Step Outside

“Late last month the Boundary Waters was named a dark sky sanctuary by the International Dark Sky Association, a nonprofit that works around the world to reduce light pollution and protect night skies. It’s one of just 13 such designations in the world

To qualify, a place has to have exceptional starry nights, and a “nocturnal environment that is protected for its scientific, natural or education value, its cultural heritage and/or public enjoyment.

 . . . We’re looking at a sky that people looked at thousands of years ago. And to me it feels like preserving a really special heritage. It’s part of the fabric of the Boundary Waters.”

Boundary Waters designated a dark sky sanctuary

Many years before this recent designation of “dark sky sanctuary”, I took in the “exceptional starry nights”. I did this during my two-week canoe trips out of Ely, MN into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

The trips were about camping out in a secluded wilderness with close friends. And for me at least, it was about getting out of town and experiencing a different reality. My parents were not campers.

Born and raised in the city of Chicago and later moving to the suburbs, life was lived under manmade illumination.

I ate, played, did homework – did everything – by the light of incandescent, fluorescent or thungsten-halogen lamps. At night I walked or rode my bike under the mango-yellow light of street lamps.

In the Boundary Waters Wilderness there was none of that. When the campfire smoldered out, or when I wandered off from the camp, the firmament provided the only light.

Within that night sky sanctuary, absent of “light pollution”, billions of stars were sending out light. I learned later that the starlight had come to me from the distant past.

The night sky sanctuary is a time machine. Things had been set in motion long before I came around. I needed to step outside my frame of reference to understand this.


Within the eyewitness testimony recorded in Mark’s gospel, there is an account not recorded in the other three gospels. We read of a blind man receiving his sight in two stages. The account is situated right after the account of the disciples not “seeing” – not understanding – what is right in from of them.

In Mark chapter 8 vs. 12-21, we find the disciples concerned about not having brought enough bread for their boat crossing. Their concern and confusion began when they did not understand Jesus’ warning.

“Beware!” said Jesus sternly to them, “watch out for leaven – the Pharisees’ leaven, and Herod’s leaven too!”

(One could say that “the leaven of the Pharisees” leads to a rising sense of self-righteousness. And, the “leaven” of Herod leads to a rising sense of self-importance. Both leavens lead to an eclipsing of the light of day.)

Jesus then sternly replies to the disciples and their mumbling about not bringing bread.

“Don’t you get it? Don’t you understand? Have your hearts gone hard? Can’t you see with your two good eyes? Can’t you hear with your two good ears?”

Jesus goes on to point out the obvious to his disciples: they were directly involved in feeding the five thousand and the four thousand. Each time they started with only a few loaves and ended up with baskets full of leftovers. How could they not understand and take in what took place in their presence?

Then comes the account of the man without two good eyes. Mark 8: 22-26:

They arrived at Bethsaida. A blind man was brought to Jesus, and they begged him to touch him. He took his hand, led him outside the village, and put spittle on his eyes. Then he laid hands on him and asked, “Can you see anything?”

“I can see people,” said the man, peering around, “but they look like trees walking about.”

Then Jesus laid his hands on him once more. This time he looked hard, and his sight came back: he could see everything clearly. Jesus sent him back home.

Don’t even go into the village, he said.

The blind man recovers partial sight after Jesus touches him. He gains full sight after Jesus touches him again. The man looks really, really hard all around. Everything then came into view for the once-blind man. He can now “walk perfectly on all his paths.”

Though I’ve read this passage many times before, what stood out this time – Jesus leading the blind man out of the village before restoring his sight. Did the village represent an established framework of thinking – a frame of reference – that needed to be reorientated by Jesus?

Was the variation in setting, from where the man had long groped for a path to outside the village, meant to be an object lesson for the disciples? They also groped for understanding. Did they need to step outside the village understanding of things?

Was the relocation outside the village for the healing a means to clear away obstacles from the man’s path? To straighten out paths for the blind man and the understanding of the disciples?

The disciples and Mark’s readers would no doubt understand the meaning within this account. Seeing and not seeing correlate to understanding and not understanding in words of the prophet Isaiah (Is. 6: 9-10). And both states correlate with the path one walks. This is heard in the words of the Damascus Document found near the Qumran community.

