The Birds of Winter

For readers who do not live in the Pacific Northwest, these photos really were taken in winter, December and January to be specific. Last year, we had an old-fashioned winter, complete with snow and ice. This year, the pussy willows have already gone to seed and people in their yards are checking blooming primroses and budding daffodils.

No matter the temperature, all of the birds in these pictures are  winter residents. They add a cheerful presence to days that are often gray and wet. Enjoy!

Chickadees at breakfast

Starlings don’t like to miss out on anything…

nor do the Stellar jays.

This young merlin has his eye on the sparrows at the bird feeder.

Snow geese coming in for a landing.
 I’ll take this row, you take that one!
As far as the snow geese know, the farmer planted this field just for them. The young geese, born in Siberia, are the darker ones. They will return to the northern tundra with the rest of the flock come April.
After years of being a protected species, bald eagles are numerous in the Skagit Valley.
 Eagle watching a gaggle of snow geese.
 The dark spots in the field are bald eagles waiting for rodents. They like to harass the snow geese too, like those flying overhead.
Great blue herons are a year-around bird here. They feed on rodents, frogs, and small fish.
Hundreds of regal swans, both trumpeters and the smaller tundra swans, spend winters in the farm fields. The disembodied heads belong to birds foraging in a drainage ditch.

Great blue herons fishing on the tide flats at dusk.

As evening falls, thousands of waterfowl gather to spend the night on the peaceful waters of Samish Bay.

Good Night!

Helping Haiti

Sun Breaks guest blogger Dr. Jerry Rusher of Camano Island, WA, mentioned in his entry of Jan. 12 that he and his wife, Wanda, had frequently spent time in Haiti volunteering their skills to help the sick and injured. After Wanda passed away last year, he returned to the Free Methodist Hospital in Dessalines, about 90 miles from Port au Prince, to check on friends and patients there and to help where he could.

He was preparing once again to leave for Haiti on Sunday, January 17, when word came of the catastrophic earthquake of January 12. By now everybody has heard of the horrendous difficulties in getting help to those suffering in the aftermath. On the 12th, Dr. Rusher knew that his plans also lay in ruins. He’d heard by cell phone that the new, four-story-building he would have stayed in upon his arrival at Port au Prince had collapsed. Two days previously, the building had housed 70 national pastors for a Free Methodist conference…the entire denominational leadership for that country. They’d gone home, but Katy Zook, a young volunteer from the nearby town of Arlington, WA, was trapped in the rubble. She survived, but others he knew did not. Planes were having trouble getting in and out of the damaged airport. The seaport too was wrecked, and roads were blocked.

The horrified world looked on, wanting to help. Dr. Rusher could think of nothing else but how to get back to Haiti. He found that the hospital at Dessalines had stood, and despite its distance from Port au Prince, it was filling up with gravely injured people now suffering from gangrene and other infections. The Haitian and missionary doctors and nurses there were under stress because of the huge workload. After talking with denominational leaders in this country, Dr. Rusher was asked to head a team of nine medical volunteers, including a couple from Canada and some from New York. One of the team, Dr. Gary, a Haitian, is an expert in infectious diseases. His knowledge will be of great value to his colleagues.

Plans now are for the team to leave on Saturday, Jan. 23, to fly to Santiago in the Dominican Republic. After a four hour bus ride, they will be met at the border by a driver from the hospital (if he is able to get fuel). The hospital has always used diesel fuel to power generators for use during surgeries and at night, since electricity is turned off at night and is erratic during the day in the best of times. The hospital still has diesel in its storage tank, but gasoline is in short supply.

The team would appreciate the prayers of God’s people for the Haitians and all those who are trying to help them.

Here is a short list of concerns:

  • That the team members will be able to get rest, so the stress will not overwhelm them. (Dr. Rusher will be there for six weeks, supervising teams of volunteers who will each be there for two weeks.)
  • That they will find ways to get medical supplies to the hospital.
  • Wisdom and easy cultural adaptation for the volunteers.
  • Good rapport with the Haitian staff already there.
  • Unpacking and putting the supplies to good use.
  • Safety in the face of increasing lawlessness.
  • Comfort for the grieving.

Note: There are many reputable organizations handling donations for earthquake victims, but if you are interested in helping Dr. Rusher directly, you may send a check to

Dessalines Rural Health Project (DRHP)
Free Methodist Church
PO Box 126
Arlington, WA 98223

Foggy Morning

One thing I like about winter in the Pacific Northwest is its unpredictability. It reminds me of life in general:
…we have dreary periods of rain
…sparkling sunshine
…windstorms that topple trees and send garbage cans rolling down the street
…days of mild gray overcast contrasting with days when clouds race overhead in changing skyscapes so lovely you forget to watch where you’re walking
… unexpected snowstorms that coat roads with fast-melting slickness or drop plump, long-lasting featherbeds of restfulness over grass that’s green all-year-round.
…Oh yes. Sometimes we have floods.

Once in a while we wake up to gorgeous combinations, like the recent December morning when frost whitened every blade of grass. Fog rose from bay and river and standing water toward a blue china sky. We grabbed the camera and set out for our favorite cafe in nearby Silvana. Have you ever noticed how small towns have distinct personalities, as individual as the people who live in them? Well, Silvana is one of those communities, and the fog that morning brought out a side of Silvana’s personality I want to share with you in these photos. I’ll add a few countryside photos as well.

