Monday, November 30, 2009

Childlike at the Manger

I collect nativity scenes...soon, my house will be adorned with them, even 2 in the bathroom!. They help me stay mindful of the true meaning of Christmas. I accompany many with an empty cross...representing the real message of this season: victory over death & our eternal life with our Creator. "God doesn't cause bad things", nor does he "send people to hell"...these are the cost of free will. I have so many nativity scenes that I have become selective...& have bestowed cherished ones to others, to remind them that a tiny babe, from humble beginnings should be our focus this time of year.
When my son moved up from toy, "Little People" to action figures, I shed more than a few tears. It was such a pivotal baby growing up. For my birthday, Tom surprised me with my very own Little People set...a nativity ! With great glee, I set it out yesterday. I love the simplistic joy on their faces as kings, shepherds & a host of animals have come to stand in awe of our God come to earth. Emanuel, God is with us! I pray for myself & for others, to cherish with childlike awe the newborn Christ...
How many of us would, "go back & do our childhood all over again?"...go through all the pain & growth?....Christ came in full knowledge of what was to come...all the way to the cross on which He bore our sins...seeing each & every one of our faces as He hung dieing. He chose to come...the ultimate gift of God doing everything possible to BRING US TO HIM, & NOT cast us away from Him...but He gave us the will you decide? Where will you go when this lifetime is complete? Our Lord & Creator beckons us all to come into His Kingdom...& spend eternity with Him. It all begins with a tiny baby in a manger.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Hope Candle

Our advent wreath is hung from the ceiling, reminiscent of our church in MD. Yesterday, I made my way through the forest collecting various greens with which to adorn it. I was accompanied by 2 boys on scooters, struggling to keep up in the fallen leaves. Our wreath is the first thing seen upon entering our home, as it hangs above the kitchen island. First, we light the candle of hope. Just what is it that we place our hope in? We place it in Christ's victory over death & in eternal life with our Creator. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son; that whoever believes in Him, shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16). It is easy to succumb to the stress of the seasons' activities as they strive to overshadow our Savior & Redeemer. Then we find ourselves on Christmas Eve wondering how & when we left the Christ out of Christmas. My Hope & my prayer is that we will ALL be mindful not only of the babe in the manger, but the man on the cross...Without His sacrifice, there would be no Christmas. Without His resurrection, there would be no hope.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Letting in the Light

Many people spent "Black Friday" wrestling with crowds, impatience, & desire. Most of our holiday shopping was accomplished throughout the year & we chose a quiet, yet active, day in our home. We had more of a "spring cleaning" sort of day as we vacuumed under everything that could be overturned or moved. Window seats were cleared, curtains were hung across bookshelves, & area rugs were either tossed or rearranged. Our hibernation retreat feels somehow new & fresh.Our home is small by the standards of many, but it suits us well. It is a rectangle divided in 1/2 with one end as our bath & sleeping quarters. I call the rest of our home, "The Room". Three sides have large windows which radiate forest light, creating a roomy feel.
Separated by a corner island, our kitchen allows the "chef & clean-up staff" to be a part of things. Our computer is next to sliding glass doors, where I look over the lake, & often the setting sun, as I work. Along with the "computer room", this space includes a toy/play room, dining, sitting, library, & office areas, as well as our living room & of course, my art studio. I once had students exclaim, "You must have a huge house!". I replied, "Actually, it is all one just depends on what we are doing in it at the time."
Once again, I arrive at the way one chooses to see. Our streamlined, "new home" now feels much larger than the day before as I prepared food for our holiday meal. The light from the nearly bare forest brightens our home all the more this time of year. Despite the shortened days, it is a time for new light & new beginnings. Fresh flowers, a new collection of fragrances wafting from the glow of candles, & time with family is how we chose to begin our journey towards the winter months.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Grateful Beginnings

The fresh pages of a pristine, new journal fill me with excitement & wonder. Every morning, I write at least 5 things for which I am grateful. The start of a new volume meant Thanksgiving would begin with a list of at least 100. Once outdoors, my eye traveled up through an enveloping fog. Overhead, the sky was clear & alight with dazzling stars. The blessings had already begun for my new list! I watched as the fog slowly receded, finally settling at the treeline. It was amazing!
I chose a new vantage point at the lake. Sitting on a small point between the landing & the burrow, dry grasses surrounded me. Moisture-laden acorns, heavy with condensed fog dropped all around. Save for the still water, it seemed to be raining. The thrush began its morning squabble & the Kingfisher sounded his hunt. Fog accentuates the lines of the forest & I became lost in them. The dawn's soft glow slowly lit up the cloud in which I sat. As I waited for the beaver and the tiny, diving duck to emerge, the morning peace was abruptly broken by the effervescence of a puppy.
Brimming with excitement for a new day, Buddy ran in & out of the lake before bounding across the cover of of my hand-embellished journal. He made several more passes into the water & literally across the pages as I wrote. To my gratitude list, I added, "the muddy paw prints on my journal." They symbolize the enthusiasm of a new journey which each new dawn should evoke.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Night on the Lake

