Black and White World

IMG_5685-1.jpgI’ve been seeing this black and white photo challenge happening around social media that sounded like fun.

Seven photos, no people, no explanations, just something from you life, all black and white.  These are the rules.

I suppose I’m kind of breaking one of those rules by saying even this much, but when we woke up to lowering gray skies and the first snowfall of the year, I knew it was time to take a walk and do the challenge myself.

After all, when is it easier to compose black and white photos than when the landscape has already been turned black and white for you?

IMG_5692-1.jpgIMG_5686-1.jpgIMG_5706-1IMG_5711-1.jpgIMG_5723-1IMG_5716-1And speaking of contrasts, here’s verse that contains a truly glorious one:

“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)

Now that’s a black and white picture that takes my breath away.

The Colors of Summer

IMG_4098-1.jpgWhether the calendar says so or not, the last day of August always seems like the last day of summer to me—and seeing that always makes me kind of sad.  Nothing against fall or even the coming winter, mind you.  I truly love the changing seasons.  It’s just that summer in Minnesota is somehow just a little briefer than the other seasons, and I never quite manage to get in all the swimming and fresh peaches on ice cream that I want to before it’s time to pull out the sweaters and hot cocoa again.

As sort of a solace for this, I decided to look back over my photos from the summer months to remind myself of what we did do—and in the process, I found a rainbow.  See if you can see it, too!IMG_2193.JPGIMG_3463.JPGIMG_1792.JPGRed is for ripe wild strawberries discovered along fence rows, sweet and warm with sunshine…

and roses outside of bakeries that smell of gingerbread

and poppies along the chicken coop.

IMG_4030.JPG img_2209.jpgIMG_3892Orange is for a monarch butterfly, minutes old, clinging trustingly to my wide-eyed daughter’s finger…

and the one weed in my yard that I don’t mind…

and flower arrangements in my mother-in-law’s bathroom.

IMG_1811.JPGIMG_3920.JPGimg_9624.jpgYellow is for the elegant beards of irises…

and the freckled faces of the lilies along the porch…

and the not-quite-so showy roadside weeds that nevertheless delight the avid, amateur flower-pickers in my family.IMG_2944-1IMG_2226IMG_4721.JPGGreen is for sun-dappled woodland ferns…

and black-eyed Susans not quite open…

and water droplets on nasturtium leaves.IMG_1629.JPGIMG_4065-1IMG_2420.JPGBlue is for swan families floating on riffles of water…

and plump round berries the color of the sky going plink-plunk in pails…

and bobolinks singing on telephone wires against the morning sky.IMG_4096IMG_2882IMG_2300.JPGPurple is for brilliant masses of fireweed…

and stormy skies at sunset…

and blue flags along the creek.

“You [O Lord] have established all the boundaries of the earth;  You have made summer and winter.” (Psalm 74:17)

Vacation Vignettes: Beach

IMG_3052.JPGCome with us to the beach!  You know, that one that kind of seems like our own little secret, since you have to drive around a giant mud hole to get there, and then try not to get stuck in the sand while parking where the woods end and dunes begin.  The other people sharing it with us are so far away we can almost imagine that the only creatures we have to share it with are the stray seagulls eyeing our cooler in hopes of handouts.  The sand is so hot it scorches our bare feet and the water is cold enough to leave your body tingling deliciously after a single dip.  It’s perfect.

Come run races down the hard-packed sand at the edge of the waves that go for miles, sending splashes sparkling to the sky, as hard and as fast as you can.   Come make snow angels in the sand, face down, so the sun can soak your back.  Come stand still and contemplate the art show where wave and sand meet, ripples and layers in constantly shifting patterns.IMG_2992.JPGIMG_3829Come wander amidst the white bleached driftwood, polished smooth by a thousand relentless waves.  Come find smooth silvery bits to tuck into pockets as souvenirs, leaving behind the charred bits that are lovely memories of sunset beach fires and happy gatherings.IMG_3841IMG_3840Come toil up through ankle-deep sand to smell the wild sweet peas clinging to the dunes, trailing tenacious vines along the heaps of shifting soil beneath the nodding grasses.IMG_3002.JPGCome watch a little blue sailboat slowly unfurl its white wings as it heads out to sea.  Come watch the children with sand for freckles who build endless castles, never tiring rebuilding what the relentless waves erode.  Come beware of children with mischief twinkling in their eyes and that bucket full of fresh cold lake water they’re saving for when you’re back is turned (it will be refreshing).IMG_3039.JPGAnd when the sun and the wind and the splashing and the dunking and the running and the wandering has produced an appetite that seems as boundless as the blue waves reaching to the horizon, come and eat.  There are slices of cold turkey, pickles and Jarlsburg wrapped in pretzel rolls or soggy sandwiches accidentally dropped in the lake, whichever you prefer.  We have rosy-cheeked Ranier cherries and sandy granola bars for dessert, to hold us over until we drive past the ice cream shop that stocks Mackinac Island Fudge on our way home.

