The Secret of the Sea


Hi all,

I just got back from a splendid vacation to the beach, during which I did lots of swimming, biking, beachcombing, and indulging in my guilty pleasure, reading, something I don’t have time to do much during the school year. (I read a terrific book called Gift from the Sea, written by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. I highly recommend it.) It was a very restful vacation, and it did much to refresh my soul, as being near the ocean always does for me. I can’t explain it, but there is something about filling your lungs with moist, salty sea air that has the power both to immediately relax and to invigorate. One morning, early, before the sun had even begun to rise, while the world was silent and still, I slipped out of bed and out of the house with my camera. I walked along the all-too-familiar sandy path to the beach, and there I experienced God’s glory in the brilliant sunrise I witnessed. I took a few photos, and I thought I would share those with you, in addition to one of my favorite poems ever, The Secret of the Sea by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. I’m not certain why I love this poem so much, but there is something about it that sends chills down my spine every time I read it. I can practically feel the salty spray on my face and the wind in my hair when I read its haunting, musical verse. I have always felt drawn to the sea, and this poem captures the beauty and mystery of the ocean and the thrill of the unknown.

Ah! what pleasant visions haunt me 

As I gaze upon the sea!

All the old romantic legends,

All my dreams, come back to me.


Sails of silk and ropes of sandal,

Such as gleam in ancient lore;

And the singing of the sailors,

And the answer from the shore!


Most of all, the Spanish ballad

Haunts me oft, and tarries long,

Of the noble Count Arnaldos

And the sailor’s mystic song.


Like the long waves on a sea-beach,

Where the sand as silver shines,

With a soft, monotonous cadence,

Flow its unrhymed lyric lines;


Telling how the Count Arnaldos,

With his hawk upon his hand,

Saw a fair and stately galley,

Steering onward to the land;


How he heard the ancient helmsman

Chant a song so wild and clear,

That the sailing sea-bird slowly

Poised upon the mast to hear,


Till his soul was full of longing,

And he cried, with impulse strong,

“Helmsman! for the love of heaven,

Teach me, too, that wondrous song!”


“Wouldst thou,” so the helmsman answered,

“Learn the secret of the sea?

Only those who brave its dangers

Comprehend its mystery!”


In each sail that skims the horizon,

In each landward-blowing breeze,

I behold that stately galley,

Hear those mournful melodies;


Till my soul is full of longing

For the secret of the sea,

And the heart of the great ocean

Sends a thrilling pulse through me.


I hope you enjoyed! Isn’t it such a wonderful poem? What are your favorite poems?




I wrote this poem over a year ago. It describes the beauty and the power of music. Music has been a huge part of my life, and of myself, for as long as I can remember. I am never quite so happy as when I am singing in choir or playing the guitar, giving a voice to the song in my heart and sharing my gift with others. I have a passion for creating beauty, which is why I love writing, and why I love music. This poem combines my love for both.


It is more powerful than words, for it weaves complex tales of love and loss without uttering a single word.

It is more effective than medicine, for it can heal the deepest wound, outside or in.

It is more healing than any amount of repose, for it eases all aching hearts and brings rest to the souls of the weary.

It is better than a scrapbook of memories, for it can reach into the depths of one’s heart and retrieve all good times gone by.

It is older than the most ancient of kings, for it has played through the centuries and has left its mark upon time.

It is better than the best of friends, for it listens and understands in a way unlike that which any human being is capable of.

It is more comforting than a mother’s gentle touch, for once it has touched a heart, it remains throughout a life.

It is stronger than the thickest cord, for it is composed of many intertwining melodies complexly weaved together which cannot be broken.

It is more natural than the greenest plant, for it reverberates through the very surface of the earth itself.

It is more beautiful than the loveliest gem, for its radiance is everlasting.

Music: an element in itself.

Olivia’s Trip to France, Part 2: Paris


Hi everybody!

Here is (FINALLY) the second installment of photos from my trip to France last summer. Paris is a beautiful, vibrant city, and being there and catching sight of the tip of the Eiffel Tower over the tops of apartment buildings was like a dream. I hope you enjoy and get a feel for the electrifying atmosphere of Paris, the City of Lights, through my photos.


A glimpse of the famous Eiffel Tower through the trees. What a magical sight…I never get tired of it.


A street corner a few blocks away from the apartment we were staying.


I apologize in advance for the multitude of Eiffel Tower photos in this post. While in Paris, I challenged myself to take lots of pictures of the Tower from different vantage points throughout the city, and at different angles and times of day. I had been seeing pictures of the Eiffel Tower in books and my mom’s photo albums for my whole life, and finally getting to see it in person was truly enchanting.


