Happy 14th Birthday, Milo!

Milo is fourteen today! I wasn’t so sure he’d still be here for this birthday, so I’ve been very much appreciating the time with him and making it a special day for Milo and for me, doing the things we’ve always enjoyed doing together. I’ve been pretty busy recently  and, though I’ve had nice snuggle time with Milo, I haven’t had time to do some of the things Milo really loves, so I set aside time today to do some of his favorite things.

This morning we did some Nosework, which we hadn’t done since last winter. He was so excited when we went down to the basement and I told him to “Find It!” I wasn’t sure how well his nose would be working, given his advancing age and kidney disease, but he was on fire! He scarcely even had to search; I hid the odor three times, and each time, as he crossed the room, he caught the scent and headed straight for it. I might pull it out to play again tomorrow, since we had so much fun with it today.

Tracking has always been Milo’s most favorite activity, so this afternoon when the sun came out and it warmed up into the upper 30’s, I took him to some nearby fields where the ice had melted (unlike our sloped skating rink of a yard). I left Milo on his fuzzy bed in my car while I laid a track for him through three fields. When I got back to the car, Milo was standing on the seat eagerly watching for me to return. He knows all the signs of a tracking outing and can hardly wait for me to put his harness on and tell him to “Go Track!” As with the Nosework, Milo did great with his tracking (as he almost always does).

Milo tracks much more slowly now, and I realized, with some sadness, that I no longer need to wear leather gloves to protect my hands from rope burn. He used to track so fast that he has burned through a couple pairs of good sport leather gloves. No need for gloves today, but that’s okay. Milo and I were in sync, as usual, connected not just by the tracking line but much more by our bond with and our understanding of each other and our shared love of being outside in a field working together.

Happy Birthday, my joyful Milo Bean! You enrich my life every day.

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Ramblings– Singing in the Rain

Today is one of those drenching, steadily raining days. As I was sitting in my rocking chair sipping my morning tea with all the dogs sprawled around me, Acadia purring on my lap, and the rain splattering on the window, I watched the soggy squirrels and damp birds and thought about how thankful I am for our warm, dry house. And then the niggling thought that I ought to take Ramble for a walk before crating him when we go to church disturbed my peaceful musings. I rationalized that it’s rainy and slippery (there’s lots of ice in the yard from last week’s ice storm) and that I could take him later. But I knew I’d be equally reluctant later and, besides, we’re planning to Skype with all our children this afternoon.

With a sigh I put down my mug and Acadia leaped from my lap to the windowsill, where she could continue watching the birds and squirrels while staying warm and dry. I bundled up, put on my Muck shoes, and leashed up Ramble, who showed no reluctance to go out in the rain. Deciding that the yard is too hazardous for walking even with Microspikes, I loaded Ramble into his car crate and drove to a nearby dead end to park and head out for a walk. I took Ramble out, closed and locked the car, and headed down the road.

And then it happened– my pluviophile’s nature {Pluviophile (n.) a lover of rain;someone who finds joy and peace of mind during rainy days} suddenly stepped to the fore and soared with joy as the rain streaked down my face and my Muck shoes splashed with each step. Ramble walked contentedly by my side as we splashed through puddles (I love splashing in puddles and figure I might as well have fun while getting soaked), he looking around at this new place he’d never been, me musing on everything that came to mind and feeling free and full of peace and joy. We walked and splashed for two miles, returning to the car thoroughly soaked and wonderfully refreshed. And now Ramble is sleeping soundly in his crate and I am about to warm up with another steaming mug of tea before I head to church.

Glorify the Lord, every shower of rain and fall of dew, * 
    all winds and fire and heat. 
Winter and Summer, glorify the Lord, * 
    praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O chill and cold, * 
drops of dew and flakes of snow. 
Frost and cold, ice and sleet, glorify the Lord, * 
    praise him and highly exalt him for ever. (from the Book of Common Prayer)

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Ramble is wearing a Perfect Pace Halter here. When I take him for a long walk I often use a head halter and give him a bit more freedom in how he walks. When I use just a collar I expect him to stay right by my left side. As it is, he usually walks right beside me anyway (but I am getting him used to the head halter for when adolescence strikes).

