According to the weatherman, it’s not winter yet. But here I am with a blanket and huddled next to the fire, watching dried cottonwood leaves on trees as they gently fan back and forth.
My husband tells me it’s 18 degrees outside.
His words make me move closer to the fire and lean into the heating pad. Such comforts!
I think of the man at church who said he’d be deer hunting and camping in the forest this week. I offered him our little cabin, but he declined, saying he was ready for the weather. “I have wood, sleeping bag, and water. I’m ready for whatever comes.”
Well, it’s here. We’ve had rain, sleet, a dusting of snow, and coldness. I think of the man trying to stay warm out there.
Freezing temperatures can hurt you.
I remember reading “To Build a Fire,” a short story by Jack London. Too, I think of my father who got gangrene from walking 70 miles or more in such weather.
I was seventeen when this happened, so I don’t know the full story. He dealt with it like he dealt with World War II. He carried it inside himself and didn’t talk about it.
Around here, the coldness is something to talk about, a ritual complaint.
Most of us are in our comfy homes. We know little about physical suffering except what we experience when we go to the mailbox.
But someday, we’ll be hit with suffering, genuine suffering. Then, we’ll know more, like many veterans of wars.
What happened to my daddy’s feet definitely impacted me. When I hear that snow or ice or a wintry mix is coming, I start washing clothes (in case the pipes freeze), cooking soups and stews (in case the electricity goes off), asking about the car and truck (making sure everything functions).
That’s what helps me—thinking we are as prepared as we can get.
This morning a son called and told me about the death of the dad of a childhood friend in Jonesboro, Arkansas. A huge loss for his friend.
Telling it made it real for him.
I look back through the window at the gray trunks of trees. I see a crisp leaf in its brown uniform wave, then fall.
How easily it seemed to let go and fall.
I don’t go out and pick it up to check it out, but it has veins, a map of its life.
I’ve walked through leaves, raked leaves, piled leaves, fallen into the piles, kicked them, jumped into them, but I’ve never thought of them as being like people dying—people whose lifelines have run out, who eventually had to let go and die to this world.
I usually think about souls being lifted up from their bodies, nothing falling to the ground.
Bear with me here. Like you, I’m not sure where this thing is going. (This happens when the Spirit Muse takes over.)
Branches are not shaking, just the leaves. The trunks stand firm and grow fatter each year as if they know all is well.
Meanwhile, a friend calls. She says her brother is headed for heart surgery. She wants prayers for him and for herself. I’d be asking for the same thing if I were in her situation.
That’s what some of us do. We turn to God and to other believers to pray and ask for God’s best plan. God’s will. Sometimes that’s hard to ask for, even when we know it’s a better plan than ours. Some of you know how hard that is to do.
It’s all around us: the woman using the cane, the crowded ER, the widow who hurts but won’t ask for help, perhaps the man in the tent with a sleeping bag.
What can we do about any of it?
Very little. I feel little at times like this, so I turn to the one thing that remains big in my life. I turn to God who can do anything and everything. I lay my concerns at His feet, then try to pry my hands loose and let go.
Let go, let go, let go like the cottonwood leaves.
I stand and count the leaves I see from the window and am grateful for all the people in my life who are still hanging in here with me.
Gratitude and thanksgiving,
P.S. I thank you, kind readers, for reading and sharing. Please take a look at my poetry books shown at the bottom of this post. The photos link to their Amazon pages. All purchases are appreciated!
Cottonwood leaves in their brown uniforms at Pat's home.
Photographed by Pat Durmon, November 13, 2019.