O Christmas Tree

O Christmas Tree
It’s time for bed after a long day in the middle of an unusually busy December. I flip off the lights in the living room but sit down on the couch before unplugging the Christmas tree. The room glows in quietness, the shadows painting pine branch patterns on the walls. Isn’t it odd, I think, that every Christmas we cut down pine trees and bring them into our living rooms for a few weeks? I know there’s a long history of this interesting tradition. But my mind skips ahead to the significance of trees, and suddenly the tree as a symbol of  Christmas makes sense. The truth is, I’ve been...
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November Maples

November Maples
The leaves of the maples on the corner have fallen down around their waists. Now they wear only golden skirts poked through with branches. Just a week ago the trees evoked glory, their brilliant cadmium yellow and orange foliage gleaming in sunlight. No one knew how long the peak of autumn color would last. Just a week ago he was still with us. An autumn tree not yet stripped, a season lengthening. No one knew how short this autumn would be, how quickly winter could descend. After today’s rain, we’ll see how many leaves remain on those maples. Tomorrow or the next day or perhaps the day after, just...
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October Zinnias

October Zinnias
It is early October, and I’m walking through my mini courtyard garden on a warm afternoon. Suddenly, a bright, red bloom catches my eye. A zinnia? I can hardly believe it. I had planted two packets of zinnia seeds in springtime, but as soon as the tiny leaves began to poke up from the earth, some unseen critter gobbled them up. I’d decided to try again by planting a few small plants already in bloom, but those, too, were eventually eaten.The bright summer months passed without zinnias. And now, suddenly, a giant blossom appears in my garden!There’s a lesson somewhere in this. The obvious one seems to...
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Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nothing Gold Can Stay
Afternoon sun stripes the dark green grass with the rich, golden timbre of September, sending illuminated ribbons into the shadows between the trees that crowd around the creek. A few stems of goldenrod rise like fountains from between the gray rocks along the uphill slope. Not long from now, and almost before dinner, the trees will become silhouettes against the pale evening, all gold drained from the sky and absorbed into the pink surface of cirrostratus clouds. It was the poet Robert Frost who wrote, “Nothing gold can stay.” For all the poems celebrating the substance of autumn splendor, there are...
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The Garden of Prayer

The Garden of Prayer
I’m walking through shady woods on a warm Saturday afternoon, shafts of golden sunlight illuminating the variety of pine, ash, beech and hemlock trees along the trail. Somewhere unseen, water rushes over a rocky creek bed winding its way down the North Carolina mountainside. The aura in these woods is unlike any I’ve ever experienced. Not because of any especially unique landscape or unusual beauty, but because a special peace permeates the atmosphere beyond the typical tranquility of woods. This peace is God’s peace. Along the twists and turns of the trails are wooden benches and inscriptions of...
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