Tunk Mountain - Hike #6
The forest is a foreign habitat, one in which I'm ill-equipped to survive; yet it beckons me to enter into its eery silence. As I cross the threshold of Tunk Mountain trailhead, the only sound I hear is the stamping of my own feet along a pine scented path. Blue blazes sporadically sprayed on tree trunks guide me through a woods where everything looks the same. The darkness of the forest is offset by sunbeams that flicker through tiny gaps in a thick leaf-covered canopy. Feeling vulnerable to the elements, I hike onward toward the mountain's ridge. Each half mile offers new challenges: rocks to climb over, roots threaded across the trail trying to trip me, a steeper and steeper incline as I approach the mountaintop. The most difficult obstacle is a primitive ladder made from three iron rungs sticking out of the rock face, and made for legs much longer than mine. Somehow, I haul my body up the ladder only to encounter a wedge where two boulders intersect. Almost there, I push myself upward and scale the wedge. When I step onto the ridge, I can see for miles. I'm above thousands of acres of emerald forests. The outlines of ponds and lakes are the only opening in this tree-covered land. Way off, along the distant horizon, I can see the ocean.
I sit on a boulder to catch my breath and rest my legs, absorbing the beauty and inhaling pure air as it skips across the summit. The sun, concealed by trees along the trail, gleams from a clear blue sky. I look around me, thrilled by the wonder of nature, in awe of the One who created it.
A Season of Hurricanes
Destination: Schoodic Point, Acadia National Park. Hundreds of others had the same idea. The entire eastern side of the peninsula was a target for churning waves that thrust water onto the rocks. Hurricane Jose' put on quite a performance in Maine. He treated us to a sea-salt facial while we watched a spectacular wave show. The ocean roared like a den of hungry lions as water pounced on the shore. It pulled itself in and upward to form massive walls. Once the waves reached their greatest height, white foam spilled over the peak and they barreled toward the rocky coast. The water advanced with such intensity it thundered, spitting up huge fountains of spray as it crashed against granite boulders.
Park Rangers were in full force keeping people out of Jose's violent reach, since he unexpectedly leaped over boulders and stretched his wet fingers toward onlookers before sliding back into his liquid fury.
Watching the effects of a distant hurricane is exciting, but feeling its effects up close is terrifying. I lift up prayers for the victims of Harvey, Irma and Maria who experienced the destructive power of the sea. I pray for their recovery.
Hike #5 - Liberty Point, Campobello
We entered the coastal trail where a canopy of branches shaded our path. Sweet smelling balsam fir trees lined the walkway, extending their spindly fingers toward us, as if we were celebrities passing through a reception line.
On one side of the trail, the ocean pounded out a rhythmic cadence. On the other side, the forest stood tall, in absolute silence, watching us tramp through its corridor. Every so often, small brown bunnies scurried into the underbrush, squealing at us for entering their territory.
We exited the trail and came upon wide open sea. Grand Manaan Island was closer than I'd ever seen it. The ocean undulated with fast moving swells as the tide hurried to reach its 20' depth. Waves slushed over rocks and thundered into crevives. A small island topped with green grass looked like a monstrous frog ready to hop into the sea.
This rugged coastline fascinates me, and its wild pristine beauty fills my heart with fascination for the One who created it!
Little River Lighthouse
We boarded the lobster boat then motored out of Cutler Harbor. Cutler Village graced the shoreline like a quaint picture on a postcard. We floated below clear blue sky and above the sun sparkles that danced across the water. Joining our festivities, harbor porpoises cut arcs along the surface of the sea. Our boat churned up blue-green water spun with white foam which bubbled and gurgled in our wake.
As we approached the Little River Island, a boathouse marked the dock and trailhead. It was a half-mile hike uphill to reach the lightouse. We cleared the woods and came upon a small white tower with a green top. Next door was the keeper's house. But, directly in front of us a gently sloping lawn gave way to wide open sea. Granite boulders bordered the land like guards holding the waters at bay. In the distance, we saw the entire outline of Grand Manaan Island.