We saw this plaque on the side of an apartment building. It reads, “Here lived Antoine de Saint-Exupery from 1934 to 1940.” (In case you don’t know, Antoine de Saint-Exupery is the author of the famous French book Le Petit Prince, or The Little Prince.) As wonderful as America is, you just don’t see stuff like that walking around in any old city in the States.


Les Invalides, which contains the Musée de l’Armée, the military museum of the French Army, as well as the tombs of some of France’s notable war heroes, including Napoleon Bonaparte.


Napoleon’s tomb. It is HUGE.


The outside of the Musée de l’Armée.


The French flag, waving proudly in the warm summer breeze.


The famous Paris metro sign. In Paris, EVERYONE takes the metro – tourists and locals alike.


The Arc de Triomphe, one of Paris’s most famous monuments. It commemorates those who fought for France during the Napoleonic Wars. I like this picture because the people milling about underneath give you some perspective on just how big the arch really is.


Underneath the Arc de Triomphe is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Here the Memorial Flame is perpetually burning to commemorate those unidentified soldiers who lost their lives in World War I.


The view of the Eiffel Tower from the top of the Arc de Triomphe.


Outside the Centre Pompidou, a famous modern art museum. Even the outside of the building is artsy. Those red platforms are escalators – this is how you enter the museum. Outside in the square around the museum, musicians and artists gather to perform and sell their work.


The Stravinsky Fountain, located just across from the Centre Pompidou. The colorful, eccentric moving statues make this fountain a true work of art.


The view of the Eiffel Tower over the tops of apartment buildings. I took this picture at the top of the escalator going up the side of the Centre Pompidou.


Another pretty shot of the Eiffel Tower through the trees.


The famous Jules Verne restaurant at the base of the Eiffel Tower. Unfortunately, my family was not interested in spending $500 for lunch, so we didn’t go, but I hope I get the chance to go someday, even if I can only afford a glass of water. Haha. 🙂 (I’m exaggerating a little. But still, it’s pricey.)


The view of the Seine from the top of the Eiffel Tower. In case you’re curious, getting to the top required climbing over seven hundred stairs and then waiting in line for twenty minutes to take an elevator that was crammed with about thirty tourists at once.


The view of the Parc du Champ de Mars from the top of the Tower. (That random building in the background is the Montparnasse Tower. I think that it completely destroys the view. Apparently, I have heard that the only reason to go up in it is so that you don’t have to see it, which is a pretty depressing reason.)


An artsy picture of the Eiffel Tower. This kind of gives you an idea of its incredible sky-scraping height.


The Notre Dame cathedral. There was about a mile long line to get in, but it was worth it. It’s absolutely incredible and gives you a sense of the height of God’s glory and majesty.


A gargoyle atop the Notre Dame.


Another gargoyle. This one looks rather bored, don’t you think? Guess I don’t blame it – I would be too if I’d been sitting in the same place, in the same position, for over six hundred years.


Another vibrant view of the city.


The outside of the Louvre museum. This museum houses the famous Mona Lisa (which is disappointingly small in person), among other incredible things. The museum has one of the largest collections in the world, if not THE largest, and it is just a treasure trove of beautiful artifacts, including ancient Egyptian sarcophagi, the Winged Victory of Samothrace, tablets carved with Mesopotamian cuneiform writing, and medieval triptychs. The museum itself was once a royal palace, but the more recent addition of the glass pyramids blends modern and traditional architecture, which I find so interesting. It seems bizarre, but it works. It really does – it’s quite a striking sight.


People sitting on the edge of the fountain in front of the Louvre, dipping their feet in the cool water. It was so incredibly HOT that summer.


On several bridges throughout Paris, lovestruck tourists write their names on padlocks and lock them onto the gate as a symbol of their everlasting love. I think this is just so romantic and such a sweet idea. All the colorful padlocks create a sort of collage of color, which makes for an interesting photo.


A closer look.


A beautiful pastel sunset seen from the Seine.


Luxembourg Palace. I took this photo strolling through the magnificent gardens of the Jardin du Luxembourg.


