Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Camping Trip: Iron Creek Campground and Lava Canyon, Washington


Cispus River near Iron Creek Campground

After our hike at Mount St. Helens, we were all ready to get to our next campsite and relax (and we were crossing our fingers for fewer mosquitoes, too!). When we pulled up into our campsite of the Iron Creek Campground, I let out a sigh of both relief and wonder. Massive Douglas firs towered over our campsite, moss draped over every visible surface, ferns rustled in a cool breeze, and the nearby Cispus River created a calming white noise. It was a slice of old-growth Northwestern forest, a place saved from the saws that devastated— and continue to devastate— the ecosystems all around it. 

Monday, July 5, 2021

Camping Trip: Windy Ridge, Mount St. Helens, Washington

 Gary, Zach and I have hiked at Mount St. Helens a couple times before (Harry's Ridge in 2019 and Ape Canyon Trail last year), but it's a big mountain, and there was another trail to explore, one that began at the very end of a long forest road on the eastern side of the mountain. We drove through fog and clouds, glimpsing views of the flanks of the mountains around us, as well as a stunning vista of Spirit Lake, which is half-covered with dead white tree trunks from the 1980 blast, floating like ice on the top of the water.

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Camping Trip: Takhlakh Lake, Washington

 After two days of huddling next to a window air conditioner to weather the 116ºF heat, Gary, Zach and I packed up the car to head out on a two-night camping trip in the Gifford-Pinchot National Forest in southern Washington. The first night we'd be camping at Takhlakh Lake, near the base of Mount Adams, a handsome volcanic dome that Zach and I hiked around on the Pacific Crest Trail years ago.

Saturday, July 3, 2021



Last Sunday, Zach and I were up in the air again. Masked and loaded up with backpacks, we shuffled onto the plane and settled into our seats for our flight from St. Louis to Portland, Oregon. After so many years of piecing together shorter flights and long layovers, I always feel like I'm teleporting when, a mere four hours after takeoff, we land in the alternate reality that is the Pacific Northwest. (This reality was obviously from a different timeline than usual, though: how else could you explain the 111ºF temperatures?)

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

The Easiest Vegetable Garden Ever, Part 3: Watering, Weeding, and Fertilizing

(Reposted from last year.)
(Read Part 1 and Part 2 here.)

So, you built (or bought) some great soil, and you chose what to grow and planted it. Now what? Maintenance! If you're looking for a good harvest, you have to care for your garden consistently. Plants are like us: they need water and food. Unlike us, though, they can't run away when another plant is invading their personal space and sucking up resources, so it's your job to give them some room by removing weeds.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Is the Church Classist?

 Classism (noun): prejudice or discrimination based on class [social rank].

So, is the white American church classist?

Yes. The answer is yes. :)

All right, let's get into it! 

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Reflections on Homeschooling (14 Years Later)

I was elected secretary of the Hook Spy Agency that we formed with our friends. We never solved a case, but at least we had desks!

 Most of you know (or could quickly guess, if you met me) that I was homeschooled. From preschool to my senior year, my mom was my primary teacher, and I learned alongside my two older brothers and younger sister. We had a formal set-up for most of those years, with designated classes on the hour, although in high school I switched to a more free-form structure that simply required a certain number of credit hours, which I completed on my own time. I graduated a year early and launched myself into the unconventional life that I find myself living today.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

A Round-Up of Spring Flowers

Butterweed (Packera glabella), Asteraceae (sunflower) family

(4/13/2021: Reposting because we should celebrate flowers every year!)

Text from 4/14/20: This past week, Zach and I had a little vacation— we were originally going to visit family in Nashville, but the stay-at-home order nixed that. Thankfully, the weather was gorgeous, so we were able to take a lot of walks and hikes.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Happy 10 Years to The Traveling Mandolin!

Summit, Utah, 2011

St. Charles, Missouri, 2021

 A decade ago from last Monday, I sat down and typed out my first real blog post as The Traveling Mandolin:

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Blessed Holy Saturday: A Poem


Blessed Holy Saturday to the alienated ones,

the questioning, uncomfortable,



the bitter,

the mourning,

the ones too weary to care.

Blessed Holy Saturday to the spiritual immigrant,

the uneasy pilgrim,

the severed,

the bleeding,

the angry,

the ones who just want things back to normal.

Blessed Holy Saturday to the ones in-between,

the spiritually homeless,

the ones who walked away,

the ones clinging on,

the ones going through the motions,

the ones breaking free,

the ones running toward Jesus

and away from Jesus

and not running at all but curled up in a fetal position


Blessed Holy Saturday to the ones who are sure,

the ones swaddled in theology

and held without question.

Blessed Holy Saturday to the ones who used to be sure,

and aren't now,

and are lost and empty

or are found and full,

for the first time.

Blessed Holy Saturday to the liminal space,

the waiting,

the nectarine blossoms touched by frost,

the mockingbird on my compost pile

pecking at apples.

Blessed Holy Saturday to the world,

the world that Jesus died for,

to show he was with us, even in death,

the ultimate incarnation,

God with us:

crucified God,

weeping God,

lonely God,

doubting God,

God of weakness,

God of humiliation,

God of being there with us

no matter what, no matter when, no matter how.

Blessed Holy Saturday

to the uncertain

open space.