Following the Calf Path

I recently discovered the poem below and love the message.  Sometimes we follow a bizarre and winding path only because it is there, without knowing WHY or HOW or WHO created it in the first place.

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The Calf-Path

      by
      Sam Walter Foss  (1858-1911)

One day, through the primeval wood,
A calf walked home, as good calves should;
But made a trail all bent askew,
A crooked trail, as all calves do.

Since then three hundred years have fled,
And, I infer, the calf is dead.
But still he left behind his trail,
And thereby hangs my moral tale.

The trail was taken up next day
By a lone dog that passed that way;
And then a wise bellwether sheep
Pursued the trail o’er vale and steep,
And drew the flock behind him, too,
As good bellwethers always do.

And from that day, o’er hill and glade,
Through those old woods a path was made,
And many men wound in and out,
And dodged and turned and bent about,
And uttered words of righteous wrath
Because ’twas such a crooked path;
But still they followed — do not laugh —
The first migrations of that calf,
And through this winding wood-way stalked
Because he wobbled when he walked.

This forest path became a lane,
That bent, and turned, and turned again.
This crooked lane became a road,
Where many a poor horse with his load
Toiled on beneath the burning sun,
And traveled some three miles in one.
And thus a century and a half
They trod the footsteps of that calf.

The years passed on in swiftness fleet.
The road became a village street,
And this, before men were aware,
A city’s crowded thoroughfare,
And soon the central street was this
Of a renowned metropolis;
And men two centuries and a half
Trod in the footsteps of that calf.

Each day a hundred thousand rout
Followed that zigzag calf about,
And o’er his crooked journey went
The traffic of a continent.
A hundred thousand men were led
By one calf near three centuries dead.
They follow still his crooked way,
And lose one hundred years a day,
For thus such reverence is lent
To well-established precedent.

A moral lesson this might teach
Were I ordained and called to preach;
For men are prone to go it blind
Along the calf-paths of the mind,
And work away from sun to sun
To do what other men have done.
They follow in the beaten track,
And out and in, and forth and back,
And still their devious course pursue,
To keep the path that others do.

They keep the path a sacred groove,
Along which all their lives they move;
But how the wise old wood-gods laugh,
Who saw the first primeval calf!
Ah, many things this tale might teach —
But I am not ordained to preach.

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A Wild Profusion of Blossoms – Queen of Ordinary – April 21, 2015

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Welcome Wildflowers!  The Highlands of Kentucky are rich with natural geographic beauty, but in the spring, the profusion of wild blossoms popping up unattended and unseen is truly a delight.  It seems this year especially that everything has chosen to bloom all at once.

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I took my camera and drove across the mountain yesterday to Pine Mountain Settlement School.  I was chasing sunshine and dodging storm clouds, but the trip was definitely worth it.  The variety of wildflowers and flowering trees that were out amazed me.

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Our ordinary worlds are filled with unexpected beauty.  We only need to take the time and make the effort to look for it.

Sewing Seeds for the Future – Queen of Ordinary April 1, 2015

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Photos from Pine Mountain Settlement School – Pine Mountain, Kentucky USA

It is very easy to look at spring’s beautiful blossoms popping up and take for granted that they were there last year, are coming up again this year, and will be there next year.  Some are from seeds, some from bulbs, all carefully planned and arranged.  While we appreciate the loveliness, we may not think any deeper about how they got there.

At some point in time every flower garden, every manicured lawn, every contained patch of blossoms was planned and planted by someone.  While nature’s profusion of springtime beauties grows wild and amazing, reseeding the land and returning every year without human hands, flower gardens are not so.

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Someone had to have a preference for certain flowers to take time to plant them in a flower garden.  They may have liked the color, the length of staying power of each flower, or the season in which the flower blooms.  It takes thought, working in the dirt, tending the plants, and pulling weeds to make a flower garden a picture of beauty.  Often, the person who took such great care with their plants passes away and someone else picks up where they left off, perhaps adding other specimens from time to time. 

