The Black Hills are dressed in their best and most glorious finery. Wildflowers are sprinkled, sometimes lavishly, on hillsides and in valleys, the creeks are full to overflowing, and everything is green and lush and fragrant. It is always fun to see the Black Hills through the eyes of a visitor. Even though I’ve only lived here for four months, this has always been our home away from home, and consequently seeing it sometimes becomes, well, daily life. There is nothing like a new pair of eyes to renew my own love of this region.
Mom’s cousin Russel, his wife, and their three daughters have been staying with us since Sunday. I’d never met any of them, so it was fun to get to know my second-cousins from Texas! We all went down to the Mountain Lion Cave last night (or as close as we could get without crossing Battle Creek), and this morning my second cousin Julie and I headed out on an excursion. The rest of her family and Anna were going to Reptile Gardens and, as fascinating as I am sure it is, neither of us was particularly interested in spending hours there.
So out we went to Spokane and haunted the ghost town for a few hours, drove Iron Mountain Road, and visited Little Falls. The flowers were beautiful, and any little hollows or depressions were full of water, frogs, and mosquitoes. The thistles were becoming the prize-winning sort, and mushrooms were in abundance.
Violet and creeping wood sorrels flashed little glints of color in the shorter grass, their heart-shaped leaves green and moist and plentiful. Wild roses and geranium, blue-eyed grass and purple clover, asters and dandelions, all were tucked under trees and nestled into hillsides, along paths, thriving. The flowers and berries were peeking daintily from the Solomon’s Seal, and the lichen was thick on fallen branches and damp wood.
While on first glance not much had changed (it is a ghost town, after all…), when I looked closer there were dozens of new forms of botanical life, flowers that hadn’t been in bloom on our first visit, overgrown and flooded paths, and new clusters of mushrooms growing in the rich layer of decaying leaves and pine needles.
The house looked pretty much the same as before–the broken windows, rusted hinges, rotted floorboards, and the swallow’s nest in the stovepipe–but when on the hunt for details, I suddenly noticed many things that had escaped my eye before, such as the remnants of wallpaper in the house, or the lichen-encrusted nails on the windowsill, or the broken blue Mason jar and the scrap of blue and white wallpaper. The nest had a swallow in it this time, and little plants were growing in the moist earth where floorboards were missing. I noticed “love notices”, where boys and girls had written their names together on the walls. What an old-fashioned and romantic little spot.
Outside one of the windows, there was a layer of shattered glass. My camera is a bit finicky, and after taking one properly-focused picture, it suddenly stopped focusing on the glass. Instead, it was focusing on the reflections of the trees in the glass. The effect was enchanting!
Beauty may be subtle and well-hidden, even when in plain sight. It is hard to see beauty in the mundane when one is only looking for the mundane, or when one is overburdened with the world. A certain optimism is required for seeing exquisite beauty in the drabness of rotting wood or broken glass. Optimism is not my natural state, but I find it exceedingly difficult to be pessimistic when I am surrounded by God’s beauty, and his little gifts. I passionately think we should nourish the vision to see those beautiful details. The world is a bleak place, but there are so many tiny joys and gifts given to us each day by a loving Creator, if we have the eyes to see them.