Everywhere

We’ve taken to watching a little football at our house on Sunday afternoons and when the talk turns to the Super Bowl, I remember the day I found some unexpected beauty in Yellowstone. Oh, I expected to find beauty, but not indoors, not around the television, and not watching football.

In memory of that day, a repost–because great good is on my mind, and it can be found in the most surprising places.


We DSC00291dragged ourselves into Yellowstone’s Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel according to plan, just after midnight Sunday morning. We’d driven twenty hours and that last one was hard. We were all road weary and my husband, who had driven most of the way, was done.

I took the wheel as the temperature plummeted, the wind whipped up and the clouds descended, alternately perching atop our vehicle and on the road in front of us . As I drove, the temperature climbed from fourteen below zero back to thirteen above, the clouds lifted, and snow began to blow across the road, shrouding it more fully than the clouds had done. This cycle–plunging thermometer, cloud-cloaked roads, warming temperatures, and blinding ground blizzard–repeated itself once more, then cleared as we entered Yellowstone through the Roosevelt Arch.

The next morning we slept as late a family of early and late risers crammed into a hotel room could expect to sleep and spent the dawning hours of Super Bowl Sunday walking together through the small community at Mammoth Hot Springs. Soft and substantial flakes floated to the ground, joining the fresh few inches that had fallen in the night. It was cold, not polar vortex cold, but crisp and clear and lovely.

My parents introduced my brother and I to Yellowstone’s winter when I was in high school and my husband and I made a winter’s visit a few years into our marriage. This trip with our children had been brewing since 2002. As much as we enjoy Yellowstone’s autumn, the intense beauty of Yellowstone’s winter is unsurpassed.

We returned to our room for warm layers suitable for exploring away from the civilized settlement. Our destination was the mountainside hot springs of the Upper Terrace. Just two miles away, it was where the grated road ended and the groomed one began. We drove to the end of the road, strapped on our snowshoes, and spent the late morning on our family’s first mountain snowshoe expedition.

The hot springs at Mammoth are different from others in the park. At Mammoth, water rises through limestone and becomes saturated with calcium carbonate along the way. When deposited at the surface, it transforms the constantly growing and changing travertine terraces. Some springs are grey and dry, some white, and others, hues of orange and red, colors indicative of the thermophiles which reside within.

As we walked along a steamy stream of thermal run-off by the road-turned-trail, two mule deer peeked through the trees, then darted deeper into the forest. Our youngest daughter had to be coaxed up one hill, where we found the source of the stream, a spring which resembled Snuffleupagus in both color and shape.

Upper Terrace, Mammoth Hot Springs Yellowstone National Park

Upper Terrace, Mammoth Hot Springs
Yellowstone National Park

The excursion, was enough for the girls. My husband and son drove Yellowstone’s one open road deeper into the park in search of a more challenging trail to conquer and we went to the map room at the hotel where we read and played games. It was Super Bowl Sunday, so at 3 p.m. an employee entered the map room, unlocked the hotel’s one television, and found the game.

No matter where I am, I never really watch the game. I sit near the game. I visit. I watch the commercials and the half-time show, but I don’t watch the game.

Today was no different. As I read, I heard Queen Latifah’s soulful rendering of “America the Beautiful” and I absent-mindedly wondered where our national anthem had gone. Buried again in my book, I eventually heard its familiar melody and I noticed some movement out of the corner of my eye. People were standing. It could have been a replay of every high school athletic event I’d ever attended.

This, though, was different.

Of the thirty people gathered on couches and around tables, almost half stood, heads bereft of hats and hands covering hearts. They stood, not because they were surrounded by standing spectators; over half remained seated. They stood because apparently they thought it was right and good and were compelled to do it. As I watched them, I saw the American flag flying between the Post Office, the Visitor Center, and Federal Justice Center through the map room’s paned bay window.

It was beautiful, and it made me wonder how long it had been since I had been compelled to do anything. It was an uncomfortable question.

DSC00288 You know I’m watching. My eyes are open. I went to Yellowstone last week and expected to see beauty, but I was looking outdoors. That I found it indoors, in front of the television, surprised me. And that, I suppose, is something I needed to learn: inspiration is everywhere.

If you’re watching with me I’d love to hear what you’re seeing.

