Thursday, December 10, 2015

Puddle Jumping

The rains have continued. Yesterday during a brief lull, I visited the pond and studied the water levels more carefully. A log that I once sat upon is now on the very edge of the water.

This was my view from the log just last month. 

December's Pond

September's Pond

Bark dust was completely submerged throughout one stretch of the path, and I had to work my way along the tangled roots to the side in order to keep my feet somewhat dry. I loved the way the overhanging boughs were captured in the reflection.

I did notice how stark and barren the once-secluded bend in the path now feels. The empty tree branches create greater visibility throughout the area, which means I can no longer stand in the middle of the path and feel like man-made structures are far from me. Homes and fences, though the same distance away as they've always been, now peek through the boughs.

It seems a bit silly to feel that as a loss, but I do love the idea of being tucked away among verdant foliage with only flora and fauna in sight. I'm not yet yearning for summer, but I know the day will come. In the mean time, we listen to the rain . . . and even hear the reports of a tornado just to the north!  

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Rain in its Season

The forecast called for a 100% chance of rain today, and it has certainly delivered. The pond and park are filled with water, little creeks and brooks forming where there was once dry ground.

Indeed, He "will send rain in its season."

I leapt from soggy bark dust patch to patch in order to avoid a few overflows, squelching as I did so. That along with the unusual 60 degrees made it feel more like a temperamental spring day.

Of course the bare branches and dripping berries served as proof that it is definitely December.

My log looks much different now. In October a cat reposed in the welcome shade of the reeds. Today the log is soggy and nearly submerged, and the cattails are decidedly forlorn.

October log-with-cat

December log-with-no-cat

I quickly made my morning lap, bade a cheerful "hello!" to the drenched groundskeeper, and headed home for the comfort of a cozy Christmas tree, rain drumming on the roof, and a hot cup of tea.


Monday, November 23, 2015

Lacework at Sunrise

The frozen bark dust path crunched beneath my feet, the only sound -- save the occasional cah of the crow -- at the pond this morning.

As naturalist Edwin Way Teale observed one November morning in the 1950s, "An edging of ice, like frail lacework, runs around the quiet bays of the swamp stream. The hush . . . is complete."

I walked in that thirty-degree hush, marveling at "a thousand forms of crystalline art" that had been wrought overnight by my Creator, thankful that I had a moment to delight over the masterpieces on display in His intricate gallery.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

First Frost

The thin layer of ice in the bird bath this morning prompted me to grab gloves and a headband before heading to the pond today. Although I walked around noon, the ground was still frosted in the shady nooks and crannies that had yet to see the light of day.

Frequent rains have raised the level of the pond, and the plants have a rather "munched upon" look to them. It's a different pond today than it was in the summer, for sure. About a dozen ducks dabbled about; mallards, shovelers, and widgeons are the most common visitors now.

I took a few minutes to step beyond the worn path today -- both literally and figuratively -- in order to plop down on a log to rest, to be still. The quiet was welcome, allowing for uninterrupted reflection and prayer. (Interesting that I literally saw "reflections" in the water as I listened and pondered.)

The frosted landscape, the icy blue sky, the dazzling sunlight and the barren branches called John 15 to mind, a passage I've been working to memorize over the last few weeks.

Every branch that does bear fruit, He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.
John 15:2

Sometimes pruning takes place in an unexpected, intrusive way, with shears and clippers. Other times, pruning is natural, quiet, and slow. This is the pruning I observed around me today. The frost that subdued the landscape, the leaves that quietly fell, the branches that slowly bared, the air that carried fewer and fewer rustles, chirps and squeaks. This is the natural death that, come spring, will burst once again to vibrant, glorious life.

It must be acknowledged, however, that even this death, even this pruning, has an unmistakable beauty of its own.

As if the heavens had dripped molten sunlight over the landscape, 
fiery hues burst forth when autumn reaches its magnificent crescendo.
(From Victoria Magazine)

After a time, I reluctantly left my quiet little log and turned away from the pond. As I did so, my eye caught the sunlight as it danced in a secret corner of the woods beyond the barbed wire fence, beyond the frost. I marveled as I beheld a sight I'd never noticed before: A small stone stairway stretched upward like Jacob's ladder, golden light illuminating each step.

When we willingly surrender to the wise pruning, to the purifying frost, to the barren isolation, exposure, and raw dependence, the light will come.

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.
Psalm 119:105

Thou wilt make known to me the path of life. In Thy presence is fullness of joy.
Psalm 16:11

And this is the glorious, resplendent light that illumines our steps and beautifies our lives with a deeper faith, hope, and love than we otherwise would have known.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


This afternoon, I considered.

