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Posts Tagged ‘autumn’

Next weekend we have the opportunity to witness a perigee moon, this is when the moon is closest to earth. It has become popular to call this a Supermoon. You and I may not notice anything different on account of that, but the ocean tides undoubtedly will. It is interesting that this is also the night of the full Harvest Moon. This is the name of the full moon that occurs closest to the autumnal equinox.

It is our good fortune that this full moon will also bring with it a total lunar eclipse. Of course, this is when earth’s shadow is cast upon the moon. When this occurs the moon turns a reddish, coppery, rusty color. It has become popular to call this a blood moon. Since this is the fourth blood moon in the past eighteen months, some will try to convince us that it has extra cosmic significance. Perhaps quadruple the significance.

Some love what is fascinating just for the sake of fascination. Some wish we were living in a science fiction novel. Some would like to sell us a science fiction novel. Some would like to convince us they have cracked God’s code – and behold it is a lunar eclipse.

The fact is, a Super-Harvest-Blood Moon is a sign. It is a sign that the Creator has an incredibly wild imagination and enjoys a celestial show. In our part of the world it will sit high in the sky. And we will have a front row seat. Pray for clear skies.

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Last week, I went camping.  I had camped at this site before and have always enjoyed the sound of the nearby Laurel Run.  On this night the water was particularly forceful due to rain we had earlier that day.  There have been other sounds that I have enjoyed from this spot before; a ruffed grouse drumming in the spring, a whip-poor-will on a summer night.  And I was looking forward to what November night sounds I might be able to listen in on.

I like to be outside in the forest when night happens.  But this night was different from the start.  For one, there was a strong wind all night long.  The wind was at times indistinguishable from the stream.  I could not tell where the stream ended and the wind began.  I was surrounded by noise and it seemed like I was surrounded by stream.  Sometimes, it sounded as if the stream was overhead.  The Laurel Run had merged with other water and become Red Oak Run or Hemlock Run.  It was rushing through the treetops, bringing leaves downstream onto the tent.  The noise of the wind blew in ominous harmony with the stream all night.

Other nights from this site I had stared up into space from a clearing in the forest canopy to enjoy a view of the night sky.  Tonight was different.  It was dark, no stars in view.  There was no sign of the moon.  When the fire died, visibility was not possible without a headlamp.

It was noisy.  There was plenty of November night sound.  All night long leaves were smacking against the tent.  It seemed as if every falling leaf in the forest was zeroed in on my location.  This added percussion to the threatening song of the wind and water.  The wind woke me no fewer than four times.  I had gotten used to most of the noises but when the wind attempts to separate your tent from the ground it is difficult to ignore.

It was cold.  You don’t really notice this when sitting up close to a fire.  I was reading when it began to sleet.  I used that as a cue to enter the tent.  The ground was cold but I had along a ground cover that provided some insulation.  The fire kept me warm but went out sometime before midnight.  I know this because the cold woke me about that time.

The closer to morning, the darker it seemed to get.  But the wind began to calm.  Not long before sunrise, it was calm enough that a loud, mysterious trill could be heard from a nearby tree.  The Eastern Screech Owl makes a big noise for a small bird.  And it can be startling when your ears are tuned in to other sounds of the night.

Night comes and with it, comes darkness, mystery, and surprise.  Things hide in the dark without our knowledge.  Things can be aware of us before we are aware of them.  We can make our best guess, but we really do not know what is out there.  We cannot know what will blow in next or what the next sound will be or even where the next noise will come from.  But, at least we can be there when it happens.

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Paying Attention to Autumn

One September night Keightley and I stayed in the Tuscarora.  We built a fire, cooked meat on sticks, baked a pan full of bannock and listened to acorns fall from a nearby oak tree all night long.  I lean against a tree above the Laurel Run and notice the reflection of a log that is lying across the creek.  The log appears still above the water, but the reflection below reveals that it is dancing.

Evening air is becoming cooler.  Darkness keeps arriving earlier.  There is no denying the fact that autumn is here.  The trees are turning colors.  It is really quite a show.  Autumn has a look about it.  The poplars that were bare when I stalked mushrooms in the spring are now turning yellow.  I think of Vincent Van Gogh’s painting Avenue of Poplars in Autumn.  In 1884 he wrote his brother to say that he had made “a rather large study of an avenue of poplars, with yellow autumn leaves, the sun casting, here and there, sparkling spots on the fallen leaves on the ground.”  Every time I see the painting I think it looks as if the trees are on fire.  Autumn has a look, and I like it.

