Clear Signal

Its ears work better than ours. Humans hear almost as well, but human ears cannot swivel to pinpoint sound. It hears sounds at both lower and higher sound frequencies.

Its sense of smell is better. It’s not even a close contest. It possesses 297 million olfactory receptors. We humans have just 5 million.

When we compare its ability to see with humans, the human eye sees more detail and color. Human eyes have three types of cones: trichromatic vision. While this marvelous creature has two: dichromatic vision. But this fur-bearing mammal has larger pupils and reflective retina. It sees much better than humans in low light conditions. Its eyes are located on the side of its head. This give it 310 degrees of vision-without moving its head. Remarkable, in contrast, the human range of vision is only 180 degrees.

This 4-legged creature was made to live life outside. Outside, during months of nighttime temperatures well below zero. Hollow dark brown outer fur traps solar energy for warmth while dense under fur insulates from extreme cold. How do two types of fur grow one animal? Equally impressive, this fur is water proof (built-in oil glands enhance this). It is also wind-proof.

This marvelous creature can store insulating body fat around internal organs-in warmer weather-to insulate it internal organs and provide energy for the sparse diet of winter. It does not choose to do this, it happens for the animal automatically. Like us-we cannot choose to have oxygen exchanged in our lungs.

Perhaps you’ve guessed.(the feature photo gives the best clue!) The spectacular animal that has our attention is the White-tailed Deer. It can run at top speeds of 40 mile per hour. It jumps 30 feet in a bound. Its vertical leap is around 9 feet. They can swim at speeds of over 10 miles per hour. In comparison, an average human speed is about 5.5 mile per hour. Both deer are human use 4 limbs in this contest.

They are beautiful to witness in their native habitat. Whitetail are the essence of wildness and mystery. We have listed numerous facts about them, but there is much more we do not know. This is part of the delight of seeing a Whitetail. It’s why the Whitetail is one of the most sought after big game animals. Deer hunters know the mystery and beauty of whitetails.DSC_0219_1139sig

White-tailed deer do something else for humans. They are clear God signals. Does it seem possible that an animal would have all of the characteristics we’ve mentioned by accident? Could these traits of the deer happen over time? Hollow guard hairs, adding insulating fat in fall, and a sense of smell 290 times better than human? We did not mention the ability of deer to switch from grass to highly fibrous browse in winter. We would not function well on a diet of high fiber-every day.DSC_0183_1131sig

God has placed millions of signals of His power and presence on earth. While some are small, they are easy to spot. Whitetails however, are large, clear signals of God as Creator. There is no ambiguity.

The deer, perhaps not Whitetail, is mentioned in the Bible too. We would be wise to emulate the deer in this way.  “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.” Psalm 42:1

Boone’s Morning (conclusion)

Boone’s Morning Conclusion

Boone scanned the woods as he slowly made each step. He had learned the art of feeling the earth before he put his full weight on it. If a twig or branch was beneath, he moved his foot to the side. There was no sound of twigs or branches breaking when Boone walked. The leaves were something else. The carpeted the floor of the woods. He could not avoid them. He could pick up his feet and place them gently on the leafy mat which was part of the woods. He did not mind that walking took longer this way. Being quiet was his goal. He intended to see things.

He had walked 100 yards when he came to the small flow of water. Crossing a stream was a delight. This one had ice on the edges and Boone’s alert eyes noticed the movement of the water beneath the crystal-clear ice. Water moving under ice was a favorite sight of his. He paused. His eyes took in the liquid beauty flowing silently below him. He looked up and picked his crossing place. Deer had crossed here too.DSC_0025_1068sig

As he reached the top of the little stream bank he took a long look to the north through the woods. It was easy to see ahead. The trees in the woods were thick but with the leaves down the late fall view was uncluttered. Nothing moved. He was reminded then of the strength of the south wind as a fresh gust bent the tops of the trees. He could hear it growl as it tore through the limbs above his head. He knew his scent went before him. He resolved to be more careful, even more quiet. He began to look for a place to sit.

