Keep Dreaming

For any aspiring author, there is just about nothing more thrilling than seeing your own words in print, your own byline, your own story. Someday, I would love to hold my own book in my hands, but for now, this is joy enough to keep me going. From the age of 12, I’ve had a love of writing and story crafting. Over the years, I’ve read a lot on the craft of writing, I’ve sat in on webinars, and I took a class on feature writing at the university (one of my favorite classes). One of the most consistent pieces of writing wisdom I come across is that writers write. So if you want to write, write. You can’t do anything until there are words on the page.

So this is a baby step. A year and a half ago, I had the delight of seeing another article published in MaryJane’s Farm, and a year or so before that I had a commentary published in our local paper. This article in Country Magazine was well timed encouragement. Encouragement to keep going. Encouragement to take one step at a time. Encouragement to keep dreaming.

 

Canada/Alaska Adventure | Home Again

Somehow, the three and a half weeks since I got home from Alaska flew by without me realizing it, full to the brim with summertime and normal life. I jumped back in to work the day after I got home, had a week of work and then five days on the road and in Bozeman, MT, at a Biblical counseling training conference. The rest of the time filled in with everyday life, family, housekeeping, unpacking, packing again, unpacking again. My brain has been so fried, my blogging took a back burner.

Alaska, like all of the West that I’ve seen so far, tugs at my heartstrings in mysterious ways. While once-upon-a-time (and not too far in the past) I would have said I never wanted to leave the Black Hills, I find my heart waking to the idea of seeking out the deeper West. There is that quiet place in my soul that hungers after the remote, the distant, the separate, the raw.

It was definitely a shock to the system to come from the cool moistness of the Glacier View climate, to the hot, arid Black Hills. It was strange to leave behind a green, lush landscape and exchange it for a landscape that had been green when I left, but is now very lacking in rain. I miss puttering in the garden for hours at a time in the cool of midday, without scorching or melting or frying. I miss the bright flowers and foliage that thrive in the almost endless daylight. I miss the wildness, the steepness of the peaks right outside the window, I miss the water and the clear, blue mountain streams. But then…this is home. Where the hot summer air smells piney and golden. Where beebalm and chokecherries line the Hole-in-the-Wall Trail, where the stars are diamond bright, and the sun sets behind Harney Peak. Home is where my family is – my blood family and my church family. Home is where Trixie and our log cabin and the Miner’s Cabin wait in our little hollow underneath our red ridge. Where Ember comes running when I call her name, or sits yowling outside the window until I let her in. Home is where I have a bed underneath the eaves and can hear the raindrops pattering on the tin roof a foot away. Home is here.

They say home is where the heart is. For now, my heart is here. But will it always be? Only time will tell.

Canada/Alaska Adventure | Entry #11

Happy Independence Day! July 4th can be a hard day to celebrate, with our nation as volatile and starkly divided as it is. But it is refreshing to put all of the politics aside for a day and gather together to celebrate our freedoms, and to honor those who came before us and made those freedoms a reality.IMG_0329eThe Independence Day festivities got a great start at high noon down by the Matanuska River, with a flyover by the Kingdom Air Corps, a local missionary aviation school, as a tribute to our veterans. Check out their website here. They particularly do work in Russia, reaching small, rural communities who have never heard the gospel. A really amazing mission.IMG_0255eIMG_0262eFollowing the flyover was the parade, featuring local horsemen, as well as the various souped-up, brightly-painted wrecker cars for the launch later. The lineup even included an old cop car, complete with siren and lights. Classy. IMG_0289eIMG_0280eIMG_0270eAfter the parade and the food, we all gathered for the event that really draws the crowd – The car launch. It is a totally redneck solution to having too much daylight for fireworks, and it is hilarious fun. The brightly-painted launch vehicles are driven to the top of a bluff and, simple: let fly off a cliff into a small pond at the bottom. Because why not? Who doesn’t get a kick out of watching vehicles hurtling wildly over a bluff, taking out a few trees on the way down? Six automobiles and a snow machine were launched. There’s some great video footage on The Alaska Life Facebook page.
IMG_0393eIMG_0380eIMG_0358e2There are lots of crazy and fun traditions surrounding our national freedom holiday. Some things have meaning behind the tradition, some are just plain fun. But what it all boils down to is that we are glad to be free, and we are thankful for our heritage of freedom, which we only enjoy because of the sacrifices of so many, past and present. And in spite of all that our nation is going through and has gone through, in spite of the hatred and vitriol, the violence, and our self-destructing culture (sorry, Debbie Downer here…but I can’t really state it any other way)…in spite of all that, there still is hope.  Truly. There still are people who believe in freedom as a God-given right, as a right that must be exercised alongside morality, and there still are those who are honorable, peace-loving, peace-seeking, and will fight for what they believe is right. God is not surprised by where our country is at. He is in complete control. God is still God.

“May we think of freedom, not as the right to do as we please, but as the opportunity to do what is right.”

