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.
Here's what I was thinking about today, a quote from my daily "Simplicity" calendar, "inspiration for a simpler life:"
Leave the beaten track behind occasionally and dive into the woods.
You will be certain to find something you have never seen before...
Alexander Graham Bell
I didn't dive into the woods, but I did wander a bit. I wasn't sure what I was looking for - but here's what I found! (Thanks for the challenge, Mr. Bell!)
What were you looking for today? What did you find?
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.
December 21. Four days until Christmas. “Are you ready for Christmas?” is a common question these days…checking lists…what remains to be done before The Day?
How about pause.
(Maybe next week???)
No, I suggest, I urge, now.
Today. And maybe again tomorrow.
Pause. Because you need The Presence.
The hunting season is paused for a few weeks, and
I need the exercise,
I need the woods,
I need to think,
I need to pause,
This is a good prayer for such a day, for such a season:
O God, You are my God.
I seek you earnestly.
My soul thirsts for you… longs for you…
As in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.
(Or at least no snow so far this winter.)
I wander up the path. The woodspace is open now;
leafless trees pause in the life cycle for rest, to go deep, to wait for spring.
Bird song is muted; no murmur of a breeze can be heard.
Not one squirrel announces my presence; we’ve had a sudden cold snap and they are hunkered down in their messy looking dreys.
It’s a still place.
But it is not empty.
I am halfway to wherever when I finally tune in to the whispers of life surrounding me.
I hear a great horned owl calling, low and steady, pause, repeat. The call is repeated in a higher pitch far up the mountain. Mating season comes early for these predators.
Woodpeckers tap.tap.tap. their steady rhythms and call out the warnings
when I encroach on their space.
The raucous alarm cry of the pileated woodpecker raises my curiosity and I stand, pause long, until I spot him, high in the canopy. (Sorry, no clear picture!) I wait him out, and he forgets me, or decides I’m not a threat, and resumes his busy-ness- he is dangling, twisting, snatching red berries from a bittersweet vine twined sixty feet above the forest floor. Looks like a happenin’ Christmas party for one.
I see other signs of forest activity. Someone has cleared a fallen tree from the path and neatly stacked the wood. Something has torn apart a log in search of a snack; I notice a recently excavated hole about the size of a chipmunk…it’s nap time.
Long unseen fingers of frozenness have brushed across the pond, adding crackle glaze to tree reflections.
I could turn around now, and it would be enough-
But I choose otherwise. This time I will not rush home. This is a different kind of power walk…
I hear the water before I see the glory,
a stream of water gushing from a hidden source deep in the heart of the mountain.
It is my favorite resting place on a hot summer afternoon. Beyond this spot, the path disintegrates into a tangle of thorny canes and tick cover and snake rocks, but right here, a reservoir overflows with pure clearness that quenches more than my thirst today.
It’s been just cold enough, and the ice beauty catches me off guard. Oh, dear God, You did this. For me?
I doubt anyone else has seen it, just this way, this day. My eyes, my soul can barely take it in.
I see a host of ice fractals, patterned in a multitude of designs.
A waterfall of icicles flows from one nondescript twig.
This one makes me smile...(is this what happens to naughty aliens?)
I stand back to take in the delicate ring of ice formations…ummm, did You intend that to be heart shaped?
And then, ohhh...these exquisite ferns.
I’m out of words and on my knees,
to see this breathtaking beauty,
to capture photos so I will remember,
to say "thank you."
Psalm 63:2-4 continues:
So I have looked upon You, I have seen You – to gaze at, to perceive, to contemplate with pleasure. This is a more poetic word than the usual “seen.” It refers to a prophetic vision and insight, to seeing God.
In the sanctuary – a sacred place. “God’s presence is what makes any place, anything, or anyone holy.” (Note from NASB Key Word Study Bible, OT entry 6944) Moses heard God’s voice at the burning bush, “...the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” It was his unexpected encounter with the living God in an ordinary place that became holy. Yes. I get that. I'm standing stock still on holy frozen ground.
I don’t take my shoes off…brrr... but my soul kneels and my heart is raised in praise to this One who would pause to create this place of pause to meet my need,
to meet me.
