Nature


Sunrise Colorado {Wordless} 1

Here’s a little “wordless” break from our vacation in Colorado this summer.  Thanks to amazing friends, my husband and I sneaked out of the house early (without the kids!) to watch the morning sun rise over the Grand Mesa Mountains and flow into the Colorado National Monument. 

It was sublime.

Again, all photo credit goes to my awesome husband.

Colorado National Monument Sunrise Pano

Colorado National Monument Sunrise Pano

Colorado National Monument Sunrise Pano

Coke Ovens Trail in CNM
After watching the sunrise, we took a short hike down into the valley.

Coke Ovens Trail in CNM Pano
I so wanted to play hopscotch across those “Coke Ovens” but my husband wouldn’t let me. 😉


When a Meteor Collides with your World 1

Continuing on with my “Pilgrimage” story….

After a night’s stay in Flagstaff – a place I’d like to come back and see more of one day – my brother and I finished up our complimentary continental breakfast, smuggled out some extra bagels and fruit for later, and then headed out just after sunrise towards our next destination – Santa Fe, New Mexico.

As we drove out of Flagstaff on Interstate 40 the sun groggily stretched over the surrounding bluffs; it’s smooth rays, like running yolk from a cracked egg, spilled over the distant mountains and filled the valley.

We continued driving through beautiful terrain and mountain regions in the distance and lots and lots of trees on either side of us. Apparently, “Flagstaff lies near the southwestern edge of the Colorado Plateau, along the western side of the largest contiguous Ponderosa Pine forest in the continental United States.[7] Flagstaff is located adjacent to Mount Elden, just south of the San Francisco Peaks, the highest mountain range in the state of Arizona. Humphreys Peak, the highest point in Arizona at 12,633 feet (3,851 m), is located about 10 miles (16 km) north of Flagstaff in Kachina Peaks Wilderness.” (Thank you, Wikipedia)

My brother asked if we could start the drive off with a Rosary this time instead of launching right back into the beguiling plot of our audio book, The Einstein Prophecy.

I love that we can share our beautiful love for Jesus and Mary and the traditions of our Catholic Faith together. We prayed for our family, our friends, for those suffering throughout the world and for those most in need of God’s unfathomable and endless Mercy.  Of course we also prayed for the repose of our dad’s soul, asking that he may be completely united and resting in God’s Love and Mercy.  Appropriately, as we were reminded later in the day by a kind and thoughtful friend, this was February 20th, two months after my dad’s passing from our world into God’s Realm.

While we were praying, we passed by a few signs for Meteor Crater, also known as Barringer Crater (after the guy who figured out it was a meteorite crater).

My husband, the Space Nerd (which I say lovingly of course), was very excited that we were so close to it when I texted him to tell him we were going to pass by it. He looked it up on the map back at home and texted me saying, “It’s only 6 miles from the Interstate…”

I was slightly interested but my brother proclaimed it as a “Tourist Trap” immediately. My brother and I looked at each other a little unsure but then figured we’d go check it out since it was “only 6 miles away” to satisfy my husband’s nerdiness. 😉

We took the exit and followed the very nerdy signs along the way, making sure not to run over any random cattle crossing and keeping our eyes open for signs of a huge hole in the ground. About halfway in, my husband sent another text. “It’s $18 to get in.”

Oh. Drat

We looked at each other and shrugged, we were already almost there, might as well see what it’s like. Once we arrived at the Meteor Crater Visitor Center we knew the only way we’d get to see it would be through the $18 admission tourist trap, er I mean, newly refurbished Visitor Center at the top of a hill that blocked any other view into the crater.

Before seeing the crater, we saw the meteorite that zoomed in from space at around 26,000 miles per hour before impact with the earth’s surface creating the 3,900 ft in diameter and about 570 ft deep crater in what is now Arizona’s desert. (Thanks again Wikipedia). If you can enlarge that picture of the meteorite and read the description it’s a pretty interesting story of where that little meteorite has been. Can you imagine finding out the piece of rock you’d been using as a counterweight for your grandson’s basketball backboard was actually an object from outer space?


I’d seen pictures of the crater from above, which are very impressive, so I was slightly curious what it would look like from the ground…

Oh. It looks like….a big hole in the ground. Cool.

Ok, so at first I have to admit I wasn’t super impressed. (Sorry science nerds). I mean I had just been to the Grand Canyon the day before so this wasn’t quite on the same level of awesome things I’ve seen.

