Friday Field Notes | Good News When the News is Bad

My son is studying abroad this semester. In northern Italy. Until this week, I hadn’t heard much talk about northern Italy outside the context of his travel plans. Now it’s all over the news. He was supposed to start classes next Monday. On Monday of this week, his university closed because of the coronavirus. As of Thursday, the start of classes has been postponed a week. Am I worried about him contracting the coronavirus? Not especially. Do I wake up in the morning wondering if his city has been put on lockdown, if his university will be closed indefinitely, how he’s handling being a {Continue Reading}

Friday Fields Notes | Light

In his book, For Everything There is a Season: A Sequence of Natural Events in the Grand Teton-Yellowstone Area, naturalist Frank C. Craighead compiles decades of observations of outdoor happenings into week-by-week entries. At least, they’re weekly entries between February 27 and December 3. The remainder of December warrants only one entry. And January 1 – February 26 gets only one short paragraph, mostly highlighting what’s behind and what’s ahead. There’s not a lot going on. His summary sentence is telling: “The shortest day of the year (December 21) is behind us with the severest weather still ahead, but the {Continue Reading}

Three Small Steps for Walking by Faith

Twenty-three Decembers ago, my husband, our one-year-old son, and I moved to Pella, Iowa. When we were still in the shall-we-or-shall-we-not phase of the process, my dad mentioned that he thought that bald eagles wintered in that area. In a word, I was shocked. I’d grown up a mere hour-and-a-half from Pella and never, not once, had we gone to see these eagles. And we were that family, the one that pulled over on the side of the road to gawk at eagles—whether they were soaring in the sky or perched on an electrical pole. So, of course, a couple {Continue Reading}

Walking by Faith Through New Things

We set off, my family and I, into the high desert. Unfamiliar territory, it was marked by slot canyons and stark terrain. We were mountain hikers, more accustomed to treading over soft, tree-lined paths than through stony expanses. Trailhead signs warned that heat kills, admonishing all who dared pass to carry two liters of water. Both seemed overzealous in the cool autumn morning—until I remembered: deserts change with the seasons. Spring rains and summer heat would transform this temperate landscape into something searing and tumultuous. Parched though it is, Utah’s slick rock is not dry and thirsty ground ready to {Continue Reading}

Do You Need to Turn Around?

It was one of the first hikes we took together, my husband and I. It wasn’t long—only a few miles, but the first stretch—and the last—was steep. The descent wasn’t bad. The destination—a steel suspension bridge spanning a canyon in the middle of wilderness—was worth the trip down and even back up. Still, that thigh-burning return trip reigns in my memory, especially when we consider taking any trail with the word “steep” in its description. Draped across the slope like twinkle lights on a Christmas tree, switchbacks supposedly moderated the mountain face into a more manageable grade. I trudged up {Continue Reading}

Fall Field Notes

Good morning to you on this fine autumn day! Today I’m doing something just a little different and sharing a few field notes, a gathering of what the landscape of life has been teaching me. If you have a moment to pause and ponder what the landscape of your life is teaching you, I’d love to hear—either in the comments or via email. The phrase “It’s a season” is good, true, helpful, and hopeful. It also, I’m learning, encourages me to expect it to run its course within a certain timeframe. This leads me to focus on the end prematurely. {Continue Reading}

Walking by Faith Through Tough Terrain

The first trail—as in, an unpeopled, into the wilderness, marked-by-blazes-instead-of-a-worn-path trail—I remember taking was to the petrified forest in Yellowstone. I was fourteen, with my family, on our second visit to the park, and we’d finally stopped believing that we would be consumed by a bear if we left the crowded boardwalks and entered the quiet woods. It was not an easy hike. Oh, the walking part was fine. It was the finding the destination part that was the problem. Some trails through the wilderness are worn dirt paths, threadbare lines leading from where you’ve been to where you want {Continue Reading}

Five Surprising Tips for Walking by Faith from Hiking in the Dark

We set off, a dozen trainees, gravel crunching under our feet, toward the foreboding forest. We’d congregated at twilight to learn to hike in the dark. Like the rest of the greenhorns, I’d shown up with my flashlight because, obviously, we would need to something to light the way.  What we needed, according to our trainer, was time, not a torch. He said we would have all the light we needed—from the moon. After thirty to forty-five minute adjustment period, our night vision would kick in and we would be able to see well enough to find our way in {Continue Reading}

Walking by Faith | Using the Right Muscles

We left our car at the pullout, walked past the bungalow-sized glacial boulder, and started down an easy path. Short, flat, and offering a good view, the Cascade Overlook Trail promised to be a good wakeup hike. Enveloped in a thick evergreen wood, we relished the rhythm of quiet conversation and companionable silence mingled with the crunching rock under our feet and the rustling trees above our heads. Before long, the trail emerged from the trees, and there was the Grand Canyon, not of Arizona but of the Yellowstone River. We took careful steps along the curving rim of the {Continue Reading}