And perhaps our humble meal shared on a stretch of sand will remind you, just the tiniest bit, of another picnic on a beach thousands of miles away, a couple thousand years ago.

“The other disciples came ashore in the boat. They dragged in the net full of fish, for they were not far from land, only about a hundred yards.  When they landed, they saw that a charcoal fire had been prepared, with fish on it, and some bread.  Jesus told them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, one hundred fifty-three. And although there were so many, the net was not torn.

“Come, have breakfast,” Jesus said to them… Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and He did the same with the fish.” (John 21:8-13)

And since this a vacation, after all, we’d linger even longer and read the whole chapter.  This day we shared at the beach was pretty wonderful, but that story?  It’s my favorite beach story of all time.

 

View From a Hammock

IMG_1341There’s a breeze coming in off the lake, this hot afternoon in early June.  There’s blue sky smiling down at me through a lacy frame of green, green leaves.  Summer is in the air, and I am, appropriately, drinking it in from the luxury of an airy vacation hammock.  If the air is full of summer, the views are no less so—and so I offer you these vignettes, all visible, more or less, from my leisurely post.IMG_1467A kayak,

slice of orange against the liquid lake,

dreams of sliding through fleets of miniature maroon lily pads,

suspended on the dainty ropes of their anchored stems,

beneath the deep shadowy green of overhanging trees.IMG_1451A jeweled beetle climbs relentlessly upwards

as small hands tip a stick back and forth

and inquisitive eyes watch in fascination,

filling with tears when it finally loses patience

and flies away.IMG_1208Relentless waves

wash a thousand coiled empty snail shells

all the miles

down the long lake.

They come to rest here,

on this smooth spit of sand suddenly rising to block their path—

and so it becomes their final resting place.

And then, chubby baby hands clutch them tightly,

turning them around and around

and over and over

in sheer enjoyment of the sensory shape.IMG_1318IMG_1475 IMG_1474Bare feet,

sandy,

dripping wet,

run up and down long flights of stairs,

earning the right to ice cream cones and fat slices of watermelon.IMG_1359IMG_1415Ducks dabble along the quiet green edges.

A family of geese tests the calm waters of evening,

with a babysitter in tow, just in case.IMG_1412Great clouds sail sedately by,

swimmers leaning back against the cushion of a swim trampoline,

squinting into the sunshine to watch them mesmerized,

rocked in the cradle of the waves,

laughing at a joke I’m too far away to hear.

And I leave my hammock to go join them.  Because if there’s anything possibly better than celebrating our Father’s good gift of a beautiful day in the stillness of your own soul, it’s celebrating it with others.

“We were like those who dream…then our mouth was filled with laughter and our tongue with joyful shouting…The LORD has done great things for us; we are glad.” (Psalm 126:1-3)

“I will thank you forever, because you have done it. I will wait for your name, for it is good, in the presence of the godly.” (Psalm 52:9)

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Lessons From Ducks and Swans

IMG_0368.JPGEvery spring, there’s this short window of time, just before the ice goes out, in which there are little open areas of water around the edges of our lake.  All the waterfowl congregates in these puddles and pools to forage for food and paddle around in one great companionable waiting game for the lake to open.IMG_3397The ducks and geese seem to have a mutual agreement that it’s a nice little community event, too, and mingle quite nicely.

The swans, not so much.IMG_0356.JPGIMG_0328Such a fuss we had from them, of fiercely territorial wing-flapping, neck-bobbing and trumpet-blasting, particularly when another pair of swans would come in for a landing (on a multi-daily basis).  It was all very exciting, and we’re going to rather miss it now that the lake is open and the spring festival is over.

But I must say that I’ve learned something from watching this year’s waterfowl interactions before ice out.  Entertaining as it is for us to be the audience to this yearly stiff competition over swan nesting grounds, it’s not exactly peaceful.  For all their magnificent beauty, they are surprisingly selfish.  And, as God’s Word says, we’d all be much better off emulating the contented little puddle ducks than the regal but contentious swans.

