Go ahead, find some shoes and go out the door. You don't have to be gone long, just go. Ten minutes out, ten minutes back if that's all you can "afford" to invest today. But when you're out there, be all there! Be mindful of what you see and hear in your world.. Start listening with your eyes. You never know what you might discover. And if you won't take my word for it, here's a quote to get you motivated!
Come forth into the light of things, let nature be your teacher." William Wordsworth
What are you waiting for? The weekend is whispering your name..."Come. Pause. Listen." Yes. You. Out.the.door.
The woods seemed unnaturally silent for most of my walk and I wondered why. A few incessantly irritable little chipmunks kept announcing my presence; fuss-fuss-fuss, their ticking, clicking warning preceded my every step. But perhaps I was not the danger against which they warned.
Caw, caw, caw, a crow flew overhead low and close, so close I heard the precise whoosh of his wings cutting through the air; it was not a gentle, meandering flight – the wing beats were firm and businesslike; he was a bird on a mission.
At some point, I heard a hawk scream through the canopy, and I pondered the terror that primal scream would etch across the brain of a woodland creature – chickadee, chipmunk, vole, vireo. It wasn’t a sound I would ever long to hear. Unlike the bluebird’s signature greeting or the whistle of a tufted titmouse, this shriek contained a predatory edge of bloodthirst.
So, maybe that was why the chipmunks were edgy. They could be forgiven their touchiness, given the panic inducing reality of hawk fear.
Oh, yes. Hawk fear again.
Recently I have had a fascination with the view I find when I point my camera “up,”
as in, straight up toward…
whatever is up there.
(Mostly trees so far, because that is mostly what I can see.)
Something moves me when I see the way the lens curvature pulls the treetops inward
as if they would both hold the earth and frame the sky.
For some reason, this view brings these words into my mind:
Your love is deep.
Your love is high.
Your love is long.
Your love is wide.
Your love is deeper than my view of grace,
Higher than this worldly place,
Longer than this road I travel,
Wider than the gap You fill.
Who shall separate us
Who shall separate us from your love
Nothing can separate us
Nothing can separate us from your love.
This worship song used to be a favorite in my church, in me. I'm not sure why we don't sing it anymore...it's still one of my vacuuming songs. (Singing my way through less favorite tasks is a long habit of mine…as is singing when I am really delighted, so you can’t always tell the difference…which might be the point.)
These words hold deep meaning for me, and I sing them that way, with gusto (over the sound of my vacuum, should you happen to stop by.)
So.much. truth. packed into these simple lyrics. So many dimensions to God's love:
His love is deep:
Some days it’s a big relief to realize God’s love is deep, because life offers up some serious potholes, and I end up in them all too often. When I’m “in deep,” I have found this quote by Corrie ten Boom to be true:
There is no pit so deep that God's love is not deeper still.
I cling to the reality of a love that is “deeper still,” more than enough for whatever hole I have dug or into which I have fallen.
His love is wide:
I feel like I might have always known that God’s love is wide…bridging the chasm that yawned open between Creator and created ones the first time the snake whispered and we listened. I think the sin nature becomes obvious to anyone who has ever raised a two-year-old, parented through the teen years, or looked into the mirror and caught a glimpse of the dark side.
I need a love wide enough to span that gap, and God offers it.
His love is long:
I have at times caught a hint of how long God’s love is, preceding my first breath of life by millennia, as evidenced in the words of David:
“For great is Your steadfast love for me.” (Psalm 86:13 ESV)
You too, David?
When you read those words,
when you wrote those words,
did your heart swell with warmth like mine does every single time I read this extravagant phrase?
My face cannot hold back a smile as I finger this line of pearl words and hold them close to my heart.
Oh, God, this love of yours,
it is truly a long love,
it is longer than the road I travel, longer than my years,
however long that may be.
I have come to trust that I cannot outlive that love.
His love is high: What exactly does that mean? I have memorized verses that declared the truth that God’s love is high:
Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds. Psalm 36:5
For your steadfast love is higher than the heavens,
and your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
However, the understanding of God's high love at a heart level is newer.
I think that's why the lens view of “up” has captured my attention. Those trees, hovering, those branches framing my view, somehow connect me to the sense that I too am held, that my world is framed with a Love whose dimensions I am only beginning to glimpse.
A love that is higher than “this worldly place,” this space of earth,
a love that takes in the sweep of my little life in this little place fraught with pits and chasms and hawk fear…
That would be one hawk-fear-banishing, extraordinary love.
Your love is high...
May you have the power to understand…how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Epesians 3:18, 19 NLT
I must go up to the trees again, to the lonely trees and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall pine and the chance to hear her sigh.
And the breeze kiss and a soft mist, and the birch leaves quaking,
And a golden hue on the meadow view with a fall day waking.
I must go up to the trees again for the call of the mountainside
Is a wild call and clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is an autumn day and the white clouds playing
And the leaf path and the chipmunk’s laugh, and the maples, swaying.
I must go up to the trees again, to the lonely, wandering life,
To the fawn’s way, and the dove’s way, where the thrush plays a haunting fife.
And all I ask in the peace of pause is the whispering Presence,
And the sweet perfume, the remembered joy of the long hike’s essence.
My woodland haunt was transformed on Monday. A silent onslaught of whiteness floated down, blanketing everything in its course with indiscriminate extravagance. Crystalline splendor piled up inches deep, waiting for sun glory. It snowed off and on most of the day and into the night...
Morning brrought more flakes and wind swirl, but by late afternoon, I venture out. Blue sky pulls me from gray chores as dusk approaches.
that tall straight trees,
perfect, pointing skyward,
have already shed their snowy coats.
