Lunchtime Stroll

To stroll…that’s about all one can do when temperatures reach the 90s. Ever since the weather became nice this spring, I try to get out for a walk or a hike over my lunch hour. It is wonderful to get outside and stomp around on Buzzard’s Roost and Falling Rock, both of which are just a five to ten minute drive from the clinic. But it has gradually gotten too warm for hiking. Strolling must commence.
Cottonwood PathThere is a little “wilderness loop” trail even closer to the clinic than my other two favorite spots, which starts at Canyon Lake and follows Rapid Creek and feels relatively rural, even though it isn’t. The geese and ducks were congregated along the shore today. All the moms and dads and their little goslings and ducklings were paddling about, bathing, cooling off. They had the right idea.
Family of Canada GeeseThe cottonwoods are dropping their seeds this time of year, leaving the ground drifted with white, as if with snow. Flowers and leaves are frosted with the downy fluff. It swirled around the path under my feet, and floated through the air like snowflakes.
Cottonwood SnowIn spite of the lack of rain recently, everything is still so green, so vivid, so full of life. The ponderosas almost look dull next to the flamboyant wildflowers and the glowing green of the cottonwoods. The grasses are still lush. Yet soon all the spring newness will give way to the summer, the greens will fade to brown, and a different array of colors will be abundantly displayed. How well our world is ordered, seasons coming and going without fail.

How well God watches over and equips His Creation.

Laura Elizabeth

 

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A Little Bit of Crazy

IMG_7518There is nothing quite like the rip-roaring fun of a rodeo, and the Sutton Rodeo at the Black Hills Stock Show was well worth it. The sheer display of skill, strength, and grit makes for one adrenaline-filled afternoon. Roping, steer wrestling, bronc busting, bull riding, barrel racing, and don’t forget the bullfighters and pickup men…I’ve never enjoyed any other sport, but rodeo fascinates me.

And it goes deeper than just the fun or excitement.  Rodeo is unique from other sports in its real-life application. These aren’t skills that were perfected purely for the sake of their sport. These are skills that have been years in the making, skills that require more than just brawn or youth or speed. These are skills that are at the heart of ranch life. Go to any branding or round up and you’ll see these skills on display.

IMG_7858Our culture celebrates youth, sex, beauty, but rarely celebrates hard work or guts. Rodeo is a sport where youth isn’t necessary or demanded, sex-appeal isn’t requisite, and where feminists seem to have no sway. It is a sport where even the champions take tumbles. It is a sport where skill is rated higher than showmanship, and where teamwork, whether with one’s horse or one’s partner, is absolutely essential.  In the sport of rodeo, the ground is level – Bulls and broncs and roping steers don’t pick sides. It isn’t rigged. It is all very refreshing.

IMG_7455It is a sport where patriotism is upheld and veterans are honored. It is a sport where prayer isn’t foreign, and the name of God is mentioned humbly. It is a sport where political correctness takes a back exit. It is a sport where good sportsmanship is expected, from audience and participant alike. No one cheers when a cowboy is tumbled, unless it is to applaud him for his well-spent effort. It is uniquely American, embracing and preserving the rugged independence of the American spirit, the pride in one’s country, the satisfaction in one’s physical work, the willingness to get dirty, and to get thrown once in awhile.

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And at the end of the day, all philosophical and social appreciation of the sport aside, what’s not to love about a little bit of crazy?

Laura Elizabeth

Beginning with wonder

IMG_5385.1lowrezAs soon as I found out that the Medical Center was closed for the day due to inclement weather, I was out of my office clothes and into jeans and a Carhartt, and on my way up the driveway in the truck, camera and coffee in hand, and Enya playing on the stereo. It was about 7:30 AM, and it wasn’t snowing yet, but it was sleeting little stinging grains. The overnight fog had coated the upper elevation landscape in a thick layer of hoarfrost, transforming the hills and trees and fences and barbed wire. Those common, mundane things were suddenly beautified, enchanted, magical. A perfect day to wander the icing-up roads and take pictures.

IMG_5386.1lowrezI headed towards Hermosa. The view over the home place was frosted and silver beneath the lowering clouds. Snow was coming, but taking its time. A petty, biting wind was blowing, and everything – taut barbed wire fences, delicate dried flowers, Ponderosa pine needles, grasses – everything trembled and quivered before the nipping breeze.  I didn’t even catch a glimpse of Remington and Dove. They must have been hunkered down in a sheltered ravine or a stand of trees. Not a sight of them.