The change of seasons, enhanced by the tools of Man, have broadened our lake view. From my deck, I watch the Great Heron make his dawn & dusk hunting expeditions. The russet leaves amidst the forest cove complement his blue-gray form. More than once, I have headed down to the dock, only to find him standing statuesque on its floating planks. I have also watched the Kingfisher from aloft as he glides gracefully across the glass-like waters. His chattering hunt, always catches my ear, even from this distance.
Lakeside "neighbors" are only apparent 1/2 of the year when their lights shine bright. On still nights, the glassy surface reflects parallel lights, yet the slightest ripples compel them to twinkle as stars. Flowing river currents cause them to reach towards me, as fingers reaching across the lake. Leaning against our railing, I have discerned the glimmering wake of beavers down below.

When one practices the art of '"watching", the night continues to hold treasures in abundance. I meditate on Psalm 91, as I am reminded that the God of the Universe, the Maker of all things, "never slumbers, nor sleeps". He is continuously creating, watching over, & loving us. Selah ! & Amen!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

What Teachers Hide

He walked into my art room 2 & 1/2 years ago carrying the myriad of emotions that all elementary students bring as they move up to middle school. When he timidly walked in, I noticed he had no right hand. I looked at him squarely & pronounced, "I'm not going to treat you any different than anyone else so if you ever need me to, you will have to let me know". His countenance both relaxed & grew as he radiated the acceptance I had intended. A connection was forged.
Kind & generous, polite & faith-filled, he is who all parents pray their child will grow to be. His willingness to try new things & especially his tenacity are inspiring!. While others complain of a medium being messy, he would literally be up over his elbow in it, saying, "No, it's o.k. My stub works great for this". He has overcome hurdles in cutting & even in weaving. I often say things like, "Do you need a hand?" & forever find myself using such phrases with him. As I flush with embarrassment, he always fires back a witty remark. His sense of humor is abounding! Being particularly self-sufficient & creative, he frequently works independent of the class. This results in a lot of shared, problem-solving.
There is a unique bond formed between teacher & student, particularly between artists, & especially over years. This past week, the reality of change knocked me off my feet as he shared that he & his sister (another cherished of "my babies")will begin a new life in another school next week.... An unspoken aspect of teaching is the continual cycle of grief & renewal. With a grateful heart, for now, I grieve...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Why We Moved Away From Maryland

My brother & I made a quick stop-in back "home" a few weeks ago. I took this shot on our return trip to SC. Because they were closing a lane in the opposite direction, our side of the Capital Beltway was sailing along at 20 m.p.h.! She doesn't let you go easily.....THAT is why I always say that we, "escaped from D.C."

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Return of Lines

To embrace the long gray of winter I learned to enjoy & contemplate the lines of the surrounding forest. Winter reveals these masterfully creative treasures of artistry. With bittersweet regret I watched the spring growth overtake them. The ambient glow of my candlelit mornings was replaced by the pastel skies of dawn.
As winter approaches I rise once again to light trays of candles. Peering out from my desk, the reflections of light across the lake seem to reach towards me as they sparkle in the currents. The forest makes it's last stand in brilliant color while weather & time fades them to neutrals. The lines reveal themselves once more & I am drawn to the poignancy with which I relinquished them but a few months ago.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I Didn't Know They Did That Here !

This is an old image. I had been under a tree, watching the morning alight. I happened to see something like a stick fall from a tree & swim away. After watching the liquid pattern it made, I took this shot to verify that it was a snake. I don't sit under that tree as much anymore.

Monday, November 16, 2009

It's Not About the Beaver

It is amazing how pastors often seem to be peering into me lately. It's a "God-thing". Relating the story of Mary & Martha in Luke 10: 38-42, our middle school pastor reminded us of what is to be most "urgent" in our lives: to sit at Jesus' feet. I used to rush out each morning, to spend time with my Lord. Lately, I've been rushing out to His creations. Very well to appreciate the often overlooked blessings He has poured out....I need to make sure I am worshiping the Creator & not the creations. Above all, I need to be spending my time with Him through prayer, worship, & the reading of His word.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Cascading Water

Neither of these are good shots, but I want to share with you about the waterfall behind our house. The recent rains have the waterfall behind us flowing freely once again. The weather is nice enough we can open up the screens & hear it throughout the house. To walk out on the deck, is an awesome sound of cascading water as the pond drains into the lake. Perhaps this last shot will give you some idea of how tall the falls are. They are just to the left of the image. The docks where I sit are to the right. (You can also look back to the first image I posted in September, where the falls are just out of view to the right.) I thought this was a neat moment where the clear waters of the pond met the muddy, flood waters of the lake. It's time for the beaver, so I'm off to spy my morning friend.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Glorious Morning !

