Favorites - Outside

There is something outside in the plainest of places that is never inside, not even in castles. Outside is where we are more than the facts we know.

When I think of the word creek, I think of the specific creek (we called it "crick") that wended itself through the bottom of the ravine next to my childhood home. I think of the place where the small stream burbled over tree roots, making a 6" waterfall. I think of trying to walk cross that small creek on a winter's day, slipping, falling in, getting my snow pants soaked, and my brother carrying me home on his back piggyback style.

Most of what I think about, when I think about grace and love, comes from that moment.

In the first years after my dad died, my mom and I would eat our supper in local restaurants. After we ate, we often drove what we called "down by the lake". It meant driving to the lake to park on the diagonal, with hundreds of other cars in the summer, with 4 or 5 in the winter. We'd crack the windows open to let fresh air in and we'd watch the waves. My mother did this more when I left, than she did while I was still a teenager living at home.

When I went to seminary a professor said that after a minister baptizes a baby, they should fling some droplets of water over the whole congregation and pronounce, "remember your baptism and be grateful."

I'd think of sitting ina car with my mother, watching Lake Michigan. There aren't any words for this, for watching water move in the first years after you've suffered a great loss. You just watch. I've always connected that empty, alive feeling with water since.

It makes me weary how many people want to sit in their houses and argue about theology and morality and all the other things that divide us. Outside is where, I think, we remember we should shut up. Feel the air against our faces, drink in whatever clean air we can breath. Let water lap over our ankles. Stop being alive in our opinions and start being alive in our skin.

These are some of my favorite columns about being outdoors:

Deer Hunting

I awoke this morning to my radio station reporting something called a 'kill tally'. My eyes popped open in horror and my heart started to race. For a moment there, I thought I was back in Chicago.

The announcer went on to explain hunting mishaps so far this season. I chuckled with relief and listened to the report about a hunter who shot a llama.

I respect the phenomenon of deer hunting, but I don't 'get' it. I guess it's because I come from generations of people who don't hunt anything that isn't sugar coated.

Gone Fishin'

I was twenty, home from college for the summer, working two dumb jobs, and bored out of my gourd. Somehow I decided fishing might relieve my angst, which was an odd choice since I knew nothing about the sport. But my hometown was Ludington, Michigan and I guess I was beguiled by the common summer scene of all the folks who fished along our particular shore of Lake Michigan.

I found a fishing pole and a bucket, packed a ham sandwich, and drove to the breakwater that led out to the town's lighthouse.


Geneaology, Comets and the pedigree collapse.

It's tricky to get just the right perspective on one's place in the universe.


The first glaciers moseyed on down to our neck of the woods about a million years ago. World wide chilly temperatures created a deep freeze climate up north. That prevented snow from melting; the unmelted snow then compacted into huge (200 feet high, 300 miles wide) crazy quilts of ice. More snow fell, didn't melt, got heavy enough to squish down and spread out the glaciers. Think of an under-baked multi-layered cake. After a while the weight of the top layers makes the bottom slowly collapse, compact, and ooze off the cake plate and onto the table.

Northern Lights

Did you see them? Last Friday night our part of the earth was graced with a visitation of northern lights.

It was only the second time in my life I have witnessed the shimmering and ethereal show. As a friend who also saw them said, "They are the most beautiful thing in the world. I think they're what heaven looks like."

Our family was spending a long weekend in Michigan and we'd happily squandered most of the day hiking around Manistee National Forest.


One Flagstone at a Time

I admire great engineering projects. The pyramids of ancient Egypt. The Great Wall of China. Macchu Pichu. I like to think about the ancient architects who invented such edifices. I feel awe and empathy for the hordes of ordinary blokes who labored their lives away building them. These huge projects portray the inspirational imagination of human beings. They also show us in that if people dog away at something long enough, they can do almost anything.

The Deer

Close Encounters of the Outside Kind

A few weeks ago I saw an eagle. I've not seen them very often in my life, I was moved by the wild beauty of the magnificent bird soaring against the wide blue sky.

Poetical Autumn

In Favor of Fall

Earlier this week I noticed a stunning tri-colored tree of bright green, goldenrod, and vivid red. I suppose it's not the most amazing miracle in town. (That miracle might belong to County Supervisor Mike Miklasevich who somehow managed to crash through two flights of stairs last week without killing himself along the way. Mike, you add a whole new dimension to the directive "take the stairs". Our best thoughts are with you as you heal.)

Tundra Time

Can weather be more bleak than this pale, frigid, barren tundra stuff? We don't even have snow, just iced grass, cutting winds, birds and squirrels shivering in tiny unlined leather boots. It's enough to depress a Norwegian. (Though, as Dorothy Parker said when told Calvin Coolidge had died, "How can they tell?")

Dark River

"I think us here to wonder." (From "The Color Purple" by Alice Walker.)

The day was one of those glorious October days when the sun blazed through gold and crimson trees, the incense of burning leaves perfumed the air. It seemed a shame to go inside simply because night was coming on.

"Let's take the canoe out on the river tonight."

My husband looked at me with that kind of look one only really perfects after plenteous years of marriage. Maybe you know it yourself. It's where one could be sarcastic, but chooses discretion instead.