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.)

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.

While Chickadees Flew Overhead

A man I respected once explained what goodness is. He said, “Goodness is when everything is just right.” When everything is just right in nature things are beautiful and serene. Experience this once and you will desire the experience again. This kind of goodness we seek.

Where does the goodness and serenity of nature come from? Try this explanation. The peace and serenity humans delight to find in nature comes from the Sovereign presence of God. Can this be the explanation for the bliss humans feel when outside? It not only can, but is the reason we delight in a sunrise or sunset. It’s why we are awed at a rainbow or the mirror images on the surface of an entirely calm lake. It is a distinct pleasure to experience the sovereignty of God.

Sovereign means supreme, absolute, matchless. God is all of this. God is infinitely endlessly more. He is the author of the serenity and peace found in nature. His infinite nature instills an endless fascination and awe in the place beyond the current building you are in. He is the final authority, no one is greater. Because He is Sovereign, his presence is everywhere; especially in nature. It inspires the awe in us. This fact often escapes ultra-busy human beings.

You want this serenity. To understand why and see the sovereign presence of God, take a child outside. The best age is under three. My 20-month granddaughter demonstrated this to me recently. There is a coulee (deep valley) in their backyard. This little girl delights in this place. We sat together on the ground near the top multiple times. She was enchanted with the chickadees flying in the trees overhead. The first time we went I said, “shh,” she became still, reverently still. While I delight in the quietness and beauty of that place, watching my granddaughter enjoy it was a greater delight. It is not an accident, this quiet stillness from a 20-month old. We did this two more times; her response was always quiet, reverent awe. She’s 20 months old! Can you imagine a 20-month old sitting still, for even 2 minutes?

Jeremiah must have sat on the edge of a coulee. He sensed “everything being just right.” He wrote, “Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you. (Jeremiah 32:17)

 Just one more truth needs to be expressed here. Sovereign God, Creator of all life and the peace and serenity of nature loves you. Remember, nothing is too hard for Him. Sit in a place where chickadees fly overhead. If possible, take a little child. Know God’s “everything is just right” is for you.DSC_0060_785sig

Calm Day-Calmed Heart

 

It’s 4:13 PM. The wind is calm. Calm would describe the wind speed since sunrise. Today has been still.

A calm day does something positive to the human spirit. A tranquil sunshine filled day produces optimism. There is a sense that everything is right at least in your part of the world. Happiness is a bi-product of a calm day too. Troubles fade. The difficulties of life are washed away by bright sunshine. Peace descends upon your heart. Stress from a thousand things slips away in the quiet. All of this happens, but only if you are outside.

Analyze a calm sun filled day, or a calm peace filled sunset. The absence of wind calms the human spirit. On a calm day our emotions settle. What makes a calm day? The absence of wind. Wind circulation occurs in two specific types, there are general and secondary winds. General winds occur over all the earth. They are the prevailing winds. There are two belts of them at 30 degrees north and south latitude. We call them trade winds. Secondary winds form within general circulation. Air or wind flows into areas of low pressure and away from areas of high pressure.

We know the science. We know why winds form and how. But, no human can control the wind. We have tried and continue to attempt to control the wind and ultimately the weather. The bare truth is we cannot.

We can simplify this discussion. Where does wind come from? God directs the wind. The Psalmist, said, “He makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth; he sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses.” Psalm 135:7

There are days when God keeps his winds in his storehouses. He calms nature and then he calms us. I think God sends calm days to get our attention. Psalm 46:10 reminds us to “be still.” One of my favorite reminders from God is “be still.” A paraphrase of the Bible, the Message, expresses “be still” this way, “Attention, all! …See the marvels of God! “Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything.” (Psalm 46:8-10)

A calm day, a cattle-filled sunrise, a quiet moon permeated sunset, these are the tranquil times outside. Especially during these times God calls us to be still. Step out of the traffic from time to time. Set aside your work, your sports, your recreation, your desire for things. Look long at God who loves you. You will find him holding out his hands, his eyes calling you to come into his love. Be still.DSC_0007_743sigDSC_0044_724sigDSC_0028_723sigDSC_0009_633sig

 

Prescribed Fire

When fire burns in your life, expect God to be at work purifying your life for His purposes.

Think about fire, like ablaze, flames and conflagration. We do not want to be trapped in fire, but what if fire was good for us?

What is fire? There are two kinds: physical and spiritual. Physical fire is heat and light; and more. It is a chemical reaction and when a fire burns it is called combustion. The chemical reaction is with oxygen and a fuel gas. Not gasoline, but the gas released when fuel is heated above a specific temperature. In the photos, the fuel is a handful of twigs from our lawn. Dry leaves started this fire. When small twigs just above the leaves reached a temperature of 300°F, the heat began to decompose the cellulose material in the wood. As the fire began, smoke formed. Smoke is a blend of the compounds of hydrogen, carbon and oxygen. As long as there is fuel and oxygen a fire will continue to burn.DSC_0033sig

The fire in the photos was controlled. It was pleasant and gave off a comfortable heat and an agreeable aroma of wood smoke. Uncontrolled fire is dangerous and causes death and often significant destruction of property. We humans fear fire in an uncontrolled situation. We should.

