Influenced By the One That Came Before

Summer’s green is wearing thin. Before long, it will give way to the colors of autumn. Some years, summer’s heat and its green march across the lawn arrive with a suddenness that suggests we’ve gone straight from winter to summer with no stop for spring. This doesn’t happen with autumn. Thanks to the turning of the leaves when summer fades to fall, it’s a transition impossible to miss. Even though the leaves turn every year, even though it’s impossible to miss, it doesn’t always look the same. Some seasons the trees along the roads and in the woods wear a regal assortment of {Continue Reading}


Because the things of earth end, because beginnings arrive disguised as endings, because this week brings both to our family in the form of college–a repost. It made sense when I was young. The cicada’s song signaled school’s imminent return. I enjoyed school, so maybe it didn’t make sense, but as a child, it was the best I could come up with. I dreaded the inevitability of its lonely refrain vibrating through summer’s evening air. My parents held a different opinion. They called it beautiful. Age has allowed me to agree. I can hear a loveliness in the cicada’s song {Continue Reading}

The Bird and the Wire

Summer mornings, I walk the gravel line between the drone of highway traffic and the twitter of birds in the pasture. A road that knows few cars and fewer houses, its ditches prosper rabbits and bees and the birds which lay down my morning soundtrack. I rarely notice the animals when I walk. Because I’m prone to tumble, I tend to keep my eyes fixed on at the ever-changing place where my feet meet the road. It’s hard to watch with my eyes glued to the ground. Even so, one morning I noticed a movement in the ditch. A bird flew straight up the front of the fence {Continue Reading}


Once in a while, we encounter the remains of a colossal tree on the trail. Sometimes we find an immense trunk laying on the ground rather than stretched to the sky. Usually, though, it’s a remnant of a root system tipped into the air that gets our attention. We always stop when we see a tangled mass that once anchored a tree. They’re beautiful, but not in the traditional way. They’re gnarled and convoluted, but they’re strong. They’re huge so they can hold a tree fast in the face of intense mountain weather. They make me consider the condition of my own roots. {Continue Reading}

For When It Rains On Your Parade

A few Saturdays ago, I woke to thunder and began to pray that it wouldn’t rain. Seconds later, I realized that it was 6:30 a.m., the time when my post The Best Thing One Can Do  was scheduled to land in inboxes, mine included. I wasn’t following Longfellow’s advice for a rainy day. Sometimes weather is a painful metaphor for life. Trials don’t have to come from camping to do their work, and their work isn’t limited to relationships. Chesterton says to look up. Longfellow, to let it rain. And James tells us to consider them with joy. None of those are {Continue Reading}

What’s a Little Rain?

Dad and I went to Yellowstone about a year ago—just the two of us, to the Lamar Buffalo Ranch, for a nature writing class—and we did some hiking and camping along the way. Most of the time, the end-of-August days delighted us with warm sun and cool air, but the forecast and cotton candy clouds foreboded rain. The clouds delivered a couple of afternoon spurts worth dragging out our yellow ponchos for. And once, while we walked the boardwalk to Echinus geyser, they brought hail. And every night for three nights, while we cooked our dinner, the sky sprinkled. Every {Continue Reading}

On Trials Shared

Gary Smalley, founder of the Smalley Relationship Center, says that the secret to a “close-knit relationship is shared experiences that turn into shared trials.” He mentions camping as one source for shared trials and a potential relationship-building activity. Makes sense. Camping is fraught with potential for trial. There’s the weather. The bugs. The work. The hard ground. He grants that you don’t have to camp to invite such trials. I agree. A picnic will do nicely. The year of the October heatwave that turned to snow, we adapted to the rain with less time on the trail and more time on the road. Lunchtime {Continue Reading}

Warning Signs

Some summers my nephew and niece visit us. The kids picnic and put on puppet shows; they fish and swim and sleep outside and get bit up. They stay busy–all on their own–and they love it. One year, my daughter was recovering from a cracked elbow. She had a doctor’s appointment so I planned to take them all for some fun along the way. We would stop at the lake and climb the water tower-turned-observation-deck. They would be, I knew, delighted. They were not delighted; they were busy making their own fun in the pond and groaned a few complaints when {Continue Reading}

Silver Linings

I wrote this last winter but I couldn’t bear to post one more piece about snow. Winter had been too long and too deep. Summer always brings a day, usually in August, when I step outdoors and know that I will again be ready for snow. This is not that day. This strangely cool summer may not even give me one, but winter is long enough past to allow the enjoyment of its memory. Flakes were flying when I arrived at the orthodontist. Both ground and sky were clear twenty minutes later when I walked out of the office and {Continue Reading}