Here we are again, meeting together for what feels like such a short span. It is a special and memorable time, as you are to be the last memories we carry with us into the next year. It is quite a busy time for you, my dear December, and sometimes I worry for you. Expectations adorn every corner and rooftop, wishes are strung from the rafters, and intentions pour out through chimneys. I imagine it can be quite burdensome, but, my dear, I know that that is not all that you are. Your quieter, and softer ways might sometimes go unnoticed, but my darling, I see glimpses of them everywhere.
Today, I took a walk outside and felt your frigid embrace. Your cool fingers traced lines across my face, lingering long at the tip of my nose. My exhaled breaths formed a cloud, mingling briefly with your air. I saw the masterful artwork you created in the crystalized ice, woven together over puddles and along the edges of fallen leaves. I heard your soft melody of quiet murmurs, and feathery chirps, high among the trees. Lofty boughs of maple and mulberry swayed gently in time, as you danced among them, and left twigs and roots sleeping blissfully below.
When the sun sunk slowly below the horizon, deep shades of indigo, violet, and gold, were painted across your sky. The moon came out with its yawning grin in place of the sun and it was time for me to slip back inside, away from your cold. With the coming of night, your stillness spread out to the farthest reaches of earth and sky, encasing the world in a solemn globe of rest. Even so, I heard the call of owls sending messages to one another as they hunted for prey, and the howl and yip of coyotes, far into the hills, crying out for their pack.
You are all of those things, my dear December, and so many more.
Lastly, and not the least of which, is that you are also the time we honor and remember the peace and joy that was delivered to the world in such a small and gentle bundle, all those years ago. Under a starry night sky, the universe and all that exists within it was transformed, as a small breath, like a flake of snow, was breathed into the world for the first time. It isn’t until you arrive, that we stop and remember all that we’d forgotten and what it means to be loved, forgiven, and delivered from pain and sorrow. All such things we long for and yearn for, yet are nigh impossible to find through ordinary means.
My dear December, you are not the only busy time of the year. So too, are your brothers and sisters January, June, and all the rest. Though, without you, my dear December, I fear we may not take time to truly remember and reflect upon how love came into the world, so meek and mild, bringing light and healing to the darkness. For that, I must offer you my sincerest gratitude. And as we say goodbye, already, I am looking forward to our meeting again next year, and hoping that we will find each other well.
Guess what? Fall is finally here, like really here. The sky is wide open and blue, all of the trees are turning orange and gold, the nights are chilly, the birds are starting to migrate, and the list goes on. Fall is one of the most beloved seasons, and it’s for a good reason. Seldom is a change in the earth felt so keenly, as when the end of summer approaches–the temperature cools, and a rainbow of colors burst forth from every green thing, transforming the landscape. Back in September, we got a sudden cold snap and for a couple of days it was actually freezing. In only a matter of days, the temperature went from upper 90s F, then dropping below 40 F. I thought winter had decided to come early and skip right over autumn– but it was only a false flag as a few days later the temperature shot back up to 80/90 degrees. But those two days served as a wake-up call, signalling that the end of the Summer was nigh.
Now that we’re over halfway into October, the weather is much more mild, and it feels like a proper autumn. A few days ago, I went shopping and came home with eight giant pumpkins for the front porch. Before that, it had been suffering from a rather disappointing lack of orange–but I took care of that and now I can rest easy. (Alas, I had to give most of them away. I mean, eight giant pumpkins on my front porch may have been a little excessive.)
October is a peaceful month, with no major holidays to overshadow, or steal away these quiet days. It’s a wonderful time to just be, and sit back and enjoy the beauty around us. So today, in honor of this most favored season, I thought I would gather up some of my favorite fall-time things, and share them with you.
Let’s start with one of my personal year-round favorites: tea.
Homemade Ginger Cinnamon Tea
2 cinnamon sticks (make sure they're the edible kind!)
ginger root (about 2 inches)
honey, sugar, or maple syrup
2 1/2 C water
Fill a medium sauce pot with water. Peel your ginger nub, (spoons work great for this), and slice it into discs. Place ginger, and two cinnamon sticks in the pot. Turn heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low, cover partially to reduce evaporation, and simmer for 15 minutes. (Simmer only 10 minutes for a more mild infusion.) Let cool slightly, pour into cups and add sweetener of choice. You can also add milk or cream, if that's your thing. (Makes 2 cups)
*When using fresh ginger, it can be quite strong, so adjust amount to your preference.
