IMG_7564.JPGIt’s the current miry state of the driveway.

I prefer it in the mornings like this, when it’s iced over and covered in interesting geometric designs.  Not only is it more photogenic, but my walking shoes prefer the feel of crunching to oozing and the state of being dry to damp.

My children, however, like it best after it’s sat in the sunshine for a while, all delightfully wet and squishy.  This would be why mud boots are an essential part of their spring wardrobes.  Not that I am so naive as to believe that mud boots will actually keep small children enjoying a mud puddle dry or clean—but I derive some comfort from the fact that at least their feet are.IMG_7641.JPGThe rest?  Nothing a good washing machine and bathtub can’t fix.  And that’s a good reminder to praise God for this even more remarkable truth:

“I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols… (Ezekiel 36:25)

“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.  He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. (Psalm 40:1-2)





Pussy Willow IV

IMG_7561With all these thirty-ish degree days we’ve been having lately it was bound to happen, just like it does every spring.  And yet it still took me by surprise, when I glanced up from picking my cautious way across an icy patch on the driveway, to see this happy sign of spring in the ditch.  The bursting forth of these furry little buds is so predictable, yet they always manage to catch me unawares and are always, suddenly, the most wonderful thing ever.

You’d think that after thirty-some years, I’d get used to it.  But I never have, and I like it that way, so I probably never will.  I love the surprise awakening of wonder in myself, and I love that each one is a soft pearly gray little reminder of an ancient promise, a thousand repeated little bursts of assurance all across the willowed edges of the wetlands.

“While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” (Genesis 8:22)

(Since I get so excited about them every year, I have to take pictures of them every year, so if you missed them, check out pussy willows from other years here: 2015, 2016, and 2017.)

What Does the Eagle Say?

IMG_7509.JPGWith the warming of the air, the signs of spring begin.  The return of this old friend to his favorite post in the old oak tree overlooking the lake is officially the first.  I heard him one afternoon, reinstating his dominance over favorite hunting grounds for all the world to hear.  He peered at me with his sharp yellow eye through the branches, skeptical of my attempts to find an angle that didn’t make it look like he was holding a stick in his beak (as you can see I was unsuccessful, so let’s just pretend he was grabbing it to add to his nest).

And then, peering up at his grand figure in the branches up there against the blue, I thought of how to describe the call I heard, and came up short.  How, exactly, do you describe the call of an eagle?  I thought someone more learned in the field of ornithology (the study of birds) than me would have a good answer—but I must say that I was disappointed.

My sources basically couldn’t agree on how to categorize the call of a bald eagle, other than that it was too musical to be called a screech, but not musical enough to be called a song.  Some call it a combination of high pitched “whistling” and “piping” (Irish penny whistle, anyone?).  Some call it “chattering”, as though it were a squirrel.  Still others liken it to “chirping”, oddly bringing the largest bird of prey down to the level of a songbird at the bird feeder.  Others go so low as to call it “squeaking”, as though it were a mouse, or, worst yet, “squealing”, which brings to mind a very unhappy pig.  I thought of “trilling”, but even that conjures more images of tree frogs and raccoons in my mind than those of soaring eagles.  “Twittering”, perhaps?  But somehow that just reminds me of a cross old owl scowling at a lot of happily love-sick songbirds in “Bambi”, not a bird who bears the weight of being a national symbol on his shoulders.  Come on, now!  Is it too much to ask for a word that accurately describes the sound, but still manages to embody the dignity of such a majestic bird?

(To be clear, this is the call I’m talking about, not the peal call of alarm which really is more like screeching.)

So, based on that sound recording, how would you vote to finish this sentence?  The eagle __________. (Whistled, piped, chattered, chirped, squeaked, squealed, trilled, twittered, or you fill in the blank with something I haven’t thought of.)  Chickens cluck, geese honk, crows caw, swans trumpet, owls hoot—but what do eagles do?  Do you think it can be boiled down to a single descriptive word—or not?

I’m somewhat tempted to side with the writer of Proverbs on this point.  Describing the voice of the eagle in one word is a mystery that I might have to be content dismissing as “too wonderful for me” and, apparently, the English language.  Though, to be perfectly fair and in context, in this case I think this writer was more in awe of the mystery of flight than flummoxed by a fruitless late night Google search for an apparently nonexistent perfect word.

“Three things are too wonderful for me; four I do not understand: the way of an eagle in the sky…” (Proverbs 30:18-19)




All These Things

IMG_1042IMG_1043This is the story of a search for morel mushrooms.IMG_1055 Twice I went looking…IMG_0883Twice I returned empty-handed.IMG_1052But, in process of closely examining large stretches of forest floor in vain, I did make a lot of other wonderful discoveries.IMG_0880 Once, I sat quietly staring into a stand of fiddleheads so long, a grouse thought I’d left and started drumming his log within ten feet of me.  For just a minute, I thought my heart was palpitating—until I realized that he was really just that close.  Then he exploded suddenly off into the woods when I tried to shift to a spot with a better view, which is, incidentally, when my heart rate did increase.IMG_0891I nearly stepped on the elaborate den of some creature (I’d like to imagine it a fox den, but it more likely belongs to far less charming skunks), and happened upon a wolf track, perfectly dried and preserved in last week’s mud.IMG_0886-01 IMG_1039  I chanced upon a place where jack-in-the-pulpits preached in a woodland meadow to spears of blue flag leaves…IMG_1048…and another where the wild plums were wreathed in clouds of frilly white.IMG_0978I didn’t find what I was looking for—but I did find so much more.

