Gnarled Tree

Posted in General on September 30th, 2009 by Julie — 3 Comments

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I saw this gnarled tree today. It’s branches were going every which way. Some reached straight up towards the sky. Others snaked along the ground. Some looked like they had grown in one direction for a while and then decided to turn and grow in a different direction. Others wrapped themselves around other branches.

The tree had lots of branches, but the tree didn’t looked very healthy. There were a few green leaves on some of the upper branches, but most of the branches were bare. It looked like the whole tree was suffering because the branches were not working together.

When I look at my life I see that I am going in so many directions at once. I have my life in town and my life in the woods. I try to protect the wilderness and I hunt there. I cherish my solitude and I need conversations. I’m independent, but I’d like a family. I’m comfortable spending time in the places I know, but I long for adventure.

I started to wonder why the tree was so messed up, and at the same time why my life seemed so chaotic. I looked at the tree some more, trying to see what caused it to be so gnarled. I saw that it was overshadowed by larger trees. The sun’s rays didn’t reach it.

A healthy trees grows towards the sun light. With no light to grow towards, this poor tree was lost. Some of its upper branches saw enough light to grow tall, but the lower ones must have chased reflections. The result was a desperate try to find some meaning.

Is that what my life is? I go this way and that because I don’t have any guiding light pulling me in one direction. Or is it that I am chasing too many lights. As I sat there, I remembered an image of God that my mother shared with me.

God is the weaver of the universe. He takes the threads of life and weaves them into intricate patterns. He makes the fabric of the world we live in; he makes the fabric of our lives. When God finished creating the universe, the universe rebelled and tore itself apart. But God loves the universe and immediately took up the task of mending the tears and the holes. God takes the loose ends of our lives and weaves them back together into the perfect garment for us to wear.

Is God busy at work weaving the pieces of my life together? Do I need to look for him more, and in seeing him my life will start to weave itself together as I grow towards him? Do I need to just stop? Do I need to look for where God is and go there?

As I sat there in silence, I had the opportunity to gather my thoughts. As I thought about God and what he might be doing around me, I began to see how what at first glance seemed to be so many directions, actually was a series of things taking me on a walk in one direction.

I have a life in town and one in the wilderness, but when I am in town I bring some of the beauty of the the wilderness to those in town. When I’m in the wilderness, I bring some of the comforts of town to those I meet.

I try to protect the wilderness and hunt there, but when I hunt I’m careful. I hunt the wounded and old. I protect the young and the mothers.

I cherish my solitude and I need conversations, but I bring the insights I’ve gleaned in solitude to my conversations, and I bring the questions I’ve raised in conversations to my solitude.

I’m independent and want a family, but my independence will be an assist to my family, and my family with give me a base that will allow me to be independent.

I’m comfortable spending time in the places I know and I long for adventure, but when I adventure I make new friends and they become comfortable.

In all of these things I see a pattern. God has called me to love and to be a servant, so I love those I know in the city and in the wilderness. I care for nature and for those I have conversations with. I am independent, but I use that independence to build relationships and to help others.

What at first glance looked like a life going in so many different direction turns out to be a life trying to be the person God has called me to be.

Thank you God for weaving the loose ends of my life into your wonderful plan. Thank you for creating a gnarled tree, that still lives and provides a home for the squirrels and birds, and acts as a reminder that even when our lives look totally out of control, you’re there mending the fabric of our lives.

A splash of color

Posted in Uncategorized on September 25th, 2009 by Julie — 3 Comments

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I was walking along the river today, headed back to town. It’s always funny walking back. I think about what I’m going to do and who I’m going to see, but at the same time I’m already missing the outdoors. Today was no different. I’m looking forward to seeing Annay; we’re planning on going shopping together tomorrow. I’m also going to have dinner with Hector. While both those things are great, I would rather be out hunting and I know I can cook something more tasty than I’ll get tonight with Hector. I like having friends. I like spending time with them. It would just be nice if they would come out in the woods with me some times.

So anyway, I was walking along the river when I passed this amazing flower. Well actually a bunch of flowers, but from a single plant. All around it were browns and greens, but it was this bright yellow, orange, and pink. It just caught me and I had to stop and pull out my sketch book. There were other flowers around, but none that screamed out like this one did.

I thought about picking it and taking it to Annay, but then I thought that it deserved to live in the woods. I decided to finish my sketch and give that to Annay. Who knows, maybe she will like it so much she will come with me out into the woods to see it.

