Hiking Hocking Hills

Being in nature is a way that Shane and I find God’s glory. It is no replacement for the unity we can find in a church, small group, or concert setting, but for us, it is a way to find “our Jesus” like I suggested in the last post. What is so extra wonderful to me is that as we stare in wonder at wandering waterfalls, I know that Shane and I are thankful to the same creator, the one and only creator, God.

As good as all the food was on Shane’s birthday getaway, I do have to rave a little about the amazing place we were at, Hocking Hills, Ohio. We arrived on a Friday after a stop at Cabela’s and only did one small hike, if you could even call it that, that evening. We thought we could hit the waterfall labelled “Cedar Falls” before the weather turned, but only made it down the meandering steps down the steep hill to a rock wall and lazy stream before we decided we should turn back. That rock wall alone was amazing and left me wondering how it would sound if it sung out praises.

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If you get a chance to visit this place, let me tell you something that I only learned in hind site: the steps leading down from the parking lot were created by an artist! Akio Hizume designed these nearly 100 steps that lead you to the path below based on the Fibonacci sequence and one dimensional Penrose lattice. Shane and I remarked on the stairs while we were there and their spacing, which now in hind site is funny, because the artist purposely spaced them so you would have to change your leading foot as you walked.

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Had we known how close the falls were, I am certain we could’ve reached them that evening, but instead we parked at the Cedar Falls parking area and viewed them the next day. They were part one to a long hike we planned out that included seeing the Old Man’s Cave and Lower Falls.

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To best describe our hike, we went in then out to the Cedar Falls location, and continued past the artist stairs and around a bend to head on our way to the Old Man’s Cave. Visually on a map, this seemed like an easy hike, and unfortunately there wasn’t a lot of good information in the pamphlets we received from the visitor center on what the hike was actually like. Right off the bat, we hit a little scramble that the dogs enjoyed, we could’ve crossed the shallow stream and avoided it, but we didn’t need to.

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By the time we reached the lower falls, we were passing people headed in the opposite direction asking how much further they needed to go to hit Cedar Falls, some with exasperated looks, and I don’t blame them. That particular path had quite a few ups and downs, narrow points, and was no easy walk in the park. This was fine for Shane and I and the puppy, but we both were aware of how much Jagger might be aching by the end of the day, and as it was, by the time we hit the lower falls, he kept laying down any time he could.

We debated at this point the best way to continue with more stairs to the right of us, should we turn back now or continue on? We decided to at least make it to the Old Man’s Cave, and took the stairs to do so, which weren’t all that bad. People of all ages were doing the stairs after all, so Jagger did well.

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Reaching the very busy Old Man’s Cave, we again stopped and debated, giving Jagger time to lay down, where to go. The was always the opportunity to go back the way we came, but to be honest, that wasn’t an easy hike and we weren’t sure how well the old man, Jagger, would do. We decided to go on towards the ‘A’ frame bridge that crossed the gorge and to take the Gorge Overlook Trail back to Cedar Falls. Knowing that over look meant it would be over the bumpy terrain we just hiked through, I said to Shane it would probably be similar to that hike we did in Ricketts Glen, where after fallowing the water and seeing falls, it traced the top of the gorge and was an easy walk through tall trees. Fortunately for Jagger, that is exactly what this trail turned out to be. It was funny because all along the way we passed people who we had passed at the bottom headed in the opposite direction, we would all give a smile knowing we had all reached our destination and were on the homestretch of our own hikes.

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We got to pass over the breast of the dam that hold back the waters to Rose Lake. This was one of a few metal grated bridges that made Grizz a little nervous.

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Finally we made it made it to a bridge that crossed over to a very small parking lot. We recognized the lot from our drive in, and though it wasn’t our lot, with the grey skies, we thought it would just be quicker to cross here and walk up the road a short distance to where we started. Before we did though, we stopped on a lovely rock bench to reflect, and actually got some cute shots of all of us together; proof that I was indeed on this trip!

