Category Archives: Michigan Beauty and Fun

Tulip Time Festival: It’s All in the Timing…or Is It?

One of the many joys of living in this area is our almost annual trek to Holland’s Tulip Time Festival, which is usually the week before Mother’s Day.  This year it’s May 6-14, 2017.During the festival, Holland, Michigan, which is 30 miles south of Grand Rapids, is glowing with 6 million tulips, as well as a potpourri of other beautiful spring flowers. However, this year the weather has been unusually warm, and the tulips are almost all blooming right now, so we decided to visit last Sunday afternoon (which was April 23—two weeks before the festivities are to begin). The weather was perfect, and so were the gardens. The only down side is that there are vast fences around the flower beds at Windmill Island Gardens  to keep out the deer, who consider tasty tulips fine dining. It will be sad enough that the flowers will be past their prime for the festival, but if the caretakers were to take down the fences now (which they won’t), there would be nothing but leaves for the masters!  😦(Oh, but there would still be daffodils, because they’re poisonous.)Of course, there are all sorts of fun things to do at the festival!There’s a wonderful parade, a marathon, Dutch dancing, a carnival,
an arts and crafts fair, music and great food… So, the festival will still be worth visiting. However, if your first love (among such earthly loves) is spring flowers, I’d recommend going ASAP! The weather forecast is pretty bad, so you might have to consult your favorite weather station for some prognostication, but sooner will be better than later!

Festivals are fun, but they’re pretty insignificant compared to some of the weightier matters of life, like school and career choices, whom you’ll marry
(if you marry) and where to live. Are you facing a challenging decision? Timing is critical! However, it’s not always easy to figure out the correct timing. When it comes to festivals, you can consult the weather man and your friends, but when it comes to the big decisions of life, may I encourage you to consult the only One who knows you perfectly and who knows the future as well as He knows the past and present? God knows “all about it.” He knows all about everything, in fact, and He can give you the wisdom you need to make the right decision, if you’ll only ask.  Thus saith the Lord the maker thereof, the Lord that formed it, to establish it; the Lord is his name; Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not” (Jeremiah 33:2-3).

Beauty in our Backyard: Amen to Aman Park!

We moved from Michigan’s northern peninsula about 24 years ago, and one of the lingering memories I’ve cherished
is that of northern spring woods carpeted with trillium and wildflowers. Actually, we have a sprinkling of trillium in my backyard, but nothing like the gauze of white that drapes the hillsides near Fayette in the Upper Peninsula, so I’ve harbored a pensive ambition to return some spring just to feast my eyes on the wildflowers that bloom there. Therefore, I could hardly believe my eyes after church last Sunday when some friends showed me photos of the woods filled with trillium at Aman Park, which is just off Lake Michigan Dr. only about 10 miles east of downtown GR.In all the years we’ve lived here, I’d never stopped by to check out this park!  Talk about a deplorable lack of curiosity! (Well, I’d been curious a few times, but never enough to do anything about it!) Susan and I decided to go hiking there.It was S.O. beautiful! The little ridges of the woods seemed sprinkled with frost. Not only are the trillium in bloom, there are wonderful patches of Virginia bluebells and delicate hepatica, wild phlox, vinca minor, and violets. If you live in the area, love wildflowers, and have a couple of hours free in the next few days, consider visiting. It’s free. 🙂But, take a photo of the map on your cell phone for reference, because the trails are very poorly marked. The red (“Interpretative Trail” aka “B”) is only 1.5 miles long but gives you a wonderful experience  of peaceful trails through mazes of flowers.  I laughed with joy, but I also laughed at myself. In 24 years, I’d longed to drive hundreds of miles north (which I never did) rather than figuring out if there were any woods filled with trillium right here! I wonder, is there anything you’re missing and wishing for from days gone by? You might not be able to find exactly the same thing where you are,
but how about doing a little research? Perhaps like me, you’ll find some unexpected and wonderful opportunities
very close to home. In fact, it may be that heaven is closer than you think.Whom have I in heaven but thee?
and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee
” (Psalm 73:25).

(All these photos were taken on April 24, 2017 at Aman Park. If you miss it this year but want to try next year, they seem to bloom about the time the daffodils have peaked and the tulips are starting to bloom, which I’m guessing would be true anywhere trillium grows. Look online…you might have woodlands filled with wildflowers wherever you are!)

