Thursday, October 25, 2012

Mother Nature

So, I know that I've been gushing a whole lot lately.  But I can't help it.  There are just so many amazing and beautiful things around here.  And it still feels like it's too good to be true, that we actually get to live here.  Even after 3 months, I still catch my breath when I glance out the window.  And I have to stop to stare.

And sometimes, I toss aside everything that I am supposed to be doing and take B outside to wander around.  We find the most interesting things.

And I find myself feeling so grateful that we're here.  That we're done with the relocation and the mother of all road trips.  That we're mostly all unpacked.  That this beautiful place is my home.  And that I truly feel at home here.  I feel it more deeply now than I've felt in anywhere/anytime in my entire life.  I carry within me such a deep sense of contentment as I wander this property.  Part of it is that so many fascinating things surround me, and so much beauty.  I know that the euphoria of novelty could possibly wear off one day.  Part of it is that my family is complete and we are happy here, learning and growing together.  We've been given the chance to make amazing new memories in a new part of the country.  And part of it is that most of my days are filled with peace and not all that much chaos.  So I have the luxury of spending some of my time admiring what mother nature has to offer.  Which fills me with joy and wonder.
Part of it, I'm sure, is that I'm a tree hugger at heart and the chance to live in the midst of woods like this fills me with delight.  It amazes me how different they look at different times of day and in different weather. 
I am also grateful to know that this mound next to the driveway, which the neighbor said was a bear den, is, in fact, not a bear den.  Unless the bears around here can shrink enough to fit through a fox-sized door.  I have no doubt that we'll have an encounter or two with bears during our stay here, but I don't mind waiting for a while on that one.
 But these cautious, wild creatures are welcome here anytime. 

One morning last week, I found myself walking alone with R down to the bus stop.  J had been up half the night puking and B mercifully slept in that morning.  So, with R's warm little hand clasped in mine, we walked down the lane and waited for the bus to come.  And while we waited, we heard some rustling in the woods.  Before long, we saw a doe picking her way cautiously through the brush about 20 feet from where we stood.  R caught her breath when she saw it, and smiled up at me, her eyes filled with wonder.  The doe crossed the street and stood there, looking back as if waiting for something.  Before long, a little fawn followed along the path the doe had taken and joined her mother across the street just before the bus showed up.

I choose to see the hand of God in such things.  It was without a doubt a beautiful experience.  One that R and I can share and treasure for long years to come.  But it also speaks to me of a loving Father in Heaven.  Someone who is aware of R's desperate desire to see a "baby deer" and who allowed that desire to be fulfilled in a special way, during a tender mother/daughter moment.

I choose to see God's hand all around me, in this place.  I choose to see His hand and the influence it has had during the long course of my life.  I choose to believe that He guided the path that brought us here.  

And so I feel at home, so deeply content, and at peace.  I will cherish what Mother Nature can offer me here.  And I will open myself to the next set of life lessons that my Heavenly Father sees fit to send me.  And I will bask in His tender mercies all along the way.

Creepy Crawlies

Just in time for Halloween.  Ha!  Sometimes procrastination makes you timely, after all.

I've had such a hard time processing the plethora of nature photos I've taken since we moved in.  Some might say that I take too many pictures.  But they would be wrong, of course.  There's just way too many cool things to photograph.  It fascinates me.  I have to give J the credit for finding about half of the specimens I take pictures of.  The other half I find all on my own.

Which is probably the thing that is most surprising to me about living here.  I certainly didn't expect to find myself sitting/laying on the ground quite so often to get the right angle on these creepy crawlies.  Although I am not all that surprised at how much I truly enjoy it.  I've always loved the challenge aspect of photography.  When you have to work to get a great shot, it's all the sweeter.

I also find myself feeling grateful for my telephoto lens.  Because sometimes these subjects are very creepy and I'm glad the photo can look like they were very close, when in fact they were not.  I would like to avoid the possibility of one of these spiders crawling onto my lens because I don't think my camera would fare very well if I tossed it in an attempt to rid myself of the spider.  My camera is very dear to me.
These were among my early attempts to photograph spider webs.  It's really tricky to get the camera to focus just right which is why these are a little blurry.

