Walking on Broken Glass

I found it really hard to sit still in Michigan.  If the sun was up I was outside, and if I was outside – I was usually walking. I didn’t even sit still to knit very often.  My knitting output in Michigan was shockingly low – only 1 shawl and 6 wash cloths.  For me knitting output that low is barely alive!

Jason and I went for at least 2, usually 3 walks (4 if we could make it happen) along the beach every day that we were there – when the boys were busy gaming.  (I too love a good WiFi signal!) 

A few times our littlest buddy came with us, but most of the time it was just Jason and me and shores of Lake Superior.

I don’t know what it is about Lake Superior, but it pulls on my soul.  I am drawn to the shore.  I love the sound of the waves.  The rush of the wind.  The crunch of sand and rocks under my shoes, and I particularly love looking for beach glass.

Clear beach glass

Green beach glass

Blue beach glass (which is pretty rare)

Older beach glass

Newer beach glass

Small flecks

Special surprises

I never – ever – ever tire of looking for beach glass.

I love how the lake can take our trash – our broken pieces of junk – and turn them into something that is so incredibly beautiful.

Sort of like the way that God takes us – with all of our broken – sinfulness and washes us in the waters of baptism and makes us his forgiven – redeemed children.

Frogs, Forts, Frozen Toes and FUN

Lake Superior is huge.  In fact – it is the largest body of fresh water on the planet.  It is so big that it took us several days to convince William that we hadn’t returned to the ocean. 

Lake Superior is also cold – especially for people from Louisville, Kentucky who have spent the last 6 weeks in even hotter Mexico.  Actually – the UP of Michigan is just plain nippy.  I wore a wool hat for part of every single day we were in Michigan.  So we didn’t do a lot of actual swimming in Lake Superior (actually Jason and I did zero lake swimming), but we did spend a huge amount of time along the shore of the lake and a lot of time with our feet in the water.

Jack and William spent part of each day hunting for frogs in the nearby creek/frog pond. 

    

This was definitely William’s favorite part of our trip to Michigan, and I am sure that the frogs rejoiced the day our plane took off from the Houghton, Michigan Airport! 

Hiding from Jack and William must have been exhausting for the frog population of Silver City during our 2 week stay in town.

Every once in a while William would agree to give Jack a brief break from his frog hunting responsibilities. 

Jack quickly set to work on a project all his own with his hatchet, muscle, and ingenuity.

Soon “Fort McFarland” had been built on the shores of Lake Superior.

We tried our hands at rock sculptures.

And rock cities.

And sand cities that were destroyed by tsunamis. (These were William’s speciality.  Our youngest son does love a good disaster!)

My sons whacked each other with sticks.  (They do this wherever and whenever they find sticks.)

And there were beach walks.

Many – many – many walks along the beach.

My favorite part of our trip to Michigan was definitely all of the beach walks.

The sound of the waves.  The feel of the sand.  The view of the sun on the water.  The rush of the wind.

I was very aware of God’s presence with us as I walked along the shores of Lake Superior. 

I wonder why it is often so much harder to have that awareness of God’s presence at other times and in other places? 

After all – God made the whole world and everything in it!

Berries But No Snakes

Another day dawned, and we were off for another awesome (my description) adventure in the woods.  (I may not want to know how my beloved sons would describe it!?!  “Keeping Kerri Calm” – “Catering to Kerri” – “Climbing with Crazy Kerri” – “More Misery with Mom” – “Steps of Sorrow.”) 

This time it was William who picked the trail we hiked.  William was hoping that we would discover some truly terrifying creatures along the way.  So Will was crushingly disappointed when there weren’t any anacondas lurking in the overhead tree limbs or any massive rattlesnakes waiting to ambush us along the edges of the trail.  By this time in our trip William would have even settled for a measly garter snake – but alas nary a snake passed our way in Michigan no matter how hard we tried and we tried really – Really – REALLY hard.

We may have not found snakes, but all was not lost.  We found berries. 

Lots and lots of yummy, delicious perfectly ripe thimbleberries were growing along the trail that William had chosen for us to explore.

We spent quite a while picking thimbleberries and sampling them.  Jack, Jason, and I thought that thimbleberries were really – really yummy. 

William tried one and decided that he would rather pick them and skip the eating part (what a weird kid).

By the time we left the trail we had red hands, big smiles, and a very unique memory of an afternoon in the mountains of Michigan.

I had never even heard of thimbleberries before our trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  The incredible diversity of the world our Lord created continues to delight and astound me. 

What new things have you noticed about the world in which we have the honor of living?

A Walk on the Wild Side

I love a good tromp through the woods.   Hiking is – of course – about the opportunity to get a little exercise, but it is about so much more.  It is about what I see and smell and hear and feel.

There is so much to take in – to absorb – to delight in – to give God thanks for creating.

The crunch of gravel or the squish of some fresh muddy mud are sounds we often hear on a hike.  The snap of a twig or two as they break under my hiking shoes – the sound of the wind blowing through the leaves on the trees – the call of a bird – the chatter of a squirrel are all blessings of a hike in the woods.

The sounds of the woods are such a wonderful break from life in a modern city filled with cars, cell phones, sirens, and noise.