 

A Great Deal of Good


Sun and clouds

Two Septembers ago my family spent a few weeks in South Dakota. It wasn’t a vacation; it was a working trip. My husband tucked us away in the hills and commuted every morning into Rapid City. The kids and I did schoolwork and read and whiled away the remains of the day until he came back home. What we did not do was spend much time outdoors. At least, we did not spend much time outdoors without him, thanks to the overzealously detailed Beware of the Mountain Lion literature prominently displayed in the home we rented.

Two pages of tiny-typed description featured six photographs of poses a mountain lion might assume, the meaning of each one, and the appropriate human response. Loosely paraphrased, it spiraled down this way:

  • Number 1:  Look! The feral kitty is curious about you. 
  • Number 3: That cat is interested in you, maybe too interested. Reign in your children and keep ahold of them.
  • Number 5: (And please note that this is a direct quote.) “If you have a lethal weapon at your disposal, take careful aim, and use it now.”
  • Number 6. The lion has decided that you will be lunch. 

They had me at number 5.

Occasionally I sprung the family from the indoors by dropping my husband off at work and driving the rest of us to places we could look around without fear of being eaten. The Geology Museum. Tourist towns in the Black Hills. Mount Rushmore. The Badlands.

Along the road which wound through the Badlands I saw a sign I’d never seen before: Viewpoint Ahead. It was an announcement and an invitation. Attention! There’s something to see here. All you have to do is stop, get out of your car, walk over, and look.

IMG_0204Such a sign seems unnecessary in such a place, a place preserved for its beauty, a beauty at once unique and harsh and lonely. At least, it’s unique until it becomes the passing landscape for a few miles. Until we get used to it. Until it all begins to look the same and we get a little bored. Before long we stop paying attention to what we see.

It’s a little like the landscape of our lives.

Our todays resemble our yesterdays and our tomorrows. We get used to it, a little bored even. It doesn’t take long for us to stop paying attention. The sights and sounds, the people and problems that create the texture of life cease to be something to see.

In his commentary on Matthew 6, Matthew Henry wrote There is a great deal of good to be learned from what we see every day, if we would but consider it. 

Lilies. Birds. Heavens. The whole of creation. The good is there, in the little things and the big ones. We just have to watch for it.

There is great good that comes from paying attention. It’s how we see. It’s how we consider. It’s how we learn. Or learn again.

Oh, that we would open our eyes.

There Is A Great Deal of Good to Be LearnedSharing this week at Small Wonders.

A Little Thing

Hope

The littlest things make a difference, little things such as bits of scarlet in a tangle of brown on a winter’s day.

It’s often true, what Blaise Pascal wrote: A little thing comforts us because a little thing afflicts us. A little thing can make all the difference.

What little thing is making a difference for you today?

Sharing this week at Thought Provoking Thursday and Unforced Rhythms.

 

Roads in Transition, Part 2

haveyoubeenaskingOn December 12 the National Park Service posted a news release to inform the public that Yellowstone’s interior roads would open on December 15, just as predicted.

Yellowstone’s fall and winter travelers knew when the road crews would start to let the snow build, when they’d get dangerous, and when they’d be safe for snow machines.

They knew.

Sometimes I wish I knew. You know, about changes, about transitions. About the things I’m waiting for and the ones I’m dreading. I imagine that a little more information would help me hang on. Often, a more accurate assessment would be that I desperately crave more information because, well, because I want to know. Just a little more.

Just a little more information. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Maybe.

But maybe I know enough. Maybe we know enough.

We know that our little ones grow older before our eyes. We can’t miss our body’s intermittent reminders that we’re doing the same thing. We see our children go through rough patches just as we did, and we know that, like our parents before us, we’ll tread some deep water.

Advanced notice doesn’t seem to help. Knowing there’s a baby on the way or the nest is about to empty doesn’t make it easy.

We live lives of constant fluctuation. Change lurks somewhere around the bend. Either the road will begin to clear or begin to get rough, at least until the next transition brings more change.

We also know that there is only One who never changes.

Every January these words from Oswald Chambers turn me from what I want to know to what I need to know: Have you been asking God what He is going to do? He will never tell you. God does not tell you what He is going to do— He reveals to you who He is. 

And that’s enough. All the rest? That’s too much to handle.

Snowshoesun

Read part 1 of Roads In Transition here.

Sharing Roads In Transition, Part 2 at  Unforced Rhythms and Thought Provoking Thursday

Room, Or No?

Shed in Winter

The year I got married, my husband’s mom told me she’d read that the Christmas season brings thirty-nine additional items to a woman’s already overflowing to-do list. At the time I thought the number seemed a wee bit overstated but with age and experience, I’ve learned that the exact number doesn’t matter. Whatever it is, it’s enough.

