Dry Leaves


A few days ago I discovered that the feeling of dry leaves, crackling, beneath my bare feet is exquisite. I remember being asked, so many times, as a child: “Doesn’t it hurt to walk on that gravel without shoes?” I would smile and shake my head. But that wasn’t true. It did hurt. I still walk on gravel with bare feet, but now my reply to this question is: “Yes, but it is a nice sort of pain.” Few people believe me. I like to feel what is beneath my feet. It is the texture. The shifting, angularity, of the gravel; the prickly, softness, of grass; the delicate, crunchiness, of dried leaves.

It makes me wonder about God and art. When we create art, we have in mind exactly how we want the audience to interact with the art. Should it be felt, seen, heard, tasted, or smelt? Sometimes it is a combination. Does God have something similar in mind for creation? Is there some way in which trees are best experienced, for instance? I don’t know.

In a way, I think our art is simply a way of searching for different and better ways to experience God’s beauty in the world. I remember the first time I had the urge to do this. I was walking on an old dirt road between two soy bean fields. From where I stood one could see several other fields, each bordered by a narrow strip of trees. To the right stood a pair of silos, one dark gray, with a white top, the other streaky white, with a red rusted top. Below and in front, though I could not see it, I knew there ran a stream. A slow, wide, brown stream. The banks were low and the grass on either side was combed flat by constant flooding, and bleached yellow by the sun. A brown stream, edged with gold. There was an old, abandoned, farmhouse, in the woods below the silos. I never went near it since I did not know the people who owned it, but I could catch glimpses through the trees. It had a wide front porch, and on the porch’s sloping roof stood a single wooden chair. I always wondered who put it there, and why?

As I stood on the dusty road I realized that to almost anyone else, this place would have no significance. It saddened me to think that the stream would change, the silos and house rot and disappear, the fields would be fenced in for cattle, and this scene would be lost forever. Never again to be discovered or enjoyed. That evening, I wrote a story about the dusty road and the golden stream. It was the first story I had ever written. I was nine. It was a very poorly written story, but I wanted to share something beautiful.

Now it is ideas, more than pictures, that I try to convey in art, but the urge is still the same. When I write a story, play a piece on music, or draw a picture, I am calling out to you: “Isn’t this beautiful? Please love it!” It is glorious to me that God not only has given us such richness of His beauty in creation, but also makes us so that we want to share it with each other. Have you felt the dry leaves with bare feet this fall? It is worth doing.



My Dad’s Yurt

It is time for a house tour.  I live in a three bedroom, five living room, two kitchen, house.  It also has four outside doors.  One for each side, because symmetry is everything.  It is almost as though the designer of this house was an algebra teacher.

Here is how I imagine he was thinking:  Okay, the stairwell is the equal sign, and we have a living room with a stone fireplace upstairs, so we need one downstairs too.  Now a kitchen on both sides, but what about this corner between the kitchen and living room? it is too small for anything but a bedroom, but bedrooms are so boring!  Lets make it into a tiny, useless, living room.  Yeah, that will be fun.  So two of those.  Now, I suppose we do need some bedrooms, or no one will buy the house, so lets put two downstairs.  And, two upstai . . . no! I can’t do it!  I’ll put one upstairs, but I can’t bear to ruin it with any more!  Hmm, how can I make this work?  Oh, I know!  I’ll add a garage and another tiny, useless, living room together, that is pretty much the same thing.  What next?  Oh! I forgot a dinning room!  Well, I’ve run out of space, so lets just make the upstairs kitchen extra large and hope no one notices.

Now don’t get me wrong, we love this house.  It is truly beautiful.  The stone fire place, a wrap around balcony, multiple porches, lots and lots of windows.  The funny thing is, my parents, who own it, don’t even live here.  They live a five minute walk uphill in a tent. A really fancy tent.

