Navigating This Season {whatever it is} By Faith

My legs rebelled at the unfamiliar sensation of sand rearranging itself under my feet. For my family, a typical hike meant packed-dirt paths through deciduous woods in Iowa or evergreen forests out west, not shifting sand in a desert canyon. But here we were, tackling new terrain. We walked along, faces tilted toward the slim slice of sky. We were at Capitol Reef National Park, hiking the narrow passageway of the Capitol Gorge trail. At the turnaround point, we noticed a sign for a spur trail. We could turn around or we could continue two-tenths of a mile up a {Continue Reading}

Walking in Tension

Crossing the empty parking lot, I zipped my fleece jacket to my chin and drew my fingers into my sleeves. It was August and already the mountain morning air held heavy hints of the coming autumn–known in Yellowstone as “early winter.” Side by side, my dad and I climbed the sloping path to Tower Fall. During my growing up years, Tower had always been a regular stop when my family visited Yellowstone. That first year, its 132-foot plunge impressed me but it was the large boulder perched at the brink that held my attention. I was sure it, like us, {Continue Reading}

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}

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}

One Question for When You’re Finding Your Way

The gradual slipping away of the pine-lined path went unnoticed—by me anyway. We’d set off that morning, wanting to spend just a little more time on the trail and in the park before heading home from our week in Yellowstone. Situated along the way, the Gneiss Creek Trail would do well, we thought. It was new. It was short. It sounded inviting. And it was, rising slowly through terrain that sang an unmistakable song of the west and stirred memories of Kevin Costner’s narrative segments from Dances with Wolves. Emerging from thick, head-high lodgepole pines into a sudden clearing, I {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}

Look at the Pretty Lights

Our headlights cut through the blinding darkness of the December night, illuminating the country highway as my littlest girl and I made our way home from church. “Look at the pret-ty lights, Mom-my,” she called from her car seat in the back of the van. “Do you see the pret-ty lights? I like the pret-ty lights. Do you like the pret-ty lights?” Like them? Yes. See them? No. At least, not like she did. She, days shy of her fourth birthday, saw twinkly lights on the horizon and deemed them worthy of attention, of affection, of conversation. I, days past {Continue Reading}

Rest Along the Way

We sprinted up the switchbacked trail, pausing occasionally to measure how far we’d come, to rest our already used-up legs, to fill our lungs with as much oxygen as the mountain air would give. In previous years, I would have decided that it wasn’t worth it. Not the rush. Not the climb. Not even the destination. But over a lifetime, I’d come to embrace hiking, to believe that forest trails led to worthwhile places, to want to finish what we’d started. So we pressed on, putting one foot in front of the other, making painfully slow progress toward the solitude of one of Yellowstone’s backcountry {Continue Reading}

Do Not Approach

The girls and I emerged from the cozy, fire-warmed lobby,  braced ourselves against the chilled morning air, and took to the sidewalk that led to Mammoth Hot Spring’s historic chapel. Aware of the cow elk lounging on the lawn between the buildings along the way, I said, “Don’t worry. I won’t risk our lives on the way to church this morning.” It was the end of September, well into the annual rut, and the local bull was busy defending his harem from challengers and his territory from vehicles and passing pedestrians. It was just the girls that morning because the guys were taking advantage of {Continue Reading}