Down Dirt Roads

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We agreed that this past week’s Down Dirt Roads excursion was very close to being perfect. The top criterion for rating an outing as perfect is that it has to relax and refresh me. It has to be an exercise in prayer – not that I do any formal prayers, but that I end up knowing that God and I had been with each other. That maybe I understand God a little more clearly and even more importantly that I trust in God’s total knowledge of me and believe in His forgiveness. Now that’s a good day!

A good day of photographing also includes cool temperatures, low humidity, slowing down to a crawl on dirt roads just because, and finding interesting things to photograph – either because the subject is beautiful in the given light or it tells a good story. Yup, Julie and I both agreed it was a really good day.

Okay, take a deep breath, give yourself permission to forget about any pressing duties or troubling problems for the next 60 seconds, and see if looking at my photographs make your day as good as taking the images did for me.

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Peace and hugs to you on this day.

Early Morning Light

I’m ambivalent. I’m enjoying the shorter days, especially the later sun rises so I can enjoy that early morning light without getting up in the middle of the night (I exaggerate). I know  we are on the downward slop towards the very short days of winter here in the northern hemisphere, and I relish and want to enjoy the moderation of late summer and fall to its fullest.

This morning I rose at 7:00, filled my coffee cup, and went out to sit on my purple porch swing to watch the sun come up through the sparse hedgerow trees behind our neighbor’s house. I love watching how the new morning light graces different parts of my flower garden as it is filtered through the leaves – like stage lights shifting from scene to scene during a building story line. First the sun softly illuminates the Black Eyed Susans at the back of the lower level, then the coreopsis at the front of the upper level, a low-growing evergreen, continually shifting, shifting while leaving others in shadow. I sat in the cool morning air, swinging gently, for probably a half hour watching the sunlight shift its focus, watching my garden unfold.

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I told Julie I would pick her up at 6:30 last Monday so we could find a magic place that would catch the early morning light through the mist rising from the warm earth. That was my dream. I was a few minutes late because I had to stop at my favorite drive through the marsh on Teft Road because of the mist hanging low. Julie already knew why was late.

I headed towards the dirt roads we favor but the sun was rising just as we reached that same marsh. I have very seldom been enamored with sun rise or sun set images once I get home and import the photos into my computer. My images never catch what my mind and heart are experiencing as I watch the sun’s signaling of another day’s ending or a new day’s beginning. It is only when I look behind and around me that I experience the excitement of morning and evening light.

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In the glow of first morning light, all that is ordinary becomes extraordinary. In this early morning light, I feel a freshness and an awaking energy in all the sunlight touches. In this gentle, fleeting light, flowers take center stage.

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Once upon a time, I strove to follow my dreams of making a difference in our world. Now, in my aging years, I am drawn to the gentle, clear illumination of the early morning light. I also look forward to my time in reflection each day as the sun sets and light fades to a soul-warming glow. This feels like time well spent, maybe spent as God intended.

Spiritual Time with a Camera

Julie and I went on a photo shoot last Friday morning – a beautiful morning with low temperatures, cool breeze, and a blue sky. Because it is just after the Summer Equinox, we got an early start – but not early enough to get that magical morning light.

That didn’t bother us much as we set out to the southwest of where we live, south of Homer where there are Amish farms and a couple of good bakeries. If I am honest with myself and you, I will have to admit that we had a bakery in mind that directed our drive as much as our search for interesting subjects.

Decisions were made at each corner depending on what would move us towards the bakery and whether the road was gravel. We have a preference for dirt roads that we can drive slowly, watching for something to pull us over or just because it brings peace to slow down. And we talk about small stuff and important matters; we trust each other.

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We made a few stops, but nothing really exciting. And we found the Amish bakery, buying some goods to take home and a cinnamon roll to eat. We took some photos that will be featured in another post, but didn’t take the best photos because of the wish of the Amish to not be photographed.

After enjoying the roll, we hit the road again but by then the sun was really high in the sky and time was running out as Julie had an appointment in the afternoon. We had yet to find that special place where time stands still, we stop talking, and beauty is evident in everything. I was already looking forward to our next outing. We decided to head for home.