My brother and I split up and he went up and I went down to get a closer look. At first, when you’re standing there looking at it, it doesn’t seem as deep as it is. I was shocked when I looked through one of the fixed telescopes and saw there were actual objects way down there.

What is a Winch anyway?

I don’t see no winch and boiler down there…

Ohhhh! And there’s even a little space man down there too! I never would have known.

After looking through those scopes I was a bit more impressed.

Looking at it from above with the people there gave me a better perspective of the crater’s depth.

At one point, I was all alone, staring down into this gigantic crater and no one else was around at all. It was completely quiet, no noise at all aside from the occasional sound of a chirping unknown bird hiding somewhere nearby. Suddenly, the silence gripped me and rang loudly in my ears, it was nearly deafening.

The silence and solitude offered me time to take it all in and really think about what I was looking at. A hole in the ground made over 50,000 years ago by the impact of a hunk of metal flying in from outer space. Now that is something.

The metaphor was obvious. Like the earth I live on, my own “world” had also been impacted by an unexpected life-changing “meteorite” that left a gigantic crater in my heart upon impact.

Like all the clichés, when I saw the word “cancer” on the text from my mom about my dad back in November, it felt like someone had literally punched me and knocked the wind out of me – or like a out-of-this-world meteoroid intruding into my orbit, crashing through my comfortable reality, and leaving a permanent hole in my heart. Like the earth’s surface, my life has been forever changed after the death of my father.

I can’t make life be the same as it was before, it has left a profound mark on my soul that will never completely “go away”.  The thing is, I’m not sure I really want this scar – this crater – to go away.

You see, there’s a certain unexplained beauty in erosion – even when it feels like our whole world is falling apart. Like I reflected last summer (before I knew what was to come) while standing on the top of one of the sand dunes of the Great Sand Dunes National Park just a few miles north of where that crater is –

One beauty of nature replace[s]…another.

I guess it just goes to show that even the world as we know it now will pass away and erode by the natural forces of the constantly changing world. We can’t see it now but over time, something new and beautiful in it’s own way will develop once again.

And, like the Great Sand Dunes, the Grand Canyon, and yes – even this “hole in the ground” – we all have our own erosion, canyons, and craters on our bodies and in our souls that will remain forever to remind us of what we were, what we’ve experienced, and how far we’ve come despite it all.

It stings, our hearts cry out in pain upon impact while we struggle with the growing pains of life’s changes, but I guess we become stronger too. If we adapt with what comes at us we allow God to mold us and lead us on a new path, even if it’s not the one we had planned to follow. By accepting and trusting God’s Will in everything that happens to us, we’ll find the path leads to something even better than the one we were on before.

While we are in the crater of grief and sorrow, we can’t see the whole picture…

How’s that for some wall art!

but as we get closer, the view becomes clearer.

For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)


From Shore to Canyon {A Pilgrimage}

Continuing with my mini “pilgrimage” across the southwestern United States

After a lovely day touring LA, we woke up before the sun on Friday morning and packed up the rest of my brother’s belongings into the back seat of his 4-door car (good thing I packed light!), we started our journey from LA to the Grand Canyon.

My brother’s apartment was close to the the Playa Del Rey beach so we took a teeny detour so we could drive along the shore road before heading East out of the city. The early morning waves performed a rhythmic dance and whispered a quiet farewell song as we bid the ocean one last adieu. (I had to restrain myself from telling him to stop the car so I could run down and dip my feet in it . I pretended I did instead.)

Thankfully it didn’t take long to get out of the city, probably because we were headed out instead of in and, because there were two travelers, we got to use the carpool lane! We started listening to The Einstein Prophecy, the audio book we’d downloaded from Audible (click here for a free trial), as we drove out of LA through some beautiful mountain and valley areas and then cut through the dry Mojave Desert area and right into Arizona.

Driving through the dessert was interesting – I certainly would not want to get stuck out there alone. We were now far from the soothing ocean waves with no signs of any large bodies of water for miles. After a few hours we traded drivers and I listened to the Family Physics episode on This American Life (It was interesting enough but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it) while I drove the rest of the way in the afternoon.  I can now say, “I drove to the Grand Canyon.”  🙂

As we turned onto the Grand Canyon highway, I was surprised to see how wooded it was – not deserty as I had imagined.