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Surprisingly enough, that is the only hiking we did while at Hocking Hills. We agreed we could definitely explore more, because we missed the famous Ash Cave and didn’t even see the Upper Falls that were above the Old Man’s Cave. Unfortunately, I have more pictures of my dogs and man then of the sites because I didn’t have a lens on my camera that allowed for wide angle shots, but was more appropriate for portraits and low light, but I am okay with that. You can look up picture after picture that people took of these places online, and they are all great, but what mattered more to me was who I got to spend the time with, so that is what I captured.

If you plan to go to Hocking Hills for a quick weekend here is a list of tips to make the trip go a little smoother:

  • Print maps of hikes offline, they are a little more detailed than ones we received in the park
  • Remember, waterfalls don’t happen with out elevation, you are in a gorge, there are scrambles and stairs that the maps don’t go into detail about
  • The primitive camping is great and spread out, their normal campsites were a little more crowded but you have electricity and are close to a bathhouse, and in the summer time, a swimming pool
  • Wear good shoes, Shane and I are all about our Keen sandals, but were grateful we had on our hiking shoes for the hike we took
  • Give yourself time for these hikes to stop and wonder, the map may say a half an hour or hour, but if you are stopping to play fetch it takes longer!

Rest

I flew into the rest of my weekend after I wrote my last post. I literally flew off of my longboard, onto the hard pavement, hitting first my knee, followed by a slide on my right side. The flying on the longboard stands out less against the memory of falling and sliding. I stood up quickly, annoyed I skinned my left tricep very much, and then I looked at my knee. I shudder at the picture that comes up in my mind. 

Shane was still at work, that was why I decided, after accomplishing my list of things to do, that I would ride my longboard. It was the first time I had gotten it out since last summer, and some pride in me said that I could indeed ride it to Rin’s house and back before Shane got home before our date. I had not considered the hill before her home, and there I met the pavement with a leap and a tumble. It was fortunately on this hill where a neighbors house is situated and this neighbor happened to be sitting on her porch with a biker who had been peddling by and took a break. So two angels, one a nurse, and the other ready and willing to take orders and help out, happened to be right on the scene and knew what to do till Shane’s dad arrived to drive me to the hospital.

So now, here I am, my right leg wrapped and velcroed into a brace propped up on a camp stool while I sit in a camp chair on our back porch. 

I can tell you exactly what got me into this situation, but it is still aggravating to think of how hurt my knee is. I shouldn’t bend it for two weeks due to the huge gash full of seven stitches and twenty-seven staples. Do you know how hard it is for me to sit still? Alas, I can count it a blessing it wasn’t worse. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make it any easier to sit still. As Rin put it, there must be some reason God wanted you to rest. 

Her comment made me look into verses about rest, because I have been doing a lot of that. I enjoy doing it on my back porch the most because I see our Orchard Oriole families, we have two, the yellow warblers, hummingbirds, cat birds, mocking birds, bluejays, countless red wing black birds and robins, and of course my little phoebe whose nest is just over my shoulder. It really has been a joy to just observe God’s nature, and on a morning like this morning where I was calling in a gobbler, interact with it despite my limitations. 

This certain, classic Psalm stood out to me though, because of the non-passive word, make.  He makes me lie down in green pastures. Why would God make me lie down when I have so much to do and I have this break before teaching summer workshops? Though I believe in signs, I am not sure a very obvious one is about to literally be written in the sky answering my question as to why right now must I rest. I just have to sit, be patient, and keep my eyes open and alert like I do when looking for all my different birds. 

Psalm 23:2-3 “He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.”

Ironic I would’ve just ordered the book, and got about the day before my accident, “When God Doesn’t Make Sense” by Dr James Dobson. Again, I am not unaware of what got me into this situation, and I am thankful it isn’t worse, but the why right now at the beginning of my summer has echoed in my head. This book draws stories and examples from far worse accidents that have happened in christians lives, and dares to ask why. It doesn’t skim over the question of, “Why, God?” with verses like Romans 8:28 where it says all things work together for good. Dr James Dobson really pulls out good examples of people in the Bible with big why’s, and verses besides Romans 8:28. 

One verse the book brought up felt appropriate to my injury, as our nurse neighbor, gingerly, yet assertively held my knee together with a motherly touch. Then again, when my mom drove down on Monday and kept me company and helped around the house while I was confined mainly to the couch. 

