Vacation Vignettes: Guardhouse

IMG_3606-1I certainly didn’t expect the guardhouse to be the most inspirational spot during our tour of a circa 1840’s fort, but that’s how it turned out.  As I stood next to the row of prison doors, looking down the narrow hall to this window of light flooding in, a verse of a favorite hymn came overwhelmingly to mind:

“Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.”-–Charles Wesley, 1738

Fort Wilkins, Keweenaw Peninsula, Michigan

Vacation Vignettes: Beach

IMG_3052.JPGCome with us to the beach!  You know, that one that kind of seems like our own little secret, since you have to drive around a giant mud hole to get there, and then try not to get stuck in the sand while parking where the woods end and dunes begin.  The other people sharing it with us are so far away we can almost imagine that the only creatures we have to share it with are the stray seagulls eyeing our cooler in hopes of handouts.  The sand is so hot it scorches our bare feet and the water is cold enough to leave your body tingling deliciously after a single dip.  It’s perfect.

Come run races down the hard-packed sand at the edge of the waves that go for miles, sending splashes sparkling to the sky, as hard and as fast as you can.   Come make snow angels in the sand, face down, so the sun can soak your back.  Come stand still and contemplate the art show where wave and sand meet, ripples and layers in constantly shifting patterns.IMG_2992.JPGIMG_3829Come wander amidst the white bleached driftwood, polished smooth by a thousand relentless waves.  Come find smooth silvery bits to tuck into pockets as souvenirs, leaving behind the charred bits that are lovely memories of sunset beach fires and happy gatherings.IMG_3841IMG_3840Come toil up through ankle-deep sand to smell the wild sweet peas clinging to the dunes, trailing tenacious vines along the heaps of shifting soil beneath the nodding grasses.IMG_3002.JPGCome watch a little blue sailboat slowly unfurl its white wings as it heads out to sea.  Come watch the children with sand for freckles who build endless castles, never tiring rebuilding what the relentless waves erode.  Come beware of children with mischief twinkling in their eyes and that bucket full of fresh cold lake water they’re saving for when you’re back is turned (it will be refreshing).IMG_3039.JPGAnd when the sun and the wind and the splashing and the dunking and the running and the wandering has produced an appetite that seems as boundless as the blue waves reaching to the horizon, come and eat.  There are slices of cold turkey, pickles and Jarlsburg wrapped in pretzel rolls or soggy sandwiches accidentally dropped in the lake, whichever you prefer.  We have rosy-cheeked Ranier cherries and sandy granola bars for dessert, to hold us over until we drive past the ice cream shop that stocks Mackinac Island Fudge on our way home.

And perhaps our humble meal shared on a stretch of sand will remind you, just the tiniest bit, of another picnic on a beach thousands of miles away, a couple thousand years ago.

“The other disciples came ashore in the boat. They dragged in the net full of fish, for they were not far from land, only about a hundred yards.  When they landed, they saw that a charcoal fire had been prepared, with fish on it, and some bread.  Jesus told them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, one hundred fifty-three. And although there were so many, the net was not torn.

“Come, have breakfast,” Jesus said to them… Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and He did the same with the fish.” (John 21:8-13)

And since this a vacation, after all, we’d linger even longer and read the whole chapter.  This day we shared at the beach was pretty wonderful, but that story?  It’s my favorite beach story of all time.

 

Vacation Vignettes

IMG_3724There are two things that cause writer’s block for me: having nothing to say, and having  altogether too much to say.

Coming home from vacation last week has been the latter problem for me.  I saw so much, took so many photos, thought so many thoughts and every time I sit down to try to wrap it all up in some neat little package of an essay, the sheer volume of it all overwhelms me.  After trying for a week, I’ve even considered not sharing any of it and just continuing on with regular local posts as though we never went anywhere.  Many of you would be none the wiser.

But then you would never get to see an endangered species of turtle.  You’d miss what the sunset looks like from the top of Brockway Mountain and the way the spray on your face feels like at Bond Falls.  You’d miss the warm sand between your toes and the feel of smooth polished bits of driftwood in your hand.  That hardly seemed right.

So, rather then lump them all together in one post, I’ve sorted all my photos into virtual piles and I’m going to give them to you one chunk at a time, as themed vignettes that will, altogether, sum up our golden little time away beautifully.  After all it was Jesus Himself who said…

“Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” (Mark 6:31)

If they can serve as a tiny vacation for your soul, too, I will have counted my time well spent.  Stay tuned!

