Gratitude, Midwest, Personal Reflection, Photography

All the Beautiful Things

The nose of my kayak dipped into the dark water at five-thirty. The five mile drive to the boat launch was a friendly race with the first streaks of color. No matter how many times I watch a sunrise, I am surprised by how rapidly it passes through its succession of colors. When I launched into the lake, everything reached by the light was bathed in a pink glow.

The view as I launched into Little Elkhart Lake (Plymouth, WI).

The crisp air of the new day, the mist riding atop the warm water, and the sun’s processional march of color were a breathtaking combination. God makes beautiful places, I thought over and over again.

Little Elkhart Lake, Plymouth, WI

This lake is edged by several homes, a youth camp, and abundant forest. At that hour, it was silent on every side. I was the only person on the lake and, at least in the first stretch, hardly more than a few birds had yet to break the quiet. I paddled and drifted. Paddled and drifted. The mist was invitingly mesmerizing, but each time I moved further into it, I paused to cease even the noise of my paddle cutting in and out of the water.

Little Elkhart Lake, Plymouth, WI

The silence was magnificent.

As the pinks and oranges gave way to blue, and the sun crept nearer the tops of the tree line, the bird calls multiplied. When I sat still, I could hear the flutters of wings and creaks of branches as the trees’ residents stirred to life. Before the sun crested the trees, the shadows slid away from the top down.

Little Elkhart Lake, Plymouth, WI
Little Elkhart Lake, Plymouth, WI

Eventually, maybe an hour in, came another kayaker. When she spotted me watching something on the edge of a little island, she drew closer and I pointed out the Great Blue Heron standing among the lily pads.

Great Blue Heron, Little Elkhart Lake, Plymouth, WI

She was perhaps around 75, best guess, with a soft voice and smile. She asked how early I’d arrived and remarked on the goodness of enjoying the lake before it was busy with boats and the waves that follow them. She told me about the oldest heron nesting on the lake year after year, whom she calls Grandpa. We watched the heron on the island until it flew off with a whooshing flap of its blue-feathered wings. I wished her a good day as she moved on and I felt a vague sense of what it’d have been like to be there at that moment with my great-grandmother when she was the same age. Something in the woman’s manners had called my Grandma Walcher to mind right off.

Little Elkhart Lake, Plymouth, WI

I took my time skimming along the curves of the lake. Fish came to the top in clouds of bubbles. Turtles poked their triangle heads through the surface. The birds were musically relentless. Apart from the surfacing creatures though, the water remained flat and still. If I stopped paddling, even in the open spaces, the kayak barely drifted. Shining reflections doubled the views in every direction.

Little Elkhart Lake, Plymouth, WI
Little Elkhart Lake, Plymouth, WI

Around seven a.m., I told myself it was time to make my way back to the boat launch. I’d have time to drive home, unload the kayak, and shower before logging into work for the day. With a a bit of convincing, I pointed my boat in that direction.

From behind me, I heard a call of “Hooo! Hello!”

A soft shout coming from my co-kayaker. I turned around and we drew up beside each other.

“If you go back along the trees, there’s another heron. He’s on some dead branches almost all the way to the corner. They love to feed there.”

How am I to turn away from a tip like that one? Getting home could wait. I thanked my new friend before paddling where she directed. I wondered if asking to have tea and cookies with her later would be too odd.

Sure enough, he was exactly where she’d described. Perched, watching and waiting for more breakfast. He was beautiful.

Great Blue Heron, Little Elkhart Lake, Plymouth, WI

Amazingly, he didn’t mind me one bit as I floated closer. I stopped among the first of the lily pads and sat still once again. Birds called to each other unceasingly. A pair of cranes began making a racket from a distant section of shoreline. I wondered if he was Grandpa, here for enough years to go about his day without concern over the noisy business of others (including intrusive humans in kayaks). Perhaps he was Grandpa, because he didn’t even stir when the morning bugle song rang out from the opposite side of the lake to rouse the campers from their bunks.

Blue Heron and the Bugler

Leaving the heron to his morning meal, I did finally resolve to be on my way. That vocal pair of cranes and another heron provided more delightful distractions before I reached the boat launch.

