What’s a Little Rain?



Dad and I went to Yellowstone about a year ago—just the two of us, to the Lamar Buffalo Ranch, for a nature writing class—and we did some hiking and camping along the way. Most of the time, the end-of-August days delighted us with warm sun and cool air, but the forecast and cotton candy clouds foreboded rain.

The clouds delivered a couple of afternoon spurts worth dragging out our yellow ponchos for. And once, while we walked the boardwalk to Echinus geyser, they brought hail.


And every night for three nights, while we cooked our dinner, the sky sprinkled. Every night we sat by the fire in a gentle rain. And then, every night, it picked up and rained like it meant it. We wanted to linger by that fire, but how much can worn hikers really take?


Our weather-enforced curfew was probably good for us. We logged plenty of miles on foot and in the van during days that started early. Rain delivered the message that darkness and fatigue did not: go to sleep. So, every night after a short fire we retired, Dad to his tent and me to my luxurious pile of memory foam in the back of Mom and Dad’s twelve passenger van.


When Dad and I arrived at the Lamar Buffalo Ranch, we brought with us a wet mass of a wadded up tent. Our cabin’s timbered railing provided a place to hang it to dry in the sun. Our camp chairs needed the same treatment, so we set them up on the porch.

Our gear dried quickly in the arid mountain air and when the time came to stow it back in the van, we kept one chair out. Our cabin featured one rustic wooden chair on the porch. Because of the rain we thought to have two–two where we sat together every morning and evening, the kind of together that life rarely bestows once you grow up and move away from home.

Every day I wished it wouldn’t rain, but once again, through the rain came a gift. You’d think I’d learn.

And you? How do approach unexpected and unpleasant circumstances that come your way?

This is the second post in a 3 part series on the pitfalls of life outdoors, especially how those pitfalls may bring us closer together. Why post about camping in September? Its weather is usually an open invitation to step outside.


On Trials Shared

Gary Smalley, founder of the Smalley Relationship Center, says that the secret to a “close-knit relationship is shared experiences that turn into shared trials.” He mentions camping as one source for shared trials and a potential relationship-building activity. Makes sense. Camping is fraught with potential for trial.


There’s the weather. The bugs. The work. The hard ground.

He grants that you don’t have to camp to invite such trials. I agree. A picnic will do nicely.

The year of the October heat wave that turned to snow, we adapted to the rain with less time on the trail and more time on the road. Lunchtime still always found us nowhere near a restaurant. We picnicked in spite of the weather.

We stopped during sporadic sprinkling rain at an understandably empty picnic area, unloaded our supplies and got ready to make lunch: fruit, veggies, and—because it was cold—soup from a can. All was well until no one could find the can opener.

Long before this, back when we had one or maybe two children, we took a weekend camping trip five miles from home. By the time I had everything packed, piled, and ready to load, it filled two vehicles. My easy-going husband was less than happy. Now I try to be more reasonable when I pack.

The can opener was necessary, and not purposefully left behind. It probably sat alone and overlooked on the kitchen counter, utterly useless to my hungry family.

My husband is a creative guy, not easily flapped because he knows that there’s usually a solution if you stay calm and look at all the possibilities. In this case, the possibility was my son’s axe, which he lifted and struck the can—hard enough to open, yet gently enough to keep from spilling the contents everywhere.

The whole family watched him work on the can, too engrossed in what he was doing to notice the rain that once again began to fall until we heard the crunch of gravel. We turned and saw a Yellowstone Association minibus filled with students enrolled in a wilderness class. They drove past, staring but not stopping. My kids suspect the sight of a man hacking open a can with an axe turned them away.

It’s an image that sticks in the mind.

At least, it sticks with my kids. They weren’t mortified by it. It was just another family adventure and just their dad being their dad, saving the day in his quiet and slightly off-the-wall way.

Life’s an adventure, one filled with trials–otherwise known as opportunities to knit relationships closer together. Sometimes it’s our relationships with people that are strengthened and other times it’s our relationship with the God who created us. It’s hard to remember that in the midst, but worth it when we do.

A question for you: Do you see trials as something to be avoided at all costs or as opportunities for something good?

This is the first post in a 3 part series on the pitfalls and joys of life outdoors, especially those related to camping. Why post about camping in September? Fall’s weather is perfect for camping.

