Muddy Boots, Fresh Soul

IMG_8376When the temperatures soar into the 50s and 60s in February, the only thing I want is to be outside! On Wednesday, after getting some mundane duties done in the morning and running an errand to Mt. Rushmore, Sarah and I took off for Big Falls, the site of some old mining operations from the early part of last century. Battle Creek roars through a deep ravine, and pours over a falls into a deep pool some twenty feet below. In the hot summer months, it is a popular swimming destination, but I think I prefer it in the off season.

IMG_8352The sun, which had shone so brightly in the morning, was obscured by cloud-cover, but it was still a beautiful day, balmy, fresh, and quiet. The road to Big Falls is forest service access, which means not a lot of road maintenance, particularly this time of year. But the old orange Jeep can take just about anything, including the mud from the snowmelt, and the washed-out places.

IMG_8371The hike down from the trailhead is short, steep, and beautiful. The creek was frozen thickly over in places, but the clear, clean mountain water still rushed and chuckled over the rocks and under the ice. The last quarter mile follows Battle Creek, so we poked around on the sandbars looking for garnets, picking up odd rocks and chunks of quartz, snapped some pictures, scrambled around on boulders, enjoying the damp and the balmy winter air. And the quiet. We stayed on the upstream side of the Falls and ate a little picnic of apples. We tossed the apple cores into the stream and watched them eddy around until they were caught in the current and shot over the edge into the pool below. In the middle of a busy week, how pleasant it was to simply sit and enjoy the beauty in the depth of the Hills!

IMG_8427On our way back out, almost to the top, we dawdled in a clearing at the edge of the canyon, and caught a glimpse of something a half mile down the canyon and across. I grabbed my camera and my 300mm lens and sure enough, there was a mountain goat standing on the edge of a precipice. He was barely distinguishable in the picture, in the right upper quadrant of the photo, but clearly a mountain goat.

IMG_8432We took a few pictures of the far away goat before realizing that directly across the canyon from us, there were two more! One of them just lay there, looking calmly at us, unbothered. I wonder how long he had been keeping an eye on us. I don’t see mountain goats very often – Sometimes they can be seen around Mt. Rushmore, and I’ve seen them while hiking Harney Peak, but this is the first time I’d seen them by Big Falls.

IMG_8444After soaking up the freshness of February, the peace of the wilderness, the cool damp of the Battle Creek air, we headed home reluctantly. We were a little muddy, a little leg sore, and a lot refreshed. It was one of those days when I was even more thankful than usual for where I live, this beautiful place I’ve always loved.

Laura Elizabeth

2015 | In Hindsight

IMG_1878.1lowrezThe New Year was welcomed in with the joy and fellowship of family and friends, and now 2015 is a not-so-distant memory. How to even being to summarize a year like 2015! What a year! I think of where I was a year ago, and I am amazed to see where God has brought me. Last night, I was writing in my diary and listing some of the highlights and surprises that God brought my way, and I was delighted at the list I came up with. A list like this helps me to see God’s faithfulness – This list of memories serves as a reminder of how God is truly active and involved and how He has put each of these opportunities in my way to grow me and give me joy, if I’m willing to grow and open to receiving gifts from God’s hand.

DSCN0006.1Looking back on myself at the end of 2014, I was exhausted, crabby, somewhat depressed, ready to be in South Dakota, and I was concerned. Concerned that I wouldn’t manage to pass my recital preview and I’d end up without a college diploma. Concerned about the snug living arrangements once we moved. Concerned about finding a church home. Concerned about finding a job that I liked. Concerned about making friends and developing relationships. Concerned that my writing would take a back burner to other things. Concerned about moving to a place where the opportunities for music would be different. Concerned about not having a piano…Just concerned.

Whorled MilkweedWhat wasted energy! What needless concern! Each and every one of these fears was graciously alleviated – God is good. I passed my preview and gave a successful recital. I received my diploma with the added surprise that I graduated magna cum laude.  The living arrangements here are snug but very workable. My church home is even more like family than I thought possible. I ended up with not one job but four, and enjoyed each and every one of them. I have grown closer to my sisters and we’ve also been blessed by a close circle of friends who all happen to attend our church. True, I’ve not worked as much on my fiction writing as I wanted, but this blog has been a wonderful, growing writing project, and I know my experiences this past year have served to grow me as a writer. The music opportunities have been fewer but my heated, passionate desire to pursue music has cooled. I attribute that to God’s goodness and His grace. No, I still don’t have a piano, but I have a very decent electric piano, and have finally been able to start playing and singing again, and have found that my enjoyment is better than it was before.

