A Portrait of Autumn

When the trees change and the first hints come that summer is slipping away, autumn slips in, silently, subtly. The first hints of autumn are the change in the slant of the light, and that delicious crispness in the morning air. Then the trees are bursting with color and the prairie grasses ignite with the hues of autumn.
IMG_3103Autumn is a time of foreshadowing. We know that winter is on its way and autumn, perhaps more than the other seasons, tempts us with glimpses of winter. Heavy frost in the mornings, the first dustings of snow, ice on the windshields. That special slant in the light.
IMG_5601Autumn is a time of tenacity. Leaves cling to the trees, as if reluctant to fall. Little clusters of trees retain their autumn glow. Wildflowers persist into the first snows and through the first frosts. Birds so fragile they’d seem unfit to weather the winter persevere in their downy warmth.
IMG_5563Autumn is a time of preparation. A time of readying for the coming winter. The trees and plants put away their summer garb and settle into themselves and into the earth, quiet, resting, biding their time until winter is gone and spring has arrived. Animals begin to grow their winter furs, and they harvest their winter store of nuts and seeds. Birds fly south. Mankind puts up firewood and garden produce, winterizes their homes, and drags out the bins of winter clothing and coats and boots and mittens.img_1939Autumn is a time of abundance. And what abundance! Not only the abundance of the harvest, and the abundance of garden produce and fresh preserves glimmering with color, but abundance of fragrances, sights, sounds, tastes, textures. The perfume of moss and brown leaves and damp, the burning reds and golds and saffrons of the trees and underbrush and prairie grasses, the sounds of crackling leaves underfoot and flocking birds and moaning autumn winds and rain and the muted whisper of the fog, the taste of the crisp almost-winter air, the tapestry of fallen leaves and bare trees and rattling grasses and pods of the long-gone summer flowers. The abundance is overwhelming.
IMG_6771 Autumn is here. Winter is on her way. So we revel in the last fleeting warmth, but also look forward to another glorious season.

Laura Elizabeth

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Poetry in the Aspen Trees

There is poetry in the aspen trees. They speak it, when the wind whispers through their leaves. The wind in the pines is a mournful sound, but the wind in the aspens is like laughter.
IMG_4112Aspens in summer are a poem of laughter and gaiety. Like stained glass, the leaves glow and glint and glimmer, a misty, vibrant green in a sea of black pines.
IMG_4115In autumn, the aspens are a poem of plenty, a poem of thanksgiving, but with a hint of sadness. A gust of wind showers the leaves like showers of gold, and the bright color is sprinkled liberally on the carpet of the earth.

A change of seasons means loss – But it also means renewing, in God’s time. That is the poem of the aspen trees.

“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
    to whom belong wisdom and might.
21 He changes times and seasons;
    he removes kings and sets up kings;
he gives wisdom to the wise
    and knowledge to those who have understanding;
22 he reveals deep and hidden things;
    he knows what is in the darkness,
    and the light dwells with him.

Daniel 2:20-22
Laura Elizabeth

Metamorphosis

There is a wonderful transformation that takes place this time of year, changing what is common into what is precious, from emerald and black to crimson and gold. It was the rumor of gold that first brought the white man into the Black Hills in the 1870s, late in the era of the gold rush. But whatever precious metals they found while digging in the ground and panning in the streams, these riches outstrip them all, though they fade in a mere handful of days. It is the metamorphosis of autumn.IMG_2386The miracle of autumn is one which I am firmly convinced is entirely for our joy and God’s glory. God didn’t have to create the bounties of autumn color – The trees could simply turn brown and lose their leaves. But God in His sovereign goodness gave us the tapestry of the seasons, including the fleeting glories of autumn.
IMG_2686The Hole-in-the-Wall trail is festive in gold and green and crimson, the entire trail lined with hardwood trees in a mighty array of autumn colors. The higher hillsides are pine and so never change, but in the ravines the aspens and burr oaks and other hardwood trees and shrubs flourish, and are now painted their various hues of gold and crimson and yellow.
IMG_2763When the evening sun shines from over the mountains, the aspens are lit up like torches, glowing and burning. Rocky hillsides are illuminated with the flaming color of the trees. Driving along our already beautiful highways, my breath is swept away, when around a corner is suddenly revealed a golden hillside, or glowing ravine, or a roadside lined with brilliant color.IMG_2545I took a drive  down Rockerville Road, and explored a couple of side roads. The sights were glorious, and I couldn’t help but laugh out loud in delight! Springtime is wonderful, summer is rambunctious, but to catch the leaves in the prime of their autumn color is pure bliss. IMG_2862 Roadside wildflowers are a riot of reds and golds, with a touch of purple here and there. Those, too, will soon fade, and all that will be left is the memory of the color, and the simple elegance of the dried stems and flower heads.IMG_2340Now, I understand that the color we revel in here isn’t the spectacular display of color we used to enjoy in Illinois, or the color that is legendary further east. But the subtlety of the transformation of the Hills is part of the allure. The mystery of autumn is heightened by its very temporariness. We aren’t two days into autumn and the colors are already fading from their peak three days ago. What a gift, to be able to enjoy such beauty, even for so short a time. IMG_2548For soon, and even now, the color will fade, the gold will glimmer away, and the life of summer will become the chill rest of winter.
IMG_3103Medieval alchemists were fascinated by the mythological concept of the transformation of common metals into gold. But what a delight, the alchemy of the seasons, the metamorphosis of the world around us, God’s created order that simply shouts His glory, and the Gospel story itself! What more wonderful metamorphosis, than the transformation of wretched sinners into redeemed Believers in Christ! Not only the tiny parable in the gold of autumn, taking that which is common and making it precious, but the larger parable of death and renewal, of decay and new life, pictured in the metamorphosis of the seasons.

