Resilience

An early morning drive to enjoy the dawn and to photograph the sunrise in the Park didn’t turn out exactly as planned, but no drive with a camera in hand and eyes to see God’s goodness is ever really wasted. Towards Hermosa, I drove into a large fog bank, completely obscuring the sunrise, and the fog slowly moved west, coming to a stop against the rim of the Hills. The Wildlife Loop was bright and clear, though banks of fog could be seen hanging in the trees towards the east. The beautiful Wolf Moon, waning now, hung in the western sky like a pearl. IMG_0272IMG_0407eThere was an element of sadness driving through the Park and seeing the destruction left in the wake of the Legion Lake Fire. The snow whitewashed over much of the evidence of the fire, but the blackened hillsides, the charred or browned trees, and the smell of ash gave it away. I have to admit, it was worse than I thought it would be. Parts of the Park will look very different, with the standing dead, charred and blackened, scarring the landscape. Once the needles fall off the dead trees, it will be even more striking. The torched trees, blackened from root to crown and completely denuded, were grotesque against the snow, with yellowed trees on this side and that, somehow having escaped being torched. In places, the fire had eaten through fence rails like acid, though other stretches of fenceline were untouched. Lots of manpower will go into repairing those fences.IMG_0288eIMG_0398eIMG_0381eIMG_0354eeHow amazing: fire, while destructive on the one hand, is one of the means of renewal that God has put in place for the maintaining and flourishing of this world. Change is just a part of life. While everyone is fond of Custer State Park and we’re used to it looking a certain way, that just isn’t how nature works. It isn’t meant to stay the same. Change is one of the ways in which equilibrium is maintained. There is a natural ebb and flow, a cycle of life and death and life again, a cycle of destruction and renewal, which occurs on the micro scale, as well as with large-scale natural disasters. I know that the forest will renew itself or will change, and life will go on. I also know that come springtime the Park is going to be greener and more vibrant than it has been in years, with all the old grass and underbrush burned away. It will be a sight to behold!IMG_0415eAnd even now, in the meantime, life goes on. The buffalo were mostly in the corrals, feeding on hay, since their food supply was drastically affected and they will require hay for the rest of the season. A handful of youngsters frisked and played, chasing one another, though the solemn buffalo look never left their faces. Buffalo are such serious-looking critters. A few prairie dogs popped out of their little holes in the ground, and a sassy squirrel raced up and down a dead tree. The tiniest of creatures, happily going about their little lives in the wake of a deadly fire. IMG_0469eDon’t under estimate the sheer resilience of God’s Creation. He has equipped it well.

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Favorite Photos of 2017

One thing I love about photography is the ability to capture not just a visual reference, but something that triggers emotions, thoughts, mood, smells, tastes, and stirs the memory. It is so good to look back through photos and be reminded of the year, of the joy and excitement of those moments out taking pictures, or stumbling upon a beautiful photo just ready for me to capture it. These photos aren’t just favorite photographs – they represent favorite memories of the last year.

IMG_2299eOne of many beautiful snowy days early last year. It captures my love of horses as well as my love of the winter season.

IMG_2919eOur near-death adventure to the Community Caves…We learned our lesson: if it is warm enough to not wear coat or gloves, it is too warm for a frozen waterfall. Kind of seems like a no-brainer now.

IMG_4499eOne of many pasqueflower hunts. Something in me never tires of finding these little gems, or any of God’s gems that He scatters in the grasses.

IMG_0097eMy Alaska Adventure, and a great day exploring with my cousin at Independence Mine.

IMG_0961eLittle Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, Montana. The solitude and desolation was so poignant and real.

IMG_3117The Great American Eclipse 2017, Douglas, WY. One of God’s amazing wonders.

IMG_3912God’s bounty and human stewardship. And the joy of friendship and being outdoors.

IMG_4976eA drive down Spearfish Canyon to take in the fall colors. Golden hour.

IMG_5029eA fall evening over Pactola Reservoir.

IMG_9246eThe joy of critters. And my favorite season.

