Joyful Girl

One of the things I love most about Sarah is her joy. She is blessed by physical beauty, yes, but Sarah’s joy is a bright and infectious energy that just bubbles and sparkles. She has her down days, like the rest of us, but more than most she has a native delight and sense of optimism. Sometimes we tease her for her endless optimism (think Jane from Pride and Prejudice), but it really shouldn’t be made fun of – As a Christian, optimism should be a given. As redeemed children of God, saved by the blood of Christ, we have absolutely no excuse for anything but optimism! IMG_3363Sarah is blessed with a delightful sense of humor – What a gift. Life is often difficult and frustrating, but the gift of humor is a beautiful thing. Often does our time spent together involve reveling in the joy of laughter and humor, laughing at ourselves and at one another, laughing at humorous or awkward experiences we’ve had, laughing until we cry and are breathless with giggling. IMG_3325If you’ve never been blessed by the sound of her laugh, I’m sorry for you. Some people attempt to exercise self-control when they laugh, which really is kind of a bummer. Laughter isn’t supposed to be something that is constrained or put through a filter. That strips all the fun out of it! And there is nothing more fun or infectious than Sarah’s laugh when she’s not thinking about it – It really comes from the heart, or straight from her funny bone.
IMG_3240And behind her joyful and often publicly quiet exterior, there is a heart of gold. I receive so much encouragement from our conversations, as we delve into life’s issues and struggles. She is endlessly encouraging. Her spiritual maturity is beyond her years. She has the wisdom to be able to take struggles in stride, the creativity to think outside the box, the faith to be unconventional, and the humility to think nothing of it.
IMG_3222I’m so blessed by my sisters. Every once in awhile, when Sarah is performing her rendition of the “Hallelujah Chorus,” I wonder what it would be like to be an only child, but overall, having sisters is a wonderful thing. A gift from God.

Laura Elizabeth

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Remington

IMG_5182.1lowrezUntil I look at my photography back at home, I’m never sure exactly how any of it turned out. And when I take my camera and start snapping pictures, I’m never entirely in control of what will be captured through the lens. I may have one idea in mind, but what the camera ends up seeing, or what I see when I look more closely at the subject, might take creativity a different direction altogether. The spontaneity of photography is part of what I find interesting and compelling.

IMG_5157.lowrezOn this unseasonably mild December day, I had to run into Hermosa to make a mail run, and on my way back, Dixie’s horses were standing in our pasture close to the highway. One of them is a beautiful paint gelding named Remington, and with the Black Hills as a backdrop, and scrubby golden grasses in the foreground, I thought a beautiful picture was in order. I pulled over and jumped out of my truck, grabbed my camera, and climbed over the drooping barbed wire fence. I figured on spending a little while poking around in the grass getting pictures of flower heads and then getting close enough to the horses to frame a nice picture. I’d never played with these horses before, and assumed they’d be shy.

IMG_5192.1lowrezNo sooner had I knelt in the grass to take a picture of some dried flower tops, Remington was headed eagerly towards me. Apparently the little pony, Dove, isn’t enough of a horse to qualify as a friend for Remington, since the other horse died a few months ago. For the next twenty minutes, Remington wouldn’t let me get far enough away from him to take a good picture. Whenever I knelt down in the grass to get pictures of grasses and things, he came right up next to me and nosed me in the back, or sniffed my head, or just got in my face. He seemed to want to know what I found so interesting, so close to the ground. I looked up once and he was staring right in my eyes, just watching me. If I walked off, he’d follow right behind me. If I stopped, he’d stop with me and wait contentedly. I feel a little sorry for Dove, but Remington just wanted a friend!

Sometimes photography yields things other than photographs.

Laura Elizabeth

First Breath of Winter

IMG_4441.1lowrez Something about the snow, a fresh snow, transforms the landscape of my mind. When the snow starts to fly, I can’t seem to stop smiling – my soul can’t stop smiling. There is a newness, a freshness, a wonder about the snow, flying and swirling from an invisible sky above and transforming the drabness of dying autumn into the glory of waking winter. The cold ceases to matter. The snow seems to bathe life with madcap delight.

IMG_4437.1lowrezI came downstairs yesterday morning, before the sun had peeked into our hollow, and I was greeted by the wonder of snow. Everything was covered – the rough-cut fences, the branches of every tree, old tires sitting out by the chicken coop, the wind chimes, windowsills, the yellow grader – everything was covered in a layer of pure, undefiled white.