I went out to catch the sunrise..."Praise You in This Storm" ringing in my head....I sat atop a log left by the flood waters. Within minutes, the beaver swam right up near me, his tail above the water this time !!! He has to have seen me in my bright, turquoise hoody...but, I am no longer a threat. I have become a trusted part of his world. A great heron lumbered past, his blue gray against the orange rusts of the forest! All around were the chattering & movements of giant flocks of blackbirds heading south. A tiny wood duck cut a silver v across the water, as the sky filled orange! Glorious God & maker of the universe !! "What is man that thou art mindful of him?" (Psalm 8)

Rising Waters

The remnants of hurricane Ida passed through our town. I actually checked the news to see her effects...a few trees down, creeks swelled beyond their banks, limbs all over streets. There was but a minute of coverage one morning. Our little niche of the world has been transformed for days. The fixed docks are covered & the falls roar. Even the protective shields on the duck houses are under water. Water on both sides of Beaver Point is now visible from the upper path behind us.

The nearby shoreline generally has a drop off to the lake. The waters, now cover the grasses & scrub brush above the shoreline. I made my way over to the landing to capture some images from my usual vantage point....Silly me, the landing was under water. I typically watch the beavers well below the line of the log in this image, next to those 3 smallish trees.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Mini-Escape 2

Do you have it now?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Becoming Part of the Forest

I sat this morning, watching the mist rise from the lake to sway across the water. There was what sounded like a gentle gnawing along the shore. I sat motionless, watching in front of me & listening to my left. A bird flew so close that I felt either his wing-tip or the rush of air on my forehead through my beanie cap !!!!
Movement caught my eye & I peered out to see a water fowl emerge from beneath the overhanging maple. On previous mornings, I thought it to be the green heron making his autumn stop-over. Today I realized it is a wood duck, doing the same. He simply floated before me, some way out. The day grew lighter & Juliette joined me, standing in front of me, parallel with the shore. Warming my hands in the multiple layers of skin & fur beneath her chin, I reached for the camera. Hoping there was enough light along the banks, I zoomed in on the duck. It pays to be aware of what is around the lens, for a silver shimmer moved the otherwise calm surface. Having just rounded the bend, a beaver surfaced & I with my camera held in ready!!!

I had no time for adjustments or zooming. He was coming fast & I simply captured what I could. He was swimming high, with both back & tail exposed as he skimmed along. Perhaps you can make out the tail in this last image...After I took it, I watched with my naked eye as he traveled ever closer towards me. He turned towards his burrow, arched his back & disappeared into the main entrance. He was so close, I could see individual hairs on his side, as well as make out the different shades in his rich, chocolatey, wet fur !!!

Returning home, I excitedly woke my husband. I told him of the bird skimming me & the beaver swimming towards me in the light. He simply smiled & replied,
"Ah ! So you are becoming a part of the forest now!"

Saturday, November 7, 2009


Last weekend, my brother & I surprised my folks by showing up at their door, over 500 miles away. The next day, we waited with daddy while momma had eye surgery. I slipped out for a little escape & got lost in these for a time...a refreshing little "side-trip" !

Can you guess what they are?

Thank you for your prayers. Momma's sight has greatly improved. She is now looking forward to having her other eye repaired on Pearl Harbor Day.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Beaver Point

As promised, here is a view of the landing where I watch for the beavers. There is even an exit at the corner of the bushes. I sit at the water's edge, hidden next to that growth. Above & behind the split in the seawall is the main entrance to their burrow. They safely make their way behind the wall to any of a half a dozen egresses.

I mistakenly assumed that they eat fish. They primarily feed upon the soft, under-layer of bark. Here is the main opening to the burrow. Both images show how hard at work they have been, stockpiling for the winter. They do not hibernate, but may sleep for weeks at a time. They raise their young over the winter, so I anxiously hope for new neighbors in the spring!!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Treasures Revealed

It has been 2 or 3 years since the "annual", autumnal dropping of the lake. This is done so in order for people to tend to their seawalls. Rushing down with great enthusiasm, for us it is a magical time of exploration & discovery. The docks are grounded & I am able to walk out to gaze upon my places of peace & meditation. I shot some images to enable you to get a better sense of my little cove. Looking across this once floating dock, my house is way up on a ridge to the right.(see first image in July). The beavers live in the far banks, beyond the crumbling boat house. I watch the sun set from the dock, then make my way across the cove to the landing, which is to the right just out of view.

I took this image to mirror the one I posted Sept. 29th to show you the magical world that is revealed. Our floating dock is around the corner to the left. I now walk from one end to the other along the shores in search of treasure. It is always such a magical time to look back on our view from a different perspective !!! We find paw prints from beavers, opossums, raccoons, squirrels, chipmunks & muskrats...There are even "tracks" of clams, as they made their way back into the water. We find a variety of clam & snail shells of different types, sizes & colors. Below our dock, I found London's long-lost, toy machine gun & he found our "missing" hot dog roasting fork. In my next post, I shall share images of the beavers' burrowing & the proximity to it from which I "watch."