Category Archives: hiking

The Bridge – Watercolor

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62°F and very breezy. Somehow you don’t mind the wind when it’s mild, even if strong. I could sit here for hours.

After only a few minutes, to my surprise, a flock of ducks descend on the water. But these are no common mallards. What are they? They communicate with each other by “whisping”….whisp, whisp, whisp. It’s a cross between a whisper and a hiss. One performs some kind of walk-on-water dance. Was he impressing a female? I believe these are blue-winged teals. I watch them with great wonderment. They don’t feel my eyes prying, staring like a rude intruder.

l sit for an hour painting the bridge. I contemplate where it leads and why it was built. A smile comes across my face as I think about Easter and realize that Jesus became the bridge to unite us to God. By dying on the cross (also made of wood), he bridged the gap between sinful humans and God. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace. [Eph 1:7] And after paying for our sins, He rose from the dead because death could not hold him. [Acts 2:24]

This act of death on a cross came at a great, painful price. A great loving price. A free gift from the Father through the obedience of the Son. If we repent and accept Him as our Savior, He promises to forgive….no questions asked…no sin too big, nor too horrible to forgive. You will be made white as snow and He will remember your sins no more. [Is 1:18]

He wants to be in your daily life. He isn’t a God who sits on a fluffy white cloud waiting to strike you down. He is love and wants to communicate with you through prayer. He also promised to never leave you nor forsake you. That’s good news especially in our tumultuous times.

The Bridge

A stranger walks towards the water and the bridge. Not only do frogs on the fringe of the pond shriek and leap for their lives into the water, but my ducks become frightened too and swim out of sight. Chorus frogs steadily call in the background.

The seen and unseen mysteries of life are fascinating. It’s all attainable, doors will open if you knock.

Happy Easter,
Christine

Nature in November Watercolor Sketch

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Green Valley Forest Preserves
32°F mostly sunny, brisk wind

When my nerves become anxious and I recognize that prickly, edgy feeling in my spirit, I know it’s time to distance myself from society. It’s my adult time-out. One I most willingly take.

I escape to a little corner of nature where I am actually alone. The chill in the air is welcomed, even though I’ve been spoiled with unseasonably warm weather in my area, that has now passed. The brisk wind makes my cheeks red and tells my flesh it’s back to the business of winter.

As I stand under the cold sun, I hear that familiar creaky trill of sandhill cranes. I look up and scan the sky. I know I’m looking for tiny specks, as their call is much louder and larger than their bodies, considering the height at which they fly, but for the life of me I cannot locate them. I’m glad I’m alone, for a stranger would have thought it odd, this human just standing still staring at a blank sky…no matter, I so desperately wanted to see them it would have been worth the embarrassment. My attempts fail. That’s fair. I will permit nature to have this mystery.

Walking on the trail I notice several galls on dried goldenrod. They are numerous. I love these “imperfections” in nature. The goldenrod with galls are actually more attractive to me than without. I inspect the gall and find a pin hole near the bottom. Escape route?

Just then I hear rustlings above me in the tree. I ignore it for a while, supposing it’s just the wind. But no, it is not the wind. It is a red squirrel. On first inspection it is as if he is eating dried leaves still remaining on the tree. He grabs it, places it in his mouth, crunches as he chews, while crumbs fall from his mouth to the ground. Why is he eating leaves, I wonder? However, I squint my eyes and realize, those aren’t leaves, but dried maple seeds…clusters of them. And that was the rustling I presumed was the wind, dried maple leaves scraping together by the vibration of the red squirrel climbing from branch to branch. He continues for quite a while. Eat on my friend. Winter means business.

Return to Retreat CITW

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It is time once again.
I felt it stir within, an urgency to go back. A time to retreat.
As I grow, I am more in tune with my body and emotions. With the weight of work and family obligations I needed a time out. Silence is what I crave, giving me the ability to hear my own thoughts and process them. I get so little of it normally, so it was time to go back to Christ in the Wilderness for a solitude retreat.

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This time I stayed in the hermitage called, Mariglen. It has a fascinating view of the land and it’s a very popular spot for the birds to visit. You can read last years visit if you wish here, here, and here, when I stayed at the Paul of Tarsus hermitage.