My lips will praise you – to address in a loud tone! (I’m doing it, yes I am, because my heart is overflowing, and I just want to thank Someone.)
Because Your steadfast love – your lovingkindness, your unfailing love
Is better than life itself.
I will bless /honor/praise You as long as I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name.
Jesus, You whom we
during this frantic, festive season,
I will pause to praise You as long as I live,
or at least, let me be singing when the evening comes.
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.
We've had a lot of gloomy afternoons this autumn.
I don't have official numbers to confirm this, but I think the "treeb" (a PA Dutch word that means cloudy, misty, and generally miserable) days have outnumbered the golden ones. Earlier in the season, prognosticators explained that the leaves would be unusually spectacular this year.
I waited for the glory. And waited.
Fast forward to recent weeks when the sun barely made a showing, and the forecast offered the following options: "rain, partly cloudy, misty, chance of showers" for five-six-seven consecutive days. As you might imagine, weather whining commenced. It was hard to get any outside work done; the garden looked disheveled and rumpled, like twelve unmade (raised) beds in serious need of attention.
My gardening friend arrived one day between showers to harvest broccoli and a few peppers. She's not a native Pennsylvanian, having grown up in a much milder climate on a far continent where winter is a concept but not much of an experience.
As last winter approached, she was heard to say, "It gets down to like…twenty degrees here, right?" Oh, dear friend…. Even for those of us who have always called this home, last winter was memorable. We'd never heard of a polar vortex, and suddenly we were living it. There were many days when the thermometer never made up to twenty degrees.
So, my friend might have been excused had she arrived that dreary day with a complaint on her lips.
But she did not.
Instead, she took a deep breath, smiled, and said,
"I've realized something…here in Pennsylvania, this time of year,
the sunshine is in the trees."
The. sunshine. is. in. the. trees.
With a simple sentence, she helped me reset my perspective for days. Ahh, those perspecticals, ever in need of readjustment. I had already observed that in spite of gloomy skies, the golden trees seemed to have a glow of their own. Now I looked again, and again, remembering her words, "the sunshine is in the trees."
I went on a search for that glory on a day when the clouds hung low and the world seemed doomed to drabness.
I walked to the garden and realized the "endangered bush" would be around for another season…
who would dare to eliminate such grandeur?
I passed the redbud tree; it was waving it's golden-hearted reminders of God's love. For me. Even (especially?!) on the dreary days.
I drove to the mountain and hiked the sunless road, looking with new eyes for the brilliance that still shone forth.
"The sunshine is in the trees. The sunshine is in the trees..."
It did seem as if the radiance had been absorbed into the dying trees for these overcast days.
The thought passed through my mind, "I hope I when I die, I reflect this kind of glory..."
Even our quaint little cabin was embellished with tree glory.
Left and right, I spotted brilliant yellows splashing the drab wood scenes. How much splendor could one tree hold? It spilled over into my heart and made me want to laugh. Here I was, hoping the sun wouldn't come out?! I was on a mission to confirm her thesis...the sunshine is in the trees. And what did I find? Autumn glory in every direction, with or without sunlight.
Sometimes I talk to myself,
and sometimes I listen.
This is what I'm hearing right now:
The sunshine is in the trees, HumminB. The sunshine is in the trees.
Watch for it.
Be present, even in this moment that you thought was so dull.
Watch and never stop watching.
Watch until the cows come home...
The woods in winter is a tired old woman,
Bleary eyed and ready for sleep.
No glasses, no make-up,
her teeth on the night stand.
She is angles and bones, a maze of wrinkles.
She bears not a spot of blush,
nor eye shadow, nor lipstick.
Her thinning hair sports no ribbon.
She wears no flowery gown,
no ruffle at her throat.
Still, there is stark loveliness,
Bleak beauty in the simple lines.
It is what it is,
the unadorned truth.
And then I spy her ruby embellishments,
I gasp in wonder at exquisite splendor,
And I imagine she winks at me.
What's to love about winter? Stark beauty.