Meijer Garden: Butterflies Are Blooming Again, But Not All Butterflies Are Free

One of the perennial delights of living in Grand Rapids
is access to Meijer’s beautiful botanical gardens, and from March 1 until April 30th, 60 colorful species of butterflies bloom  in the 15,000 sq. ft. tropical conservatory,  which is kept at a luscious 85° with 70% humidity  so you feel a rush of warmth  every time you enter, no matter what’s going on outside! We’ve been at night and during the day, but unless you enjoy flashlight hunts and sleeping butterflies,  a bright, sunny day is by far the best option. In unclouded sunshine, the butterflies are dancing everywhere, and if you wear brightly colored clothing, they’re apt to light on you
just in case you taste as delectable as they look!         Usually, our times searching for butterflies is pure bliss,

but this year, there is another ongoing exhibition that counterbalances the joyous uplift of butterflights with the broken-hearted reality of suffering and captivity.The artist is Al Weiwei, a Chinese activist who was arrested in 2009 (and had the presence of mind to take his own photo, which he later tweeted to the world!).  In 2011, the Chinese authorities took his passport so that he couldn’t travel. Once he was beaten so badly that he was unable to go to court to testify. During his house arrest, he bought and photographed beautiful bouquets of flowers as a silent protest against his captors, a practice that he continued until his passport was restored on July 22, 2013.

Perhaps his most provocative sculpture is a vibrant collection of twisted rebar, commemorating the many children who were killed during an earthquake. Reading his story made me think of many Christians who have been similarly persecuted for their faith, not only in China but around the world. As humans, we are born to be free—as free as butterflies!
However, just like humans, not all butterflies are completely free! When we leave the tropical conservatory, each person is carefully examined to make sure no butterfly has landed on them and will end up outside in the cold.Of course, we don’t think of it in terms of their freedom being limited,
because we know they couldn’t survive the freezing nights outside. We think they’re being protected, but the butterflies don’t know that! They flutter happily wherever,
with no apparent sense of direction besides sipping nectar.

My heart aches for Al Weiwei and all who are unfairly persecuted and confined. But, I am also exercised to think about those who wander off in an attempt to “escape” all contraint (like the butterflies who flit outside on a freezing day). Sometimes we’re like those butterflies, totally oblivious to how carefully God has provided a safe environment, mindlessly wandering away from warmth into an exhilarating, freezing freedom which cannot sustain life. In our flights and fights for freedom, let’s make sure we’re fighting for what promotes health and life rather than what will destroy us. Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32, NKJV).   Show Your marvelous lovingkindness by Your right hand, O You who save those who trust in You From those who rise up against them. Keep me as the apple of Your eye; Hide me under the shadow of Your wings” (Psalm 17:7-8).

Ode to Icicles

icicles-and-snow-fallingOde to Iciclesicicles-seen-from-insideBars on my castle
Iced drops of rain
Jack Frost was crying
Out my window pane.  rings-and-ridges-in-iciclesSnowflakes dissolving
Wept frozen tears
Ringed like a tree trunk
In hours, not years.  icicles-in-the-sunshineTransparent carrots
Grown in the wind
Sunshine to water
But no one to tend. icicles-like-stalactitesCrystal stalactites
Not from a cave
Born in the open
Where birds must be brave. sparrows-sitting-on-rail-in-winter

icicles-growing-in-a-rowSwords of Damocles
Hung from the sky
Begging the question
Is something awry?
icicles-formingFair jewels from snow
Sharp as a knife
More precious than bread
The Water of Life.
long-icicles-12-15-16The longer they hang
The longer they grow
The longer I know
My life must need snow.
(—Kathryn W. Armstrong, December 15, 2016)row-of-icicles-hanging-off-roof “Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow?” (Job 38:22).icicles-snow-and-sunshine

Birthday Reflections à la Rogue River to Help You Keep your Chin Up

feather-floating-on-water-of-rogue-riverThese last quotes are more like strengthening medicine for Roo than honey for Pooh, but I still think they’re good food for thought!

bridge-across-rogue-riverl-in-rockford“Mistakes are the portals of discovery.” ~James Joyce

fisherman-on-rogue-river“The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.” ~M. Scott Peck

