Goodbye, Summer

Goodness gracious, where did the summer get to? How does it happen, when I have the most to write about, I have the least time/inclination to do so? It really is hard to sit inside on a computer when the sun is shining outside. But fall is a-comin’, and that means earlier evenings and a general turnaround of what my summer routine is like. I look forward to getting back into writing this blog, which has been such a delightful constant for the last 4 years!

To catch anyone up (briefly) who may be interested, this summer has been a blessedly full time, busy with work at the greenhouse, some shifts at the fire station as time allowed, time with friends (a priority in the summer), wonderful quantities of hiking, a visit from a former college classmate of mine, a trip to Bozeman for the Biblical Counseling Conference and some hiking and camping along the way. I can’t promise anything, but my goal is to play some catch up on this blog, at least as far as the hiking articles go. We discovered some gems this summer, and I’d hate to miss publishing them!

I didn’t think it was possible for so much to go by so fast and so pleasantly. And now it is quickly becoming fall. September 23 is only two weeks away!

So…goodbye, summer. Goodbye to the warm mornings, hot afternoons, and cool evenings. The satisfaction of sweat, the joy of cold water to quench work-won thirst. Goodbye to the feisty, mighty summer storms that kept us green all season. Goodbye to the sound and smell of cows on the pastures around the house, to the cacophony of insects and birds, and the rainbow of wildflower color. Goodbye to the resiny smell of the pines in the sunlight, a perfume which takes me back to my childhood and the joy of getting to Grandma and Grandpa’s house, walking up their then-dirt sidewalk, to the loving, smothering embrace of my Grandpa and his plaid shirt.

With the summer goes the long days, the sense that time is almost standing still, the late nights waiting for the sun to set and dragging the days activities into the late, late evening. With summer goes the delightful, tantalizing sense of freedom, which I love immensely but probably isn’t very good for me.
IMG_9756eBut each season has its joys. If the joy of summer is the warmth and the long days, the joy of autumn is the cool and the cozy evenings. If the joy of summer is the song of insects and the colors of wildflowers, the joy of autumn is the whispering leaves and their vibrant displays.

So, goodbye, summer. And welcome, autumn.

Hiking | Little Elk Creek Trail

Oh, back when the weather was warmer…However, warmer doesn’t mean warm. On this particular hike, Axel, Katie, and I all were a bit chilly for the first while, having not considered the morning shade in the canyon. We were treated to some of the first glimpses of winter, with persistent ice over parts of Little Elk Creek, beautiful frozen, frosted, filigreed leaves, and the nipping of the crisp, morning air at our cheeks and noses. Autumn was still hanging on by a thread, and not all the trees had dropped their leaves, but the crispness and the frost let us know that winter was on its way.
IMG_20181020_095501451_HDRIMG_20181020_092419204_HDReIMG_20181020_112105059_HDRLittle Elk Creek Trail is a well-maintained trail, approximately 5 miles out-and-back, used by hikers, bikers, and trail runners. It is mostly level, with very little elevation gain, and though it is rated as moderate according to All Trails, I would definitely rate it as easy. Perhaps the length is where the moderate rating comes in. I don’t know.IMG_20181020_092719462_HDRIMG_20181020_101247761_HDRThe trail follows along or above Little Elk Creek, though some beautiful rock formations and canyon areas, boasting many beautiful views. Across the creek from the trail, shaded north slopes were green with moss, steep and rocky, and very different from the brown, sunlit slopes the trail followed. We met a few other hikers, but it was a quiet trail. It is a ways off the beaten path, and likely not a lively tourist destination, since most tourists would probably hike around Sylvan Lake and Custer State Park, the crown jewels of the Black Hills. But this lovely hike is worth the time to get there.
IMG_3448eIMG_3442eAnd as always in the Black Hills, if you can tear your gaze from the soaring beauty of the trees, spires, canyons, and blue, blue sky, there are other things to marvel at as well. Things like friendship, for one. What a gift God gave when He created people, plural. He meant for us to live in community and fellowship with one another, and hiking with my brothers and sisters in Christ is one of my greatest joys at this time of my life. And then there are the tiny, almost-trodden on things, like abandoned bird nests and rushes growing green along the creek. It is so easy to focus so intently on the big picture that a million priceless glimpses of joy are lost.

Quoted | Octobers

Each season has its own glories, but there is something gets in the air in the autumn – a spice, or an energy, or a sparkling joy and beauty.