The lighthouse keeper invited us to tour the light tower. Step by step, we ascended a red spiral staircase that twisted along a brick wall, although the outer shell of the tower was cast iron. When we reached the light, we scooted through a small hatch door and stepped onto a railed balcony. We viewed the magnificent coast from an arial perspective. Cool air, warm sun and salt-scented water enveloped us creating a five senses memory.
Later, as we gathered on the lawn to sing praise songs and hear a Bible message, our spirits were satiated with the goodness of God.
This festival was a step back to a time when people intermeshed with nature in order to survive. Those who wanted the full nature experience set up primitive camps for the weekend. We only participated in some of the classes offered.
We learned how to make a friction fire from beginning to end. Tramping through the forest, we searched for the perfect piece of wood, then we dug up strings of spruce roots for our cord. We learned how to do the whole process without a knife, using only a sharp stone. Although our teacher ignited a full-on fire, for an inexperienced person, the process could take many attempts, readjustments and more attempts. I learned the value of carrying a pack of matches at all times.
Woodworkers demonstrated the primitive skills necessary for planing logs into planks. Tanners, trappers and pottery makers shared information about their trades.
My favorite part was the hike along the pristine Pleasant River to discover edible plants. We finished in a field of blueberries - a luscious ending to a day of experiencing God's wonderful creation.
Schoodic Point - Hike #4
Ahh! My favorite place in Maine -- Schoodic Point. This separate part of Acadia National Park lies on a peninsula in the quaint village of Winter Harbor. Bold coastline borders the road as we approach the point. Then BOOM! The wild sea lunges forward, encroaching upon the granite ledges, spewing and spraying sea foam as it advances with the tide. Chilled salt air blasts us and I zip up my jacket. Across the ocean to our right, Cadillac Mountain rises skyward. The view is spectacular!
We follow the coastal road around the point. Pine forests stand between us and the sea, muffling the sound of crashing waves, offering its silence and sharing its earthy scents. As we walk past the trees, we come upon quieter waters banked by hedges of sea roses. We inhale their sweet fragrance. Blue sky, blue-green water, dark green trees and pink flowers create the color scheme of the day. We approach Blueberry Hill and realize we're not the only ones enchanted by this natural vista. Artists stake out their views and recreate with paint what I try to represent with words - a touch of heaven on earth.
Eastport - Hike #3
We crossed the causeway to Moose Island and entered the small fishing city of Eastport. Chilled salt air blew over the Passamaquoddy Bay, stumbled over pink granite boulders and rustled the skirts of flowers gathered along the walkway. Sea gulls, screeching in the blue sky, swooped above the blue green water of the deepest natural port in the lower 48 states. I walked with my husband on this perfect Maine day. After wandering in and out of stores displaying artwork and crafts from local talent, and drooling over the savory scents of local cuisine we strolled the waterfront walkway. Wind twisted my hair and misted the air around me with floral scents which soon gave way to the aroma of fried fish and chips. Who could resist? We ended our day with fresh seafood from the waterfront deck of the Waco Diner. Ahhh, Maine, the way life should be!
Machias River Preserve - Hike #2
On our second hike this summer, my husband and I entered a cool shaded trailhead. A canopy of pine branches, so thick only slivers of sun could penetrate, hung over our heads. After just a short distance, we encountered an eerie world of silence -- absolute stillness. No air rled the tree branches. No sounds touched our ears. We were suspended in a vacuum of noiselessness.
We travelled farther down the trail and deeper into the woods. All we heard was the rhythmic thudding of our feet on ground layered with decaying leaves and pine needles. Then as if someone clanged a dinner bell, mosquitoes swarmed our heads. They buzzed incessantly in our ears. I wished I had a copy of Verna Aardema's book Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears. I think my mosquitoes had a sinister message for me, "Come, Madame, we are preparing a picnic and you are the honored guest. Remove your hood and sweatshirt and follow us." But I followed my mother's advice to never talk to strangers. I turned my back on them and continued down the trail.
Soon, I reached the Machias River peacefully following the curves of the river bank. The trail wound along its banks. By the time we turned back toward the trailhead, our pesky little vampires disappeared into the thick forest, hiding from the afternoon light.
