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Posts Tagged ‘winter’

Getting Outside

Earlier this week I was walking toward the east as the sun was climbing higher in the clear sky. It is February but the air feels like spring. A red tailed hawk flies into my view. He comes nearly overhead and then circles back toward the east. As he gets closer to the sun the light shines brilliantly through his outer feathers. As if he is outlined with angelic pinstripes. It is like he flew into a Thomas Kinkade painting. I watch until he is out of sight before I move on. It is just good to be outside.

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“I try to spend as much time as possible in the winter forest. It is a great place to sharpen the senses. Contrast, movement, and sound call attention to themselves in a hurry. Things are more visible in the bare deciduous woods, including evidence that something has already been there before you arrived. Then there is the winter forest at night. The senses sharpen more clearly. Temperature heightens the sense of cold on your nose and cheeks. Looking at the sky feels like a spectator sport. Noise and movement gain your attention quickly. It is not difficult to find yourself on the alert. If you are nothing else in the winter woods at night, you are aware. Sometimes you hear something, see something, discover something that makes this all feel like an adventure. But the fact is, in the forest it is always likely that you were discovered first. Some things are sure to grab attention, like the cold of a winter night. Other things are subtle and require sharpened senses. I hope to be attentive.”

– from Participant: Field Notes from Here and Now, p. 29

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I am a traveler in the forest. Winding my way through the dark, through a light snow and through the trees toward the trail that will take me back to the road. I see my breath against the clear sky where a slim crescent moon and a brilliant evening star shine the brightest.

I am one who listens to the night. Waiting for a song or a call in the distance but all I hear is the wind in the branches of nearby trees. Blowing across some of these creates a whistling sound. Blowing against others causes a percussion effect. Tonight’s entertainment is acoustic and instrumental.

I am a weather watcher. I think of Annie Dillard’s comment “We watch the weather. Otherwise, creation would be playing to an empty house.”

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Good Morning

“I step into a day where stars are moving across the sky. Where the moon is waxing. Where leaves are not visible in their winter state. Where the earth is crunchy underfoot this time of year. Where living creatures sleep through the winter. And will soon wake to sing. Where seasons change and days grow longer. I step into a day where God has already been extremely active. I can’t wait.”

– from Participant: Field Notes from Here and Now, p.23

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It feels like Winter, finally. And the forecast calls for snow. Makes me want to do something wintry. Maybe I’ll put on a lot of layers. Test the strength of the ice on the lake. Get out the snow shoes. Light a fire. I have been watching the trailer for the movie The Revenant which looks like a winter adventure. Maybe I’ll go check the trap line, fight a bear, and crawl back to camp. Or maybe I’ll just go watch the movie.

I am reminded of the following;

I try to spend as much time as possible in the winter forest. It is a great place to sharpen the senses. Contrast, movement, and sound call attention to themselves in a hurry. Things are more visible in the bare deciduous woods, including evidence that something has already been there before you arrived. Then there is the winter forest at night. The senses sharpen more clearly. Temperature heightens the sense of cold on your nose and cheeks. Looking at the sky feels like a spectator sport. Noise and movement gain your attention quickly. It is not difficult to find yourself on the alert. If you are nothing else in the winter woods at night, you are aware. Sometimes you hear something, see something, discover something that makes this all feel like an adventure. But the fact is, in the forest it is always likely that you were discovered first. Some things are sure to grab attention, like the cold of a winter night. Other things are more subtle and require sharpened senses. I hope to be attentive.(Participant: Field Notes from Here and Now, p.29)

Sounds wintry. I am glad I do not have to fight a bear or crawl back to camp in the snow in order to experience some winter adventure.

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It was cold last week.  Meteorologists credit it to a “polar vortex.”  While we have survived that, we still have “vortex” for use in our immediate vocabulary to express “inexorable downwardness.”  Garrison Keillor suggested that on account of the cold we all now have stories to tell.  It was so cold that the governor of Minnesota issued a proclamation to close schools across the state.  This led Keillor to ask, “Where was the governor when we were kids?”

In an editorial, he wrote the following, “why was no mercy shown to us during the bitter winter of 1951, when we were sent out into the arctic darkness, wearing layers of heavy woolens – no lightweight thermal clothing back then, a child kept warm by the sheer exertion of carrying the clothes on his back, a little 85-pound Sherpa bearing 30 pounds of fabric, the wind whistling down from Manitoba, no windbreak except barbed-wire fences, enormous snowdrifts across the gravel road?

Finally a sleigh appeared, since the bus could not get through, pulled by a team of swaybacked horses driven by Crazy Eric with frozen mucous on his moustache and a bottle of hooch under his seat, and we dived under the buffalo robe as he drove over the wind-crusted snow and down a rocky bank onto the ice of the Mississippi and headed for town, hoping to elude the O’Kasick gang that roamed the area in inclement weather seeking whom they could kidnap.”

Your story may not be quite that extravagant.  Still, you may have added blankets to your bed in order to sleep at night or wore multiple layers to keep you somewhat warm during the day.  (Keillor says that even fashionable skinny people looked like refugees). You may have cursed your numb fingers as you scraped ice from your windows or been inconvenienced by frozen water pipes. You may have lost power in your home or struggled to get your car to start. You may wish you had not scoffed when Aunt Millie asked you if you would like a scarf and mittens for Christmas.  You may have been glued to the weather channel to see  how long this was going to last.  Whatever your story, consider yourself fortunate that you weren’t crossing the frozen Mississippi while attempting to escape the O’Kasick gang with Crazy Eric at the reins.

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I sit next to a window on Front Street that overlooks the Susquehanna.  This is a great seat because the river is usually more interesting than anything I am supposed to be doing.  One of the great benefits of watching the river is that you never know what will be floating by.  After an early cold spell the river had nearly frozen over.  This was followed by a thaw that caused chunks of ice to float past.  One day on one of these stood a Ring-Billed Gull as if he were captain of that particular piece of ice floating by.  I watched for as long as I could and am wondering if he will sail that frozen vessel clear to the Chesapeake Bay.

Maybe I am envious of this bird.  Maybe I want my own journey on the river.  Whatever the reason I recently began reading Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  While I am enjoying the ride with Huck and Jim, part of me is stuck with something Huck said on page one.  There, although grateful for the Widow Douglas, Huck resents her desire to “sivilize” him.  I like the way that Huck says it “it was rough living in the house all the time… and so when I couldn’t stand it no longer, I lit out.”  It is safe to say that Huck prefers adventure.  The same could be said for John Muir who often decided to “throw a loaf of bread and a pound of tea in an old sack and jump over the back fence.”  For some reason guys like these seem to have some kind of influence on me.

Our adventures may be different from John Muir, Huck Finn, or Captain Seagull; but we are still called to adventure.  Occasionally, some friends and I participate in electronic discussion.  During one of these, my friend Tim contributed this, “the real stories that are worth living are the ones of living out our faith adventure in the mundane every day details of life. Heroics are not limited to running with bulls or climbing half dome at Yosemite. I got a friend that has spent his last two vacations doing such things. We had a talk the other day about why living a life of faith is so difficult. I had to break the news to him that to stay on his faith journey is the most courageous thing he will ever do.”  (I am beginning to think that Tim is a genius).

Tim went on to talk about the adventure that our friend Joe is living, “getting neck deep into the life of hurting people is heroic and deciding to do it every day and consistently trudge through what others feel is mundane is worth giving your life to. When we do that the epic adventures that come our way are met with character of a life well lived and that my friends is the great story. And God is immersed in every drop of it.”  (Yep, genius).

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