It's time and past time for a long, long walk, around my country block or up into the mountain, it doesn't really matter; it just needs to be long - long enough to quiet the racket in my head. I realize too late it might have been good to know where I was heading when I started out… But a decision about destination has kept me paralyzed on the porch too long; sometimes you just have to get started. I have half a mile to trek before the road forks, and yes, I take the one less traveled. We'll see if it makes all the difference. As it is, my aesics are mumbling about mud, my bare legs will bear signs of bramble scratch for days, and overgrown paths give me and my no-show socks reason to pause as I remember a snake I once met.
My camera dies a drained battery death, now it's just excess baggage. I leave it on a fence post to pick up on the way home. (That's how it is where I live, safe that way.) MY pace picks up; I'm storming the trail, feet keeping pace with the internal chatter I seek to escape, or more accurately to silence, or at least to tame. My ears have been ringing for months, but abruptly I realize the present chirp-buzz-click is external. I am surrounded by unseen cicadas, crickets, and God knows what else. (He does!) "The hills are alive with the sound of…crickets…"
I know some cricket facts: -Over 900 species of crickets exist worldwide and we have at least nine varieties here in Pennsylvania. -Only the males sing-chirp by running the top of one wing along the teeth at the bottom of the other wing, NOT by rubbing their wings together.
And, I know some cricket lore: -Crickets have been considered a sign of good luck for thousands of years in far eastern as well as Native American culture. -In some circles, it is believed that the more crickets you have singing in your home, the more wealth your household will enjoy.
I even know (of) some famous crickets: - Jiminy Cricket, and - Chester Cricket better known as The Cricket in Times Square.
But the truest thing I know about crickets is that they are a sign of the beginning of the end of summer, and at the moment, all of the Pennsylvania varieties seem to be making the same announcement. When did they start this? I wonder. We had that sleep-stealing heat wave a few weeks ago, put a little a/c in our bedroom window, listened to white noise for a few nights, took it out, and – crickets.
Aughhhh, I gasp (again.) Not the end of summer yet, I'm not ready (again.) It's gone too soon, too fast (again.) I didn't see this coming…or going?! (again.)
Not so, says Jeff O'Brien, a favorite writer of mine whom you've (probably) never read. Your loss. I just read this in his book, Seasons in Upper Turkeyfoot: "The change (of seasons) is neither fast nor slow; the seasons change gradually and continually." And so I look around. I listen (again.) And now I see what's been happening gradually and continually around me.
The open fields and pastures are edge-stitched in lace fit for a queen, (Queen Anne of course.)
Manifold greens shine again, after drought quenching rains, but these are different, deeper greens, more mature and settled than the flirty greens of spring.
The moss looks tired along the path, and sunlit clearings are dappled with goldenrod.
Chipmunks scold and "tuwwhit" more than they did in early summer, and where are "my" birds?
The indigo bunting is nowhere to be seen or heard, and even the grackles are gone as are most of the robins.
I stand beside the cat-tail swamp, and it is silent as a cemetery where redwing blackbirds frolicked and fussed over their nesting territories oh so recently.
I realize too late I forgot to look for phoebe but I know her nest is emptier than mine, and she's probably moved on.
The nightshade berries are turning purple-black, and wizened blackberries bend seedy heads toward the earth, offering food to creatures preparing for what is surely coming.
The signs are unmistakable, summer is slipping quietly away, and autumn is on the move and has been for some time. "The change is neither fast nor slow…"
I want to put the brakes on, find the pause button, or just stop everything for an afternoon or three. I have not taken the time to look, to listen, to walk attentively in this place. And I have missed so much. I've been preoccupied, again, and thus caught off-guard, again. "Preoccupied with society and our place in it, we age in ignorance, caught up in the transitory." Jeff O'Brien again. He's right, and I will write it here. "Time speeds up only when we ignore it." So true, so very true. Conversely, if I take time to be fully present in this moment, I feel momentarily quiet, stilled, at rest.
And so, today, I will pause and breathe in the fragrance of the butterfly bush. (And I will not be alone!)
I will look up at flat bottomed clouds against a back drop of mountains drawn close in a no-humidity sky.
I will observe the swelling pink seeds of the ladyfingers.
I will not ignore time...
I will embrace this moment without trying to hold it forever. Hummin' B.
I'm finding my way beyond the maze of the "middle" years