Laura Elizabeth

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October-November | In Hindsight

IMG_3530lowrezThe fall is over, practically speaking, and will be over in actuality in another two and a half weeks. October and November breezed by in the flickering light of golden leaves, the sparkle of frost in the mornings, and the first snows. What a glorious time of year, with the lingering warm days recalling the summer and the hints of the coming winter fresh in the air in the evenings. Hurried end-of-the-summer outings punctuated the otherwise steady flow of life. The last hikes before the cold set in, the savoring of the last of the fall colors, reveling in the last of the long days.

IMG_3400lowrezWe enjoyed what produce successfully ripened in the garden, in spite of the multiple hail storms, early frost, and other inclement forces of nature. If you want a seemingly deer-proof plant, grow turnips – The leaves are prickly and the deer won’t eat them, even though they’ll meticulously rip up and devour every single beet and carrot in the garden. Turnips, leeks, tomatoes, basil, all found their way into savory, fresh soups. We’re looking forward to our garden next year already.

IMG_3563.1lowrezThe majority of our very small tomato crop was pretty badly hail-damaged and the cold set in early, so many didn’t ripen. Mom turned what she could of those into small batches of fresh salsa, not to be canned. But at the end of the greenhouse season, Sarah’s boss at Dakota Greens in Custer let her and Mom pick the remaining tomatoes in the greenhouse, and they came home with roughly 130 pounds of tomatoes, mostly red but some green. Mom was thrilled to have something to can, and we spent a couple days processing the tomatoes. Salsa, plain tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, and piccalilly relish, are all stacked neatly in our pantry cabinet now.

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We enjoyed a family trip to Des Moines to attend a conference, and it was wonderful to see Jess, the missing sister. It just isn’t the same, having one of us still back in Illinois, but I am confident that God knows exactly what He is doing, and has her there for a reason! Since it looks like she’ll be in Illinois for awhile now, she wanted her dog back, so we sadly said goodbye to our favorite pet. Dogs are special creatures, and this one has a special place in our affections. It will be hard to fill that spot, but we’ll do our best. Anna’s two kittens (I can’t think of them as grown cats yet) definitely have helped to fill that spot, for all of us. Their antics are continually diverting, and they are extremely affectionate, with each other and with us. I was sick last week and woke up with Kashka, the black one, peering into my face, purring like a little motorboat. They aren’t supposed to be inside, but sometimes they are too cute to refuse.

IMG_4918.1lowrezThe last couple weeks of November felt like winter – The first snows, snapping cold, heavy frosts, and snow-melt fog. Thanksgiving found me with a very thankful heart, for such a memorable and life-changing past year, as well as for the simple pleasures and little blessings God sends our way. We have a freezer full of venison, a warm house, good employment, a great church home, and family we can see on a regular basis. What more could I ask?

Laura Elizabeth

 

 

Dirt fresh

IMG_3400lowrezThere’s nothing quite like hot soup on a cold evening. Soup is a perfect fall and winter food, and I find that brewing a pot of soup satisfies a need for creative expression. I don’t enjoy following recipes, which is probably why I don’t enjoy baking. I’m not brave enough to stray from a baking recipe – Bad things can happen! Good things happen when I stray from a soup recipe. I’d be happy to share my butternut squash soup recipe.

We’re still getting produce from the garden, against all odds, and last night I was able to pick baseball-sized turnips and a fist full of leeks, which were in the pot not twenty minutes later. I only used three turnips, plus their greens, and we still have many, many left in the garden. Threw in some frozen home-grown yellow squash and home-grown basil pesto, along with ground beef, onions, and carrots – It was a pretty good soup, if I do say so myself.

Perfect for autumn.

Laura Elizabeth

The golden flame

IMG_2684.1Fall has arrived, and with it the burning, brilliant, tingling gold of a thousand thousand birch trees, glinting their leaves into the sun as one might catch light on a mirror and then scatter it.

In Illinois, almost all the trees would turn their colors at once – First one or two small trees, young trees, would change to yellow or orange or red, and then the whole body of the trees would burst into color, flamboyant and showy and with the unmistakable spirit of autumn.

IMG_2690.2Here, the color comes differently. Most of our trees here are pine – Constant green throughout the year, no matter the season. But slowly, slowly, the birch trees, clustered together in little groves, take on the glow of fall.

IMG_2694.1Today on the way home from church, Sarah and I dawdled our way through Custer State Park, enjoying Iron Mountain Road and other side roads, and time after time, my breath was swept away by the sheer glory of the birch trees. As we drove through the winding mountain roads, the 4:00 sun filtered through the pines, casting shifting shadows through the pillar trunks. Even in the sun, the pines look dark. But just around a corner or over a hill, the whole landscape would change, suddenly a gold of such intensity the wood itself seemed to be glowing. The white birch trunks reflected the light, glinting paler through the pale fire of the trees.

A camera can only partially capture the changing, sparkling beauty of the golden autumn, the golden flame in the heart of the woods.

Laura Elizabeth