This is the week to come visit Lakeshore. We would run out of bed space pretty quickly, but this week has been a wonderful one to have 700 acres of woods and river around you. It still seems to us a bit early for all of this to be happening. Normally, I think we are still about two weeks from the things we are experiencing right now. I scheduled a Youth Backpacking Retreat this week many months ago, and I worried about what the weather would be. I imagined very cool, wind heavy days with frigid nights, but thought, Ah they’re kids, they can handle it. It turns out I picked one of the best weekends of the summer.
The birds understand this better than we do. There are multiple choruses of chirps, calls, tweets, and songs floating through the air. The world really feels more alive when the birds are out. On a winter day, you hear one bird calling in the distance and feel like you and it are the only living things on Earth. In the spring, when the world is waking up, you are surrounded by life at every turn–left, right, up and down. Cardinals, wrens, mockingbirds, blue jays, blue birds, thrushes and robins are out in droves. After the spring rains, especially, the robins go to work on the lawn, picking at all the unlucky worms who are drawn out by the rain. As I walk my dog, Digby, to work and back, I notice that he has a particular dislike of robins. He is a terrier, and instinctively, he chases tiny woodland creatures with a rage that is hard to understand. But, the robins just strike a chord with him that even squirrels don’t seem to bring out. Those chubby birds with the brown-orange bellies, hopping around so smug. Just who do they think they are? Thankfully, for the robins, Digby is on a leash. He does occasionally get the whiplash that comes from an all out sprint, forgetting you are connected to a rope. Then it is the robins who get the last laugh.
If you spend any time paying attention outside, you’ll notice how quickly the plants wake up during times like these. There is something about a Spring storm that does what Miracle Grow could only dream about. I went inside for lunch one day, and we had a pop-up thunderstorm that only lasted about 30 minutes. When I came out again, the plants seemed to have grown. Flower petals that were closed had opened. Bulbs had pushed a little farther out from the ground. Vines were longer. Stems were taller. I don’t know if it’s the sudden downpour of water, the electricity and magnetism in the air, hallucination, or some combination of all of those. There is just so much young, fresh life. Things feel so new and alive. Each day you go out, you see something new that has been born. Looking out from the hilltop, you start seeing little smudges of bright, almost neon green on the branches. Each day, it fills in more and more, until sometime in May when it is a complete dark green sea, stretching farther than that big blue-green river just below.
It’s also been a good week for clouds. I’ve spoken that sentence several times, and I realize how funny that sounds. Still, this week, the sky has produced some amazing clouds. There are the stormy dark blues that creep through the air. There are the huge, cumulus clouds that look like floating castles miles long. You have the long, cottony stretches that cover the entire sky. I’ve even seen a rainbow this week. The evenings, though have been the highlight of this week-long cloud show. When the sun hits the horizon, every color seems to pour out over the clouds. It goes from yellow to pink to orange to purple, with blues and reds highlighting the fluffy shapes covering the sky. The whole air seems to be colored. It is like you have entered a different place. I think I would be much more likely to have wreck from “Driving While Distracted” from a beautiful sunset over cell phone use. I can leave my cell phone in my pocket if someone is texting to ask if I remembered to get brochures for next week. It’s really hard to turn your eyes from a good sunset.
We had a group unloading luggage for a retreat, and I went out to greet them. They were very diligent servants, intent on getting everything to the right place, and I could tell that they knew what they were doing. I simply let them know I was glad they were there and if there was anything at all they needed, I could get it for them. They were gracious and went back to the business of unloading. As I walked around, I said again, “it’s been a great week for clouds,” and I looked out beyond the craft hut, over Mockingbird Hill to the sky that was yellow, purple, and navy blue all at once. The clouds stretched across the sky, marking changes in these colors and the wind blew the brand new green, purple, and white blooms of the hillside. I don’t think anyone heard me. I hope that when the work was done, though, they got to look up and see what was happening just over their heads.
It is weeks like these I feel there must be God. I don’t offer it up as any definitive proof. Certainly, the existence of beauty doesn’t have to depend on a God to make it that way. I just can’t help but feel that I’m being spoken to, though, in times like this from something much bigger than me in words I’m not smart enough to understand. The point, though, is not for me to understand. It’s just for me to know that I’m being spoken to by something great, and that, alone, is something great. Yes folks, it’s a good week for clouds.
This week we have Women’s Emmaus, a Youth Backpacking Retreat, Grace UMC youth, and Shelby Hatler’s sweet 16 birthday party all here for a visit. May you find God in so many unexpected places during this Lenten season.