Two weeks ago on Sunday, I had a day to chew on all that I had been learning and receiving in the first week of EMS' Summer Institute for Spiritual Formation. I was up early enough to watch the sun rise. During the morning I sat out on my cousin's patio, watching the play of sunshine and shadow over the rolling hills, while my heart mourned with the community of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina and the devastations of generations of racism.
(To get a taste of the sunshine and shadows, watch the slideshow immediately below. These were recorded at 30-60 second intervals. If you're viewing this on a mobile device, you may need to go to the actual website in order to see the series.)
After time with relatives in the afternoon, I returned to the patio at sunset, watching the slow unfurling of clouds on the mountains, and the glow of the setting sun on them. In retrospect, it seems a highly appropriate way to have spent the longest day of the year -- even if I didn't realize it was the summer solstice until I looked at online news late that night.
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.
Simple springtime pleasures -- whether it is reflections of the sun on a golden coreopsis on a sunny morning after a rainy night, or blue sky and green plants reflected in droplets on a blade of grass, or later in the day, the soft pinks of a peony in full bloom, or dandelion seeds just setting sail, or bright coreopsis in early morning sunshine, or phlox in early evening light, spring is a time of beauty in many small things.
(correction -- I thought this was phlox but my wildflower-wise friends tell me it is Dame's Rocket -- phlox has 5 petals, so if you play "She loves me, she loves me not," counting it out on the petals, phlox loves you and Dame's Rocket does not. Dame's Rocket is a European import and considered an invasive species here.)
To round out the record of our time in the Northwest, a few city sights. One sight we saw numerous times, thanks to the clear July weather, but which proved elusive for the camera, was a snow covered Mt Ranier.
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.
If you stand on our front doorstep and look across College Avenue to the northwest, this is what you see -- the houses across the street and behind them, the Goshen College Music Center. On a gray day, it's nearly invisible, and we've been having a lot of gray days.
Last Friday, however, it was clear and cold. I walked my last directee of the day to the door, and as we said goodbye, this is what we saw:
"Alpenglow!" I exclaimed.
Years ago I sat on the porch of my uncle's cabin on Lake Granby, and watched as the sun set and the mountains glowed a rosy red. It didn't last long. Dad said it was alpenglow, an optical phenomenon that occurs after the sun sets, or just before sunrise, when the sun is below the horizon, but light is being reflected off of snow or ice crystals and creates that rosy glow on the opposite horizon.
I don't know if this was alpenglow, or just the last rays of the setting sun hitting one of the few high spots around. As my son once said, northern Indiana is rather geographically-challenged. We have to take our mountains where we can find them.
By the time my directee left and I had grabbed my camera and crossed the street for a clearer shot from the parking lot, the light to the east was fading.But the western horizon still glowed.
My approach to contemplative photography --
Tell about it."
Mary Oliver in "Sometimes"