Wild

Posted in Nature on September 16th, 2009 by Julie — Be the first to comment!

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Being a ranger, I’m often torn between two extremes. I make my livelihood in the woods and meadows away from civilization. I act as a guide and a scout, but I also spend a lot of time hunting and fishing. I hunt and fish for my own food, and also to sell in town. While I see the woods as a resource, I also see it as one of the few places of true peace.

Man has not influenced the woods like he has the valleys, plans and hills. The woods are still wild and free. When I’m a week out in the woods, I forget that I’ve come there to harvest its bounty. I become part of the woods and feel like I should be protecting it, not be hunting it.

This last week I was high in the foothills. I had been tracking a herd of elk for three days. I knew I was catching up to them because the scat was getting fresher. Early in the morning I was making my way through some heavy underbrush when I caught site of movement ahead of me. I quickly put down my pack and strung my bow. I started forward again, looking for another glimpse of whatever I had seen.

There, up in front of me 40 yards, I saw a brown figure, hidden in the bushes. I notched an arrow and  drew back my bow. I was about to let the arrow fly when I stopped. A voice in the back of my head said, “What are you shooting at? Are you sure?” The voice was right, I didn’t know what it was. I released the tension on the bow and started to track my quarry again. I followed for another half an hour before I could truly identify what I was following. All that time I was thinking to myself, you dummy. Why didn’t you take the shot?

As I watched and prepared to to draw my bow again, a deer stepped out from the underbrush and into a small stream. Beside it was a two or three day old fawn. I unstrung my bow and headed back for my gear. If I had ignored the voice in my head, if I had looked at the woods as just a place to collect some meat, I would have killed that deer and as a result the new born fawn. I had spent a half hour being mad at myself for not just shooting. Afterwards I realized that I would have spent days feeling bad about shooting, if I had.

After I got my pack, I noticed the deer’s tracks in the mud and those of the fawn. I had been so anxious to kill that I hadn’t even seen the signs right in front of me. It took me another two days to catch up to the Elk. I picked out an older one that appeared to already be hurt. The meat probably wasn’t as good as one of the younger ones, but that didn’t really matter. What mattered was showing respect for the wild, honoring it, and being part of it.

Mountainside Joy

Posted in Nature on August 18th, 2009 by Julie — 3 Comments

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Sometimes when I’m all alone, standing on a winding trail that is snaking its way up a mountainside, I look out across the valley and see only what God made. Wave upon wave of majestic pine trees stretching to reach the sky, their uniqueness lost in their joint mission to reach ever higher. The shades of green that are shown in all those tress are beyond what I can describe. Light greens of fresh buds. Deep green of mature needles. Bright green where the sun shines fully. Dark green in the shadows. Green plays upon green, making each patch that catches the eye look different than every other.

I stand in wonder of the diversity in a single kind of plant, then wonder more at the uncounted types of plants I haven’t yet seen. My eye is caught by a particularly old and gnarled tree. It hangs on to life on the edge of a cliff. The ground beneath its roots has long since fallen to the valley floor below. Whether  it picked a poor place to grow or its own roots broke the foundation it grew into, it hangs on to the cliff, fighting gravity, clutching to the rocks with its massive roots. It sits at such an angle you would bet it will fall at any moment, but it holds steady even as the wind threatens to blow me off.

I look closer at the tree and I see God’s handiwork again. A whole world is caught up in this single tree. Its bark is thick with deep crevasses – home to a multitude of life. There are a dozen mosses that I can see. A vining plant circles its way up from the rocky ground to one of the up reached branches, there to open its beautiful array of white flowers – visited by bee and hummingbird. The bark bulges where burls press outward from the trunk and branches. On a limb I see a nest of some unknown bird, off looking for a meal. In the trunk a squirrel has found a home. Gnats fly as a cloud in its shade. Ants climb its trunk in search of sap.

I sit and watch as the squirrel carefully removes seeds, one-by-one for one of the trees cones. It pulls off each scale and lets it drop after picking the seed from its base. Around and around, like I might eat corn, the squirrel turns the cone into a stick. And while he’s careful to get every seed, I do see a few fall. They drift in the wind as they slowly fall to the valley below. I wonder if in a hundred years if one of those seeds might turn into a mighty tree like its parent, or if it will fall and die, never getting the chance to even start growing.