More than enough.

We address cards and clean houses. We go to programs and the post office. We buy and we bake.  We decorate. We deliver.

In no time, the pages of our calendars are crammed with concerts and gatherings. There’s no room for anything else. No room for one more thing. No room for Jesus.

He knows about a no room Christmas.

On the night of his arrival, Bethlehem was filled with people returning to be counted for Caesar’s census. The Inn was full, so crowded that there was no room for Mary and Joseph and their coming baby. That first Christmas was a busy one.

Still, there were those who made time.

The shepherds were settled in for a long for a night of watching their flocks, situated around their fire, doing whatever shepherds did to stay warm and pass the time. They were ready for another night of work, right up until the heavenly host arrived and changed everything.

The wise men saw the star and followed. They had to have known that to follow meant a long and arduous journey. Still, they went.

Our calendars present a convincing case that we have no room. For us there will be no heavenly host, no star to prompt us to act. It’s up to us to wrestle the list and the calendar and make room.

It’s a hard fight.

I face it every year: succumb to the busyness of the season, to all the things, and plow through my days accompanied by a flashing neon No Vacancy sign or join the shepherds and the wise men and make room.

For the shepherds it meant a trip into town. For the wise men, it was a cross-country trek. We don’t have to go anywhere.

The babe has already arrived.

Jesus came to live his sinless life and die an unjust death. He rose to give us life and then ascended into Heaven where he’ll intercede for us until he returns.

All that’s left is for us to make room, to pay attention, to remember—wherever we are–and worship.

May there be room in your life this Advent. See you in the new year.

And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:7

Sharing at Thought Provoking Thursday and Unforced Rhythms.

Roads in Transition

IMG_1511The sun dawned in the steely sky and peeked through trees veiled by the falling snow. It had begun the night before and lingered, fine and heavy, through the day. “It’s slick,” my son told me when he returned from his mid-day Calc class. I must have looked concerned, because he amended his statement. “The roads were fine. It’s the parking lot that was bad.”

Of course the roads were in better shape than the parking lot—the DOT turns the crews loose before the first flake hits the ground. They work to keep the roads neat and tidy, safe surfaces for us to navigate between where we are and where we need to be. Their trucks and plows spread through the area with sand, salt, and blades.

The forecast called for snow in Yellowstone that same day, but there no one bothered much about the roads.

It wasn’t because of a strike. It wasn’t because of a government shutdown. It was because–with the exception of the fifty-two mile stretch of road between the North Entrance at Gardiner, Montana and the Northeast Entrance at Cooke City–Yellowstone’s roads are accessible only by snow machine during the winter.

IMG_1485

In spring and summer and the early months of fall, Yellowstone’s roads are just roads. They have their seasonal dangers—potholes the size of small cars, thermal mist which ices the surface on cold nights, wildlife lallygagging just around the bend—but they are roads, meant for us to drive. We belong there.

During the winter they consist of snow, groomed smooth enough by the same machines that tend to downhill ski slopes, their edges marked by tall orange stakes rather than the familiar white line. We can belong there, too, on snowmobiles or in Suburbans retrofitted with treads.

But for a few weeks in between they are roads in transition.

They’re messy. They’re dangerous. And they’re fit for neither tires nor treads.

Some of the people who live and work in Yellowstone’s interior drive them anyway—to the grocery store, to visit a friend, to their winter’s work assignment. Park employees tell tales of white-knuckled travels over slippery, snowy roads. It’s what their life requires while they wait for the snow to build up so that groomers can carve out a smooth surface for them to get from where they are to where they need to be.

coyoteonthe road

Some of ours are roads in transition.

Stretches are messy. Sections are dangerous. And sometimes our vehicle feels like no match for the way ahead.

Our kids get older and what once worked suddenly is a cumbersome, clunky way that doesn’t get the job done. Our marriages reshape themselves just as we do, and so do our friendships. Our jobs change, and sometimes even the place where our key fits the lock.

In the midst of it all, we keep going. We make our way over roads that are messy and dangerous, in vehicles that feel like no match for the terrain. We wait for the day when it will smooth into a neat and tidy surface, one that feels safe to navigate–even if only for a little while. It’s the process life requires and the way it gives for us to get from where we are to where we need to be.

And while we wait, beautiful encouragement from a Psalm of David: For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.

No matter the condition of the road.

DSC00216

Sharing stories at Thoughtful Thursdays and Unforced Rhythms.