Farewell Minnesota

The scenery is going to look a bit different around here. Our family is moving to Nevada! We have enjoyed our 11 months living in Minnesota, but a part of our hearts will always be “Out West” and we are returning to claim it.

Minnesota, we have enjoyed your forests and lakes, your bald eagles and loons, and your porcupines and northern lights. Below are some of our favorite memories spent with you.

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I hope you continue to follow our journey as we leave Minnesota’s North Woods and head down to Nevada’s Great Basin Desert. I look forward to exploring a new part of this country and sharing my experiences with you.

 

“The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say”

~J.R.R. Tolkien, “The Fellowship of the Ring”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Venturing Outside

Venturing outside the warm comfort of my home to take a short hike during the long winter months is no easy task, but it is vital to my sanity. I first have to figure out which areas of the forest are accessible or completely snowed in. Then comes the hour long process of getting the three of us in our winter gear and actually out of the house. It requires some extra effort, but the fresh air and the quiet beauty are worth the trouble.

We paid a visit to the very large and completely frozen Cass Lake.

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To get to the lake we first had to climb over a large snow dune.

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We admired the vast snowy landscape, but it was about 16 degrees and extremely windy out on the lake and I couldn’t feel my cheeks so we headed back into the protection of the woods.

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The winter landscape is mostly made up of varying shades of white and gray. Without the flowers and foliage that adorn the other seasons, things can get monotonous. That is why I got pretty excited about this area of the forest. The mix of green, red, and white tree trunks added color that could only really be appreciated in the winter.

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After a week of above- freezing temperatures the snow became crunchy, compacted, and unstable. It made taking a casual walk a bit nerve- wracking. We would take one step and sink in only an inch and then the next step we would sink up to our knees. And then every once in a while there were the hidden snowdrifts that would engulf us even more and we just about had to climb out. It kept things interesting.

Getting outdoors in the winter can be more difficult, but spending time in nature is rejuvenating, regardless of the season (and trudging around through deep snow is great exercise!).

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Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

~Robert Frost

 

Winter Skies

It could be said that the earth is the body of Nature while the sky is her face. The sky is where she puts her moods on display and they are ever- changing, from minute- to- minute, day- to- day, and season- to- season. Winter, I feel, is the moodiest of all seasons and I tend to absorb those moods as my own. There can be endless stretches of  gloomy clouds and fog that require extra motivation to leave the warm comfort of my home or to even roll out of bed in the morning.

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Then, the clouds finally drift away and the brilliant blue sky appears. On days like this, household chores are put on hold in order to savor every last minute of sweet sunshine. The cool air and sunny days are energizing and it is almost impossible not to match Nature’s cheerful mood.

The bare white branches of winter look especially striking against a clear, bright blue sky. Without leaves, the intricate shape and form of trees are on display and the warm sunshine coaxes me to stop and admire.

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Then there are the rare, breathtaking sunsets that just stop me in my tracks. As I stand there in amazement, I imagine God has lifted a veil from over the sky so that, just for a moment, his glory shines through to his children on earth. It is an experience that both humbles and heartens me.

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When the sun fades away on a clear night, we do not have to live in complete darkness. The moon and stars emerge, and they are beautiful reminders that we are not alone. They provide us light, comfort, and wonder until the sun once again brightens the world.

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14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be signs to indicate seasons, and days, and years. 15 Let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth.” And it was so. 16 God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also. 17 Then God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness. Then God saw that it was good. 19 So the evening and the morning were the fourth day.

Genesis 1:14-19

Snow

I have a love- hate relationship with snow. Snow makes driving slow and stressful, it creates the chore of shoveling, it makes you cold and wet if you don’t dress properly, and it just makes life a bit harder overall. With that said, I really do love snow. I love watching large snowflakes leisurely make their way down to the earth just as much as I love watching millions of smaller snowflakes swirling violently in a storm. I love watching the winter sun shine on freshly fallen snow, creating a field of crushed, dazzling diamonds against a bright blue sky. What I love most, though, is a clear night, when the full moon reflects off the snow and I am able to see almost perfectly without the aid of a light. My own backyard becomes a magical otherworldly landscape. All is quiet; it is just me and the trees and the snow, with the moon lighting the way.

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In all my life I have never seen anything that embodies the word “pure” more than a blanket of freshly fallen snow. The power of a blizzard, the gorgeous glistening snow in the sunshine, and the peace and wonder of experiencing snow on a moonlit night all point to the majesty of God. His creative and unique gifts to us add beautiful layers and dimensions to life.  Being able to observe our world through the change of seasons adds so much richness and excitement to my life and gives me a greater appreciation of God’s masterful craftsmanship.

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“…Though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;…”

Isaiah 1:18

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Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Philippians 4:8

 

 

First Snow Adventure

We have been blessed with a mild autumn here in Minnesota, but that has come to an abrupt end. Our first snowfall for the season is not a light dusting of snowflakes; it is a full- blown blizzard. There was no working up to it over a period of weeks. Just a few days ago it was 67 degrees and sunny and now we have a foot of snow, 20 mph winds swirling more snow around, and little visibility. Winter is here, folks!

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There is always something so magical and exciting about the first snowfall so I was determined to get out and enjoy it. However, taking my two large dogs and four- year- old son out for a walk felt like an arctic expedition (granted, we were out in an actual blizzard). First, the preparation to take a step outside took close to an eternity. I had to put on an extra pair of socks for Roland, take off his pants and finagle him into his snow bib, shove on his enormous snow boots, and finally put on his jacket, hat and gloves. I believe there was more winter gear than child. Then I quickly threw on my own clothes and leashed up the dogs who had been pacing around and whining the entire time. At this point my energy and patience was zapped, but I did not do all that work for nothing so I opened the door and we stepped out into the snow storm. Roland was uncertain about walking through the foot- high snow on our deck and getting down the steps was treacherous, but we eventually made it into our own back yard.