I think the color in this picture is absolutely stunning. The flowers are so vibrant, the grass so green, the sky so deep and blue…


Yes, we DID stop at a McDonald’s once on our trip. I know, I know – why go to McDonald’s when in Paris, the food capital of the world? Well, as hungry tourists, we weren’t especially interested in a two-hour long sit-down meal at a fancy restaurant, and we were so famished from all our traipsing around the city that we would have eaten anything. So we stopped at this McDonald’s along the Champs-Élysées for a bite to eat. I just thought this was too funny, so I had to take a picture. For the most part, McDonald’s in France is the same as McDonald’s in the U.S. But you can see here that the French have added their own twist.


La Conciergerie, a former royal palace and prison. Marie Antoinette stayed here briefly before her execution.


This is a picture of the Paris Plage, or the Paris Beach. Basically what happens is, every summer, a bunch of sand gets dumped on the side of the Seine, and umbrellas are set up and palm trees planted, to transform downtown Paris into a “beach.” Nobody actually goes swimming in the Seine, of course, but I guess it gives people a chance to “escape” urban life for a while if they aren’t able to literally take a vacation. I find this so bizarre and so neat at the same time.


The Eiffel Tower illuminated at dusk. For the first five minutes of each hour, starting around 9:00 PM, the Eiffel Tower twinkles. At the beginning of each hour, as the twinkling begins, you can hear “ooh”s and “ahh”s from all the awestruck viewers on the lawns below. It is truly a magical sight.

I hope you enjoyed these pictures. I was so thankful for the opportunity to visit such a beautiful city, filled with so much vibrant history and rich culture, and I hope I will be able to return someday. Keep an eye out for the third and final installment of photos from my trip to France last summer, coming (hopefully) soon: Normandy!

À la prochaine (Until next time), Olivia

STTA #11


What was the weirdest/craziest/funniest dream you’ve ever had?

I personally love when this topic of conversation comes up, probably because I have SO many totally bizarre dreams that are so funny to share. But this is the one I remember most vividly: I was standing in the front of a gym that was filled with monkeys. Yes, monkeys. The room was packed wall-to-wall (-to-ceiling) with monkeys. I was standing on a podium at the front of the gym and trying to raise my voice over the chattering and screeching of the hundreds of crazed monkeys. I was, for some strange reason (or for no reason at all), teaching them how to do the chicken dance. “Okay, now, everyone. Flap your wings and wiggle your behinds!” I was demonstrating the moves as I spoke, but all the monkeys were climbing all over each other and screaming and basically not paying attention. At all. Just as I was beginning to get desperate, Tarzan swung in on a vine (out of nowhere), pounding his chest and hollering, and scooped me up and saved me. “Bye!” I shouted, waving at all the monkeys, who were staring up at me, silenced, perhaps wondering how the heck Tarzan got in there. Then my dream ended (perhaps before we slammed into a wall and died – ever notice how your dreams always seem to end right before something really bad happens?). Just in case you’re starting to think I’m a lunatic, let me remind you that I was asleep and my perfectly sane brain would not have been able to conjure THAT one up any other way. Now, I’m dying to know – what was the strangest dream you’ve ever had? Feel free to leave a comment below!

Writer’s Block

I wrote this poem, appropriately, as I was procrastinating on my English essay. I couldn’t think of a single thing to say, so I fought my case of writer’s block by writing. This poem was the result. I hope you enjoy!
I put the pencil
pick it up, put it
Why isn’t this easy?
Why, oh why, am I
piece of paper
was once a friend, but
it is now my
Every time I picked up a pen, the
words would flow
out of me,
cascading out of
my heart and
spilling out of my
soul, splattering beauty
across the page,
scattering the
and creating something
in its place.
It was once
so easy to dispel, but
as I am staring
at the paper,
its blinding brightness
burns into my eyelids and
my imagination.
Oh, imagination, creativity,
why have you
forsaken me?
Why have you left me
devoid of inspiration,
deprived of ideas,
drained of dreams?
Why have you left me grappling
in the darkness,
searching for a light that
has been
shrouded in the
of a
But a small voice inside my head
tells me to pick up
a pen, and
though I am
of all inspiration,
I reach for it and
begin to write,
knowing that with each
stroke of the pen, with each
I am fighting that horrible
deadly beast known as
writer’s block.
So there. I am
unstuck! I just
a poem.

Spring Has Sprung


Hi, everyone.

Several weeks ago, I was sitting outside with a book, as I often do, and I was suddenly overcome by the gentle beauty of the world caressed in spring’s sweet embrace. I ran inside to grab my camera, and snapped these photos in my own backyard, inspired by the grace and delicate beauty of the world in springtime. I hope you enjoy this compilation of spring photos and quotes, and I hope they inspire you to get outside and take notice of the beauty of nature as the world awakens from its long, wintry sleep.


“Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s party!'” ~Robin Williams


“Spring shows what God can do with a drab and dirty world.” ~Virgil Kraft


“Spring won’t let me stay in this house any longer! I must get out and breathe the air deeply again.” ~Gustav Mahler


“See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come.” ~Song of Solomon 2:11-12


“Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems.” ~Rainer Maria Rilke


“Awake, thou wintry earth – fling off thy sadness! Fair vernal flowers, laugh forth your ancient gladness!” ~Thomas Blackburn, An Easter Hymn


“The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus; it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing.” ~Isaiah 35:1-2

Your friend, Olivia

Musings on Psalm 23


“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothingHe makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” ~Psalm 23

These are the words of Psalm 23, a psalm of David. Psalm 23 is perhaps one of the best-loved psalms and most beloved Bible passages, for it calls us to stop, to breathe, and to rest in the love of God. It calls us to take notice of the quiet beauty of the world around us, and to find comfort and strength in knowing that the Lord Himself is our protector. Its gentle, soothing language almost reads like a lullaby. I think that Psalm 23 captures the essence of a God who cares for us with a love that is incomprehensible and unfathomable in its depth, a love that will follow us all the days of our lives, no matter where we may go or what we may do, whether we succeed or fail.

I’ve been musing on this particular passage for a while now. I am a girl living in a busy, fast-paced society. Lots of things are competing for priority in my life: school, outside activities, friends. I feel a lot of pressure to succeed in school, perform well in my extracurriculars, and fit in with everyone else. I also struggle with OCD-like tendencies, which makes it especially difficult for me to slow down and relax and see things in proportion. As such, I am constantly trying to slow myself down and force myself to take breaks. I am trying to make sure that my life is a healthy balance between work and “me time.” It is important to work hard, but it is equally important to give ourselves rest so that we can relax, recharge, and have fun! We were not created to simply exist. We were created to LIVE, and there is an enormous difference between the two. In order to really LIVE, we have to have balance. And we have to have God.

I was reading Psalm 23 a few days ago, and something struck me that I wanted to share with you all. In the second verse, I noticed that it read specifically, “He makes me lie down in green pastures.” Not “He encourages me to lie down in green pastures.” 

God makes us slow down and rest. Because whenever we spend time with our Heavenly Father, we are resting and being restored by His grace.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” ~Matthew 11:28

A lot of us – and I know this, because I do it too – tend to shut God out of our lives. With all our other obligations in life, God can seem like just another thing we have to make time for. But we were not created to be machines, going and going and going all day long, from sunup to sundown, every single day. Spending time with God heals us and restores us. Without God in our lives, we are simply existing, dragging ourselves through each monotonous day, numb to the vividness of true living.

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” ~John 10:10

God wants us to experience life fully. And the only way we can really live is if we make time for ourselves and for Him. God calls us to slow down, but many of us are simply too busy to take notice. Today I challenge you to listen for God’s call to rest! Today, take some time for yourself and do something you love to help you breathe and find God. For me that would be writing, playing guitar, or reading the Bible. Do whatever helps you de-stress – go for a walk, bake chocolate chip cookies, play an instrument, read, draw, listen to music, play with a pet… It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as it helps you to release some of the burden that you have been carrying with you, whatever that burden might have been. You cannot fully embrace the beauty of life if you never allow yourself time to rest and recharge, and shut God out.

Many of us complain that we never have any free time. I think that most of us do have more time than we think we do, but that time is often consumed by mindless activity, such as social media, texting, or surfing the Internet. Technology is a wonderful invention and has greatly improved our lives, having increased convenience and comfort. However, it is easy to get sucked into the world of Facebook and Instagram, or lose oneself mindlessly surfing the Web. It is perhaps too easily accessible, and it drains our free time, time that we could be spending with God or doing things we love. In my free time at school, I used to pull out my laptop and surf the Internet. But I realized that I could be using that precious time in better ways, and I packed my Bible in my backpack. Now, I have changed that time mindlessly surfing the Internet to time spent with my Father, reading and reflecting on His Word.

It is so, so important to give ourselves breaks. At some point, it is important to say “Good enough for now,” set aside whatever we are working on, and forget about it for a while. Spending time with ourselves allows us to breathe, to recharge, to step away from the demands and obligations of daily life and escape. When we allow ourselves into the slow lane, we begin to see God all around us, healing us through His grace and love.

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” ~John Lubbock

Your friend, Olivia