If you have been listening you have heard the song of crickets in the daytime.  This seems to have something to do with the temperature.  All summer long, they sing at night because it is too hot during the day.  Now we hear them sing in the day because it is too cold at night.  In fact, some claim that crickets can help you determine the temperature.  Amos Dolbear published a manuscript in 1897 with the research on this.  It is known as Dolbear’s Law.  At its most simple formula, count the chirps heard in fifteen seconds, add forty, you should get an approximation of the temperature in Fahrenheit.  Cricket song is known as stridulation.  Simply, a formal term for the song produced by rubbing body parts together.

We once caught an Eastern Fence Lizard and had him as a guest in our home for a few nights before releasing him.  We would catch crickets and toss them in with him.  We would listen to them sing from the back corner of the house.  We experienced stridulation.  And then, silence.  If you count the chirps of a cricket for fifteen seconds and you get zero, he may have been sharing an aquarium with an Eastern Fence Lizard.

It is a good time of year to carry a bow into the woods.  I can hear sit com character Barney Stinson now, “ghillie suit up.”  Walking through the forest it’s as if a fire has been lit.  Colors burn at the top of the trees.  Leaves fall like sparks to the ground.  If one lands on my head will I be able to understand other tongues?  They crunch under my feet as colors are unveiled.  Sounds like autumn to me.  I walk through various shades of red, orange, and yellow.  It is as if the fire is catching.  The true colors of the leaves only begin to show as they begin to die. Is that what it takes to reveal our true colors?

The autumn forest is stunning.  The changing colors.  The cricket song.  The dancing log.  The chill in the air.  Baked bannock.  The artist’s painting.  All of it.  I have been reading Donald Miller who is afraid that we might be missing something, “What I’m saying is I think life is staggering and we are just used to it.  We are all of us like spoiled children no longer impressed with the gifts we are given, it’s just another sunset, just another rainstorm moving in over the mountain.”

Can we not recognize these things?  Is it possible to look past them and take them for granted?  Are we not participants in the things that go on around us?  Are we not even spectators?  It’s as if we are seated in the audience but facing the wrong direction.  Can we ignore cricket song or the crunch of leaves in the fall?  Can we ignore the acorns falling from the oak tree?  Or the taste of meat cooked over fire on a slab of bannock?  If I were as alert as the reflection in the stream would I also be dancing?  If I were as attentive as the changing leaves would I be glowing like sparks from a fire?  If I were a Christian in Nero’s Rome would I give my life for a story that is greater than my own?  What are we to give in response to the gifts we have been given?

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A lap around the block reveals a chill in the air and the smell of a wood burning stove, newly planted chrysanthemums and a bright red burning bush.  Scarecrows, cornstalks, and straw bales are mingling with witches, skeletons, and spiders.  A line of sycamores stand at attention in a tree lawn as if they are guarding the borough.  Maple trees rain down their winged fruit on us (sometimes we throw them back into the air and pretend that they are helicopters).  It is difficult to believe that summer has ended.  One day the girls left for school, it was summer.  When they returned home, it was autumn.  Since the arrival of autumn signals the equinox, we stood eggs on end.  I find myself wondering how to make use of this extra gravitational pull.

Migratory birds have begun to flock in preparation for their trip south.  One day a yellow jacket joins me on a trip down the interstate.  Maybe yellow jackets do not migrate, but they do hitchhike.  When this bee flew out my window, he was 28 miles closer to the equator.  We catch Red Backed Salamanders that always seem to find a home in the backyard.  We listen to Canada Geese flying overhead.  After dark, we watch our breath lighted by the Hunter’s Moon and wait for Orion to appear in the southern sky.  It is high school football season (we can hear the Friday night drumbeat from the house).  Soon we will be carving a jack-o-lantern, toasting pumpkin seeds, eating one of mom’s pumpkin pies, and dipping apples into caramel.

Driving up the interstate reveals that Blue Mountain is changing into Blazing Red Mountain at some points and into Nearly Purple Mountain and Golden Orange Mountain at others.  The girls used to always rename the trees at this time of year.  Blazing maple, Golden Oak, and Magenta trees (Keightley always insisted on Magenta trees) cover the mountainside.  We discuss what might be going on up there as we drive by.  Squirrels burying acorns, a hiker completing this portion of the Appalachian Trail, a young buck leaving scrapes and rubs, turkeys flocking together, an archer waiting patiently in a tree stand, insects preparing for Winter, rhododendrons and mountain laurel boasting buds that will bloom again next year.

Autumn is a great time for reflection.  To think of places you’ve been, people you’ve seen, the changes at the office.  To think of what has grown in the garden.  The chopping of tomatoes, peppers, and onions for salsa.  A friend drops off a dozen ears of corn.  Keightley and I are making chili.  I visit an apple orchard.  I drink apple cider.  I add apples to oatmeal.  I feel like bobbing for apples.