Ramblings — New Year’s Day 2018

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The last ten days, since I wrote my first Ramblings post (which I finally had a chance to publish today), have been very full with puppy fun and care, holiday activities, visiting family, and frozen baseboard heating pipes. The puppy fun and care, holiday activities, and visiting family were all anticipated and greatly enjoyed. The frozen pipes not so much… Thankfully, with Stephen’s hard work and the strategic use of space heaters, hair dryer, and paint peeler, a stuck zone valve was replaced and the pipes eventually thawed (after two and a half chilly days).

By now Ramble has been here without his brother for eight days, and he is doing wonderfully. What a delightful puppy! I am happier with him and more in love with him every day. He is snuggly, playful, and very social. Whenever he meets new people, he approaches them with happily wagging tail and ears sweetly back, and tries to lick their chins. I’m not into being licked by dogs, but it’s hard to resist such sweet puppy kisses.

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I’ve been thinking about New Year’s and what my goals are for 2018 and how Ramble (and Petra, Milo, and Acadia) might fit into them. Stephen and I have both been focusing on and practicing centering prayer in various ways in the past few months, and that’s something I want to continue in 2018. I’d like to grow in having a quiet spirit that underlies who I am and all I do, and I’d also like to be able to share the peace that gives me through practicing hospitality. Many people probably wouldn’t find getting a new puppy conducive to growing in quietness and in being centered, but I think having Ramble will help me with that, as my other pets do.

After almost losing Petra this past fall and feeling like I hadn’t been as connected with her as I would have liked, I realized that I had been fairly scattered for a while, both emotionally and in my use of my time, and I was determined to change that. My animals are obviously a very important part of my life, and if I let them, they help me slow down and live more fully in the moment, more richly in the present. And when I do that, I am much more aware of God’s presence with me and am also much more responsive to the people in my life.

So some of my goals and hopes for 2018 are that I would stay more rooted in the present as I train my puppy and enjoy my older dogs and sit with my cat on my lap. And I hope and pray that being more rooted in the present will help me be more sensitive to the ways God is working and to his fingerprints in the world around me, filling me with awe and with a desire to join him in whatever opportunities he brings my way.

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Stay tuned for more Ramblings about life with Ramble…

Ramblings 12/21/17

Puppy playtime!

Now that I am raising our new puppy, Ramble, I thought I’d from time to time write a “Ramblings” post about life with a puppy and what I am doing with Ramble and what he’s doing. This first post is one I started to write about a week and a half ago, but stopped mid-sentence– something I I expect may happen often with a puppy in the house. Some of my posts may be well thought-out; more are likely to be a series of rambling thoughts jotted down in spare minutes. It’s not that Ramble is actually taking up all my time and attention, but as a New Year is starting I am hoping (intending) to spend less time on my computer and more in the wonderful, rich, real life of my home and family, and friends, and pets. And having a puppy should help me do just that.

Ramblings 12/21/17

Ramble, our new Siberian Husky puppy, is here! He’s actually not officially ours yet, as I am babysitting for him and his brother Simon this week while their breeder is away, but he already seems to know he’s my dog. When Simon and Ramble (formerly “Garfunkel”) are running around tackling each other and wrestling, Ramble often comes over and sits in front of me, looking up for pets. So sweet! Of course he gets a smile and snuggle every time he does that. I’m really glad to have them both here; it’s good for them to have the exposure to a new place, and it’s surely helpful for Ramble’s adjustment to being in our home to have his brother here with him for the first few days.

At this point I have not been using any treats with Ramble. I probably will eventually, most likely for recalls around distractions (like the great outdoors), but for now I am capitalizing on his enjoyment of affection and attention.

Yesterday I started crate training Ramble and his brother Simon. Actually Pat, their breeder, started the process by having a crate with the gate removed in the puppy pen, so the pups could get used to going in and out of it. (It is such a gift to both puppy and new owners when a breeder does that!) Sometimes Simon and Ramble chose to nap in it, demonstrating a dog’s basic comfort with sleeping in a confined space. At any rate, by yesterday Simon and Ramble were starting to get pretty boisterous while playing in the expen set-up I have for them, and I knew I would soon be uncomfortable leaving them unsupervised, even in the expen. They’re getting bigger and faster, and when they bump into the pen it moves a bit. They can’t knock it over or climb or jump out… yet, but I wanted to start getting them comfortable being closed in a crate.

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Simon and Ramble in their expen. (Ramble is the one whose ears are still floppy.)

