Use your imagination and mentally stitch the two photos above into one long panorama of a sunrise. You're looking at Massanutten, the mountain ridge that bisects the Shenodoah valley, with its highest peak east of Harrisonburg and then dropping abruptly off.
This is the view my father grew up with, just down the hill from my cousin's house, on the edge of the Eastern Mennonite Campus where his father was business manager for many years. It's a view that shows up again and again in my grandmother's paintings; it means home to my father, even though his view now is of the corn fields of northern Indiana. He has his own five-foot long photo hanging on his office wall, the feedmills carefully photo-shopped out. Morning fog is another way to do it.
Fauna to be found on Massanutten include bear, coyote, wild turkeys, rattlers, deer, and luna moths. Most of those I did not see, though there was a rumor of a bear on the James Madison University campus and I saw deer at the edge of Jewel's yard one morning. And this slightly tattered luna moth was perched on a post at the retreat center we visited the second Monday.
More views from my cousin's backyard. Their house sits on a ridge with views of Massanutten to the east and the Allegheny mountains to the west. I've long thought that I would prefer living by the ocean to living by mountains. I love the way the light and color is always changing with the ocean. Mountains, on the other hand, just sit there. Or so I thought, until these past few weeks, watching the interactions of haze, clouds, light, and mountains. Glory! What a delight, to have the time to sit and watch the slow unfolding of sunsets and cloud dances.
I went for a walk on the millrace path one bright morning earlier this week and found dewy jewels everywhere I looked. The beginning lines from the refrain of one of the songs we sing at church kept running through my head, "Fresh as the morning, sure as the sunrise..."
One of my friends dislikes the way the refrain continues -- God always faithful, you do not change, He feels that it plays in to some people's perceptions that God is impervious, impassive, and incapable of being affected, avoiding change.
The refrain keeps singing in my head though. For me, "you do not change" connects with "always faithful" and with the sunrise -- returning every morning, yet different every time, As I look around the created world, it looks to me like God takes great delight in diversity and change. So I will go ahead and take delight in this moment and in this dew that will be gone before midday, knowing that tomorrow morning will have its own sparks of light.
Thich Nhat Hanh: Miracle of Mindfulness
I like to walk alone on country paths,
rice plants and wild grasses on both sides,
putting each foot down on the earth
in mindfulness, knowing
that I walk on the wondrous earth.
In such moments, existence is a miraculous
and mysterious reality.
People usually consider walking on water
or in thin air a miracle.
But I think the real miracle
is not to walk either on water or in thin air,
but to walk on earth.
Every day we are engaged in a miracle
which we don't even recognize:
a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves,
the black, curious eyes of a child--
our own two eyes.
All is a miracle
Looking down or looking up, I'm finding sparks of light these sunny fall days. Rippling in water, reflecting from the dam pond, rimming clouds and flowers and leaves, when the sun shines, we're all soaking it in, storing up memories of light and color for the gray days that are just around the corner. And yet even those days will have their own subtle ways of catching the light.
The cygnets have hatched. A few evenings ago we saw them on the millrace, Mama sailing sedately in the lead, seven cygnets paddling hard to keep up, and Papa keeping a careful eye on them all from a rear position.
We walked along the bike path, following them till they settled back in the nest, Mama apparently covering them all with her protective wing. And a final image, from the next evening, of a different sort of flock sailing across the rays of the setting sun.
Creation is a song, a song that we can see,
a sacred gift from God, let's join the harmony.
This chorus has been singing in my head all week. We sang it at church Sunday, # 24 in Sing the Journey, to the accompaniment of a soft, steady drum beat. It was written by Doug and Jude Krehbiehl, inspired by the writings of Lawrence Hart, a Cheyenne peace chief and Mennonite, and by Cheyenne Spiritual Songs.You can hear Jude sing the chorus and first verse here.
The verses celebrate many scenes from creation and I find they trigger a treasure trove of memories for me. I sing The rolling of the oceans, and I find myself standing on Goleta Beach watching the waves roll in, or floating in the warm waters of the second beach at Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio in Costa Rica. I sing the bubbling of a spring, and I am standing in the middle of the woods at Camp Friedenswald, watching the gentle simmer of clear spring water stir the fall leaves floating there. I sing the night sky filled with jewels and I remember a pre-dawn winter morning when I stepped outside to get the paper and the stars were strewn like jewels across black silk -- and then one star stirred to life and streaked across the sky. I sing a flock of beating wings, and I'm in a car with the family the week before Easter, traveling across Saskatchewan on our way to Edmonton, with the sky overhead a complex interweaving of rivers and rivers of birds migrating north, and the song A River of Birds, by Libana, appropriately playing on the tape recorder.
And here's a few photos to go with some of the other phrases:
And the last verse:
Every glowing sunset, every outstretched leaf
is witness to the glory of the One who sits as Chief.
The long-distance views at The Pines Ranch in Westcliffe were delightful, but so were some of the nearer views (and someone with a sense of humor posted that MPH sign on the rather bumpy dirt lane).
We're back home again in Indiana, after travels that took us east to the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia and west to the Sangre de Cristo in Colorado. There were good family times and many scenic views, but between being in areas without internet access and a sometimes recalcitrant computer, I haven't been posting them here.
Not that I stopped looking around me, or taking photos. I'll be going through them in the next week, and sharing some. In the meantime, here are a few moments of light -- and rain, which is feeling precious and beautiful here in drought-ridden Goshen. These come from the area around Westcliffe, CO, mostly looking east from the place we stayed at the foot of the Sangre de Cristos mountains.
The middle school Sunday school class decided to fold cranes for Heidi, and many others joined in over the months, folding and praying.
The first Sunday in Lent, I preached on being Broken, Blessed and Beloved. One image from the sermon was that of the sea turtle. At a difficult time in my life, I heard a message from God that yes, the way was not easy, but it served a purpose, just as some kinds of sea turtles need to make the difficult journey across the beach from nest to the ocean in order to be properly oriented to reach the deep sea feeding grounds, and if female, to return years later to the same beach and lay eggs.
I wore a sea turtle pendant that Sunday, and sent it home with Heidi, who was entering the hospital for an experimental treatment that week. This spring I commissioned this little turtle from Wilma Harder, of silver and sweetwater agate.
My approach to contemplative photography --
Tell about it."
Mary Oliver in "Sometimes"