Tuesday, August 23, 2011


God’s Grandeur
 Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–89)
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;        
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;        
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.


Remember when you were little, and would run outside to seek out the perfect spot to lay down in the damp green grass, warmed by the summer sun, staring up at the clouds, squinting, trying to find that one great shape that resembled a creature or object of some sort? "Look, it's a bunny rabbit, do you see it?" When was the last time you did that?

To watch a child delight in nature is completely amusing, especially the way they unconsciously Ooo and Ahh over everything while bending down to get a closer look, reaching out to touch, climbing up for a better view.  They want don't just want to see nature, they want to experience it, to be alive in it.

Interestingly, this patterned form of learning - curiosity of one's surroundings, followed by keen observations which naturally inspire questions and answers is one of the earliest forms of education.  An education that not only stretches the intellect and the senses, but the soul as well, often leading the pupil into contemplation of God and the spiritual life.  Being in God's grandeur is a type of catechesis in and of itself, not separated from the other interests and types of learning, ones we consider to be of greater distinction and importance than Theology, which is in fact the highest form of study.

Moose and mountains, spruce and springs must now compete with X-box, Wii even TV.  But they are "learning games" and they increase "hand-eye coordination"(!), so the argument goes.  I'm not sure about you, but my kids don't need any assistance with lessons in movement, but could use some lessons in being still....in just being.  Because, as "doers," and that's what many of us are, we often forget to bend down, reach out, climb up, or lay down to gaze at the clouds or constellations.  And, oh, what we are missing....but more afraid of missing an e-mail, a text, a Facebook post, a phone call.

Our vacation to the mountains reminded me that I myself have been a bit disconnected from God's grandeur and more connected to the very things of which I preach moderation to our boys. Sure, I don't live in the majestic mountains, but no one has the view of the stars that we do out here....a view I have quite willingly passed up for a movie or e-mail.  
On a family hike to Adam's Falls, we came upon five enormous bull moose, and bravely (or crazily) stood within 15 narrow feet of them while they fed on the wild grass of the meadow adjacent to our path.  That morning, I had prayed that God would allow us to see a moose and a bear before we left for home.  
Exceeding my wishes, He showed us not one moose, but five (five!), and as for the bears, well, I was secretly okay with the fact that we didn't come across any.  I would quite likely pass out if I saw one.  (Thank you, Lord for not hearing me on that one...or rather for hearing me and laughing!)
Homeschooling or not, fostering curiosity in natural history in your children will more than likely ensure for them a life-long interest in nature.  Some exercises are very simple such as planting a garden, naming (and smelling) flowers, star-gazing, collecting leaves, bugs and seeds. Or, if I may, suggest camping instead of Disney World. (Gasp!) Just once,  Just try it. You'll love it.  So will your kids.
There are a million resources out there to help guide the learning process, but for the very young to teen-age learners, a couple that I have found to be very beneficial are:

1.  Keeping a Nature Journal. Discover a Whole New Way of Seeing the World Around You, by Clare W. Leslie and Charles E. Roth

2.  Any book by Jim Arnosky, an avid nature lover and illustrator.  Some of our favorites are: Crinkleroot's Guide to Knowing the Birds, Big Jim and the White-Legged Moose, Raccoons and Ripe Corn and I See Animals Hiding.

I would like to give credit to Jenni Keiter, who so generously shared the fantastic close-ups of the moose.  I wasn't sure I could juggle Charlie and a camera on the hike and, to my regret, missed snapping some great footage of the magnificent creatures.  Alert to my moans and groans along the trail, she kindly volunteered to e-mail me some footage.  Through our dialog, I have learned that she also home schools.  I thought that some of you might find an excerpt of our correspondence interesting:

"This photography workshop we were doing in Rocky Mountain was with John MacMurray, whose whole mission with his art is to point people toward their Creator.  He has done several books and continually reminds people that so much of nature is unnecessarily beautiful.  God could have given us a totally functional planet for a home, but He chose to make it majestic and awesome and enjoyable.  That really speaks of His love for us.  And the fact that pretty much any person will look at snow-covered peaks or a mountain lake or a meadow of wildflowers and be awestruck and declare it "beautiful" says that He is using creation to draw us toward Him and we all have that empty place in our soul that longs to worship."

