Category Archives: Nature

the heavens declare the glory of God

Lessons From a Paraglider

Bruce and I went for a hike last Saturday at the Blanchard. Forest Block. I really enjoy this hike. It’s about seven miles round trip: just right for a morning’s outing. The trail starts out like this.

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I love how the trees stretch and lean toward each other like they’re whispering secrets about the hikers who pass underneath.

Even though this hike is a there and back type—I usually like loops because I don’t like seeing the same thing twice on a hike—this one has a delightful reward: the Sound and the San Juan Islands.

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At the overlook, Bruce and I snacked on trail mix and I snapped a few photos. Right about when we had decided to head on back, a guy and a gal showed up with some colorful cloths bundles and began to unroll it on a gravelly pad just below where we sat.

Aha, they’re going to paraglide. I got my camera ready to grab their images as they floated off.

But, my gosh, they took the longest time preparing for their flight. A couple of other folks showed up, and by their questions to the flying duo, I could tell they knew something about the sport, themselves.

The young man unrolled the kite-like cloth, smoothed it, checked it. Talked. Answered questions. Studied the area, studied the wind conditions. (Barely a breeze.) I wondered how in the world they could get their gliders up in the air with so little wind.

I couldn’t see the woman. She was hidden from view by some bushes. But the guy stood near the precipice, studying, examining, checking his equipment.

Finally, he suited up: harness, helmet. Checking, checking again. And he seemed to enjoy instructing the onlookers about the sport.

I stood there for a full fifteen minutes, holding my camera up, waiting.

The guy was extraordinarily deliberate and methodical. Like a good thriller, his actions made me tingle with anticipation, whetting my appetite, holding me in suspense. Any second, now. Any second.

I’m sure he had no idea I was watching from uphill, practically jumping up and down in my impatience to see him take off.

He raised his arms, like a frigate bird drying its wings. Yes! Get ready…

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And then…and then…

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Lift off!

Immediately afterward, the guy disappeared from view, and I was concerned he’d  plummeted to the sea.

But a couple of seconds later, he re-emerged:

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Beautiful. Almost makes me want to paraglide.

Almost.

Some takeaways from my fifteen minute observation of the paraglider:

  1. The guy was experienced. He didn’t just think he could paraglide. By his conversation and by the way he handled his equipment, he had done this thing many times.
  2. He took his time, which I think is the mark of a seasoned sportsman.
  3. He was gracious to the people who asked him questions. He had a calm, almost humble, attitude, and he was willing to take the time to explain his method.
  4. He patiently waited to take off until his female partner, with her paragliding stuff, was also ready to take off.

Some good questions for me in my writing life or for you and whatever you aspire to:

  • Am I doing all I can to gain experience and continue building my skills, like this paraglider?
  • Am I kind, and am I able to explain my methods to others?
  • Do I take the time to ensure I’m producing a well-thought out, superior product?
  • Can I work well with others, showing consideration and respect for their individual needs and preferences?

I am so glad I stayed to watch this paragliding man. My photos will remind me to imitate a paraglider whenever I work on another writing project.

 

Blackberries: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

 

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The sun is shining this morning. Gloriously so. I knew that even before I opened my eyes because the light penetrated through my eyelids.

A house sparrow perches near my window and sings a long, involved peep, dee, doodly, peep, zee doo-dah, peeply, peep, peep, dee riff. The length of his song makes me breathless, wondering when the tiny bird will come up for air. As a former singer, I wish I had that kind of breath control.

Yay, it’s the season for tulips and daffodils.

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I absolutely love mornings, especially by the sea, and especially when it’s a spring day. But with spring comes the yearly chore begins of inspecting the gardens and deciding what to prune, what to fertilize, what to dig up, what to plant.

Yesterday I spread fertilizer and weed killer on my lawn and wondered why nothing seems to kill the blackberry which has spread from the vacant land behind our house, submarined its way to our unsuspecting lawn, its thorny tentacles emerging  among the blades of grass like horrible zombie fingers from a fresh grave.

Today, I’ll go outside and check to see if there are any more invaders in or around my little patch of grass. Blackberries are like spiders: they’re fine as long as they stay where they belong. In the spider’s case, I talk to them just like this whenever I encounter one: “Okay, spider, just live in the garden and it’ll be live and let live. But if you get it into your spider head to hunt bugs inside my sacred, spider-less abode: you’re dead!”

Same with blackberries. Stay in your patch with all the other blackberry bushes and don’t go thinking—I’m sure blackberry bushes can indeed think—that there are greener pastures, like in my lawn or garden.

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“Die, monster, die!” I growl as I spray and spray and spray weed killer, saturating each thorny length of vine.