Autumn gives opportunity to be attentive to everything going on around you, to watch for changes taking place.  The color change this time of year is caused by pigment that has always been in the leaves but only begins to show as the leaves begin to die.  No matter how many years I witness this miracle, I am still fascinated by it.

I have been reading portions of For the Time Being by Annie Dillard.  Also, At the Corner of East and Now by Frederica Mathews-Green.  Dillard is asking “why are we watching the news, reading the news, keeping up with the news?”  She answered “only to enforce our fancy – probably a necessary lie – that these are crucial times, and we are in them.”  Mathews-Green continues the discussion about the times.  “Things keep saying they’re important, but they turn out to be more loud than deep… we begin to wonder whether anything might be important, anything might last or have meaning.”

This is not new discussion.  This is eschatological talk.  Fortunately for us, Revelation also joins the conversation.  Eugene Peterson emphasizes that in Revelation, John is “wonderfully in touch with reality.”  That he mixes “the sights and sounds of Roman affairs with the sights and sounds of salvation.”  That John “lives on the boundary of the invisible world of the Holy Spirit and the visible world of Roman times.”

This is exactly where we find ourselves.  In the midst of equinox and eschatology.  Among migration and magenta trees.  Between reading and reflection.  Salvation and salsa.  Living on the boundary of the seen and the unseen.  Among things that turn out to be more loud than deep.  Everyone seems to flock in one direction, but my compass keeps pointing the other way.  Gravity appears to hold me firmly in the visible world, but Revelation calls me into another.

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Intelligent Time

It was cold. But, it was worth it to be outside. The moon sat on the horizon, big and bright at the east end of Coover, looking as if it was about to roll down the street. We turned toward the west and witnessed the sunset full of orange, red, and purple. Standing in the middle of the street, we watch dueling skies.

Another night, we are at Messiah College where the Falcons are playing soccer. We forget about the cold as we watch a full lunar eclipse. Entertainment on the field and in the sky. We cheer the Falcons as they win a conference championship and cheer as the Beaver Moon turns red and then hides behind earth’s shadow.

I do not claim to be a geologist but I am fascinated by things like the shape of the land, rock formations, and mineral deposits. I know these things tell us something about earth’s history, but my greater interest is in exploring, climbing, and enjoying.  One day, we are climbing at Hammonds Rocks. This is the kind of place a real geologist would take someone to show what a conglomerate is, but we go to climb, crawl, jump, hide, and enjoy a colorful autumn view. From here, we can see the Appalachians to the north and the Blue Ridge Mountains to the south. On this day, Karissa cut her hand, I ripped my pants, and we caught a lizard.

Another day an island in the Susquehanna catches my eye. The leaves have changed and it looks as if the trees are ripe with gold. The reflection in the river makes it look as if there is underwater treasure.

Each year we carve pumpkins. We separate seeds from pulp and lay them aside to dry so we can toast them later. We pour candy into a bowl and walk out into a street full of children wearing masks. We mingle with neighbors, drink hot chocolate, and stare into the sky. On one of those nights we watch shades of red move through the northeast. Aurora Borealis was visible from Coover Street. We were witnesses to the Northern Lights.

One weekend we find ourselves at the Renaissance Faire and the girls are riding an elephant.  We are eating without utensils.  Keightley is launching a catapult and Karissa is climbing Rapunzel’s Hair.  We watch a jousting match and watch the Majesty’s falconer demonstrate the skills of his hunting birds.

Nearly every weekend, Keightley and I are working on a chili recipe. Browning beef. Picking peppers and tomatoes. Chopping them up with onions and garlic. Adding lots of cumin and chili powder. Keightley loves to chop veggies, press garlic, and sample food before its done. I think its great fun, love the smells, and enjoy a weekend long treat.

I have been reading Howard Gardner and his theory that traditional notions of intelligence are severely limited.  He reframes intelligence to include eight types of intelligences, one being naturalist intelligence.  It is difficult to say how future researchers will respond to this proposition.  I will cast my vote for any idea that suggests there is something intelligent about playing outside.  Just think of those implications.  Rock climbing and ripping pants.  Sky watching and elephant riding.  Carving pumpkins and catching lizards.

Ladies and gentlemen!  Aren’t we the lucky ones!  We have the opportunity of a lifetime.  Take in the colorful autumn view.  The Northern Lights.  The Full Beaver Moon.  Sunsets.  Lunar eclipse.  Underwater treasure.  Exploring.  Climbing.  Jumping.  Watching soccer.  Making chili.  And getting smarter all the time.

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