The First Day of Spring

With snow in the forecast, we welcome the first day of spring!
IMG_4213The glory of springtime is the promise of things to come. The springtime frosts will continue, eventually giving way to the warmth of May and June. The buds begin to leaf out on the trees and the lilac shrubs, poppies and daffodils and tulips push their way above the soil, and beneath the layer of last year’s grass, a new world of green is springing up. Springtime is the season of anticipation – Anticipation of new life, baby creatures in nests and dens, delicate flower life, fresh rain on the earth, new birdsongs, new color to the landscape. We can begin to imagine the fruitful garden we hope to enjoy in the summer, the hopeful harvests of wild fruits, the putting up of produce. We can begin to imagine the heat on our backs, cool dirt between our toes, sunburnt noses, ice-cold tea, picnics, hikes, warm evenings and cool nights. Springtime is a time of promise.
IMG_8716I’m looking forward to prowling around in search of flowers, or stopping in awe at the sight of speckled fawns, or feeling rain on my face and hearing the sound of thunder in the distance. I’m already savoring the longer days, the warmer temperatures, the fragrant mornings.

Winter has left us, but she will return in season. For now, we welcome spring.

A Portrait of Autumn

When the trees change and the first hints come that summer is slipping away, autumn slips in, silently, subtly. The first hints of autumn are the change in the slant of the light, and that delicious crispness in the morning air. Then the trees are bursting with color and the prairie grasses ignite with the hues of autumn.
IMG_3103Autumn is a time of foreshadowing. We know that winter is on its way and autumn, perhaps more than the other seasons, tempts us with glimpses of winter. Heavy frost in the mornings, the first dustings of snow, ice on the windshields. That special slant in the light.
IMG_5601Autumn is a time of tenacity. Leaves cling to the trees, as if reluctant to fall. Little clusters of trees retain their autumn glow. Wildflowers persist into the first snows and through the first frosts. Birds so fragile they’d seem unfit to weather the winter persevere in their downy warmth.
IMG_5563Autumn is a time of preparation. A time of readying for the coming winter. The trees and plants put away their summer garb and settle into themselves and into the earth, quiet, resting, biding their time until winter is gone and spring has arrived. Animals begin to grow their winter furs, and they harvest their winter store of nuts and seeds. Birds fly south. Mankind puts up firewood and garden produce, winterizes their homes, and drags out the bins of winter clothing and coats and boots and mittens.img_1939Autumn is a time of abundance. And what abundance! Not only the abundance of the harvest, and the abundance of garden produce and fresh preserves glimmering with color, but abundance of fragrances, sights, sounds, tastes, textures. The perfume of moss and brown leaves and damp, the burning reds and golds and saffrons of the trees and underbrush and prairie grasses, the sounds of crackling leaves underfoot and flocking birds and moaning autumn winds and rain and the muted whisper of the fog, the taste of the crisp almost-winter air, the tapestry of fallen leaves and bare trees and rattling grasses and pods of the long-gone summer flowers. The abundance is overwhelming.
IMG_6771 Autumn is here. Winter is on her way. So we revel in the last fleeting warmth, but also look forward to another glorious season.

Laura Elizabeth

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Poetry in the Aspen Trees

There is poetry in the aspen trees. They speak it, when the wind whispers through their leaves. The wind in the pines is a mournful sound, but the wind in the aspens is like laughter.
IMG_4112Aspens in summer are a poem of laughter and gaiety. Like stained glass, the leaves glow and glint and glimmer, a misty, vibrant green in a sea of black pines.
IMG_4115In autumn, the aspens are a poem of plenty, a poem of thanksgiving, but with a hint of sadness. A gust of wind showers the leaves like showers of gold, and the bright color is sprinkled liberally on the carpet of the earth.

A change of seasons means loss – But it also means renewing, in God’s time. That is the poem of the aspen trees.

“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
    to whom belong wisdom and might.
21 He changes times and seasons;
    he removes kings and sets up kings;
he gives wisdom to the wise
    and knowledge to those who have understanding;
22 he reveals deep and hidden things;
    he knows what is in the darkness,
    and the light dwells with him.

Daniel 2:20-22
Laura Elizabeth

Metamorphosis

There is a wonderful transformation that takes place this time of year, changing what is common into what is precious, from emerald and black to crimson and gold. It was the rumor of gold that first brought the white man into the Black Hills in the 1870s, late in the era of the gold rush. But whatever precious metals they found while digging in the ground and panning in the streams, these riches outstrip them all, though they fade in a mere handful of days. It is the metamorphosis of autumn.IMG_2386The miracle of autumn is one which I am firmly convinced is entirely for our joy and God’s glory. God didn’t have to create the bounties of autumn color – The trees could simply turn brown and lose their leaves. But God in His sovereign goodness gave us the tapestry of the seasons, including the fleeting glories of autumn.
IMG_2686The Hole-in-the-Wall trail is festive in gold and green and crimson, the entire trail lined with hardwood trees in a mighty array of autumn colors. The higher hillsides are pine and so never change, but in the ravines the aspens and burr oaks and other hardwood trees and shrubs flourish, and are now painted their various hues of gold and crimson and yellow.
IMG_2763When the evening sun shines from over the mountains, the aspens are lit up like torches, glowing and burning. Rocky hillsides are illuminated with the flaming color of the trees. Driving along our already beautiful highways, my breath is swept away, when around a corner is suddenly revealed a golden hillside, or glowing ravine, or a roadside lined with brilliant color.IMG_2545I took a drive  down Rockerville Road, and explored a couple of side roads. The sights were glorious, and I couldn’t help but laugh out loud in delight! Springtime is wonderful, summer is rambunctious, but to catch the leaves in the prime of their autumn color is pure bliss. IMG_2862 Roadside wildflowers are a riot of reds and golds, with a touch of purple here and there. Those, too, will soon fade, and all that will be left is the memory of the color, and the simple elegance of the dried stems and flower heads.IMG_2340Now, I understand that the color we revel in here isn’t the spectacular display of color we used to enjoy in Illinois, or the color that is legendary further east. But the subtlety of the transformation of the Hills is part of the allure. The mystery of autumn is heightened by its very temporariness. We aren’t two days into autumn and the colors are already fading from their peak three days ago. What a gift, to be able to enjoy such beauty, even for so short a time. IMG_2548For soon, and even now, the color will fade, the gold will glimmer away, and the life of summer will become the chill rest of winter.
IMG_3103Medieval alchemists were fascinated by the mythological concept of the transformation of common metals into gold. But what a delight, the alchemy of the seasons, the metamorphosis of the world around us, God’s created order that simply shouts His glory, and the Gospel story itself! What more wonderful metamorphosis, than the transformation of wretched sinners into redeemed Believers in Christ! Not only the tiny parable in the gold of autumn, taking that which is common and making it precious, but the larger parable of death and renewal, of decay and new life, pictured in the metamorphosis of the seasons.