How different are the woods from the coastal cliffs!
The Foggy Coast of Maine
These are the days of the silver haze
When the sky is smeared with metallic glaze,
When the ocean stares with a steely glare
Warning the man in the captain's chair,
When the sea foments with discontent
And fog prevails with proud confidence,
When an extravagance of coastal scents
Spritz the shore with salt-sweet accents.
This is the time when nickel and dime
Colors pervade from dawn 'til nighttime,
So inside I stay on this cold, misty day
With paper and pen, composing a phrase
About the foggy coast of Maine.
Quoddy Head State Park - Hike #1
I began my first hike of the season at Quoddy Head Lighthouse on the easternmost point of land in the continental United States. Air, chilled by the north Atlantic, blew against my face and wrapped around me like a cold sheet as I set off to follow the coastal trail. The views were spectacular. Directly across, on the Canadian side, Grand Manaan Island rose above silver sea spray like a gigantic whale anchored by some invisible force.
While I crunched along the gravel path that hugged the oceanside cliffs, I peered over the edge. Frigid waves slapped the granite boulders below me. I watched the ocean churn and swirl white foam into rocky coves, at times, slamming into narrow pockets with a thundering fury.
As if trying to offset the sea's rage, pine trees pointed toward a serene blue sky and misted the forest with the sweet scent of balsam.
The natural beauty of Quoddy Head State Park spun my senses into a frenzy of delight and made me marvel at the wonders God created on earth. I can't fathom what awaits us in heaven.
You can learn more about this park at www.visitmaine.com
I’m a faithful sky watcher. Whenever I’m outside, I’m looking upward. The sky holds so much beauty and wonder that I’m always astounded by what I see. One day, I gaze upon a striking blue canvas dotted with cottony tufts. Another day, smoky thunderheads drape the heavens like dark curtains ready to unfurl. Morning announces its presence with a spectacular display of light, and evening staves off the darkness by painting the horizon with glorious colors. Even the night sky sparkles with tiny diamonds.
As I stand amazed beneath the sky, I become more and more enchanted by the Creator of the heavens. The depth of the Lord’s artistic talent is limitless. Artists paint pictures on canvas, but God paints a masterpiece throughout the world. Every continent lies beneath a magnificent sky.
I walked into a warm breeze, enjoying the way it swished through my hair. The air felt pleasing as it flowed around me.
I thought about the way air affects us. We open our arms to gentle breezes. We smile as we walk into them. Cold frosty air causes a different response. We tuck into ourselves and turn our backs to the harsh wind. We look for places to hide from it.
People respond to the Lord the way they respond to wind. If they perceive the Lord as gentle and merciful, they open their hearts and walk toward him. If they perceive the Lord as cold and harsh, they turn their backs to him and close off their hearts.
Psalm 145 discusses the character of God the King. Verses 8 & 9 describe him as gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and full of love. He has compassion upon all of his creation.
This is the God I know so I open my heart to him and I walk toward him.
Do you perceive the Lord as a gentle breeze or a harsh wind? I encourage you to read Psalm 145 and then evaluate your perception.
To learn more about the wind check out these websites: weatherquestions.com; weatherdudes.com.
I love my Mexican petunia plants. Their trumpet-shaped purple blossoms dance along the edge of my lanai. My friend calls them happy plants. Each day, in late afternoon, all the flowers drop from the stems, but the next morning, fresh new blossoms appear.
Mexican petunias remind me of God's grace - it's new every morning. Just as the flowers of the petunia flutter to the ground at the end of the day, we can lay our sins down at the cross before we go to sleep. Then, the next day, as new petunia blossoms smile in the morning sunshine, we can smile as the light of a new day shines with forgiveness, grace and mercy.
Ask yourself: Do I follow the example of Mexican petunias? Do I release my sins and failures at the end of the day so I can begin a new day refreshed and cleansed by God's great mercy?