Allow me to introduce you to my Dad’s pet yurt.

snow yurt

Now I no longer live here, but I did live in it for two years, and I consider myself something of an authority.  Therefore, allow me to present the pros and cons of yurt living:

Cons (I like to end on a high note, so we’ll start here):

  1. Poor insulation.  There is only a few pieces of canvas and a half inch of foam between you and the wild outside.
  2. Mildew problems.  Water tends to condense on the vinyl that lines the walls and ceiling and then tracks its way down collecting on the ply-wood baseboard.  Recipe for mildew.
  3. Summer heat.  See number one.
  4. You have to go outside to open or close the windows.  Yeah, it is a lot of fun to do that in pouring rain.
  5. No sound  barrier.  This isn’t a huge problem but it does become slightly annoying when your little brother sleeps in the loft above your bedroom and makes a habit of dropping his book on the floor late every night, just as you are falling asleep.  The sound could be compared to a miniature avalanche.


  1. It is a great conversation starter.  Just try to imagine how cool it is to be able to say nonchalantly, “Actually, I live in a yurt!”   That didn’t come out very nonchalant did it?
  2. You can hear the rain.
  3. You can hear owls at night.
  4. And songbirds in the morning.
  5. You can even hear snow falling, if you don’t believe me you should build a yurt and try it.

Now you might be wondering why we thought living in a yurt would be a good idea in the first place.  Well, the simple answer is, our house doesn’t have enough bedrooms for our family, remember how the algebra teacher kept adding tiny, useless, living rooms instead?  My favorite answer, however, is that living in unusual houses runs in our blood.  My grandmother grew up in a house which incorporated two school buses.  But that is another story.



Pet Peeves


Those of you who know me, know that I am deceptively mellow.   Things that normally annoy or embarrass people, I find amusing.   Awkward situations, over bearing, know-it-all people, even boring conversations, tend to make me laugh inwardly.  So why deceptive?  Well, there is a lot of smoldering annoyance down here, you just have to touch the right topics.  Here are a few examples:

1.  History books that don’t reference their sources.

Honestly, how can they possibly expect me to just trust that they got the facts right?

2.  Any work of fiction written in the second person in which the first word is the main character’s name.

I don’t really know why this annoys me so much but whenever I encounter it I set the book down and never open it again.

3.  People who take quotes out of context.

“Good fences make good neighbors.” Really?  Have you even read the poem?  Unless, of course, you have some well thought out reason for using it out of context, then, by all means, do it.

4.  The saying: “I have no artistic talent, I can’t even draw a straight line” *chuckle*

I don’t know where this misconception came from, but let me clear it up once and for all. ARTISTS DON’T DRAW STRAIGHT LINES, THEY USE RULERS!!!  Trust me, I’m an artist, I know.  Never, even once, did my art teacher ever say: “Okay, today we are going to practice drawing straight lines.”  No, she gave us rulers at the beginning of the class and we skipped straight to curved lines.  If you want to substitute curved lines instead, I’ll accept that.  Curved lines are really hard.

5.  The Calvinist/Arminian debate.

Please just stop.  At this point you are both fighting the fringe extremes of the other group.  Yes. Calvinists are passionate about mission work, no, Arminians do not believe they saved themselves.  Are we good now?

6.  Non-fiction books that employ subheadings within chapters.

Sometimes this technique is okay, but more often than not I’ve found that the author simply uses it to avoid thoroughly connecting his or her thoughts.

7.  When people assume I’m nice, simply because I am quiet.

Silence is not indicative of kindness.  It simply means you have no idea what I’m thinking.

There, perhaps we should end on that comforting thought. So you see, I have plenty of pet peeves, they just don’t tend to show up very often.


Lovely Things


A blank notebook.

The memory of my little brother’s first laugh.

The feel of the keys on my piano.


Morning light.

Hearing a story for the first time.

A friend who will always tell you the truth.


The look in my mother’s eyes when she is happy.

The scent of a flower which you cannot find.



A once familiar path.

A stranger’s face.

The question: “What are you thinking about?”







As you stand by the sea,

How can you bear, the slow, slow, march?