 He chose another landmark in one of the trees to the north. This time it was a large cluster of basswood, the only one like it. Quietly, with care he moved northward to the trunks bunched like only basswood can. He noticed the near perfect rings of holes drilled by a Sapsucker Woodpecker in the trunk. He liked the symmetry found in the woods too. Finding it many places was one of the other pleasures of being in the woods. Soundlessly he moved to the north side of the basswood. He saw the trunks made a perfect spot to sit. They would make a great backrest. But the ground was bare. He decided to pick up a handful of leaves to pad his seat and keep him dry. Even with the wind noise, the rustle they made disturbed the deep stillness. He did not pick up any more. DSC_0094_1081

Quietly he sat down, his back against one of the basswood trunks. He was on the south side of a bowl like dip in the forest floor. He could see everything to the north. He would sit here; and watch. Sitting outside always relaxed him. As the minutes passed Boone became drowsy. But he did not let himself sleep. He’d been quiet. He’d traveled slowly observing while he moved. Perhaps there was a deer standing nearby. Slowly, he swiveled his head from east to west, then back again. Nothing moved. The gusting rumble of the south wind continued. He waited eyes open, and alert. He felt alive. Adventures like this he could picture himself doing over and over. He watched and listened. Still nothing. He knew he needed to keep moving. He was not sure how much farther to the north the lake was.

Softly he rose from his leafy seat. He picked another clump of basswood trunks visible across the bowl before. His northward steps were silent with only a slight leaf rustle. Boone had learned much about travel in the woods. The lake was ahead. He was eager to see it.DSC_0040_1071sig

After reaching the basswood clump, a burl on a birch tree led him further north. Reaching the birch, he glanced north. He could see the blue-gray color of ice on the lake. He did not pick another north facing landmark. He silently made his way to the lake. Just before reaching the downslope towards the water he crossed two deer trails. He had not seen any on the way to the lake. Yet these two paralleled the lake shore and they were only a few yards apart. He did not dwell long on the deer trails. His eyes were pulled the vista of the lake before him. He was amazed at the small hump of land that formed an island in the lake. It was entirely tree covered. In the mid-morning sun it glowed. Movement on the north end of the island shifted his gaze. A bird of prey drifted southward against the wind. He watched as the wind lifted it westward and behind the island out of sight.

He lingered on the edge of the lake for a few moments. The hike had been worth the effort. His reward was not the sighting of a deer, mink or even the fisher he knew lived in the park. His reward was something he knew he would picture again over and over in his memory. The lake pristine, its shoreline undeveloped and the feeling of wildness were his rewards. He made plans to return, for a longer hike next time. It was time to meet his grandfather. He knew the way back and how long it would take him. He turned and faced into the wind. He still hoped to get a glimpse of a whitetail deer. Boone resolved he could come back. There was much more to learn about this place. It was a better than usual morning.DSC_0119_1092

Boone’s Morning

Join me in something new. It’s been on my mind for an extraordinary long time. Meet Boone. He’s a 11-year old boy. He delights in the mysteries and wonders of nature. My idea is to use Boone to share with you some of my nature experiences. Boone is my fictional character, I chose his name today. Boone means good, a blessing.  His experiences will be based on real events in nature. My wish for you is that you enjoy this first adventure of Boone’s. My eyes actually have seen what you will read about in this first story.

Let’s call it “Boone’s Morning.”

 As far back as he could remember in his 11-year-old life, Boone had liked being outside. This morning was no different. He was taking a solo hike for 3 hours in a 10,000-acre park. This park had been returning to nature for nearly 50 years. He was ready. He’d been outside since he was old enough to walk. His grandfather had carefully taught him to be observant, and he knew how to listen to life outside. Boone could walk quietly. He knew his way in the woods.

 This was the first time Boone would go alone. His grandfather would drop him off. The drop off was just an approach, a little driveway that ended at the woods. He had his cell phone compass to keep his bearing, but he planned to walk due north. There was a lake ¾ of a mile distant. Boone planned to see it. His grandpa would be back in 3 hours.

 Boone looked into his grandpa’s eyes. He saw them tear up. But he heard grandpa’s strong voice, “You know what to do, enjoy this Boone.  I’ll be waiting here 3 hours from now like we planned.” Boone just nodded. He put his hand on grandpa’s arm. His smile said thanks. Boone turned to the woods while his grandfather drove away. The wind was strong at his back, at times it gusted over 20 miles an hour. It made a roar in the tops of the trees. Boone liked it. He did not like that the wind would move his scent in front of him long before he could see the wildlife that made this magnificent hardwood forest home. He determined to be ultra-quiet as he moved northward toward the lake which was his morning destination.

 He paused after his steps had taken him far enough from the road that he could not be seen. One thing he liked about the first few minutes in a wild place was the sense of the unknown. He did not know what he would see or hear. This mystery never got old. He gazed around him in a 360-degree swing taking in the whole woods. It smelled good here. The roar of the wind was muted. His heart swelled, this was better than he expected already.

 He took out his phone and turned on the compass. He knew he was facing north. But he knew grandpa would want him to check. North, it was. He carefully stored his phone in a zipped pocket. He took another deep breath of sweet forest air. Somewhere ahead lay the deep lake that was his morning destination. He smiled and thought, “I can do solo hikes like this for the rest of my life.” Once more he slowly scanned the trees for any sign of life. He really wanted to see a whitetail.DSC_0031_1069sig

 Then he took his first step. (to be continued.)

