In the Rockies

In the Rockies
Butler Gulch

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Fields of Flowers -- Abundance

How often we think we want more---more things, more money, more beauty, more love. I continue to search for more flowers to photograph, to see, to revel in their beauty. This year the flowers are about a month late, so I worried that we would miss the Glacier lilies (the yellow ones) since they have a short season. The globe flowers are usually past long before the end of July. This year they are in abundance with August 1st looming. The tall penstemon were blooming in an area I don't usually think of as a hike, but because of late snowfields, I walked the Caribou Ranch trails and found abundant flowers.

I think of the many ways I have abundance in my life. Easily first is with my family and friends--loving children and grandsons and friends who have walked life's journeys and paths with me. I give thanks daily for the riches they bring to my life.

Following a close second is the riches of God's beauty in this world, and that flows in streams and rivers, lakes and ponds and waters my soul. It blooms in flowers that spring in unlikely places. It sounds in birds trills and floats in white fluffy clouds and rainbows we've experienced many evenings this summer. Mountains speak of strength and survival, meadows of lush beauty. Rocky paths with beauty in the distance and close at hand remind me that there is abundant beauty. I simply need to look.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Walk in the Missouri woods

It felt like home--hot, humid, sun beating down in the middle of the day. The place was green, so very green. The woods were lovely, the paths narrow and rocky, the moss inviting my little girl self to sit upon it.

The creek was wider than the Little Sac which ran between our farm and the church farther out in the country. The Meramec River, which bounded the property on one side was wide and dark, the current barely visible in most places.

My walks were early--between 5:30 and 6:15 am so I could shower, dress and be ready for our first meditation (centering prayer) at 7:00 am with breakfast following at 8:00, all in silence. I tucked the camera in my pocket and watched for the light to filter through the woods and shine on the water. A couple of mornings during the seven mornings I was there, another person out for a run or walk broke the silence briefly, but most mornings I saw no human--birds the primary wild life.

Before the sun came up, the woods could look dark and foreboding as I entered them, but once on the path, familiarity took over. The cliffs near the Meramec, one pictured here, reminded me of the cave that we explored in good and not good ways. The wide path in the photograph is by the Meramec; the last photo is near the narrow trail I usually walked in the morning.

I haven't lived in Missouri in 44 years, yet the familiarity of the trees, grasses, hills and the few flowers blooming in the heat was instant. The grass drenched with dew so that it wet my sneakers if I walked through it for more than a few feet reminded me of the morning dew in our yard and the field next to it. The mixed birds' songs, though I couldn't name all of them, were familiar. Other than my walks, my favorite morning time was sitting on the back patio with a cup of coffee between meditation and breakfast, drinking in the landscape in silence.

Recently on a walk up Boulder Canyon on open space that had been a ranch, I found two of my favorite childhood flowers--red clover and daisies. In my mind, I transplanted them to the Missouri landscape and thought that a settler from the Midwest had once owned that ranch. They would have been in a meadow rather than in the woods.

Interesting how geography stays with us, especially if the outdoors was important to us growing up, as it was to me. Spending regular time communicating and immersing in Nature again brought home to me why I revel in God's handiwork and hope that we don't destroy it.

When I process more of the retreat and training, I'll share about the indoors experience.


The butterfly bushes in the garden outside the retreat center in St. Louis County attracted many butterflies. These were common visitors to the bushes. They were most frequent in the middle of the hot days, and cameras and cell phones were aimed in their direction. I was able to get more cooperation later in the afternoon though most of them had left by that time.

The bubbly woman from St. Paul, Minnesota, brought them to my attention first. We didn't stand in the hot steaming sunshine at our noon break. However, she had noticed the flurry of activity and asked me to go outside and look. At that time there were probably thirty or more butterflies circling around the three bushes looking for blossoms that hadn't been used, several smaller kinds that I couldn't photograph.

That their beauty and that of the butterfly bushes flowers shined in the midst of the 98 and 100 degree heat was amazing. We wilted. They soared.

The urge to get the very best shot came again after seeing a beautiful photo of the yellow butterfly taken by one of the women on an I-phone. One day it was too hot; then I discovered that a few were still flying after the 4:30 meditation. I followed, then stood still. I bent, stretched, and twisted to get the best shot in light that accented their beauty.

The man who had retired from a position shooting photographs in the operating room in Minneapolis had the best camera--by a lot. He simply said, "it's not so much about the camera but about using what you have." The Mike's camera employee who was hiking with me on Wednesday before I left for St. Louis was more helpful than the professional photographer. The pro also directed me to the woman who had taken the cell phone picture that was so lovely.

