Another Conference Beckons

One of the perks of writing for publication is attending a conference or two a year. This week I will travel to St. Louis, MO for the American Christian Fiction Writers conference. The three day venue attracts writers and editors from around the world.

Lauraine Snelling, a well-known award winning author with more than two million books in print, will be the featured keynote speaker. She and I met at Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference in 2011 and have become writing friends since then.

Lauraine began her writing dream in 1982 when, as a mother of three teenagers, she published her first horse book for kids, Tragedy on the Toutle. Since then she has published more than seventy books. Prompted by her Norwegian heritage, she wrote the popular Red River of the North series, based on the trials of the Bjorklund family as they immigrate to America and homestead in North Dakota. Reader demand expanded this story into three different series, as well as a prequel called An Untamed Heart, and the upcoming Songs of Blessing series, the first installment releasing this year.

I’ll be back with stories of my own, after getting reacquainted with friends and colleagues I’ve met while attending these conferences. Hopefully, I won’t have any airplane tales of woe to share.  If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you know my flight adventures are often the most exciting part of the journey. But God, in His grace, has always gotten me to and from my destination safely, reminding me He is in control.

Have a great week.

Where Butterflies Thrive

 The Butterfly Pavilion, maintained by the Elkton (Oregon) Community Education Center (ECEC) located on Highway 38 west of I-5, captured our interest Labor Day Weekend. The Center maintains gardens and trees, as well as a domed enclosure that hatches and supports several butterfly species throughout the summer season. 

Visitors enter the enclosure to view the winged occupants, all at different stages of their life cycle. Caterpillars are treated like royalty—gently lifted from the dirt floor if they have left one plant in search of another. Gloved fingers transport the wiggly critters to a nearby milkweed for protection. A board of chrysalis leans against one wall, allowing a close up view of the delicate beauties as they hatch. Butterflies hang from the ceiling, from branches of the varied greenery grown just for their nourishment, or sit on plates of brightly colored sponges filled with Gatorade for them to sip. 

The day we visited the sky was overcast, following a surprise rain shower. The butterflies were sleepy, we were told, waiting for the sun to warm them. After a brief visit, we left and when the sun peeked through, returned.  The difference was amazing. In the morning, the insects had hung from their perches with wings closed and activity slowed.  But in the sun, the wings were spread like brightly painted canvases, the entire enclosure alive with snatches of orange and black. I was reminded of the passage in Luke 12:27 (NIV): “Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his splendor was not arrayed like one of these.” 

With the advent of increasing building density, as well as changes in agricultural practices, butterflies have lost much of their natural habitat. Both migration paths and sites where they winter over have diminished. Today only five percent of hatchings survive to adulthood in the wild. Predators are varied, the most ferocious the meat eating bee, who destroys the eggs, caterpillars, and adult butterflies. The ECEC provides a protected environment to educate visitors about the butterfly life cycle and survival chances. 

We were treated to a view of Monarchs, but the center hatches several other species dependent upon the time of year visited—Painted Lady, American Lady, West Coast Lady, Red Admiral, Mourning Cloak, Western Tiger Swallowtail, and Cabbage White. The hatching season is over for this year, but come next spring the ECEC will once again be alive with the batting of wings in an array of rainbow colors. Put a visit on your list of adventures for 2015.


Fort Umpqua–A Trip Back in Time

Over Labor Day weekend, my family attended Fort Umpqua Days in Elkton, Oregon. A two-day roster of activities waited; a reenactment of life as it existed at the original fort. Demonstrations of leather tooling and metal works at a forge were manned by volunteers. An authentic trading post was open for inspection. A cannon fired every half hour. Though the rebuilt structure occupies the opposite bank of the river from where Fort Umpqua operated, the site has been erected to match the specifications of the former facility.

Fort Umpqua was built in 1836 by the Hudson Bay Company and served as a midway trading spot for furs and other various goods. The site, located at the intersection of Elk Creek and the Umpqua River, was selected by Jean Baptiste Gagnier because of its proximity both to a known travel route for Hudson Bay Company traders and an Indian trail from Coos River to Ash Valley, which then followed the Umpqua River and continued to the Fort. 

The twelve-foot high stockade enclosed a ninety-foot square which housed Gagnier and his family, various stores, apple trees, and quarters for six employees. Staff members consisted of French-Canadians with a mix of contract employees from Hawaii and Polynesia.

Diagonal corners served as areas of protection, bastions where guards could watch traffic to and from the fort. Twice the fort was attacked by Indians. Beyond the stockade was a barn and stable, along with eighty fenced acres under cultivation.

As furs were collected, they were taken annually to Fort Vancouver on the Columbia. Fort Umpqua served as a supply point for settlers traveling the Oregon-California trail and as a way point for travelers until it burned in 1851. 

Fort Umpqua is part of the Elkton Community Education Center.  Part two—The Butterfly Pavilion—next week.