Tracks in the Snow

tracks by the fenceThe twelve-passenger van made its way down Yellowstone’s snow-covered road not on traditional tires, but on treads meant to traverse the groomed roadway. Gone were the crowds and the fly fishermen of fall, replaced by seas of white broken by swaths of evergreen and dots of brown, bison in search of last year’s grass to fill their bellies. Two adult trumpeter swans, their arched necks highlighted against the steamy Firehole River, swam alongside a grey cygnet, all camouflaged by the white of the snow and the deep of the water. A cow elk foraged alone for food on a hillside and a bald eagle soared in the sky above.

When we left the Firehole River Valley to follow the Gibbon, we passed a thermal feature I’d never noticed before: the Chocolate Pots. Water flowed from its cone down a short slope to the water below, its deep browns a fountain of chocolate in the forest. Situated on the riverbank across from the road, it was obvious and I wondered how I’d never seen it before. I’d passed by  that familiar stretch of road hundreds of times.

This day was different. Instead of it being just one part of a sea of deep colors—evergreen boughs on brown trunks emerging from dark dirt—it was framed by winter’s white. Snow crept to its very edge and frosted the trees which framed the opening through which it showed itself. It stood out, revealed to me for the first time.

Chocolate Pots

I’d always thought of snow as something that transforms, something that softens the landscape, accenting every beauty and concealing every blemish.

Transformation, it seems, is not snow’s only offering. Its true gift may be that of revelation, and I value what it reveals more than the loveliness of what it temporarily changes. The year we saw the Chocolate Pots, snow showed us more every day.

Tracks in the snow kept us where we belonged as we hiked the hill to Observation Point. Tracks in the snow woke us up, made us pay closer attention and look more closely for wolves in Yellowstone’s Hayden Valley, wolves we eventually found sharing dinner for two. And tracks in the snow showed us, as we wandered over the white and wintry landscape, where we’d been and where we hadn’t.

It’s these trails along the wandering way which may be the best revelation of all. They’re signs of sorts, reminders of the places we’ve been and why they matter. And the open spaces between, those fields of unbroken snow and untried trail, they invite us to carry on.

Wandering is a complicated word. Even though I know the children of Israel’s forty-year tenure in the wilderness was spent waiting, not milling around aimlessly lost in the woods, when I hear a reference to their wandering in the wilderness, it’s milling that I see. And even though I know the dictionary definition means to follow a winding course as much as it means to go astray, it’s the astray part that sticks.

Sometimes what sticks needs to be shed. A little time on the wandering way now and again does us some good. The Fellowship of the Ring is fiction, but the sentiment behind Tolkien’s poem is not:

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

Sometimes the long way around is the best way forward. Sometimes the winding course brings us exactly where we need to be. So here’s to tracks in the snow, the ones that show us not just where we’ve been, but all the places we’ve still to go.

IMG_1313And you? Are you willing to wander?

Sharing this week at Small WondersUnite and Weekend Whispers and Thought Provoking Thursday.

Adele and the Rearview Mirror

 

Teton National Park

At our Christmas celebration the cover image of a magazine in my parents’ living room caught my eye. It featured Adele. I like reading about celebrities, usually in germ-infested copies of People magazine at the doctor’s office. I wasn’t at the doctor’s and this wasn’t People.

It was Time magazine.

All I knew about Adele was that she’s known for taking a different-than-usual celebrity path.  So I picked up the magazine and read about her decision to step back from the limelight for a few years after the birth of her child, that her next album will be released too late to meet the eligibility deadline for the coming year’s awards, and how she writes her music in an old-school way largely left by the wayside in today’s pop music industry.

It was a list of the ways that she’s taken the road less traveled and how it’s working for her.

They say she has a beautiful voice, but it’s the way she looks at life I find myself admiring, the way she summed up when she told the interviewer that we discover things too easily and let go of them too quickly. It was a strong indictment on the times and the way we live.

