Category Archives: National Parks

Into Idaho – Day 2

After a beautiful drive through the golden waves of grain in the Washington Palouse we crossed the Snake River and entered Idaho on our way to the Nez Perce National Historic Site.  It’s a beautiful place honoring the people who first lived off these lands and their culture.


The history is a sad comment on the expansion of America, but today the Nez Perce People are creating a hopeful future by caring for their natural resources and teaching their younger generations their native language.


One of the Elders in the film shared an analogy about their faith that I will never forget.  Hearing his description was truly a moment of grace.  He said when the missionaries came, they wanted to teach all about “their”  God. He said “we see the heavenly Creator like a giant rope reaching down from the heavens, with all the small strands of the rope becoming unraveled. Each strand represents a different belief and way of imaging the creator. Each way to image God is correct because they all lead back to the one mighty rope which leads to heaven and the one Creator. ”

The remainder of the day was a long drive along the Snake and Salmon Rivers through the mountains of Idaho – the traditional Nez Perce lands.


By the time we reached New Meadows we were plenty hungry so we stopped at the first place that looked good.  The BBQ Intersection.  If you are ever in New Meadows, I highly recommend it.

Back in the car for two more hours of setting sun over lush crops of wheat and corn through Treasure Valley to Boise and a bed for the night.

This posting comes to you after a tangle and misunderstandings over passwords.  I was about at my limit!  Isn’t technology wonderful?


The final day of our explorations brought us to Appomattox Court House, the site where Robert E. Lee surrendered his troops to Ulysses Grant.   The spot is another beautiful site in the rolling hills of Virginia and we were there as the sun was setting and the day was coming to a close.  The little village is preserved much the same as it was in 1865 and most of the buildings are the original structures.

We walked along the trail where the Southern troops paraded past Gen. Chamberlain and surrendered their weapons.  We explored the McLean house where the generals sat and Grant wrote out the terms of the surrender.  It always amazes me  to think how compassionate Grant was with his terms, given that he was victor in this four year battle.  History tells that he refused to allow the Union troops to cheer or celebrate a victory, as anyone who fought for their beliefs should be respected.  Southern officers were allowed to keep their sidearms and anyone who had a horse could take it home with him for farming.  All that was required of the surrendering troops was that they vow not to raise arms against the Union again.

When we are faced with situations where there is victor and defeated, how do we respond?  It doesn’t have to be after an all out war – it could just be opinions of difference in the work place or among family members.

If defeated, I would like to think I would hold my head high and carry on, going home to quietly begin again.  If victor, I would like to think I would react like Grant and respect the defeated.  But somehow I know that is not how I would naturally act.  Visiting this spot has made me resolve to be more sympathetic and understanding, more compassionate and willing to embrace and respect a difference of opinion with dignity.

Grace surrounded me as I thought about all the lessons to be learned from this encounter in history.


A short half hour drive south of Roanoke and we found the birth place of Booker T. Washington.  The farm where he was born still exists and has been recreated to look like it did when he was born a slave in 1856.  It is beautiful country, but sobering to think of what life must have been like for a small slave boy.

Booker’s greatest desire was to learn to read and to get an education.  Once the Emancipation Proclamation was read, Booker at the age of 16, walked 500 miles to attend a school for Black students.  His desire and his hard work earned him an education that he then went on to apply as he helped others to gain an education as well.  He was the founder and guiding force behind Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.

With education such an expected quality in our day it gives me pause to think of the difficulties and hardships that Booker encountered in his desire to be educated.

How much of our education have we taken for granted?  Just thinking about that made me want to thank the teachers and mentors who have given me their time, their expertise, and encouragement in my quest for education.  And then I thought about what I am giving back to others because I have had the privilege to be educated.

What are we giving back?  Does our education have worth if we simply keep it to ourselves?  Passing some of it on to others so they can also benefit from the grace that is education might be the cost of our enlightenment.

Booker T. Washington thought that it was.

The Calm before the Storm

Is there always a calm before the storm?  I think perhaps it’s true.  Yesterday it was 84 degrees, sunny, and beautiful.  Today it is foggy, soggy and colder.

So, I am appreciating yesterday all over again today!

Yesterday I took Metro downtown to find the National Navy Memorial amid the shining sun and colorful falling leaves.  Everyone was out in their shirtsleeves and enjoying the unseasonable weather.  The colors of the day were extraordinary.  I found the Navy Memorial and to my delight there were a few men with an impromptu band playing in the square.  General Hancock sat atop his horse in grand fashion watching the movements on the plaza below.  The seaman waited with his duffel bag and the sun cast shadows as it retreated for the day.