~Peter Marshall

IMG_0308eIMG_0293eI hope you’ve had an encouraging, uplifting Independence Day, were able to spend time with family and friends enjoying Creation and being reminded of the Creator behind it all, the God who has blessed us so richly, in innumerable ways, and Who has given us freedoms here in this country which we enjoy and too often take for granted. But most importantly, God has presented to us the opportunity to gain spiritual freedom, through His Son Christ Jesus. That is true freedom, and it can never be taken away.

Happy Independence Day!

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Canada/Alaska Adventure | Entry #5

It doesn’t get much better than sitting on the deck in the evening eating a quiet dinner, with Amulet Peak and the Chugach Range towering – and I mean towering – into the sky across the river, clouds tangling in the valleys, watching the play of sunlight. What a sight. The first two days this week were rainy and cloudy, and only occasionally could I see the tip top of Amulet peaking through a tear in the clouds. But the past couple of days, the view has been a wonderful sight. While out in the garden, the mountains are visible across the river, and Victory Peak up behind us, and even when walking along the road, Amulet can be glimpsed through breaks in the trees. The mountains are so…big.
IMG_9335eIMG_9299eThere is so much sunlight. Almost too much. The wildflowers thrive in the almost-24-hour daylight and the moist climate. The foliage is thick and lush. The creeks are muddy and swift. Aunt Sandy and I have spent a lot of time out in her gardens, and one of my particular projects was cleaning up her large raised garden bed. How fun to get it looking neat and tidy, clearing out the old, dead foliage, getting the weeds and moss pulled and scraped off the soil, applying lime to keep the moss at bay, and spreading a new layer of rich, black compost on top! I have to say, gardening is a lot more pleasant in temperatures of 60-70 degrees, rather than in temperatures of 80-100 degrees. IMG_9274eIMG_9198eGolden retriever Kaiah has been a delightful, albeit rather ditzy, buddy to have around, and she is a good company-keeper. She tags along when I run down the road to take something to the guest cabins, or get the mail, or when I’m in the garden. Everything is a game to her. Basically she’s an 8-year-old puppy. And somehow she thinks she can challenge a moose and not get put in her place! I was at the house by myself two nights ago and heard her barking ferociously, so I ran to the front window, and there she was, practically underneath an unhappy moose! So I ran to the front door and shouted at her, and she came, trembling and scared, but somehow it doesn’t keep her from doing it the next time.
IMG_9217eA few nights ago after dinner, Uncle Dan and I went to a job site of his, which overlooks the Matanuska Glacier. Another almost overwhelming sight. So much ice, sprawling through the valley and out of sight between mountains. And yet it looks minuscule, unimportant next to the mountains. Mountains are perspective-givers. IMG_9384eWhat a wonderful Creator God, to have spoken this world into existence! From the beauty of landscape, to the delicate intricacies of flowers, to the special bonds He lets us enjoy with His animal creatures, to the purpose and meaning of honest work, He has blessed us so richly, to be able to enjoy all of this, and to try to process all of it. God, help us not to take it for granted, but to give glory to You!

 