I love all of the green that I see when hiking.  I am a bit of a “green” junkie.  I could stare endlessly at shades of green, but I do love to hike where there are wild flowers. 

When we hike I regularly torment my beloved, patient family by making them stop what they are doing to look at wild flowers.  (I comfort myself with the knowledge that this is at least cheaper than making them stare at paintings in the Louvre, but I suppose in Paris there would be better wine and really good pastries.  All I can usually offer are bottles of “Louisville” water and almonds.)

Since I have this blog now – I thought I would invite you along for a wild flower sighting expedition in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  (Jason finds it really helpful just to smile and nod a lot.   So feel free to smile and nod – nod and smile.)

Look at those delicate, lacy flowers.  When we hurry by – we miss their beauty.

Check out how striking those blue flowers are – especially against the green.

One perfect daisy.

One little boy (he isn’t perfect – but he is pretty nifty) and one daisy.

Black-eyed Susan’s make me think of my flower beds at home which are filled to over flowing with them, because they are my favorite flowers.

More Black-eyed Susan’s and Queen Anne’s Lace.  Nicely done God – nicely done!

These reminded me of little sunshines.

These were the bluest of blues.

The woods are a jungle of lush ferns up here in the UP.

I snapped these pictures in just a few minutes one afternoon while we hiked in the woods. 

I wanted to remind myself of what I miss when I move through life too quickly or stare at a phone or forget to pay attention to the world around me.

I miss seeing the beauty of the world that God created.  I miss yellow sunbursts and white lace and laughing little boys. 

I miss what really matters.  I think I miss out on living my life when I move too quickly and for what? 

What do we gain when we rush by the flowers and the laughing little boys and the green grass?

Almost But Not Quite

Being related to me is full of hazards and pitfalls.  (Just ask Jack and William.  Jason pleads the 5th on this one every time so don’t ask him!)

There is all of the yarn.  (I have a carefully curated collection of lovely yarn, and at least some of it goes with me almost everywhere.)

There are all of those extra trips to church.  (My kids think it is hilarious when other children complain about going to church just once a week.  Seriously – just ONCE a week for ONE hour!) 

There are all of the hikes in the woods.  (William thinks of them as forced marches, and Jack did too at Will’s age). 

There are all of those hippy dippy vegetarian meals I expose them to.   

And then this summer I got a sabbatical and announced that we were going to slow down and mindfully seek God’s presence for 8 whole weeks (when all they wanted to seek was a good WiFi signal).   

So Jason and I thought that this was a perfectly perfect picture of Jack and William to share with you.

See – Jason and I did NOT drag William and Jack to the End of the Earth – we were 2 entire miles away!

The Banana Boat

Jason promised Jack that he would take Jack kayaking on Lake Superior during our time in Michigan, but Lake Superior is sort of like a certain 5 year old little boy that I know and love a whole lot.  It has lots of moods, and when it gets worked up it takes it a while to get calmed down.  So on Wednesday during our early morning walk when Jason noticed that the lake was pretty calm, we made plans for Jason and Jack to spend the afternoon kayaking. 

They rented a bright yellow double kayak which William immediately christened the “banana boat.”

William and I took them to the launch site, and they were off in their banana boat for a four hour adventure on Lake Superior. 

William and I headed home for some quiet time before we planned to head into the park for yet another learning program.

As I sat reading and knitting an hour and a half later, I heard the back porch door of our cabin open and in walked Jack! 

Jason and Jack had kayaked all of the way from the launch site to our cabin in less than two hours.

They hung out long enough for me to grab the camera and harass them with a quick photo shoot, and then they were off again to continue their voyage.

William and I were there to welcome them “home” two hours later.

Our intrepid adventurers had kayaked over 5 miles on Lake Superior.

William even stood on the dock cheering and waving his frog and leech catching net to let them know just how much they had been missed.

Bows, Arrows and Bonding

On Friday afternoon we headed back into the park for an archery program led by our new best friend in Michigan, park naturalist Bob Wild. 

Every time we attend and participate in one of these wonderful park led programs I am so surprised by how few other people join us.  This time it was just us and two other families which meant lots of bows and arrows for us.

After a little instruction in how to use bows and arrows safely and in how NOT to shoot one another or any passing wildlife – it was time for the arrows to fly and fly and fly.

With Jason’s help William gave archery a try for the very first time. 

Will and Jason made a great team hitting their target with all 6 of their arrows. 

They even got a bullseye, but after his early success William had had his fill of bows and arrows. 

Apparently archery is not going to be William’s sport of choice which honestly gives me profound comfort.  The youngest McFarland son does not need a hobby that comes with really, really pointy weaponry.    

While William and I entertained ourselves by wandering around the area scaring off all of the wildlife by making a huge amount of noise, Jack continued to let the arrows fly for an entire hour.

Jack got to shoot arrow after arrow after arrow and made lots of bullseyes.

After archery we headed to the Park Outpost for ice cream cones for everyone in the family except Jason (the crazy man doesn’t have a sweet tooth and regularly skips dessert). 

William, Jack, and I have to keep our strength up for our next hippy-dippy outing in the park!

