Autumn, Blessings, Darkness, Faithful Living, God, Home, Light, Nature, Silence, Uncategorized, wilderness, Winter

The Way of the Turkey, Deer, and Squirrel

The leaves are nearly all down now at Trout Creek. I love late autumn in Michigan, ever grateful to live where the slow turns of the seasons nourish and nudge our souls to look ahead. Here, we embrace the changes a new season brings, even when it is winter on the near horizon.

The signs are everywhere. Squirrels are hoarding acorns and fortifying nests with newly fallen leaves. Sow bugs and spiders are tunneling into the house in search of warmth. Just this morning, a buck out back was rubbing his antlers on the tamarack to get off the last of his pesky velvet.  Even the wild turkeys come in closer in their hunt for food.

At the store yesterday, the mother behind me had a cart overflowing with toys for Christmas, and people were stocking up on bread and milk with the news of imminent snow. I have a loaf of bread rising, and a brand new soup pot sitting on the stove awaiting its first of many assignments.

When we get back to Trout Creek, we work as hard as squirrels to be ready for winter. The split wood supply is renewed. Lawn tools are cleaned, oiled and stored even as the snow blower and shovels are readied. Gutters are cleaned, the car’s winter emergency kit is thrown in the trunk, the furnace is serviced, and the gas fireplace turned back on. Another blanket goes on the bed, and the boots get a new coat of waterproofing. Boats are hosed out, stored upside down on their rack, and covered.  Paddles go into the tall storage can. Ski poles are moved to the front. The bird feeders are restocked, while the downy woodpeckers and jays greedily cackle for more suet.

The short days mean more lamplight to illuminate those corners of our lives the sun seems to have forgotten. Now, instead of bright sunny picnics, we gather around the old family farm table. It’s soup, fresh baked bread, and fruit cobbler in place of burgers, beans, corn on the cob, and watermelon. I spend time arranging this year’s crop of canned and frozen foods. The anticipation of asparagus soup and a bubbly cherry cobbler on a cold, snowy night makes all the summer’s industry worthwhile.

It’s a time for being thankful, making ready, and taking delight in the slowdown. The long days of summer are filled with extended hours of play and work. It is now that we can give ourselves permission to hibernate for a time-to peruse that never-opened stack of summer reading, sit and pray with friends around the fireplace, study to learn something new, or simply curl up in a blanket with a hot mug of tea to watch it snow.

There is much to be learned from deliberately coming in out of the world, from slowing our hectic lives, and filling up on God’s wisdom. 

The wilderness will wait for us while we rest, regroup, reorient, and renew. The winter is for maps and making plans. Before we know it, we will be out on the water again-ice fishing, winter camping and canoeing, or learning to ski, or snowshoe, or curl on an outside rink. But these short, dark weeks of late autumn are for savoring the getting ready.

~J.A.P.Walton

Affirmation, childhood, Faithful Living, Fathers, Fishing, God, Growing Up, Lessons from the Wilderness, Nature, Outdoor Adventures, Peace, Praise, Uncategorized

Fishing for Praise

I have spent the better part of the last two years cleaning out my mom’s and mother-in-law’s homes. This time last year, I came across two fishing pole carriers, and inside one of them I was delighted to find the salmon pole my dad bought me 48 years ago.

My dad and I always had an iffy relationship. He disliked my temerity, and I distrusted the deep chasm between his public and private personas.

To others, he was affable, fun, and social. Inside our family space, he was irritable, short-fused, and prone to what he thought teasing, but was, in truth, mockery wedded to scorn. He knew I distrusted him, not because he was abusive, but because his personality was so discordant and unpredictable. I learned early how to walk on eggshells around him.

I have to give him credit though, because he tried mightily to find things we might enjoy doing together, and we managed hours of good times playing gin rummy and Yahtzee, and watching pro golf and football on TV while sharing a Budweiser (I was allowed my own small juice glass of beer starting quite young-one of the things about my dad that will always bring a smile). We also endlessly tossed baseballs. And we fished.