I should have been wearing gloves to get this shot:

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A few days later, the blackberry withers, browns, and shrinks back into the earth. But I know it will be back. Blackberries have more lives than cats. I remember my dad doing the annual battle with them back at our home in Lafayette, California. But one year, before my father could poison the vines, my brother, Jay, harvested the berries and we had several week’s worth of blackberry syrup for our pancakes. Wow, was that ever wonderful.

There’s nothing better—in my opinion—than a ripe succulent blackberry. Don’t bother to take them home and wash them. Just blow off the debris and pop that little sucker in your mouth. Heavenly.

But the thorny vines? Oh, the battles I’ve fought, the scars I’ve accrued!

They want blood, they crave human blood. Just like zombies.

And if you think you can merely chop them into submission, you’re wrong. They’ll grow ten more thorny vines to replace the one you amputated. I kind of suspect that if I slept near a blackberry bush, it’d wrap itself around me during the night. That’s how fast they grow.

I wish we had thorn-less blackberry vines. Do they have such a thing? If they did, I’d tear out my lawn and let the blackberry bushes go to town. I’d cut little alley ways vertically and horizontally through the bushes. I’d tenderly nurture the plants-as if they needed it!—and speak to them lovingly, stroke their pretty serrated leaves. I’d plant blackberry bushes in pots and place them on my deck, and show them off to my dinner guests. I’d write poems about how lovely blackberry bushes are, how benign and productive they are, how they serve mankind.

But, alas, the reality of those thorns keep the blackberry vines relegated to the outer limits of my property.

I just hope, that come late July, I get first dibs on the tasty berries. After all, none of my neighbors has had to chop and hack at the blackberries. I’m the one with the battle scars.

Blackberries are a good metaphor for all of nature. You can enjoy them, feast on them, hike near them, even camp near them, but remember, they’re wild!

i’m not going to even try to construct some kind of biblical metaphor with blackberry vines as the evil intruder and how we, as Christians need to be on our guard to keep at bay their intrusion.

Nope. Blackberries have wonderful tasting berries, but they’re intrusive and their thorns are lethal for your unprotected skin. That’s it. Anything else is just plain silly.

 

 

 

A Nature Day

I knew before I even opened my eyes this morning that Spring was going to make a showing this morning.

I was not disappointed. The fog dissipated, crocuses on the front yard are opening, birds arrived on my porch, looking for black sunflowers in the bird feeder. It’s empty. Another errand to do this morning.

And I’m not going to apologize for getting exercise. Yes, I need to get writing done.

But first….. a long walk.

I drove down Fairhaven Parkway and found a place to park. Took the Interurban trail down to Marine Park. When I got there, a bunch of older guys had suited up and put their kayaks in the calm waters. I got a good photo of them as they paddled off into the sound.

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On my way back from the park, a freight train neared. I love to stand up close to trains as they pass and be bowled over by their size and the blaring horns at the crossings. I guess I’m still a kid inside.

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A little farther up, I encountered these sleeping ducks. They didn’t mind me at all. Even the train didn’t rouse them. I wish I knew what that big whitish fellow is on the top right. Oh, and a flock of white geese flew overhead, going north. Perfect V-formation. Does anyone know what they are? Not Canada Geese.

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And on my walking route back to my car, I passed this old building. It’s name makes me chuckle. In case you can’t read it, it says, “Bailey Brothers Building and Loan.” A reference to the building and loan business of the same name in the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life. One of my all-time favorite classic movies.

 

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I went to Lowe’s and purchased an enormous bag of black sunflower seeds for my birds. When I went out to my porch to refill the squirrel-proof feeder, I found ample evidence of the squirrels’ displeasure. They’d been foiling me in my attempt to save some seeds for the birds. So I bought  a hanging feeder that uses the squirrel’s own weight to press down on a lever that prevents the squirrels from extracting seeds.

They’re awfully mad at me, as you can clearly see by what they’ve left behind.

 

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Oh well, it’s a beautiful day. The sun is shining. I’ve had a five mile walk, and finished it with a delicious cup of coffee from Tony’s Coffee House.

Not to mention, I got lots of time to pray during those five miles. Thank you, Lord, for this unusual chunk of time for refreshment.

 

 

 

Cactus Underwear or Cascade Mountain Lake?

 

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A very wise man, Dennis Prager, has said that the most grateful people are the happiest people.

And even though Dennis Prager is not a Christian (he is Jewish), he adheres to the biblical theology that people are made in God’s image, made for His purposes, to reflect Him in all we say and do.

The Bible is filled with accounts of God’s people singing, dancing, playing on lovely and loud instruments, verbalizing their praises in both speech and song to God.

Praise Him, all ye little Children

Because gratitude, rightly understood, involves thanking someone outside of ourselves, it lifts our minds and hearts away from our poor, poor selves, and focuses it on someone else, on the giver of the gift, even if temporarily.