Sandhill Cranes’ Chatting Over Breakfast
Sandhill Cranes, Little Elkhart Lake, Plymouth, WI
Heron (possibly Great Blue Heron morphing out of white phase), Little Elkhart Lake, Plymouth, WI

The bird life among the reeds and cattails seemed to double in my final minutes on the water. It was now a quarter to eight, the sun fully up and me due at my desk very soon. Even though I couldn’t stay to sit among more of those birds or watch more schools of fish pop up to the shimmering surface, my joy from the morning was overflowing. It bubbled out in a laugh as I pulled my boat out of the water. I shook my head at all the pieces of beauty I’d encountered in the last two hours. I laughed more, and thanked God again and again.

Easter, Family, Gratitude, Midwest, Motherhood, Personal Reflection

Home Again

IMG_20190425_142050_875.jpgThis is home. Where I spent my first 18 years. Where I fumbled my way through childhood and teenage ups and downs. Where I witnessed my six older siblings leading the way. Where my parents still reside, ready to feed us, talk Jesus, and start a 1000 piece puzzle any time we’re inclined. I treasure any opportunity to bring my children there so they can stockpile experiences and memories of the place. I’m well aware the opportunities will run out one day. I prefer not to think on that except to let it remind me of the value of those visits.

The kids ask multiple times a week when we’ll return. Well, not so much when we will return. They love more than anything to stay with Grandma and Papa on their own, without me or their dad. And I love allowing them to do so. I love their independence. I love their complete confidence that they will be happy and safe and cared for while they are with their grandparents. I frequently wish that my husband’s parents lived within a few hours drive too, so the kids could be collecting similar experiences with them.

We spent Easter Sunday at my parents’ home and the day was everything beautiful. It began with Mass at my childhood parish. Afterward, I cooked with my mom to serve a delicious dinner at the table that has gathered up our family and friends for countless meals. (Seriously, I didn’t want to stop eating. It was so good.) Then we spent a while soaking in the springtime sunshine.


My fifteen-year-old stepson, who lives with his mother in a neighboring town, joined us for the afternoon too. Any chance to see the younger two excitedly enjoy time with their older brother is a heart-strengthening treat. Our family of five plus my father walked down the one road that I know better than any other road on this earth. We marveled at how high the creek is now that the snow has melted. We visited my grandparents’ former farm with its collapsing old barns. Lastly, we lingered at the pond, throwing rocks to splash in the water while I remembered all the summer afternoons spent wandering there and the winter days of ice skating on its hardened surface. It was one of those days when I couldn’t overlook my blessings even if I tried.

My people will live in peaceful country, in secure dwellings and quiet resting places. Isaiah 32:18


On the Lack of Beaches In My Life

There is a terribly sad lack of beaches in my life. As far as places on this earth go, it is hard to find any I enjoy more than a good beach. I have not traveled to Europe – a significant caveat, I’ll admit. That fact aside though, what I wouldn’t give to be near a great beach. By great, I mean soft sand, lengthy for walks and jogs, shallow near the shore for putting only my feet in but much deeper further out for a good swim. No scum or stench from industry further up the shoreline. It should be within a 30 minute drive from home, under 15 minutes is ideal. Sunsets there ought to be spectacular. I’m thinking of Good Harbor Bay or Point Betsie. Grand Haven and Holland, though those are busier. Naples, FL was lovely too. Or Ponte Vedra, trading the sunsets for sunrises. I live in Wisconsin… on the Lake Michigan side of Wisconsin… it should not be so hard to spend a day at a truly great beach. Alas, it is.

Intentionality, Love, Midwest


Spring seems to be coming only in spurts this year. Tiny, sporadic, brief spurts. Like today – the first day of sunshine and 50+ degrees in a couple weeks. And a couple weeks ago there was only one similar day after another few weeks prior to that. It’s been sad and discouraging and all too well suited to the way I’m living. Writing, cleaning, exercising, praying – all in spurts. It’s shameful and it’s not me!

Consider this a mid-year review. If I were my boss, I would not give me a raise, inflation or no inflation. Time to step up. There is nothing more disappointing in a person than potential left unactualized. And no person more disappointing in that regard than when it is your own self.

Rebounding from a 10 day cold and headaches that rendered me horribly listless, I am ready to not only feel like myself but to live like myself. How I used to prize consistency! Consistent effort bore consistent fruit.

