Project 52 #16, Part 2: Swan Song Trail

Have you ever had one of those moments in life where you feel like you need to pinch yourself to make sure whatever you’re experiencing isn’t a dream? When we stepped out of the forest trail onto the shores of this ocean inlet sparkling in the sunshine, and saw the mountains rising snowy and majestic beneath the blue sky before us, that’s exactly how I felt. If it had been a movie set, the soundtrack would have been by John Williams. The scenery was that epic.

We followed the shoreline of the inlet out to where a World War II-era EC-47 airplane had to make an emergency crash landing in 1968 due to engine failure. The landing was successful enough that all four passengers survived, and the plane didn’t burn up, leaving us with a little piece of history in an unlikely place. Fifty-four years later, it’s a bit more worse for the wear, but it makes for a great place to take a snack break on an improvised plane wing picnic table. The kids had a blast climbing around on it, and little Jonathan cried when it was time to go and kept calling, “Bye, hair-plane!” for a long time after we left.

Along the way, we were thrilled to see and hear sandhill cranes (too fast for my camera), and not thrilled (but also not surprised) to find fresh bear tracks in the mud. I spotted a new-to-me variety of shorebirds, pictured below. Two of our party nearly lost a boot in the muddy tidal flats, so that was a new lesson learned about the ocean.

“[You] set the earth on its foundations, never to be moved.

You covered it with the deep like a garment; the waters stood above the mountains.

At Your rebuke the waters fled; at the sound of Your thunder they hurried away—the mountains rose and the valleys sank to the place You assigned for them—You set a boundary they cannot cross, that they may never again cover the earth.” (Psalm 104:5-9)

P.S. Yes, I know I already did a post #16, but this time you get a bonus! We went on two different excursions this week, taking advantage of the gorgeous weather, and it just felt like the photos of them needed to be in two separate posts.

Project 52 #16: Finding Spring

One of the main things I’ve noticed about spring in southeastern Alaska, is that it is slow in comparison to what I’m familiar with. In Minnesota, we have a long, cold, drawn out winter, generally followed by a fast and furious spring, barely a month or two between the season of snow-on-the-ground to the heat of summer. It always felt like the world was exploding when spring came, and if you blinked, you’d miss it. Here, it feels different.

Spring is a full season here, not just a brief commercial between winter and summer. It’s much more contemplative and thoughtful. The daffodils poke up gently, then slowly rise. The pussy willows blossom gray, then linger for weeks before turning green. The temperatures rise very gradually, almost imperceptibly. You have TIME to take pictures of things here. I appreciate that feature.

Another thing to get used to is the effect of the ocean and mountains on the season. I drive a few miles across the mountains to the western side of the island to find that the flowers and foliage there are a good week ahead of ours on the east side. The violets along a mountain trail are barely poking up, while the violets along Gravelly Creek are wide open and blooming, and it’s all a matter of elevation!

While some signs of spring are the same here, like pussy willows or the return of the robins, there are some delightful new ones to enjoy, too. We walked a trail on the western side of the island this week, and got to see a few of them up close.

Salmonberries blossom early, and they are a delightful shade of pink!

Herring eggs wash up on shore, tiny jewels amidst bits of seaweed. Zach dared me to eat one, and so I popped a clump in my mouth and then he said, “No, stop, don’t do it!” Haha! Guess he didn’t think I would actually go for it. Harvesting herring eggs is a tradition started long ago by the natives here, and they are considered a wonderful seasonal delicacy. He just didn’t know if it was okay to eat ones washed up on the shore or not.

The skunk cabbage blossoms are a startlingly showy yellow flower, that remind of me of giant calla lilies. They are the bright splashes of spring yellow to the boggy ditches here that the marsh marigolds are in Minnesota. They do, indeed, have a fragrance reminiscent of skunks, but thankfully fainter. My two-year-old son was mostly fascinated by the fact that there are little bugs inside the flowers.

And finally, we have the devil’s club just beginning to bud. This is one of those crazy fascinating plants like stinging nettle that you can handle only with gloves (check out those thorns, which they say are nearly impossible to pull out of your skin and must be left to work their way out on their own), but apparently boasts amazing healing properties. I bought some locally-made devil’s club salve to try, so we shall see if the claims are true!

