winter walk

Forget about the calendar. Winter is the longest season. A North Country winter is custom made waiting. Just as most of nature slumbers through the cold, we can’t seem to help ourselves from snuggling into flannel sheets earlier and earlier as daylight hours shrink. I simultaneously look forward to and dread winter each year, an internal tug-of-war once revealed in “Winter’s Gift.

But winter and I have made friends / For all of the reasons that defy friendships / To develop in spite of our differences
I’ve learned to accept her moodiness / And to ignore her bad behavior because / On her good days she is simply stellar

The beautiful synergy between our longest, darkest season and Advent always encourages me. Generations came and went, kings and kingdoms rose and fell, as God’s people longed for the promised one. Over centuries of spiritual darkness, they hoped and longed for the light.

Nevertheless, that time of darkness and despair will not go on forever. … The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness a light will shine. Isaiah 9:1-2

That ancient season played out on an intergalactic scale, a game-changing wait over hundreds of years with implications to eternity. We know the end of the story and how God proved faithful as the darkness of death was eradicated. Perhaps as a result, something deep within me responds during this annual season of hopeful longing.

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The North Country sets a perfect stage for Advent reflections. The sun drops below the horizon increasingly earlier as fall slips into winter. Dusk darkens quickly into an inky blackness extending from the riverbank in one direction to forest in the other. Our home perches on the knoll in between, snug and tight against the night. As temps drop we hunker down inside, weary to the bone, relieved for respite of evening. We wait for light of morning and long for the warmth of spring. 

The light of day chases darkness away, always faithfully even if hesitantly. Sometimes winter’s sunlight is thin and weak, canvasing the landscape with an ethereal, otherworldly glow.  Under perfect conditions, steam rising from the river crystalizes on every stalk, twig and leaf, gloriously transforming the landscape.

Often the North Country day breaks behind the ridge across the river in a blush of peachy pink that takes my breath away. The rising sun streams bold and bright, stark against brazen blue skies. It bounces off ribbons of ice between the banks and skips across snow-dusted cornfields. Cornstalks lie close-cropped and stubbled like an old man’s beard, tripping it up along the way.  

Sooner or later, sister sun peeks in my window, calling me out of my cocoon, urging me into my coat and boots for a wake-up walk. I trudge across the fields to the riverbank, marveling at how the mundane has been transformed to exquisite overnight. When in a whisper the morning light transforms snow crystals to diamond dust, I can hardly bear the beauty.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:12

The 2018 advent season was particularly poignant because the entire year seemed relatively dark with difficulties. One after another, they began in March and piled up until we wondered if we would ever see the end. Inching along unsteadily these many months, invariably, a flash of light swept the pathway to lend encouragement at just the right time. Inspired by these brief illuminations — generous kindnesses, good words, new solutions, wise counsel, fateful conversations, thoughtful considerations — we’ve pressed on, confident in our source of hope. 

We may not have seen the end of this season of trials but we are being transformed on the journey. Winter is accomplishing her purpose; we wait for the land to return to fruitfulness. Meanwhile, we will walk in the light. 

~ Sondra

rv newbies

Screen Shot 2018-06-11 at 7.24.56 AMWe know lots of folks who travel by RV, quite happily long-hauling a house on their journey. The Hubs and I have struggled to envision ourselves in this scenario. We’re not well suited. I look for pull-through parking spots and have difficulty backing our car out of the driveway. (Don’t judge. It’s a long driveway.) He maneuvers heavy farm equipment without a second thought but is easily irritated by typical traffic in a regular sized vehicle. (Meanwhile, I’m on high alert: brake-lights!) The mere thought of taking to the highway behind the wheel of a rig sized for intergalactic travel induces stress.
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lilacs of late

Observant North Country folk will notice an abundance of blossoms appearing on woody clumps of bushes this time of year.  I’ve seen light and dark purple, pink and white blooms in this area. Most, and especially those in the wild, are light purple. The lilac’s scent is unmistakeable; it hangs heavy and sweet and travels on the breeze. Delightful.

Lilacs are zone three hardy. They can take anything the No Co dishes out, including weeks of subzero winter temps if necessary. (That degree of cold seems increasingly rare these days; no complaints.) Some lilacs, like ours, hedge the property line. Others appear randomly, spreading along roadside or far back in fields. Lilacs return like tried and true friends.

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retread#35: bruges and damme

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At long last, the final installment on our our 35th anniversary trip … of last summer!

Our last port of call was Zeebrugge, Belgium. I’d arranged a tour with Vera through Tours by Locals. The only hitch was that she didn’t provide transportation. We were to meet up with her in Bruges (Brugge), a 20-30 minute ride from port, then on to Damme. We had a full day planned and timing was tight.

 

 

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letting go, pressing on

IMG_91732018 dawned in classic North Country winter fashion: piercingly clear, blazingly bright, and intensely cold. Mid-morning mercury hovered at negative 22 degrees Fahrenheit. Yikes! Wind chill warnings persist through mid-day, projecting negative 35 degrees Fahrenheit. Dangerously cold!

I’m in no hurry to get out although I will, eventually. I’ll bundle up and brave a brief walk across snowplowed path to check in on three grands next door. But for now, I’m content to linger in leisurely warmth.

Of course, this induces some guilt. I’ve been thinking of the Hubs since my feet hit the floor. Not a lot of good that’s done him, eh? There’s nothing worse than extreme cold on a dairy farm. They’ve been at it for hours, long before dawn broke, another miserably cold day in an exhausting week of subzero temps. I can only hope a batch of French onion soup and crockpot of beef stew are some comfort.  Meanwhile, I’m thankful for a quiet morning on the first day of the new year.

Yesterday I attended a new church. Pastor Floyd urged us to take a lesson from ancient King David’s epic example of letting go. As at the story goes, David, God’s elect, layered sin upon sin, including failure in line of duty, adultery and lying. As a result, a good man was murdered, a marriage ruined, and an infant died. Can you imagine what Facebook or Twitter would make of his mess?
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sunrise, moonset

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I rushed outside for the sunrise
Winter coat thrown hastily over nightgown
Bare legs braving the frost
Misty fog of warm air rising from the river
Horizon slowly warming, blushing in pearly hues
Welcome to this new day.

I returned slowly, savoring the thought of piping hot coffee
That first cup always tastes the best
Pleasantly surprised by the harvest moon
Lingering as a bright ball of light
Slipping behind bare maple and birch, scruffy cedars and pine.

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Last night at dusk I startled a deer in the cornfield
He snorted and blew, fleeing over stubble
His white tail flying like a flag, he all but flew
Over corn stalks the combine left behind.

Oftentimes it seems life is like the deer
Gone in a flash. What was that? Was it really there?
Sunrise and moonset remind me to breathe
Just breathe.

You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.
    My entire lifetime is just a moment to you;
    at best, each of us is but a breath.
We are merely moving shadows,
   and all our busy rushing ends in nothing.
We heap up wealth,
   not knowing who will spend it.
And so, Lord, where do I put my hope?
   My only hope is in you.

Psalm 39:5-7 New Living Translation (NLT)

 

~ René Morley