Isaiah 66:13 “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you: and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.” 

As I continue to watch the birds and finish some lyric videos for mu mom’s vacation Bible school, I actually want to leave some pictures of a bird that I can’t seem to identify. So for all you bird watchers out there, help me out, this grey bird has no other markings besides a light belly and red skin around its eye and a curved bill. I am in western Pennsylvania, so a curved bill thrasher doesn’t make sense, but that is what it reminds me of.

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As A Bird Flaps It’s Wings

Today is a fragile one, one where the right word, the right song brings trembling hands and a tear. Alas, I am one for routine, after bird watching and trying out my new camera taking shots of fluttering wings early in the morning, I went into my Friday routine. This includes a Tai Chi class, then stopping at the grocery store for lunch meat for the fresh bagels I get at my final stop at our local bakery where they had birthday cake biscotti’s today. 

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On the way to the gym for the Tai Chi class, I got some sweet texts from loving aunts, and coupled with the new album I was singing out loud, the tears came. I pulled it together for the Tai Chi class, but during the morning energy flow, the moves we did that reflected bird movements again made my eyes glassy. It just made my morning go full circle, the peaceful bird watching, the reading about Abraham and Isaac and the faithful in Hebrews, and with the praise songs from the new Rend Collective album I have been enjoying, I just felt I was being reminded there are blessings, always blessings, all around. 

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Blessings in our lives are sometimes like birds. We can hear their song, but we can’t always see them. It can be frustrating, straining your eyes, looking at a tree, knowing there is a bird chirping a melodic song in there somewhere, but we just can’t see, so we stop looking. Other times, birds come flitting into view, bright and beautiful, we see it, but it flies off before we are done looking. In both cases, we almost resent the fact that we didn’t see the bird more or closer; we over look the little bit of blessing we did receive. 

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The ever so hard to get clearly Orchard Oriole

Sometimes we forget, if we really want to see that rare bird, sometimes we have to sit still, be patient and wait. Even then, if we don’t have the right tools, like a lens that can zoom or binoculars, we still aren’t going to see it clearly. A bird isn’t going to just land in your lap because you want it to.

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I have been especially enjoying capturing shots of dozens of types of birds this spring because I got a 75-300 mm lens this spring. Finally yesterday, I attached it to my new body I also got, but only charged for the first time yesterday. So, with my Canon EOS 80D and new zoom lens, I was capturing some really good pictures of birds. In this post, I will just be including photos I got today and last night, but with that same lens and older body, I got some okay photos of even more types of birds. 

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As I mentioned before, I have really been enjoying the new Rend Collective album, so I couldn’t end this post with out including a song that really applies to today. There are so many little blessings flying and flitting around me, I can’t deny that life is beautiful and up from the ash, up fro the dust, God can recreate us and I will rejoice in the sunshine and the sorrow, and oh, my soul can rejoice. 

 

Our First New Years

Last New Years, Shane and I were going to leave a day later than my parents to head to Connecticut. I was excited to head up, and had an audio book at the ready for us. That morning, full of vim and vigor, we packed the car, but by the time we were thirty minutes on the road I was doubled over begging Shane to turn back. I had gotten the flu. So we spent New Years at my parents home, Shane kindly bringing me ginger ale and crackers and I really don’t remember much of the first day.

This year could not be the same! I doubled down on cinnamon and vitamin C and felt confident I would not be too sick to miss out on one of my favorite traditions of visiting my New England family. Family that could now be called our New England family.

So up we drove, listening to the audio book intended for last year, The Bride Collector by Ted Dekker. We left a half an hour before my parents, but by the end of the journey, they were following us as I navigated around traffic and eventually landed us on 95, though not before we passed through the town of Bethel, Connecticut, where we passed three bookstores. Three. Also a library. So many books!

When we arrived, we nestled in to my aunts home and the first night enjoyed hot buttered rums. The next evening was our annual gift exchange. It is amazing that we still keep up this gift exchange despite all us cousins being grown, starting families, and new little ones running around.

I think it is less about the presents and more about the presence. We have one night we spend all together, we blame it on the gifts, but in the end it is the togetherness, the food, the laughs that seem to keep this good thing going.

