The Turning…

As I write this, dried vegetables simmer in beef broth on the front stove burner. It’s that kind of day when the wind blows cold and the green of everything has taken on a darker hue. I love this weather, don’t you?


red leavesIn Upstate New York are four distinct seasons. But sometimes spring seems an extension of winter, or it skips it altogether and heads right to summer without enough rain. And the gray skies…oh the gray skies! Yes, I’ve talked of them once before…they seem to occur 360 days a year. We try hard to rejoice anyway and faithfully take our vitamin D.

chickadeeSummer gives way to fall, and gardens die out to weeds; squash shrivels into brown somethings, and I find stray green beans that have turned yellow. It’s time to pull garden plants and send them to compost. Plants and seeds go to their death.

Purple aster

PicMonkey Collage

Earlier I walked, trying to find some late morning sun, but not today. It is a fall-sky day, wrought with sharp grayness. Even if it rains, fall is dry and crisp, much better to me than the humid-hot of summer. It brings an air of it’s own and pulls me along with it.

You can feel the turning especially in autumn. One day, you notice the daylight left quickly with summer. Humming birds desert the feeders; those quick energy burning little ones are first to move on. Geese band together in large flocks, floating and bobbing at the bend of the Susquehanna. They make a ruckus I can hear inside the house.

maplecoloredI will watch the turning colors, and I will see them fall. They will be splendid for a few weeks, and if winds choose to be strong, many will fall at once. But others…those copper oaks will cling to the branches long into winter. They will curl up like fingers on a hand and sing a crinkle song to the wind.

How can such beauty really be…death? And why am I not sad?
Because death and renewal go side by side.

Just as the seed dies to the earth, we die to our own selfishness to conform to the image of Christ. We desire to be like him, because he is so good, so faithful, and such a true friend. Because he has drawn us with a passionate love that does not die; love that circumvents all of life in its wonder and hopelessness, its courage and failure. We must love because he loves.

Leaves and seeds all fall to the earth to be poured on by rain, and laden under piles of snow and cold. After the white season, those seeds black and long dead will rise again with the turning.

They will grow fresh green in the earth. Leaves will appear on the serviceberry bush, the hawthorn bush, and the trillium will rise up in the shaded woods. There will be new flowers, herbs, and berries, and grass will grow and blanket the earth to accent the sky. Just as new plants rise, and trees refresh, we rise with new hope.

We are renewed, and grow stronger.

Yes, there will be flowers upon flowers, deep in the forests that no one will ever see. As we keep a sharp eye, we bond close with Him as we nod and appreciate his skill.

Does this matter to God?

Yes…beauty for our soul, beauty for the Creator.



“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

Psalm 51:10 NIV 


Wild Splendor

For two days after I lumbered out of the skiff in my clumsy knee high boots, I could barely breathe…eyes opened wide, memorizing every island, cove, and otter lying on his back staring at me.

We hiked through alders and salmonberry bushes and saw an empty eagles nest on a high rock spire below us. I could hardly speak to myself about what I saw. My head constantly swiveled, not missing a bit of what was before me. It pierced my soul with its beauty…its wildness.

islands:water from planeDSCN6436salmonberry



It shocked me.


dockhouse2Five of us slept in the dock house, nearly on the water. Each night I listened to the ocean waves and I was sure it would lull me to sleep, but there was the four-hour time zone to consider…and the wildness of this place that left me with no words.

I met small black-tailed deer in the night. Two adults…two charcoal colored young ones, stopped and stared at the strange woman hustling to the outhouse, her flashlight brandished. Possibly they were intrigued by it. Half tame they were, and perhaps after a few days of a carrot offering, they might take one.

deerCoarse, black sand marked the beaches, chalk white shells, mussels, and barnacles on rocks. Bull kelp curled round like snakes, washed up on high tide. Fishing boats lined Uyak Bay day and night, nets strung out. Sunny days and then rain, and fog so thick you could not make out the island across the bay.

dark beach Bull kelp

Night fishing


jellyfishThe studio, our gathering place, lay hidden in small trees. It was here we drank coffee and tea, had breakfast and lunch prepared at the big house and hauled down to us each day. Such luxury for most of us with children, such beauty in the display of food, such hospitality! (And the salmonberry jam!)

studioworkingworking2 It was here we heard Leslie and Paul speaking the slow, deliberate readings of poetry and prose. Here we bared our souls in writing because something deep in us called us to it. That is why we came…we are drawn into God’s love by the magnetizing affect it has on us. He loves…we pray to express it.

Leslie Leyland Fields
Paul J Willis

Love unconditional…we can’t just write it, but we must live it.

In the weeks before, we read one another’s work. The day came when we each read aloud. We laughed, cried, and gave grace to each other instead of criticism. Some of us bit our nails and nervously read a page or two aloud. One, fiercely involved in her dialog, spoke loudly, with those upstairs wondering if a fight had begun. G. was intimately involved with her people!

G, P, LSome of us pulled out rusty poetry pens, swallowed hard and spilled out eight lines or so. It was good, so cleansing.

Others wrote creative non-fiction, one who had never written at all. Now she’s one of us.

We were growing, inspired, bonded.

To write is one way to grieve pain, or understand loss.

Or give hope.

It’s not that any one of us writes an original idea, there are no original ideas, but from the hand of God he molds our life, our personality, our pain and loss into beauty.

And someone is making art everywhere…expressing God.

Over the outhouse door




Finally, beauty stopped me short on the path to the studio. I was alone, and the wildness spilled out all at once and I choked at what my eyes beheld. God made wild beauty, way up north in Alaska where few humans see.

Tears, no words, bursting heart…I am shocked by wild splendor.

I nearly saw His pleasing smile and He said in my heart, “I knew this would be more than you imagined!” He was pleased with me being in awe…in words I could not express.


And that became enough for me.


I Came to Alaska and I was…

God is an Awesome God!