For starts, I began feeding them in separate crates, opening the gates as soon as they were finished eating. Then yesterday afternoon I closed them in crates after they had eaten, played, peed, and pooped and were just starting to lie down and snuggle up for naps. Predictably, they whined and cried a bit when I crated them, so I covered their crates with towels (hung over masonite boards that extended beyond the sides of the crates, so the pups couldn’t grab the towels through the openings) and looked at the clock. Simon settled down within a few minutes, but Ramble kept up a fuss. After about ten minutes I waited for a moment of quiet, then let him out and took him to the papers. He tried to get me to pet him, but I calmly redirected him to the papers, where he sniffed for a moment, then peed

And that was as far as I got before puppies, holiday activities, and family called me from my computer. Stay tuned for more Ramblings…

Introducing Ramble!

Ramble at 5 1/2 weeks

Ramble, an adorable, lively eight week old Siberian Husky puppy, joined our family today! I’ve been visiting and becoming acquainted with Ramble (formerly “Garfunkel”) and his brother Simon since they were two weeks old, so even though he’s only just become a Fischer, he has long since wiggled his way into my heart. It’s been wonderful visiting the puppies each week (sometimes two or three times a week) and watching their personalities develop. From the first time I saw them, I was drawn to “Garfunkel,” but I wanted to watch and wait and see what temperament traits emerged over the next weeks.

As time went on, Garfunkel seemed to choose me as much as I was choosing him. When I’d visit, the two puppies would be racing around playing, and Garfunkel would stop from time and time to sit by me, as if checking in. When I’d pick him up, he’d snuggle sweetly into my arms– it was hard to put him down!

And now Garfunkel is Ramble and is rapidly settling into our home and our hearts. He is a delight and is increasingly sweet and connected. And I am completely smitten. :)

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Book Review: When God Looked the Other Way

I’ve decided to start putting my reviews or thoughts about some of the books I read here on my blog, mostly so I can look back at them again when I’m trying to remember what I thought of a book. I also find that I tend to go through cycles, sometimes reading more, at other times painting more. Recently I’ve been doing a lot of reading, and not as much art, other than sketching birds and deer and other wildlife.

When God Looked the Other Way: An Odyssey of War, Exile, and Redemption, by Wesley Adamczyk

I found this to be a gripping, vivid, personal account of a part of history of which I was ignorant and which should not be forgotten. It made me realize how everything– home, family, freedom– could be taken from even a comfortable, seemingly secure middle-class life at the whim of an evil government. Reading this made me wonder about the possibility of this kind of thing happening to us or to our children or grandchildren, and that thought makes me reflect on the importance of having my hope and my trust truly in God, who can never be taken from me, rather than in possessions or our nice, comfortable home and lifestyle. I was also dismayed to read in the appendix of the duplicity and lack of integrity of the U.S. and British governments. That just reinforces my lack of confidence in any government not to choose expediency over justice when pressed by circumstances and choosing alliances.

Fun with Friends

Three years ago Stephie Butler from England and Joanna Lodewijks-Pijlman from the Netherlands came to visit for a week and for Stephie to teach a two-day portrait workshop. We had a such a marvelous time that it seemed afterwards as if it had been a dream, and I wished they would come back. Well, they did! Last week they both came for another visit (nine wonderful days this time) and another portrait workshop. We had the best time exploring the Hudson Valley, painting together, experimenting with art mediums and styles, eating good food, and just hanging out together.

Other than the two days of the workshop, we spent some time at home most days and some time visiting someplace pretty. On Monday Joanna demo’d painting loose, colorful backgrounds and flower painting in the morning, then we went to the Vanderbilt to see and sketch the river views.

My flower painting following Joanna’s demo
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Stephie and me sketching the Vanderbilt view
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Joanna with her sketch
Me sketching

On Tuesday we worked on various paintings from Monday and then, since the weather was perfect, we grilled steaks for lunch and ate on the deck, then walked and sketched on the Walkway Over the Hudson.

Lunch on the deck

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Wednesday I did a demo of Chickadees in the morning, after which we had lunch at The Matchbox Cafe in Rhinebeck (they have the best burgers!) and then wandered around Rhinebeck (of course stopping in the Rhinebeck Art Store), then went to Olana, the home of Frederic Edwin Church of the Hudson River School of Art, where we enjoyed the river views and the sunset.