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Photos from Biltmore House and Gardens – North Carolina, USA

As we go through life, we are planting seeds of good or evil along our way.  Some we can tend and get to see the blossoms for ourselves.  Others will bloom when we aren’t looking.  And still others will be tended by hands we know nothing about.

The spring delights I have seen in the last few days reminded me of the parable Jesus spoke of about the sower of seeds.

Matthew 13 New King James Version (NKJV)

The Parable of the Sower

13 On the same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the sea. And great multitudes were gathered together to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore.

Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: “Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”

Let us sow our seeds of faith, love, and goodness as we have opportunity to do so, knowing that not all will survive, but in confidence that there will be seeds the spring up gloriously, grow, and bear fruit long after we know about it.

Redbirds in the Snow – Queen of Ordinary – February 19, 2015

IMG_4228  Redbirds in the snow are amazing.

Like a drop of blood on a snowy background they boast of life and survival under harsh conditions.  Bold.  Beautiful. The turn of the head, the flash of wings and they are gone.  God’s winged creation.

I’ve spent years trying to get photos of  redbirds that I could be proud of.   During the most recent snow, I got several amazing photos out of about 500.  It was worth the effort.

Patience paid off.

4,000 Years Old and Still Alive – Oldest Tree in Wales – Queen of Ordinary – November 24, 2014

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It is hard for me to imagine a living organism on this earth that is over 4,000 years old.  This yew tree, Llangernyw,  would have been alive 2,000 years BEFORE Christ walked the earth.  It was alive through all of modern recorded history.  It was around when the pyramids were being built.

We were there.  We touched it, we left our imprint.  It will probably still be alive long after we have passed from this life.  I have often thought about trees and the stories they could tell if they could but speak.  This one could fill a library.

Of course, my curiosity drove me to research other “oldest trees,” and I was stunned by what I found.  There is another known tree in Iran, the Zoroastrian Sarv, estimated to be about the same age as the tree we vised in Wales.  These two are mere children compared to the Mac Daddy of them all.

The world’s oldest known living tree is more than twice as old as Wale’s yew tree, and estimated to have sprouted sometime during the last Ice Age, roughly 9,550 years ago. The 16-foot spruce in the Dalarna province of Sweden has a root system that got started when the British Isles were still connected to Europe by an ice bridge.

The United States can lay claim to one of the oldest trees known to man on the planet.  Methuselah, as the tree has been affectionately named after the oldest man in the Bible, is a bristlecone pine tree in California’s White Mountains.  The tree is estimated to be almost 5,000 years old.  The location of the tree is not public knowledge in order to protect and preserve the tree.

It seemed that in our month long travels across the UK, God had ordered our steps to connect us with the ancient things of those places from the castle at Cashel, the Book of Kells, Giant’s Causeway, and even the oldest living tree.  I am in many ways still connecting the dots of those things most significant in our journey.  I am very thankful that our stops included a visit to this historic tree.

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Who Believes in The Loch Ness Monster? – Queen of Ordinary – November 19, 2014

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This is a funny photoshopped picture created by Coty Sloan.  We were having a bit of fun teasing each other about the possibility of seeing Nessie while we were at standing on the shore of Loch Ness and he created this photo for a laugh.

Opinions have always been divided about whether there is such a thing as the Loch Ness Monster, Big Foot, or mermaids.  When I was a child, my best friend, Diane Paulk, and I were always working up our imaginations about something.  We had BIG imaginations.

As an adult, I still have an imagination that runs on high throttle, but I believe there have been enough eye witness accounts to take them seriously about Nessie, Big Foot, and Megalodon Shark.  I just don’t think that many people are deliberate liars.  They know that the very moment they tell their tale, they are subjecting themselves to ridicule and scoffers. They must be seeing something they can’t explain.

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Our Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife publicly says there are no black panthers in Kentucky, but I have seen them myself and have heard countless stories from others who have been eye witnesses.  I haven’t seen Mammoth Caves either, but enough other people whom I believe have seen them to make me know they are real.

So, is there a Loch Ness Monster?  People have been trying to figure that question out for decades.  Yet scientific discoveries are unveiling new species all the time.  The most uncharted species live in the depth of the oceans.  Is it possible that some prehistoric life form has survived through the centuries and one such creature has managed to survive in Loch Ness?  I don’t know.  Maybe yes and maybe no.