The late afternoon breeze
has scattered swirls of whiteness
the bent ones,
trees bowed low,
leaning hard against tall neighbors,
or splayed across the underbrush like fallen warriors in a battle I cannot imagine,
these trees piled high with snow,
piled high with grace,
speak to me.
Grace piled high…
On the fallen, the leaning, the faltering.
These trees, being horizontal, have more space for grace.
Grace piles up and lingers long.
Once, perhaps they too stood tall and straight, until disaster visited:
A twisting wind lingered…
a reckless dirt mover backed too far…
a neighbor tree, storm thrown, grabbed wildly on its way down.
until they cracked or crashed.
Uprooted and displaced, they now receive grace piled high.
discarded branch pile,
-creates distinct beauty,
and provides a"place"
for smallest forest creatures
seeking storm refuge.
Leaning trees, piled high with grace, can also point Homeward.
A few weeks ago I drove south along the Junaita River.
Winter was in full progress, but there was no snow (yet.)
Outside my window, the landscape stretched in unending shades of gray with barely a trace of color.
The word bleak came to mind. Or dull.
Or a handful of other unfavorable adjectives regularly tagged onto winter scenes.
Drab. Dreary. Depressing. Desolate. (What's with the letter "d"?)
And then I started noticing the sycamores, Platanus occidentalis.
During the leaf-filled days of spring and summer, the American sycamore, also known as the American planetree, occidental plane, and buttonwood, is rather unremarkable. When autumn paints our central PA scenes, the sycamore is one of the first to drop its ordinary yellow brown leaves as if can't wait for barren winter days. Perhaps the sycamore tree knows that its time is coming. For winter is the time when the sycamore can shine.
The sycamore is best known for its unusual mottled bark which sloughs off in irregular patches to reveal shades of gray, greenish white, and brown. All year long, sycamore bark flakes off in uneven sheets, but it is chiefly in the winter that this unique beauty is noticeable.
There are people like this in my world, yours too I suppose,
people who aren't particularly memorable or noticeable
when life is green and growing.
When there's an ostentatious show of flashy performance
like autumn leaf wonder,
But when life turns bleak and cold,
when the colorful exhibition is gone,
and day simply follows day,
there they stand.
With understated beauty,
their presence adds depth and dignity to ordinary days.
They are quietly "there" making a difference simple by being there.
Look for them,
these quiet sentinels of beauty,
on your bleak/dull/drab/depressing days.
Watch for the sycamores.
I had another idea in mind for today's post, but then we woke up to a fresh coating of snow. I knew I needed to get out of the house for a walk, but one thing led to another; the day was slipping by fast, and I was still inside. I kept talking to myself, kept myself moving, on track to get out the door before it was too late. I jumped in the van to drive to the woods because I knew there wasn't time to walk TO the woods and IN the woods. In two minutes I had parked along the road less traveled, and I was breathing deep of cold crisp mountain air, and thinking, oh, if you've never walked in the winter woods at dusk, you just haven't lived.
The blue gray beauty is mysterious and beckoning. The hush seeps into my soul as I walk the snow covered mountain road. I'm alone at the moment, but there have been other travelers here, deer tracks etch a path parallel to mine, squirrels have been leaping everywhere, and rabbits have been zigzagging here half the day, according to my reading of the road.
I hesitate as the trail forks up the mountain. The sun is long gone; the blueness of the woods has deepened to dusky gray, but I can't resist the urge to walk just a bit further. I'm waiting for something, hoping, longing, yearning for that certain wonder of the winter woods.
I walk and pause, walk and pause. Even if my wish is fulfilled I cannot take a picture for you, for I am waiting for a sound, an echo of beauty heard only in deep winter.
I might be holding my breath when I hear it; the sound floats down the mountain on my left, carried on a breeze whisper, echoing between the bare trees and my heart, the evocative call of the great horned owl. The sound is so haunting I wonder if it's real, and then the answer drifts through the shadows. I wait. One calls…pause… the other answers. At first the pauses are about ten steps long, and I walk quickly, "quietly," toward the voices, scanning the deeply shadowed woods, hoping for a glimpse. Today's snow is powder soft, and my steps are somewhat muffled, although I still think I sound like a very large two-footed something or other fumbling through unknown terrain. I doubt I'll be able to sneak up on anything. The calls continue, back and forth back and forth; the pause between notes shortens until the voices sometimes overlap in a duet. (Since I couldn't take a picture, I found this link for you: http://www.learner.org/jnorth/sounds/Owl_GreatHorned_Duet.mp3)
I keep walking toward them, and then the ghost of a winged shadow glides between the branches, up the mountain. When I hear the call again, the low voice is far away, and I know it is time for me to turn toward home.
I'm not afraid on the mountain at night; I haven't watched enough bad movies to make me shiver walking among trees in near darkness. The only dangers I might stumble upon would be self imposed…
getting lost ("Just walk downhill;" this one bit of advice has forever relieved my fear of losing my way on our mountains)
or spraining an ankle (which my mom did when she was about my age…but she seemed much older. To me. Then.)
or falling (which I do before I reach the van, smooth ice beneath fresh snowfall, and splat, I'm dusting snow off of my camera lens and other places)
Behind me, the owls are still calling; overhead the moon shines, ringed with light, promising…more snow.
The night woods are still and peaceful and lovely.
I breath the cold air deep and hold my breath in the hush of the white snow everywhere.
The shining moon floats in a bowl of deep blue sky, surrounded by tree branch silhouettes, and I feel, feel the beauty of it.
What's to love about winter? Winter woods walking.
I'm finding my way beyond the maze of the "middle" years