It was lovely to see such a beautiful memorial to the women and men who have served in the Navy and Coast Guard.  It was a bit hard to find – off the beaten path, if you will – in a city of memorials, but I’m so glad I found it.  The adventure was fun and the day was exquisite.  As all the workers poured from their office buildings I met my husband and we found a little hamburger stand for dinner.

Today the effects of Hurricane Sandy are heading our way.  Yesterday’s beauty was a reminder to enjoy the grace of each day.  Because we never know what tomorrow may bring.


Have you ever had a new idea?  And then done absolutely nothing about it because you were sure it couldn’t really be a new idea at all?  I know I suffer from this particular form of madness!

But I was truly inspired last weekend by the ideas of someone who was not hesitant to put them into practice.  On our continuing weekend investigations of Civil War sites, we returned again to Sharpsburg, MD and the Pry House Medical Museum.  Somehow we had managed to entirely miss this most amazing site on previous trips to the area.  This is the site of one of the Army’s first organized battlefield hospitals.  It was dreamed up, set up, organized, stationed and run by the new ideas of Dr. Jonathan Letterman.  To this day he is considered the father of modern emergency medicine.  His ideas and the actions it took to carry them out resulted in an organized ambulance corps, the idea of triage, and an organized staged evacuation and treatment system that became the norm for hospitals throughout the Army and the country.  Somehow, he knew his new ideas would be beneficial to wounded soldiers and he didn’t hesitate to put his ideas into practice.  They are ideas that continue to influence medicine today.

When I realized this was where Letterman got his start as Medical Director of the Federal Army of the Potomac, I also knew that Letterman Army Hospital in San Francisco was named for him and his work in Army field hospitals.  His ideas were embraced, put into practice, and survive to this day as effective measures during battles and emergencies.

So, the next time we think that our ideas can’t possibly be important, or will never affect anyone else, or are not worthy of further consideration – think of Dr. Jonathan Letterman and the grace that he left as a legacy of his ideas, his compassion, and his care for others.  Our ideas – if we develop them and act on them – could have a similar effect.

Back to Nature

On a wonderful Fall day here (or make that the most beautiful of summer days in Seattle – the weather is just beginning to be bearable!) we set out for another Civil War Battlefield and Catoctin Mountain Park.

Where parks in the NW are pristine, never before settled lands that have been protected, there are a couple of national parks on this side of the country, Catoctin and Prince William Parks specifically, that have been reclaimed and returned to nature.  After settlers logged, mined, farmed and hunted the grounds almost to depletion, the National Parks took over in the 1930’s and began a reclamation project to return the lands to their natural environment.  It was done to preserve the land and see if the natural wildlife and the lush forests would return.  Eighty years later there are beautiful parks that invite city dwellers to return to nature and take advantage of the quiet and the beauty.

We could just appreciate the beauty and the wonder of nature without destroying it first!  But thanks to the National Parks system, we do have lovely lands to explore and places where we can go back to nature.  We have to start thinking about how to preserve the beauty of our land for future generations and not wait for someone else to demand it of us.

Find that place of beauty that you love and  are willing to protect and recover a quiet and peaceful moment!  Our days would be filled with grace if we could visit that place more often.

Another Era

On Sunday we were transported back to another era.  It was like walking into a time tunnel to go up the wooded trail and find Echo Glen Park.  Located on the outskirts of DC, this little park first served as a Chautauqua in the late 1890’s and early 1900’s.  From that history, it was transformed into an amusement park that drew thousands of visitors who came by trolley from the crowded city of DC to enjoy the space and the trees, the arts and the amusements.

To this day it maintains some of its original Chautauqua character and serves as a site for artists and skilled craftspeople, as well as musicians and thespians, to practice, display and sell their crafts.  Most of the buildings have been restored to their original character and it was hard to remember we were walking through this beautiful little park in 2012.

As we walked and explored, just enjoying the interesting sights, we met an elderly couple who were doing the same.  The gentleman asked me if I used to come here when I was younger.  “No,” I responded, “I’ve never been here before in my life.”  He smiled a euphoric smile and explained:  “I used to come here all the time.  I learned to swim here.  Boy, this brings back the memories.  It was quite a place!  I used to love to come here.”