The “Teacher” exhorts the reader to “Listen to me and I shall open your eyes so that you can see and understand the deeds of God . . . so that you can walk perfectly on all his paths” (CD2:14-16)

The gospel of Mark opens with quotes from prophets Isaiah (40:3) and Malachi (3:1) in reference to John the Baptist:

“Look! I am sending my messenger ahead of me; he will clear the way for you! A shout goes up in the desert: Make way for the Lord! Clear a straight path for him!”

In the verses that follow we read of relocation, redirection and the clearing away of impediments in order to walk perfectly.

Mark writes of John the Baptist appearing in the desert announcing a baptism of repentance. A relocation outside the village.

Then we read that “the spirt pushed him (Jesus) out into the desert.” A redirection from villages. (Imagine the night sky over the desert – a dark sky sanctuary declaring the glory of God.)

The blind man, once groping for a path, stepped outside his frame of reference with Jesus. There, he was healed and saw what the disciples had yet come to see– that Jesus is the Frame of Reference. All else is darkness, murkiness, groping, and . . . mumbling.


2017 Biologos Conference, Astronomer and President of BioLogos Deborah Haarsma: Christ and the Cosmos

Gulpture in the Park


“… Abstraction came about through the ever-narrowing focus of aesthetic gaze.

The post-modern offshoots of abstract art may seem to be engaged in the same artistic project; but the appearance is, it seems to me, deceptive. Post-modern abstraction is really construction, in which abstract elements are combined ab initio, and without reference to the natural forms and perceptions which might have endowed them with meaning…. Their purpose is to glorify the sovereign role of the artist, who shifts and arranges them as would a child playing with colored blocks…The result has been a sudden narrowing of the artistic intention, and a launching of post-modern art towards bombast and doodling by turns.”

-Roger Scruton, An Intelligent Persons’ Guide to Modern Culture, Chapter Eight


Over many months now, during my morning contemplative walks in a local park, I have encountered objets d’déclin. Mother Earth needed tattoos to be in vogue.

A gaggle of local apparatchiks of post-modern persuasion decided at some point that nature’s exhilarating beauty-a body of narrative to be read over and to reflect on-should be forever ‘inked’ with the flippant constructionism of various ‘artists’.

The local approvers and inciters of inhuman aesthetics have ‘carnivalized’ a local nature preserve, a park and a paradise infused with wildflowers along a river, where, along such “springs in the valleys” (Psalm 104) “The birds of the sky nest by the waters; they sing among the branches.” No matter, though. By so doing, the self-appointed culture-mongers can connote their relevance and earn self-aggrandizement brownie points with the community.

Pictures at an Exhibition:

Entrance to St. Mary’s Park

PM Art vs. Tree Planted in Memoriam

Nature’s Way

Nature Sculpts


Nature Revealed in Sculpture

And, “Do Not Feed Post-Modern Artists”

The last photo, a #LGBT advert, fits the theme: the ‘carnivalizing’ of nature and nature’s compliment, Scripture. More about this in the next post.

Horicon Marsh Montage – Part 2 of 2


Into the semi-wild…



noun, often attributive va·ca·tion \vā-ˈkā-shən, və-\ a respite or a time of respite from something

Examples of vacation in a sentence:

A single woman, de-spoused and with grown kids out of the house and in need of respite from the ordinary, finds a spot on a map and a range of time where she could see more of the observable universe. She called this space-time continuum a vacation.




Small Town Inn Mayville WI ©Ann Johnson Kingdom Venturers



Entrance ©Ann Johnson Kingdom Venturers


NOLA Restaurant ©Ann Johnson Kingdom Venturers


Audubon Inn Lobby ©Ann Johnson Kingdom Venturers



Sleeping in ©Ann Johnson Kingdom Venturers



Related Posts:

Horicon Marsh Montage – Monday Morning

For the Beauty of…Horicon Marsh

Horicon Marsh and the Landowner

Tuesday Morning at the Audubon

County Road TW

Backstreet Café, Monday, 5:00 am


Elle est photographe ©Ann Johnson Kingdom Venturers

For the Beauty of…Horicon Marsh


For the beauty of the earth,

For the beauty of the skies,

For the Love which from our birth

Over and around us lies:

Christ, our God, to Thee we raise

This our Sacrifice of Praise.