Goldeneyes and a Chimney: a Birthday Tale

IMG_1966“Why are there ducks zooming around and around our house?” I asked my husband between bites of pizza.  It was our youngest daughter’s first birthday, and we were celebrating out on the porch.  There was a chocolate cake resting in state on the kitchen counter, awaiting its demise, and the sunshine of a splendid June day was slanting long across the green fields.  She was grinning happily as blueberry-purple-carrot puree dribbled down her chin onto her bib, oblivious to the fact that this was all supposed to be about her.  “It’s almost like they’re playing or something.”

We see plenty of ducks flying around here, but they’re generally zeroing in on the lake–so this was odd.  Around and around they went at top speed, wings whistling, tilting around the tree tops.  I’ve never been to an airshow, but this kind of seemed like one.  I moved my camera setting to Sports and attempted a few flying shots in vain.  I couldn’t even find them in my viewfinder, let alone get a clear photo!

Then, as I stepped off the porch in hopes of a better vantage point, I noticed something else.  Whenever they’d pass the garage, they’d kind of pause and flutter in around the chimney before taking off to resume zooming again.  Not just once but every time.  Now my curiosity was definitely piqued!IMG_1943I began creeping my way across the yard, in hopes of catching a photo during one of these chimney pauses.  And then the plot thickened: as a couple of them were fluttering about, one landed…IMG_1935-1poked its head in the chimney…IMG_1937.JPG…and then disappeared!  What?!

One of the other ducks fluttered confusedly about and then landed on the ridgepole.  It eyed me suspiciously as though to inquire, “What did you do with my friend?”  I took advantage of its distraction to get a good close shot before I ran back to the house.

“I think one of those ducks just went down the garage chimney,” I informed my husband. We both went to investigate. He opened up the chimney pipe and peeked inside.  Nothing.  He shrugged.  I shrugged.  Maybe I had been mistaken.  We waited a few minutes, then turned to leave.

Ka-boom!

Without any warning, one winged body exploded from the chimney pipe, followed by another.  Two ducks!  In the garage!  Bang!  Crash!  Suddenly everyone was ducking and running, yelling in excitement.  A crack in a garage door was all they needed, however, and then they exploded out into freedom.  I watched them settle onto the mirror glass of the sunset lake, shaking their little bodies as though to rid themselves of the memories of claustrophobic chimneys and dark unfamiliar garages.

Well, that was exciting.  And now that we’d had our free entertainment for the evening, it seemed like a good time to break out the chocolate cake and the bird identification books and find out what kind of ducks they were and what they were doing.  Did you know that common goldeneyes (the identification we finally settled on) are some of the few ducks that are considered “arboreal” which means that “much of its nesting is done in cavities found in mature trees”.  Did they think that our garage chimney was a just another hollow tree?  Seems like a reasonable explanation.  But why so many of them interested in it all at once, this late in the season?  This answer was not to be found in the books.  If you know the answer, let me know!

Moral of the story:  Some birthdays might just unexpectedly be for appreciating the sometimes taken-for-granted fact that on the fifth day “God said…”let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” So God created…every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and…let birds multiply on the earth.” (Genesis 1:20-22)

 

 

 

Free Indeed

IMG_2096Freedom is not merely the happy state of a blessed country.  It is also can, should, and far more crucially, be the state of a soul.  And if the souls of the people of a country are not free, can it really be said that such a country is free?

“Jesus said…“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free… (John 8:31-32)

“For freedom Christ has set us free…Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.  For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.” (Galatians 5:1, 13-15)

The Voice of the Turtle

painted turtle / rejoicing hillsWe like turtles around here.  However, I must say that the biggest turtle enthusiast in our family is my husband.  He’s the one who knows the interesting facts, has found rare turtles species in the wild and knows how to pick up a snapper without getting snapped.  It’s an affinity that began for him in his childhood, and was one of the things I immediately liked about him when we first met—and still do.

