Tag Archives: nature

Hiking

Standard

Call me crazy, but there’s nothing like a walk in the woods.

Woods tend to look really similar. Trees are trees, no matter where you go. The trails are always different, but they’re all made of dirt, roots, and stone.

But I’ve hiked in so many different places. South Carolina, Georgia, North Carolina, Germany, Croatia…trails all over the world. Nothing difficult or extremely challenging, per se, but always a journey.

Croatian hikes are perhaps my favorite. Perhaps that’s my sentimentality kicking in, since my first hike in Croatia was part of the first journey I took alone.

After the 27th of June, I won’t be taking any journeys alone. None worth mentioning, anyway.

Life has a funny way of being as thematic as a novel.

No wonder novels are so great.

Advertisements

Heavenly Mansions

Standard

I miss green, open spaces.

When I was smaller, my family and I would visit some family friends who live up in the mountains. They had a small house built into the side of a mountain. You had to drive through a creek and down cow trails to get there. The setting was calm and green and peaceful. Our friends were peaceful people who enjoyed good food and good conversation. The daughter in the family was two years younger than me, and we’d climb all over that wild little mountain, getting muddy in the creek, playing at being Robin Hood and Little John. We made a promise to each other that we’d never grow up. Not really.

My heart hungers for green, open places.

One of my non-genetic sisters grew up on a farm. The farm is located in the middle of nowhere–a nowhere surrounded on all sides by crawling, smoky urbanity. To get there, you take a series of windy back roads through forests with houses scattered here and there. Then the trees part, you see open fields and languid cows and a house floating on a sea of grass, anchored to a couple of ancient-looking trees. Step inside the house, and despite its modern amenities, you feel like you’ve stepped into an alternate time zone, where clock tick slower and you might just be living in a different century. There’s no road noise, just the occasional lowing of a cow.

My soul starves for green, open places.

Three years ago, I flew to Croatia and drove into their remotest villages. The hills are steep and rocky there, but still wildly green. They are dangerous hills best admired from a distance. Grass and vines eat old shells of farm houses alive, but the new houses are bright red brick and brightly colored stucco and sing little tunes of optimism to the passerby. Even in the larger villages, there’s little road noise. Everybody walks. Even the river is silent. Children run barefoot in the grass and plunge their brown legs into the water, their laughter making the loudest music the town will hear that day.

At night I dream of green, open spaces.

God talks about mansions in heaven. But I’m content without a mansion. I’ll change it for a tiny house and a heard of goats and a garden on a green, wild little hill. Where I can walk in peace and feel the wind on my face and know that all is well with eternity and me.

Looking Up

Standard

Do you see them?

It’s like the heavens hold the last sparks of a fireworks display in freeze frame.

As if someone ripped holes in the fabric of the sky to let pinpoints of light shine through from Whatever Waits just behind it.

We look up and we search them like we search the face of a traitor or a lover and we’re trying to figure out which one it is. We tear our eyes away, more mystified than we were when we first looked up. And we go back for more.

Scientifically, we know what they are: they are great spheres of fire, spinning end over end billions of miles away, powered by combustion and their own unrelenting velocity. They pull bits of the universe around them and turn them like tops in unending spirals. They roar into the blackness around them, spewing fire like dragons.

But to us, they are as silent as diamonds on velvet. Their collective song does not reach our ears. Yet without them, the world would hush, unless the rocks decided they must cry out.

And we stare up at them, wondering how the windows of all the planet’s bustling cities could be scattered like dust and stay forever frozen in the icy ocean we call the sky.

We stare and we wait.

And so few of us know exactly what we’re waiting for.

Summer Sunset

Standard

Soft summer sunrise, I’ll sing you a song,

Now that I stand where my feet belong:

Alongside the ocean,

The breeze at my back,

Where everything’s right and nothing is wrong.

 

Sun in the heavens, you light my way.

Take both my hands, lead me to the day

Down the wild roads

Abreast of the hills.

Your gaze steals my words and my breath away.

 

Star of the twilight, your dancing eyes

Turn my head more than you realize.

I walk in peace,

For the shine of your smile

Gives me new hope as the daylight dies.

 

Soft summer sunset, I’ll sing you a song,

Now that I stand where my feet belong.

Safe in your light

In the magic of night

Where everything’s right—not a thing is wrong.

Where the Wild Things Are

Standard

The advantage of staying in the middle of nowhere is that you get to see things you’d never get to see otherwise.

In the suburbs, I never see deer. Deer-sized squirrels, maybe, but never deer. Here, in the gated mountain neighborhood where we’re staying, deer are everywhere. It’s protected area, and they know it. There are too many people living on the mountain to justify permitting hunting. The deer population is allowed to do as it chooses.

