This blog entry has been almost exactly a year in coming, but I've thought about what I want to write here for all that time. As my mind thought back to the events of exactly one year ago this past week, I was again reminded of the time spent with some very special friends whom I had met through the blogsoshpere. In fact, my own blog was greatly inspired over the years by another blog I happened across that had been such an uplifting encouragement in the simple, yet profound messages, accompanied by such beautiful photographs of a family living out the joys of a rather simple life in some unknown part of the United States. I remember studying each photograph and trying to determine what it was that moved me so much, brought a smile to my face, a real sense of hope. Inspired by the Eyes of Wonder blog, I sought to capture some of the same enjoyment of beauty in nature and in childhood that has a way of touching us with a sense of wonder in all that God has designed and made for our enjoyment.
For years I dreamed of one day actually visiting the world captured in Eyes of Wonder, looking into each photo and thinking, "What would it actually be like to be in this place, to see this countryside, to meet the people and find out if they are real, and to actually live amongst them for a time?" But this was always only a passing fancy, a dream that I knew had no possibility of becoming reality, so I never held out any real hope of this ever coming to pass. I knew that the family must live far from my home because the pictures depicted a very different countryside than that of the Pacific Northwest. Yet, I had no idea where that place was. I knew that the blog had hundreds of followers and there would never be any reason that anyone should notice me buried amongst them or ever consider reaching out to me in any way. Yet, that is exactly what happened. One day God decided to bless me with bringing about the one thing I would have never thought possible, yet had longingly thought about every time I read a new entry from Eyes of Wonder land. And so, one day exactly one year ago, I made my way across the country at the invitation of Jewels and her family and spent the most memorable 10 days of my life.
Here are some highlights of my time last October enjoying the warm, gracious hospitality of my new friends, whom I then met for the very first time.
October was the perfect time of year to visit as the leaves here were at their peak of their glorious beauty. Here is the driveway coming off of the very rural country road where I finally met up with the family.
The rope swing here is exactly as I remember it from the blog. I was really pleased to capture this photo almost exactly like one of those I remember especially admiring.
And here is Aimaija on the same swing, with her always bright cheerful smile, wearing the cute little cape her sister made for her.
And here she is again, with a lovely bouquet of wildflowers picked in the yard.
Celeisa also wearing a homemade cape and an apron (for she was working on a salad at this particular time) found a colorful bunch of flowers to bring in and brighten the house, while she was out finding ingredients to add to the salad she was making with two of her sisters.
Here she is looking for something special to add to her salad.
Meals were often the highlight of each day. This was the very first meal I enjoyed on that first morning, when I had barely met any of the people you see here. Yet, looking at the photo you would think these were old friends of mine who had enjoyed many meals together with me. As I said, meals were a big highlight. They were always very tasty and nutritious, made out of lots of basic, wholesome ingredients. Every meal of each day was at this table, everyone who was home sitting down together, eating and talking together, not in a hurry, savoring the fellowship and the food. This is the kind of meal time I had enjoyed when I was growing up and it is becoming a lost art with so many taking meals on the run or just grabbing something to eat in front of the TV. What a treasure it is to break bread together, sharing a meal with friends or family, sharing true fellowship around the table. Eating is, after all, more than just filling our body with food to sustain us. The Bible talks about meals in a very different way than we Americans typically enjoy our food these days, even mentioning a future feast in heaven. So I think God considers meals to be pretty important in ways we don't usually quite understand.
Another highlight was taking walks to enjoy the scenery of the area, which was particularly resplendent with color at this time of year.
Here is one of the more memorable and enjoyable walks we took, for the purpose of procuring a beautiful wasp's nest to use as decoration in Rosie's room (she is the one holding the saw). It was quite an expedition, which in the end resulted in a successful transfer of the nest, with no one getting stung.
The trail went along this road, which had a gate that wasn't particularly blocking the passage around it on foot. However any true child who has been raised in the country knows that gates are meant to be climbed over, not walked around. I think every one of the children had a turn at climbing over.
Finally, we made it to the tree where the nest resided and went about the process of bringing that nest down from a height of about 10-12 feet. Nicholai helps his sister Rosie get a start on climbing the tree to see if the nest could be reached.
In the end a ladder was required for Rosie to be able to stand up with enough stability to handle the saw and bring down the branch. Only a few almost dormant wasps came out to see what was going on, but this time of year they are so groggy as to be mostly harmless. Also, as wasps typically build a new nest each year, there were really very few left in this nest.
Another special walk we took was to this nearby park where the leaves were especially marvelous.
A rather impressive waterfall was a treat to view from various angles along the trail that led through the park and down to the lower area where I could take a nice shot of the whole falls. I do love waterfalls and this one is quite different than the sort that are common here in the Northwest.
When we weren't enjoying walks in the outdoors, there was plenty to keep us occupied indoors, such as these very young kittens that were always ready to be held and played with, and many books to read since I brought my black bag, filled with children's books to read over and over again.
One of the children's favorite books was about three girls named Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka who make a surprise birthday cake and that inspired Sophia to enlist the help of her younger sisters in baking a surprise cake for their new friend. This was indeed a complete surprise and the joy on their faces throughout the day as they secretly planned their mission, whispering to each other with great excitement, was sheer delight, even more than that of this lovely chocolate cake that they brought out, faces beaming with the joy of sharing something of themselves. Even now, the rapt expression of pride and satisfaction in Sophia's eyes brings tears to my eyes. This was such a thoughtful gesture, entirely their own idea, and they took such pleasure in doing it. Oh that children in every home could be so filled with such caring attitudes of serving others.
I love a home with a porch and a porch swing, which invites you to just sit there and gaze out across the land and take in the wonder of the countryside, calming the thoughts and mind with a sense of just listening and observing, not caught up in the busyness of the day and mundane duties of life. I believe that it is necessary to take time to pause and reflect regularly in order to have the clarity of mind and strength to actually accomplish those duties as God intends.
This porch has not one, but at least two swings, rocking chairs and other chairs so that on a warm summer evening the whole family can sit out and listen to the frogs in the distance and watch the fireflies (I don't know if they actually have fireflies here, but I was reminded of that very scene sitting on the porch of my cousins home years ago). Notice the apple trees in the front yard. There were dozens of apple trees all through the property and we had a chance to harvest enough to make delicious desserts and just eat right off the tree while I was there.
Here Nicholai is enjoying one of those apples right off the tree sitting on a porch swing. I love the colors in this photograph and the way they make such a pretty background that shows the best of what I enjoy about this time of year.
Finally, here is one last parting shot, taken on the morning of my very last day from the front porch, the sun rising off in the east, the mist also rising and dissipating above the nearby farms. This has kind of a blissful, but melancholy mood, which matched my own mood on the day of my departure. I had spent a little more than a week experiencing the world of Eyes of Wonder, enjoying the truly warm and gracious hospitality of this dear family, quickly making life long friends and it was hard to say goodbye, yet I was completely content and satisfied, ever so grateful to God for providing this once in a lifetime adventure just because He loves me.