make the time to cultivate some in the months ahead!
“God has given riches and wealth to every man, and He has enabled him to enjoy them, to accept his lot, and to rejoice in his labor. This is a gift from God.” (Ecclesiastes 5:19)
My kids are so used to me always bringing the camera wherever I go and looking for potential photographs, sometimes they beat me to it. “Mom! You should pull over and take a picture of that spot back there. I see a good place up ahead to turn around!” That first photo up above was Talitha’s original idea, and a collaboration on everyone’s part, since there was no good pullout at the most advantageous spot, and it was a long ways to walk. They watched both ways and told me if/when a car was coming while I snapped my photo out the window. Just wanted you all to know that some of my photography is the result of some real teamwork over here—and I’m grateful for my team!
“The eye cannot say to the hand, “I do not need you.” Nor can the head say to the feet, “I do not need you”…
“But in fact, God has arranged the members of the body, every one of them, according to His design.” (1 Corinthians 12:15, 18)
“Do you not fear me? declares the LORD. Do you not tremble before me? I placed the sand as the boundary for the sea, a perpetual barrier that it cannot pass; though the waves toss, they cannot prevail; though they roar, they cannot pass over it.” (Jeremiah 5:22)
We went on our second end-of-October “cabining” trip to Twelve Mile Arm this year, this time for two nights. Does that make it an annual tradition? That remains to be seen, but the fact that a pair of kayaks now come with the cabin is a pretty big draw. We enjoyed taking turns paddling around the estuary, followed by curious seals, and the two little girls were pretty excited when we let them paddle out to the nearby island (so shallow and close you can walk to it at low tide) by themselves.
There was snow on the mountains across the bay when we woke up one morning, but we did not get cold like we did the last time we came here. I guess that means we’ve learned a thing or two about 1) clothing and bedding choices, and 2) running a woodstove.
I read the cabin journal, in which guests talked about hearing wolves and being skunked at deer hunting (I think there’s a connection there), and feasting on crab. One guest left behind a game of Uno Flip on purpose, hoping others would enjoy it, too. (We did.) Another guest left a can opener, which I had forgotten. (I used it, gratefully.)
The utter stillness was achingly beautiful. Not even our phones could ding to spoil it.
“And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” (Mark 6:31)
“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” (Psalm 1:1-3)
About the photos: Some weeks I don’t take many pictures, and our explorations don’t take us much further than the edge of town to this little trail. I think my favorite part of it might be this gentle, if somewhat deceiving, start through the alders, before it quickly switches to the steep ascent more worthy of it’s local nickname “Heart Attack Trail”.
Found during a family hike along an unnamed road, this was my first sighting of salal berries. Oddly, on this day in late October, we found blossoms, too. I did not know what they were at the time (and Google doesn’t work in the wilderness), so I left them there, but later, my friend Juliet identified them for me and confirmed that they are, indeed, edible, with the flavor being described as somewhere between a blueberry and a grape.
The amount of pleasure I get out of discovering a new-to-me plant and learning about it is deep, especially when it’s as interesting as this one turned out to be. Did you know that salal berries have a long history as an important staple food of the Pacific coastal native Americans? Did you know that berries like these that stain your fingers purple when you pick them are high in phenolic flavonoid phytochemicals, aka compounds that fight against cancer, aging, inflammation, and neurological diseases? Did you know salal berries have three times the antioxidants of their much more widely touted “superfood” cousin blueberries? Did you know that salal leaves are astringent and anti-inflammatory, and poultices or teas of it can be used to treat a wide variety of ailments like wounds, coughs and stomach/digestive issues? Did you know the young leaves of this plant can be used as an appetite suppressant?
But for all this, the salal shrub classified as “Gaultheria shallon” is most widely known today merely for it’s beautiful evergreen leaves, prized in the florist industry!