If we’re lucky, one will come through our yard at some point around this time of year, looking for that perfect place to lay her eggs, and he’ll take the girls to trail along at a respectful distance to watch in fascination.   He’ll turn our vehicle around when we pass one along the road, and go back to get a closer look.  If said turtle happens to be toiling across the middle of a treacherous highway, he’ll help it the rest of the way across in hopes that it will avoid getting crushed by a car.  Sometimes, if we’re not along, he’ll even bring a particularly interesting one home for the rest of us to see.  I’ll hear him drive up, then call in through the door, “Hey, come on out here girls!” and I’ll know without him saying another word that he has a turtle to show us.  He was totally using his I-found-a-turtle tone of voice.  He’ll show the girls their pretty painted shells or how they can snap a stick in two, and then he tells them stories about the turtles he caught and saw when he was a boy.  (Yep, he’s pretty cool.)

snapping turtle / rejoicing hillsBut me?  While I do have nice childhood memories of watching for turtles sunning around the edge of a pond we passed during family walks, oddly enough, the first memory that comes to mind when I see a turtle is also one of the biggest Biblical disappointments I ever received as a child.  There was a verse my mom would read us in the spring, from the beloved lyrical King James Version we were raised on.  It goes like this:

“For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.” (Song of Solomon 2:11-12)

As a child, my imagination was completely captured by the idea that a turtle could have a voice.  The turtles I knew did not make any sounds, so I imagined that the author was referencing some sort of exotic Middle Eastern variety of turtle, or even perhaps a variety of turtle that has since gone extinct.  And since it was described as “heard in our land”, and referenced in poetry, surely that must mean that it was a distinctive and compelling voice.  I imagined it as some cross between the sound of a crocodile and a frog, but a bit more musical.painted turtle shell / rejoicing hillsImagine my disappointment, then, when one day we decided to dig a little deeper into the actual Greek behind the Scripture reference and found out that “turtle” was just an abbreviation for “turtle dove”.  Of course that made more sense, but my childish fancy had been crushed.  I never quite got over the disappointment.

Until—

A few years later, as an adult, I discovered that the Bible did support the idea of talking turtles.

“And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” (Revelation 5:13)

And just like that my fanciful notion became a future reality, and I went from being charmed by the idea to sort of quaking in my shoes at the awesomeness of it.  One day, the voice of the turtle will be heard in the land, along with an innumerable host of others that are currently voiceless (skunks! salamanders! butterflies! etc!).

Now think about that.

View From a Hammock

IMG_1341There’s a breeze coming in off the lake, this hot afternoon in early June.  There’s blue sky smiling down at me through a lacy frame of green, green leaves.  Summer is in the air, and I am, appropriately, drinking it in from the luxury of an airy vacation hammock.  If the air is full of summer, the views are no less so—and so I offer you these vignettes, all visible, more or less, from my leisurely post.IMG_1467A kayak,

slice of orange against the liquid lake,

dreams of sliding through fleets of miniature maroon lily pads,

suspended on the dainty ropes of their anchored stems,

beneath the deep shadowy green of overhanging trees.IMG_1451A jeweled beetle climbs relentlessly upwards

as small hands tip a stick back and forth

and inquisitive eyes watch in fascination,

filling with tears when it finally loses patience

and flies away.IMG_1208Relentless waves

wash a thousand coiled empty snail shells

all the miles

down the long lake.

They come to rest here,

on this smooth spit of sand suddenly rising to block their path—

and so it becomes their final resting place.

And then, chubby baby hands clutch them tightly,

turning them around and around

and over and over

in sheer enjoyment of the sensory shape.IMG_1318IMG_1475 IMG_1474Bare feet,

sandy,

dripping wet,

run up and down long flights of stairs,

earning the right to ice cream cones and fat slices of watermelon.IMG_1359IMG_1415Ducks dabble along the quiet green edges.

A family of geese tests the calm waters of evening,

with a babysitter in tow, just in case.IMG_1412Great clouds sail sedately by,

swimmers leaning back against the cushion of a swim trampoline,

squinting into the sunshine to watch them mesmerized,

rocked in the cradle of the waves,

laughing at a joke I’m too far away to hear.

And I leave my hammock to go join them.  Because if there’s anything possibly better than celebrating our Father’s good gift of a beautiful day in the stillness of your own soul, it’s celebrating it with others.

“We were like those who dream…then our mouth was filled with laughter and our tongue with joyful shouting…The LORD has done great things for us; we are glad.” (Psalm 126:1-3)

“I will thank you forever, because you have done it. I will wait for your name, for it is good, in the presence of the godly.” (Psalm 52:9)

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