Many of the gifts, at least on the woman’s end, are handmade. This year, an end table I refurbished was bought by one cousin and given to another, meanwhile I painted a sign that read “Merry Christmas” on one side, and “Count Your Blessings” on the other for my aunt. In previous years, my dad has handmade benches, each year giving one to another cousin of mine. One of my aunts is great at knitting, so her talent is often given as a gift. It is this giving of your own gift, ones creativity or talent, that makes the gift giving so unique in our family.

With the men not often making something, it is fun to see their thoughtfulness. Honestly, to date, a gift card has not entered the gift exchange. This year, my cousin Meg’s husband had Shane’s name and got him a throwing ax. His reasoning was simple, he likes sharp things and he likes throwing sharp things, so why wouldn’t Shane? Shane loved it and got to explain how he has thrown axes at competitions and this started a whole new level of stories to be shared.

We have no price cap. We have no limitations. We have no expectations. We just appreciate what is given, because it is so often given out of love and joy, it isn’t some obligatory act. The only rule, get something for your name gift, for the person Kim’s computer randomly lines you up with. And it works.

“You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.” -Desmond Tutu

Hot Buttered Rum

Recently, Leah and I took a trip down to D.C. and visited my other cousin, Carlie. Carlie has lived down that direction ever since college, and it was time Leah and I pay her a visit. We are fortunate to all be so close, I feel like I am the literal link in between them, Leah a cousin from my mom’s side and Carlie is from my dad’s. We all enjoy history, museums of all types, and food.

Leah and I got brunch one morning on our trip at George Washington’s place. It was cozy, all of Mount Vernon was festive, and the food was so delectable. There was one thing we were a little put out by though, when we ordered a hot buttered rum we were told that they were out of butter. Only under the understanding that this was an old-timey drink, we wondered how one could be out of butter.

Well now we know!

Leah was excited to send me a recipe for a hot buttered rum before Shane and I headed up to Connecticut for the New Year. It seemed simple enough, a stick of butter, three-fourths cup of brown sugar and various spices. Everyone was intrigued as we began to mix it up in my Kim’s pretty little bowl and soon we had “orders” to fill for various family members.

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When people asked Leah and I about it and where we got the idea to make it, we kept answering with, “It is a traditional holiday drink. They had it on the menu at Mount Vernon.” Suffice to say, we didn’t actually know much beyond that, but upon returning home, I actually found out more about the warm goodness that we stirred up for the family.

Unlike a hot toddy, this drink is a little more “American” because of the use of rum. More specifically, it is a little bit more of a New England drink because of their history with molasses rum and the rum trade.

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Meanwhile, having it served at Mount Vernon made sense as well because apparently in the American Heritage Cookbook it says the drink found it’s way into domestic politics in George Washington’s time. The rum mixture was used to sway constituents and influence votes. Fortunately, we made it to just enjoy, no ulterior motives.

Once our butter batter was in our mugs, we poured an ounce or two of black spiced rum, depending on what people wanted.

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Next was whistling hot water. We used approximately six or eight ounces. Here is where I later read that the whole idea of oil and water not mixing and the drink not having a very good visual appeal. Going into this little experiment with out having even thought of that, we topped our warm drinks with Kelly’s homemade whipped cream. Apparently doing that or a dollop of ice-cream can take away from that “oil versus water” look too.

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With a dash of cinnamon on top, the traditional drink was ready to serve with the wonderful desserts that made their debuts here and there in the kitchen.

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It was a drink that warmed you through and through. We discovered served with a spoon or stir stick would probably be best since the sugar tended to settle towards the bottom. It is well worth mixing up a double batch to keep on hand in your freezer or fridge for a cold winter day!

Hot Buttered Rum Butter Batter

  • 1 stick of salted butter
  • 3/4 cups of light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Pinch of ground cloves, feel free to omit

Combine above ingredients. Keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator if you don’t use it all.

Hot Buttered Rum

  • 2 tablespoons butter batter
  • 1-2 oz of dark spiced rum
  • 6-8 oz of boiling water
  • Top with whipped cream or ice-cream to avoid seeing separation of liquids
  • Dust with cinnamon

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Our First Christmas

Our first Christmas as Mr. and Mrs. was not unlike our other Christmases spent together. We spent time with my family, drove home and spent time with his. There is something about the familiarity that is comforting, down to the decorations I see from year to year.