“And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.” (Genesis 1:29)
Well, they just sent you around the world, didn’t they?” the airport employee commented as she scanned my travel itinerary. Ketchikan, Seattle, Minneapolis, Charlotte, Houston, Seattle, Ketchikan. I didn’t tell her that there would also be a 3 hour ferry ride to an island before I was actually on home ground again. One big giant coast-to-coast oblong sort of circle over the United States. It’s what you do when you’re trying to use your airline miles to a particular destination within a certain time frame, and it was a wonderful adventure.
I enjoyed experiencing new food. Shopping an ultra-gourmet convenience store at 1 AM in the morning and walking out with pot de creme and pita with tzaziki. A build-your-own doughnut shop. Visiting a patisserie for bites of the most wonderful mont blanc (see the first photo below if you, like me, had never heard of that before) with a real maple syrup and cinnamon latte. North Carolina roadside stand delicacies like apple cider slushies and apple pie ice cream sandwiched between slightly warm snickerdoodle cookies. A birthday dinner on a patio one lovely fall evening, featuring a Mediterranean quinoa bowl with grilled chicken, olive tapanede and crispy chickpeas, and a surprisingly good green smoothie. An almond croissant. An excellent bowl of seafood chowder, properly heavy on the seafood. Cute little bags of airplane pretzels on repeat (okay, so that was sarcastic).
I enjoyed experiencing new places. Spending a 7-hour overnight layover riding the airport metro the full length of the Houston airport and exploring every terminal thoroughly. Trying my hand at the Seattle bus system (stressful, to be honest, but certainly a cultural experience!). The fabulous views of so many beautiful things from the air, like autumn aspens carpeting the Colorado Rockies in gold, the moon rising in a pastel pink sky over Mount Rainier, or the glimmering turquoise of high glacial British Columbia mountain lakes surrounded in snow.
I enjoyed meeting new people. The young man exuberantly enthusiastic for his big plans to solo kayak the Inside Passage for a week. A woman who spoke Norwegian, on her way to Norway. A man who has a youth ministry in Belize and invited me to bring my husband there and “come see what God is doing”. The tiny red-headed girl who wanted to share her Cabbage Patch doll with me, and ended up half sprawled on me for a nap during a 4-hour flight. The lovely older lady who offered me strawberry starts when we both returned to our shared island home. The kind man God mercifully sent to help me carry my over-ambitious shopping tote from the bus to the airport. The lady buying honey bee souvenirs to cheer up a friend undergoing cancer treatments.
One cannot extol the virtues of travel while glossing over the reality of trying to sleep in an airport with loudspeakers going off every ten minutes, lugging the one-too-many bags you wish you hadn’t chosen to carry on, and desperately wishing for a shower after 20+ hours within the airline system. Yet these were minor trials, entirely worth surmounting, in my opinion, for the richness of experience. The world is fallen, cursed; yet the world is still full of beauty, echoes of what once was and what is to come, created things reflecting, unconsciously or consciously, their Creator. It is a gift to see, smell, taste, touch, and listen, catching glimpses of the glory that is to come.
“And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31)
“The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” (1 Corinthians 10:26)
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:18-23)
“But in keeping with God’s promise, we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3:15)
I now interrupt regular Alaska reporting to bring you this special news bulletin from the opposite side of the country…North Carolina!
This month, I had the privilege of taking a rare solo trip cross-country to meet my first little niece and visit my sister Havala and her husband Andrew for the first time since they got married and she moved out east. I am so grateful that my husband who was willing to hold down the fort with four kids, taking over my responsibilities while also keeping up with his own job for a week and a half, so I could go. I’m also thankful for our church family here who pitched in to help him with babysitting and meals in my absence—what a blessing they are to us!
The time that it worked out for me to go also happened to be peak color time where they live in the Blue Ridge Mountains. What a happy coincidence! It was a riot of glorious autumn color, and I shamelessly joined all the other “peepers” (yep, the locals have a specific nickname for the fall leaf tourists) to gawk at the beauty.