You can read about Mexican petunias at www.Floridata.com or at www.southernliving.com
A Palm Tree
When I moved from NJ to FL, I wanted a palm tree in my yard. I went to a garden center and asked for a palm tree. The retailer asked, "What kind?" I stood there and stared at him. I thought a palm tree was a palm tree. He informed me that palms come in many varieties. They can be trees as well as shrubs. Their trunks can be smooth and slender or rough and criss-crossed like a pineapple. Their leaves range in shades of silvery green to deep forest green. I chose a queen palm because it looked like the image I had in my mind.
As I drove home, I noticed the many different kinds of palms around me. I thought about God's love of variety. Within every genus, he designed unique differences. There is amazing diversity within groups of trees, flowers, birds, fish and animals. If our Creator desired such variety in nature, he certainly designed us with uniquely wonderful characteristics.
We come in many sizes, shapes, colors and temperments. Our differences are qualities to be appreciated and admired. Our differences make our lives richer.
Let's challenge ourselves to value the qualities that make us individuals, because in each distinction we see the touch of our Heavenly Father's hands.
To learn more about palms visit www.sunpalmtrees.com and www.florida-palm-trees.com.
Psalm 100 reminds us to give thanks to the Lord for he is good. I witnessed a stunning example of God's goodness when I stepped outside at dawn. The sky above my streeet was surreal. Ripples of clouds formed a textured backdrop for a morning light show in shades of yellow, orange, pink and purple. My breath caught as I looked up. My heart filled with praise for the Creator of the sunrise. I wanted to shout for joy to the Lord.
Our wonderful God makes himself known in the physical world. Everything around us attests to his amazing design.
As we enter this week when we celebrate Thanksgiving Day, let's give thanks to the One who created everything for which we're thankful.
What fills you with a desire to give thanks?
You can learn what causes the colors of a sunrise at www.spc.noaa.gov.
Brilliant colors, orange red and golden yellow, dapple a clear blue skyline. Crimson bushes line the walkway. I snuggle into my jacket as brisk air chills my neck. I'm delighted to be in New Jersey while autumn is still going strong.
God created spectacular gifts for this transitional season. He caused trees to don their finest outfits in fall. He sent cold air to provide relief from summer's heat. This is my favorite season.
As much as I treasure God's autumnal gifts, I treasure another masterpiece of creation even more. My heart swells with wonder and awe when I behold the sparkling eyes and sweet smiles of my four grandchildren. They are the Lord's highest creation because they are created in his image. Being with my children and grandchildren is my best gift of the season. As the psalmist says, "Children are a gift from the Lord. How joyful is the man who has his quiver full of them!" (Psalm 127:3 and 5 NLT).
What is your favorite part of autumn?
Learn why leaves change color at www.sciencemadesimple.com
Of Great Value
A flock of White Ibis gather in a large puddle near the beach. With stick-like legs they wade in the water, barely making a ripple. They swish their bills through the water searching for food.
Birds are very different from people; yet the Lord breathes the breath of life into them as he does for mankind. He cares for birds by providing food and adaptations for their survival. The Lord cares for birds and all creatures because he values all he created.
The Bible says we are of more value than all the birds. How much more does our Heavenly Father provide for all our needs? He loves us with a love that is deeper, wider and greater than any we've ever known. I wonder if we comprehend the magnitude of God's love and care for us. Do we live as people who know our true worth to our Creator?
Visit www.audubon.org to learn more about White Ibis.
A Snorkeling Adventure
With our masks and snorkles in place, I grab my grandson's life vest, and off we go. We submerge our masks to gaze upon an enchanted underwater world. Lacey coral sways with the gentle current. A coral reef borders the shoreline in Chankanaab National Park in Cozumel, Mexico. We are at the beach to discover fish, and boy, do we! Stoplight parrotfish swim along the reef. Blue Anglefish drift past us. We spy spotted trunkfish, rainbow parrotfish and a school of young angelfish. The water teems with sea life.