Playing With Broken Glass

One of the many reasons that I love state and national parks is that they seem to be filled with quinoa and kale eating, tree hugging, sacred moment seeking, nuts just like Jason and me.

We drive into a state park, hit a trail to get some dirt on our shoes, see some people, and I turn to Jason and say – “these are my people.”  You can just tell.  (It might have something to do with the fact that their kids and our kids are both wearing that look on their faces that says “I wish I were at Disney World,” but that’s what grandparents are for in our family.)

On Sunday afternoon – I learned just how full of like minded souls the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park really is when Jack and I decided to take an art class offered by the Friends of the Porkies.  Seriously – an art class in a state park – how perfectly Kerri McFarland can you get.  The only thing missing was yarn, but don’t worry I had my own yarn with me just in case! 

The class was on how to make a Upper Peninsula of Michigan stepping stone using stained glass and concrete.  These should be a lot of fun to bring home on the plane.

Check out this table of gorgeous glass pieces.  I found all of the 1000’s of pieces of colored glass to be absolutely, positively fascinating.  In fact – my favorite part of the class was playing with the broken glass.  I was enchanted, but I regularly “delight” the McFarland men by making them look at all of the wonderful shades of green in the woods when we hike or the colors in my variegated yarn.

The people in the class were incredibly kind and welcoming.  Most of them were locals (Yoopers), but they didn’t mind a couple of folks from Kentucky joining them. 

Jack really lowered the age demographic of the group.  He was the youngest person by 30 years!  I haven’t felt this young since an Indiana-Kentucky Synod Assembly.

Jack decided to stick with the theme of the class and made an Upper Peninsula of Michigan stepping stone which meant that Jack spent quite a bit of time carefully working with a wet saw.

I was very impressed his “saw-manship” and thrilled that he kept all of his lovely, long fingers.  I am really attached to Jack’s fingers.  He has nice fingers.

Jack’s stepping stone design was cool too!

I have always been drawn to abstract art, and I like to go my own way.  Big surprise – I know.  So – I went with an abstract depiction of Lake Superior at sunset (very, very, very abstract!)

We live in such a busy, fast-paced world.  It was an incredible blessing to spend time playing with color, concrete, and kindred spirits.

Catching Creatures

The McFarland family has a very important tradition when visiting a national park or a state park.  Our first stop is usually the Park Visitors’ Center.  So as soon as we had dropped off our bags at our cabin we were off to the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park Visitors’ Center.

This is such a family tradition that at just 5 years old William already looks forward to heading to the Visitors’ Center.  William goes to learn about the park’s creatures and to check out the impressive taxidermy displays. 

Jack heads for the huge 3-dimensional map of the park which every park seems to have.

Jason and I go for trail maps (again with the hiking), the park newspaper, and their list of ranger-led hikes, programs, and events.  We read all of this cover to cover, discuss it at length, and use it to plan our stay.  (Yes – we are state and national park nerds, but you probably guessed this about us already.  The green tea drinking, tree hugging, and shoes give us away.) 

Over the years we have had many wonderful experiences and adventures thanks to these research expeditions, and the amazing staff at our nation’s state and national parks.

On Friday afternoon we met the naturalist for the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park (perfectly named Bob Wild) at the trailhead for the Union Mine Interpretive Trail and headed down to the Union River to explore and catch water creatures. 

Seriously – our family and just one other family got to play in the river with the naturalist for the State Park for an hour.  How cool is that?

We learned all sorts of interesting things. 

Like the river we were exploring is one of the cleanest rivers in the entire United States of America.  The river is spring fed by the second largest spring in the state of Michigan and the spring is only 2 miles upstream.  Water just doesn’t get much cleaner than that in our modern world. 

The water was so crystal clear it sparkled.  It was COLD too.

But most importantly – we had fun.

Lots and lots of fun exploring the river.

Searching for cool creatures.

Celebrating God’s creation.

Giving thanks for the beautiful world we live in.

Have you taken time recently to thank God for the blessing of the world we live in?  What have you seen?  What have you noticed?

The Frog Blog

Jason and I both grew up in Richmond, Indiana.  We didn’t know each other until high school, but we did a lot of the same things when we were kids.  We share many of the same experiences and memories.

If you ask either one of us to name the best pizza in the world – we will both say “Clara’s.”  (A local pizza place in Richmond.)

If you want to know where the coolest summer enrichment classes were in the 1980’s in Richmond, Indiana – they were at Hayes Arboretum.  I took the gardening classes, and Jason took a variety of classes.  One of which was called “Reptiles and Amphibians.” 

The McFarland sons have been living out their own reptiles and amphibians adventures this week in Michigan.

Our cabin is on Lake Superior, but Lake Superior isn’t what has captivated their interest.  What has them intrigued is the creek two houses away from us.  The creek is filled with frogs and leeches which they have spent hours and hours and hours catching and observing and studying. 

Jack and William have been very busy men!

It is surprisingly difficult to take a picture of a bucket full of frogs and leeches – who knew!

This leopard frog was William’s favorite.  Will named him “Buddy.”

We are strictly catch and release!

We are a multi-generation frogging family.