IMG_4491.1lowrezThere outside was Anna’s black kitten, Kashka, enjoying the experience of her first snow. She frolicked and dashed madly about, plunging through snow drifts, jumping up a tree, in the throes of delight. She didn’t even try to sneak into the house, as is her habit. As I drove up our winding driveway to work, a few does startled up from their bedding ground, kicking up their heels – the cold and snow and delight of winter had gotten to them, too. When I got home last night, I couldn’t resist a mad dash around our place – T-shirt, flannel pants, and snow boots, the thermometer reading 15 degrees, and the wind laughing in the trees.

IMG_4505.1lowrezToday, the sun is shining and the sky is the pale blue of winter, behind transparent clouds – The world sparkles in the chill sunlight. Delight and quiet seem to walk hand-in-hand in a world transformed: The chirrup of snow underfoot, the gentle chuckle as snow falls from trees, the icy rustle of a rabbit in the tall grass, the sigh of windblown snow on snow. It is a fragile spell that might shatter like an icicle on stone, shaken loose by a mere sigh of a breeze. But fragile or not, while it lasts the spell is binding.

This is the first breath of winter.

Laura Elizabeth

 

 

Roseberries

Wild RoseThe roses that bloomed profusely this summer faded long ago, and in their place is a bounty of red rose hips. A friend, Hannah, and I found them a week ago while we were hiking on a logging trail on forest service land. I immediately started making plans to harvest some, which Anna and I did yesterday afternoon.

IMG_1834.1lowrezRose hips, if you didn’t know this already, are the fruit of the rose plant. The hips are edible, but not raw–they have large seeds and a hairy pulp that need to be removed before the fruit can be consumed. But they can be made into jelly, or dried for use in teas. I’ve never harvested them before, since wild roses weren’t profuse enough in Illinois for any sort of meaningful gathering. Like with any small fruit, it takes a lot of plant to produce enough to logically and practically harvest from it!

IMG_1754.1LRBut here, wild roses grow with abandon, as do raspberries, sunflowers, and any other number of wildflowers which lavish their abundant color and life onto an otherwise often hash landscape. There is a beautiful paradox in the presence of a fragile flower beneath the shadow of a towering granite peak. The delicacy of a flower or the perfection of its fruit highlight the grandeur and power of towering peaks and granite spires, just as their magnificence highlights the delicate beauty and diminutive intricacy of the wildflowers. Can they really belong to the same world? Yes, and the same God created them all! What goodness.

IMG_1855.1Anna and I spent two hours out on that forest service trail. A lot of it we spent walking, but the weather was perfect and the 5:00 sun soon hid itself behind trees and hills. We found one particularly good patch of rose hips, and gleaned from there for quite some time before moving on. Next summer, I’ll have to remember that rose hips come into season earlier. There were a few places where the rose hips were much overripe, considerably past pickable ripeness. Notes for next year. But we ended up with enough hips to make some jelly (I’m thinking rose-rhubarb sounds good…) and dry some for tea. Not as much as we’d like, but enough for the first year.

IMG_1859.1lowrezBirch and aspen trees have been catching my eye lately, and more yesterday, it would seem. There is something haunting and sylph-like about their white trunks and branching limbs, more noticeable against a backdrop of ponderosa pine and grey granite than perhaps they would be otherwise. Perhaps it is C.S. Lewis’ references to birch trees and dryads in his wonderful Narnia series that have haunted my imagination and still do. They’ve always seemed different to me, otherworldly, enchanted. Along the forest service road, they clustered in hollows and lined meadowland, stark and beautiful and dreamlike.

IMG_1823.1lowrezLittle things can be so profound–The gentle cup of a harebell, or the golden glow of a head of grass. Profound and captivating, if you let yourself look hard enough and without any other expectation than to see something beautiful. How common a harebell is! How common a head of grass is! Yet how uncommon, how wonderful, how full of meaning. And how temporal, how fragile, how short-lived, soon to be struck away by the first hard frosts and the winter snow.

IMG_1878.1lowrezWhat a joy it is to have the sense of sight, the sense of smell, of touch, taste, of perception, the ability to recognize color, the permission to experience the joys of this world. Sometimes we go so quickly through life that we miss much, we miss the meaning in a harebell, or in ripe and golden grass. We miss the meaning in a towering peak, or in the racing openness of a prairie, open to the skyline. We look right past everything, missing those gifts that God has given us, the gifts we never had to work for, the gifts that demand nothing of us except the expectation of joy.

IMG_1861.1lowrezSome gifts we do have to work for, and those give even greater pleasure. One of those would be the joy of family, whether it be spiritual family or earthly. Yesterday, I got to experience some of the joy that comes from earthly family, the joy of cultivating healthy and loving relationships before God. I’ve got some pretty wonderful sisters. And hopefully they’ll help me with the rose-rhubarb jelly.

Laura Elizabeth