IMG_9860eThe beauty of a fresh snowfall.

God is so good. What a great year it was. What beautiful memories.

The Real Middle of Nowhere

Although we’re a good ways outside of town and are, by a lot of people’s standards, “in the middle of nowhere,” you haven’t seen the middle of nowhere until you’ve driven to Lusk, Wyoming. That is truly the middle of nowhere. For miles and miles, there is nothing except for Mule Creek Junction, and on either side of the highway there are miles and miles of beautiful, open, desolate rangeland, low buttes and rock spires, miles and miles of fenceline and windbreaks, dry washes, miles of road with the occasional mailbox and ranch signpost.IMG_0173eIMG_0188eIMG_0165eWith not a mountain in sight, Lusk sits at just above 5000 feet above sea level. The beauty of the high plains. And that region is glorious. I’m a forest and mountains person, so I wouldn’t choose to live in the Lusk area over, say, the Buffalo area, but that area is beautiful, breathtaking country. Literally breathtaking, today, with the famous Wyoming wind whipping the snow into a flurry, streaming it across the highway, billowing from drifts and hilltops, working its magic upon the landscape.IMG_0209eEven a day drive to Lusk and back to pick up a friend is a wonderful opportunity to marvel at God’s creative powers. I find that they are best viewed in the middle of nowhere.

 

Wolf Moon

A gorgeous supermoon has graced our first night of the New Year. And God blessed us with clear skies to be able to marvel at it, hauntingly beautiful, as it rose up like an angel over the snow covered hills, casting long, blue shadows, lighting the landscape silver. The sky, velvety dark, sparkled with the light of what few stars could be seen through the veil of moonlight. Orion leaned into the moon’s glow, and the Great Bear climbed the steep-tilted northern sky. The moon was blinding. The snow-covered trees, the snowpacked road, the rolling white hills, the mysterious shadows – they somehow softened the sub-zero chill. The half-mile walk down from Grandma’s in the moonlight was enchanting.And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so.  And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars.  And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:14-18)

All that God created was good. So good. And on the night of this beautiful Wolf Moon, the nearest supermoon of 2018, marking the beginning of this fresh New Year, I catch a glimpse of what that original goodness must have been like.

 

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Photo | The Last Sunset of 2017

And the last sunset of 2017 faded away like a gentle sigh. It wasn’t as vibrant as some, but it was the last one and it was beautiful.
IMG_9976eHappy New Year!

 

Warmth

What a miracle fire is. I know there is a scientific explanation for the how and why of fire, but my mind can’t see it as anything other than a miracle brought about by the mind and will of a creative God. This miracle, which is intangible and without substance yet injures terribly if touched, provides so many of our most basic needs. This deadly, destructive miracle of energy is necessary to our survival. We’ve figured out other ways to harness heat, but fire is still the most basic form, and not too long ago was alone what provided light and warmth, a way to cook food, a way to power trains and to test the air deep in mine shafts. Imagine a life without it and what it provides.

And how beautiful it is. The dance of fire, the glow, the heat – they’re spell-binding. The tiniest flame of a candle, or a crackling fire in a wood stove – what beauty. The tinselly rustle as a log slides into the embers, the golden lights dancing on the ragged edges of the bark, the deep, mesmerizing glow in the hot spot beneath the logs…I could watch the flames for hours.

With the cold weather we’ve had lately, our cove heating has really been struggling. When daytime temperatures are around 25 degrees, the cove heating does fine, but when we’ve got temps of zero and below, that’s another story. Even with the temp set at 70 degrees during the day, it hardly would get above 62 degrees inside. But with Dad’s help we checked the stove for safety issues (since it hasn’t been used in probably a decade), got a load of firewood and pine cones brought down, and as I type I’m feeling the delightful warmth radiate from the stove. For the first time in awhile, it is actually too warm in the cabin, and I’m comfortable without layers and layers of clothing and blankets! IMG_9918eHow wonderful to be warm indoors with winter running wild just beyond the walls.

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