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After such a whirlwind of a year, the familiarity felt good. New traditions, namely Shane and I driving here and there for different meet ups, easily nestled into the old.

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Gathering around the table, over foods we have each year, my red sausage soup, my grandma’s plum pudding, Val’s potato casserole, shared with new stories and new laughs, all comforting.

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There were gifts under the tree, but being together bested any gift wrapped up in paper or tucked in a bag. Though it was fun to watch the kids open gifts, Marcus being in a very sincere phase and was ever so thankful for everything.

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James 1:17 Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.

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The kids were soaking up the attention, and it is always fun to see so many generations interact. Even though we are all family, and it is to get expected, it is interesting to think of how little time is spent together by such a wide age range.

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Joanna was especially thrilled when her two little brothers went down for a nap midday and she got to spend that time icing cookies with me. In the evening she presented them to everyone on a plate offering them their choice of color. When her mom took one, she said, with her eyebrow raised, “But Mamma, there is a purple one?” So her mom changed her choice to purple.

This year, Shane and I got my dad a ukulele. It was something that had been on the back of my mind to get him for a while, and we finally did it. A new sound to echo in my parents home, now to mingle with the familiar.

Soon, our first Christmas would end, and we would head up to New England for our first New Years as a married couple. I’m so thankful for our beautiful Christmas and I wouldn’t change a thing.

 

 

Stillness

The rush of the holidays, like a swollen river eating away at muddy banks, is pulling and making the anyone and everyone’s time slip away. Just today, a short trip into town to pick up pictures lasted twice as long as twice the amount of people waited at the once photography now layaway and photography counter. My afternoon floated away giving me no chance to save it. So many eyes rolling at the store, so many sighs from shoppers pushing carts, so much frustration bubbled through the isles as people looked for anyone with a name tag to help them on what ever last minute search they were on. One thing no one was bound to find was more time.

In a desperate attempt to avoid a crowded isle and save time, I cut through the book department to try to get to where I was going. This was the wrong sort of short cut for someone like me, and I probably did not make up any time as I emerged with two books. I told myself not to linger, but two books for my nephews, at least not myself, caught my eye, and another title made me chuckle, but I didn’t pick it up. The title was “Waiting Is Not Easy!” and it seemed so very appropriate for a holiday shopping day. The little elephant on the front of the book looked as exasperated as I felt.

It occurred to me that we cause a lot of this exasperation to ourselves. Personally, I love holidays, holidays of all sorts, because I love the homemade traditions that go with them. I love watching cheesy Christmas movies at Christmas time, wrapping and making presents look pretty, decorating, and baking, but sometimes I think that I will miss out on the magic of the season if I do something out of order, not the same as last year, or not at all.

So despite not having watched all of my holiday favorites, having not baked anything in three days, or having all my gifts wrapped, this weekend I said to Shane, “Let’s go for a hike.” Which he interpreted as let’s go squirrel hunting. Tomato-tomahto. I was glad to bundle up and be outdoors with him and Jagger.

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Not to be too cliche, but all that kept running through my head as we walked through the snow was, “Be still and know that I am God.” The forrest was ever so still that day, it was so peaceful, yet every tree, every branch seemed to be crying out, “Oh glorious day!”

I hope you can feel that sense of stillness and quiet from these couple of photo’s from that day paired with Steven Curtis Chapman’s “Be Still and Know” lyrics.

Be still and know that He is God
Be still and know that He is holy
Be still Oh restless soul of mine
Bow before the Prince of Peace
Let the noise and clamor cease

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Be still and know that He is God
Be still and know that He is faithful
Consider all that He has done
Stand in awe and be amazed
And know that He will never change
Be still

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Be still and know that He is God
Be still
Be speechless

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Be still and know that He is God
Be still and know that He is our Father
Come and rest your head upon His breast
Listen to the rhythm of
His unfailing heart of love
Beating for his little ones
Calling each of us to come
Be still
Be still

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Psalm 46:10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”