canvas tarnished like old silver
charcoal branches pierce fog,
wait for birdsong
― C.S. Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew
I was reminded of these words when I looked out my bedroom window this morning and reached for my camera. What I saw was not what I usually see in early morning light. I had not traveled elsewhere or changed my perspective in any way. But what I saw depended on what I knew as a person. It also depended on my imagination.
I knew that our weather had changed dramatically overnight and what I saw was thick ice covering these windows on the north side of our home. That is unusual for us on the South Texas Gulf Coast so I took a photo through the ice. When I looked at the pictures, I saw an impressionist’s rendition of a mountain range covered in snow!
What do you see?
I have been on the verge of complaint some mornings lately. We have had so many consecutive days of pewter colored skies, bleak landscapes, and dreary, rainy weather. But I believe in finding sacred moments in the ordinary and this, for now, is the ordinary. So I put the garden planning on paper instead of the ground, plan more ways to use the indoor time, and am reminded to praise God for his glory displayed in shadow as well as light.
…and in the mist.
We praise thee, O God, for thy glory
displayed in all the creatures of the earth,
In the snow, in the rain, in the wind, in the storm;
in all of thy creatures, both the hunters and the hunted…
They affirm thee in living;
all things affirm thee in living;
the bird in the air, both the hawk and the finch;
the beast on the earth, both the wolf and the lamb;…
Therefore man, whom thou hast made
to be conscious of thee,
must consciously praise thee,
in thought and in word and in deed.
Even with the hand to the broom,
the back bent in laying the fire,
the knee bent in cleaning the hearth…
The back bent under toil,
the knee bent under sin,
the hands to the face under fear,
the head bent under grief,
Even in us the voices of the seasons,
the snuffle of winter, the song of spring,
the drone of summer,
the voices of beasts and of birds,
praise thee. ~ T.S. Eliot
Source: Murder in the Cathedral
In South Texas, Winter is often more a word. than a season of bitter cold. But many times a few days after we have celebrated Christmas, Winter makes a sudden, although usually brief, dramatic appearance screaming “Take me seriously!'” Citrus and tropical plants on our back porch did not survive our recent episode. We already talk of replanting, ordering seeds, replacing. But we also hope, waiting to see what life will come back. I am thankful for comfort and good food and warmth for our family, for good hugs and kind touch. I am thankful for talks beside the fire. I am thankful for home.
“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand, and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.” ~ Edith Sitwell0
moss tendrils twine
unharmed by winter wind and ice
needing nothing more
Spanish Moss is very common in our area of the Texas Gulf Coast, and in many areas of the South. It is not a moss at all, but kin to the pineapple. It needs only the moisture in the air for thriving. A freeze does little damage, so in Spring it comes back and continues to grow. Ice build up might make it heavy enough to fall to the ground. But if it does end up grounded, it is not dead. Tossed back to the trees, it will thrive again. Thinning it actually helps it grow.
View from a windowr in our living room
Because our local temperatures have mirrored the widespread hanging on of Winter, I am even more grateful than usual for the warmth of my home and plenty of books to read. But I know that 29 degrees and wind and rain are minor compared to severe cold,snow and ice elsewhere, I am also grateful I don’t need to shovel snow and drive in those hazardous conditions. I know that Spring is around the corner – but I was still smiling in surprise when I saw this redbud tree in full bloom as my husband drove me to the surgery center 2 weeks ago. When we returned this week so I could have sutures removed, I asked him to go the same way so I could look for the tree. There it was, on a corner where we could stop for a quick photograph.
I am thankful for windows, and for vision to see through them to beyond my immediate surroundings. But these would not be enough if I did not pay attention to them. At this very moment, I am in a room with windows but the blinds are closed. By paying attention, I hear not just one but many birds warbling and calling. It is still and there is no sound of rain beating down or wind tossing branches so I know the storm that ushered in this latest cold front has moved on. I am reminded again that being aware and giving attention to my surroundings provide windows and views as well. And I am aware of stirrings within me. There are also seasons of the soul. I welcome Springtime..