billows-of-bright-helianthus-salicifolius-willow-leaved-sunflower-along-the-rogue-river“Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it
the seed of an equal or greater benefit.” -Napoleon Hill   maple-leaf-on-water“Problems are to the mind what exercise is to the muscles,
they toughen and make strong.” ~Norman Vincent Peale   3-canoers-fall-leaves-beginning-to-turn“Few things help an individual more than to place responsibility upon him,
and to let him know that you trust him.” ~Booker T. Washington   punting-on-the-rogue-river“Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice. It is not a thing
to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.” ~William Jennings Bryan   sunshine-and-starry-water“Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don’t quit.” ~Conrad Hilton  turtle-on-a-rock-in-rogue-river “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, not the most intelligent,
but the one most responsive to change.” ~Charles Darwin  boy-canoeing-on-rogue-river “You will never be the person you can be if pressure, tension and discipline
are taken out of your life.” ~ James G. Bilkey  end-of-canoe-trip-on-rogue-river “Aim for service and success will follow.” ~Albert Schweitzer   a-blessed-day-canoeing-on-the-rogue-river“Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end.
It’s not a day when you lounge around doing nothing;
it’s when you had everything to do, and you’ve done it.” ~Margaret Thatcher   little-boy-playing-in-sunshine-along-river-bank“COURAGE doesn’t always roar. Sometimes COURAGE is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow.” ~Mary Anne Radmacher   leaf-crowned-warriorFor a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again” (Proverbs 24:16).

 

 

Reflections on Personal Growth à la Rogue River

Today I want to share some peaceable reflections about who we are as people…what makes us good, happy, and a blessing:

overhanging-trees-along-the-rogue-river“I am beginning to learn that it is the sweet, simple things of life
which are the real ones after all.”~Laura Ingalls Wilder  turtle-sunning-himself-on-rock-in-rogue-river “There is only one time when it is essential to awaken. That time is now.” ~Buddha alan-in-canoe“Who, being loved, is poor?” ~Oscar Wilde  canoeing-under-a-canopy-of-green-along-the-rogue-river“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments,
but what is woven into the lives of others.” ~Pericles leaf-drifting-on-water “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”
~Henry David Thoreau  reid-splashing-in-rogue-river “Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier.”
~Mother Teresa  happy-young-canoeist “A smile is the shortest distance between two people.” ~Victor Borge

canoeing-on-rogue-river-bridge “To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

above-reflected-below-on-rogue-river “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do
are in harmony.”~ Mahatma Gandhi  sunshine-on-grandson-on-rogue-river“Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help,
whose hope is in the Lord his God”
(Psalm 146:5).

 

 

Humorous and Provocative Reflections à la Rogue River

launching-canoes-on-the-rogue-riverTime for another break! My oldest son, Aaron, was born on my 25th birthday, ducks-on-rogue-riverand we’ve had the joy of celebrating most of our birthdays together ever since.swans-geese-and-ducks-on-rogue-riverbankThis year was no exception, although it was exceptional canoeing-on-rogue-riverthat we could share the pleasure with Aaron’s entire familyshady-green-bows-over-rogue-river as well as Alan and Joel during a leisurely canoe ride down the Rogue River. old-snag-in-rogue-riverThis entire week, I want to share some photos from that serene afternoon canada-goose-island-on-rogue-riveralong with three series of favorite quotations on various subjects great-blue-heron-fishing-on-rogue-riverthat I’ve been saving up.bubbly-water-along-the-rogue-riverToday’s quotes are ones I kept because they made me smile:green-glow-of-indian-summer-on-the-rogue-river“A positive attitude may not solve all your problems,
but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.”~Herm Albright
canada-geese-in-flight-on-rogue-river“People with a negative attitude brighten the whole room when they leave.” ~Anonymous leaf-and-sun-on-rogue-river “You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.”
~Robin Williams sunshine-streaming-down-on-canoeists-on-rogue-river “I’m far from perfect, but I’ll be perfect for that imperfect person that’s perfect for me.”  ~Amanda Bynes  turtle-on-a-log-in-rogue-river“People often say to me that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing … that’s why we recommend it daily.”~Zig Ziglar quiet-paddling-along-the-rogue-river “Luck is a dividend of sweat. The more you sweat, the luckier you get.”
~Ray Kroc  reflections-of-birches-along-rogue-river“There is no magic in magic, it’s all in the details.”~ Walt Disney  trees-overhanging-rogue-river“Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living.
The world owes you nothing. It was here first.” ~Mark Twain
canada-geese-along-rogue-river“To anger a conservative, lie to him. To anger a liberal, tell him the truth.” ~Theodore Roosevelt…I can only wish that were still true today, but it’s not. 😦trees-reflecting-in-rogue-river“One of the most striking differences between a cat and a lie
is that the cat only has nine lives.”~Mark Twain   study-in-sun-and-shadow-on-rogue-river“Tell a man there are 300 billion stars in the universe and he’ll believe you.
Tell him a bench has wet paint on it, and he’ll have to touch it to be sure. Murphy’s Law” ~(read in Walk the Talk…but not always true, thankfully!)cormorant-on-rogue-river “Need a new life? God accepts trade ins !!”
(~shared by a friend, Pam Hembroff)

  “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (~2 Corinthians 5:17)