I considered the birds of the air . . . .

The wildflowers of the field . . . .

The squirrels in the treetops . . . .

And I found comfort. As the robin tossed a hawthorne berry down its throat, as the jay flew by with a peanut in its beak, and as the geese soared toward the pond, eager to munch on a plant or two, I was reminded of provision, of plenty . . . and of the peace that comes when we trust.

Do not be anxious for your life . . . 

Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!

Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field . . . how much more will He clothe you?

Luke 12

How much more. Consider that! How much, much more.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Copper and Sage

I have to really keep my eye on the clock, the daylight, and the weather in order to sneak in walks these days. The walking hours are fleeting.

And so are the last tokens of a summer that seems as though it existed ages and ages ago.

A few daisies, Queen Anne's lace, and clover continue to linger, but the trees definitely reflect the late fall calendar. Many have lost their leaves by now, although the hazelnut and hawthorne are just now turning. (I found it curious that three hawthorne trees in a row are each currently in different stages: One is still green, another yellow, while the third has lost most of its leaves.)

A little while ago I discovered a holly bush tucked away from the path. It was bursting with berries, leading me to assume that the tree I found several weeks ago on the trail (which is still berry free) must be the "male." Or still a child. A child bush.

(Among the birds of prey I see -- without fail -- along the pond route. The powerful and majestic hawk.)

The final stretch of the path welcomed me this afternoon with the warmest hues of copper and sage. I've been drawn to these colors as I decorate our living room, so I felt right at home as I swept past the shrubs which, I've learned, are called Hardhack.

A rather unfortunate appellation, but the soothing fall coloring does make up for it. As Shakespeare would no doubt say, "A hardhack by any other name . . . would still look great in the fall."

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Curiouser and Curiouser

A quick lap around the pond with sister this afternoon as the bagels "riz" on the kitchen counter. (It doesn't take much for me to lapse into Alcott-ese.) It had been raining earlier, but when we stepped out the sun was warm and bright. Fluffy white clouds dotted the bright blue sky and we again saw a number of signs that tricked us into thinking that November couldn't really be just around the corner.

A snake slithered through the grasses, a delphinium bloomed and nodded on the pond bank, dragonflies flitted and darted across our path, a bee worked busily over a tuft of clover, and robins sang in the tree tops, hopping from branch to branch.

We giggled once again over the odd behavior of the geese, for today they were bathing (or courting? or playing?) with unusual intensity. Usually a flick of the feathers, a splash of water, and a little grooming with the beak are sufficient. But today they actually turned complete somersaults in the water -- awkward, floppy, long-necked, ample-bottomed somersaults. I've never seen such a thing. As Alice would say upon entering Wonderland, their behavior grows "Curiouser and curiouser!"

Monday, October 26, 2015

To Run and Skip in the Woods

Yesterday was wet and windy. The rains fell steadily as I curled up on the couch under my blanket with a book in hand. I shivered a bit, batted my eyelashes at Jamie, and he took the hint. A fire was soon lit and I reveled in the crackle, glow, and warmth as I alternately read and watched afternoon football with the guys.

One of my current reads is The Journals of Louisa May Alcott. I found it fitting (and not at all surprising) that Louisa enjoyed rambles in the hills and fields of New England. Indeed, haunting the woods gave her time to clear her head and organize her thoughts. (She viewed her mind as a "room in confusion" which required much sweeping and dusting. Alas, "cobwebs [still] get in." I know, Louisa. Oh, how I know!)

Louisa's outdoor wanderings also fostered creativity, and many a manuscript took root in her mind as she skipped over the hills and explored the forests.

A visit to New Hampshire prompted this June 1855 entry:

"Lovely place, high among the hills. So glad to run and skip in the woods and up the splendid ravine. Shall write here, I know."

I was reminded of another book on my nightstand at the moment, Growing Up Social, which supports the idea that time spent outdoors strengthens the mind.

"Being outdoors is especially rejuvenating for the minds of children and adults. A series of psychological studies revealed that after spending time close to nature in a rural setting, people exhibited greater attentiveness, stronger memory, and generally improved cognition. Their brains were calmer and sharper." (p. 107)

Well, with these thoughts fresh on my mind, I decided to seize the ideal window in my Sunday afternoon. The fire had died down, the football game had ended and the rains had stopped. I stepped out for a quick lap or two around the pond, to clear the cobwebs and do a bit of mental house cleaning.

As always, the jaunt did me good. The wind whipped through my hair and filled my lungs with a generosity and intensity that said, "I've got plenty. Take all the air you need. It's yours."

I took, and was filled.