IMG_5459.1lowrezWhere Highway 79 intersects with Highway 40 and Highway 36, the fog seemed to have been the heaviest. All the naked boughs of the oaks and other hardwood trees that grow along Battle Creek were stark white. The ground almost looked like it was covered in snow. Traffic was scarce and slow. So many shades of white: the white of the trees coated in frost, the white of the ground coated in frost, the white of the sky heavy with snow.

IMG_5471.1lowrezUp and down over hills, I drove in and out of the frost. In low places where hills rose steeply, I could see a stark line where the frost began, where the fog must have drifted and glazed the trees. Iron Creek and Battle Creek were almost frozen over in places. Back towards Keystone around 9:30 or 10:00, the snow was already starting to fly.

I didn’t get home until 10:30 or so, and I could have stayed out a lot longer than I did. So much beauty to marvel at, so many little miracles, from ice-covered flowers to glistening white landscapes. Fog and frost: two of my favorite things.

IMG_5390.1lowrez Rapid City and the surrounding area began battening down the hatches last night, bracing for the first winter storm of the season. Today, this included businesses closing, schools shutting down, and the clinic closing for the day. The snow has piled up enough that parts of I-90 have closed and there is a no travel recommendation for all of western South Dakota. What a great day to cozy up and stay warm. We waited all day for the power to go out. It didn’t.

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The rest of this afternoon, I listened to an Adventures in Odyssey episode with my sisters, cuddled Kashka, the black cat, read Little Britches, got an Etsy order ready to ship out, brainstormed about turning blue jeans into denim skirts, and watched the snow pile up outside. I love winter. And I love the chance to wander and wonder, to marvel, to dream, to experience in such a small way the creative mind of an Almighty God by looking at His glorious Creation.

Any day that begins with wonder is bound to be a good day.

Laura Elizabeth

 

Quiet Day

IMG_3530lowrezA good day is a quiet day. The savor of life, for me, is the quiet and enlivening action of being. In our society, we have all but forgotten how to simply be. We have an agenda for the whole day, meals mapped out, road routes planned ahead of time, work schedules set practically in stone, social lives that keep us away from home, all in an attempt to be full, to live life to its fullest, to be efficient, to be productive, to be visibly successful – That is the mark of our society – Meshing cogs, perfectly timed machinery, society run like efficient computers, filling our minds and our lives so full that what we’ve retained is irretrievable, lost in the stimulus.

IMG_3519.1lowrezBut what about a full life that is full in its quietness? What about a life that is brimming with possibility, instead of a scheduled, itemized list? What in the meshing cogs of our society really leaves room for creativity, spontaneity, and breathing deep of life? What about forsaking some of the world’s marks of success to pursue a kind of success that is soul-deep, built on relationships with God and people? My heart hungered for a slower life, even when I didn’t realize it, but out here where there are miles upon miles of hills and trees and craggy peaks and rugged ravines, I find it easier, so much easier to simply be.

I want to live a life that is full of purpose and hard work, that is productive and industrious and useful, but I want that productivity and industriousness and usefulness to be plaited together with quietness, solitude, and relationships, and detached from the matrix of society. A four-day-per-week work schedule is ideal! I am so thankful.

On my days off, I feel as if I flee into God’s creation, hungering to see nothing of what people have made, and simply to revel in the wonders of the natural world. For a couple of months, I’ve tried to make it down to Hole-in-the-Wall, one of my family’s favorite haunts. Finally! Sarah and I had an hour and a half or so yesterday and we made a quick jaunt down our old jeep trail to that wonderful place.

IMG_3510.1lowrezThe hardwood trees have all lost their leaves by now, or mostly, and the air was crisp and ripe with autumn. We hiked along the creek bed for most of the way, scrambling over rocks, jumping from one to the other, getting tangled in young trees which are growing bravely up through the rocky creek bottom. Battle Creek was flowing high this summer. Sarah is a tall girl, and the clumps of tangled grass and leaves above her head show the waterline to have been at least 7 feet deep in this bend of the canyon!

