The Gift of Yellow Leaves
If there be wood sprites at play upon this land let them dress up in all the yellows of a late autumn day. Glorious October yellow stands of unruly tamarack, meandering branches that twist and turn like dervishes, sublime with ecstasy, begin our journey across the enchanted north woods. Poplar and birch, both paper and gray, rise up on sturdy, ballet toes, twirl exuberantly yellow beyond compare. Even the few not yet naked maples glint yellow amid a myriad of other colors. You would never call it an explosion of yellow, or accuse the lemon forest of being ablaze. No, the lemon woods is too light, too sweet and far too happy for that. It is, simply, joy. It is nothing less than rapture alive and dancing brightly across the woods. I can, with freshly enlivened and gladdened soul, extend my happy thanks to have been graced with a front row seat in this good fortuned theater.
We might question the absurdity of such extravagant joy in so brutal a today both here and around the world. The ugly crime of war itself belittles the embedded war crimes many times over. The rape of nature to fulfill our bottomless desires, the ravages of racism and the terrible, mortal sin of poverty and homelessness – whether in Wausau or a refugee camp – seem to scream out against the honesty of heartfelt gratitude and the grace of happiness.
Indeed, we live our lives in a global state of emotional chaos, not unlike Io, Jupiter’s hyper volcanic moon. Caught between the gravitational tug of spiritual ecstasy and the crushing pull of soul wrenching grief, we roil in our guts, suspended between such overpowering poles. This, partly, gives me reason to take such pleasure in the woods, our clear and living lakes and streams and fertile wetlands. I need the dynamic power of nature in all its splendid forms to supercharge me out of the spiritual paralysis so easily created in us as we hang suspended between the forces of good and evil. We must break free, we must move and act for tomorrow’s babies, be they human or otherwise.
So many of us focus on a heaven made in our dreamiest imaginations that we miss the hallowed ground on which we daily tread. We search the universe for angels, and miss the evanescent spirits that live next door, or that sleep in a cardboard box under a nearby bridge. We fail to recognize the saint clothed in skin of a different hue than ours, or the holy spirit in the stream just down a bit from a proposed, water poisoning mine. What good is a church pew if it does not lead us to acts of love, without exception? What good the sermon if we leave the nave with more regard for money than for a healthy healthy stand of woods?
In this lonely universe isn’t it time we saw the holy miracle we have right here, right today? Isn’t it time to give thanks and tender care with our every action and our every word? We will not find salvation in a giant bank account, nor in the security we hope to buy with weapons. Salvation is found in clear-eyed gratitude and acts of love and equitable justice on Earth today.