Advent 1 - "Winter Weather"
It was warm and sunny in Charlotte, N. C. where daughter Torre, son-in-law Dave and I joined in with his family’s afternoon Thanksgiving gathering last week. Mid-afternoon mid 60’s weather offered no hint of the wintertime our landscape was Falling into. The Thanksgiving food feast over, the evening turned colder. We drifted toward the circle of Adirondack chairs surrounding the backyard firepit, a favorite family gathering place. Warmed by the blazing bonfire as I listened to their conversation, the recounting of the stories of a family that had embraced me on this holiday when I was far from my homeplace, I felt part of something timeless, lulled into contentment, fullness, and peace.
Dave, Torre, and I, along with Wally their Basset Hound (of course family dogs were part of the gathering) left Charlotte a little late that night for our trip back to Torre’s and Dave’s home in the “high country” of Boone in the mountains of western North Carolina. Winter met us along the way as the weather turned, cold and blustery. The wind picked up, rain pelted the car as we wound our way along the higher roadways up the mountain through Blowing Rock and then further up into Boone.
Wally, who prefers ground beneath his feet over riding in moving vehicles in any weather, crawled from Torre’s lap in the front passenger seat through the open console to the back seat where I was tucked away and tried to sprawl out in my lap. I characterize Wally’s demeanor and behavior when on solid ground, as extroverted, buoyant, attentive, and protective of his humans. Moving cars make him nervous and unusually quiet – but heavy weather messing with our travel that night in the darkness really unnerved him, as he moved around seeking sanctuary to hunker down and wait out the journey home. Reaching home, finally, everyone headed for bed.
I was the first up the next morning, headed downstairs to greet the early morning, dawn just beginning to emerge over the mountain ridge that rings Boone. Torre and Dave’s house, perched on the side of the mountain overlooking Boone offers an amazing view at any time of year, but this morning’s view was primal and stunning. Winter had broken into our world overnight. On the inside of large windows framing my view outward, I sheltered in place but felt enveloped in the unfolding drama. Trees swayed in the cold wind rolling over the mountain ridge. Trunks bending, starkly dark limbs, outlined against a grey sky, moving, dancing as if to some primal drumbeat only they could hear sounding from a center deep within the mountain. The wind, almost bruising, strained the foundation of the trees whose network of roots, intertwined, strained back, holding on for dear life to that mountainside in which they are grounded. Rock formations also rooted in the mountainside stood firm, but subject to inescapable wind and water weathering subtly but surely sculpting their hardness over time into what they were meant to become. I wondered if they trembled to the touch of the cold and the wind as I experienced a kind of quiet compassion rising deep within me. A heavy cloud cover hovered over the landscape as a sunrise struggled to brush the mountainsides with its golden touch.
After a moment or two I sensed another presence join me as I felt warm breath brushing my ankles. I was not alone. I looked into Wally’s eyes as he looked up at me, seeming to say, “I’m with you too.” And, in that exchange I sensed our shared understanding that we, small, insignificant creatures were in the presence of something much larger, very intentional holding us, sheltering us, offering us sanctuary in a timeless still center point.
Biblically, mountain experiences offer epiphany moments. I go back and will over time go back again and again to the landscape I found myself on last Friday, the morning after Thanksgiving. When I found myself held in a timeless, mesmerizing space as the stunning power of Creation unfolded around me. At the still center point of that experience, I know I was made aware of the reality that heaven and earth are not separate “zones” but intertwine either subtly or dramatically. Experiencing a knowing, at least for some moments in the human-made construct of our time on earth that we are always in the presence of a Creator of all that was and is and yet will be. A Universal Timeless Sacred Holy Oneness. And that we are not just onlookers, but integrally entwined within a timeless design that cycles through the seasons of our landscapes, not just the geographic ones but those within the body and soul of all living things. When things Fall away and Winter breaks in, deep within the earth of our being life seeded to emerge again shelters, waiting for that moment it feels stirrings into new life. That warm winds and gentler weather and the sun breaking through a steel grey winter sky will come over and over again in our Creator’s timeless design to awaken us to a Spring arising and a Summer becoming.
In this Advent season may we awaken to this knowing
and prepare for this becoming.