There is secure kind of fire. A prescribed fire is one recommended by a biologist. Biologists responsible for the health of habitats regularly use prescribed fire to maintain optimal plant growth, return nutrients to soil, minimize the spread of plant species not native to a habitat, and generally improving live in a food web. It seems counterintuitive, but prescribed fire is beneficial. Centuries before settlement and increased populations, fire was a normal and restorative part of forest, and prairie habitats.

Fire has a role in our spiritual lives. It is at times, destructive, but it can also be highly beneficial.  The Bible speaks of fire in both ways: destructive and beneficial. It describes God as “a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:29 God uses fire to strengthen us. This is the spiritual fire. Call this fire trial.

No human living enjoys life trials. Yet, God allows us to experience them even suffer in life trials. Why would God do that? Doesn’t the Bible tell us God is love? How can a loving God allow us to suffer trials? They hurt, bring pain, and heartache.

God knows what life trials do for us. Physical fire purifies metal. Fires burns away impurities and leaves pure metal. Earthly trials for humans burn away human impurities: pride, ego, coveting-you know-all of the things we humans do which fail to meet God’s standards. God is the author of earthly trial (fire) He prescribes it. He knows exactly how much fire you can withstand. While the fiery trial rages in your life God is watching. He knows when you can stand no more, He knows when the trial has done its purifying work. Think of it, is there anyone in the universe who knows you better than God the Father? There is no one. Besides this truth, remember another, God loves us. His love is perfect and unchanging.

Are you experiencing a fiery trial? Turn your heart to God. Tell Him about the fire. He is allowing it. Seek His strength. While it may hurt, let the trial (fire) do its work. When God prescribes a fire, He knows what it will do for you. In a fire now? Trust God. He is working the purification of your heart

…everything that can stand the fire, you shall pass through the fire, and it (YOU) shall be clean… Numbers 31:23DSC_0049sig

Hope, Perfect, Everlasting

This week is unlike any other in my memory. It seems the world is falling apart. Appalling human behavior produces fear in our hearts, the world as we know it, appears in shambles. Though difficult to acknowledge, evil activities are daily occurrences in our world.

We search for something to give us hope. In times of trouble we are even frantic for it. Yet even in darkest times, such as this week, there is always hope. In a world that seems chaotic, and hopeless- hope is accessible. Really, hope is always near.

Your skeptical human nature says, “no chance…have you seen what is happening in this world?” Since you are already dubious, here is one more statement to question. The moon, full this week, provides us with concrete evidence that hope is always near. The moon? You are thinking, “this is a reach?!!” Yes, the moon is consistent evidence there is a God, and God’s existence is reason for great hope. The writer of Psalm 89 called the moon a “faithful witness” in describing the authenticity of blessings from God to King David. God’s blessing to David would be as dependable as His faithful witness, the moon.DSC_0012_744sig

The earth’s moon has consistent, predictable phases. They are certain. When the moon is full each month, the human eye cannot miss this lunar witness. Even when the moon wanes and becomes a thin crescent above earth it silently points our hearts to God’s nearness. Imagine, 283,000 miles away from earth, this satellite is a constant reminder that God is present and faithful. Sometimes full, sometimes a curved white splinter.

Do you know one thing seeing the moon could do for you? Provide you with hope, comfort and peace for your fear filled heart. God never fails to keep His promises. He placed a large, daily reminder for all who will look that he never ceases to love and protect…even in great tragedy.

You could shake your fist at God, some do. You could claim He is no God to let such pain and suffering happen or earth. But we do not know the mind of God. He allows evil on earth-for a season. There is another response- you could bow your head and say, “God I will obey you before I understand.”

While you think about that, know this, there are at least two things hope in God will not be. First, hope in God will not be limited. It never runs out, there is no time of day when it is not available. God’s refuge of protection never ceases. Second, putting hope in God will not be limited to certain people. God offers His refuge of love and mercy for everyone-no matter who you are, or what you have done. Jesus even forgave the thief on the cross next to him.

In the book of Romans (15:13) Paul described God as the God of all hope. In this verse Paul also said hope in God will fill us with joy and peace.

Look at the moon, even when it is a crescent. As you gaze remind yourself that God made this beautiful earth satellite and prescribed in advance its precise orbit. Gaze at the moon and in this world filled with evil  be reminded-there is hope for humans in the God of all hope. The Maker of the moon loves you.DSC_0041_746sig