Monday, August 10, 2009

Hills Rejoice

It’s my turn on Tuesdays...

I have been reveling for the last few days in the verdant hills of northeast Iowa. Storms have been passing daily – some of them quite strong. And, as I write, a good friend of mine sits in her house lit only by candles tonight. However, the rains have had benefits. The greens of the landscape are varied and intense, the flowers are gorgeous, the raspberries as fat and sweet as I’ve ever seen them, and the broccoli prolific.

Driving through Backbone State Park (Iowa’s first) we felt the cool relief of the tree-shaded air from the August afternoon heat. The Maquoketa River was running clear, cold and deep and flowing over the fords. My niece and I waded in it until our toes got numb, and about twenty-five other people – children, parents, teenagers and even a grandma – were frolicking there as well. They seemed to last longer in the water than us, even laughing and splashing each other!

We walked the trail along the Devil’s Backbone, a spine of ancient coral. The trail is rough and rocky limestone with the river flowing at the base of the cliffs. A swallowtail wafted in the air before us. A chipmunk stared at us suspiciously from under a bush, until we got too close. Then he rustled his little stripes away.

The trees and bushes along the trail grow so densely, that the only place to see the river on either side of the ridge is by venturing out onto the occasional barren rocky outcropping. With a little thrill of fear (my niece and I are both a bit fearful of heights), we approached the edge to catch the light dancing off the river so far below. The sight and sounds were almost magical.

I have hiked that path and waded in that river many times. But today, the sense of it lingered with me in my skin. It isn’t the mighty Mississippi River valley or the shores and dunes of the magnificent Lake Michigan, or the great Smoky Mountains, but this corner of northeast Iowa is lovelier to me than all of them – at least today.

Wind quakes the aspen
River sparkling and singing
Clear air, clean water

Psalm 65:9 (Message) Oh, visit the earth, ask her to join the dance! Deck her out in spring showers, fill the God-River with living water. Paint the wheat fields golden. Creation was made for this! Drench the plowed fields, soak the dirt clods With rainfall as harrow and rake bring her to blossom and fruit. Snow-crown the peaks with splendor, scatter rose petals down your paths, All through the wild meadows, rose petals. Set the hills to dancing, Dress the canyon walls with live sheep, a drape of flax across the valleys. Let them shout, and shout, and shout! Oh, oh, let them sing!


  1. That was beautiful Laura, I really felt like I was there with you.

  2. A lovely place. For the rest of us it's like a mini-blog-vacation.