Sharing stories at Unforced Rhythms and Coffee for Your Heart.

The Road Ahead: September


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One Sunday I walked out of church into the late morning sun and noticed a friend’s sweet daughter prancing around near the street. She skipped right over to me when I called to her.  I got down on one knee so that we could see each other’s faces and we talked about the dangers of the street. At the end of our conversation, she looked at me with big eyes and said, “I like your mouth.”

Um, what were we talking about again? Neither of us knew.

Distraction is sneaky that way.

As we enter this season of school and sports and everything else, may we each live free from distraction, free to keep our eyes on the most important things, and free to take our road with purpose and determination in the knowledge of who made us and why we are here.


Linking this week at Unforced Rhythms and Coffee for Your Heart.





Warning Signs

Some summers my nephew and niece visit us. The kids picnic and put on puppet shows; they fish and swim and sleep outside and get bit up. They stay busy–all on their own–and they love it.

One year, my daughter was recovering from a cracked elbow. She had a doctor’s appointment so I planned to take them all for some fun along the way. We would stop at the lake and climb the water tower-turned-observation-deck. They would be, I knew, delighted.



They were not delighted; they were busy making their own fun in the pond and groaned a few complaints when I called them in. Still, they were willing and got ready to go. As we pulled out of our lane I noticed a dark spot in the distant southern sky.

We turned east and drove the few minutes to the tower where I doled out quarters and the kids raced to the turnstile. They trotted up all 170 steps and looked around. Now they were delighted.

Well, all but one was delighted. That one didn’t look around at all. In fact, that one, my nephew, asked to go back to the car. I didn’t want anyone to be that far away–it wouldn’t be safe–so I told him he would he would have to wait until the others were ready to go. He asked again and maybe even again before it occurred to me to investigate what was bothering him.

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He lifted his arm and pointed. “That,” was all he said.

The dark spot in the southern sky was distant no longer. It was ours now, and close enough to show us its churning clouds. I should have seen it coming.

It was time to go, to get off of that tower, and into the car.

My nephew took off like a gazelle and stationed himself beside the vehicle before the rest of us were half-way down. We piled in and started down the lane toward the highway. The stop sign gave us a chance to stop and see, for just a moment, the disturbing clouds that would race us to town.

2010 spring summer 065

We stayed ahead of it until we hit the city limits. As we crawled past the town square the clouds caught up with us and transformed day into night. Cold, splatting drops of rain began as we scurried from our spot in the clinic parking lot.

Just after we checked in, an alarm sounded. There was a warning of some sort, not a tornado, but serious enough that were all shepherded to the basement. It sickened me to realize that just moments ago I’d had these precious little people standing on a tower, oblivious to the approaching storm, all in the name of something I wanted to do.

Our strong memories of that day are all different. Most of the kids don’t remember the storm. They remember the scream that they—and everyone else in the cavernous waiting room—heard when my daughter got a shot. My nephew remembers the scream but also the storm, which in his mind was a tornado. I remember that I was so busy attending to my plan that I missed what was right in front of me–clear signs of a brewing storm.

I hope memory serves me well and launches me straight to lessons learned. Pay attention. Evaluate the plan in light of the moment. Don’t ignore the warning signs.

How about you? Do you pay attention to the warning signs or do you wait for the storm to be nearly upon you?

Linking with Holley and Kelli this week.

Soundtrack of Summer

DSC00658I planned to watch this year. Maybe it was lack of competition from central air units, but this summer’s been all about sound. Here’s a baker’s dozen of my favorites:

  1. “Goin’ out!” followed by the banging of a door
  2. Frogs. Oh how I love their way of filling the air with song.
  3. Birds. Ditto.
  4. Cicadas. The seventeen year variety were novel enough and loud enough that they didn’t make me sad.
  5. The mews of newborn kittens, a sound we haven’t had here in five years
  6. The cries and rustlings of our newborn nephew
  7. Loons
  8. Motor boats
  9. Fishing line spinning out over the water
  10. Waves lapping against the rocky shore
  11. Children splashing in lakes, pools, and ponds
  12. “One more chapter?”over and over again as we read though Tuck Everlasting after breakfast
  13. Laughter

And you? What’s your summer soundtrack so far? Are there sounds you’d like to hear more of? There’s time left. Me? I’d take more laughter.