Gift #712: Sanctuaries of the heart

Everyone needs sanctuaries – a place to find refuge from the grind of daily life, a place of worship, and rejuvenation.  A safe and healing place.  For some, this place can be found in a physical location, for others it is found in sweet memories, or dreams of the future.

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Natural places act as a balm for our souls, and to me they feel like a kiss from God.  John Muir spoke well when he said that we need the wild places of the world.  Especially now with so much clamoring all around us, it is especially important to retreat to those refuges where we can be still and quiet, listen and know, grow and love.

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I’ve been blessed to have many such sanctuaries and when I can’t be there in person, I still roam them in my mind.  Many of them are in Denver – Lair o’ the Bear Park, Mt. Falcon Park, Hudson Gardens.. these are some of my most specially loved places on earth.  Since moving to Indy, I’ve grown to love Spring Mill State Park and the city of Cincinnati as a special getaways.  Eagle Creek and my neighborhood park are also dear to my heart.  I’ve grown to love Eagle Creek almost as much my mountain parks.

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On my last visit to Eagle Creek a couple stopped me on the trail and asked how to find the bird sanctuary that was marked on the map.  It took a while to describe through the language barrier that we were walking right through the sanctuary – that it was a safe place for the birds to live, not a specific attraction for people.  I told them some places where they could watch birds up close (which seemed to be what they were looking for).  Afterwards I thought how special it was that the park could be sanctuary to birds as well as to its human visitors.  The park and reservoir provide a home to the birds where they can nest and find food in safety, and it also gives restoration and peace to those who come to enjoy its beauty.

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I hope you are able to find a sanctuary for your heart today. (All pictures are of Eagle Creek reservoir and park)

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #711: Hidden miracles

Earlier this month my company hosted a Day of Service, in which all the employees are invited to participate in serving their communities.  This is a global event, and one which Eli Lilly has been doing for several years.  I’m very grateful to work for a company that places value on giving back to others.  This year my group worked in conjunction with a non-profit called “Keep Indianapolis Beautiful” to restore many of the city’s waterways.  My group’s job was to clear out a large section of land that had been over-run with invasives (ie. honeysuckle).  We’ve done this before in years past and it’s amazing to me to realize how much of the city’s forested areas are overgrown with honeysuckle.  It’s a little disconcerting actually.  And after several hours of ripping it out, you start to see it everywhere you look.

We had our area cleared out pretty quickly and then were asked to help finish up some additional areas.  Once we were good and tired from all the cutting down and hauling of honeysuckle, the staff asked us to please move all the brush that had been cut down in the morning shift a bit closer to the street so the chippers could access it more easily.  We looked at the mountain of compacted honeysuckle branches, and I must say I felt myself wilt a little inside.  A look at my coworkers told me they felt the same.  But we wiped sweat out of our eyes and tackled the pile, wrenching branches out of pile #1 and stacking them into pile #2.  It was during this bustle of activity that I looked down to grab another branch and I saw it.

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There..  hidden in a pile of honeysuckle, miraculously still intact, was a bird nest.  A beautiful, fragile miracle that I never expected to see.  I have no idea how it managed to survive being cut down, dragged across the site, thrown in a waste pile, squashed by other branches, and then pulled out of the pile again to be moved.  There was a brief second or two where I stared at it in disbelief, and then it was in my hands and I was moving my precious treasure to a safe place.  I wrapped it as best as  I could and it survived the trip home well.  It was made of loosely woven grasses, so it is incredibly fragile and is sitting on my bookcase right now.  I haven’t dared to move it, but if someone knows of a product that I could spray on it to keep it together or some way of preserving the nest, I’d be most appreciative to hear.  I would love to preserve this special gift as a reminder that miracles can surprise you even in the most mundane of situations.

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #710: Fall evenings

Today was one of those lovely fall days.  We finally had some sun for the first time and we had a bit of a warm spell.  The trees are nearing their peak colors and they are lovely.  One of the things I love about fall here is how slow it is.  Everything turns in stages, so right now we have some trees that have already lost their leaves, some that are turned vibrant colors, and some that are still green.  So for a blissful period you can crunch fallen leaves underfoot, admire the changing leaves on the trees, and be comforted that some have yet to change so fall is not over yet.  (happy thought)  It’s also the period of time where fall delicacies have returned to the supermarket and have yet to be upstaged by the Christmas foods.

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Sights like this always set my heart twittering – so many wonderful pumpkin and apple flavors to enjoy!  My favorites of the seasonal offerings are the english muffins, pumpkin spice bread, apple cinnamon bread, pumpkin cream cheese, pumpkin yogurt… oh, and those pumpkin treats by Little Debbie!

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And a new treat this year are harvest varieties of sparkling juice.  Our local supermarket got in a shipment of pumpkin cider, caramel apple, and cider & spice!  Oh, they are wonderful!

Tonight after dinner I indulged in a piece of apple cinnamon toast with cinnamon cream cheese.  Yum!  Now I have the lights under the pumpkins lit up on the mantle, a pumpkin candle is burning on the stove, and I’m curled up on the couch.  A glass of cider & spice is on the side table and my fall sweater knitting is in my hands.  Oh autumn, how I love you.