There’s a white board on the wall at our local coffee shop that features a quote for each day: Chuck Norris-isms, jokes, scripture, movie lines, and serious words from long-dead men. G.K. Chesterton’s words filled the board yesterday: The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul. They reminded me of Adele’s observation about the ease and speed with which we find and let go of the discoveries we make.

Whether into a new day or a new year, moving forward well requires that we take a long what we’ve learned along the way and that, for me anyway, means an occasional look in the rearview mirror.

So in this season of looking ahead to this new year, the ways we’d like to be more healthy or more disciplined, I’d like to encourage you to look back toward the discoveries, the bits of wisdom, the hard-won lessons you’ve picked up along the way and take them along into the new year with you.

On the topic of looking back, I’m offering up some favorites of 2015: the books, internet reads, and even movies that have made me laugh, gave me something to think about, or made a difference in my journey, as well as some of my favorite and most viewed Along This Road posts.

Books:

  • Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist–Her words offer companionship for the journey. This is one of her earliest books and probably my favorite.
  • Art and the Bible by Frances A. Schaeffer–Interesting perspectives on art and the Bible, as well as valuable insight and encouragement about how our life should be the best art.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee–My oldest two read this for school and I reread it with them. I was amazed at how much was lost on me when I read it back in high school.
  • Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson–On the topic of taking responsibility–for your life, your faith, your marriage, your parenting, your home, just to name a few and written by one of those treasured older women.  She’s a season further down the road than I am and I appreciate her gentle way of challenging and encouraging those of us who come after her.

From the Internet:

Movies:

  • The September Issue–Fashion may be a little frivolous, but clothing is necessary, and the insight, creativity, and choices behind the biggest issue in the industry was fascinating.
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens–It did actually give me something to think about. Plus it was old school Star Wars and I went not just with my husband and our children, but also with my mom and dad and my brother and his family. It was nearly reliving moments from my childhood.
  • War Room–Encouraging and convicting. That’s a good combination right there, one that’s not always easily achieved.
  • Age of Ultron–What Can I say? We’re Marvel people around here.

Top Viewed Posts from Along This Road:

My Favorite Along This Road posts:

And you? What from this year do you want to take along with you into the new one? Have you read anything, watched anything, seen anything that has impacted your journey? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

 

 

Declarations in the Summer Sky

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Something lovely from the summer sky. Have you been watching? What have you seen?

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Psalm 19:1

Linking with Sandra’s Still Saturday.

Introductions

DSC00673Several years ago I heard a report which correlated time spent online with loneliness. That was back in the days when I used my computer only for word processing and the occasional email. Then, slowly, along came Google. Facebook. The fascinating and beautiful world of Pinterest. And blogs.

I won’t dispute the statistics. It’s a lonely world, with loneliness borne from many sources. But, the dire report hasn’t been my experience. I’ve even developed some friendships.

THE INVITATION

One such friend, Lyli, invited me to join a blog hop–an opportunity to introduce you to three of my favorite writers from the blog world and answer some questions about writing. Because I’ve discovered some marvelous hearts in other blog writers, I accepted.

THE INTRODUCTIONS

Shelly Miller-51 Shelly Miller: I found Shelly’s blog on a blog link-up. Her love for story and people, for Sabbath and God’s purposes, make her a consistent voice of encouragement in my life. Her words bring me back to the most important things. I appreciate her friendship. Shelly’s blog is Redemption’s Beauty.

Edie Wadsworth: Edie blogs at life{in}grace and her topics are a delightful mix of the serious and the lighthearted. Her words on why marriage is hard pierced my selfish soul and her delicious Best Ever Blueberry Coffee Cake is perfect for a slow Saturday morning. She encourages me regularly, both through the written word and through her voice on her newly launched podcast.

Emily Freeman: Emily consistently encourages me on a variety of topics that matter to me: people, faith, art, and living. She blogs at Chatting at the Sky and is the author of Graceful (which I am reading with my teenage daughter), Grace for the Good Girl, and A Million Little Ways (which I read very quickly and am now reading slowly with my husband).

THE INTERVIEW (It’s me asking…me.)