Colorful Chickadee demo painting
Olana river view

Thursday we visited Topfield Equestrian Center, where there are beautiful, friendly horses in a picturesque landscape. We had a wonderful time sketching and photographing the horses, after which we headed to Beacon for lunch at Homespun Foods, which we wanted to go to since we had enjoyed it three years ago. It was just as delicious this time, and we very much enjoyed the peaceful outdoor courtyard surrounded by flowers.

Topfield Equestrian Center

Topfield Equestrian Center horse sketches- ballpoint pen
Friends and flowers at Homespun Foods
Homespun Foods in Beacon courtyard
Delicious Greek salad at Homespun Foods!

Friday and Saturday were Stephie’s watercolor portraits workshop– an excellent workshop! Stephie is an outstanding and inspiring teacher from whom I have learned so much and gained much enthusiasm for painting portraits. My mother and sister and one of my brothers were also at the workshop, which made it extra special for me.

Stephie demonstrating and explaining (my mother, my sister, and my brother are on the right)
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Stephie demonstrating painting a girl from Namibia the 2nd day of the workshop
Stephies portrait
Stephie’s portrait from her demo the first day of the workshop
Me painting a homeless woman from Brazil
My portrait from the 2nd day of the workshop (Many thanks to Gunnar Salvarsson for the use of his reference photo)
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My portrait from the 1st day of the workshop– (Many thanks to Steve Evans for the use of his reference photo)

To me it is really interesting to see how we each use the same general approach, and yet maintain our own style. As a good instructor, Stephie always encourages her students to develop their own style, while incorporating her  approach and techniques.

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Joanna’s portrait day 1 of the workshop
Joannas portrait
Joanna’s portrait from the 2nd day of the workshop

Sunday we were ready for a break, so after I got back from church we stayed home and played with charcoal. I hadn’t used charcoal in a very long time, but Stephie and Joanna had done some charcoal drawing together a few weeks ago, which inspired me to give it a try. That is one of the great things about spending time with other artists; I picked up many tips and new skills, and also was inspired to try out new mediums, approaches, and subjects.

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Joanna’s charcoal of a landscape from her town in the Netherlands
Joanna’s charcoal drawing of a wolf
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Stephie drawing a lion in charcoal
Stephie’s lion in charcoal
My charcoal portrait of a man we met in Alaska (75 year old man with incredible house truck)

Sunday evening Stephie and Joanna treated Stephen and me to dinner at Shadows on the Hudson, where we finally got to see the beginnings of fall color on the far side of the river. By the time we were finished eating it was dark, and the Mid-Hudson Bridge was lit with beautiful blue lights- a wonderful finale to a great week. I am already looking forward to Stephie and Joanna’s next visit!

Alaska 2017 Part 2: Denali National Park

After our wonderful time in the cabin in Seldovia on the Kenai Peninsula, we spent a rainy day (many days in Alaska are rainy days) driving up to Denali National Park, over an eight hour drive after a 45 minute ferry ride from Seldovia to Homer, which was after a 10 minute skiff ride from the cabin to Seldovia. It was a long day, but, even through the rain, we were often dazzled by the beauty surrounding us wherever we looked. I could have found a view to paint almost anywhere we stopped along that route. We didn’t have much time to stop, but a travel day like that still counts as a day of wonder.

We stayed at the Denali Park Hotel which, as all the reviews said, is a fairly basic hotel but very nice. The reviews were absolutely right, and we would definitely stay there again. We liked it from the start, but seeing the Aurora Borealis from right in front of our hotel room door on the last night really sold us on it.

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Northern Lights from our hotel room door!!!

I did a fair amount of sketching at Denali, more of wildlife than of landscapes the first couple of days, as we were much more on the move. I missed the quiet, serene pace of our time in Seldovia, but loved all the hiking we did at Denali. Whereas Seldovia is lush with abundant plant life of all sorts, being a temperate rain forest-type habitat, Denali is more Boreal forest and tundra habitat, and so has more open land or shrub and low tree growth. The color of Seldovia when we were there was largely blue water and green mountain, when not softened to warm shades of grays by mist. Denali, clothed with autumn color by late August, was red and yellow and orange and green and purple and blue.

