Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A Walk in the Prairie

I can't remember who said it, but I remembered the words, "You never really know your land until you walk it" the other day as I was walking our prairie. Canadian thistles had sprung up in multitudes and I put on my backpack sprayer and was killing them as gently as I could so that the wildflowers and prairie grasses wouldn't be overwhelmed by them. And, though I had driven over this land many times before -- back when I used to mow it or in our utility cart on the way to the woods -- during the walk I felt subtle risings and fallings in the land that looks flat to the eye or feels flat to the tush on the tractor. The soles of my feet communicated to my soul the infinite variety of topography on our nine acre prairie -- soft ground, hard ground, mats of grass and thick stems of iron weed. My "eye-view" was lower than usual, too, so I saw the ground and growth differently -- rattlesnake master and brown eyed susans beginning to bloom, bluestem grass reaching slowly toward the sun. Rabbits where there'd been no rabbits before, butterflies fluttering by, and redwing blackbirds calling out -- warning me not to come too close to their nests. A coyote scampered out of the edge of the prairie, sneering indignantly over his shoulder at me -- how dare I enter his place. A couple of deer moved less slowly -- probably couldn't decide who was more dangerous, the human w/ his ball cap and sprayer or the coyote who was inviting them into the woods.

All in all, it increased my love of the place that Nancy and I call home. It drove home the responsibility I have to keep it tended as well as I can so that there can someday be even more rabbits, butterflies, deer, wild turkey, quail, and even coyote. It reminded me of the joyous, ecstatic creativity of God when this was all called into being by a Word.

It also reminded me that after all these years, I still don't recognize poison ivy when I'm surrounded by it. But that's another blog -- please pass the Calamine lotion.


Monday, May 14, 2007

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles...

... and ships. No, it's not an update of the Steve Martin/John Candy movie. It's how Nancy and I (and my parents) made our way around the Pacific Northwest for over ten days. We flew to Chicago, entrained to Seattle, ferried to Victoria, BC and back to Seattle, entrained to Eugene, OR, automobiled up the Oregon coast and through the Columbia Gorge, and flew back home. Quite a journey -- magnificent scenery, great times with friends and family, and the joy of seeing new things (such as sea lions swimming wild in the ocean).

But, being one of those people who think too much, I couldn't help but reflect on the fact that no matter how we traveled, our route was pretty much determined for us. The train, obviously, followed the tracks. The ferry followed the shipping channels. The car followed the roads from Eugene to Florence and then up the coast. The plane followed air routes established by the FAA. The way was determined for us. Which is unlike our way through life to God. No meandering on planes, trains, ships, or roads for those of us who are traveling commercially. Which is probably one reason why our way to God is more of a hiking pilgrimage than a tour.

On a hike we can stay on the road, walk the rails, swim a while, or just wander off the path and see what we want to see. Or we can nap in the meadow, climb a tree in the woods, or get lost. A hike is not quite as safe and comfortable as a plane (even in economy), train (even while waiting on a siding for a passing freight), or ferryboat (with free champagne breakfast). But we see and feel and learn things we can't any other way.

So here's to hiking through life, experiencing the joys and sorrows of the way. And here's to happy feet!