Ginger is incredibly warming, so it’s great to drink on cold nights. It’s also an immune booster, and a powerful anti-viral/anti-bacterial, which is perfect for all of the nasties that come along with colder weather. Cinnamon is also very warming, and useful in improving digestion, and circulation–plus it’s pleasantly tasty. I’ve been drinking this tea in the evenings, when I want something warm, and comforting.
Now that we’ve got our drink covered, I think we should sit down to enjoy our cuppa, and do some reading. I wracked my brain, and came up with a few titles to recommend for your autumn TBR. These books aren’t specifically fall-ish, but they have that certain wistful feeling that often reminds me of fall.
The Scent of Water, by Elizabeth Goudge
You can’t spell autumn, without the word British…wait, that doesn’t make sense. What I’m trying to say is, there is nothing more cozy or heart-warming, than good ol’ British fiction. The Scent of Water, is about a woman who inherits a cottage in the country from a distant relative. We follow Mary, as she gets to know the villagers, and transitions to country-life. Isn’t it everyone’s dream to receive a letter, saying that a distant relative has left you their entire estate, which just happens to be in the country?
2. The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Steifvater
On the small windswept island of Thisby, the capaill uisce are beginning to wash ashore before the Scorpio Races–the only place in the world where the ravenous water horses are trained to compete. Puck Connolly finds herself a contender for the prize in the deadly races, the only girl ever to do so. I read this book during the summer months, but even then, it transported me straight to October, and I could almost feel the sea spray on my face. This story is intense, and the atmosphere is so vivid, I can’t think of a better autumn read.
3. Into the Fire, by Kim Vandel
Kate is an ordinary college freshman, until one day she receives a calling to become a Guardian–chosen by God, and given supernatural abilities. It’s a call she must accept, and her life is changed forevermore. Set in Seattle, with gloomy days, and drizzly skies, Into the Fire has the perfect fall vibe. This is one of my all-time favorite books.
4. The Dark Hills Divide, by Patrick Carman
Twelve-year-old Alexa Daley, has found herself caught in the middle of a dangerous scheme which threatens the entire Land of Elyon. With strange forests, and talking beasts, Alexa must solve the dark mystery before it’s too late.
5. The Maine Woods, by Henry David Thoreau
A collection of letters, and journal entries, Thoreau writes about the times he would would visit and explore the yet-unknown parts of the Maine woods. He recites stories from his guides, records moose encounters, and offers much wisdom from his experiences. It’s been a couple years since I read this book, but I still think back on it fondly, and it’s one of my favorite non-fiction reads.
One of the first ways I notice the changing of the seasons, even when the days are still long and hot, is by the stars. The Bible says the stars are for signs and seasons, and I never understand that so well as when I see constellations like the Big Dipper, and even the Milky Way inching their way across the sky as winter approaches. Winter is a great time to stargaze, though it’s usually too cold to do so. But even in autumn, the stars are so clear, and nearly every night I see something spectacular, like planets and “falling” stars. If you are able, I highly suggest doing a bit of stargazing yourself.
By this time of year, most of the garden has either died, or been pulled up, save for a few tomato plants still clinging to life. But as the cooler months settle in, you have an opportunity to start up a whole new crop. Things like carrots, peas, lettuce, and kale rather prefer the not-so-hot days. A couple of weeks ago, I planted some bush beans from seeds I saved in the spring. They took a while to break through the soil, and I was starting to get nervous they weren’t viable, but one morning I noticed a tiny green shoot poking out, and now they’re growing by leaps and bounds. I’m hoping we’ll get a couple of harvests in before it freezes too hard. Which reminds me, I still have potatoes to harvest… I’d better get digging.
And lastly, to truly set the mood for any occasion, one must have music. In autumn, I tend to listen to more acoustic genres, or songs that are a bit melancholy. Maybe it’s the chill in the air, or the crispy leaves, but I often listen to songs that are even a little creepy, (like the classic Goosebumps theme song). I listen to lots of different styles of music, and I’ve put together a playlist of songs that I think suit fall-time well. Give it a listen, if you’re looking for something new. Check it out
I’ll conclude this post here, before I go on any longer, and you start getting sleepy. I hope you enjoyed this post, and maybe feel inspired to try some new ideas this autumn. Thank you so much for reading all the way to the end. May you enjoy this season, and all of its changes. I’ll see you on the other side.