Let’s be honest, falling in love interrupts everything. In the best possible way, of course, but I realize now that I have waited a whole year to adapt to living in love. Welcoming after years of waiting the chance to focus so wholly on my relationship, it is time to live more as my truest self in that relationship. I am a prayerful, tennis playing, hiking, reading and writing friend and family member who is in love. I am not a lover who used to be the rest of those things. It’s as cliche as it comes, I know. Who doesn’t lose themselves in the joy of the new relationship only to find the relationship would be better nurtured if they hadn’t lost track of themselves? So I suppose I’m just learning one of the oldest lessons around. Well, it’s learned. I get it. And I am glad for the chance to have learned it. Now let’s get on with it! 🙂


The Sights & Sounds of May

“Yesterday was the first of May. I love the special days of the year…. A May Day that feels as it sounds is rare and, when I leaned out of the bedroom window watching the moat ruffled into sparkles by a warm breeze, I was as happy as I have ever been in life. I knew it was going to be a lucky day.”
(Chapter 9, I Capture the Castle)

The arrival of May puts me in the mood for yet another delightful reading of my tied-for-favorite book, I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. Since I just read it for the fourth time about a month ago, maybe I’ll only revisit some favorite scenes. Also appropriate to both the book and this May temperament, I am listening to Bach’s Adagios with a smile on my face. Do you suppose he composed them in springtime? Some of them, certainly. It’s hard to imagine the creation of “Sheep May Safely Graze” occuring in late autumn’s dryness or the depths of winter.

May causes me to wish to live in the countryside. The colors and brightness of the month are reason enough to long for a lengthy drive to reach any destination. I often wonder how long I will stay where I am – in this town, in this house. The notion of a move seems much more believable in May.

Yesterday I finished writing chapter 14 of The Mercy Hour. It’s Thanksgiving in that fictional realm and late November in Michigan is difficult to capture when you’re in a May mood. The contradiction of those realities is soothed at least a little bit though as it’s awfully easy to dwell in the imagination in the spring.

Midwest, Scripture


I am soaking in this sudden flood of sunshine like the driest of soils. The five day forecast: mostly sunny, mostly sunny, mostly sunny, mostly sunny, mostly sunny. We may hit 40 degrees in northeastern WI by Friday. March does not always arrive with such a glorious meterological upswing. This March (or its first week at the very least) seems to know better than to behave otherwise.

As any move toward Spring is apt to, this March appears to be busting at the seams with potential. Melting, greening, growing – true to the season, true to the peak of Lent, true to my life at present. Lent is plunging me into the goodness of serving and the necessity of trust. God’s graces are bearing new fruit, restoring in me the joy of soul that used to sing of its own accord.

I suppose this mood is nothing unusual. Yellow sunlight pouring through cold window panes has this feverish effect on most people. Yet, I do feel most unusual. No, unusual is not the word. I feel younger than at the start of winter, or even at the start of last fall, summer or spring. I am regressing in the best sort of way, to a better version of myself, a truer rendering. My, this is hard to capture and communicate! I feel… I feel like a walking psalm.

My heart overflows with a goodly theme…
Thou dost show me the path of life; in thy presence there is fulness of joy, in thy right hand are pleasures for evermore…
Restore to me the joy of thy salvation…
I will awake the dawn!
The pastures of the wilderness drip, the hills gird themselves with joy, the meadows clothe themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy…
So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom…
I hear a voice I had not known: “I relieved your shoulder of the burden; your hands were freed from the basket. In distress you called, and I delivered you; I answered you in the secret place of thunder”…

After The Summer

“Lord, it is time. The summer was very big. Lay thy shadow on the sundials, and on the meadows let the winds go loose. Command the last fruits that they shall be full; give them another two more southerly days, press them on to fulfillment and drive the last sweetness into the heavenly wine.” (Rainer Maria Rilke)

Oh, September, are you really here? Welcome, welcome, welcome! Month of dewy mornings and chilled dusks. Month of harvest, month of change.

September must be the loveliest of all months. It comes at just the right time, after the summer has worn me out and the harsh winter days need not be thought of yet. There is so much in it to love. When I was in the Upper Peninsula this past weekend I was noticing how wonderfully tall the cornfields are, as well as how wet the mornings have become. I suppose the formation of every American student is to slip into vacation mode while it’s summer, even once you are out of school. And just as the sweetness of June beckons me toward road trips and beaches, September beckons me home. “Stay,” it whispers. In September, I set goals… and gain certainty that they will be realized. Each September feels more like the start of a new year than January ever can.