Fall Color Tour 2018

IMG_1890 editThe leaves are changing, they said way too early in August—and they were right.  It started with a premature crimson splash here and there.  But soon the green of summer was transitioning full speed to yellow, orange, brown and crimson of autumn.  Fall was here.

It was a pleasant change, everyone agreed.  While there’s some debate about summer and winter, almost everyone I know likes fall.  No more sweltering heat.  No more weeding the garden.  No more mosquitoes.  There’s apple cider, favorite sweaters, the way the air smells, fires that feel cozy again.  We take slow drives down country roads to enjoy the daily-evolving color show. The piles we rake up in yards are better, in my kids’ opinion, than a MacDonald’s ball pit.  We press the most gorgeous leaf specimens between book pages to treasure.  What’s not to love?

Things are not quite so spectacular from the leaves’ point of view, though.  They turn gorgeous colors, sure, and receive more admiration at this time of year than during any other season—but the reality is that their doom is imminent.  As the crimson leaches down to their tips, their connection to their mother tree deteriorates and loosens.IMG_1991 edit.jpgIMG_2009 editIMG_1986 edit.jpgI drive down the road in a windstorm, and a rainbow of leaves swirls down from the sky like confetti.  This is their fate.  Magical to me, the end of life for them.

For them the change means letting go, falling, fading, shriveling, crumbling, crushing, eventually composting away into anonymity on the forest floor.  It is perhaps not quite so pleasant described thus, because none of us like those kind of changes either.  We all prefer the celebrating kinds, the weddings, new babies and job promotions.  Anything to do with rotting?  Not so much.

There are changes we seek, and changes we don’t.  Sometimes we get to pick the form of change, sometimes we have absolutely no choice in the matter.  Sometimes it comes sooner than we want, or much later than we’d longed for.  Sometimes we embrace it, run to it in gladness or relief.  Sometimes we fight it long and hard in vain.  Sometimes changes are slow, over time, barely perceptible.  Sometimes they are sudden and earth-shaking.  Sometimes change is short-term.  Sometimes it’s permanent.IMG_2544.JPGIMG_2383 editIMG_2004 editElusive as change is to nail down, however, there’s one sure thing about it, and it’s that change is as inevitable to life as autumn is to the circle of seasons.  It will come.  And sometimes that’s a fearful thing to us humans who like to map out our yearly planners months in advance and make our tidy little five, ten and twenty-year plans for success.  Even joyful changes can create stress by throwing off schedules.

That’s why serving a God who is unchanging is so incredibly wonderful and comforting.  I can’t guarantee you whether the next change in your path is going to be hard or happy, but I’d like to remind you today that though all may change around you, you have a Friend who NEVER will—and that’s a promise.IMG_1992 edit.jpg“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)

Best of Both Worlds

IMG_6148.JPGIs it Christmas lights?  Is it snow?

Yes.

Inside the house, our Christmas tree with the big white origami star brushing the ceiling is twinkling bright; outside the snow lies “deep and crisp and even”*.  In the reflection of the cold windowpane, I can see both at once.  It’s the best of both of my December worlds: all the warmth of a joyful holiday celebration mingled with the wide white expanse of winter’s best accessory, now richly blue in the falling dusk.

It’s also an appropriately symbolic picture of Christmas, considering that the One whose birth we celebrate this week was also the very best of both worlds.  Not of indoors and outdoors, but of heaven and earth.

If I could show you a picture of Him, you might ask:

Is He God?  Is He man?

Yes.

May the marvel of this mystery fill you with thoughtful joy and wonder this Christmas!

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

 

*From the carol “Good King Wenceslas” by John Mason Neale.

 

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.

Vacation Vignettes

IMG_3724There are two things that cause writer’s block for me: having nothing to say, and having  altogether too much to say.

Coming home from vacation last week has been the latter problem for me.  I saw so much, took so many photos, thought so many thoughts and every time I sit down to try to wrap it all up in some neat little package of an essay, the sheer volume of it all overwhelms me.  After trying for a week, I’ve even considered not sharing any of it and just continuing on with regular local posts as though we never went anywhere.  Many of you would be none the wiser.

