winter is coming

First, I'd like to submit my disclaimer here...

All photos here are completely iPhone and completely unedited because as much as I could manipulate some of these to make them brighter and clearer, I want to show you exactly what things looked like. 


Now, before I dive into the tale of what could have easily become one of the dumber things I've ever done (but turned out to be one of the more wonderful) let’s start with that photo up there of what it looks like when a wee baby ice storm sweeps through the upper left corner of Oregon.

Fun, right? Super fun.

it looked like someone broke a plate glass window by the time I got all that ice chipped off my car

And fun getting down my staircase that was perfectly preserved in a similar layer of the frozen stuff. I didn't even have time to sing  “Do You Want To Build A Snowman?” because it took me five minutes to get down 17 stairs (no joke) and I was running late for work by that point. 

Also, my face was numb.

I lost my sense of humor somewhere between 29 and 33 degrees.

Now some may say this is why you don’t choose to live in the arctic north (Blake), but as for me and my home? 

We shall serve the snow. And ice. And freezing temperatures.

And not just because I was able to chill a bottle of wine down to my preferred temp in less than 20 minutes by setting it out on the front porch. That was an added bonus.

What’s really going on is that what’s happening on the outside is kind of mirroring what’s going on on the inside. Because for a minute there, I really thought the harsh season I've been kind of caught in was ending and a bright new season was sweeping in with all the hope and joy that seasons like that bring. 

And when that turned out to not be the case, it hurt. 

And I felt like the rug had been yanked out from under me and it kind of felt like no matter where I hid, the shrapnel still hit me. And for a while there I felt like winter would be here forever and with my trust being broken in such a hurtful way, I could feel myself putting walls up, shutting down to the possibility of hope, and bracing for the plunge back into the freezing, solitary storm.

But then, as happens when you force yourself into a different perspective, I realized that this was not something God was doing.

This was something God was allowing.

 Now I’m not so sure I agree with him on all that, but you know what? He’s never failed me before and even when it took time to really understand it, I can look back on all the things that didn't work out the way I wanted them to, the people who I so hopefully wanted in my life that He said “NO” to, and I am grateful for what He protected me from. And I know I will thank Him again. I know there is a bigger picture here that I can’t see yet.

But, right now it still hurts and there are a million questions left unanswered and there is concern for someone who I do still care about very much and all I can do is pray.

Pray for answers, pray for guidance, pray for him and pray that I can trust God when He says “I've got this.”

So what am I getting at? I’m getting at the idea that there’s a solid chance that God is saying to me, “Hey kid, stop trying to get through winter and just take a second to see there’s a whole lot of beauty you’re missing out on.”

Because there's still beauty in it. Even in the most desolate of times, there is light - if you choose to see it. 

There is beauty in brokenness.

There is beauty in heartbreak.

There is beauty is the promise that this season will end and a new one will begin.

And there is definitely something to be said about how beautiful winter can really be.

So with that in mind, and with a day off a week or so ago, I decided to do what I usually do when I need to clear my head:

I went on an adventure.

Didn't have enough time to drive to Montana or anything, but knowing that the Gorge was still iced over made it all the more tantalizing so off I went.

(I would later be yelled at for not letting anyone know I was going hiking by myself - fair point, that was my bad)

Have you ever seen a frozen waterfall?

I mean, I'm an enthusiastic person to begin with - but this might take the cake.

Two very enthusiastic thumbs up - fine holiday fun.

Even at Multnomah, my first stop, a waterfall I have visited more in the past six years than I can even count, my heart skipped beat after beat. Never had I seen it in such splendor. Never could I have imagined how she'd look in glacial blue.

And Horsetail - the falls I usually take nothing more than a glance at on my way up to Ponytail and that magnificent little cavern... Horsetail nailed me to a wall. 

I probably would have gone on up the trail to Ponytail if I hadn't had something else in mind (and if it wasn't already pushing two o'clock on a day when the sun would be hunkering down what seemed like hours earlier than usual).

Another time, my old friend...

What I was more after was a trail that I'd only been to once before. 

It was one I'd hiked on a gorgeously perfect spring day with someone I was (at the time) all kinds of giddy about and even though the season ended and the giddiness was replaced by something a little less than positive, I kept that trail and that waterfall close to me because it meant something to me that went beyond that day and that boy. 

As I pulled off 84-E and into the lot at the Wahclella Falls trail head, a sense of giddiness returned to me and I realized that this was the feeling of claiming a place for your own and not letting the memory of someone claim it for you. 

I decided right then, as I doubled-checked my pack and made sure I had all the important things (water, extra jacket, knife, whiskey, the usual), that this was in fact my place, not our place. And now I was going to see it in a state that probably didn't even occur to me until that morning when I decided that the only thing to do on my day off was to go hiking in the snow and ice.

It was completely quiet as I filled out the little stub for my parking pass with my license plate number and the time & date of my departure. I wasn't too concerned about getting lost or caught on the trail - it's only a couple of miles in and out, and there were two other cars in the lot so even worst case scenario, I felt pretty confident the outcome wouldn't be too catastrophic. 

Can you even imagine the smell of winter in a place like this?

Absolutely ice cold, but still the scent of forest and water and wet earth. I had to navigate myself carefully over some of the icier bits of trail, a few times even giving in to the slips and just planting my butt directly on the ice and sliding down luge-style (highly recommend that course of action, actually - way more fun than trying to be all cool and defy gravity). 

The only sounds I really heard was the crunching of snow and the occasional icicle breaking off and crashing down.

And while the image of running into a wolf and being eaten alive did flash through my paranoid brain every few feet or so (can you blame me after this wild kingdom moment?), I mostly found myself completely at peace, focusing on the task at hand (read: not dying in the gorge), and praying over and over that I could find as much beauty in this spiritual winter as I could in this very real winter I was currently so mesmerized by.

And as the icy trail took me closer and closer, I anxiously awaited that first sound of rushing water to tell me I was almost there...

And then, sooner than I'd remembered and yet even still, not soon enough...

Let me reiterate this: it was freezing. And the wind created by the falls whipped through me like knives. 

But I couldn't have been happier. It was like seeing an old friend. I couldn't stop smiling. 

And as dictated by tradition, I of course needed a nip of whiskey upon reaching my destination.

Oregon was even so kind as to offer me the chance to chill it down a bit.

After taking a few more senseless selfies (downside to solo-hiking: no one to take the pictures that prove you were there) and a few more (mostly identical) shots of the falls, it was time to pack back up and head back down. 

Other than passing a couple of girls about halfway back (and answering their question as to how one gets past the ice - at which point I sat down and introduced them to the little-known sport of kings we now know as trail-luge), I once again had the trail to myself.

And so I sang - loud, and in between dealing with an unruly runny nose/succumbing to the very ladylike blowing of snot rockets) (nice, Lairen, real nice) - I sang songs of worship that had  been on my heart these past few months and prayed out loud to the only One I know I can trust with everything.

Everything that's going wrong, everything that's going right.

I am frustrated and exhausted and ready for a new season to finally, finally, please come. 

But until it does, I'm going to pay attention to what this winter is trying to teach us. 

And make some stupid faces. Because hi, have you met me?


  1. Always uplifted to enjoy the next chapter in the Lauren files, which gave my emotions a brilliant workout!