A chill has settled into the air this week that seems set on staying around. We are drifting closer and closer to what we will call Winter, even though Winter is actually over a month away. For us, consistent cold air, and the last of the leaves dropping signals the end of the Fall. We have leaves left on some trees, but they’ve lost their bright colors. All the leaves left are a crispy brown, and when the wind blows heavy, piles of leaves drop from the sky. Leaves can build up against your house like a snow drift. Some days you go out your door and wonder if it would be possible for leaves to seal you into your house. Would your boss believe you it you called in because you were trapped in your house by leaves?
But, they will soon all be on the ground creating the next layer of mulch, and we we be surrounded be the skeletal branches of the trees in the forest. The world will seem to turn that gray color of the tree bark that is so prevalent in a world devoid of leaves. Lakeshore seems like a different world in the Winter. If you are a seasoned summer veteran, there are aspects that seem like another place all together. The place is quieter, even with a lot of people. A silence seems to move through the air that isn’t there in the warm months. You have been used to a constant buzz of people, insects, frogs–the hum of motors. Now you hear a lone woodpecker or a squirrel bark. Every now and then a train will sound across the river. These sounds were here in the summer too, but there were so many others.
A walk home in the winter time is different than the summer walk. On a summer walk, the heat of the day hasn’t completely worn off. You will probably sweat on your way home. You will spend time cooling off, wiping your face clean. There will be a pulse noise and life all around you, almost like the air is massaging your ears. In Winter, your walk holds of the cold for a time. The world is so quiet and still. You may hear the Great Horned Owl in the distance–this time of year his sounds aren’t drowned out, and he has your whole attention. He has a lonely, almost shy sounding call, especially to be the greatest predator we have in our woods. It’s a calm low, “Hoo, hoo, hoo, hoo…Hoo, hoo…Hoo.”
On these winter night walks, you are tired and ready to get to your bed, but something strange will tug at you to stop. You will feel the breeze pick up, and something tells you just to let the cold wind hit your face for a time. You will look up at the stars that have a different look in the winter. You may notice the strange shadows the trees cast, branches bare. Life still goes on all around–even past the setting of the sun, evening past the falling of the leaves. Even as much of the place goes to rest, others are just as alive. For now, you are alive like that owl, like the creatures of the night. You have stayed awake through the winter. You have come to this place in a different time than most know it, and you see another side.
Be still for a moment. Take it in. You might be the only one to see what you are seeing at this moment in this place. You may be the only one listening to the owl’s song. You may not make much sense to those who cling to the summer heat and daylight. But there is beauty in it all. You walked out tonight and felt it run through your body like the night’s chill. You don’t know why this urge hit you now, but you wonder if you might sink into this pile of newly laid leaves that they might cushion and warm you. You would look out through the woods seeing less than summer, but feeling more. There would be a kinship with Robert Frost, stopping his horse to watch the woods fill up with snow.
You know that tomorrow is getting closer, and there is still much for you to do in this place. Responsibility is rarely too far off. But, for now in these moments still left before you enter your cabin door feeling the warmth of the room and of bed, you receive this time as alive as the owl. Remind yourself what you need to and go now.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Keep all our groups: Scrapbook Retreat, Bemis UMC, and Counselor Training in your thoughts this weekend. Bundle up and rest easy.