Gratitude is an outpouring of faith. Without faith, it is almost impossible to thank God for hard times. Because faith says: “God, I don’t understand, but whatever comes my way I will trust you, because I know you are in control and you are working out a greater plan for my life than I can imagine. Thank You.”

I’m a pretty thankful person, most of the time. Probably because, growing up, I didn’t have too much, I very much appreciated what I received. My parents weren’t wealthy, and I was well aware of their struggle to provide for us kids.

In my church and in my community I know both grateful and ungrateful people, and let me tell you, there is a huge difference between them. People who only focus on the negative things that happened to them in their day aren’t too pleasant to be around. These are often the same people who complain whenever something isn’t exactly what they want. Their attitude is ruled each day by what they did not get, what other people aren’t doing to please them, or how the weather or traffic conspired to cause them grief.

Do you know people like that? I do. Sometimes that person is me, temporarily.

But I try to get out of that attitude quickly, because it’s not a pleasant place to stay. It’s like living in cactus underwear. Prickly, scratchy, get-me-out-of-this! And who wants to be too near a cactus?

And, being an old woman now, I’ve come to know that my best days are the days when I’ve taken the time to get my eyes off myself, to look around and list the wonderful things I’ve been blessed with. I call days like this, “Cascade Mountain lake days.” Could anything be more lovely and inviting?

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I recently purchased a sweet little journal called, “A Life of Gratitude.” The book, by Lori Roberts, takes you through daily written exercises where you list blessings, or positive thoughts, or beautiful things, etc. It’s not necessarily a Christian book, but since I am a Christian I prefer to do these exercises while lifting to God in gratitude each thought that I write down. After all:

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James1:7, NIB Bible)

 

Here’s what I’m thankful for today: Jazz music woofs from the speakers down on the lowest level of the house. Because my loving husband is actually home this week, working in his office. He usually travels, but today he’s around. I’m thankful for him.

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It was cold this morning. I slipped warm socks on my feet and marveled at how God constructed my size 6, double E width feet. How they take a daily pounding under my 125 pound frame, but they’re still ready to carry me on the next 10-mile hike.

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It only takes seconds to notice something God has provided you, then utter an awed prayer of thanks to Him.

It’s a great habit to cultivate. And I mean to keep cultivating it each day.

“And whatever you do, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Col 3:17 NIV Bible)

Which Path?

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Since moving to Bellingham, I’ve become intrigued and delighted by all the paths and trails through and around the city. We’ve recently moved to another neighborhood, and I had no idea there would be just as many trails (part of the Inter-Urban Trail System) on the north part of town.

One minute I’m walking through a neighborhood, the next, lush cedars, alder, pines and firs, and blackberry thickets obscure houses and streets. Here, the Steller jays, crows, nuthatches, woodpeckers, squirrels, deer, and—no doubt—coyotes and bobcats, reign, and the interference of a small woman is but their momentary annoyance.

Sometimes I come to a junction of trails and wonder which one I should take. Each path will lead me to a beautiful ending. I may conclude my hike when the path deposits me onto a neighborhood street. Or, the trail may wind its way to Whatcom Falls, and on eventually to glimpses of Lake Whatcom—if I have the time and energy.

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I used to think of my life as a path, of sorts. And if I didn’t take the ‘right’ path, somehow God would be disappointed with me and I would miss some wonderful blessing.

But as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to the recognition that life presents each of us choices. It isn’t always a decision between a bad choice and a good choice Sometimes we are presented with several good options. What to do?

Which college major should I choose? Should I marry this person? Which job should I interview for? Which church should we attend? Where should we live?

There are paths that all of us, if we are Believers, should take without question. But beyond that, God has given us sound reason, consideration for those around us who would be effected by our choice, the counsel of others, and a praying, trusting heart.

If I choose to take the fork that leads to Whatcom Falls I will be blessed by seeing some lovely scenery. But if I choose another well-worn path, I will be equally delighted by views of the Sound and the city. Neither choice is bad.

 

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Sometimes God makes it very clear that he wants me to go a certain way. He will close doors of opportunity and then open another door which didn’t seem to be an option earlier.

Sometimes, I feel all alone in a decision.

But, I am not alone. The Psalm 139 says, “If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” (NIV Bible)

For many people, the beginning of the new year is a time for reflection and for choosing a different path. That’s sometimes good, as long as we realize that though we can make plans, God has the ultimate plan. His plan for his children is always good, even though it may wind through desert paths, or dip into dark forest where it is hard to see the trail.

He knows the plans He has for you.

Jeremiah 20:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord.” (NIV Bible)

Seeking the Lord is the best plan you can make for 2018.