Saturday, January 10, 2009


When we first brought a dog into the family this summer, the walking was a treasured addition to our daily routine. My shift was the morning; Matt's at night. While there were days when it was hard to wake to an earlier alarm, the reward was always so rich, I'd come home filled with gratitude that the responsibility of Ty was bringing me more fully into the natural world surrounding our home.

Our street is set just above the Farmington River, and the bend below our neighborhood leads into a section of rapids suitable for Olympic training. We see enough calm in the water to have our own hearts stilled, but enough action brewing to know that the river is powerful and swift--not for the faint of heart by kayak, canoe or on foot.

Whether climbing over fallen tree limbs beside the river, or hiking up the "mountainside" roads, we knew the summer walks were a gift that winter walks might not be. We celebrated wisely claiming the dog while it was still easy...when the difficult "Please don't make me go out there in that" weather was still months off.

Winter is upon us, and we have seen plenty of New England winter weather to remind us. Two snowstorms sandwiched Christmas in a world of white, and ice kept our kids out of school for some part of nearly every day this past week. There have indeed been mornings and evenings when the wind whips so strong and cold around the corners of our little Cape, neither of us is eager to venture out with the dog. But, oh, the reward when we rich as the summer walks, if not more.

The bare trees leave us exposed to the neighbors, yes (something Matt typically detests), but down near the river, the world is raw and exposed to our eyes. This morning Matt saw a large tree gnawed to its core by a beaver only moments before. The waters swirl around ice formations that are dangerous, yes, but glorious, too. And while Matt has been the morning walker this week, I've had the privilege of the night--with nearly full and full moon guiding me along the ice-covered sidewalks of our still, silent village.

Last night I braved a night walk through a nearby cemetery. I typically adhere to a "don't do anything you wouldn't want your daughter to do" set of rules for where to walk and under what conditions, and on most nights this puts the darkened cemetery well out of my limits, but the moon was full last night and so light, the walk through the centuries-old stones was nearly as bright as day.
Having lived all my life in the northeast, I have seen tree branches after an ice storm before--the distinct, glassy coating that surrounds and separates every tiny branch (and can break off the largest of limbs if thick and heavy enough). I'm not certain I've ever seen the same under the light of a full moon, though. As I moved from the cemetery past the liquor store and pub (the local economy is thriving under the current economic conditions), I decided to extend my sojourn with the night sky with time in our backyard.

Walking circles around the heaven that is our yard, I was astounded at the trees. From just the right angle, every single ice-coated branch reflected the brightness of the moon in a dazzling shimmer of light that seemed a reflection of God Herself. I wondered at the metaphor of this display--do we show God's glory most when we are stripped bare, coated in an icy shield of doubt, questions, anger, authenticity? Is nature yet again teaching me that the cycle of budding new life, growth, and inevitable death and loss yields a glory not yet known or seen? Or was it simply a reminder that even the trees cry out in glory?

In the end, the lesson hardly mattered. I was simply glad for a dog named Ty, the privilege of the walk, and the gift of noticing what was and is and is to be....