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

 

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Gift #709: Dried Thistles

Thistles have a bad rap.  It is true that they are very prickly, but I like to think this is just because they really like where they’re growing and don’t want to be uprooted.  It’s unfortunate that they aren’t considered a beneficial plant because they are very useful plant.  They are a favorite nectar source for many native bees and butterflies, and birds love their seeds.  They have purported medicinal benefits as well.

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While I think thistles in bloom are beautiful, I find the dried thistle stems absolutely fascinating.  They have amazing form and texture.

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One of my favorite autumn walks at Eagle Creek circles around a reservoir which serves as a bird sanctuary.  About half the trail is a built up berm that crosses the reservoir and then borders it closely on one side.  It receives direct sunlight (so it’s a bit warm for a summer hike) and tons of wild grasses and flowers grow along the trail.  If you’re careful and quiet you can see a host of wildlife  – tons of insects, frogs, birds… It’s a popular haunt for fishermen too.  As fall comes the grasses and shrubs put on their colorful garb and decorate themselves with berries and seedpods.  It’s a feast for the eyes and senses.

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #708: Company of trees

It has been a hectic and difficult time for my family recently, and I find myself wearied with the stress, disappointments, and nagging worries that have been biting at my heels.  As I’ve tried to muster strength for myself and those near me I find myself staring at pictures of trees from Eagle Creek with the invitation “Be still and know that I am God” pressing on my heart.  And I wonder at what point I started linking trees with the presence of God, but it seems it has always been so.  It is a nearly universal human instinct to sense something sacred in the trees, so I know I’m in good company.

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It is obvious to me that God loves His trees dearly, after all He clothed the world with vast expanses of them.  Many verses in Scripture attest to the care that God has for trees and they are often used as metaphor for humanity, linking us together in an intimate way.  While strolling through the forest over the weekend, I was reminded again of the power of trees to calm, comfort, and heal.  You can listen to their mysterious language, whispered in the wind.  In the quiet refuge they offer, I feel as if I’m in a sanctuary, and the sunlight streaming through the trees is more lovely than any stained glass in a cathedral.

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I am so grateful for trees – they are marvelous companions and teachers.  Many books can be filled with the lessons that trees impress on our hearts.  But they also offer us a respite, a place to just “be” and a chance to renew our spirits.  So today I encourage you to seek out the company of trees and spend some time being still.  You may find yourself meeting God there.

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #707: Poison Apples

Remember a few weeks ago when I mentioned I was participating in an online Halloween Swap?  Well, the package has been mailed and received, and since it is Oct. 13 (which is the reverse of Halloween, the 31st) today’s the day that I’ll share what I sent to my recipient.  The theme I went with was “poison apple” which was inspired by the deep burgundy colored yarn I used to make her knitted item.  I made a large cowl that can be worn a number of ways – as a shoulder wrap with just a few buttons closed, or as a tall neckwarmer with all the buttons closed.

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From there I thought it would be a simple matter of finding some poison apple treats and rounding out the package.  Turns out the rest of the commercial world was not on to poison apples as a theme this Halloween, so shopping got a bit tricky, but I managed to find treats within the apple theme.  Here’s all her treats together.

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She received some caramel apple milky way bars, “poisoned” apple butter (with the recipe for sleeping death), hot cider mulling spices, and cinnamon sticks.  And check out that  cool specimen tag I found online!  It was just perfect for the cowl – I put the washing directions and fiber content on the back.  I also made her a set of stitch markers from charms in the jewelry department of my craft store – mirror, apple, and red crystal.  I think this might be my favorite item.  I strung them together on seam binding, which I dyed myself and it came out beautifully.

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Then finally we needed to include a card, so this is what I made for her, using my only Halloween stamp with an apple on it.  (Seriously there is a significant niche to be filled in the market here).

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I had so much fun putting this package together and apparently the recipient loved everything.  She even took pictures of her wearing the cowl.  I think it would be a fabulously unique job idea to create custom-themed gift packages for people.  I love to be given a theme and then run with it, finding all sorts of goodies that creatively blend together to tell a story.  Can’t wait for the next swap!  Hope you enjoyed the sneak peak.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #706: Feathers and Leaves

Whirling and twirling in the wind

You can’t tell where a leaf ends and a bird begins

Flying high, is that a wing beating,

A feather falling, or a moment fleeting?

Too fast to see, I cannot tell

Perhaps it’s all the same under Autumn’s spell

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Both birds and leaves are found in this picture, though the birds are hard to see – there are 2 at the feeders… and probably some on the ground that you can’t see.  The past two weekends, I’ve spent time at Eagle Creek Park, hiking, knitting, and enjoying nature.  Here at “bird feeding central” is one of my favorite spots in the park.  The Ornithology center has a back room with an entire wall of glass that looks over the feeders and park beyond.  There are places there to sit, birdwatch, read, or in my case, knit, and enjoy the birds and chipmunks.  As the wind picks up, the lines between leaves and birds blurs in a rush of color.  You can’t distinguish a cardinal from the red leaves falling from that majestic tree.  Is that leaf litter or a flock of sparrow on the ground?  It’s delightful to watch that flurry of wings and leaves skittering around the feeders.  And chipmunks are chasing each other all over the place and stopping every now and then to dig up an acorn.

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I didn’t have my good camera on this trip, but was able to get a snapshot of this little guy with my ipad.  He’s perched in the entrance of Mr. Toad’s house – obviously there’s a bit of species confusion on his part.  The forest is so alive and full of color right now.  And it is beyond beautiful.

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

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