The Grandeur of God indeed. AMEN! 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Reflections from Grand Lake 2011

How do you know when you need a vacation?? (I don't mean need, I mean NEED a vacation, and not the weekend get-away type, but the "I'm leavin' and I don't know when I'm comin' back" type).  Well there are the usual signs like persistant fatigue, low motivation to work, short fuse etc. etc.  Then, there are the  "evacuate the premise immediately" signs, and they might resemble the following:
1. So tired you stutter through your kids names and eventually settle with, "Hey you!"
2. The only thing you remember hearing yourself say all day is, "I've had it up to here!"
3. "Up to here" can't get any higher.
4.  You have a glass of wine or beer with every meal, even PB & J.
5.  You find yourself gazing at your wedding picture, trying to remember what your husband looks like. 

Needless to say, last week, we evacuated the premises.
And seven hours later we found ourselves at Grand Lake, CO. Exhale.  Aaahhhh....
Steve and I agree that the best way to "recharge the batteries" is to be out in nature.  
So, that's just what we did.  A few days of hiking, fishing, discovering, sight-seeing and just being in the beauty was magnificently medicinal, breathing life back into our souls into our sanity.
Perhaps the most rewarding, for me, was rediscovering the wonder and unique beauty of each one of my children.  On vacation, I get to catch all of the crazy, silly, endearing things that they think, say and do, not being overshadowed by heaps of laundry, bills, dishes and disasters all waiting to be conquered.
In fact, we were so taken with their enthusiasm and spunk, that we decided to give each of the boys an Indian name on the trip.  A name that they had to earn.  They are as follow:
George (the first to earn it, go figure):  Light of the water. 
George and the lake were like two magnetic forces that could not be separated.  The first time he fell in, it was a "mysterious rock" that came up and pushed him in, head first, clothes and all.  I haven't kept an extra set of clothes in the car for him since he was a baby and needed "emergency blow-out attire."
Henry: Screaming Eagle.
I would put Henry's high-pitched shrilling scream of discontent up against any other three year old girl.  It was a long seven hours of survival in the back seat of the Denali with two big brothers.  At this point I would be ok with fists en lieu of screaming.
Andrew:  Fears No Rock.
The kid is like an antelope.  On an afternoon hike he scaled vertical rock faces with ease, and leaped down rocky slopes without pause.  (Definitely not my genetics.  I give that one to Steve.)  At the top of the face he shouts down to us "Nailed it!"  (Humble pie was served for supper that night.)
Benedict: Iron Foot.
On a fly-fishing adventure with dad, Ben announced that there was a hole in his waders and it let ice-cold water into his left boot.  But, he endured the frigid conditions just long enough to catch the biggest rainbow trout in the stream.  (Indian names cannot be earned without a wee bit o' drama.)  
Charles:  Snuggle Bear, Cuddle Bear
It was a right bit chilly in the mountains, even for our little cub, so someone was always sugglin' and cuddlin' with Charles.  We couldn't resist!
A few more clips of the trip...
A friendly neighbor let us borrow his 80,000 pound canoe.  Whew!
You take the ski lift going up,
and it's full speed ahead coming down!
Everyone went crazy on the bungie-trampoline, even dad, the flip-master....
Meeting up with the cousins was a great surprise!
HIKING (with the moose!) AT ADAM'S FALLS...
Did I really think I was going to get a portrait pic with chilling 30 mph gusts pouncing off of their sweet cheeks?  Well, one must try.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011


In the wee small hours of the morning, Charlie awoke with a little rumbly in his tumbly.  The plea of his cry wasn't the only sound breaking the silence.  For a moment I thought I heard the sound of rain.  I couldn't be sure, because there have been so many times over the summer that the sound of sand and dirt pelting against the house by great gusts of wind has been mistaken for rain.

I couldn't bring myself to look outside, even though I knew that the percent chance for rain forecasted for the night was very high.
But, as the sun rose, and fresh air drifted through the open windows, I knew it was true.
It rained.  On us.  More than a sprinkle.  Almost an inch - and that amount is more than reason to celebrate!
The evidence was everywhere - even my petunias were perky!

I haven't seen a dragon fly all summer.  You are welcome to bathe on our deck anytime, honey!

The kids forgot what rain looked like. They had forgotten about little treasures of puddles it can leave for them to play in.  Yep, George, that's it!  You found it!  Had you forgotten??  Me too!!  Let's go play!

Cut loose, boys, the washing machine is fired up and ready to go - go crazy!  Today, mud is a goooood thing!!!

These events were captured with the best sound effects you can imagine - so true to form for boys!

Words cannot describe the utter joy that swept over all of us.

It was as if we have been holding our breath for months, and could finally exhale.  Like being trapped in a deep, dark cave and one day finding our way out into the light again.
We need more, so, so very much more. But for today, we will soak in the blessing!

Praise the LORD.
Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good;
   his love endures forever.

~Psalm 106:1