I didn't expect to have my pictures turn out as well as those of the pro. I didn't want to be outdone by the I-phone's camera. There were other times when that sense of competition showed up. I was in the facilitator training workshop, not the leadership track. We would surely learn how to be the best facilitators. No. We were being given a model for training others, others who knew nothing about centering prayer from the way the training began. The first all-day session that focused on the facilitator's role was presented to the combined groups so the leadership track people learned as much as we did about that role.

In our group we were to play an "answer the question" game divided by teams. One team would win. One of the men spoke up and suggested that we were learning about being contemplative, not winning, and he thought we should all sit around the table, pull a question from the bag, given the best answer we could, and go on to the next person. There was no need for one group winning over the other.

Was it his suggestion that caused me to notice each instance where I wanted to be better, eat healthier, walk faster? I thought I had lost that competitive edge, but it's still there. It's to do my best that I need to strive, not to be better than someone else. To strive to do the best I can wherever I am, in the small things as well as the bigger ones, in the things that don't seem to be my cup of tea until there is a time when I can stop doing those things. I wonder if in most cases that time is now?

I wonder if the butterflies were trying to get more nectar than other butterflies? Were they simply getting their needs met, obtaining the nourishment to sustain them? They didn't appear to be competing. It seemed that there were enough blossoms for all. Enough. Not too much, not more.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

It's Time for Flowers -- (even with snow nearby)

Yes, all of these flowers were photographed with snow nearby. The snowbank photograph was near the marsh marigolds in the picture below taken July 6th. The calypso orchids (that showed so well on Facebook, but not so well here) were near water and an almost melted snowbank in mid-June, and the others--fairy primrose, and snow buttercups and lace leaf chiming bells--were taken close to large snowbanks on a Trail Ridge Road pull off on June 29th.

This has been a year for late snowmelting in the high countriy while we here in the foothills are enduring heat, high humidity and strong thunderstorms. I know not yet where there will have been enough snow melting for a good hike tomorrow unless my friends want to come this way. However, the flowers seem to blossom in the presence of large snowbanks as long as they have the sun shining on their little spot of earth. They make me smile, and make the treks worthwhile.

Another time I'll post photos of flowers taken on the Boulder trails and write more.

Music is also a joy of summer, and the Colorado Music Festivals performances (where I usher) have been absolutely wonderful so far this July. Mark O'Connor and his quartet will be performing tonight--a variance from the classical music of this week's mini-festival of violin soloists. Here's hoping for the thunderstorms to be mild and earlier and later than the concert arrival and departure times!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Llight Shines, Darkness Hides

The way my childhood worked, the farm was pretty, the sunshine warm and hot. Ugliness hid in the darkness. The darkness made anything light seem amazing and wonderful--a trip to town, especially one to spend time with the Wood teacher cousins without my parents, a skipping trip across the far field to Price's Market for that box--always wrapped in brown paper, a drink from the pump over the well or from the spring at Dad's farm (other place), white fluffy clouds floating across the blue, blue sky that allowed me to imagine that I would go with them to exotic lands.

There were many little lights along with the darkness on our farm. What I want to write about isn't that, however. It's a way of looking at the light without ignoring the darkness--which is what I had to do growing up.

When I look at the darker areas of these photographs, some areas simply are without the sun and other parts are completely dark. In my spiritual journey of self-knowledge, I've learned that some of what was held in the darkness was there because at that time, I couldn't have acknowledged it. Other experiences and character flaws I have kept in that darkness either because I didn't want to look at them or because I wasn't strong enough to take in what was there. I've recently become aware that underneath my appreciation of the beauty of nature, of friends and of the depth of God's love is a deep expectation of the other shoe falling.

Yes, it does come from childhood, from the mornings when I awakened and listened to hear how Mother's day was beginning, knowing that even if she was whistling with the birds, at any minute her mood could darken, and I could be considered the cause.

I believed that I had outgrown that apprehension--or that my centering prayer practice had healed it. Now that I am fully aware of this presence, it robs my days of deep peace and bring anxiety that must have been there all along to the surface. What I have learned is that it is by awareness of those feelings that have been held in the darkness, by bringing them into the light, that healing occurs.

There are always lessons in those emotions too. In this case, more compassion for those who live with the awareness of constant anxiety. Others may follow. I will hold this childhood anxiety with gentleness and care and ask the Holy Spirit to dispel its dark presence.

"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it." John 1:5 NRSV