P1030029.jpg Silvana street scene picture by Hjhusby
Silvana street scene

P1030031.jpg Silvana granary picture by Hjhusby
Silvana granary

P1030036.jpg old farm buildings in fog picture by Hjhusby
Dreaming of yesterday

P1030043.jpg old barn at Silvana picture by Hjhusby
Waiting for the sun

P1030038.jpg Silvana from Rrd crossing picture by Hjhusby
Silvana from the railroad crossing

P1030047.jpg Mt. Pilchuck from Silvana field picture by Hjhusby
Mt. Pilchuck from the west

P1030069.jpg Swan family near Silvana picture by Hjhusby
Swan family in a frosty field

P1030062.jpg Swans talking picture by Hjhusby
Talking it over

A Lesson Learned From Myself–by Dr. Jerry Rusher

Help others…help yourself: niece Tami gets little brother
Eric ready for church.

Our friend Dr. Jerry Rusher shared this cure for self-centeredness recently. Perhaps you or someone you know will find it a life-saver as he did.

Did you ever find something you’d written and then forgotten: something written when God had revealed truth to you but because you didn’t apply it then, you forgot it? Well, this happened to me, just when I needed to apply the lesson.

I’d made it through the first year following the death of my beloved wife Wanda with normal grieving. I thought everything was going to be fine when depression settled on me with a vengeance. I’d been busy much of the year doing mission trips to help people less fortunate than myself. After returning home, I had a lot of time to do whatever I wanted. So I played golf, watched sports on TV, and did whatever suited my fancy. I could eat whatever I wanted, so I began to gain weight. You’d think I ought to be quite happy, but instead, the opposite happened. I became increasingly depressed. I cried at any little reminder of Wanda. I had no joy at all.

Then one day at church friends gathered around. As I shared my need, they prayed. It was amazing how the dark cloud lifted. I felt like living again. I began preparing for another mission trip, excited about the opportunity to serve.

Then I came across what I had written long ago. “Why has depression become so common? It has become like an epidemic. Everyone it seems is on Prozac, even children. Teenagers are committing suicide right and left. What is going on?…as I pondered possible causes, it dawned on me that self-centeredness just might be the main cause in this upswing in depression. There seems to be an obvious increase in people doing their own thing and seeking after what will make them happy. …it seems as one chases after the proverbial rainbow the farther away it gets. …Jesus said in Matt. 10:39, ‘He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.’”

As I thought about what I had written, it made sense. It explained to me why the depression had come on me while I was pleasing myself and not while I was helping other people. I had unwittingly conducted an experiment that verified personally the thesis I had posed in the past. It pointed out clearly what to do if I wanted to avoid getting depressed. I needed to focus on reaching out to other people and not be focused on myself. I became quite clear to me that Jesus knew what makes us tick.

I also found that it may be easy to gloss over advice given by someone else, but when you receive advice from yourself it’s harder to ignore.

Lights of Christmas Light Up Hearts

On a night so chilly that frost crunched like snow beneath our feet, we visited the Lights of Christmas at the Warm Beach Conference Center near our home in Stanwood. Lights spiraled up the trunks of the tree and dangled from their branches. Sweeping arcs of lights edged every path and formed arches welcoming us to the buildings which housed plays, concerts, shops and eating spots. Crowds of people bundled in warm winter clothing swarmed the pathways. Some pushed friends and relatives in wheelchairs or toddlers in strollers. Children danced around firepits where their elders paused to get warm.

We began our evening with a home-grown but quite professional musical production called, fittingly for the Norwegian roots of our community, “Uff Da, It’s Christmas!” Talented kids kept pace with equally talented adults. With five entertainment stages on the grounds, there’s a full program of music and drama including an elegant dinner theater. After the last “Uff Da” died away, we said hello to costumed Rick and Lydia Crouch, the producers and directors, and stepped out into the biting air. We took refuge in one of the meeting rooms-turned-cafes for a bowl of hot soup. Then, trying to resist the aroma of frying doughnuts, we headed out for a quick tour of the displays.

Our first stop was the larger-than-life size nativity scene. An angel suspended from towering fir trees heralded the miracle of Christ’s birth while the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah echoed overhead.

Excited kids came running when the free “train” chugged up to a whistle-stop station to load passengers, then rumbled off on a tour of the grounds.

Enchantment lay in every direction. Children squealed in delight as a frog in green lights leapt, landed, and disappeared among flowers drawn in lights. In another area, dolphins frolicked among lighted sailboats.

There’s too much to absorb in one visit. But the conference center offers overnight lodging for those who’d like to stay longer. Just look on the Internet for information and driving directions. The Lights are open Thursday through Sunday each week in December, but preparation starts in October, when hundreds of volunteers begin assembling displays and installing lights. Another one hundred volunteers work every night to make this top-rated holiday event possible.

By the time I post this, The Lights of Christmas is over for another year. But for us and 50,000 other visitors, the joy they ignited lingers.