Heavenward

I walk the woods in the evening – my woods, I tell myself – the familiar trails, dear to me and near to my heart, winding through old creekbeds, beneath towering pines and wizened oaks, along hillsides sparkling with white chokecherry blossoms. Treading the same way again, my heart thrills. Each step is a delight. Each breath of the cool evening air tastes sweet. I want to pour the coolness over my head and drink of the freshness. It is familiar, so familiar, every step is one I’ve experienced before, each tree and flower and perfume of evening – but it is new, always new.
IMG_7227eWith the earth comforting beneath my feet, grasses growing tall to above knee-height, trees leafing out in their array of green, my heart is drawn upwards, Heavenwards. These woods are my sanctuary. I find that my time alone while hiking becomes my time alone with the LORD, since I can’t imagine walking these woods and not being struck to the heart by how good God must be to have created so much beauty for us to enjoy. He didn’t need to create beauty. God could have allowed sin to completely wipe out the beauty on this earth. But He didn’t. And it is wonderful. Even in this fallen state, His beauty is reflected in His Creation.
IMG_7015eMy heart breaks with joy. Have you ever felt that? My heart breaks and soars, and I murmur Oh, my! Again and again. Oh, my. My eye is drawn here and there – to a splash of color from a larkspur violet or a shooting star or a bluebell, to the wild white and lavender of crazyweed, to the little golden blossoms of wild currant or the coral of columbine or the dark blue-eyed grass, or the pale birch trees on a north-facing hillside of emerald moss. A gleam of sunlight through the trees on the next hilltop melts me, but I know my camera couldn’t do it justice, so I don’t even try. My heart breaks with joy – there is too much, too much, too much. How can a human creature take in so much beauty and goodness and majesty, and not be overwhelmed? And if I cannot understand Creation, how can I possibly understand its God?
IMG_7150eThe too-familiar sights, the amber scents of pine resin and the fresh earthy perfume of green life or the sweet evening air, the lullaby of wind in the pines – so many memories and impressions left over, brought back by glimpses or tastes of the familiar, the familiar that never seems to change. I remember my childhood, our visits here, my heart’s longing for this place. I remember past joys, and revel in present joys. Then my heart breaks with grief. Because I know that one day this place won’t be here for me. One day it will be sold and divided into lots and developed, and I weep at that thought, dropping tears on the grassy path. How harsh it feels – to be brought to live in the place I love most in the world, but knowing that it may not be here, a mere few years from this time. This place may only be land, and I know that, but it holds and brings back so many wonderful memories. It is a place that is part of my childhood, part of my dearest memories.
IMG_7156eThen I repent. How could I have the audacity to challenge God’s goodness and His Providence by weeping over what He may someday in His sovereignty take away from me? If that day comes, I don’t believe tears will be wrong, but weeping now and letting even a moment of joy be spoiled by what God may in His love give to me or take from me – that is wrong. I pray for contentment and peace in my knowledge that God is good. I remind myself that God only does that which is for the good of His children and for His glory. I remind myself that He only gives good gifts, and He is a loving Father, not a cruel taskmaster. If a gift is good in the giving, it is also good when He in His sovereignty removes it. If He removes a blessing and strips me of something I sinfully think is necessary for my happiness, I know He does it for my good, not to punish. If He takes something from me that I love, He does it for my good, not out of malice. Whether or not I comprehend it, it is for my good. At the very least, pain allows me to experience the sweetness of God’s comfort. One day, I’ll understand. But for now I need to be content to not understand and to take comfort in the things I do understand – that God is a loving God, a generous God, a compassionate and comforting God – and He always provides. Not necessarily how I in my humanness want Him to provide, certainly, but if God is good, His Providence is as well, and I cannot challenge it.  And so even in my tears, I thank Him. Even in my tears, this place draws me Heavenward. And then my heart lifts and I savor a soul-deep peace, content to enjoy however many days and years I have left to enjoy this. Few or many, they are a gift. How sad to spoil them with misplaced regret.
IMG_7182eThe low rumble of distant thunder tells of a coming storm, and the clouds are bright in the west, shining flame-like through the trees. The crimson and coral turn to slate and blue. The golden sunlight disappears beyond the horizon and banks of heavy clouds. The rain will come.
IMG_7223eHow can I not gaze Heavenward?

Hiking | The Meeker Ranch

Once again we spent a Sunday afternoon haunting beautiful ruins in beautiful country. The Meeker Ranch is an historic site now owned by the Forest Service, east and north of Custer, SD. It dates back to the 1880s, and was built by Frank Cunningham Meeker, who, according to the Black Hills and Badlands website, was a member of the Pony Express, which ran for a couple of years along the Cheyenne-Deadwood Stage line. Frank Meeker named his idyllic 278-acre spread “Willow Creek.” The ranch passed through several ownerships over the years, finally coming into Forest Service possession in 2004. They undertook restoration and preservation of the ranch when acclaimed watercolor artist Jon Crane helped lobby against the slated demolition of the structures. This breathtaking historic site has been the target of some vandalism in the past, but overall is beautifully preserved.IMG_6640e Inside the main ranch house, there are still shreds of curtains, canisters of coffee (these people were obviously coffee-drinkers!), hangers in the closet, old newspapers and magazines, and wallpaper on the walls.  Glass sparkles in shards on the floor, whole jars littered among the wreckage. It must have been a lovely, fashionable home in its prime, and now just wisps of the memories cling here and there around the walls.IMG_6655eIMG_6844eIMG_6696eIMG_6733eIMG_6685eIMG_6693eIMG_6721eIMG_6740eIMG_6759eAround the homestead, perched on the hillside in among massive boulders and rock outcroppings, other structures cling tenaciously. The barn fittingly presides over the other structures, towering above them in wonderful condition, while the others have fallen into some level of decay. Buildings out here, scattered through the Hills, are so old and rugged that they seem to have sprung from the ground, rather than to have been built upon it. They belong where they are.
IMG_6794eIMG_6781eIMG_6855eFrogs were singing in the little marsh below the house, singing and trilling so loudly it was almost uncomfortable – What a beautiful summery sound! The scent of pine resin was heavy in places, another sign of summer-to-come. Every time I get a breath of resin in the warm sunlight, a wave of nostalgia breaks over my soul, wrapped up in the beautiful memories I’ve treasured since childhood, of this place I now get to call home. Wildflowers were blooming along the short trail, little goldenpeas and pussy toes and even a few long spur violets. Springtime is truly here! IMG_6873eTo get there, head north out of Custer on Sylvan Lake Road. Take a right on Willow Creek Road. After a couple of miles, the road will become considerably rougher and narrower, so don’t take a vehicle with low clearance. After about a half a mile on this stretch, there is a Forest Service gate and some parking space. The Forest Service access road continues beyond the gate, and is about a half mile hike to the ranch.

A stunning piece of history.