Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Deer Fern

It would be fun to be a botanist, to specialize in something like ferns, and to be able to walk through the forest and say, "This is a Bracken Fern, and this is a Deer Fern, and this is a Sword Fern, and this is a Lady Fern and this is a Spiny Wood Fern, an Oak Fern, a Narrow Beech Fern, a Goldenback Fern, a Licorice Fern, a Maidenhair Fern, a Parsley Fern, a Fragile Fern, a Leathery Grape Fern, and a Common Moonwort--which is classified as a fern even if it isn't called one."

I like to know things, to understand things. Up to a certain point, I think that's a gift of God, but I also know that the "original sin" was to want to know and understand everything. There's a fuzzy line somewhere between those two characteristics that I haven't figured out yet--just one more thing I'd like to know and understand!

In the meantime, I'm pretty sure these are Deer Ferns; at least they match the photo in our "Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast" book. Above these ferns tower the huge coast Redwoods, which provide the required habitat for this lush greenery.

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Gull Feather

Sometimes the beauties of nature lie in the "big picture"--the Oregon coastline, a forest of redwoods, a vast mountain range. And sometimes the beauty is discovered in the smallest detail--in this case a gull feather on the beach accompanied by grains of sand in their wide variety of colors, each with their own unique history of formation, travel, and shaping. That's why I carry a wide-angle lens to encompass the big stuff, and a macro lens to focus on the small stuff.

God does a better job at that than I do, for God sees the "big picture" in ways beyond my capability, and God's eye is also on the sparrow, the gull, and all the tiniest details of creation.

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Madonna and Child

Today's cross is taken from a rock formation we've been seeing every day for the last two weeks. When the sun starts to swing toward the west in the afternoon and into the evening, the shadows on this spike of rock transform it from a hunk of stone into a sculpted statue of Mary holding baby Jesus. You can't see Mary in my cross, but you can in the collection of photos below.

Mary is facing the setting sun, her left hand around the baby's bottom, her right hand extended upwards supporting his head and neck. She's wearing a robe with a yellow scarf around her head.

We're wondering: are we the first to have seen her? Once you see her, it's impossible NOT to see her.

It's possible to go through life and never see the hand of God at work. But once you become aware of God, it's impossible to NOT see God in everything.

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Monday, June 26, 2006


Just as we were leaving Nebraska a couple weeks ago, my carefully nurtured foxglove plants were bursting into blossom. I started them from seed, weeded, watered, watched, and waited for that moment. Foxglove plants don't bloom until their second year, so some patience was required.

To our delight, we discovered that the Oregon coast is full of foxglove. It's growing wild all over the cliff below us, and a foxglove website refers to it as a "weed." It was first introduced from Europe as an ornamental garden plant, but it has taken off on an uncontrolled journey of its own, happily reproducing and spreading in Oregon, Washington, and West Virginia.

I guess a "weed" is any plant we're not controlling. Thank God for our lack of control!

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Sunday, June 25, 2006

Dune Grass

I admire plants that survive and thrive in harsh conditions. They adapt, they push their roots deep, and they become an integral part of their environment. Where dune grass grows, you would never find a fern, a rose, or even a dandelion. But in the shifting sand and the salty ocean breeze, through days of storm or weeks of rain or months of dry summer sun, dune grass thrives, creates beauty, adds color, and provides a small amount of stability to the seashore's waves of sand.

You've probably never prayed with quite these words before, but may I suggest: "Lord, make me more like dune grass."

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Saturday, June 24, 2006

Redwood Trunk

Continuing with yesterday's redwood theme, here is the trunk of a live redwood. The oldest of these giants live up to 2,000 years and many are in the 600-800 year range--just middle-aged at that point. No wonder the trunks are so wrinkled with age! The twisted, convoluted ridges and valleys of the trunk say, "I'm a survivor--and I'm not done yet!"

This particular tree--in the Lady Bird Johnson grove--is large enough that it was certainly there when the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, there when Columbus bumped into America, and probably there when King John signed the Magna Carta in 1215. True, it's been anchored to its spot in northern California that whole time, but when you touch the trunk of this tree, you're sure it has seen it all.

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Friday, June 23, 2006

Redwood Journey

Once upon a time, after many centuries of growth, a giant redwood tree fell into the ocean and was swept away by waves and winds and currents until it floated--during a very high tide or a storm--onto an Oregon beach. There it rests, withstanding wind and rain and salt spray, continuing its journey and creating beauty long after its death.

For us, too, death is not the end of our journey, but the beginning of something new--not a slow decay on an isolated beach, but new life, healing, and restoration. This blood-red cross is a reminder of how that happens.