Ever closer, coming nearer,

Footsteps of the sun.

I sit in the friendly dark of night,

Nothing to think, no battles to fight,

Memories come of a time when sleep,

Was the best use of silence this deep.


As you wait by the sea,

How can you stand the echoing tramp?

Ever closer, coming nearer,

Footsteps of the sun.

Sometimes the night is shattered by thought.

Grasping my ebbing peace, dearly bought,

As sunbeams pierce me like burning knives,

I mourn the loss of happier lives.


As you walk by the sea,

How can you bide the deafening tread?

Ever closer, coming nearer,

Footsteps of the sun.

I crouch in the darkness fearful, lone,

 Remembering faults, mistakes I’ve done,

Feeling the scars of ancient burns,

I weep as the world, once again, turns.


As you live by the sea,

How can you face the rising sun?





Deeds of Daring Do


We are, most of us, familiar with this archaic sounding phrase.  It is kind of fun to say, but have you ever wondered why it is so ungrammatical?  We English speakers rarely stick our verbs at the end of a phrase like that!  Well, perhaps it would interest you to know, that it wasn’t meant to be a phrase at all, and that the reason we use it as such, is because a man named Edmund Spenser failed to do his research.

It all started because Spenser loved archaic language.  Now, Spenser was born in 1522 and anything we read from that time sounds archaic to us, but allow me compare Spenser’s use of language to that of his contemporary Shakespeare.


“Be wise as thou art cruel; do not press

My tongue-tied patience with too much disdain;

Lest sorrow lend me words and words express

The manner of my pity-wanting pain.”

(Sonnet CXL)



“Lo I the man, whose Muse whylome did maske.

As time her taught, in lowly Shephards weeds,

Am now enforst a farre unfitter taske,

For trumpets sterne to chaunge mine Oaten reeds:”

(The Faerie Queene book  1 page 3)


See the difference?  Shakespeare wanted to be understood, Spenser wanted to sound old.  Such a nerd!

It happened that a man named John Lydgate paraphrased a line of Chaucer’s which ran:

“In durring don which longeth to a knight”

(Which basically means: in daring to do what belongs to knighthood) and John Lydgate’s paraphrase was misprinted as “Derrynge do.” This apparently confused Spenser, who decided it must just be a cool, archaic, phrase he had never come across before, and used it in this line:

“Drad for his derring doe, and bloody deed;”

(The Faerie Queene book 2 page 66)

Perhaps, even then, it would have done no harm.  After all, Spenser used so many archaisms, why choose one to revive above another?  Except that Sir Walter Scott did decide that it was worth reviving and used it in what is arguably his most popular book: Ivanhoe.

So now we have a delightfully incorrect, and alliterative, phrase.  The result of a misunderstanding of a misprint.

Moral of the story: check your spelling and do your research.   Or, I guess, you could just be blissfully ignorant, and, if you are a renowned author, it will change the English language in illogical ways.


Picture This

The morning was blue, as I took my sister into town at 5:45.  The sky, the mountains, the trees, the road, were all a soft, smoke, blue.  And against the blue shone the white street lamps, strangely symbolic, as though, in that barely waking world they belonged more to to the fey, night creatures, than to men.

I remember another morning, a pink morning, when my father was driving me to visit my grandmother in the hospital.  Then, the street lamps were golden, and the pavement a warm grey.  I sat with my grandmother until noon, but I never told her about the dawn.

There was also a black sunrise, on the Dakota plains.  We had slept in the car, too tired to set up camp, and had woken early from the cold.  A narrow line of brilliant silver separated the black sky from the black plains, and far above us, to the right, a single planet hung.  The last star before day.

These pictures go with me, wherever I go.  I can close my eyes and see them, and remember how I felt, and what they mean to me.  I have a photograph of the black sunrise, but I never look at it.  There is a part of sight which cameras cannot capture.  A sense of completeness.  And that part, the part I prize most, fades each time I look at a photograph of the event.  Photographs are not memories, and they are a very poor substitute.