We finally arrived at The Grand Canyon Visitor Center and walked along the sidewalk path up to Canyon. The area still looked more like Colorado and it was hard to believe the Grand Canyon could be anywhere close. But as the path continued and got closer I heard the sound of loud wind – much like the sound of waves from the ocean we had left behind just that morning.

And then the path ascended just slightly, the trees parted, and there, stretching out for miles and miles  – there it was.

A deep silence filled my soul as I gazed over the vastness stretched out in front of me. Of course I have known about the Grand Canyon for all my life but I hadn’t really expected I would ever see it in real life. So seeing it there, right in front of my very eyes, was like looking into a mirage. Surreal. 

I sat on the wall and swung my feet around to hang over the edge…and then I looked down and everything started moving – so I decided I should probably not look down and get back on the other side of the wall.

Now, for most people, coming to see the Grand Canyon, or even to hike in it would be a pretty awesome experience. For me, standing there in front of this geological wonder, held a deeper significance.

All of my life, as much as I can remember, my dad talked about visiting the Grand Canyon. It was a life-long dream of his to see it. Being an English-man, he’d dream of hopping on the Amtrak train and heading West and the maybe he’d rent a car – or ride a donkey knowing him and funny sense of imagination – until he reached it. My dad and our family traveled to many great places throughout his own life and our family life but the we never quite made it to the Canyon.

Until last summer when he accompanied the same brother to California and they made sure to make time for a stop at the Grand Canyon. At the same time they were there, my husband and our family were traveling also in Colorado when my dad sent us a text message with a picture of him at the Grand Canyon.

Long at last, he was there. I remember looking at the picture of him there. He was so happy to finally be there and for some unexplained reason (at the time) I teared up. My heart suddenly filled with a mixture of happiness for him, mixed with an edge of sadness I couldn’t quite place. Then, strangely, a thought came to my mind – “Now, he can die in peace knowing he finally got to see the Grand Canyon.” The strange thought zipped out as quickly as it had come and I waved it off wondering why I would even think that.

God knew. And even then, He was preparing me for what would be fulfilled in the few months after that.

So, as I stood there and as we walked along the Canyon path, stopping to take it all in, I knew I was walking along the same path my dad had taken not even a year before. I wondered,

Dad, what did you think when you saw the Canyon stretched out before you like this? How did you feel?

Small.

We all think we are so big. Our problems and struggles, our work and accomplishments, our existence.

Flying over the mountains and desert on my way to LA, everything looked tiny. Now, standing in one fractional sliver of the total area of the Canyon, I felt smaller than a seed.

Yet…not insignificant.

We stayed and walked along the path as the lazy afternoon sun slowly slumped lower behind the canyon rim, dragging the last of its golden rays over the canyon as it went.

I think I know now a little of how he must have felt there, what he might have thought. Thoughts without words.

I was inexplicably thankful I could stand where he stood, walked where he walked. That my eyes could imbibe of the same magnificent view his had, inebriated in Glory.

We stayed just until a soft purply-pink hue gently brushed across the sky and the last of the sun’s rays kissed the tips of the canyon tops goodnight before blanketing the canyon in shadow.

As we left, I whispered one last prayer over the canyon, scattering a part of my dad’s memory over the great abyss and carrying the rest with me.

Dad, I miss you so much. But in a way, being here, I feel I have found a part of you that I can now hold in my heart forever. Thank you, Jesus, for allowing me this Peace. 

Grand Canyon Last Sunrays - Explored!

My husband edited and posted this picture on Flickr and it got over 7,000 views and made it onto the Explorer! Who woulda known.

 

(Photo credits: I took the pictures but most of the credit really goes to my awesome husband who isn’t lazy like me and knows how to filter and stitch images together for seamless beauty.)


Pilgrimage {A Journey to the Shore} 5

Pilgrimage:

a journey, especially a long one, made to some sacred place as an act of religious devotion:
any long journey, especially one undertaken as a quest or for a votive purpose, as to pay homage: (Dictionary.com)

If there was one word to act as motif for this season I find myself in, it would be “Pilgrimage”.

…or maybe transformation…or metanoia…ok I’ll stick with Pilgrimage for now.

The truth is, we are all pilgrims, whether we know it or not, we are all on our way “somewhere else”, even if we do not know where.

I know it’s an overused analogy, the “path of life”, but it’s a good one that’s easy to relate to so I’ll go with it.