This is my grandson's first snorkeling adventure, and he loves it, but I think I love it more. I'm amazed at this foreign world that exists below the water's surface. It's a self-sufficient society, feeding off of the plants and fish the Lord created. Each creature belongs and has special adaptations to thrive in its habitat. The fish go about their daily routine unaffected by the peering eyes looking down at them. Occasionally, curious fish swim up for a closer look at us. We are thrilled to come face to face with these fascinating creatures.
I count the days until I can go on another snorkeling adventure.
You can read more about parrotfish at saltwhistlesailing.blogspot.com
Each morning when I step onto my lanai, I'm greeted by a colorful array of lovely flowers. Hibiscus unfurl their petaled skirts of coral, crimson and golden yellow. Mexican petunias tiptoe about my garden wall in tiny purple tutus. At the far corner, plumbagos cluster together wearing outfits of periwinkle puffs.
I praise the Lord for the touches of color he places on the earth. This week I'll be mindful of the beautiful designs he paints on flowers. Will you join me in thanking the Lord for the blessing of flowers?
To learn more about hibiscus go to plants-houseplants.knoji.com
Flowers abound in The Villages. There are gardens along the main roads and at the entrance to each village. The gardens are lush with pansies. During my walks, I see pansies of every color combination. When I stop for a closer look, I'm amazed at the detail the Lord painted on each flower. Some pansies are multicolored and look like butterfly wings. Others seem to have an angel silhouette in the center of the petals. The petals vary from papery thin to a rich velvety texture. Not only are the pansies a visual delight, they give off a delicate aromatic fragrance.
When I think about the Lord's attention to detail in the creation of pansies, I'm overcome with wonder as I think about his concern over the details in our lives. Our Heavenly Father isn't just involved in the big things. He cares about each little aspect of our lives. He reminds us of this in the flowers.
To learn more about pansies go to www.aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu
Granite is a rock. But what an opulent rock! Colors swirl. Crystals shimmer. Minerals splatter and speckle unique markings throughout the stone. When polished, granite feels smooth to the touch. It's a luxurious material that people showcase in their homes.
Granite began as molten rock, a hot bubbling liquid in the earth's core. It seeped into fissures and pushed upward toward the crust. It cooled. During the flowing and cooling process, minerals mixed together. They formed unique patterns and color combinations. The result was granite, which I now have in my kitchen. I gratefully display an example of God's handiwork.
The Lord took an unlikely substance and molded it into a magnificent stone. Once again, I'm captivated by the Creator.
You can learn more about magma at www.nationalgeographic.org
From my kitchen window, I see flowers of almost every color, but the color that grabs my attention is yellow. It pops. It stands out among the competition.
I did some research about colors and I learned that yellow is the most highly visible of all colors. It's the lightest and brightest on the color wheel. Even some blind people can detect yellow. The color yellow has a long stimulating wavelength. Psychologically, its the strongest color, evoking emotions of optimism, happines and warmth.
I was intrigued by the study of color. Each color affects our emotions. Artists and graphic designers know this. They purposely choose certain colors to elicit certain emotions. Blue evokes feelings of serenity and trust. Purple symbolizes royalty and luxury. Red stirs up a sense of importance. It increases breathing rates and blood flow.
The Bible refers to particular colors. The interior curtains of the tabernacle, as well as the priestly garments, were made of finely woven fabric of blue, purple and scarlet. Thin strands of gold were interspersed in the weave. The Creator of colors purposely chose those colors to be used in the tabernacle.
The most vibrant energizing color, the one that evokes positive happy thoughts, is the color God chose for the light that rules the day. The sun was designed to emit the color of optimism. We can begin each day with a bright outlook.
God designed a world filled with color, and each color affects our psyche. When I look out of my kitchen window, my emotions are stirred. Once again, I'm captivated by the Creator.
Learn more about colors at www.color-wheel-artist.com
My grandson and I visited the Insectatarium and Butterfly Garden in New Orleans. After much ewwwing and shoulder shivering, I was able to appreciate certain qualities of the insects. I was surprised at the beauty in some of their outer shells. They were shiny bluish-green. But the real beauty was on the butterfly wings. The variety of colors and patterns mesmerized me. Some of the most intriguing wings were in neutral shades and looked like lace. Some butterflies wore shades of blue, covering the spectrum from deep indigo to shimmering aqua.
