30 June 2015

We Took to the Woods

Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest; yes I would wander far away; I would lodge in the wilderness. 
- Psalm 55.6-7

A compilation of our many hikes. A few of them we do every year, a few others were new to me. 
We visited a 400 year old tree. A tulip poplar. When I thought about how it was around in the 1600's, it brought a whole sense of wonder and fascination with the age of the living woods. We hiked to waterfalls and listened to the cold water rushing over the edge and crashing below. The constant change of waterfalls is amazing, too. The water is eroding the rocks and reshaping the land every moment.

We took to the woods, drank deeply of the fresh air, and listened to the mountains sing all around us.

The trees are so tall here. They have room to grow upwards. They sway and bend with the wind. The sunlight penetrates through the leaves creating a perfect dappled light.

The birds are awake and the woods are dense. Green is abundant. Green is on the limbs of trees. Mossy rocks. The trees have grown here for a long time. The air has a sense of age that you can breathe when you walk into the woods. Tales of history and stories dwell here, and the deeper you go, the more the imagination runs into possibly myths of the ancient days when woodland elves roamed these moss covered landscapes. The skyward looking trees towering above them even in those young days. Now these woods are old, and we got to walk the trails among beautiful sights.

The light and layers of green shift with the breezes above the tops of the woods. The leaves gently fall, soft and moist from the rains of summer. 

In my imagination, these are the places of beauty and simplicity. A loveliness of old. A story still moving, but steeped in the past.

29 June 2015

Travel Notes - Long Drives

The best thing about travelling is finding really great places to stop along the way, and when at last, reaching the destination, having a cosy place to rest your head (with fresh flowers that lovely friends gave me, which I had to bring on the trip so I could enjoy them). This is what I was able to experience on recent adventures to the mountains.

The drive is a long one. About 7.5 hours if the traffic is kind, and the traffic is never fully kind, especially around Atlanta. so, my theory is that if I have to drive 7.5 hours in one day, I have to make a few stops that are fun (like a bookstore) and that revive my weariness (like a coffee shop for caffeine!). Sure, this may add some time to the total travel time, but it is worth it.

For coffee shops, the essential criteria for stopping include amazing coffee and a diverse local scene. I like to see a little bit of what is going on in the neighborhood where the shop is. Since I was driving my car on this trip, I had the ability to find the places to stop. On the way through Atlanta, both ways, I drove my Mum and I to Octane Coffee. There are three different locations around Atlanta, and we were able to visit two of them.

I love to experience these ultra hip coffee shops that I don't feel cool enough to be in. It is really fun to see how each coffee shop does things differently. Of course Atlanta has a diverse scene with a mix of college and young career folk. There is also, obviously, a huge creative movement with these coffee shops. Each place has an industrial feel, because they were in a revitalized factory, complete with tall ceilings, brick walls, big windows, and steel beams. Warmed up with wood tones, hipster tattooed creative people, and the scent of coffee, I could certainly hang out for a while. And that's what we did. Sure, I could get my cappuccino to go, but I like to sit and enjoy my coffee from a real ceramic cup (or a glass, as Octane does for their latte).

How do you take on long drives? 

26 June 2015

Tale of the Ancient Woods

The leaves rustle, blowing down the narrow lane. These ancient paths riddled with pieces of the past. Birds flit to and fro across the path as the crunch of walking adds to the melody of song.

A flat path suddenly climbs and curves up into the trees, a trail rising higher above the forest floor. The sun rises higher in the sky, but the temperature stays cool as the last summer days hang onto the day. Soon, the early frosty nights will melt in the day and the walks will be quickened.

A tiny yellow flower catches her eye, perfected by nature. She picks it, holding it carefully in between her fingers, and continues walking. It will be a lovely bedside bud to brighten her clean room.

She continues to walk on top of the fallen leaves and hears the bird song changing. The morning has waned and it must be getting close to lunchtime. As she reaches the summit, she stands on the rock clinging to the side of the mountain. The huge rock reaches out over the land. Far beyond are more peaks, more trails, more scenery.

This is life in the mountains, among the ancient trees in the old woods. And endless scenes of beautiful peaks.

24 June 2015

Mountain Air

There is something different about the mountain air. It swells with oxygen. It sways in the breezes at all hours of the day. The dappled sunlight streams through layers of leaves as tall as the trees down to the ground. Different birds chirp at various intervals of each day. Sometimes they sound like small birds, and sometimes like larger birds. The leaves rustle against each other up high in the trees, rising in falling in volume like sounds of waves.

The quiet tones of nature produce a relaxing environment, to me. As I sit outside on our large living room porch I can be amidst the sounds and feeling of nature all the time.

On a hike to Glen Falls, I can see multiple views of nature along the way. What are all these varieties of trees? Each one is different. Tall, thin, light green leaves, dark green leaves, moss, far-reaching branches.

Some more birds have joined the chorus. It is warming up. The longer I am outside on the hike, the warmer it gets. The air grows heavier with humidity as the noon time approaches. But the breeze is cool.

I am beginning to clear my mind. My imagination starts to wander. Can I ignore the rest of the cares of the day around me? Can I think of poetry, language, meditations, and words? Can I dive into this quiet space I have tried to retreat to?

19 June 2015

Take To The Mountains

The fog-laden green soaked mountains are calling to me. I do not hear the waves of the sea or the sea gulls, like some do. But I hear the sing-song of happy birds flitting among the dense forest of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I see the gentle, ancient mountains, wind-swept and softened with age and wear.

I look upon the mountains as if it were the first time. The lapse of a year rekindles the flame of love I have for them. Something mystical about them makes me ache for climbs to the top. Something about them energizes my imagination. Somehow, adventures are held in the palm of the daily hand. With what is given, the beauty of nature expresses itself so easily.