“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.  Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Romans 12:16-18)

 

 

 

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Night Sounds

IMG_0152The night was bright with a million stars, each one pulsating distinct and three-dimensional against deep black velvet of the sky.  The aurora was dancing low but visible on the horizon.  Across the lake, a monkey owl laughed, and in the distant forest echoed the drum roll of a grouse.  Just above the treetops, a slender waxing crescent of reflected sunlight rimmed the lower curve of dark round moon.  It dangled, then dropped out of sight.  One meteorite fell, and then another.  It was a good night to go walking without a flashlight, and so we did.

Then, we heard an odd sound that we couldn’t identify.  It was like the sound of tinkling, shattering glass, with a sort of grunting and squeaking.  There was also splashing, which narrowed down the location to the lake.  But what sort of creature was busy on the lake at this time of the night—and what were they doing?

It remained a mystery, until morning, when daylight revealed the guilty culprits.IMG_0275-1IMG_0257-1.jpgThe otters had been playing not on but in the ice while the northern lights rippled softly green, enjoying the effects of the steadily aging and honeycombing lake ice.  I didn’t realize how rotten the ice was until I stood on the shore and watched their game for a good hour.  They were literally running all over the lake breaking holes in all the thin places and diving in and out of them, which explained the mysterious tinkling and shattering sounds of the previous night.

And so the mysteries of the darkness were made evident by the light and things that were unknown became known—just as it always must be, even in the case of much deeper things.

There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that not will be made known. (Luke 12:2)

“Therefore judge nothing before the proper time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.” (1 Cor. 4:5)

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Ice Skating

IMG_9956One of my favorite things about living on a lake in the winter is having unlimited ice skating access.  Getting to walk straight out your door right onto your own private skating rink?  To a girl who had to hike a good half mile for such a privilege when she was growing up, this is a luxury I don’t take for granted.  That is, except for when the weather doesn’t cooperate, like this year, and it freezes and snows at the same time, effectively ruining the ice for the rest of the winter.  What a disappointment!

When I was growing up, my siblings and I would solve this fairly common problem by clearing a giant, hockey-worthy rink by hand with the big snow scoop we dragged that long half mile down the road.  Then, we’d drill a hole with an auger, from which we pumped lake water to flood the rough surface and make it smooth again when it froze.  And did we ever have fun on the finished product!

These days, though, I’m the only ice skater in our young family, so all rink-creating ambitions have been shelved until the upcoming generation I’m helping to raise is old enough to join me in the effort of shoveling for the joy of skating. Thus, when the lake froze rough during a November snowstorm, I just figured skating was out for me this winter and turned my attention to other recreational pleasures of the season.

But I was wrong.IMG_9952February had a change of heart and decided to surprise everyone with an uncharacteristic thaw.  That thaw lasted long enough to melt the snow cover and create some pretty massive puddles of water on top of the ice.  Then, the thermometer plunged and it all froze solid again.  Then, the wind drove tiny particles of ice and snow across it for several days straight like a giant sand blaster, smoothing rough spots, scouring it largely clean of snow.  And when the sun blazed up out of the east one morning, I saw a glassy surface shining beneath it—and all my skating dreams buried since the beginning of winter rose up and wooed me out the door.

My oldest daughter, curious to see what I was going to do with those white boots on shiny silver blades, begged to come along to watch.  When we got down to the edge of the lake shore, though, she wouldn’t come any further.  “I’ll just watch you from here, Mommy,” she said.

So I picked my way out to the edge of the frozen grasses and weeds by myself, where I began the process of standing on one leg while wedging my sock-encrusted foot into a snug skate with the other.  Because, of course, in my hurry to get out there I had neglected to bring anything along to sit on.  How do blue herons do it, anyway?  In my defense, having to put something on the foot while holding it up does complicate the matter.  IMG_9884“Are you going to fall in, Mommy?” I heard the little voice call from the pink-jacketed figure perched on the bank, concerned.

“Nope,”—grunt—“I’m not going to fall in, honey.”  But I might fall over, I thought wryly to myself.  I had gone a little overboard on the warm sock layers.

But I was determined.  Stamp, stamp.  Loosen the ties again with numbing fingers in the subzero windchill.  Stamp, stamp, thump.  There.  Loop the laces, tie them tight.  One down, one to go.