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Thursday, June 22, 2006

Dry "Bones"

Although this is actually a pile of driftwood on an Oregon beach, it looks to me like Ezekiel's valley of dry bones. In that strange prophet's vision, the dry bones represented the deadness and hopelessness of God's people. "Can these bones live?" was Ezekiel's question.

That's our question, too, when death and despair seem to have triumphed. In the vision, the bones assembled themselves, put on flesh, and came to life. It was a promise of hope and renewal which--of course--is also the resurrection promise of the cross.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Crashing Waves

Waves are like snowflakes--structurally similar, yet no two alike. That's the beauty of CruxPhotos--all the same basic pattern, yet each is unique. Classical composers often did "variations on a theme." So does the Creator--with waves, with insects, with stars, and with people.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Waves and Wind

Though the sea is capable of great malevolence, it is also an instrument of healing. For spirits that are frozen and hearts that are wounded, the sea's perpectual cascade of gentle sound and constantly changing fluid movements help release what is paralyzed and heal what is hurting. Its movements are sculpted both by local winds and by winds from thousands of miles away.

In both Hebrew and Greek, the word for "wind" and the word for "spirit" are the same word. I define the Holy Spirit as "God on the move." That's why every Wind-created wave is a sign of hope.
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Monday, June 19, 2006


This kelp is very much alive, deeply rooted in the sand, awaiting the next high tide. Normally a resident of deeper water, this adventuresome seaweed (though certainly NOT a "weed") has chosen to live on the very margins of survival.

Each of us has within us a mixture of play-it-safe conformity and let's-try-something-new adventure. If your life just isn't working, one tendency or the other is probably getting short-changed.
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Sunday, June 18, 2006

Sunburst Flower

I have no idea what this flower is named (can somebody help me?), but if the naming were up to me, I'd call it the Sunburst flower. Clusters of these flowers grace the back yards of many homes along the Oregon coast. The colors are most vivid when the day is cloudy, a not unfrequent occurrence in the northwest!

Perhaps you can be a Sunburst in somebody else's cloudy day. And if someone becomes your Sunburst, thank them!
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Saturday, June 17, 2006

Beach Bubbles

The lifespan of a bubble is short. One moment it's there, the next moment it's gone. But each bubble is a marvelous creation with its iridescent highlights, its curved surface-tension-based shape, and its tenacious and multiple connections to other bubbles.

From the perspective of eternity, our lifespan is as brief as that of a bubble. Yet we also are capable of great beauty, especially when we're connected to others.
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Friday, June 16, 2006

Quilt Cross

Several reunions ago, Aunt Martha brought a bunch of loose quilt squares and invited the other women to arrange them in a pleasing pattern. They had great fun doing so, after which Martha took the material home and made it into the little quilt wall hanging you can see below.
Christ was certainly present in that quilt and in the lives of our family before I created this cross, so this quilt cross just makes explicit what was already there.

Quilters: has anybody created a full/queen/king-sized quilt based on a cross design? If so, I'd like to see it. If not, maybe someday I can be credited with conceiving the idea for the first CruxQuilt!
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Friday, June 09, 2006

note to my readers . . .

From today until the last week of August, my access to the internet will be infrequent and sporadic. Therefore my summer additions to this photoblog will be few.

In the meantime, click on the Archives over to the right to read entries you've missed, and click on the other options to the right as well, especially the one that allows you to order prints, shirts, cards, mugs, etc. from your favorite cross image.

"Witch's Broom" tree

At Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho, a vast landscape of lava from eruptions over thousands of years, there's an area called the "Devil's Orchard." Evergreens in this area often have a parasite--mistletoe--which causes their branches to multiply grotesquely and super-abundantly into shapes that look like witch's brooms.

In the past, park managers saw these strange trees and decided: "These trees are abnormal and sick; they must be destroyed so the problem won't spread." But they now know that the evergreen-parasite relationship has been there for thousands of years, and is a natural part of local ecological balance.

How easy it is to look at one another and think "He's not normal" or "She comes from a dysfunctional family" or "The world would be better off without them." The "witch's broom" tree reminds me of Jesus' call to "Judge not," and that "there is no place where God is not."
Photo taken June 7, 2006
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Thursday, June 08, 2006


In the 1950's, the U.S. military came up with the idea of a nuclear-powered bomber, a weapon that could fly almost forever without refueling. Out in the middle of Idaho they built a huge hanger, a lead-shielded train for transporting components, and this testing platform which wedded a nuclear reactor with a jet engine. The plane was never built, and President Kennedy canceled the whole program.