As I sit and watch God’s creation, the birds, the trees, the very mountain I sit on, I see that the light is fading, that everything is growing darker. I wonder at the cycle of the day, of the cycle of life, of my own cycle. I hear God calling me. He calls me to this spot to see his wonder. It uplifts me. My spirit sings. I go back down the mountain and share my joy with others, but over time the joy fades. Then I look up to the mountains and I hear God’s call, and I come. Back up to the mountains to see my God and to be refreshed.

As the stars start to peek through the gathering darkness, I wonder. Could I feel the refreshing of my spirit if I just stayed here all the time, or do I need to feel it slip away so I can feel the joy being restored. Did God make it necessary for me to go down the mountain so I could share this joy with others. Am I part of God’s cycle of bring his joy to the people who have hidden themselves away from his wonders.

I think I like that idea. I’m part of God’s plan to bring his joy down to his people.

Thank you God for using me in a way that lifts me up as well.

Pansy

Posted in Flowers on August 8th, 2009 by Julie — 2 Comments

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Pansy.

A single blue flower, a pansy, in a field of green.

A spot of difference in a sea of sameness.

An isolated collection of order in the chaos of a hundred kinds of grass, all fighting for dominance.

A simple flower with five overlapping pedals. Solid blue except for the play of light and shadow across its face.

A solitary source of nectar for passing bees, in the waves of useless leaves.

A pansy – different, order, simple, food.

But so much more. The value of a pansy can not be placed on it by these feeble descriptions.

God made the pansy. He gave it form and function. How can I put a value on what God has created?

So I take the pansy and place it in my hair.

Its presence make me feel better.

Its presence makes me look better, I think.

But does my presence make it look better?

The pansy in the field of green …

The pansy in my hair …

… has more value than I can imagine, because it shows the glory of God.

I have more value than I can imagine, because I show the glory of God.

More value because it shows the glory of God.

Value the glory of God,

The glory of God.

God.

Wolves

Posted in Nature on August 2nd, 2009 by Julie — 3 Comments

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Today was a bit scary. I’ve dealt with wolves, bears and mountain lions in the past. As a general rule, they want to avoid me more than I want to avoid them. That’s the general rule. Today was not the general rule.

I was hiking up near Henderson Pass. I had gone up to one of the little lakes I know of up there to catch some fish. It had been a successful trip.  I had a couple dozen fish cleaned, smoked, and draped on the back of my backpack.

As I turned a corner in the path I froze. Twenty feet in front of me stood a giant wolf, probably six feet at the shoulders, the kind that orcs ride. The wolf was standing there, growling softly, and staring at me. I slipped off my pack and drew my sword while I kept my eyes on him. One thing I learned years ago, when facing an enemy, be it human or animal, don’t every break eye contact. That’s what they’re waiting for.

As we stood there I studied him closer. I noticed that it was a male, that the muscles in his front legs were trembling as he stood there, and that the pupils of his eyes were huge. I had actually never seen the later stages of rabies, but I was pretty sure that I was seeing them now. I looked for other signs, but didn’t notice any foaming of the mouth or that he was choking. Of course I couldn’t tell if he had a fever, or if he had lost his appetite.

As he started to move towards me, I guessed that he was showing one of the episodes of aggression that are common, and of course he was showing no fear of me. I wasn’t sure what to do. If he had just been a hungry wolf, I would have thrown him some of my fish, but I doubted food would work with this one. I through of running for a tree, but again, I was pretty sure he would be able to get me before I could get high enough up a tree to be out of his reach.

So I did what any mountain woman would have done, I started screaming at the top of my lungs at him. I smacked my sword against my boot and then took a step towards him. To my surprise he actually stopped. Now what? I stood not fifteen feet away from a fifteen hundred pound killing machine that wasn’t quite right in the head.

We stood that way for several minutes. All of a sudden he looked to his right and then leaped at a tree. His jaw locked onto its trunk and it started to splinter as he rolled his body to one side. As the wolf was engaged in mortal combat with the poor tree, a slipped off the trail and into the woods. I took up a position a hundred feet away and watched as the wolf completed his destruction.

When the wolf was done it lay there for a while. Apparently rested it got up and went to sniff at my pack. He pawed it a few times, but was apparently not interested in my fish or the other food in my pack. He eventually continued his trek up the path. When I was sure he was gone I retrieved my back and hurried down the trail. I thought several time as I walked back to town, should have tried to put him out of his misery. I know it would have been foolish to try, but I do feel a little guilty about it.