Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Wednesday, January 20, 2016


CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith for the Years of Winter… ©

I think that I shall never see

            A poem lovely as a tree…

Joyce Kilmer’s Trees was one of the first poems I ever memorized, partly because we sang it at Lucretia Mott Public School # 3 in Indianapolis, partly because it was short and simple, mostly because it rang true to me.

I learned the incorrect version, of course, since we sang it. Kilmer closed it with: Poems are written by fools like me, but only God can make a tree. The song version says: Poems are made by fools like me
I knew more about poems than trees, though, living in the inner city of Indianapolis. It was only when we moved to a farm near Oakland City, Indiana that I really began to understand trees, and to appreciate them.
My father was a good shade-tree botanist. He was an outdoorsman. He knew animals and plants. He could name trees.
On the farm, I learned to love trees and plants, except for the ones I had to hoe in the garden, but I rarely learned their names. I learned the ones everyone knew--maples, oaks, willows, fruit trees in their ripe seasons. I never learned to tell a hickory from an ash, though. All that was really important, it seemed to me, was the shade.
The summers in southern Indiana were long and hot and humid. Life was physical and sweaty. We carried water and fire wood in and out. We heated water on a wood stove and washed clothes in a wringer washer and hung them on a line. We hoed and canned vegetables. We had no air conditioning. We did have electricity, but only one old-fashioned slow-moving table fan.
In our front yard, we had shade trees—big maples. The front yard was open on all sides except for the house. There was almost always a breeze. When the heat became too much, I would flop down on the grass in the front yard, in the shade of those leafy maples, and feel the breeze.
Trees are beautiful in spring and summer and autumn, yes, and their shade is welcome, but in winter, we get to see the trunk and the limbs, those supporters and nurturers of the leaves and flowers. Those “bare ruined choirs” [1] have their own beauty. In winter, we see the beauty of what is below.

John Robert McFarland

1] From Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73.

I started this blog several years ago, when we followed the grandchildren to the “place of winter,” Iron Mountain, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula [The UP]. I put that in the sub-title, Reflections on Faith from a Place of Winter for the Years of Winter, where life is defined by winter even in the summer! [This phrase is explained in the post for March 20, 2014.] The grandchildren, though, are grown up, so in May, 2015 we moved “home,” to Bloomington, IN, where we met and married. It’s not a “place of winter,” but we are still in winter years of the life cycle, so I am still trying to understand what it means to be a follower of Christ in winter…

I tweet as yooper1721.

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