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After a bit, we got a rhythm down and Roland actually started to enjoy himself. We passed through the front yard, which was my original destination, but Roland said he was up for walking farther so we continued on. We walked through the one set of tire tracks down our quiet street so the going was easier. After we walked a while, I noticed the wind picking up and the visibility decreasing so I decided it was a good time to head back home. When I turned around, I realized the wind had been at our backs going out and now it was blowing stinging snow and ice in our faces. My spirits plummeted. Roland was doing surprisingly well before, but how was I ever going to get him home in this? He is not especially tough in inclement conditions. The weather had never been great, but now it was deteriorating quickly. Our gloves were wet and we could barely keep our eyes open because of the blowing snow. I yelled at Roland to walk right behind me so I could block the wind for him. Every few seconds I turned to make sure he was still following, but he wasn’t keeping up. He was trying to walk with his eyes closed, his entire face was covered in snot, and he looked overall pitiful. What was I doing taking my four- year- old son out in this weather? We were close to our house, but I felt like we were journeying through an arctic wasteland. We needed to get home quickly so I gripped both dog leashes with one hand (I had to control 200 lbs. of frisky dogs with one arm) and grabbed Roland’s hand with the other and trudged on. In a few minutes were we safe at home.

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Just as we finished stripping our dripping wet clothes off, Roland asked to go outside again. I gave him my “You have got to be kidding me!” look.

We settled on some hot chocolate and watched the snow swirl around from our nice, warm home.

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The Simple Joy of Sunshine

As summer becomes more of a distant memory, these increasingly rare warm and sunny days feel ever more glorious. When the majority of the days now are cloudy, windy, and just plain chilly, I want to soak every ounce of sunshine out of days like this. Walking around without a jacket on a northern Minnesota October day is a gift from God that is to be truly appreciated.

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Roland running off some energy before gymnastics class at Diamond Point Park on Lake Bemidji. Walking with my family along a lake in the lovely sunshine makes my heart happy. I hope these are the kind of memories I carry with me through life (and not the tantrums, the bickering, the chores, the stress…).

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I could sit here and watch the waves and birds and falling leaves all day (on a day like this at least).

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This boy absolutely loves the warm sunshine. (Maybe it has something to do with the fact he lived the first three years of his life in Congo- a climate a bit different than Minnesota). The poor kid does not know what is coming. Enjoy it now, Roland!

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What sunshine is to flowers, smiles are to humanity.

These are but trifles, to be sure;

but scattered along life’s pathway, the good they do is inconceivable.

~Joseph Addison

A View from Above

The peak of autumn foliage is such a fleeting thing. It seems that every year, right when the colors are getting really good, the wind and rain decide to pay a visit and before you know it, all those gold and amber leaves are falling to the ground. It makes it difficult to plan an outing specifically to enjoy the peak of fall color. Between work schedules and weather conditions, we ended up visiting Itasca State Park just a little after the peak started to fade away. Some of the trees were already bare, but it made for pretty leaf- covered paths.

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We took a short walk to the 100- foot- high fire tower. It was a chilly and blustery day so my hands went numb gripping the metal rails as I trudged up the stairs. The height did not really bother me, but the sensation of a strong gust of wind blowing me off the tower was a little unsettling. Roland, our brave boy, did just fine with his daddy’s help.

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We were rewarded with this view from the top of the fire tower.The forest and lakes extended as far as we could see. I thank God that I am able to live near such a great expanse of undeveloped, beautiful land.

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Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.

-Albert Camus

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The wind was really beginning to blow so we quickly descended the tower and hiked down a nearby trail. We came across this picturesque lake and thought it would be a good spot for an autumn family picture.

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Roland and his daddy, enjoying being outdoors together on a lovely autumn day.

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A Time to Play

There is a small county park near our house that Roland and I usually visit about once a week. There is something there for both of us to enjoy: a playground for Roland and a walking path through the woods for me. We have a routine: Roland gets some of his crazy energy out at the playground first and then we head down the path into the woods. It has become a good lesson in taking turns and being willing to participate in an activity that somebody else enjoys. I also have found that taking a nice walk is a calming transition from the high- energy activity at the playground to the getting loaded up in the car for the drive home.

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Is there anything more cheery than yellow aspen leaves against a bright blue sky? You have to take time to enjoy those rare sunny autumn days.

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Running through the fallen leaves, a quintessential autumn experience.

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One of my favorite things is admiring the way sunlight gently filters through the leaves, especially when the leaves are showcasing their autumn glory.

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Light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to see the sun.

So if a person lives many years, let him rejoice in them all; but let him remember that the days of darkness will be many. All that comes is vanity.

Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.

Ecclesiastes 11:7-9

Autumn by the Lake

On one of our last warm days of Autumn, Roland and I took an outing to Norway Beach on Cass Lake. Matt was home sick so this was just a mommy and son day. We spent the afternoon leisurely strolling (and playing) on the beach, soaking up the warm sunshine and fresh air, and admiring the beauty of the lake.

Roland was in a hurry to walk down the stone stairs to the beach.

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There is something pretty magical about water. The brilliance of the sunlight reflecting off of it and the soothing sound of waves softly lapping upon the sandy shore touch a special spot in my soul. I do miss the mountains of Idaho, but I have begun to appreciate the pure pleasure of walking along a lake shore (and northern Minnesota has plenty to offer).

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The simple beauty of a leaf.

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I love early fall when there are so many vibrant colors all on the same tree branch.

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Give this boy a stick and sand and he is occupied for HOURS.

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A lovely place to sit.

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This is the day that the Lord has made;
    let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Psalm 118:24