This is where I pay attention better. This is where, among the aged trees and the chilled waterfalls, I feel God's presence and so much of my own past. Here on these mountains my family has camped and spent many hours hiking the trails from when I was a little girl. Memories mix with a spiritual renewal, and I am filled. 

To build upon the past, here we will meet again. 

17 June 2015

Fitting A Lot Into A Little

It's one of those mornings where I have to fit 25 different things (errands, chores, tasks) into a very short amount of time. It's one of those weeks where every hour is filled with important things that must get done. The feeling of being stretched thin comes to mind. I can hear Bilbo Baggins in my head saying he feels like butter being scraped over too much bread.

But that only make me hungry.

I have been going, going, going at work and outside of work. Sometimes it becomes so much of my subconscious, I have dreams about it. And I have had some strange dreams lately. I wake up in the midst of one, stranger than the previous night's and as I stand up and make my bed in the morning, I think about it and why on earth I would have had a dream like that. But as I make coffee, it is already fading away to the back recesses of my mind.

Are we given too much to handle? I don't think so. I think God equips us with what we need to get it done. We may not choose to see that, but He is still there. I may feel overwhelmed sometimes with work, studying, and all the things that need to get done once I leave work, but it is temporary. It waxes and wanes each week like the moon. Always shifting and changing with schedules and plans. It won't last forever. Relief will come, and it may be unexpected. It may be a welcomed burst of rain on a hot, dry day. Like all the days we've been encountering lately.

At the end of the day, I glance out my window at the sunset and stand there for a moment. 
A pause.
To appreciate the work of creation that our Creator displays. It is a beautiful sky we live underneath, is it not? It is different each day, but it is always built upon the days of old. The beauty and creativity of our Creator lives inside of us, too.

15 June 2015

Strangeness in a World Familiar

Sometimes, I want to let my photographs tell the story. Sometimes my brain is overflowing with words and thoughts.

Where do I go with my thoughts at the end of a long day, or week? As the sky rumbles with thunder and the dark clouds drop water molecules, where do I go? When my brain is crammed with so much to think and do.

I wonder if we were to add an hour or two to the day, how that would affect everything. Schedules would be a mess. All the clocks would be wrong. Our sleep patterns would be horribly disrupted. We would think, at first, that it is a good thing. Extra hours in the day to get more done. How strange our world would quickly become.

The rainstorm at present is a cloudburst. Heavy and unyielding. A sudden river formed in the alley behind my home, flowing down toward the end of the street. Leaves are floating along, rushing down the narrow passage downhill. Since I am at the top a hill (hill in the Florida sense), it all flows away.

What if the flow suddenly reversed and decided to run toward me? Uphill?

What if the rain that falls decided to defy gravity and simply hang in the air as droplets? How strange our world would be is one small thing of our world familiar was altered. It would seem like we were dipping our minds into the imagination.

Our lives are like streams that flow in one direction. Once we pass through the grassy field of delight we cannot go back. But up ahead is a lovely trail we will pass through, so pay attention, because time only goes one way.

12 June 2015

Just Be Still

 A God in whose words there is such a height of figures,
such voyages, such peregrinations to fetch remote and precious metaphors...
- John Donne

Be calm.
Just be still.

The sky is reaching twilight.
A cool mint blue is fading slowly, resting on the horizon. Sinking lower under the weight of the deeper blue. Glowing fades into a gentle midnight as the minutes pass. Darker and darker the world becomes.

I sit on my sofa with my study materials. A cup of tea is steaming on the table next to me. The summer heat outside may be intense, but in here it is chilled, and I pull on my long cardigan. The cool air swirls around me and I am thankful for it. It keeps my mind awake.

It all fades to black, or deepest blue if it is the sky. I think about how another day fades. Was it productive? Did I make the most of the hours today? What do I need to do more of?


That is what I need more of, always. More time in a meditative, thoughtful posture with prayerful musings. Be still. Know that God is God. Listen and be attentive. And the prayer will flow out of those moments.

10 June 2015

The Book of Oxford

Collected and compiled into a small, square book are some of my favourite photographs from my recent stay in Oxford. I open up the book and flip the first page and I am back at Lincoln College, looking outside the windows toward the library. Then, I am walking back to Turl Street Kitchen, where I will be drinking endless cups of cappuccinos. 

I will gladly walk these streets of Oxford again, and I can do that easily with this little book I made. And I can also let you walk the streets, in a sense. Use your imagination, okay?

I wanted to make a little book of photos to pull out of my bag and show people, and I am so impressed with the quality of the paper and the images, especially the colour. I will happily share my delight in the loveliness of the book. My book of Oxford. 

There is something special about the tangible photo. I've always loved a handheld memory that you can easily show someone, or tuck into a book as a bookmark. This book is what I can tuck into my bag and bring along with me.

If you are thinking about making a photo book, or some prints, consider Artifact Uprising. They make some beautiful prints. All these photos were from my iPhone. I imagine an SLR would produce something even better.

09 June 2015

Small Delights: Oxford Exchange

Afternoon delight via Oxford Exchange

- A cup of coffee and a cappuccino
- People watching
- Contemplating more time spent like this
- Talking with good friend Emily about whatever pops into mind
- Browsing the book shop
- Thinking about reading all the books
- Sitting on mustard yellow chairs
- Taking in a scene while taking a deep breath
- Enjoying a cappuccino to the last sip
- Admiring a girl's brown book that stuck out of her bag
- Dreamily imagining oneself on holiday
- Watching other people order coffee
- Staying cool inside while the heat of summer rises
- Feeling thankful for the little moments of rest and enjoyment