My friend, Sarah Boggs, requested one thing from my big trip to the UK.  She wanted a photo of Loch Ness and a stone.  We first saw the Loch in the evening light from the roadway across a field, circling around a bend.  I never realized it was such a huge inland body of water.  It was a beautiful place to take a photo for her.

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I’ve spent a lifetime wishing I could see Nessie, if she really exists.  Though we didn’t get a glimpse of anything out of the ordinary this day, I knew I was as close to seeing the Loch Ness Monster as I probably ever would be in my life time.  I stuck my shoes in the water and gathered a few pebbles from the beach for Sarah and Darla, who had asked for them.  I was happy just to have been there and seen a place filled with so many possibilities.

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As mortal men/women, do we really think we know all of what God has created in the depth of the oceans, in the heavens, or in galaxies beyond?  Who can unravel the creative beauty, the diversity of God’s infinite expression, or the countless secrets unknown to man that still reside in the depths of the heart of God?  How foolish are we to try to define an infinite God with our finite minds and limited knowledge.

Genesis 1:21 – “And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly,”

Psalm 104:25 – “There is the sea, great and broad, In which are swarms without number, Animals both small and great.”

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Facing the Fear of Heights and More – Queen of Ordinary November 16, 2014

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An Irish View of the Ocean

On this day in Ireland we were heading to Slieve League along the Sky Road and to walk across the Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge.  We took a wrong road somewhere, but just look what we found by mistake!

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I don’t know who took the time to write “I love you” with the rocks at the bottom of the cliffs, just beyond the ocean’s reach, but I’m so glad they did.   When I saw it, it felt like it was a message from God to us on our journey.  We thought we had made a wrong turn, but perhaps it was just because God wanted to share this unscheduled beautiful view with us.

We did make it on to our adventure at Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge.  It was one of the toughest things I made myself do on our whole trip.  I have a deep rooted fear of heights.  Just looking at photos of things at a great height make my liver quiver!  Looking over the edge of something, even if I’m behind a railing, makes me woozy.  But I made myself take the long hike out to the rope bridge stretched between two cliffs about 100 feet above the ocean surging against the rocks below, and forced myself to face my fears and walk across anyhow.

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For someone as afraid of heights as I am, it’s a miracle that I ever crossed the bridge in the first place.  I kept saying to myself, “Help, me Lord…” and “Look at her back, and don’t look down,” about the person in front of me from our group.  But on the way back, there had been children jumping up and down to make the bridge sway and bounce, so the fear was doubled.  I had a death grip on the ropes on both sides and was only able to make my feet move about six inches at a time.  I was too afraid to be embarrassed about holding up the people behind me!  I truly thought I had made a mistake by crossing over in the first place.

Our tour guide, Coty Sloan, had crossed way in front of us and positioned himself on a cliff overlooking the bridge to get a group photo of us crossing together.  It surely didn’t happen.  Karen went on ahead of me and left me far behind with blank space, bride, and ocean staring up at me.  Sandy was behind me waving at Coty, and I was too terrified to look anywhere besides at the boards in front of me.

IMG_6606 Coty is the speck on this cliff facing us and no good photo for his trouble!

Sometimes we question the path that we are on and wonder if we are on the wrong one.  At times fear may paralyze us when the gulf between where we are and where we need to be is so great.  But, if we ask Him to go with us, God is there every step of the way across that divide and to the safe place we are heading.

I didn’t think I was going to make it back across that bridge without fainting, but I kept reminding myself of Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me.”

I Have So Many Photos, I Don’t Know What to Do – Queen of Ordinary November 16, 2014

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I have been home one month from our big adventure and I’m still sorting through photos.  I tried to categorize them by date, but my camera went wackydoodle and every time I changed SD cards, it went to some random date from the past.  Complicate that with the fact that I had two cameras going – a small one for shooting out the car window and a bigger one for tours, etc.  Needless to say, I have some issues with getting things in the right place.

