ground level

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It’d rained in the night; hard, for awhile. The next morning the earth was saturated. Hyper-green grass felt springy-soft beneath my feet. I might deny the reality of the season if not for bare limbs of brown and gray dominating the horizon. It is not spring. It is autumn. And we are well on our way to winter.

Autumn is not for the fainthearted. While I was away last week, our beloved grandmaple gave up his glory. I returned to mountains of orange-gold leaves littering the patio, filling the rain gutters. Gazillions of whirly-gig seeds for next year had spun out over the premises. The flower beds were unruly with dried out debris. Raking and sweeping, cutting and digging, hauling wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow consumed a full day. If only I’d finished the work!

Autumn is a season of preparation. Our furry friends are scurrying to find a safe winter haven, scrounging and storing food for the long layover. Chipmunks skitter madly back and forth across my walking trail. I can almost hear their thoughts. “So many berries and seeds; so little time!”

The fuzzy-wuzzies move much more slowly in search of hide-aways. I found one tightly curled and covered with ice crystals, openly exposed in deep shade on the patio. Black, brown, black bands of prickly-soft in my hand, I set her on soft moss in the sunshine to thaw out and try again. Surely she can find better shelter?

Our dwarf Granny Smith is all but bare, a few brown fruits clinging tenaciously, dry and wizened by the elements. The ground beneath has long since been picked clean by the whitetail deer. Older varieties growing wild along the roadside are late-bloomers, still bright with yellow-green and red-green orbs, ornamented as if for Christmas. They will drop like gifts later, perhaps after first snowfall. The deer will find them, for sure before spring.

Canadian geese gather noisily in the hayfield and on the river, just across the road. I enjoy their friendly honks echoing day and night, night and day; the aural essence of autumn. A sentinel or two stands watch as the flock feeds, slender long black necks poking up like periscopes above the field grasses. When I wander innocently across the line of engagement, they are suddenly airborne in a great clamorous swoo-oosh, circling northeast on the updraft.

20131021-211007.jpgLadybugs abound in autumn. Polka-dotted heaps accumulate in out of the way crevices. Safety in numbers? They are so perky that I cannot easily begrudge them my windowsill. The burning bush forms a brilliant backdrop for the beetle. Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home…

Autumn is a season of abundance. Unfortunately, rushing pell-mell from one thing to the next, wearied and bleary-eyed, none of this is obvious. Caught up in the craziness, we tend to try to look too far ahead — though there is very little to see. We frustrate, sometimes frighten, ourselves with the unknowns.

This lesson hit home last week, flying to and from Anaheim. The pilot announced the Grand Canyon in clear view off to our left. I could hardly appreciate its beauty. From thirty thousand feet, I could not grasp the depth, the heights, the variations in color or climate. On the ground, I know that it is awe-inspiring. On the ground, I can appreciate its grandeur and my place within it. There, also, I will find a pathway through.

Back home and on the ground, I am inspired by how God provides in autumn. Nearly every tree, shrub or flower stem bears an offering of seeds or berries, a source of sustenance in this season. Whether passing through, en route to warmer climes, or settling in for the long North Country winter, our feathered and furry friends are careless in the care of God.They do what they must do today. Only that. It is enough. I find this immensely comforting.

Our resources may seem to be running thin — perhaps it’s a growing family or growing older, maybe illness, or a series of transitions that have rattled our sense of security and stressed us out. (“Yikes,” she said, “All of the above.”) If so, we need to get down to ground level with God. Take a stroll in the countryside, turn over an autumn leaf or two.

Take courage! If God so faithfully provides for the least of creation, will he do any less for you and me? I want to be careless in God’s care, too.

~ René Morley

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