(Click on images to see larger version and read notes)

Black Diamond Grill View — where we ate breakfast every morning
Arctic ground squirrel and collared pika– totally adorable!
The Savage River valley
Ptarmigan and Gray Jay
Moose– outside our hotel and in the park
Bears and Sheep
Teklanika River Valley with a grizzly bear
Snowshoe Hares
Roses Cafe View where we ate dinner one night– HUGE portions!
Denali View from Mt. Healy– perfect view of Denali in sunshine
Tundra Tapestry on Mt. Healy
Hoary Marmot on Mt. Healy– totally adorable, like a long-haired white woodchuck
Looking up at Mt. Healy after hiking it
Mt. Healy Trail along very steep mountainside
Denali Sled Dog Demo
Denali sled dog team
View from the Morino Grill at Denali National Park

Alaska 2017 Part 1: Seldovia

It’s hard to know where to start when my mind and heart are full of images, every one glorious and each bringing back wonderful memories of breathtaking beauty and shared joy in the wonder of God’s creation. Stephen and I got home from our Alaska trip eight days ago and have now pretty much returned to east coast time and have more or less gotten caught up with phone calls, emails, and life back home. It takes a while to return to “normal” when you’ve been immersed in wonder.

Our trip started with a bit of unexpected excitement. As we waited to board our plane from Reno, NV (after the Lake Tahoe family vacation portion of our trip), a phalanx a 10 TSA agents filed in and took up positions in a semi-circle around our gate, posted a sign saying all passengers would be subject to additional screening, and stood closely scrutinizing the crowd waiting to board. They then pulled various people over for pat-downs (including Steve) after we passed the gate and headed down the jetway. I have no idea what they were looking for, but that was the first time I’ve seen that happen.

The plane trip was uneventful until we were about to land in Anchorage, very close to the airport and very low, when the plan suddenly accelerated and quickly gained altitude. Everyone was wondering what was going on, until the pilot announced that we couldn’t land yet because there was a pack of coyotes on the runway! We had to circle out and come back about 15 or 20 minutes later, after the coyotes had been chased away!

We ended up landing just before midnight in steady rain, so we went straight to our hotel and got some sleep. The next day, August 21st, was Eclipse Day, but it was heavily overcast and raining, and the eclipse was only 40% in Anchorage, so we didn’t see the eclipse. But, as soon as we looked out our hotel room window, way in the north we could see Denali (Mt. McKinley) along with other mountains in the Alaska Range, all snow covered but glowing under clear skies and sunrise light. Denali (the official name was Mount McKinley until 2015, when it was changed back to its original name “Denali,” which mean “the Great One” or the Tall One”) is often wreathed in clouds, so it was a special treat to see it on our first morning in Alaska. We hung out of the third floor hotel window taking photos (Stephen) and sketching (me) for a long time, hardly able to tear our eyes from the mountains shining in morning light even through the rain where we were.

Denali in morning light

As soon as we’d eaten breakfast we rented a car and headed four hours south to Homer, where we parked the car, so we could board a ferry to Seldovia. But before we got on the ferry we met and chatted with a fascinating man who, with his wife, has built and lived in house trucks for the past 35 years. Here’s an article about him, with a video tour of his house truck: 75 Year Old Man’s Adventurer House Truck. I asked if I could take photos of him and am planning to do a portrait, since he looks so typically “Alaskan.”

We then rode the ferry 45 minutes to “The City of Seldovia.” I guess the Alaskan definition of “city” is a bit flexible, as Seldovia is more like what we’d call a village, with 250 year-round inhabitants, and a few more for the short summer season. Once in Seldovia, our host, Scott, who built the VRBO cabin we rented, met us at the dock and took us by skiff to his cabin down the bay and across to the other side, where his cabin is nestled right at the base of a mountain.

In Scott’s 18 foot Lund skiff
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Our cabin, nestled at the base of the mountain– low tide. At high tide the water is almost up to the deck!

This cabin is delightful, as are Scott and Janet, who built it. They stay in an older cabin behind the one we stayed in, and from our cabin all we could see was the bay, the mountains beyond the bay with one cabin nestled at the base of those mountains, sea otters cavorting in the bay, salmon leaping high from the water, and Bald Eagles flying back and forth, sometimes landing on the beach in front of our cabin. And one morning coyotes meandering along the beach! It was quiet, peaceful, and soul-nourishing- a piece of heaven on earth for sure. The view changed constantly, due to mists wafting around and through the mountains, so every minute I could have done a new painting.