We discovered that fishing was the one activity that could unite us- in mind, in the hunt, in the murmured debates about which lure to try and at which depth to fish, and in the relative silence that accompanies the chase. Fishing sanded off the rough edges of my dad’s anxious personality. He became a contented, calm, loving man when he had a fishing pole in his hands, and since I was the only member of our family to really “take” to fishing, the two of us spent many dark, cold, early mornings on the Frankfort pier, and out in boats. He always brought 2 large thermos bottles, one with coffee, the other with Campbell’s tomato soup, because according to him, “Nothing beats a cup of hot soup in the cold autumn dawn.”

I will never forget his pride the day 12-year old me caught my first coho salmon- he so badly wanted to reel it in for me, but he let me fight that fish on my own terms. It weighed 17 pounds, it’s beautiful silvery sheen like a candy wrapper around a hidden treasure of delicious rosy flesh. He told everybody about it over the next week, and I was so pleased to hear him publicly praise me.

It is a truth that children desperately need to hear heartfelt, sincere praise from their parents without having to fish for it.

I think it is one way we learn to praise others.And an attitude of praise should be a permeating aroma of the life of a Christian.

So, as Father’s Day approaches, I have been thinking a lot about fishing. I got a new pole and re-rigged the old one. Bought a fishing license. Got a refresher course from cousin Dave. Went fishing. Caught a northern pike, a beautiful coho, and lots of rock bass. Lost the perfect lure to a “big one that got away.” Enjoyed a deeply gratifying fish dinner. Felt all of my own agitations related to mother-care melt away. And all that time, my long-dead dad was here, praising me. This will, indeed, be a Happy Father’s Day. I think I’ll go fishing.
~J.A.P. Walton

Thanks for reading and sharing!

adventure, Adventure Tourism, Camping, Creator, Faithful Living, God, Heaven, Home, Outdoor Adventures, River, Travel, Uncategorized

Home is a Comfy Old Robe

It feels so good to be home after a month of adventuring. Stepping across the threshold is like slipping into a comfy old robe. Sleeping in our own bed. Salivating over the stack of waiting books that were too heavy to take along. Standing under a cascade of endless hot water. Driving a car! I think being far away from home for long stretches of time is good for us. We learn to appreciate what we have, and to be grateful for the hospitality of others. It teaches us to be better hosts, offering others sanctuary, nourishment, and rest.

To have a home is a great privilege, whether it is a dorm room, a tent in the wilderness, a small loft apartment in the city, a 3-bedroom ranch, or an old drafty farmhouse. What pleasure there is in making our own “nest” for rest and comfort and for hosting others, with a roof over our head, a place to sleep in relative safety, and an inviting place at the table!

Adventuring often means taking your entire home with you in packs- tent, camp kitchen, food, sleeping bag, first aid kit, knife, matches, lantern, clothing, water filter, camp stove, bucket, bear bag, hatchet, and trowel (for your outdoor “bathroom”). It is amusing to discover how much stuff you can live without when you travel like this, when the weight of everything is a factor for consideration.

It’s true: our stuff truly does weigh us down, and makes our homes cramped and confining. I think we try to fill a hole of deep longing with more stuff because of an undeniably lingering sense that we are never truly at home on the earth.

Jesus, to become a human, left an indescribably magnificent home in heaven. During his 3-year ministry he was an itinerant with no home and, short of the kindness of strangers, had nowhere to lay his head.

Imagine the Son of God having no home!

But he wasn’t homeless either, because he knew where he had come from and that he was going back. More than that, he told us before he left that he was leaving in order to prepare a home for us in heaven. Our unease on earth- really our dis-ease, is this whispering sense of longing, and of knowing that there is something better. It’s a God-given sensation, that we might pine for heaven and God himself while living right here.

These feelings are often most acute when we are away from home, sleeping under the stars, wondering what they look like from God’s vantage, carrying our necessities on our back, needing a map to get around, and relentlessly relying on the kindness of strangers. We miss our own bed, and the comfort of the rooms we know so well. It is a whiff of what heaven will be like-somewhere on the other side of the river of life, a place to be home, known, safe, and loved. That’s a trip I want to take, a threshold I will be glad to cross, and a robe I can’t wait to don!

~J.A.P. Walton