As time went by, I got a little better at capturing what I wanted.
This beautifully colored spider was pretty huge.  That's a large moth it has trapped in its web.  I was really thankful for my zoom lens for this one.  It was the biggest spider I had ever seen that wasn't behind glass.
Until I spotted this monster who had dropped by my front porch one morning.  That's a full sized brick he's sitting on.  Creepy, huh?
I was a little jumpy when I maneuvered the camera directly below him to get this shot.  Understandably, I think.  And I find myself really wishing that I knew more about these creatures.  It might be useful to know which ones are, say, poisonous.  I'll put that on my "needs to be researched" list.
We found this shed exoskeleton out by the chicken coop.  Maybe from the same kind of giant monster spider.
These long legged creepies are all over.  But somehow they don't bother me all that much.
This bumblebee hung out on our daffodils for many weeks.  J says that it must be a queen because they are the only ones who survive once the weather turns colder.  All the others die off.  Must make for a lonely winter.
I enjoyed this crazy looking little guy.  Even though he was decidedly uncooperative for photos.  He kept running off just when I finally got the focus just right.
And he nearly walked off the edge of the world before he thought better of it and turned around again.
J finds what he calls pipe cleaner caterpillars all the time.
They sometimes get a little adventurous in where they climb.
Nice Halloween colors on Mr. Spiky, huh?
I don't even know what to say about this odd-looking fellow.  I have no idea what those little white things are.
And cicadas always look mildly alien-esque to me.  Creeeeepy!
But, I admit, their wings really are beautiful.
I think this flutterby must have been injured because it just stayed in the grass as I moved around it taking pictures.  Looks like that left wing had a rough ride.
These not-so-nice things are stink bugs.  Somebody brought them from Asia a few years ago and their population has exploded around here.  They fly.  And when they find a nice spot, they send out a smell-o-gram inviting all their friends to join them.  And the worst part is that if you smush them, they stink to high heaven.  Hence the name.  We're counting our lucky stars that they haven't been all that populous around our house so far.
I like grasshoppers.  Even though Disney's Bug's Life did their best to malign them.  I think they're really cool looking.  And they come in all shapes and colors and sizes.
This guy came to visit on my back patio.  And he was the most cooperative subject.  And B, who is almost always my trusty nature exploring side-kick, adored him.

I mean, really, what's a girl to do when she gets so many uninvited guests around her house.  Have her mom shoot them, naturally.
B did her best to catch this cricket (?), but he was a very quick jumper.  We followed him around the backyard for a good half hour.  Ah, country pleasures!
And to J's great delight, we have walking sticks around here.  They seem to like the siding on our house.
And they really are hard to spot when they're in the grass.  I don't know how many times we had to re-find this guy in order to study him.

I'm not sure how long it will be before I get around to sprucing up J's room.  But when I get to it, he's going to have one wicked awesome nature photo display.  That's for sure!

Little Boy Heaven

 Just in case you can't tell from the photo, J is in absolute heaven here.  Turtles and frogs and everything else a nature fan could possibly want.  Well, except for bamboo trees which he's dying to see for some unknown reason.  Oh, and chameleons.  I don't think he believes me when I tell him that they don't live around here.
 But there's plenty of stuff that does live around here to keep this boy occupied.  Like this little grass snake that J caught one afternoon.  He put some leaves in with it to help it feel more comfortable.  Then he caught a cricket and tossed it in to see what would happen.  We spent a good hour watching that snake hunt and then slowly munch that cricket. 
Even the little girls were completely captivated by the process.
And they adored the little three-legged turtle that I discovered making its way across the driveway.  We named it Legolas.  But J only agreed to that name after we promised that we wouldn't laugh when we said it.  He was very protective of his newly adopted pet and didn't want anyone making fun of it.
The newly adopted pet was merely wary and tried to escape every chance he got.
He was surprisingly speedy with those three legs.  Unfortunately, he didn't fare so well living in the abandoned chicken coop.  And he didn't seem to care for store bought turtle food.  So we had to institute a time limit for all future adoptions.  That way, J still gets the joy of seeing and examining creatures great and small in close quarters without doing them harm.  So far, that has worked well.
It worked out especially well for Stretch, the cool orange turtle J found in the creek a few weeks later as he was walking up to the house after school. 

He was practically bubbling over with excitement.  It was JUST what he was hoping he'd find.  A bright orange turtle that looked exactly like the picture on the turtle food.
I bet you'll never guess why J decided to name him Stretch.
This boy loved that turtle intensely for the few days that we kept him.  And he tried his best to sweet talk us out of our time limits for wild guests.  But I couldn't bear the thought of this awesome little turtle being harmed just because we liked him so much.  So, after a few days of little boy companionship, Stretch was set free.
But there's always something else to capture his interest.  He found this awesome twisted branch which makes the absolute perfect hiking stick . . . or wizard's staff . . . or royal scepter.
And when all else fails, there's always forts to build in the woods.
With the neighbor who just happens to be in the same grade and quickly became a great friend.
I love the sign that J made.  It's the perfect final touch to their clubhouse.

I believe a huge part of the reason that the Lord led us here was for this boy.  He needed to have some wilderness to roam in, some nature discoveries to make, some serious bug collecting to do.  And with this amazing place, he gets plenty of all three.  How blessed he is.