IMG_3523.1lowrezHole-in-the-Wall is whittled away a little more each year, but there it has been for about 100 years. I wonder how much longer it will be there, and big enough for us to climb through and hike over? I hope I never have to see it collapsed, the whole ridge crumbled to a pile of rock, but one never knows – A little more of it tumbles down with every rain. It still enchants me.

IMG_3538.1lowrezThe canyon leading to Hole-in-the-Wall was glowing brightly – Blue sky, a little breeze, and warm sunlight. What more could we ask for? I guess the one thing we could have asked for was a little more time. Salsa preparations and housework in the early afternoon and small group in the evening didn’t leave a lot of time, but we still had the leisure to enjoy our scramble to and from, to stop and marvel at fallen leaves, garnet sand, and orange berries. We had time to be.

It was a good day. A quiet sort of day.

Laura Elizabeth

August | In Hindsight

DSCN0905.1 Never a dull moment! August came and went, in some ways seeming to be a very long month, in others flying by too quickly.

The Sturgis Rally at the beginning of the month put everyone on edge. It wore me out, at least. Although no final numbers have been given, the estimate was that 1.3 million people would be congregating in the western third of a state with a population of less than 900 thousand…That’s a lot of people, in case you had any doubts. Glad that is over.

DSCN0680.1We spent time with friends and family, over meals, on hikes, enjoying the outdoors and wildlife, doing some shooting and taking pictures. God has blessed us with a wonderful church home and with a strengthening community of believers with which to fellowship. What a blessing.

I spent a week with Jack and his crew working cattle in South Dakota, Wyoming, and Nebraska, which was a welcome relief from the craziness of the tourist season. “Maybe she’ll marry a rancher,” Grandma says with a laugh.

DSCN1002.1After much deliberating, I gave my two weeks’ notice at the antique shop I worked at, and worked my last day last week. It was a great summer job, but the hours weren’t sustainable. After a few months working there, I realized I needed more time at home, more time with my family, more time spent in God’s wonderful creation, more time doing the things I love. It was a good decision, I must say. If you feel like you’re about to go crazy, do yourself a favor: look for other options. Give yourself permission to think outside of the box.

Eriogonum pauciflorum - Ballhead eriogonum

Eriogonum pauciflorum – Ballhead eriogonum

I wouldn’t want all months to be as busy as August was, but it was a good month. When Sarah and I hiked this evening, we were talking about being in South Dakota. Sometimes I still have to pinch myself when I think that we’re actually living here. Sarah commented, “God really cares about these things.” He cares that for as long as we’ve been alive, we’ve wanted to be in South Dakota, our “ancestral home,” as I like to think of it. He cares that this was one of the deep longings of our hearts, the desire to be here with family, the desire to walk these hills and these trails, to smell the pines, and listen to the wind singing through the needles on the trees. We’re here. And this is home. It always has been. Even before we were here. God knows. And God cares.

Laura Elizabeth

Keeping focused

DSCN1198.1 Started work officially as a scribe at a family practice clinic in Rapid City today. What a learning experience this will be! In spite of only four hours of sleep last night, the day went well and I think I’m learning. A lot.

For those of my readers who don’t know, I have absolutely no medical background. I am an artist, of various sorts. But I have a love of learning and a desire for knowledge. As a writer, any new experience, however challenging, can only add to the depth and breadth of my writing! This will be an opportunity to grow as a writer, but more importantly to cultivate a Christlike love for people, to grow in compassion, empathy, and in my desire to serve.

DSCN1206.1Of course I was exhausted by the end of the day (actually, by 10 a.m.), but tiredness doesn’t extinguish the joy of the art of photography. I found a few pictures just waiting to be taken on the way home this evening…These pictures caught my eye as I was almost home, in an open valley on Hwy. 40. We’ve had a lot of smoke in the Hills from fires further west, and a little fog this evening, too. The haze was illuminated by the evening sun, just as it was disappearing into a bank of cloud on the horizon. The sunlight streamed golden onto neat rows of hay bales, onto the western slopes of the foothills, onto a herd of cattle grazing in the last light of today.

Photography is a way of reminding myself of what a gift life is. Life can be bleak, daunting, or even just tiring. Days are long. I’m realizing September is going to be a very long month (working six days a week). But keeping myself focused on the beauty of life, on God’s goodness as I can express it through photography and writing, is a way of keeping centered on what is really important, lasting, and blessed.

Laura Elizabeth