LANDSCAPES OF LIFE, Seasons of Life, Travel, TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS

God on the Mountain is also God of the Forest

Tropical Forest leaf in Queensland

Welcome to My World – I love nature, whether it is mountains, the coastline, wide-open savannah, or cultivated fields. My favorite scenery is forests and mountains where I feel most comfortable. So after some pretty heavy subjects in the last few blogs something in a lighter vein.

Inyanga Wattle Forests

My love of forests began as a child, in the wattle and pine forests of Inyanga, Zimbabwe, breathing in pine-scented air and plucking the little yellow flower balls on the wattle trees. My love of forests was not diminished when camping as a young bride in these same forests when ants ate through the groundsheet and started biting me. My love of camping was extinguished!

I have been blessed with the opportunities to visit forests on five continents, and each time I come away renewed and envigored just for being in the presence of trees.

Bluebell Forest in Bedford UK
Putnoe Woods

Putnoe Woods

There are many fine forests with massive oak, beech, plane, and hazel trees in the UK. When I lived there, it was my delight to walk in the local Putnoe Wood during spring. The pathway wound through the trees. Underneath the dappled sunlight was a carpet of bluebells and wood anemones, which was a joy to behold. This wood was an ancient wood recorded in the Doomsday Book. The wood suffered badly when Henry III found it convenient for cutting timber during the siege of Bedford Castle.

Welsh Forest from the narrow gauge rail
Forest in Wales

Forests in Scotland and Wales

Further North, I enjoyed the lochs and glens of Scotland with their beautiful pine forests clinging to the mountainsides. We were taught how to look out for deer in the woods, and I managed to see a few deer as the coach rolled past. I had great fun on a narrow-gauge railway winding its way through the hillsides of Wales, where I could see Mythical Castles on the hillsides and the great slag heaps of the coal mines.

Winter forest of Birch trees in Finland
Birch Forest, Finland

Scandinavian Forests

Traveling through Europe, Estonia, and Finland, I loved the large stretches of forests mile after mile. It was fun walking in the forests of Finland at the side of the lake looking for blueberries and cranberries. My hosts taught me how to distinguish the correct berries, and I crawled around on the forest’s mossy floor with a plastic container in which to place the blueberries. I could not speak the language, but with a lot of pointing and poking with sticks, I understood the instructions and came home with a box of blueberries. We rowed in a canoe to one of the forested islands to picnic. After exploring the island, we sat on a mossy bank under the canopy of pine trees, drinking some rhubarb cordial and eating a pastry.

Tropical Forest, Queensland
Queensland Rainforest

Queensland’s Rain Forests

Perhaps some of the most enchanting forests I have visited are in the Queensland Tropical Rainforest along the coastal area near Cairns, Australia. I took a day tour to the Daintree Rainforest, home of the secretive Cassowary. This antediluvian forest has relics from Gondwanaland before the continents broke apart and spread. It is a showcase of the evolutionary history of the world’s plants. It was fascinating to walk in the depths of this forested area, smelling the aroma of dampness and rotting wood. The dart or call of a bird breaking the stillness as we carefully walked on the boardwalks to preserve the forest floor. The forest ecosystem was explained to us, with ‘green ants’ being a significant part of the breaking down process of the deadwood with their formic acid.  Apparently, it is so strong that the ants are sometimes used as meat tenderizers!

Kuranda Rail and Skyrail, Cairns, Queensland
Kuranda Rail and Skyrail

God in the SkyRail Pod

On another trip in the same area, I caught the Kuranda Scenic Railway. This historic railway line went through 15 tunnels and 37 bridges as it snaked its way for two hours up to the top of the McAllister Range. I took the SkyRail back down to the bottom. The six-person pods kept moving as we climbed into them. As it was a very long way to the bottom, there were several stations where we could get out and enjoy the view and the forest and then catch another pod to the next station. I got out to view the Barron Falls, an exquisite waterfall viewed from the mountain. I was about to embark on the next stage of the trip down with another group of people when the people I was standing with said I must get in the pod, and they would wait for the next one as there were six of them. So off I went alone. I was not too happy as the pod swayed in the wind high above the roof of the forest. The misty rain surrounded me, and the pod suddenly jolted to a stop, and I was left swinging high above the forest.

My first thought was, if this thing falls into the forest, it may never be found. I also realized that there was no person on the face of the globe who knew where I was

My first thought was, if this thing falls into the forest, it may never be found. I also realized that there was no person on the face of the globe who knew where I was right then, as I did not have a phone, and my daughter did not know my itinerary. No sooner had I thought this when a calming Presence said to me, “you are not alone, I am with you, and while you are about it why don’t you just check out all the amazing plants, I created below you.” So, I got out my sketch pad and started to draw the wonderful and unique plants that I could see from my vantage point, giant ferns at the top of trees, palms, and all sorts of other plants I had never seen before. I was nearly finished drawing when the pod juddered into action again, and I made my way down to the station at the bottom of the mountain. Apparently, they had had to stop the SkyRail so someone with a wheelchair could get on, as they could not hop on quickly.