Do you ever like to hop in the car, and go for a drive? Leaving the city far behind, just to enjoy the passing scenes of nature? Sometimes, if you travel far enough and the last remnants of civilization are no longer visible, you can gain a new perspective on life. No houses, no people, and not many cars. Only endless hills, and mountains stretching out farther than the eye can see. When you are suddenly outside of your normal environment, many things in life feel trivial. Arguments, grievances, or unpleasant matters feel so small compared to the vast expanse before you. It’s a lovely feeling, especially when society is pressing so hard on every side and clouding our vision, doing its very best to control our emotions, according to what it says matters. Sometimes you need to break away from all of that, and steep yourself in the beauty of God’s creation. It can help reorient your heart and mind. A few days ago, my family and I did just that. We piled into the car, and headed West for a bit of good old fashioned exploring.
We went to an area I’ve never visited much, so everything felt new and interesting. And after leaving the city behind, the great wide nothingness of the desert opened before us. It was a grand, beautiful nothingness, which is my favorite thing to see. After driving for nearly two hours we finally came to a town. It wasn’t a big town, just a little blip in the middle of the desert. Sadly the boarded up windows, and old crumbling architecture showed the tragic state of small towns these days. As cities grow wider and wider, the little ol’ towns that once thrived are slowly becoming extinct.
By this time, everyone was starting to feel hungry, and a little cranky (if I do say so). But in such a small town, we didn’t have many options. I’m quite a staunch McDonald’s hater, but if there is one thing I know, when you’re hungry in the Middle of Nowhere, USA, McDonald’s is pretty darn good. Needless to say, our bellies were filled, and our hearts lifted for the rest of the journey.
After a few more miles the terrain became steeper, and more foresty. We passed a sign that said, Ice Cave This Way, so of course we had to go. After turning off the highway onto a dirt road, we came to a stop outside of an old trading post, turned gift shop. Tall pine trees surrounded the grounds, and a few little cabins dotted the area. It was the perfect little forest getaway. I explored a bit, nabbed a couple of pine cones because I just couldn’t help myself, and enjoyed the mountain air before starting on the hike to the cave.
“Four-hundred yards, and seventy two steps down,” the lady at the front desk said. That sounded like a breeze, until we remembered that it was summer, and there would be no breeze. Nonetheless, we ambled along the path, strictly adhering to the rules to not leave said path at any time. Even though I desperately wanted to climb across the lava rocks. Oh, did I mention the lava? Before arriving at the cave, we drove for miles through a sea of lava rock. At one point, I had to wonder if the massive volcanic eruption was what caused the dinosaurs to go extinct all those years ago. Volcanoes are fearsome wonders to be sure, and I’m glad whichever volcano once existed there, is no longer active. (For the time being, anyway.)
After traversing some four-hundred yards, we arrived at the cave entrance. I wasn’t sure what to expect because it was allegedly an ice cave… in the middle of the desert. Pushing doubts aside, we began to descend the seventy two steps. The creaky old wood was a bit questionable, but I tried to ignore that, and seventy two steps didn’t sound terribly hard. (More on that later.)
Something strange began to happen the lower I went.
During the first few steps the sun was beating down on us, and it was very hot—but as I stepped down one peculiar, particular step…WHOOSH. We suddenly felt an arctic wind blow over us. It was so shocking, I had to step back up and come down again. As we went down the remainder of steps the temperature kept plummeting. I don’t know exactly how cold it was, but apparently the temperature in the cave never exceeds 31 degrees (Fahrenheit), thanks to the thick rock walls, and perfect shape of the cave to capture the frigid air. When we arrived at the bottom, the cave opened up before us and there was a hug slab of green ice. Yes, green! According to the information pamphlet it’s apparently caused by Arctic algae. There’s a lot of history regarding the cave. Ancient Indians once mined the ice, and made their dwellings in the caves of the other lava tubes nearby. (Did I mention the cave was actually an old lava tube?) Many years later, settlers also mined the ice until the practice was stopped to preserve the cave.