The search for the elusive edible delicacies of the forest will continue.  One day, I’ll find what I’m actually looking for—and we’ll fry them up in butter and eat them—but even after that it will continue, because then they’ll be gone and we’ll want more. It’s one of those kind of searches, never ending, always new, always exciting.  The desire is insatiable.  If you don’t like morel mushrooms, I’m sorry that you won’t be able to identify with this, but if you do, you know what I mean.

And along the way, the search is always guaranteed to be fruitful.

Because, see, regardless of whether I came home with mushrooms or not, I did come home with my head and camera full of spring’s splendor flung glorious across the forest.  (Such riches!)  And I did find information to help me with future searches.  (Now I know where they’re not, sigh.)

It reminded me, in a happy, unexpected sort of way, of another ongoing search I’ve been challenged to, one in which I continually search for one thing of great value and end up with so much more along the way.

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33)






IMG_1076It was almost as good as Yellowstone National Park when a bear is sighted along the road.

The cars were lining up.  The phone cameras were clicking.  People were leaning out their windows, smiling big.  Nobody was out of their vehicles snapping closeups while foolishly ignoring the unpredictability of wildlife (aka a protective mama doe), but I won’t deny that I considered it.  (But did you see the look in her eyes up there?  That was pretty much enough to keep my hand off the car door handle and be satisfied with just rolling the window down.)

And these two tiny fawns, so new they were still wobbly, stood at the edge of the highway bracing their ungainly long legs and staring at their audience in wonder.  I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the first time they had ever seen cars or humans, let alone been on an outing.


IMG_1074Mama hovered nervously in the woods nearby, snorting, stamping worriedly.  They bleated back like tiny lambs as if to say, “Whatchya so worried about, Mom?  See?  These people like us.”

And it was true.  Cause, well, you know, for all the tulips I’ve ever suffered the loss of to other members of their species (it happened again this year, ahem!), how can you not be utterly charmed by a newborn baby fawn—especially when there are two of them staring at you with their big, innocent dark eyes at the same time?

Who cares about tulips, anyway.

“Do you observe the calving of the deer?  Can you count the months they fulfill, or do you know the time they give birth?  They kneel down, they bring forth their young, they get rid of their labor pains.  Their offspring become strong, they grow up in the open field; they leave and do not return to them.” (Job 39:1-4)


Wind Concert in the Pines

IMG_0770It wasn’t a strong or stormy wind.  It was a soft, pleasant spring breeze, just stiff enough to ruffle the tops of the big pines we were walking through and cause them to whisper mysteriously together.  It rose and fell with drama up above us, compelling enough to get our attention, but not enough to so much as sway the massive trunks rising around us.  Sometimes, in the moments between the squeals of little girls discovering spring blossoms along the forest floor and the chattering of squirrels indignant at our intrusion on their private retreat, we’d stop to just listen to it.

IMG_0781IMG_0783There was a kind of music to it, the kind that made me want to lay right down on that thick, soft carpet of pine needles and soak it in while I stared up the towering pillars of tree trunks to the bits of blue sky like a mosaic of stained glass above.  Then, as we neared a swamp hollow, the fluted tones of spring peepers harmonized as only nature can, and I had flashbacks to a beautiful wind concert I attended once, performed by talented musicians under the soaring ceilings of a grand lobby.  But, I thought to myself, could a wind concert be performed in any grander a place than this remote and silent cathedral of a forest, by the actual wind itself?IMG_0777At that moment, it was hard to believe not.  And if you listened closely enough, you could almost hear the words…

“Sing, O heavens, for the LORD has done it; shout, O depths of the earth; break forth into singing, O mountains, O forest, and every tree in it! For the LORD has redeemed Jacob, and will be glorified in Israel.” (Isaiah 44:23)


IMG_3594It’s the best part of spring, that brief period of time when life begins to reemerge from the bare branches and brown earth.  The world is exploding almost visibly with life, and I hardly dare blink lest I miss something.  Everywhere I look there are buds bursting open, leaves unfolding, new scenes unfolding and an unending number of discoveries to make.

Across the lake, that first cloudy mist of soft green is enveloping the poplars, contrasted stunningly against the deep evergreen of the pines.

There are the gardens to examine, where I eagerly check to see if my plants survived yet one more winter, greeting the ones who do like long-lost friends.  The ones who were just planted last year and have just passed the big test of surviving their very first Minnesota winter create the most excitement.  Sometimes, I’m disappointed (never mind, foxgloves, we’ll try again); other times I’m pleasantly surprised (hello, strawberries!).IMG_0518Then, there are the woodsy pilgrimages to make, traditions dating to my childhood, like going in search of the dainty lavender and white hepaticas that are so absolutely quintessential of a Minnesota spring.IMG_0743IMG_0741And, if I’m paying attention and watching my step as I go, there is almost always something new to discover.  Something unexpected, like the strange forms of emerging horsetail at the edge of a gravel country road.  Or a pair of sandhill cranes, flapping their half-graceful, half-ungainly way out of the maze of last year’s cornstalks.  Or a fisher bounding across a lonely, narrow, backwoods road, stopping just long enough to glance back at us curiously.IMG_0494Beauty in the expected and familiar; beauty in the unexpected and unfamiliar.  Truly,

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

But I must say that I think this may be especially true in the spring.