What I’ve been reading this week: The book of Judges, which is one endless cycle of the children of Israel falling away from the Lord, receiving the consequences for their sin, then repenting, followed by God mercifully sending someone to rescue them from their affliction. There are some great, inspiring stories, and also some really sobering ones—all great commentary on the sinful predictability of humankind, and a God who is both just and merciful.

“…may all Your enemies perish, O LORD! But may those who love You shine like the sun at its brightest.” (Judges 5:31)

P.S. If you’re new here and wondering what “Project 52” is all about, you can go here to read more!

Project 52 #14: Control Creek

I read the entire book of Joshua this week, and I love the way it’s bookended.

It begins with this powerful commission from God directly to Joshua:

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.  Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:8-9)

It ends with Joshua passing a similar commission on to the children of Israel before his death:

“And now I am about to go the way of all the earth, and you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one word has failed of all the good things that the Lord your God promised concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed…

…Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 23:14, 24:14-15)

What a great way to begin and end a ministry!

About the photos: This is the creek that runs into Balls Lake, looking beautiful on a sunny day. The berries were amazingly still clinging from fall, and tiny bit of thin ice at the marshy edges was there to remind us that it’s still EARLY spring. We took a short family hike here one afternoon, and then I joined a group of friends to go around the whole lake later in the week. We had such a great time laughing and visiting as we went, and even spotted three of my old friends, the trumpeter swans (who wouldn’t let us get close). Their distinctive call brings back so many sweet memories!

In other news, my camera battery charger got misplaced, so it’s phone photography for a while until I can find it or replace it!

Project 52 #13: Dark and Light

What I’ve been thinking about this week: “Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”” (Mark 10:27)

About the photos: I was watching whale spouts and sea otters while I was taking these photographs. None of them came close enough for me to get decent pictures, but it was beautiful to see the ocean alive with marine life while the sun and the rain danced against the backdrop of the mountains.

P.S. If you’re new here and wondering what “Project 52” is all about, you can go here to read more!

Project 52 #12: Huckleberry Blossoms

The last time we took a walk along Gravelly Creek, it was a winter wonderland.

But in the golden hour of this glorious clear spring day, when the last rays of the sunshine were slanting low along the singing water and through the stately cedars, I saw the huckleberry bushes in all their fairytale spring glory for the first time.

Even this tiny spider (normally not one of my favorite creatures!) on her web seemed ethereal and lovely, like gossamer lace amidst a thousand shimmering translucent bells dancing along the shadowed forest floor. Perhaps the fact that the sun pierces here so infrequently was what made it all so magical.

This week I’ve been reading through the book of Deuteronomy, and I had a couple thoughts about it.

First, the long lists of laws and sacrifices can seem burdensome (and praise God, those sacrifices are no longer necessary now that we are covered by the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus!), however if you were to sit down and read through the current laws of your state or country, you’d likely feel the same way or worse. Like: wow, that’s a lot. How am I supposed to remember all that?! Even the laws strictly concerning driving are overwhelming when you’re trying to take a driver’s test!

But some of those lists of detailed rules were really only there for clarification, and for the benefit of those who would keep the order and judge between cases, the “law enforcement”, if you will. Ultimately, all those laws pointed directly back to the basic principles of the ten commandments, which in turn, as Jesus pointed out, are summed up in two, of which one is ultimately the greatest. So it was really quite simple: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind (and your neighbor as yourself).

Second, the call to holiness is not a burden, it’s an honor. Just read these two parallel passages and think about the language of privilege used in them:

“For you are a people holy to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.” (Deuteronomy 14:2)

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)

P.S. If you’re new here and wondering what “Project 52” is all about, you can go here to read more!

Project 52 #11: Fish Egg Weather

And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives Me, and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent me.” (Mark 9:36-37)

I was thinking about this passage in light of being a mother this week, and also with the other children God has placed in my life—my children’s friends, the kids I babysit, the kids we meet at church and community activities and the grocery store.

Would my interaction with any of these little ones change if I was really, truly taking this to heart? Would yours? Something to think about.

About the photos: I’m sorry if how I titled this post made you think you were getting pictures of fish eggs, and now you are disappointed. Perhaps that will happen eventually, but for now, let me introduce those of you who aren’t from southeast Alaska to what is locally known as “fish egg weather”. It is the time of early spring which coincides with the herring spawn, and is known for crazy weather switches all in one day. You know, those rain turns to snow turns to sunshine kind of days. We have morning rainbows, followed by the first flocks of spring robins arriving in mid-morning snowstorms, followed by a beautiful afternoon of sunshine. (That was a true story, by the way.) It’s very confusing, but also very hopeful because it is the Beginning of Spring.