IMG_2029And many things happened that were never even on my radar. Delving back into photography, starting a botany photography portfolio, winning Best of Show in photography at the Custer County Fair, buying a DSLR camera, seeing one of my articles published in MaryJane’s Farm, working cattle in Wyoming, opening an Etsy shop to sell doll clothes, teaching Sunday School at church, and beginning work as a medical scribe in Rapid City.

IMG_2741.1lowrezOver the past year, I’ve learned more about what it means to trust God. I’ve learned more about God’s faithfulness, even when by earthly standards something seems impossible. I’ve learned that church truly can and should be a place of beautiful fellowship, loving one another in Christ, intimacy, openness, frankness, honesty about our shortcomings, brotherly and sisterly affection, all because of Christ’s love for us. I’ve learned that I have a long way to go. I’ve learned that it is possible to live in a tiny house and to still function normally. I’ve learned that my soul is truly refreshed in Creation. I’ve learned again that I love writing. I’ve learned that I love photography. I’ve learned that my heart is in this place, this wonderful place.  IMG_6044.1lowrezI’ve learned that contentment is more a function of my heart than it is a function of my environment. I’ve learned that God’s gifts are visible every day, even on the bleakest days. I’ve learned again and again that God does provide, and His will is powerful and undeniable. I’ve learned again and again that I am a fallen, pathetic sinner in desperate need of God’s grace on a daily basis. I’ve learned more about grace and acceptance and love and growth by loving and being loved by my new-found church family.

IMG_5918.1lowrezAnd now the New Year is here, and I look forward with eagerness and anticipation to see what God does with this coming year. I hope to get to the end of 2016 and not be the same person I am today. By God’s grace, I’ll have grown, matured, and been refined. By God’s grace, I’ll love God more then than I do now. By God’s grace, I’ll love my family with greater grace than I do now. All by God’s grace.

Laura Elizabeth


Winter blue

IMG_5549.1lowrezThe snow wore itself out during the night and the morning dawned flawless and quiet. The sun was bright all day, the sky a clear, robin’s egg blue, and the wind blew crisp. A quick trip this morning to the post office in Hermosa, camera in hand, yielded a gorgeous view of distant Harney Peak. The mountain rose silver out of a black expanse of pines. To the north, Mt. Rushmore was clearly visible, not yet shadowed over by Harney Peak.

IMG_5592.1lowrezThe trees along our driveway cast beautiful blue shadows across the road, and a doe stood stock still in the middle of the driveway as I approached. When I stopped the truck to see about getting a picture of her, she lost track of her own feet and nearly took a spill in the snow, before recovering and speeding effortlessly off. I got out and looked around. Such a changeable landscape from season to season. The familiar driveway, the well-known bends and curves of the gravel road, the pines and chokecherry and red rocks are so changed when bathed in snow and chill blue light.

IMG_5585.1lowrezSnow fell quietly from branches of the pines and a four-point buck bounded through the trees on the hills above me, then disappeared from sight. Golden sunlight sifted through the trees, glinting and dazzling. Clouds of powder snow glimmered and sparkled, sifting with the sunlight, scattering to the wind. Snow clung to the pine needles, and covered the red rocks with glistening white caps, and blanketed the red ground. Grasses and sage poked up through the snow.

IMG_5596.1lowrezThe grasses and once-flowering plants seem to take on new life in the winter. The color of summer melts away with the first frosts of autumn and winter, but what remains is a delicate silver memory of what was there in the warmer months. The foliage dries and a new sort of flower shimmers in the cold winter sunlight, or peeks from blue shadowed places beneath the bluff. How beautiful everything is in the winter! The remaining silver-brown stalks and leaves and buds seem to belong to the snow, like a flowering blue flax seems to belong to the green grass in the summer.

Chapped hands, tingling toes, and smarting ears are a small price to pay for glimpses of the subtle beauty of the winter.  The cold is worth the beauty that winter affords.

Laura Elizabeth

Findings | King of the Forest

Even if you’ve never seen Bambi, the meaning is no less clear. The larger bucks truly carry their antlers like crowns.


So regal.

Laura Elizabeth


Findings | The Gals

These beauties were staring at Anna and me when we went on a drive. What lovely gals they are!


Such gentle faces. God’s creatures are delightful.

Laura Elizabeth


Findings | Darlings

Little mule deer fawns. Surprisingly small, and with their winter coats! Their triplet was a little ways away, as well as their mama.


So cute.

Laura Elizabeth