Thanksgiving Every Month

Thanksgiving is still on our minds. The food, family, and fun linger as pleasant thoughts. What if we gave thanks every month, all year long? It is effortless, really.

Start with a pink cumulo-status sunrise, January 2017.
Give thanks to God, for He is good. He creates sunrise and sunset for each day.2-1-17

The hairy woodpecker is largely immune to winter, even below zero temperatures in February. Give thanks to God for He is good. He created insulating down for woodpeckers. He knows what we need too.

Early spring finds this coyote on prowl at a Prairie Chicken Lek. Give thanks to God for He is good. The coyote has been provided food to
survive another winter. The abundance of spring has come. We receive his abundance every day.4-1-17

April brings blue in the form of eggs. This bluebird was half done with her clutch of 6. Give thanks to God for He is good. He created the miraculous egg! He gives us daily miracles.4-22-17

Spring reveals the power of the first thunderstorm. Give thanks to God for he is good. His power is evident in every cloud, even more in cumulonimbus. His power is for you, me.6-2-17

The flowers of June delight our eyes and clothe the land in unspeakable beauty. Give thanks to God for he is good. His love is evident in the blooms he creates. This beauty soothes our souls.6-14-17

July reminds us of Gods perfect timing. All of nature is set to God’s precise clock. In late July, without fail Cicadas emerge from their earth-bound home to become adults whose calls reverberate in the summer trees. They announce the renewal of the next generation. Everyday, God renews his love for us. His timing for us is perfect.DSC_0080_457sig

August comes. It shows us how often and much we take the goodness of God for granted. The pollinators, bees, wasps, moths and birds are faithfully on duty making fruit and vegetables which bring us health. Give thanks to God for he is good. We never tell pollinators to do their work. They follow the instructions of God who loves us.DSC_0075_439sig

September and October arrive. The colors of changing seasons cause us to drop our jaws at the profusion of color. Yet, we seldom give thanks for the eyes we use everyday to witness the beauty of the earth. God is ok with that. Our eyes are part of his love gift to us. Give thanks to God for he is good. Fall colors bring us joy. Joy is a reason for thanksgiving.9-19-1710-1-17

A full moon in November is a celebration. November is a cloudy month. To witness the moon rise above the horizon on a crisp November evening is one more in the parade of gifts God gives in a year. So is a female Pileated woodpecker demolishing a suet block in December. She was watching, and cautious; but her taste for suet won. Give thanks to God for he is good. Winter beauty is reason for thanksgiving.11-23-16

12 photos, 12 months…12 snips of 365 days of life. 365 days of steadfast 24/7 goodness and blessing from God. Give thanks to God for he is good …here is the best part for last…His love endures forever. Giving thanks? There are endless reasons because…once more…God is good.12-22-16

Made for Communion

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Cedar Waxwing, bird of community.

It benefits from kinship.

A passerine whose identity is communal.

See one, the flock is near.

Frugivorous, palate for fruit.

Black mask shields the eye,

Cedar Waxwings, made to live,

in concert with others.DSC_0156_1049sig

Humans live in community

in cities, suburbs, and towns.

We benefit from kinship.

We bear one another’s burdens.

Humans, see one, more are near.

Humans-made by God.

Made in God’s image. (Genesis 1:27)

Like Cedar Waxwings,

Crafted by God for communion with God.

Everlasting God, Creator of the Universe,

wants you to walk with him,

talk with him.

He loves you.DSC_0142sig

Another Use for 5 Senses

Sight, hearing, smell, touch, taste; every human has multiple senses. Some have 5. My gratitude for just the ability to see and hear returns with every trip outside.

Our senses reveal the magnificence of earth. Our minds revel in the splendor and grandeur of earthy majesty. Millions of photographic images of earth grandness are irrefutable evidence.DSC_0184_1006sig

Yes, we are beauty fanatics. We find beauty using all 5 senses. Have you ever wondered why a sunrise or sunset takes your breath away? What about the powerful sound of the surf, the wilderness call of a loon, the rustle of leaves in a south breeze? The scent of pine, the ocean, and freshly turned earth delight our noses. The soft touch of downy feathers, a flower petal, a gentle breeze on our skin calms us and thrills us at the same time. What about the taste of a fresh crisp apple just picked from the tree? On this earth we are surrounded by magnificence.DSC_0032sig

Our senses connect us with earth majesty. They give a fullness, and richness to life. They are gifts. DSC_0007sig

Our 5 senses point us to God. Why do humans have 5 senses? Do you take them for granted? Another question, what is the origin of human sensory abilities? Actually, this is a profound question. Reflect on your answer. Know the answer is filled with an unfathomable peace centered reality: God.