Boranup Karri Forest, Western Australia
Jerusalem Hollow

Jerusalem Hollow Boranup Karri Forest

During a visit to Perth, I stayed with friends who took me to their favorite place on earth, which he called “Jerusalem Hollow,” part of the Boranup Karri Forest in the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park. I could see why he enjoyed this so much as it was a view to behold these beautiful tall, straight trees with mottled gold and grey bark. The sunlight filtered through the leaves onto the trunks of these enormous Karri and Jarrah Trees, making them glow. The wood is exceptionally hard and is used for furniture and railway sleepers. In the days of sailing ships, they made suitable masts. At the viewing point, we appreciated God’s creation before heading on to the Boyanup Gallery, where we could see the furniture and objects made from these woods with their lovely grain.

Fall Trees in Forest, Pennsylvania
Fall Trees in Pennsylvania

The Blue Ridge Mountain Forests

My story of the forests would not be complete without my visits to the forests of Pennsylvania and West Virginia during the Fall with their brilliant red, yellow, and orange palette. A drive through the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the Shenandoah Valley is a feast for the eyes before the trees take their final bow and shed their leaves for winter. The forests will rest, drawing nourishment from the soil, ready to burst into spring song with their pale green leaves and pink and white blossoms the following season.

Yes, God on the mountain is also God in the valley and in every season of life. I believe He speaks the loudest when we are the quietest, just admiring His handiwork.

Retirement, Seasons of Life, Transitions, Travel

PEEPING THROUGH MY TREE HOUSE WINDOW – The Blessings of Trees

Oh how my eyes just drank in the sight of those beautiful colors! In fact, I copied a painting in the Queensland Art Gallery of people sitting under a jacaranda tree enjoying tea, so that I could keep this little snapshot memory for when I wanted to pull it out again.

On many of my travels I have gazed out of the coach window at mile upon mile of forests, whether in Finland, Scotland, Australia or Pennsylvania. So this month my theme is trees.

Trees have played a big part in my life growing up in Africa, where trees were abundant. As children, we could climb without restriction and soon learnt not to climb where we could not get down again, our hand, eye and foot co-ordination became fine-tuned to climbing up and down trees like monkeys. My grandfather built us a beautiful double story tree house in a jacaranda tree, where we spent many happy hours (it could be used as extra emergency accommodation!) We spent most of our days outside, playing in or under the trees or hauling a basket of textbooks up a fruit tree to sit and do our homework where we could enjoy the fruit while we studied. Our primary school headmaster would say to the class “Take your Readers and go sit under the trees”, we did not think we were deprived, we loved being outdoors. On Sundays groups of people could be seen gathered in the shade of trees holding their church services.

I checked my Bible to see what God had said about trees. They were right there in the beginning in the Garden of Eden, God created them, and they were good! He created a huge variety of trees for different purposes, food, beauty, shelter and decoration as well as having symbolic and metaphoric meanings.

When I moved countries or even towns that had a distinctive climate, I had to adjust to different trees. It can be something as simple as a tree that will bring back memories and longings for a place you once lived. My first move was to Port Elizabeth on the South African east coast, it was not called “the Windy City” for nothing; the few trees that grew there were bowed in the direction the wind blew, and after a few months of living there, I admired their tenacity to thrive in that climate!  I missed the jacarandas with their purple carpets and flamboyant trees with their flame-red colored flowers, I missed the wet and dry tropical seasons, when the Msasa trees would come out in their cloaks of different oranges, reds and greens against the granite hillsides. I missed that landscape, I had to adjust to my new landscape which was mostly windblown, but on a good day there were magnificent beaches where you could walk for miles and hear the waves crashing on the beach licking the salt spray from your lips, enjoying the sight of seagulls coming into land and fight amongst themselves.  It took a while to adjust from enjoying my old landscape to embracing my new landscape and feeling at home in it.

On a visit to Australia, once again I could enjoy the beautiful jacaranda and flamboyant trees, the climate of Queensland being close enough to that of Rhodesia to support tropical trees.  Oh how my eyes just drank in the sight of those beautiful colors! In fact, I copied a painting in the Art Gallery of people sitting under a jacaranda tree enjoying tea, so that I could keep this little snapshot memory for when I wanted to pull it out again. Memories of the good days and what I had left behind, but without the longing for being there, it was merely the beauty I had enjoyed that fed my senses. When we leave a part of our life behind, we know we cannot go back again, but we can have a little snapshot or window we can peek through from time to time to light the spark of joy we felt then. Treasure those memories.

Journeying through the forests of Finland was a new experience for me, I had never seen so many fir and birch trees before.  The Finnish culture is built around their forests and lakes and I was fascinated to learn that trees are planted when someone is born so that in eighty years’ time, they will be ready to be harvested to pay the person’s death duties!  They have a wonderful way of planting and harvesting the trees that does not deplete the planet, the trees fall into the rhythm of life. Sometimes it is good to realize that life has stages in it and we need to adapt and plan for those stages, what foresight the Finns have in planting trees!

Modern life has made us feel that we need instant solutions or gratification, but when you go through transitions it take  time, it takes understanding of where you are in your life cycle, it takes understanding of your roots, (mine felt cut off when I left my land of birth). Take those happy memory snapshots to keep with you, but also learn to plan ahead for your future needs, which like a tree need time to grow. Remember the provision of God and the beauty in the variety of your inner and outer landscapes, you can grow with them and mature like those beautiful trees.