What am I writing or working on? This summer, aside from blog posts, I’ve been working on chapters of the book that’s been brewing for the last fifteen years–just to see. My goal was to write four chapters during these warm months. So far, I’ve written five, and rewritten them to the point that I won’t die of embarrassment if someone finds them. They still need polish and time to marinate so that the themes can emerge. Someday, it may be a book and whether it ends up to be something just for my family or for the world, I will have learned from the writing of it.

How does my work differ from others of its genre? That’s a tough one. Among other topics, I write about family, travel, and faith, but I doubt anyone would categorize this is as mommy blog, a travel blog, or a religious blog. Along This Road doesn’t have a neat niche, just stories for the journey, and my hope is that readers come away encouraged on theirs.

Why do I write what I do? Except for those times in my life when I have written for assignment, what you see here is what I have always written. I write about what I see in the world and the dots it connects.

How does my writing process work? I’ve dabbled, nearly always, with writing. When I became a mom, I wrestled with guilt over writing because it didn’t add anything to our family. And then, one morning as I walked toward the kitchen on my way to deliver some dirty clothes to the laundry room, I saw my children sitting at the kitchen table working on their writing assignment and it occurred to me that I could join them. Just for a little while every day, I could sit with them and we could all write together. Nine months later, I began a blog to increase my level of discipline. Today most of my writing takes place in the early morning.

According to C.S. Lewis, “Ink is the great cure of all human ills.” Here is my question for you: Do you take advantage of the great cure by the writing of letters, the keeping of a journal, or the recording memories of times past? If your answer is no, it might be worth it to make it a yes.

Too Many Minds

Have you heard of One Word 365? It’s an alternative to New Year’s resolutions, just one word to focus on for the year. I like the concept, but I’m more of a rearview mirror type of person. As I near the end of something I think, “Oh, that’s what that was all about.” My  word finds me when it’s all over.  The Nester, one of my favorite home and life bloggers, along with some of her blogging buddies suggest an alternative, an un-word, one that signifies something they want to leave behind. They’ve invited their readers to join them. An un-word is more my style, so here’s mine:

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From the first day my son loved school. He’s an oldest child who spent his time in the company of adults, mostly me.  When we walked into the school that first day of kindergarten, I expected hear the sound of ripping velcro as someone tore him off of my leg when it was time for me to go. He surprised me, though. He just waved and sent me on my way, longing for the sound of velcro.

It was the same every year. (Not the velcro, the loving school.) And then fourth grade hit. He seemed happy enough when he arrived home that first day, but as he walked past me to get ready for bed, he slumped and lamented, “I don’t really like school. It doesn’t leave any time to think.” Roll that one around in your mind for a while.

When I shared this with a friend while we pushed our little ones on swings at the park a few days later, she cocked her head to the side and said, “I think he’s a lot like his mama.” Apparently she knew me better than I knew myself because it was years before I understood what she meant. I never have enough time to think and I don’t even go to school.

My husband tells me that men compartmentalize life. They think about one thing at a time. Not me. I think about everything. All at once. It’s exhausting.

I have to stop, which leads me to my un-word for this year, which really is an un-phrase because, well, no one word captured it: too-many-minds. It’s from The Last Samurai, and it means thinking about too many things at once. I want to be focused, present in the moment, and available to the people I am with. That I do not do in the midst of too-many-minds, so that’s my un-word for 2014.

My kids are older. That boy who wanted more time to think is a junior in high school and the girl in the swing is ten. I have less time to think than I did two years ago. With an I’ll think about that later, I make a futile attempts to table all of those thoughts I want–or need–to think. The table sags and the thoughts fall into the whirling tilt-a-whirl that is my brain. It doesn’t work.

Tonight I have nothing more than the genesis of change. I have no plan, but my calendar tells me that I’ll be alone tomorrow night. I’ll have time to think. And that is what I’m going to do.

And you? If you were to choose an un-word, what would it be? I’d love to hear. Leave a comment and let me know.

Linking at The Nesting Place.