When I reflect on my life, it’s all been a series of roads that widened and narrowed, diverged into trails leading into the unknown or which have led me down and up winding paths through soft meadows or jagged rocks. It’s all been one long journey, a pilgrimage.

In some parts of this journey, I’ve felt both confident and self-assured, whistling my way along, knowing exactly where I was at, where I was headed. Other times, I’ve felt desperately lost and alone, losing all sense of direction without a certain destination. When this happens, all I can do is follow. 

I’m reading a book right now, Laurus, which is, to encapsulate, all about Pilgrimage. In it the main fictional character, Arseny, reflects on his journey in this way –

Sometimes I feel. ..the road unfolds itself under my feet. And. ..I do not know where it leads.

This analogy literally met the pavement as I recently journeyed for a cumulative four days west to Los Angeles (by air) and back across five states with my younger brother (by car).

It’s the first time I flew, or traveled anywhere far, on my own for a long time, not even a toddler or infant as an extra passenger this time. Just me, soaring above the clouds as the sunrise raced to follow. Climbing higher, I could feel a weight shedding and my soul loosening. I ached for my dad, though, somehow I knew he was right there with me.

Up, up, up into the air I soared, watching the buildings and houses turn into miniature toys scattered across the plains and fields. Over snow-capped mountains stretching their peaks to meet us in the clouds and soaring over miles of dry cracks, stretch marks and time-worn crevices in the earth’s surface.  Finally, reaching the end of the new world, I escaped my sky-shuttle confinement and was greeted by the cool ocean breeze running to welcome me.

My brother showed me around some places around LA,  starting with a satisfying meal that hit the spot at HomeGirl Cafe, a cool deli cafe that’s part of a non-profit gang rehabilitation program, a quick walk-through (because parking is expensive!) of the impressive Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels,  a lovely stroll through the architectural gem and masterpiece galleys of The Getty Center art museum, and finally embracing the ocean’s soothing waves that have beckoned me to come back to them after many years.

Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles

The Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown LA

View of downtown LA (in the distance) and Culver City

One of the Getty Center’s exhibition buildings.

View into the Getty Courtyard

I was in love with the Getty’s architectural design

Alone – or at least without my usual dependents attached – I felt I was able to just follow the road, letting my brother guide me through the city, allowing God to pull me along the path.

We made our way down the boardwalk and onto the Santa Monica beach. Unfortunately, a cold front had blown in that day and it was chili, in the 60’s as opposed to the warmer 80’s from a few days before.

Apparently this didn’t bother some people as they plunged right into the waves, hitching a ride on the waves on their boogey boards back to the sandy shore. I’m a wimp for cold and kept both my jacket and shoes on snug.


I stood on the beach, inhaling the salty air mixed with a seaweedy smell, watching the people around me, closing my eyes and letting the sound of the waves roll over me. I crouched down as one wave broke away from the group and came skipping right up to me, allowing me a quick tickle with my fingers, before the giggly wave twirled back just as fast as it came.



Though I didn’t take my shoes and socks off to dip my feet in – much to my later agonizing regret – I could almost feel the waves wash over me, coaxing and tugging me to come and play with them.  I remembered, from previous experiences on the Pacific Mexican shore, the exhilarating feeling of the waves crashing around my legs, the delicate sand sinking below my feet as the water receded, taking a part of the shore with it each time.


We lingered there a short time then walked along the shore, listening the the rhythmic waves rising and crashing, the sound lapping over me, soothing me…healing me. 

We breathed in one long breath and bid our final farewell to the ocean, unsure when – or if – we’d return to it’s embracing arms again. We trecked back through the thick sand, hiked the staircase back up the ridge, found our way back to the car and then enjoyed a overfilling meal in the twilight-lit bay of the Marina.

Stay tuned for more pictures and story from my “pilgrimage” soon.

(Photorights: I took all these pictures with my husbands’s A6000, no editing or filtering because I’m lazy.)


Summer Rain {Wordless}

Today, the rains showered down a pleasant relief from our usual heat-scorching days. I’ll take 82 degrees over upper 90’s and 100’s! I love the sound of the rumbling thunder, the streaks of lightning scattered here and there, and the smell – oh how I love the smell of rain!

My awesome husband captured these beautiful storm clouds a couple weeks ago that go perfectly with today’s weather.

MammatusJuly Thunderstorm

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