Then the dirt road to the right, with the sign warning of “road closed ahead,” beckoned us. There wasn’t much on it but it kept getting narrower and narrower, and very hilly and curvy. I could feel my excitement build as it does when I experience a new adventure. Just around that next bend would be something to excite our photographic eye. And we came to the end of the road – with a turnaround. That was it. I started back.

We went up the curvy, steep hill and there on our left side were some day lilies and soon-to-be-ripe berries. Not exciting but still they seemed like a good reason to pull over.

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Without speaking we picked up our cameras and moved into our own world, into our personal sacred space. The birds sang to me while the breeze cooled my sun-dappled skin. I saw things that I normally would have ignored. But in this place and time they revealed the beauty of their existence. I almost captured it with my camera – but the beauty of existence can be elusive.

I love what I did capture, and look forward to finding another sacred place on our next outing. I look forward to finding another place where God and I can be together without words and I can see if I can come closer to capturing Her beauty.

Strolling to the Beginning

20160506-DSC_0012It was a beautiful Spring day here in Michigan  in early May and we decided to explore the Meridian Baseline State Park, just a few miles from where we live. Our goal was to see the state baseline and meridian survey marker. I was eager because the survey witness markers that Julie and I see as we travel dirt roads fascinate me and this felt like going to the beginning – the starting point.

What I was expecting was a parking lot on the corner of Baseline and Meridian Roads, and not far from the parking lot there would be a concrete post, maybe a little bit bigger than the ones I see at other country road corners, with some markings that designate it as special – the beginning point of all surveyed plots in this part of the state.

I was wrong. What we found was a trail about 3/4 of a mile long through an early Spring woods. The markers were not anything like I expected and the stroll through the woods made me smile deep down in my soul. It brought back so many memories of Spring erupting after long dead winters. I experienced my own sense of revival as I witnessed the earth’s revival. The spark of excitement is still there when I see the gentle green undergrowth in the woods that yesterday looked so dead. Come along with me on our stroll through the woods so you can feel that excitement, too.

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The sun was warm and the air was cool and I could smell the moist soil that had been frozen not too long ago. There is a special scent to soil and plants that are coming alive after a long dormancy – those who grew up with it have it as part of their DNA. It is the scent of hope and faith; it quickens the spirit. And muddies our shoes.

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Lynn warned us to wear old shoes because the path could be muddy and she was right. There were places where we had to jump small streams at low spots in the trail and places where I was afraid I was going to have my shoes sucked off by the mud. It is this type of adventure that excites my spirit but panics my aging joints and muscles.

Gary and JB marched along at a good pace, but Lynn and I just strolled – stopping to look at wild flowers and critter holes and interesting bits of nature. Lynn even kicked over a dead stump to help it in it’s quest to return to the soil. Actually she wasn’t really being so noble – she did it because she could and it was fun.

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I stopped frequently to take photos of this and that – everything that was beautiful and excited my senses. Not all of my photos were sharp and perfectly focused – but they are beautiful because of the memories they evoke and the intellect they stimulate. This is the joy of being a hobbyist photographer.

When we came to the end of the westward path we had to decide to go right or left – we chose right, the wetter of the two paths. The marker was not far away and I was surprised to see how big it was and that it was horizontal instead of vertical.

20160506-DSC_0046Joseph Wampler was the one  who completed the surveys to intersect the meridian and baseline so roads and land plots could be mapped out. The survey of lower Michigan had been started in the early 1800’s but abandoned because the land was so poor and difficult that the surveyor didn’t think it was worth enough to spend money on. Lower Michigan was a mosquito infested swamp. When Wampler finished the project in 1824, this marker was raised up because the water rose and fell according to season and rainfall.

For unknown reason, Wampler did a second survey and placed another marker almost a thousand feet south of the original marker (at the end of the left path) – in a dryer location.

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Because land had already been sold using the first marker, it was decided that both would be used. The Michigan survey continued through 1856 using the northern marker for land east of the meridian and the southern marker for land to the west. I had always wondered why the roads going east and west make a jog of about a thousand feet. Now I know the rest of the story.