This complex bit of engineering stands next to EBR-1 (Experimental Breeder Reactor-1), which was the first nuclear reactor in the U.S., the producer of the first nuclear-generated electrical power in the U.S.

Power is morally neutral--it can be used for either good or evil. This cross image is a combination of light and dark, illustrating power's bi-polar possibilities which reside in both technology and in people.
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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Another World

We were in a different world today--the world of Grand Teton National Park. One of the beauties of travel is the constant reminder that the world we call "home" is not the only world. No matter how beloved our home, it always shrinks a bit when we encounter the vastness and extravagent variety of other places.

This cross is like a gate, an entranceway leading to an alternate reality that lies beyond. Just a little hint of heaven!

Photo date: June 6, 2006

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Monday, June 05, 2006

Fence Post

Just a fence post holding up some barbed wire. But the pattern of the wood caught my eye, so instead of focusing on Chimney Rock in the background, I told my camera to focus on the fence post.

If trees have feelings, I think this tree would be happy to be made into a fence post in such a historic place. I suspect, however, that most people who visit this spot focus instead on the famous deteriorating rock in the background.

Are you collecting all the state quarters? Nebraska put Chimney Rock on their quarter--an absolutely hilarious choice: The back of the quarter shows a pioneer family from somewhere in the east--not Nebraskans--heading west toward the setting sun, trying desperately to get out of the Nebraska portion of the Oregon Trail with its dangers and dryness and death. The message on the quarter amounts to this: "We're FINALLY to the end of Nebraska. Hooray!" Or perhaps it's "Nebraska: the place to survive on the way to where you're really going." The tourism folks must have worked overtime on that one.

Photo taken Monday morning, June 5, 2006.
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Sunday, June 04, 2006

If you build it . . .

In 1887 Gustave Eiffel won a competition to build a tower for the 1889 World Exposition. The French, always experts in good taste, called it "a truly tragic street lamp"; "Tower of Babel"; "an odious column of bolted metal." And more. But the 984-foot structure reigns today as the symbol of Paris and the required destination of every tourist, some of whom ignore the elevators and try to climb the 1652 stairs to the top.

I've discovered a wonderful coincidence: The Eiffel Tower was completed in 1889, and my favorite movie "Field of Dreams" was released in 1989, exactly 100 years later. Both proclaim the message: "If you build it, they will come."

There are times when you simply must follow your vision, even if other people think you're slightly crazy. The cross was like that, too.
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Sunday Sunrise

I like to imagine God as an artist who picks mixes oils on a palette and muses, "Now what colors shall I use for THIS morning?" I like God's choices for this sunrise over Beatrice, Nebraska.
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Saturday, June 03, 2006

At Home

If I ever get to Switzerland again, I'd like more time, and I'd like the clouds to move away so that I can see the tops of the mountains. In other words, my first and only visit to Switzerland was brief and cloudy.

This photo was taken in the general area from which my Schlunegger ancestors came. From the dizzying vantage point of Wengen, the view is of the cloudy glacier-carved Lauterbrunnen Valley below. I had a sense of being "at home," especially when the clerk at Hotel Falken in Wengen--after studying my genealogy chart which I had brought along and saying, "You are VERY Swiss"--looked into my eyes and said, "There's someone here in Wengen with eyes EXACTLY like yours." That someone wasn't home and I didn't get to meet them. Maybe next time.

A strange place, a new place, and yet I felt at home. Sort of like heaven!
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Friday, June 02, 2006

Quiet Noise

The province of Newfoundland and Labrador has 10,500 miles of coastline. Here are a few feet of that rough, jagged, rocky boundary between rock and water along Quirpon Island at the tip of Newfoundland's great northern peninsula.

With all those waves crashing against all those rocks for all those miles, the coastline is enveloped in perpetual sound. And yet, because it's so pure and so wild, I've never been in a more quiet place. Quiet and noise are not always related to decibels. Where is your quiet place?
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Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Place Just Right

On the hot, sunny side of our guest house, under an overhang that shields the spot from rain, is our cactus plant. It is covered with buds and yellow blossoms, bursting with life and vigor and beauty. I never water it, trim it, fertilize it, or nurture it in any way. And yet it thrives, because it's in the right place. Nothing else would grow in that desert location, but the cactus is made for those conditions.

For people, too, place makes a difference. Where one would thrive, another would not. Though there's value in developing the skills to live and work in a wide variety of situations, we'll be most productive and joyful if we're "in the place just right," the place that fits the person God created us to be. It may take a while to find that place, and it may not be the place you expected. But when you get there, you'll blossom.

This photo was taken May 31, 2006 at Bottle Creek Retreat.
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