Springtime stirs in the last of her sleep. Winter lingers awhile longer in the Black Hills, but the earth is warming, primed for life and growing and greenness. As much as I love the winter, I’m craving flowers and sunlight and bare feet and sun-warmed skin. I revel in lung-filling breaths that don’t hurt, and breezes that don’t sting, and light with more color. What a glorious time of year.
Rivulets of melt glisten on the roads, trickling from rocks and roofs and hillsides with the sound of warmth. The memory of winter fades. There is mud everywhere and on everything, absolutely inescapable. The sky is ridiculously blue.
The silence of winter has been broken: by the calls of birds coming back after their winter vacation, that quality of the wind music that is somehow different than in the winter (though I can’t say how, exactly), the buzz of insects, the sound of moving water, the soft noise of wet earth underfoot. Fragrances that go dormant in the winter come alive in the first warming days of spring. The scent of the pine trees. The scent of the good earth.
Earth has slept the sleep of winter. At last it’s time to wake.
With snow in the forecast, we welcome the first day of spring!
The 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.
I’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.
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.
Autumn 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.
Autumn 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.
Autumn 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.Autumn 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.
Autumn is here. Winter is on her way. So we revel in the last fleeting warmth, but also look forward to another glorious season.
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.
Aspens 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.
In 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.
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.The 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.
The 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.
When 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.I 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. 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.Now, 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. For 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.
Medieval 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.
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!
The 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.
Snow 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.
Living 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.
I 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.