Pastor, author and speaker, Dr. Paul Tripp calls earthly beauty “sign beauty.” Tripp tells us “sign beauty points us to eternal beauty. He writes this about God, “Only his beauty can give you hope, strength, and peace. Only his beauty can give you life… be sure to look beyond what you are thankful for and see the Creator.”

Make time to go outside again, soon. Use your senses, delight in the majesty of the earth you live on, use them to lead you to him. Then remind yourself, “There is no one like the God of Israel. He rides across the heavens to help you, across the skies in majestic splendor. Deuteronomy 33:26 He is God today; his promises are real. His help always available. Just ask him. He is near.DSC_0025sig.jpg

Truth Walk

very

Here’s an invitation. Take a walk with me. You may stay at your computer. This is a walk with photos. Everything you read and see will be true. Welcome to the “truth hike.”

Our location is a United States Fish and Wildlife Waterfowl Production area (WPA). As we begin, the wind is from the southeast. The temperature is above freezing and it’s nice to be outside. We take a few steps and a plan is made. There must be white-tailed deer nearby. We adjust our direction, we will stay along the west border of this wild place so our scent drifts northward and not into the WPA.

A “prescribed fire” has recently been completed here. Contrary to what you may think, fire is healthy for a prairie like this. When fire has removed the dry vegetation, it provides a chance to see the history of the area. We stop to examine what looks like a femur from a former resident of this place. We leave it, it will nourish the mice and become part of the prairie soil.DSC_0008sig

We trek northward. We pick up a deer trail and follow it into reed canary grass. More than once a deer has jumped up in front of me. They like bedding in this thick grass. We stand and wait, expecting a large mammal to rise up from the grass. But it’s quiet, only the wind rustles the grass. As we reach the top of the hill boulders buried in the soil catch our attention. They are covered in lichen. The kind in the photo is a type of crustose. No deer yet, but this lichen is old, many deer have passed this rock.DSC_0009sig

The chances of a deer seem improved as we look east. A compact oak savannah grows along the edge of a very interesting looking wetland. We’ll take a photo of the empty bird’s nest to prove to children there are times in the year when nests do not have eggs in them. We take the deer trail into the oak savannah. We barely make a sound. We find fresh deer scat, but again, there are no deer. The ice on this wetland stretches from shore to shore. We step on the edge for a few photos to the southeast. We do not take a chance by walking out toward the middle.DSC_0026sig

Now the wind is in our faces. Our scent blows behind us. We’ve been quiet too. We walk a few steps and stop, watching and listening. We come to another low place filled with reed canary. But this one has water in it. No deer in this one. We take the deer trail leading to the south-east. There are tracks frozen into the ground at the edge of the place we are leaving. Deer use this place, often. As we reach the crest of a small hill, the dried stalk of a fall aster catches my eye. The seed has already dispersed. Still, it seems like a good subject for a photo.DSC_0032sig

Now we reach the edge of the prescribed burn area. Our search for deer now seems futile. But we stop and look behind us often. It seems wise, wolves and coyotes always check their back trail. In just a few minutes we will have returned to our starting point. But as we walk downhill and through burned cattail stalks the white shells of water snails stand out against the charred black cattail. They are beautiful. I did not mention this until now, but during the entire hike my eyes were watchful for muskrats on the ice or edges. They appear to be frozen in for the winter. Speaking of winter, look at the size of their huts! DSC_0039sigThere is an old-timer adage about this. The size of the hut is a winter predictor. Small huts-mild winter…large huts-strong winter. These are the largest I have seen for a few seasons. This may or may not be truth. Hmm, we’ll see.DSC_0044sig

Our “truth hike” comes to an end here. All of these events are true. They happened today. 

There is another consideration about truth. We prefer the truth. We need truth. Because our world is filled with untruth, the beautiful truth we find in nature is one of the reasons we delight in time outside. Today’s “truth walk” was earthly. But each photo reveals the glory of God. They point us to the “eternal truth-walk.” Isaiah said, “This is the way, walk in it…”

Jesus is eternal truth. He is the author of truth, he is full of grace, and truth. He is the Creator of the truth we witnessed on our hike. Jesus also said this about truth to those who believed in him, “then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Take a truth walk outside where you live. Then take a “truth walk” today in your soul, believe in Jesus. He is the way, the truth and the life.

Which way should we “walk?” Walk with Jesus, He is the way.