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Every morning I awoke early and, while Stephen slept in or enjoyed the view from the loft bedroom, I got the wood stove going to warm the cabin, then sat and marveled at and sketched the view while sipping a steaming mug of tea. I could not imagine a more perfect start to any day!

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Ink and wash misty mountains
Seldovia Bay and coyotes (on far right side of beach)
Graduation Peak sunrise Seldovia Bay view

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There are sea otters everywhere in the bay! They float on their backs cracking mollusks and crustaceans, rolling around in the water, playing, letting us get fairly close in the skiff.

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Sea otter
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Synchronized swimming

This off-the-grid cabin is absolutely charming and perfectly comfortable, with windows on the entire side facing the bay, a propane refrigerator and stove for cooking, no internet (apparently some people can get enough of a signal to get online, but I was very glad we couldn’t), and solar powered lights (which we scarcely used). There’s running water and a shower (water heated by propane) inside, and a perfectly acceptable outhouse instead of an inside toilet. The water is the best tasting and coldest water you can imagine! It comes from a mountain stream and is so clean it doesn’t need to be filtered or treated in any way. Scott just stuck a pipe high enough up the stream that the water is gravity fed, rather than pumped in. I wish I could have brought that water back with me.

Cabin kitchen
Looking down from the loft bedroom

Whenever we wanted to go hiking, Scott took us in his skiff over the Seldovia, where we hiked some beautiful trails, ate lunch in a delightful restaurant, then returned by skiff to the cabin to cook our dinner and have a quiet evening. So perfect!

Seldovia Outer Beach view and Seldovia Bay Ferry

Rocky Ridge Trail Seldovia

The last evening we were there, Scott took us in his skiff to the back of the bay, which he calls his “cathedral,” with mountains on all sides, Bald Eagles perched and flying all around, and salmon leaping all around the boat. He snagged and filleted a salmon for us, which I cooked for our dinner when we got back to the cabin. On the way out to the “cathedral” I sketched the view while the skiff was bouncing along over waves– fun!

Sketched while bouncing over waves in the skiff (white gel pen trees added later)
Salmon leaping
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Salmon swimming by the skiff

It was hard to leave this amazing place and we hope (plan) to return someday. As we rode the ferry back to Homer, we stayed out on the upper deck, watching the amazing panorama of jagged Kenai Mountains to the east. I could look at those mountains for years and never grow tired of them.

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Seldovia Ferry View

I’ll do another post in a few days for the second half of our Alaska trip, which was mostly in Denali National Park, and probably a third one for birds and other wildlife we saw, so stay tuned!

Thank you!

I thank my God every time I remember you.  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy… Philippians 1:3-4

This morning I have been filled with gratitude. I’m not sure why this morning in particular, as I wasn’t consciously turning my thoughts that way any more than usual. In fact, I was reading in The Rule of Benedict: Insights for the Ages about hospitality and prayer and maintaining balance in one’s life, when all of a sudden I was almost overwhelmed by a wave of gratitude as the names and faces of people started coming to mind.

People who have spoken into my life with words of encouragement and sometimes admonition, helping me grow in faith and character and way of living… I so appreciate the people who gently but clearly point me forward, even at times when I’m not always so willing or confident that I am able to move forward, and who walk along the way with me, encouraging me to keep going and keep growing.

Mentors and others who have inspired me in my art and writing over the years… I sometimes look back at early pieces I painted or have written and am both humbled and grateful as I remember the encouraging words they gave me. And knowing that there is always much room to grow, I am still so thankful for their gracious words that encourage me to keep going and keep growing.

Those who have mentored and encouraged me in various ways of teaching that I have done over the years, including homeschooling my children, training dogs and their people, teaching classes and workshops of various sorts, leading Bible studies, as well as other less formal forms of teaching… I am so thankful for the ways they have encouraged both confidence and humility, encouraging me to keep going and keep growing, both in my own skills and in my ability to encourage others on their own journeys.

So to the many, many people who have spoken and those who continue to speak words of grace and hope and love into various areas of my life, thank you, thank you, thank you. I do thank my God when I remember you and I pray for you with joy. Some of you I know well and some I have not yet met and may not meet in this life. And many have gone on before and are no doubt still cheering me on from unseen sidelines in ways I might not recognize but I suspect impact me nonetheless, helping to me to keep on going and keep on growing in this life.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. Hebrews 12:1-2

Bald Eagle