Also according to the pamphlet, the circular walls of lava rocks we noticed along the path in some of the other lava tube/caves, were remnants of the Anasazi Indians who lived in the region many hundreds of years ago. (And if you’ve never heard of the Anasazi, there are many mysteries related to the ancient tribe.) After basking in the glorious arctic air, it was time to head back to base camp. Remember when I said seventy two steps wasn’t all that bad? Well that was going down. I had forgotten that in the mountains the elevation was a bit higher than at home, and boy did I feel it. Seventy two steps never felt so far or so painful. When I reached the top, I had to take a break and remember how to breathe normally again. My poor heart was pounding out of my chest.
Back in the car and on the road again, we continued our excursion into the wilds. We came to yet another town, this one even smaller than the last. My dad said there was even a lake there. But after seeing no evidence to support that fact, I doubted that his memory was serving him correctly. We searched and hunted and followed some dilapidated signs and finally found the parking lot for this evasive lake. We parked, and still saw no sign of a lake. But I knew that it must be somewhere hidden behind all of the brush, and shrubbery, so I took it upon myself to hunt it down. This time I brought my water bottle, and again, headed out into the blazing sun.
As my steps took me deeper and deeper into the thicket, I couldn’t help but wish I was back inside that dark cave where I could be nice and frozen like the ice. But just as I began to lose all hope and call this lake search a farce, I climbed up a steep embankment, and behold! A lake! A big, shiny, glorious lake! (Reservoir, to get technical.) It truly exceeded my expectations. It was still blisteringly hot, but just the sight of the water made me feel better. It smelled very swampy and, and looked a bit gooey, but I’ll take what I can get. We took lots of pictures, explored the rocky shores, imagined what it would be like to jump in, and then decided to make the trek back to the car. I’m glad I didn’t give up on my search for this hidden place, because it was a treasure indeed.
By this time we were all pretty tired and still had a couple hours on the road to get home so we decided to head out. But alas, we took a wrong turn on a dirt road, and ended up on someone’s “private” property. The owners were none too happy about it. We apologized as best we could, then left as quickly as possible. But not before getting chewed out for allegedly running over some plants, (which looked suspiciously like weeds, if you ask me). Unfortunately, the hostile encounter left a bad taste in our mouths, but we tried not to dwell on it.
Speaking of dwelling, just when we thought we’d seen all the interesting wonders there were to see in one day, we spotted some “prehistoric Indian dwellings” high up on the cliffs. A little plaque said they were some 800 years old! (Yet more remnants of the Anasazi, a.k.a., Ancestral Puebloans.) It’s fascinating to imagine what life looked like back then. To think there were whole civilizations that once thrived in these lands, and people who lived just like you and me is amazing to consider.
Eventually we made it home, and I was grateful to have air-conditioning once again, since I don’t have the luxury of an arctic ice cave in my backyard. It was a long day, but I’m grateful for all the sights and sounds I was able to experience.
I hope you’re enjoying the last bits of summer, and spending time with your family, and maybe getting out of the city to enjoy the majesty nature has to offer you. It really is good for your soul! Blessings to you, my friend.
Have you gone on any adventures this summer? Or explored any ancient wonders lately? Leave me a comment, I’d love to hear from you.
A few weeks ago, I went on another mountain adventure. Or should I say- misadventure? It may seem like mountains and I don’t quite get along, but I can assure you, we like each other very much. We just tend to have a lot of mishaps, together. (Read here about my last excursion.) This time though, might just take the cake, for being the mightiest misadventure yet. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves…
My sister had the day off and planned a hiking trip with a friend. It was supposed to be a hike to a ghost town. Since I had work, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to go, but the prospect of seeing a real-live ghost town, was very enticing. So last minute, I was able to get the day off. Woohoo!
Unfortunately, my other sister wouldn’t be coming along due to a recent dental procedure, (I’ll spare you the details…). Though she kindly leant me her very expensive camera, to document the trip. Early the next morning, the three of us hopped in the car, and headed out to see this mysterious, ghost town.
We were told that the hike is considered to be ‘intermediate’ and would be about three and a half miles, round-trip. I thought it sounded like a fair match for my abilities. I brought lots of water, a first aid kit, and a few other, ‘just-incase’ items. When we arrived, it was still early morning and a bit chilly; I knew that would change later, so I enjoyed the cool air, while I could.
After only a few minutes in, we saw a serious issue ahead. The path forked. We had only seen one sign, (back in the parking lot) which had gotten us to where we were. Luckily, though, we had a book in our possession, with “directions” to our destination. An old book, with simplistic, if not primitive, instructions. It went something like, ‘After you pass this field, go right. And when you have passed that stream, go left.’ Clear and concise, right?