Considering that I took over 10,000 photos in the month I was away, I’m doing pretty well with working through them in this length of time.  I’ve already deleted over 2,000 because they were blurred or duplicates.  I think I’ve seen them all, then I discover another little batch with one or two amazing shots in it.  The photos I use in my blog are not necessarily the best ones, but  ones that bring back the feeling or the memories of having been there.  I’ve included a few in this blog from one file – Driving through Scotland.

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Looking at all of these images has burned the experience into my heart and brain.  I know where home is and where my heart is, but Scotland and Ireland have taken root inside of me as well.  I miss the people I traveled with as if they have become part of my family.  A month with strangers has a way of turning them into friends.

This mountain of digital photos I’m still working through will certainly keep the dream and the people alive.  But I want to get them organized, categorized, filed away, and give it a rest.  I have a novel to finish, the holidays to manage, and all the demands of day to day life, so I really need to be able to have peace about all of these images and let them go for a while.  I’m so very thankful for God’s blessings on this journey, for being able to make the trip, and for having the privilege to photograph such a wide variety of beautiful things.  With this in mind, it seems like having this ton of images organized in a way that can be useful is part of my responsibility after having made the journey.

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I’m wondering how other camera crazy people decompress after such a journey and so many photos to work through.  Any good advice is welcomed.

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Ducks Quack Me Up – Queen of Ordinary – November 14, 2014

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Irish Ducks

Ducks are so much fun to watch.  They fly, swim, eat, and pooh where ever they go.  These are the things we know right off the bat.  But, did you know that ducks fight, groom themselves, establish dominance and even play?

This group of ducks we stopped to feed in Ireland on a beautiful little stream had made a game out of going up a little waterfall, then riding the water back down over the rocks.  They would turn around, struggle against the current and the little bit of white water to get back up the rocks and over into their small rapids.

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If we threw out bits of food to them, there would be a couple paying attention who raced forward to get the treats, then all of the rest would follow.  Sometimes they fought over bits of food, but we had enough for all.  They weren’t interested in us as people – only as food givers.

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Their ducky antics definitely were amusing.

We could learn a lot from ducks.  They do what they were created to do – perpetuate their species, fly only to get where they are going, look for something to eat, swim in the water, quack to communicate, pooh, groom themselves, and make up chasing games or other simple things as play.  I don’t suppose there has ever been a duck who sat around feeling sorry for himself because he didn’t have a grander lot in life.  I doubt that a single duck has ever been depressed because God didn’t make them an eagle instead of a duck.

Wouldn’t life be so much better if we could be content in being what God created us to be and finding joy in it?

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Incredible Rock Formations: Giant’s Causeway – Queen of Ordinary – November 6, 2014

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Wikipedia Describes The Giant’s Causeway:  The Giant’s Causeway is an area of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns – the result of an ancient volcanic eruption.

It is located on the northeast coast of Northern Ireland about three miles (4.8 km) northeast of the town of Bushmills. It was declared a World Heritage site in 1986. In a 2005 poll of Radio Times readers, the Giant’s Causeway was named as the fourth greatest natural wonder in the United Kingdom. The tops of the columns form stepping stones that lead from the cliff foot and disappear under the sea. Most of the columns are hexagonal, although there are also some with four, five, seven or eight sides. The tallest are about 12 metres (39 ft) high, and the solidified lava in the cliffs is 28 metres (92 ft) thick in places.

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Can you imagine standing on the edge of creation, watching continents collide, oceans roar, and lava ooze upwards from the center of the earth?  Giant’s Causeway is in incredible place with the evidence of shafts of lava that pushed upward and against each other to form this extraordinary place at the edge of the ocean.

Being there was awe inspiring.  Why don’t these formations form everywhere there are volcanic eruptions?  Why did they form in this place?  Just as it pleased God to create such a diversity of plant and animal life in the earth, it seems to have pleased Him to make even the rock formations varied and unique.

If a person doesn’t believe in God, they probably would not be impressed by these things.  But for those of us who do believe in God, the Earth declares His glory.  Giant’s Causeway is definitely one of those places.