But then you would never get to see an endangered species of turtle.  You’d miss what the sunset looks like from the top of Brockway Mountain and the way the spray on your face feels like at Bond Falls.  You’d miss the warm sand between your toes and the feel of smooth polished bits of driftwood in your hand.  That hardly seemed right.

So, rather then lump them all together in one post, I’ve sorted all my photos into virtual piles and I’m going to give them to you one chunk at a time, as themed vignettes that will, altogether, sum up our golden little time away beautifully.  After all it was Jesus Himself who said…

“Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” (Mark 6:31)

If they can serve as a tiny vacation for your soul, too, I will have counted my time well spent.  Stay tuned!

February Thaw

img_9611Sometimes, nearly always, there’s no end to the cold and snow in February.

Sometimes, on this past rare week in 2017, there’s an end to all the cold and snow in February.

Instead of bemoaning the skis propped uselessly up on the front porch, and the completely uninspiring waning muddy snowbanks, I got out my little girls’ mud boots and we went looking for puddles.  At sunset.img_9615img_9624img_9620And we found them—puddles, liquid blue and silver, beneath cotton candy clouds in February.

One can never predict exactly what sort of beauty one will find. The only thing certain is that you will find it.

“He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

Best of 2016

It’s New Year’s Eve, a day for looking back, for remembering.

In that spirit, here are my personal top twelve favorite photos from the last year—and why!IMG_2524This photo of white birch represents for me a special effort to go out and find something beautiful to photograph on the most uninspiring of gray winter days.  Often my favorite photographic memories are the times when the perfect photo presents itself and I’m ready for it—but this picture is a good reminder to me that while not all photos come easily, I’ve never come up empty-handed when I’ve intentionally gone in search of beauty to capture.

IMG_3159I love this picture because it was completely un-contrived by mama (as we mamas with cameras sometimes do) and tells a true story.  The untold part of this story is that all winter this small girl was scared of snow—and then, after this last gorgeous big snowfall of 2015, the fear suddenly, inexplicably transformed to wonder and off she went to explore.  I grabbed my camera, followed behind—and this is where she led.IMG_3450This barred owl wins “Best Result of Being Ready For the Unexpected” award of the year.IMG_2925The swans have become such a beloved part of the rhythm of seasons here on our little farm.  Catching them in the air during this golden hour was a dream come true.IMG_4221IMG_4161My favorite shot from our family trip out west this spring is a toss up between these two.  I love the way the chartreuse green of budding cottonwoods is layered behind lavender lilacs against that magnificent backdrop of looming stone.  But that capture of a wild mare standing guard over her young foal?  Mmm…too hard to decide.  So you get a bonus shot.IMG_4752Another lucky capture, taken less than twelve hours before my own sweet third baby girl was born.  Perhaps it was the contortions I had to put my hugely pregnant self through to get low enough to the ground for this shot that sent me into labor?IMG_5607Flowers never fail to be an appealing subject.  This was my favorite floral capture from this year.img_6865I’ve been taking photos at the headwaters of the Mississippi ever since I owned a camera, but this one with it’s hint of movement and different perspective is a new favorite of a favorite spot.img_7055Nocturnal photography is still experimental territory for me, which is why the success of this harvest moon capture (and what I learned in the process) was truly a highlight!img_7544I discovered this glorious golden tunnel of a woods road on my birthday.  It brings back happy memories of a tub of tiramisu ice cream and a blissfully slow drive without another car in sight to mind my frequent photographic stops.img_7249I can never resist a good mushroom photo opportunity.  The wet autumn hike through an ancient forest that led us to these and so many others is a particularly lovely memory to me.img_8373And, finally, this shot, which is as close to a self portrait as you’ve been offered yet on this blog, and encapsulates everything I love about winter in Minnesota.

I’m so grateful for each bit of God-glory I’ve had the privilege to experience, discover and capture this year, and for the lessons learned and documented along the way.  What photos and experiences will 2017 bring my way?  Speaking from past experience, they’re rarely what I expect, but usually better than I imagined.  I can’t wait to find out!

“O God of our salvation…Thou crownest the year with thy goodness…” (Psalm 65:5, 11)

Praying that you, too, can look back and recognize that He has crowned your year with goodness, and that He will walk with you in the year ahead, gracing you with more and more, day by day.

 

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)