Original text from 1864 of Folliott S. Pierpoint’s hymn For the Beauty of the Earth

When I go to be with the Lord I want this Eucharistic hymn, my favorite hymn, sung at my passing. I want to raise a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to the King of Heaven and earth.

There is much to give thanks for…

Horicon Marsh 7:30 AM ©Ann Johnson Kingdom Venturers

Horicon Marsh 7:30 AM
©Ann Johnson Kingdom Venturers

Horicon Marsh mid-morning ©Ann Johnson Kingdom Venturers

Horicon Marsh mid-morning
©Ann Johnson Kingdom Venturers

Horicon Marsh facing SW ©Ann Johnson Kingdom Venturers

Horicon Marsh facing SW
©Ann Johnson Kingdom Venturers

Horicon Marsh - photosynthetic algae ©Ann Johnson Kingdom Venturers

Horicon Marsh – photosynthetic algae
©Ann Johnson Kingdom Venturers

Horicon Marsh hiking trail ©Ann Johnson Kingdom Venturers

Horicon Marsh hiking trail
©Ann Johnson Kingdom Venturers


For the Beauty of the Earth – John Rutter

Horicon Marsh and the Landowner


Walking around on resurrection ground, what did I find? Horicon Marsh aka Horicon National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin.

Now about the Landowner: In previous posts I have noted as have others that The Kingdom of God is here and now. Jesus inaugurated his Kingdom on earth when he walked this earth. His resurrection signified among many wonders that His creation would be reborn, restored to its original glory. The Landowner, King Jesus, delights in His creation. He is also delighted when Kingdom caretakers are delighted with the work of His hands. And we, like David, find this out first hand.

It is in the parable of The Landowner (Matthew 20) that we learn that the Landowner honors all those who want to be a part of what he is doing – and no matter how late in the day. It is this Kingdom equality with its reordering – the first shall be last and the last first – which overturns the individual’s power struggle to be more equal than others.


Now, not only did I find Horicon Marsh on a map one day (I love maps) but when I arrived at the Marsh I found the Kingdom of God flourishing in a wildlife refuge. At once I imagined that when Jesus returns such a place would no longer need refuge status. Such a place would then exist alongside man without signage and “protection.” The Kingdom of God is creation’s refuge. When the King returns he will make sure of it.


Delight, for me, has a component of awe, of the gobsmakcked. Consider that roughly 4.6 billion years ago God spoke the universe into being.  Since then the evolved creation with it given potentiality has been thriving with creatures both great and small.


The many photos and movies taken during my trip to the “King’s” Marsh will be presented over several posts.  I shot many vistas as I was awestruck by the acres of marsh grass and the horizon that “joins” the expanse of heaven and the expanse of earth.  I saw colors and shades in nature that would make any watercolorist zealous to paint.

You will see creatures:  the matte-black prehistoric-looking Double-crested Cormorant and the American White Pelican along with varieties of birds darting, swooping and floating on thermals. The short movies will show the marsh in motion. Note: The wind across the open marsh often made the sound recording muffled. Oh well, next time I’ll bring some high tech sound equipment and some wading boots!

Behold the Kingdom of God. Behold the good.

Horicon Marsh south end looking south, near WI RT 28 ©Ann Johnson Kingdom Venturers

Horicon Marsh south end looking south, near WI RT 28
©Ann Johnson Kingdom Venturers

Horicon Marsh south end looking north, near WI RT 28 ©Ann Johnson Kingdom Venturers

Horicon Marsh south end looking north, near WI RT 28
©Ann Johnson Kingdom Venturers

American White Pelican ©Ann Johnson Kingdom Venturers

American White Pelican
©Ann Johnson Kingdom Venturers




































St. Mary’s Park: April Showers Bring May Flowers – After the Flood

Yesterday I drove over to St. Mary’s Park in Saint Charles, IL.  I typically go for long walks at St. Mary’s after winter recedes and spring bursts out.

Burst out it did!  As you will see much of the park along the Fox River had been under water because of the recent heavy rains.

Saint Mary's Park 008 Saint Mary's Park 010 Saint Mary's Park 011  Saint Mary's Park 009Saint Mary's Park 013 Saint Mary's Park 012

Saint Mary's Park 019 Saint Mary's Park 021

Saint Mary's Park 023