Summer into Fall Challenge

I was finishing up the dinner dishes when my daughter, sixteen, slipped into the house and said, “You might want to stop and come outside. The sky is beautiful. I don’t think you want to miss it.” I’ve learned to listen to that girl. She pays attention. She’s attuned to beauty. And she loves to share it. She’s been at this sky-sharing practice for nearly half her life. The first time she did this, she was nine and there was a little more drama involved. She didn’t just slip into the house. Her arrival was accompanied by the crashing of {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}

Why We Don’t Feed the Animals

One evening, toward the end of my shift at the Old Faithful Inn gift shop, I saw a woman circling the front of the store, searching. When I approached her to offer assistance, she turned and said, “Where do you keep the food for the animals?”  Food for the animals? I was shocked that anyone would say the words out loud. The park code was clear: Do Not Feed the Animals.  “Feeding the animals is against park regulations,” I told her, probably apologetically. “Oh,” she said. “My little boy wanted to feed the chipmunks.” Of course he did. They’re tiny. They’re {Continue Reading}

Pondering Life Outside {Why it Matters}

A strange sort of geography took my parents, my brother, and me from Glacier National Park in northern Montana back home by way of a one day drive through Yellowstone. It was 1989, the year after Yellowstone’s Summer of Fire. We’d watched it unfold on the evening news. Night after night reporters stood in front of walls of flame,  columns of firefighters, or charred forest, delivering their opinion that fire was destroying our national treasure and predicting that Yellowstone as we knew it would be gone forever. We were Yellowstone regulars. I had worked at the Old Faithful Inn during {Continue Reading}

Pondering Life Outside Challenge

According to C.S. Lewis, “No man would find an abiding strangeness on the Moon unless he were the sort of man who could find it in his own back garden.” My grandma began schooling me in the wonders of the back garden early, when I was just a little girl.  Among the things I looked forward to at her house were breakfasting on bananas in milk, picnicking at what I believed to be the world’s biggest park, and rocking together in front of her picture window at day’s end. What I anticipated most, though, were the looking walks. They began {Continue Reading}

Tracks and Transitions

Out west, our family sometimes stays in a cabin on a parcel of land plunked down in the middle of a national forest. There—with no cell service, no cable, and no wifi– we watch the weather unfold in the sky rather than on radar. A couple of years back, a sunny September afternoon was overshadowed by clouds that rolled in over the Absaroka mountains, dropping rain and then snow as the temperatures plummeted. A splashy snow, it clung to everything it touched—the meadow’s tall grass, the aspen’s still-green leaves, and us. It fell through the afternoon and into the evening. {Continue Reading}

All Because of a Little Fire

The springtime landscape in rural Iowa wears a mosaic of ever-deepening swaths of green broken by plots of freshly turned fields and charred black ditches. Growing up, I saw the burns and wondered why people, including my farmer-grandparents, endured the stress of trying to contain a fire they’d set themselves. They serve all manner of useful purposes, these controlled, or prescribed, burns. They break down dead plant material and return nutrients to the soil. They help with reseeding. They even control ticks. My dad explained it to me when I was young, but it wasn’t until my family and I took up residence {Continue Reading}

Tracks in the Snow

The twelve-passenger van made its way down Yellowstone’s snow-covered road not on traditional tires, but on treads meant to traverse the groomed roadway. Gone were the crowds and the fly fishermen of fall, replaced by seas of white broken by swaths of evergreen and dots of brown, bison in search of last year’s grass to fill their bellies. Two adult trumpeter swans, their arched necks highlighted against the steamy Firehole River, swam alongside a grey cygnet, all camouflaged by the white of the snow and the deep of the water. A cow elk foraged alone for food on a hillside and a {Continue Reading}