Found It!

Most visitors to Año Nuevo State Park this time of year are looking for elephant seals. Our family went in search of a snake. The San Francisco Garter Snake, to be exact, an endangered species that makes its home in that area. C20 has been desperate to find one.

We decided to make this President’s Day holiday a family day which, for us, almost always involves a trip to the beach. Facebook memories showed me a picture from our last trip to Año Nuevo, years ago, and that influenced our destination.

We couldn’t have ordered a more beautiful day. First stop: Santa Cruz, where we picked up lunch at Pizza My Heart to eat on the West Cliff Drive seaside bluffs. From there, we drove to Natural Bridges State Beach, hoping to see wintering Monarch Butterflies; we only saw a few flitting on the breeze and not the thousands that sometimes shelter in the eucalyptus groves.

Back in the car, we took Highway 1 to Año Nuevo, with ocean views to one side and fields of fluorescent yellow mustard and sour grass flowers on the other. On our way home, we stopped to take a picture in one of those fields and sank ankle-deep in mud. Wet and smelly, but I couldn’t stop laughing.

As we paid our park entrance fee, the ranger asked if we had a reservation for a guided seal walk, the only way you can access the seal breeding ground area. We said no, we were looking for a snake. She cocked her head in amusement and explained that snakes don’t often come out on chilly days, but that they’d be near the pond if anywhere.

Walking the path towards the pond, I muttered to Guy, “Wouldn’t it be funny if I was the one to find a snake?”

Guess what? I did!

I stopped to look at a vine with a distinctly violet hue–I’ve never seen a naturally purplish thorn bush before. As I leaned forward for a better look, I saw a tail slither away. I shrieked in surprise, which brought Guy and C running.

The shriek shook my Cool Mom I’m-so-good-with-snakes vibe, but I honestly did not expect to find the snake. I didn’t even expect that C would find one, though if anyone could find an endangered and elusive wild snake in the thorn bushes along a pond, it would be him.

The rest of us went to the beach while he just about crawled along the path. We saw a number of sleeping elephant seals, and someone did tricky aerial maneuvers in a biplane–disruptive to the beach-calm, but cool nonetheless.

When we had walked the length of the beach in both directions, photographed the log-like seals and some beautiful pebbles, and breathed in deep the salt air, Q14 came down the stairs to wave us back up.

Because he’d done it: C20 had found–and caught–a San Francisco Garter Snake.

Two surprises: 1) the snake is far more stunning than I could have believed, and 2) the snake appeared super chill that this strange dude was holding him and showing him off to passersby. C said the snake knew he wasn’t a threat, and it sure looked like the truth.

The snake may have been calm, but my kid buzzed with happiness. To all the detractors who think I’m nuts because I encourage his passion for creepy-crawlies, we do a lot of things that might seem crazy for the sake of love. And today we got a crazy-fun family day out of it.

P.S. No snakes were harmed in the making of this story, and we left snakey-poo right where he’d been before.

Put Yourself in the Way of Beauty

The intended impulse behind Miracles in the Mundane is to look for God in my everyday life of family, work, and friendship and encourage others to do the same.

So it shouldn’t surprise me that a series of essays on using the sense of sight to see God would move me to experience God in new places, in new sights.

And yet it did, because I get so caught up in life’s everyday-ness that even when I think I’m being contemplative, I’m still obtuse. Anyone relate?

Bit-by-precious-bit this book is guiding me to deeper insight:

[More info here]

A few weeks ago it led me to consider each taste of food or drink I put in my mouth as a way to experience God. Let me tell you, God can taste exhilarating – tart like a green apple, tangy like a ripe grapefruit. But God should NOT taste like a well-intentioned but terrible smoothie made with over-the-edge fruits, including kumquats. Out of guilt for overbuying gorgeous produce I choked down the bitter citrus sludge but my stomach hurt all day, convincing me yet again that I need to get serious about meal planning so I won’t eat barely-justifiable compost.

On to sight: “If I want to see God present in the ordinary, in the daily gifts I’m given, I want to move beyond seeing and into perceiving…. Attentive vision opens us to the extraordinary presence of God blessing us in the amazing ordinary…. the art of spiritual sight…teaches us to sense God at work and play all around us” (pp60-62).

Yes!

I have written previously about my “one word” for 2015 here and here: “Put yourself in the way of beauty.” I don’t mean primarily those things that have physical beauty, but anything that gives intense pleasure or deep satisfaction, things that point in some way to God.

My word at the ready and this book’s fresh reminder as encouragement, I have opened my eyes and my heart again to look for God, and I am grateful for the ways He has revealed Himself.

*I am choosing hiking trails over sidewalks, sidewalks over treadmills, and treadmills over the couch. Even when allergies make me want to claw out my eyes, I am grateful for the beauty of blooming spring-in-winter: the various stages of bud and bloom, the spectrum of colors, from barely blushing pink to plummy magenta, peachy coral and bluish-purple, spring green, kelly green, and forest green.

*I noticed God at play during my early walks around the neighborhood as my eye caught the iridescent glisten of Fairy Queen dewdrops crowning each blade of grass.

*I memorized Psalm 46:10 –

“Be still and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth”

and I saw God exalted in the earth when we took a family field trip to Ano Nuevo State Park. Tween wanted to see the elephant seals and Teen wanted to see the San Francisco garter snake, both of which populate this area. We saw both, among other beauties.

stones

A flower as ordinary as a dandelion can be spectacular if you have eyes to see.

An ordinary dandelion can be spectacular if you have eyes to see.

Wide and deep fields of yellow wildflowers stretched from the roadside in both directions as we drove to and from Ano Nuevo. Guy pulled over so I could photograph the boys in a field, but you’ll just have to imagine two darling boys kneeling in fields of yellow, since I won’t post their faces here.

*I had a dream in which my whole focus centered on my hand held by Teen’s hand, remarkable because Teen isn’t about to hold my hand. Not wanting to embarrass him, I didn’t mention my dream. A day or two later he noticed my rising frustration in a situation with Tween, so like situations only a few years ago in which I was frustrated with a younger version of Teen, and without saying a word he patted me, hugged me, even gave me a kiss or two on the cheek. We both knew he understood my frustration and was doing something he knew I would appreciate. Seriously, friends, self-recognition and empathy from a teenager? That’s a miracle!

The sun through the trees caught my eye. Our backyard isn't Middle Earth, but in this picture, the trees remind me of Ents.

Our backyard isn’t Middle Earth but, in this picture, the trees remind me of Ents.

This one-of-a-kind beauty in our front yard opens and closes throughout the day.

This front yard beauty opens and closes throughout the day.

Those are just a few of my beautiful moments over the last couple of weeks. “Wonder is the fuel that sustains vision” (Awaken Your Senses, p64). May wonder so fill our hearts that our vision overflows with God’s beauty!