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It may seem to some that staying at a place like this throws you into the dark ages, as there are no TV’s, cell phone service, and no WiFi. But oh, on the contrary! Being in the “dark” here contains more light than the brightest lifestyle back home, with all of its empty technology enticements.

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For the silence at CITW not only lets me hear the wing beats of birds, but I can also hear them cracking seed in their beaks. My soul craves this.

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Time on the trails gives me perspective. I ask God lots of questions and it’s quiet enough to hear some answers. Last year I pondered much on my past but this time it was more about my present and who Christ is to me.

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He is the Light, the Life, and my Hope. This is what He whispered to me in the wilderness.

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I also discovered other mysteries on the trail, like these bones most likely from a coyote. If you look close enough you can see fur, underneath the bones, closest to the grass.

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And on one of my nights I was indulged with this cloud bow. Great treasures are all around, even in the sky.

It was with a heavy heart that I had to leave, but when the time is right I will return. I know I bring home with me a little piece of this Peace, I am never truly far from it.

Rice Lake at Danada Forest Preserves Watercolor Sketch

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As the leaves blow by and the air turns slightly cooler, I know it’s a race against time. Autumn is here and it doesn’t like to linger. So I’m trying to get out as much as possible.

Last Saturday I had the chance to go to Danada Woods a forest preserve in DuPage County. Immediately on their map, I saw what is called the “Nature Trail” and knew that’s where I had to go first.

Danada's Nature Trail

The trail is narrow. You must walk one at a time. And that is perfect for contemplative thinking and a deep appreciation for the abundance of nature, inches away from you. It makes you take note of what’s growing around you instead of gabbing with a friend. The first thing I noticed was this solitary mushroom surrounded by a carpet of moist autumn leaves. Notice the fragments of dirt, leaves, and sticks on its cap after it emerged from the ground. Beautiful.

Honeysuckle Bush Berries

The trail was exploding with berries: Jack in the Pulpit, False Solomon’s Seal, Honeysuckle, white baneberry, elderberry, and many others. This honeysuckle bush caught my eye because of the color of its berries (unripe ones look like watermelons up close) and because the berries look as if they have no stems.

White Baneberry - Doll's Eyes Berries TOXIC

Here is White Baneberry, or more commonly known as Doll’s Eyes. NEVER eat these berries as they are toxic. For humans, all parts of this plant are toxic. Even contact with the leaves may cause irritation for some. But for birds, it has no effect. They eat the berries, dispersing seeds in the woods encouraging new growth.

Virginia Creeper on Tree with Lichen

Red Virginia Creeper is striking next to the cool blue color of the Lichen growing on this trunk.

Danada Forest Preserves

Finally after exiting the Nature Trail, I headed toward Rice Lake. This is a wide open trail and the open landscape is stunning. The sun at this time of day was eating away at the clouds creating holes for the sunlight to escape.

Rice Lake - Danada Forest Preserves

Here is where I ended and where I decided to paint…thanks to a nice bench which served as my table. When the sun did emerge, it was a very hot sun. The happy notes of American Goldfinches tweeted above my head as I sat there painting. I am very grateful for this time. I think of it often and it brings me peace.

Fern Moss and Shelf Mushroom Watercolor

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45°F cold rain

I am wearing my rain gear with layers of clothing bundled underneath as I walk on a grassy trail laced with mud. I don’t mind the mud nor do I mind the cold drizzle on my face. In a lifetime of Monday thru Friday, 9-5 numbness, the cold drizzle is a welcome. It makes me feel alive.

On a particular section of trail, I find a banditry of chickadee. Their chatter is loud and overwhelming. I do not know what they are saying for I do not speak chickadian. Perhaps I am the subject of their banter, disrupting them on a day where they do not expect many humans?

They unwittingly halt me in my tracks. As I stand there looking up, something tells me to look down….

At my feet, I discover another world…. a glowing white shelf mushroom carpeted by brilliant green moss, set contrast to a dark saturated tree stump. I no longer hear the clatter of the chickadees, because I am lost in the contour of the moss. My eyes follow every fern-like curve. I observe its green gradient from dark green- to medium- to light- to white tips.

The chickadees are not amused by my fern moss and mushroom rapture, so they maintain their scold.  I know when I’m not welcome. I’m leaving. I’m leaving.

I walk away knowing the secret of where my beauties live…..under the chant of the chickadees.

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