I also learned interesting facts about butterflies. They don't eat, they only drink. Their feet have taste buds, and they step up and down on leaves to stimulate the chemicals to see if the leaves will be appropriate food for caterpillars to eat.
Butterflies see colors. This ability helps them identify their own species, as well as attracting them to flowers.
The smallest butterfly measure 1/8" while the largest measures 12". Most butterflies live only 2-4 weeks.
A creature as tiny and short-lived as a butterfly was designed with immense attention to detail. If God made such a small creature spectacular, imagine the amount of care he put into designing us, who are created in his image! Each one of us was created with unsurpassed beauty. Beauty is more than our outward appearance. It is seen in our mannerisms, our personalities, our gifts and talents. It is heard in our voices. Our minds and hearts reveal a unique hidden beauty that only some will find.
Rather than judging and comparing our differences, let's rejoice in the surprise beauty we can discover in one another. As we seek to know each other more fully, we'll uncover the richness that lies within each person.
Once again, I'm captivated by the Creator. He made everything beautiful.
Learn more about butterflies at www.thebutterflysite.com
Half of the roots dangled in the air while the other half grasped a small outcropping of rock. Harsh weather battered the exposed roots; yet the tree stood straight and tall on the edge of the cliff. It refused to be defeated, despite its difficult situation. The tree shouldn't have thrived. It did because its roots clung to the little bit of ground they could reach.
Sometimes, we're challenged by difficult circumstances. It may seem as though our roots are dangling in the air and the slightest disturbance will push us over the edge. But there is an outcropping we can grasp. The Lord is our Rock. If we cling to him, he'll uphold us. One tiny root of faith is all we need. When we reach toward Jesus, he reaches for us. His grasp is strong enough to keep us from falling. We can withstand the worst situation by clinging to him.
My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me. Psalm 63:8
To learn more about trees and roots go to gardeningknowhow.com
The Master Artist
A luck dragon swooped over the pond, its long gray tail steering it like a ship's rudder. Soon the tail separated from the body and morphed into rocky cliffs hugging a harbor filled with tiny ships.
The scales of the dragon's wings floated apart until each feathery puff transformed into a cotton boll ready for harvest.
Wind currents dragged their fingers through clouds, forming and re-forming vaporous images, creating works of art on a blue canvas stretched around the earth.
Our Almighty Creator who bestows artistic talent upon mankind, also grants such capability to the elements of nature. When God set the universe in motion, he gave the wind and clouds the power to produce lofty masterpieces in the sky. All day, every day, they paint and sculpt representations from water vapor, creating images that stir our spirits to remember the Master Artist behind the artwork.
When you go outside, look up. A collection of nature's ingenuity and craftsmanship floats above your head. How many images can you find? As you delight in the billowy pictures, you can join me in words of praise as I'm captivated by the Creator once again!
To learn more about clouds go to www.weatherquestions.com
Moments of Refreshment
Cool crisp air washed my face and hair. It splashed my arms like a refreshing shower at the end of a hot sticky day. As I inhaled the clean air, my mind lit up, suddenly aware of every sensation.
The sky shimmered like a blue crystal in the light. Emerald silk covered the ground. On the pond, sun drops splattered the water's surface like sparklers on July 4th. Meanwhile, birds gathered on the trees, a flash mob singing in harmonic syncopation. What a glorious day!
Today was a surprise from the Lord, a moment of refreshment in a pattern of hot days.
Our Heavenly Father specially designs moments to brighten our lives when most needed.
When problems drape us in gray clouds, or difficulties pour over us like persistent rain, the Lord places unexpected gifts in nature. We may notice a fresh white daisy along our path. We may feel a gentle breeze hugging our shoulders, or hear a sweet melody from a bird outside our window.
Each gift was placed there especially for us by the One who knows just what we need at a particular time. The Lord designs these moments to refresh our spirits. Our part is to open the door, step outside and discover God's gift meant just for us.
When you discover your moment of refreshment, you'll be cativated by the Creator, too.