“Are you sure you’re not going to fall in?” I noted that the concerned little voice in the pink jacket was closer and observed that she had moved from high on the bank down to the very edge of the lake.

“Yep”–grunt, grunt, stamp, stamp, thump.  “I’m sure, honey.” 

And I was off.  My little girl cheered.

Back and forth I went for a while, round and round, my audience of one as riveted to my performance as any Olympic crowd .  “Can I come out to you, Mommy?” she finally asked.  What she really meant was, “I believe, but—help thou mine unbelief.” (Mark 9:24)

“Yes, come!” I said.She made her way out to the edge of the weeds, all the way to the very edge of that great, shiny sheet of ice—and then she stopped.IMG_9881IMG_9950.JPG“Can I touch it, Mommy?”

But this time there was wonder in her voice, and by now I had stopped my skating to come near and watch.  I had forgotten that she hadn’t been on a frozen lake before, at least that she remembered—and the innocent, wide-eyed first-time experiences of a child are some of the most beautiful things in the whole world to stand audience to.

“Yes, you can touch it,” I said with a smile.  And in faith and wonder, she stepped—and the sound of her laughter and joyous delight echoed from shore to shore.

IMG_9880Funny, how my delight over getting to ice skate this winter after all managed to pale next to her delight when she overcame her fears, believed, and walked on water.

“Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.  When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified… but, immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”  And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. (Matthew 14:25-29)

Thankfully, we didn’t attempt replaying the rest of that story.

 

First Ice

img_8327The ice is in.

We watched it form all day long yesterday as a snow storm whirled, the stretch of open water slowly but steadily narrowing throughout the day.  The otters were out having a Last-Day-Of-Open-Water party along the slushy edges and the swans trumpeted restlessly through the night, clustered to the creek outlet on the south end, instinctively knowing it would be the last spot to solidify.

img_8320Today, all was still and silent.

The swans are gone, probably to the river, and will likely not be seen here again until spring.  The otters are hidden away somewhere in a cozy den.  And so winter has placed its last seal on the landscape—and then in a brief, glorious five minutes before it set, the sun blazed out from behind a cloak of heavy clouds and kissed it with fire.

And there I was, standing on the shore, breathless with wonder that I was in the right place at the right time to see it.

“Out of the south comes the storm, and out of the north the cold.  From the breath of God ice is made, and the expanse of the waters is frozen.” (Job 37:9-10)

 

Farewell, Golden Autumn

img_8161This was a November unmatched for beauty, as autumn lingered gloriously long—and these are the quintessential pictures of it in my mind.

The landscape awash in rich browns and golds…img_8002the rustle of drying grasses in the gentle breeze as the sunlight gilded it all to royalty…IMG_8121.JPG the frosty mornings…img_7920img_7911followed by warm and golden days…img_8119But kind as it’s been to us, November is still a month of transitions as it must be, a split personality, if you will, bridging the gap between autumn and winter—and “they say”, whoever they may be, that the time of the inevitable change is at hand.  There’s a winter storm warning for the weekend, and it’s time to finish that project of putting small girls’ mittens on strings that I’ve been putting off because we just haven’t needed them yet.

So, gladly anticipating the approach of a new season and a world of white on its way, I take a moment to bid one last adieu to autumn.  It’s been lovely—see you next year!

“O God…You have established all the boundaries of the earth; you have made summer and winter.” (Psalm 74:17)

(And the seasons in between—and I’m grateful!)


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Playing in the Reflections

IMG_8062-1.jpgIt was possibly the most gloriously beautiful November day we’ve had yet—and if the playful antics I observed this morning are any evidence, apparently the otters knew it, too.

There was a whole family of them, three frolicsome pups and their only slightly more sedate parents, all playing lively games of dive and chase together in the liquid reflections.  The surface of the lake roiled wildly with underwater fun, occasionally erupting into sparkles of splashes, and the curves and shimmers of sleek brown bodies.

As I watched their joy-infused antics with pleasure, it occurred to me that there is more than one way to compose a psalm of praise.  To some is given the gift to string words together and put them to music…

“All creatures of our God and King
Lift up your voice and with us sing…
O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!” (Francis of Assisi)

But to others it is given to write their praises to Creator God by the way they live their lives.

For my sleek little neighbors, it is dancing through the water to make poetic ripples on a blue hole of a lake on a sunny day.  What is it for you?

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

 

P.S. Go here to hear a worshipful acapella version of the above quoted hymn and infuse your day with a beautiful note of praise!

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