A Portrait of Autumn

When the trees change and the first hints come that summer is slipping away, autumn slips in, silently, subtly. The first hints of autumn are the change in the slant of the light, and that delicious crispness in the morning air. Then the trees are bursting with color and the prairie grasses ignite with the hues of autumn.
IMG_3103Autumn is a time of foreshadowing. We know that winter is on its way and autumn, perhaps more than the other seasons, tempts us with glimpses of winter. Heavy frost in the mornings, the first dustings of snow, ice on the windshields. That special slant in the light.
IMG_5601Autumn is a time of tenacity. Leaves cling to the trees, as if reluctant to fall. Little clusters of trees retain their autumn glow. Wildflowers persist into the first snows and through the first frosts. Birds so fragile they’d seem unfit to weather the winter persevere in their downy warmth.
IMG_5563Autumn is a time of preparation. A time of readying for the coming winter. The trees and plants put away their summer garb and settle into themselves and into the earth, quiet, resting, biding their time until winter is gone and spring has arrived. Animals begin to grow their winter furs, and they harvest their winter store of nuts and seeds. Birds fly south. Mankind puts up firewood and garden produce, winterizes their homes, and drags out the bins of winter clothing and coats and boots and mittens.img_1939Autumn is a time of abundance. And what abundance! Not only the abundance of the harvest, and the abundance of garden produce and fresh preserves glimmering with color, but abundance of fragrances, sights, sounds, tastes, textures. The perfume of moss and brown leaves and damp, the burning reds and golds and saffrons of the trees and underbrush and prairie grasses, the sounds of crackling leaves underfoot and flocking birds and moaning autumn winds and rain and the muted whisper of the fog, the taste of the crisp almost-winter air, the tapestry of fallen leaves and bare trees and rattling grasses and pods of the long-gone summer flowers. The abundance is overwhelming.
IMG_6771 Autumn is here. Winter is on her way. So we revel in the last fleeting warmth, but also look forward to another glorious season.

Laura Elizabeth

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Poetry in the Aspen Trees

There is poetry in the aspen trees. They speak it, when the wind whispers through their leaves. The wind in the pines is a mournful sound, but the wind in the aspens is like laughter.
IMG_4112Aspens in summer are a poem of laughter and gaiety. Like stained glass, the leaves glow and glint and glimmer, a misty, vibrant green in a sea of black pines.
IMG_4115In autumn, the aspens are a poem of plenty, a poem of thanksgiving, but with a hint of sadness. A gust of wind showers the leaves like showers of gold, and the bright color is sprinkled liberally on the carpet of the earth.

A change of seasons means loss – But it also means renewing, in God’s time. That is the poem of the aspen trees.

“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
    to whom belong wisdom and might.
21 He changes times and seasons;
    he removes kings and sets up kings;
he gives wisdom to the wise
    and knowledge to those who have understanding;
22 he reveals deep and hidden things;
    he knows what is in the darkness,
    and the light dwells with him.

Daniel 2:20-22
Laura Elizabeth

Metamorphosis

There is a wonderful transformation that takes place this time of year, changing what is common into what is precious, from emerald and black to crimson and gold. It was the rumor of gold that first brought the white man into the Black Hills in the 1870s, late in the era of the gold rush. But whatever precious metals they found while digging in the ground and panning in the streams, these riches outstrip them all, though they fade in a mere handful of days. It is the metamorphosis of autumn.IMG_2386The miracle of autumn is one which I am firmly convinced is entirely for our joy and God’s glory. God didn’t have to create the bounties of autumn color – The trees could simply turn brown and lose their leaves. But God in His sovereign goodness gave us the tapestry of the seasons, including the fleeting glories of autumn.
IMG_2686The Hole-in-the-Wall trail is festive in gold and green and crimson, the entire trail lined with hardwood trees in a mighty array of autumn colors. The higher hillsides are pine and so never change, but in the ravines the aspens and burr oaks and other hardwood trees and shrubs flourish, and are now painted their various hues of gold and crimson and yellow.
IMG_2763When the evening sun shines from over the mountains, the aspens are lit up like torches, glowing and burning. Rocky hillsides are illuminated with the flaming color of the trees. Driving along our already beautiful highways, my breath is swept away, when around a corner is suddenly revealed a golden hillside, or glowing ravine, or a roadside lined with brilliant color.IMG_2545I took a drive  down Rockerville Road, and explored a couple of side roads. The sights were glorious, and I couldn’t help but laugh out loud in delight! Springtime is wonderful, summer is rambunctious, but to catch the leaves in the prime of their autumn color is pure bliss. IMG_2862 Roadside wildflowers are a riot of reds and golds, with a touch of purple here and there. Those, too, will soon fade, and all that will be left is the memory of the color, and the simple elegance of the dried stems and flower heads.IMG_2340Now, I understand that the color we revel in here isn’t the spectacular display of color we used to enjoy in Illinois, or the color that is legendary further east. But the subtlety of the transformation of the Hills is part of the allure. The mystery of autumn is heightened by its very temporariness. We aren’t two days into autumn and the colors are already fading from their peak three days ago. What a gift, to be able to enjoy such beauty, even for so short a time. IMG_2548For soon, and even now, the color will fade, the gold will glimmer away, and the life of summer will become the chill rest of winter.
IMG_3103Medieval alchemists were fascinated by the mythological concept of the transformation of common metals into gold. But what a delight, the alchemy of the seasons, the metamorphosis of the world around us, God’s created order that simply shouts His glory, and the Gospel story itself! What more wonderful metamorphosis, than the transformation of wretched sinners into redeemed Believers in Christ! Not only the tiny parable in the gold of autumn, taking that which is common and making it precious, but the larger parable of death and renewal, of decay and new life, pictured in the metamorphosis of the seasons.

Laura Elizabeth

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