So much has returned to us recently. It has snuck up and surprised many of us. But, the animals and plants don’t really act based on our expectations, now, do they? When you have such a winter as we experienced, you resign yourself to the fact that you may be cold for much longer than you are used to. If it snows 4 weeks in a row, then surely there will be some sort of transitional period before we are completely immersed in spring weather. The birds and trees would surely be cautious enough to wait and make sure it is not going to snow again, right? Though we may feel compelled to go through this life cautiously, the animals and plants do not know that kind of caution. They only know that light is coming back longer during the day.
And so, this week, the buds appeared on the Red Maples. The green sprouts are beginning to show themselves on the bushes and trees around camp. When you look out from the top of a hill on the trees of the forest, you see a dusting of red, orange, and green. The gray and brown of winter has a lighter tinge to it. When you walk outside at Lakeshore, you hear choruses of songbirds, practicing for Easter rather than a single Red-headed Woodpecker overhead or a crow squawking in the distance. The world is coming back to life all around us. Old friends are returning.
Our first Emmaus Walk joined us on Thursday of this week. It will last Thursday to Sunday, and the group will have several things happen during the weekend that are pretty powerful. Even on a men’s walk, a fly on the wall is liable to witness some tears shed pretty heavy. I think it is too rare that adults get a chance to retreat like this and have meaningful, spiritual time together. For many of this group, this could be the first time they have had an experience like this since going out on their own. The power of these walks speaks to our need to do this every now and again.
When I was in my early 20s, a group of friends and I took a trip each Spring to Heber Springs, Arkansas. There was a state park there on a big body of water, and we would set up tents only yards from the rocky shore. We hiked, climbed large hills (one called Sugar Loaf), and patronized the State Park visitor’s center, complete with the Oregon Trail computer game and movie about the park’s history. There are quotes that we all still exchange with each other from those trips. There were years there where many of us went and years there were only 2 or 3. I can remember a year after we lost a close friend, Mark, a few of us took this trip to Heber Springs. We did not talk about it much, but Mark seemed to be on our minds whatever we did and wherever we went. It wasn’t sad and mournful–more reflective. I can look back on those trips and see how we grew up, over the years and started becoming who we are now. Those trips to the wilderness drew us to reflect and prepare.
The rain from last week was still washing through the ditches and culverts around camp days after it stopped falling from the sky. The ground is saturated with water, so anything that lands on it cannot soak into the soil. It will hit the ground and run. When you walk next to these part-time creek beds that have come back to life during this one time of year, it begins slow, having just gathered from the hill. But, as you follow it, it picks up speed. More water flows into it, and it begins to rush. You can hear it fall. It bubbles and races towards something bigger. It will eventually empty into the Tennessee River which will empty into the Ohio which will empty into the Mississippi which will empty in the Gulf of Mexico. Such a journey these drops that fell from the sky in Spring will make.
It may then return to us someday, on one of those Spring days when the hot air hits the cold. The thunder claps rumble across the hills, and you hear it from miles off. The sky darkens blue and that drop that fell years ago returns to us from a trip halfway around the world. We see you once again, like the Robins, back looking for earthworms. It takes us back to other times in our life, maybe that day when the rain came back and we went out to see how high the creek might rise. Or, maybe it comes to us on a day that pushes us indoors to stand looking out the window, thinking of what will come next. Who knows what you have seen? Who knows what you could tell now?
Pray for the Pilgrims of the 96th West Tennessee Emmaus Walk. Longer days are coming.