To make the most of our experience in this little time travel we rode the original, beautifully restored, carousel.  It was a thrill to mount the life-size wooden horses and flow with the calliope music.  I felt like I was a kid again!

There are so many ways to discover grace.  We can go back to a place filled with the memories of youth and where we discovered new skills, or, we can  discover a new place and revel in the grace that is present to us in this moment.  Try it!  There is nothing like grace – in this era or any other.

The Wright Brothers

The Outer Banks of North Carolina stretch for miles and one spot along the way was where the Wright brothers chose to experiment with their first flight at Kill Devil Hill.  As we all know, they were successful, and even returned to the site years later to perfect their invention and make it safer for human travel.  Imagine what ingenuity and determination they had to dream up the idea, work with it, hold it, polish it, try it, take it apart and try it again until finally they achieved their dreams.

In a display of the brothers in the museum is a picture with a quote from Orville.  He said:  “I got more thrill out of flying before I had ever been in the air at all – while lying in bed thinking how exciting it would be to fly.”

I had to take a picture of that sign.  It spoke to me at a very deep level and I wanted to remember that thought so it might inspire me when I begin to think that things are too difficult, too insurmountable, too crazy, or too impossible.  Orville Write had more thrill THINKING about how to fly – long before he ever flew – by just THINKING about what it might be like to fly.  Perhaps there is a message here for all of us.

What kind of a thrill might we have if we could think about a world where everyone is loved and accepted; clothed and sheltered; fed and encouraged?  It sounds like a dream, but what kind of a world might that be?  Jesus was trying to teach us how to live and behave in a world like this.  He called it life in the Kingdom of God.  And, if we can dream about it and get a thrill out of the very thought of it, with grace and determination, perhaps – like the Wright brothers – we can achieve it.

Nothing happens in this world because we merely think about it.  But, if we can thrill in thinking about it and let that thrill fuel our ingenuity and creativity, collaboration and hard work, something new and seemingly miraculous can be born.  Like human flight.

We take flight so for granted these days and jet across the country and around the world, but it came about because two brothers thrilled to think about it and then acted to make it happen.

Thrill to think about a world of love and harmony – beginning right in our own families and communities.  Then, together, let us find the grace to act and make it happen.

The Places that Shape Us

Each place we have been shapes us in some way.  I never really thought about the truth of this statement until going to the birth place of George Washington in Virginia’s lovely northern neck.  George’s great grandfather settled the land and established the plantation in 1657 and generations of Washington’s lived on this beautiful spot at the confluence of the Potomac River and Pope’s Creek.  Historians tell us that while young George did not live there long, he was shaped and formed by the land, returning often in the summers as he grew into adulthood.

I couldn’t help but think how we are all shaped and formed by the land we grew up on, as well as the surroundings and land we encounter each day.  We might take a moment and reflect on the land where our roots were established.  What was it in the land that impressed itself on our personality and character?  And, what do we allow the land to speak to us today?

Being in this amazingly beautiful spot where young George grew up gave me a new appreciation for the lands where I lived growing up.  They were many and varied, as my Dad was in the Army and we moved almost every year.  Perhaps that’s why I love to travel and seek out new sights.  Each new spot is an opportunity to see and take in the wonderful beauty and grace of the universe.  Each new spot invites me to learn more about its history and the people who were nurtured there.  Each place gives me pause and offers me the chance to open myself to new thoughts, insights and reflections.  Each place is a little window into the heart of God.

What spot has shaped and formed you?  What spot holds grace for you?  There may be more than one!






How easily we lose sight of specialness. It’s all around us, but we become acclimated to it and so, easily lose it. It becomes “normal” to us and we no longer see how unique and glorious this special sight is.

I went to the National Mall yesterday to meet a friend flying in from the West Coast.  As I waited to cross a street while walking over to our meeting place, I overheard two people talking.  One was amazed at the beauty of this city.  She was awed by the size and majesty of the monuments.  She commented on the spirit of reverence she felt for all who make our country great, and for those who have given their lives to this purpose.  Her friend, obviously a local, commented “Everybody thinks that when they first come here.  And then we lose sight of it.  It just becomes our walk to work.”

How sad that such specialness becomes ordinary.  What are the scenes that are so familiar to us that we have forgotten to see the grace they hold for us?  Perhaps we need to wake afresh each day with new eyes to see all that is familiar in a new way.  Maybe then we will not lose the special grace of such a unique and reverent place – wherever it is.