When we first visited here when I was 11, a deer sighting was a rare event. I’d always ride in the car with my face pressed up against the glass, scanning the woods for the flash of a white tail, the curve of a graceful brown neck. We’d see one deer, maybe two at the most. And you could forget about them coming up to the house.

This year, however, enough generations of deer have been raised under the knowledge that people won’t hurt them that they’ll wander out in the open, in broad daylight, going about their deery business. We saw five of them by our back porch today: a yearling buck, four does, and a tiny fawn that scampered about in the shadows. My mother tossed corn at them from the porch steps as they watched her warily, but without real fear.

I realize that deer are common creatures. We hunt them. They taste good. In numbers too great, they can damage a local ecosystem and become pests that destroy crops intended for human consumption, not for the nibblings of wild tings. Hence the hunting. There is nothing really that exceptional about seeing one. Not around here. They’re as common as squirrels.

But they are so beautiful. They carry themselves with almost unearthly grace. Their eyes are wide and fathomlessly dark with long lashes that lend humanness to their elegant faces. Their bodies are sleek, their hides the color of autumn. Their females are vigilant, their males protective. No wonder legends tell of fairies and wood elves riding through the forests on the backs of deer.

Some people go on vacation to have an excuse to watch untold hours of television or lose themselves in a mountain of books. While I have been losing myself in the book that I brought to read on this trip, I find greater delight in sitting on the porch, watching the forest’s residents silently treading the hidden highways beneath me.

Park Rules

Standard

If there is a swing set, you must swing on it.

The thing about fields is that they were made to be run through. Forests for exploring. Trees for climbing. Rocks for scaling.

Slides require someone to slide down them. Monkey bars are for monkeying. Don’t deny them their birthright.

Trails should be walked upon. Songs must be sung, so sing them.

Such activities cost nothing. All you spend is energy, and yet all you reap is happiness.

 

Fledgling Poem

Standard

The stars have frozen in their sockets

In the steely sky.

My hands are in their pockets

As I go ambling by

 

The frostbitten fountain, its shivering waters

Reflecting my wind-nibbled face.

Mama redbird and her bundled-up daughters

Quickly vacated the place.

 

Swaddled in scarves and my orange coat and hat,

I’m frozen—the winterly norm.

But tonight I won’t let myself think on that—

Inside I’m so summerly warm. 

Autumn Girl

Standard

Come home, autumn girl,

to our summer hills.

Paint them gold, and put frost

on our windowsills.

 

Bring with you barrels

of apples and oats

and reason to air out

our stale woolen coats.

 

Don’t wait, autumn girl—

The sky’s tattered and old;

needs a fresh coat of paint,

more of blue, less of gold.

 

Wear your suede loafers

and pumpkin-orange tights

to stroll in the chill

of those first starry nights.

 

It’s time, autumn girl,

for the year’s better half—

full of harvest and hearth and

the sound of your laugh.

 

Image

Thunder Man

Standard

come, Thunder Man, come

 

come in your coal black balloon

and burn me with lightening

 

come and blot out my stars

 

tear my hair with your hollow winds

beat my bones with your hailstones

 

come Thunder Man

 

come encase me in ice

soak me in shadow

 

I am not afraid

 

I defy your sorcery

Black Balloon Man

 

I defy your darkness

 

for I know in your wake

rides the Rainbow

Forces of Nature

Standard

Do your best to tear me down—

But you won’t, because you see

I am an ancient oak tree

And you can’t uproot me.

 

Hound my steps and you will come home

Empty handed, ‘cause you see

I am a mountain lion

And you’ll never find me.

 

Force me through your channels—

I’ll erode them, you will see

I am a mighty river

And you’ll never change me.

 

Try to lure me to your trap and

I’ll escape, because you see

I am a wild coyote

And you’ll never fool me.

 

Spread your net to catch my feathers

Spread in flight and you will see

I am a golden eagle

And you’ll never cage me.

 

Hold my head under the water—

I’ll survive, because you see

I am a river otter

And you’ll never drown me.

 

Do your utmost to destroy me

It won’t work, because you see

I have the heart of a mountain

And you’ll never crush me.

River

Standard

Here on the banks of a river not my own

I discover at last the meaning of summer

 

in the deep purple depths of the blackberry trees

where brown fingers drip with delectable dye

 

in the tangled hair of wildgrown girls

their shoulders pink from the sun’s affection

 

in the merman dive of boys born of water

kicking their fins in the cool of their element

 

in the croak and the caw of the webfooted neighbors

who consider the clamor a calm passerby

 

in the branding of asphalt on tender feet

fresh from the water like ice on the fire

 

in the freedom of water made pure of rapids

pulling gently from beneath—a homeward call

 

in the bluesilver glimmer that calls the carefree

to fathom its depths with their heads to their toes

 

in the arms of the river so far from my own

I dive and discover the meaning of summer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fireflies

Standard

There’s a perfectly good reason why each of the creatures on God’s green earth exists. Spiders control the fly population, worms till the earth, bees make honey, deer keep the undergrowth in check, and bears keep the rivers from being overrun by salmon.

