Jared is studying a mix of meteorology, ornithology, and botany this year in science. Our local park system did a program last year where they hiked the same trail once a month for twelve months. That is just an excellent idea, and I thought it would be a great way for Jared to apply all three of his science disciplines in one project. So, I decided back in August that we would do our own version as a 2011 event.
And then January came… It snowed, and snowed, and snowed. Not that I haven’t gotten used to snow in the time we’ve lived here. But the snow piled upon snow and ice and cold just did not inspire us to nature walk. Before I knew it, January had slipped away. I thought about the plan a couple times in early February and decided we had plenty of time. Then, last week happened. We hadn’t seen grass in months for the snow pack, but it all reappeared in just a few short days of warm weather. The creeks and rivers swelled and flooded and the lovely whiteness turned to wet, muddy yuckiness seemingly overnight. I lamented our project plan. I already missed January and now we have to start out with ugly, dead snow melt?
No worries…spring isn’t here quite yet! The snow returned, introduced by an ice storm. The whole world seemed to glitter in crystal glass, the sun shining through the multi-faceted jewel of tree branches. We put on our layers and headed out to our chosen trail for the first monthly visit.
I picked this trail, because it has both woods and water. They call it a lake, but I would probably use pond as the term. In the fall and winter, the water level dwindles to near nothingness, but that snow melt and refreeze really helped create a lovely frozen wonderland.
The light was so glaringly bright and the ice so dazzling, that I felt like we had been transported inside a prism. Made me wish I’d gotten out more this winter. No matter how many layers it took.
Lent is coming. Even though it is starting late this year, it seems like it snuck up on us. We Orthodox never celebrate without preparing, and Lent is such a glorious preparation that we even prepare for it. So we prepare to prepare with the weeks leading up to Lent. The stories tell us where we’re going…Zacchaeus…the Publican and the Pharisee…the Prodigal Son. That’s where we are this week, with just two Sunday’s to go. This week it really starts to sound like Lent, as we sing the mournful song of Psalm 136(137).
By the waters of Babylon,
there we sat down, we sat down and wept,
when we remembered Zion. Alleluia.
The Israelites were carried off to captivity in Babylon, and the pain of that move ripped the soul. Their captors expected life to just go on in a different place, but the Israelites knew it wasn’t about the body…it was about the soul. “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” As I looked at the depths of winter around me, surrounded by ice and barrenness, I said those words out loud…How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?
Babylon is not just a Biblical place from long ago. Babylon is the world right here and now. It is a symbol of all sin. Extreme separation from God. Extreme rejection of God. The winter of the soul.
Lent is coming. The chance to rip out of the bonds of iciness. The opportunity to breathe the warm breeze of spring. But we have to start here. We have to acknowledge the freeze, or we’ll never recognize the thaw.
The Psalm and the song end with a battle cry.
Blessed is He who takes your little ones and
dashes them against the stones.
The evils of Babylon. The offspring of darkness that sets up in our lives and entangles itself in our souls. Little ones who destroy in a catastrophic way. Sin…it is everywhere in me.
There is a victory, though. There is One…the One…who takes the death, and sin, and frozen darkness and crushes it. Who tramples down death by His death. Who grants life to all those in the tombs. Dashing evil against the stones.
Everything and everyone seems asleep around me in this world so cold. Yet it shines and glimmers and quickens with days like this, when God shows Himself in full color…using only shades of white.
Lent is coming. The Resurrection is coming. Blessed is Christ who destroys the power of sin in explosive triumph. The world is in icy slumber, but soon we will wake up. Spring is coming. Pascha is coming. We’ll sing again in Zion. We’ll celebrate again in the purity of a different kind of whiteness. Blessed is He who battles. Blessed is He who conquers. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!
We had set out to do this last year on the new bike/walking trail near our home. I got in observations for April, May, and June, and they were fascinating. Ducks swimming in the flooded grass, baby swans, turtles, a great blue heron …And then we never went back. I am looking forward to try again this year. I was thinking we could start as soon as the snow melts, probably a few weeks from now. Isn’t it just so fitting that Great Lent and Pascha are juxtaposed with spring?