After an agonizing attempt at deciphering the directions, we did as the book suggested, and took the path to the right, though my gut was uneasy. Nonetheless, we forged ahead, even with our doubts and uncertainties. The path was pleasant and peaceful. We passed a camp ground and a small stream, just like the book said we would. But ever so slightly, and hardly noticeable at first, the trail began shrinking.
The terrain was getting more and more, rough. And at points, the trail would disappear altogether, and we’d have to wade through bushes, and ravines, to meet it again. The further we went, the more sure we were, that we had taken a wrong turn. So after climbing up a very steep hillside, and leaving the trail behind altogether, we decided we had to do something. GPS was finicky in the area, but after a few attempts, we got a signal.
Our suspicions were confirmed. We were definitely NOT on the right path. But we didn’t seem to be too far off, and thought, if we could just veer a bit to the west, we might bump into the correct trail. So we forged on, trekking uphill once more. When we checked the GPS again, we weren’t any closer. By this time we all agreed that our only option was to go back, and start again from the beginning. We had been traveling for over an hour in the wrong direction. Ouch.
With my energy level tanking, and several rough slides, and surfs down the mountain, I decided to employ the help of a sturdy stick, which was tremendously helpful in our slippery decent. We got plenty of scrapes and scratches, as thorns and twigs snagged at our skin and clothes along the way. Tired, grouchy, and by this time quite hot, we reached that cursed split in the trail, (another hour and a half later). After scouting around more throughly, we spotted a small map on the side of a tree, and we were shocked by what it showed. The path we had taken, was marked by a black line, snaking up the mountain. Black, indicated that the trail level was EXPERT!
I am proud to say, that I can now call myself an expert hiker, since I survived that trail. Just barely, though.
But the story isn’t over yet. With the help of our little friend, GPS, we started out once again, on the correct trail. It was hot, and we were tired and a bit discouraged, but we weren’t going to give up. We came here to see a ghost town and we weren’t leaving until we found it. The trail was definitely easier now, but still challenging. The path cut steadily upwards, and as we climbed higher, so did the temperature. Between the long stretches of burning hot sun, every small piece of shade felt like heaven. My dear old sister began walking at the pace of a prehistoric sloth. (I have no idea if such a thing existed, but if so, it probably would have walked faster than her.) Every fifty feet, she had to stop and take a break and would refuse to move, until I threatened to drag her behind me. Fortunately, these breaks did allow me to take some photographs. I myself, wanted to give up, but with my trusty stick in hand, I persevered. I imagined that I was Gandalf, leading the way through Mirkwood, with the help of my magical staff. That helped a little.
After another torturous two hours, of muscle twisting climbing, we saw the first actual hint that we were getting close. The “hint”, took the form of an ‘ancient red car’, as the book described. And the second hint, was an old wooden sign with the word, ‘hotel’ etched on it, and an arrow pointing ahead. With the teeny-tiny, bit of energy we had left, we forged on toward the abandoned ghost hotel. We noticed small remnants of civilization; just broken bits of debris, really. Despite the exhaustion, our hearts still stirred with some amount of excitement at the prospect of finding this ghost town. But then, we ran into another group of hikers, who were heading down the trail and, bluntly delivered the news. That pile of debris we had just passed, well… that was the so-called ‘town’. It couldn’t be.
An old car, and some old boards, was a ghost town? It seemed too cruel to be true. But alas, the truth really does hurt. (In the knees, especially.) We had hiked for four exhausting hours, and were rewarded with a pile of old sticks. Our only consolation, was that we need go no further. We could finally have our lunch, and have a well deserved rest. Before hiking another two hours back to the car, that is.
There you have it folks. If you thought this tale would have some kind of redeeming reward at the end, you are sure to be disappointed. But I can assure you, you won’t be nearly as disappointed as we were. The one small takeaway though, is that if you asked me beforehand, if I thought I could go on a nearly seven hour hike, I would answer with a resounding, no. But I surprised myself, and finished strong. And got some pretty good photos along the way. Yay me!
In hindsight, it was quite a spectacular adventure and I’m glad I took it; misadventure, though it was. (I hope it was a bit entertaining for you too!)
P.S. If you happen to hear about a ghost town in the mountains, don’t believe it.