Fireflies, though, I’m fairly certain God created just ‘cause.

It’s finally warm enough in Anytown for the fireflies to start coming out to dance at night. I see them flickering on and off as they whirr aimlessly around our back yard.

My father and I have always called the “fairies.” When I was small, we’d go out and catch them and put them in a jar overnight before letting them go the next morning. I will always believe in fairies.

They’re beautiful things, fireflies. They make summer nights magical. Every season has something about it that makes the night times lovely. In winter, there’s the icy clarity of the stars overhead, and maybe snow if you’re fortunate. In autumn there’s the smell of burning leaves that lingers in the air long after the fire has died. In spring there’s the heavy smell of blooming flowers and the clean scent that follows the rain. In summer, there are fireflies.

Other than making summer nights beautiful, however, they have no real purpose. They glow, and that is all. They don’t have a very crucial role in the ecosystem. The world would carry on just fine without the fireflies.

But summer nights would be so sad without them.

What does that say about God, that He would choose to make something just because it is beautiful? If the world made itself, like so many people believe, and the only things that survived are the things that fought to survive, then why do creatures like fireflies exist? Why would evolution form a flying thing that glows? What purpose does it serve? None. If the world really evolved the way people think it did, than only the functional things would remain. It makes far more sense that a wise, creative God would, at the beginning of the world, decide that there would be beautiful things, and not merely functional ones.

Hence fireflies.

I can’t wait to go out and catch one. 

What a Wonderful

Standard

I’m fairly certain I’ve spent most of my life riding in the back seat of my parents’ car. That’s an observation, not a complaint: I love riding in the back seat. It’s therapeutic for me. Being a passenger and not the driver means I have to utterly let go of control, utterly trust the driver, and look at the world as it rolls by the window.

My favorite drives are Sunday drives to and from church. We travel along winding back roads that twist haphazardly through stretches of farmland and small neighborhoods. There are decade-old potholes as deep and as wide as casserole dishes that my father steers around out of habit. On either side of the road is a tangle of trees and kudzu with occasional breaks of houses or hobby farms.

We always drive through at that time of day when the summer sun hits at just the right angle to make the leaves and grass glow like emeralds in the light. Horses toss their tails as they graze on grassy hillocks settled behind white picket fences. The sky is a golden-blue—not the clear, clean blue of an autumn sky, but the kind of sky that’s smeared with the gathering heat. And all around the valley are the lazy heads of mountains lolling sleepily in the sun.

A few minutes later and we’re out of the country and back on a busier road, but even the cars, with all their different shapes and colors, are oddly beautiful. There are trees lining the highway, tall, thin, and old, but majestic and watchful. I see birds on the telephone wires: coal-black crows and daffodil-yellow finches and cardinals the color of Christmas and fat robins with tangerine-colored vests.

I watch patches of weeds whisk by the car window.  Why is it that even the pesky plants can be beautiful? There are purple thistles and sunny dandelions and Queen Anne’s lace like wisps of cloud. Then there are those little unidentified weeds with velvety leaves and tiny purple blossoms that poke out like clusters of grapes. And then I realize that “ugly” is truly a relative term. Children gather handfuls of dandelions for their mothers. The mothers tell them they’re weeds. The children insist that they’re beautiful flowers.

Today I got the overwhelming feeling of being incredibly happy to be alive.

I breathed in the feeling. I’m sure my parents wondered what it was that I was inhaling. But I simply had to. The past four months have been some of the worst of my life. Beyond that, I feel as though I haven’t been able to breathe properly for the past two years. Recently I confess I’ve been battling regret for those two years, knowing all along that the things that happened were not my fault. I was trying to do right in the power of God. As a result I have learned to lean on Him in ways I never thought possible before—and that I cannot regret. I was lead through the valley of the shadow of death and came out alive and, finally, free. Vague, I know, but this is the internet, and for now that’s all you’re getting.

And today I felt that freedom. I looked at the world through unclouded, unworried eyes. I breathed into lungs unfettered by self-doubt and anxiety. And I saw such a beautiful, beautiful world.

How I pity people who walk around with their eyes, minds, and hearts closed.

We live on the prettiest planet in the universe. We are incredibly blessed to be alive. We have so many wonderful things to be thankful for.

May we—may I—never take them for granted.

Image