P.S. If you’re new here and wondering what “Project 52” is all about, you can go here to read more!

Project 52 #8: Snow, Ice and Sun

“And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. 

For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places.  All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.

Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake.  And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 

And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.  And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 

But the one who endures to the end will be saved.  And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:6-14)

I don’t think it’s any coincidence that this passage in Matthew just “happened” to be a part of my Bible reading plan this week. As we hear real, live reports of war in our world, it is a great comfort to know that God is in control and no matter what happens, in the end He is the victor.

Meanwhile, I pray for our brother and sisters who must suffer and rise to challenges that I have never dreamed of, living in the sobering reality that this world will never know true, lasting peace until Jesus is King.

P.S. Need a little reminder of spring for these last days of winter? I recently found a post full of springtime photos and a few thoughts on transition from 2021 that I never got around to publishing in the flurry of getting ready for our move. I hope taking a peek at it will bring a bit of extra beauty and encouragement to your day!

Project 52 #6: A Short Hike

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 

For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 

For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26)

Reading this passage this week got me thinking about what it means to deny self, and that led to thinking about the current cultural emphasis on “self care” that I’ve noticed lately.

Here’s the question I’ve been pondering: Can the idea of “self care” coexist with Jesus’ call to “deny ourselves”—or are these two diametrically opposed to one another? And: Is there Biblical support for the idea of “self care” or is it a completely anti-Biblical idea?

I came up with a few answers of my own…but what do you think?

About the photos: We got out and went on a hike near Control Lake, my first since injuring my tailbone. I was moving pretty gingerly, I’ll admit, more paranoid than usual of slipping on ice or mud, and we turned back once the snow on the trail got knee-deep—but it felt really, really good to be out in the wild again, listening to the eagles call and looking for signs of spring.

P.S. If you’re new here and wondering what “Project 52” is all about, you can go here to read more!

Project 52 2022

Every once in awhile, I enjoy challenging myself with a joint photography and Bible reading project (like the “Savoring Summer” challenge I did while reading through the book of Romans). This year I’m going to try something a little more long-term, because I want to re-read through the Bible in a year, something I haven’t done in a little while! So I’m going to do what is often dubbed a “Project 52”, which is simply committing to take and publish one photo per week for an entire year. With my weekly photo, I will include a verse or two that were the highlight of my week’s reading, and possibly accompanying thoughts if I have time and feel so inspired.

Anyone else want to join me and help keep each other accountable? I’ll personally be using the Old/New Testament plan from Bible Gateway if you need somewhere to start—or they have several other options like reading straight through or chronologically! (And if you have an entirely different goal for your Bible reading this year, I’d still love to have you share in the comments what you’ve been reading and learning!)

Let’s encourage one another to get into the Word and stay in it this year!

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” (Colossians 3:16)

Twelve-Mile Arm

The weather was so beautiful during the last week of October, we decided at the very last minute to take the kids on a little overnight “cabining” adventure. The Tongass National Forest is home to several remote rustic cabins that you can rent, and we’ve been eager to check some of them out. We chose this one on a sea estuary called Twelve Mile Arm because it’s one that you can hike into, versus the many that can only be reached by boat or floatplane, and it was just right for us!

Accomplishment #1: We found the place, which was about an hour and half away drive from Thorne Bay, without getting lost.

Accomplishment #2: No one twisted an ankle packing all our gear down the trail in the dark, with no small thanks to the loan of Joel’s wheelbarrow and Jason’s flashlights.

We roasted the classic hotdogs and s’mores, read bedtime stories by flashlight, and the kids slept like logs on those hard bunks in their sleeping bags (don’t ask about dad and mom!). The little wood stove kept the place cozy and someone had left a nice pile of firewood for us to use. The next morning, we did simple things like sit on the porch while sipping hot coffee and poke around along the shoreline for treasures (including the remains of someone’s hunt, as pictured below!). The inlet was like glass, which made for some fabulous kayaking. I saw a jellyfish, and we all saw a pine marten. South-bound geese were flocking up and calling loudly across the water, and it was incredibly peaceful.

We were so grateful for the chance to slow down and spend some time together while experiencing this place for a short but sweet 24 hours!

“The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers.” (Psalm 24:1-2)