We spent a lovely Sunday afternoon driving up the Blue Ridge Parkway for a picnic and a hike, where I took the majority of these photos. Honestly, though, I spent more time taking pictures of the cutest little niece you ever did see, and making a fool of myself talking baby talk because it would make her smile and coo. I’ll leave most of those pictures for her mama and papa to share as they wish, but I’ll just drop this one here. You get the idea.
I learned how to grade eggs for their egg business while I was there, and enjoyed experiencing a bit of Southern culture, like sweet tea, chicken and biscuits, pimento cheese sandwiches and being called “honey darlin'” by perfect strangers. I even got to sit in a brick church with a 200-year history and listen to an entire sermon preached in Southern drawl. Our long conversations, often late into the night, about God and babies and marriage and the state of the world and life in general, were my favorite, though. These times with family are all the sweeter now that they are so rare, and all the richer for our common bond in Christ. The whole visit was a gift of true rest and refreshment for me—and I’m so grateful!
“We took sweet counsel together, and walked unto the house of God in company.” (Psalm 55:14)
John 13-17 contains the most detailed and beautiful account of Jesus’ last supper before His death. Best of all, it includes His last charge to His disciples and by extension, us. I treasured those words as I read them this week, each one perfectly expressed, sheer gold—not one word wasted.
“Do you know what I have done for you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and rightly so, because I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example so that you should do as I have done for you.
Truly, truly, I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (13:12-17)
“A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you also must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” (13:34-35)
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe in Me as well. In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and welcome you into My presence, so that you also may be where I am.” (14:1-3)
“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth.” (14:15-17)
“Remain in Me, and I will remain in you. Just as no branch can bear fruit by itself unless it remains in the vine, neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me.
I am the vine and you are the branches. The one who remains in Me, and I in him, will bear much fruit. For apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in Me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers. Such branches are gathered up, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
This is to My Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, proving yourselves to be My disciples.” (15:4-8)
“You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not understand what his master is doing. But I have called you friends, because everything I have learned from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will remain—so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you.
This is My command to you: Love one another.” (15:14-17)
“If the world hates you, understand that it hated Me first. If you were of the world, it would love you as its own. Instead, the world hates you, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.” (15:18-19)
“I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take courage; I have overcome the world!” (16:33)
“I will no longer be in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to You. Holy Father, protect them by Your name, the name You gave Me, so that they may be one as We are one…
I am not asking that You take them out of the world, but that You keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I have also sent them into the world. For them I sanctify Myself, so that they too may be sanctified by the truth.” (17:11, 15-19)
“I am not asking on behalf of them alone, but also on behalf of those who will believe in Me through their message, that all of them may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I am in You. May they also be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.” (17:20-21)
“Father, I want those You have given Me to be with Me where I am, that they may see the glory You gave Me because You loved Me before the foundation of the world.” (17:24)
What a wonderful Savior is Jesus our Lord!
(And didn’t He make the autumn forest a place of true beauty and delight?)
This week we took a little school field trip up to Luck Lake where we did some hiking and had a picnic. It was a lovely fall day for some nature study out in the wild. I found and identified highbush cranberries, the leaves were fluttering down from the alders, and the pushki (cow parsnip) were making stunning dried floral arrangements wherever we looked.
The winding road between there and Thorne Bay is nothing but wilderness, and crosses multiple salmon streams. We paused on each bridge to observe the water below us teeming with fish intent on spawning, marveling at the spectacle. The life cycle of the salmon has fascinated me since I watched “The Wonders of God’s Creation” as a child, but what a gift it is to be able to observe part of that cycle in person.
Did you know salmon are anadromous? That means they hatch in freshwater, migrate to salt water, then return to the same fresh water they hatched from to spawn. It was a cool big word to teach my students this week.
“The earth is the LORD’s, and the fullness thereof, the world and all who dwell therein.” (Psalm 24:1)