Wind Concert in the Pines

IMG_0770It wasn’t a strong or stormy wind.  It was a soft, pleasant spring breeze, just stiff enough to ruffle the tops of the big pines we were walking through and cause them to whisper mysteriously together.  It rose and fell with drama up above us, compelling enough to get our attention, but not enough to so much as sway the massive trunks rising around us.  Sometimes, in the moments between the squeals of little girls discovering spring blossoms along the forest floor and the chattering of squirrels indignant at our intrusion on their private retreat, we’d stop to just listen to it.

IMG_0781IMG_0783There was a kind of music to it, the kind that made me want to lay right down on that thick, soft carpet of pine needles and soak it in while I stared up the towering pillars of tree trunks to the bits of blue sky like a mosaic of stained glass above.  Then, as we neared a swamp hollow, the fluted tones of spring peepers harmonized as only nature can, and I had flashbacks to a beautiful wind concert I attended once, performed by talented musicians under the soaring ceilings of a grand lobby.  But, I thought to myself, could a wind concert be performed in any grander a place than this remote and silent cathedral of a forest, by the actual wind itself?IMG_0777At that moment, it was hard to believe not.  And if you listened closely enough, you could almost hear the words…

“Sing, O heavens, for the LORD has done it; shout, O depths of the earth; break forth into singing, O mountains, O forest, and every tree in it! For the LORD has redeemed Jacob, and will be glorified in Israel.” (Isaiah 44:23)

Bright Eyed and Bushy Tailed

IMG_9869I’ll just go ahead and admit that I like this little red squirrel.

Yes, yes, I know.  They can be terrible pests.

But, to his credit, so far this one hasn’t been.  Well, other than the fact that he thinks that he owns our porch (where he lurked all winter in hopes of spilled birdseed) and now, apparently, our clothesline.

Now, granted, I haven’t really used that clothesline since fall.  And it’s not even my regular clothesline.  It’s my old one, from the days before my husband built me an official one, strung up between a couple trees near the back door.  It was supposed to get taken down after he built the other one, but then it didn’t—and we kept using it on occasion for things like draping a sleeping bag that needs to be aired after a camping trip and that sort of thing and so there it remains.

In other words, partially abandoned, but not entirely, you know?  I mean, I hadn’t posted a “Free, Help Yourself!” sign on it or anything yet.

So I was just a little taken aback when I went out there a couple weeks ago to hang a few things to air in the sunshine, and found myself in very hot water.  Can’t you just see the indignation written all over this little fellow’s face?IMG_9873.JPGI don’t think I’ve ever gotten quite such a sound scolding as he and his mate gave me.  As you can see, he was so put out with me, he came right down out of the tree and sat right at the end of that clothesline, inches from my face, to give me a piece of his mind.  In the branches directly over my head, his mate joined the tirade, scraping little bits of pine bark into my hair in protest.IMG_9876Finally, I fled for the house, and they sat back from their squatter’s rights protest, smug with victory.

Or so they thought. 

Because a couple minutes later I emerged again, this time without any suspicious articles of laundry but armed instead with a camera.

“Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Squirrel, I’m the news reporter from your local Rejoicing Hills Gazette.  I heard rumors that you’ve been experiencing trouble with your neighbor lately”–-insert camera shutter clicking busily—“and I’d like to interview you for a piece on it in tomorrow’s paper.  Would you willing to answer a few questions?”

And were they ever!

Now let’s just hope I don’t get sued by the High Court of Sciuromorpha (if you don’t know what that means, click here) for taking and publishing their photos without permission.  Wink.

“Do not go out hastily to argue your case;  otherwise, what will you do in the end, when your neighbor humiliates you?

Argue your case with your neighbor, and do not reveal the secret of another, or he who hears it will reproach you, and the evil report about you will not pass away.”  (Proverbs 25:8-10)

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Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Morning

img_9137Stopping by the woods on this snowy day did not start out to be quite as idyllic and simple as Robert Frost first painted it to be.

The truck fishtailed the tiniest bit as I gingerly stepped on the brakes, just enough to send my heart into my throat.  A giant yellow semi bore down on me from the north, leaving the truck shuddering in the wake of its pass, and me clutching the steering wheel, as though I might hold the vehicle on the road by the whiteness of my knuckles.  An icy blast of sub zero air blasted my face as I rolled the window down, fogging the camera lens.  Was it worth all this?

But the way the tall smoothly scaled red pine trunks contrasted against the feathery spruce boughs, freshly highlighted in snow, had been catching me eye. Quiet beauty was calling to me from the edges of the road, right there in the midst of my hurry to get down the middle of it to check all the little empty squares on my shopping list in town.  Surely I had a minute or two to spare?

“But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep…”
The to-do list and ticking clock of the day nagged, but I pushed it aside.  I would stop, briefly, if only to save myself from driving off the road with all the neck-craning I’d been doing.

And after the roar of the yellow semi subsided, it was true:

“The only other sound’s the sweep, Of easy wind and downy flake…” 

img_9143For a few moments, I was still, and the woods were still.  There was not another car on the road within sight or earshot.  The long list for the day faded away to the back of my mind.  A tiny bit of sunlight twinkled through clouds above, kissing the forest in soft, warm light.  The beauty of creation, which in turn pointed my heart to the beauty of its Creator, steeped into my soul.  And I remembered this story:

“And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind:

and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake:

And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire:

and after the fire a still small voice.” (1 Kings 19:11-12)

I am told that the term “a still, small voice” falls down somewhat in translation, that the idea is more that of a silence alive with His presence. It’s a truth supported elsewhere in Scripture, too, in other familiar lines such as:

“Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

God is not to be found in the rush and busyness and chaos.  God is to be found in the stopping, and in the still and quiet places.  It was true in my soul that morning. It will be true wherever you stop to listen, too.

P.S. Want to read this well-known poem of Robert Frost’s in it’s entirety?  Go here.