the winter hill: God speaks in seasons
Every year I try to love winter. A little bit, at least, as much as a Midwesterner ought. I usually fail, flounder by February with dramatic declarations about how much I hate snow and sub-zero temps and skin cracked so dry it bleeds.
But this year I’m trying to be humbled by the cold dark, trying to see what I can learn from stark outlines of bare trees against white skies.
Maybe it’s because I have new views from windows to notice this year, or because the winter has been (mostly) light on snow. But I find myself drawn to the dark lines of the landscape around me, the hills that slowly emerged as leaves blew away last fall.
When we moved here in the spring, the homes around us were hidden behind green trees and lush grass and rows of shrubs. Our new house was tucked into a corner of a hill with woods behind, and I marveled at the soft roll of the land as we walked through the neighborhood. But until winter stripped the yards bare, I didn’t realize how dramatic the hills leapt up around us, how many more I could spy from our upstairs window than I ever imagined when they were hidden in summer’s lush leaves.
At first I felt silly about discovering the hills six months after we moved in. What had I thought was underneath the rising sweep of trees around the road’s bend? But I couldn’t follow the fullness of the line until it was traced white with snow, the hills rolling higher and reaching further than my summer eyes could see.
Every morning now I rise to watch the hills, still surprised to them wrapping around me in this new place I call home.
. . .
I notice God in seasons. The surprise of springtime buds after the long winter, promised and delivered. The lush drench of summer green, fertile and waiting. The burst of autumn leaves, brilliant and fleeting. The hushed blanket of winter snow, stilling and silencing.
I find that God speaks differently as the seasons turn. However I feel or see or hear God at the time, whether in whispers or in silence, in laughter or in wind, it seems amplified by the world outside and echoed in the land around me. Like the shimmer of a summer lake in the brightness of morning or the cold blue dark of white stars scattered in fall’s night sky. God’s voice becomes warmer or colder, soaked or dry, brightly colored or drabbed in grey.
If I open my eyes, if I pause to look around, I am surprised every single time to find God there, outside as well as within, fuller than I expected.
. . .
Lately as I watch the hills, the words of Wendell Berry sift through my mind:
The hill is like an old woman, all her human obligations met, who sits at work day after day, in a kind of rapt leisure, at an intricate embroidery. She has time for all things. Because she does not expect ever to be finished, she is endlessly patient with details. She perfects flower and leaf, feather and song, adorning the briefest life in great beauty as though it were meant to last forever.
(from MaryAnn McKibben Dana’s Sabbath blog)
I love the image of God as the hill – the old woman resting in pure delight of her craft. Working and waiting. Patient and at peace. Resting in the beauty of the moment around her.
When the world presses in with its frantic whirling, I find stillness and strength in this image of the hills: God’s steady, quiet witness to our lives rolling on around the strong, silent center.
She has time for all things. I wonder if this is what draws my eyes to the hills this winter: a longing for more time, deeper time, fuller time. For a God whose strong silence stills the racing worry of my own heart and mind.
For a God whose depth and width and breadth I can only start to trace when the world around me grows cold and dark.