In our part of Texas, we seldom have severe winter weather. Although November was colder than most years, December was unusually warm until Christmas. But 2015 turned a cold shoulder on us. It has been wet and cold, with twice the normal amount of rain and very cold – definitely coat, scarf, and glove days. Since we have a few tender plants in our garden, when temperatures are predicted to drop to an extended period of hard freeze, we scuttle about trying to protect plants, pipes, and pets. We haul out our stack of covers and try to secure them in gusts of wind that take cover off as fast as we put it on while we weight or pin it down. We didn’t cover our antique roses, but they seemed to welcome the wet cold days with an extra crop of blooms. I have written before about the difference in color and fragrance in a winter rose bloom, but this round of blooming was so welcome in the bone chilling cold, gray days that I found them particularly welcome. These “Old Roses” are known for their survival. They come from root stock that is known for its stay power. The notable thing is that these roses didn’t just stay alive in the bitter cold and whipping winds. They bloomed anyway.
It is one thing to be grateful for having come from strong roots (the stories of my ancestors tell me over and over how much grit and grace they had)) – but it is another thing to be aware of what I may be passing on to my sons and grandchildren. I want to live in ways that can be described as not just surviving, but blooming anyway.
I like to choose a word at the beginning of each year that I can come back to, like a touchstone in my pocket, over and over again. My word for this new year is ENCOURAGE.
There are times when we can encourage and offer strength to another. There are also times when we are the ones who have need of receiving encouragement, accepting offers of help. I have long loved the following poem. I am reminded of the power of encouragement when I see the scarlet flash of a cardinal and watch him and his mate choose to nest in our garden.
At the Winter Feeder
His feather flame doused dull by icy cold, the cardinal hunched into the rough, green feeder but ate no seed. Through binoculars I saw festered and useless his beak, broken at the root. Then two: one blazing, one gray, rode the swirling weather into my vision and lighted at his side. Unhurried, as if possessing the patience of God, they cracked sunflowers and fed him beak to wounded beak choice meats. Each morning and afternoon the winter long, that odd triumvirate, that trinity of need, returned and ate their sacrament of broken seed.
~ John Leax, professor of English and poet-in-residence at Houghton College:
The falling and melting snow meet in the stream’
That flows with living waters and cleanses the dream.
The reed bends and endures and sees the dove’s winging.’En
Move into the year and the new time’s turning
Open and vulnerable and loving and steady
The stars are aflame; creation is ready.
The day is at hand. The bright sun burns.
Madeleine L’Engle, as quoted in Winter Song, Christmas Readings
By Madeleine L’Engle and Luci Shaw
On the South Texas Gulf coast, Winter brings us more shirt sleeve days than those where we reach for jackets and gloves. Recently, cool wet weather has spurred our roses to fresh bloom. Winter roses have deeper, richer color than those earlier in the year. Their fragrance seems sweeter and more compelling. Part of their brilliance is that they bloom in a stark and colorless garden. Leaves have browned and dropped. Bare twiggy branches stand out against pewter skies. My Winter roses glow againstt this drab palette
Advent days begin with a canvas held down with layers of gray heaviness. With expectantcy we watch for Christmas coming again, and welcome the blooming in our hearts..Christmas comes again, richer, deeper, sweeter, more compelling.
Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming from tender stem hath sprung!
Of Jesse’s lineage coming, as men of old have sung.
It came, a floweret bright, amid the cold of winter,
When half spent was the night.
Isaiah ’twas foretold it, the Rose I have in mind;
Mary we behold it, the Virgin Mother kind.
To show God’s love aright, she bore to us a Savior,
When half spent was the night.
The shepherds heard the story proclaimed by angels bright,
How Christ, the Lord of glory was born on earth this night.
To Bethlehem they sped and in the manger they found Him,
As angel heralds said.
This Flower, whose fragrance tender with sweetness fills the air,
Dispels with glorious splendor the darkness everywhere;
True man, yet very God, from sin and death He saves us,
And lightens every load ~ 15th century carol