Laura Elizabeth

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Winter Lingers

When I woke up yesterday morning, there was snow on the ground and continuing to fall from a heavy-clouded sky, a wet snow, melting and puddling in the red dirt of the driveway, but lightly coating everything else. I ran outside in my summertime footwear, refusing to go back to socks and boots. “Cold feet, cold feet, cold feet!” I scraped an inch or two of slushy snow off the truck, then ran back to the house for my camera. “Cold feet, cold feet, cold feet!” What a change from our 80-degree weather on Friday and Saturday!
IMG_9888The driveway up to Highway 40 was a fairyland. Trees were silvered with snow, grasses were bent and covered. The springtime landscape was muted and softened and pale. Low-lying cloud cover obscured hills and hilltops, altering the scenes I am used to on my drive in to work. I’ll have to admit, on Monday I wasn’t looking forward to the snow that was expected – But something about a quiet snowfall always changes my mind. The magic never fails to enchant me.
IMG_9878Snow and rain fell pretty much all day yesterday, as temperatures hovered in the 30s and 40s. When it finally warms up, how green everything will be! On the way home, I drove in and out of places where the snow was clinging tenaciously. Higher hilltops had snow on them, and the tops of trees were frosted over.
IMG_9899Living in the mountains, even relatively low-elevation mountains such as the Black Hills, the weather patterns are unpredictable and extremely changeable from one town to the next. As I drove home from church on Sunday, I drove into rain a mile or so outside Custer, as a pickup truck covered in 2 inches of snow whizzed past me the other direction. The snow and slush increased a few more miles down the road, then tapered off as I approached Mt. Rushmore. And at home, it was sunny and springlike.
IMG_9892I love the varied weather and the hesitating entry of each successive season. At this point, I am fully ready for springtime, the sun and the warmth that chases away the chill. But for now, winter lingers. Might as well enjoy it.

Laura Elizabeth

 

 

Snow and Springtime

IMG_8490Winter blew back in overnight a day and a half ago, and on the third day of spring we had four or so inches of snow, a wonderful, heavy, wet snow that cloaked every branch of every tree, every fence post, every roof and rock and hill, every little green and growing thing still clinging close to the ground. Hard to believe that four days ago we had temperatures in the 60s and 70s and were hiking to Hole-in-the-Wall without coats or mittens or snow boots!

Across the snow-covered pastures, on the sheltering hillsides, the Ponderosa pine trees were silver-blue in their wintry cloaks. Deer, startled up, fled silently through the silent trees. Wind had painted ripples into the blanketing white. But the recent spring-like temperatures had already warmed the ground, and our red-dirt driveway was muddy and mostly melted by noon, in spite of the chill day.

IMG_8558The little Kashka cat was moody and desperate, as soon as the snow began to melt. She didn’t seem to mind the dry snow, but she regarded the wet snow with unmasked disdain. She isn’t a particularly vocal cat – In fact, she seems somewhat limited in her vocal expression, sometimes opening her mouth but only producing a breathy squeak. But yesterday, she was whining and moaning and complaining and grumbling as she traipsed through the snow, and shook off her little paws in a futile effort to keep them dry. Her good-for-nothing, lazy brother was, of course, nowhere to be found. I’m sure he was holed up somewhere, dry and comfortable and warm.

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I love how the snow completely transforms a landscape, insulates it, hushes it, and the whole world seems to glow with a gleaming, blinding brightness, even beneath a heavy-clouded sky. Simple things take on a new dimension. The same hillsides and meadows and roads shimmer with an ephemeral enchantment, an enchantment that can break within a matter of hours. 

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Sarah and I took to the snow at 10:00 last night, to ramble in what was likely the last snowfall this season to be lit by a full moon. Never waste a moonlit snow! The sky was crystal clear, and there was the faintest nimbus around the orb of the moon. The brightest stars flickered in the inky blue sky. Orion and Cassiopeia, and a strange bright star we’ve identified before but whose name I can’t remember. Scrambling up deadfall-strewn hillsides to chase the moonlight, slipping and sliding into ravines, dropping flat to make a snow angel, eating snow off the needles of sapling pine trees, stopping every now and again to listen for coyotes, losing track of the time – I could have stayed out all night in that enchanted moonlit snow. 

IMG_8536In this shifting of seasons, in the sunshine and the snow, in the change and transformation from month to month, the summer birds begin to arrive with nesting on their minds, and the first insects start to hum and sing. The first of the green things shoot up from the warming earth, and rumors of pasque flowers are whispered. Snow may hide the signs for a day or two, but the seasons will fly on. Springtime is here! 

Laura Elizabeth