Tag Archives: fall color

Hurts So Good

 

On more than one occasion I’ve heard my friend and fellow photographer Slavomir remark, “It was so beautiful it made my heart hurt!”

I’ve never needed him to explain what he meant, because I’ve felt that strange mix of emotion before when confronted with the beauty of creation. But it’s not a predictable experience. It does not always happen at the expected times nor in the most obvious scenic locations. Sometimes this heartache of beauty sneeks up on me.

Such was the case earlier this month as I scouted for photographic compositions in late autumn in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Seeking a respite from crowds and cars clogging the main viewpoints, I found myself in a quieter section of the park tooling around on backroads.

As I navigated the narrow winding road in my truck, ascending higher and higher into the hills, solitude soon overtook me as no other humans or vehicles were in sight. It became just me and the hardwood forest, the trees surrendering their leaves to the swirling breeze, low-angle sunlight filtering into the canopy, a cloud-dotted blue sky watching over it all.

 

Autumn Backroad

 

In this moment my heart started to feel the tug of beauty all around me. Thoughts of making photographs disappeared as I was immersed in the experience of just being there. Then my eyes welled up with tears as I felt the swelling of an ache in my heart. Amid the splendor of this autumn forest, all alone, there was a kind of hurting in the deep places of my soul.

“What am I feeling?” I asked myself. “What is this emotion that my intellect cannot decipher?” Continuing to drive slowly through the curves with my windows down, intoxicated with autumn aromas, I realized there was a bittersweet yearning in my innermost being. A yearning for this moment to never end. A yearning to be at one with this place, with this simple beauty before me, to somehow meld with the creation. And the tears started flowing.

I believe this was my soul crying out for more of God. A longing to be free from the fallenness of our world. A craving to be perfectly at one with his glory. To be for all eternity in a place of neverending joy, my field of vision filled with only beauty, being carried by the power of his divine love.

 

An autumn forest cathedral invited me to worship in the Great Smoky Mountains

An autumn forest cathedral invited me to worship in the Great Smoky Mountains

 

I’m grateful for the glimpses of grace I see in those moments of beauty. And I’m also grateful for the heartache that sometimes settles over me at those times. The one reminds me that the glory of the creator is my one true joy, my very sustenance. The other reminds me that broken earth is not my true home, that I am merely journeying toward the hope of eternity, a day when the One who formed me will remove all the heartaches forever.

“while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day

when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed.”

(Titus 2:13 NLT)

 

Sunset highlights late fall ridges in the Smokies

Sunset highlights late fall ridges in the Smokies


Eating Bacon to the Glory of God

 

The full moon on this night was huge, and crazy-bright. It lit up the rugged mountains bordering a lonely highway through the Nevada desert. I blasted along the quiet road with the accompaniment of classic 80’s Dire Straits on the truck stereo, and thinking about my wife. We were in the middle of a 5-month separation necessitated by my photographic work and I was eager to pick her up in Salt Lake City the following day so she could join my adventures in Utah for ten days.

 

A full moon rises above Nevada desert mountains at dusk

A full moon rises above Nevada desert mountains at dusk

 

It was a joy to be reunited with Wendy, and after a quick stop for fresh supplies we were ready to head that afternoon to our planned destination of Moab for exploration of Arches and Canyonlands national parks. But as we began the drive I couldn’t stop thinking about a nearby detour, one of the most sublime drives I’ve ever been on – the Alpine Loop Scenic Byway. This spot is known for excellent fall color and I had photographed there in previous autumns. But my travels this October had been delayed and by now I was certain that any remaining color would be well past peak and not worth changing our plans for.

Still, I couldn’t quit thinking about this Scenic Byway, and as we neared the exit for the Alpine Loop I was pulled in like a magnet and decided to delay Moab so Wendy could experience this wonderful mountain drive, even if there were no beautiful leaves to decorate it.

As it turned out, our only regret in this last-minute route change was pulling our 24-foot trailer up the narrow winding road, which had my wife clinging for dear life to the grab handles and me doing my best strong-man-in-control-unafraid impression 🙂 But to my startled delight the Loop colors came on late this year and our eyes joined a visual party of aspens and maples displaying full autumn glory!

 

Layers of steep mountain ridges glow with a riot of autumn color in American Fork Canyon, UT

Layers of steep mountain ridges glow with a riot of autumn color in American Fork Canyon, UT

 

For the next two days we drove up and down the roads in this spectacular little piece of Utah, admiring views of 11,752-foot Mount Timpanogos clothed in yellow aspens, strolling through quiet groves of trees, searching out pleasing photographic compositions among the overwhelming fall splendor that was everywhere before us. A special treat was waking up in our trailer one morning to a couple of moose just outside our window, a cow and her calf leisurely grazing only ten feet away. It was a moment of majesty that Wendy captured well, pointing her camera through the small window of our kitchen.

 

A cow moose and her calf graze right outside our camp trailer (photo by Wendy Martin)

A cow moose and her calf graze right outside our camp trailer (photo by Wendy Martin)

 

Clouds reflect warm light at sunset over Mount Timpanogos draped in golden aspens

Clouds reflect warm light at sunset over Mount Timpanogos draped in golden aspens

 

Earlier in my trip I had texted Wendy about my delicious camp breakfasts and she was looking forward to me whipping up that grub for her too. So after our moose gazing it was my pleasure to fry up the natural uncured bacon, scramble the organic free-range eggs with chunks of melty Tillamook cheddar goodness, and make toast by pan frying hearty sprouted grain bread in butter (and then topped with tasty Oregon huckleberry jam).

The aroma of the bacon frying that morning got me to thinking about how God can get glory through our food and drink.

Several years ago I read an article by pastor/writer John Piper titled How to Drink Orange Juice to the Glory of God. At the time it did not seem to have much impact on me. And then one day in my kitchen cooking up a late breakfast with Applegate Farms Organic Sunday Bacon, the flavor explosion from that tasty meat literally caused me to worship God right on the spot. The previous reading about how to glorify God with how we eat & drink likely helped set the stage in my thinking, but it was only through experiencing for myself God’s good and gracious gift in that spectacular bacon that I finally understood how a person could eat bacon to the glory of God, or drink orange juice for his glory, or whatever your food and drink may be in that moment.

Here’s how it looks for me to magnify God’s glory as the unique succulent flavor of bacon hits my taste buds:

– I acknowledge that the bacon comes from God. He is the source of everything.

– I overflow with thankfulness to God for the bacon. I thank him for designing and creating pigs. I thank him for the financial ability to buy bacon. I thank him for the stores that sell it, the distributors that get it to market, the butchers who prepare it, and the farmers who raise the pigs.

– I enjoy it! With all of my senses. God is most glorified when we thoroughly enjoy his good gifts to us.

– I allow the incredible flavor of bacon to point me again and again to just how amazing our God is, his creative genius in the making of such a treat and his graciousness in blessing anyone with $4.99 and a frying pan with this rich pleasure.

 

A quiet grove of aspens nestled in the Wasatch mountain range along Alpine Loop Scenic Byway

A quiet grove of aspens nestled in the Wasatch mountain range along Alpine Loop Scenic Byway

 

This is the life I desire to live out with my wife more and more, in the ordinary circumstances of daily life as well as in the more glorious moments, whether traveling and photographing in eye-popping autumn wilderness or just sitting down to eat our simple breakfast: to see the hand of God’s provision in all his good gifts, to receive them with joy, to be ever thankful, and to worship God’s gracious and loving character.

“So, whether you eat or drink,

or whatever you do,

do everything to the glory of God.” 

(1 Corinthians 10:31, GOD’S WORD® Translation)

 

 

 


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