Friday, 2 March 2012

Whose Woods These Are

And, as promised at the end of my last post, here is the rest of the story...

From January 6, 2012 

As I thought, I turned eastward toward the forest.  This is one of my favourite places, partly due to a very old and interesting tree that seems to have been the site of a tree house long ago, and because it stands on the edge of the forest.  I walked toward the edge of our property and stood gazing into the woods, listening to the sound of the stillness.  Often I have stood on this spot, the woods calling me to enter and explore, but I have turned away either without the time or the proper clothing, longing for warm summer days in which to take long walks through these woods and discover their paths.  But on this day I could not turn away.  I stood listening to the birds, drawn to enter the woods, yet loathing the sound of my own footsteps.  The last thing I wanted to do was to disturb the stillness which was beginning to surround me and draw me into itself.

The draw was greater than I could resist and so I entered, the snow crunching under my feet.  Yet the birds seemed not to care.  Perhaps the sound I made was no more than that of a young deer wandering through the woods looking for nourishment in the undergrowth.  Perhaps they were simply too occupied with their own quest for food to notice my slow movement below.  Whatever the case, I moved slowly through the trees, away from the woods’ edge, stopping to listen to the activity overhead.

There was a woodpecker, I was sure.  I peered through the branches above but could not see the busy bird.  But I could hear him, though whether he was digging a hole in which to nest or simply looking for bugs in the tree’s bark I could not tell. 

I stood amid the trees, an audience of one, listening to the orchestra playing above me.  Chiming in with the woodpecker was the distinct call of the chickadees.  As if on cue, the music of other sections of the aviary orchestra rose and fell and rose again.  Soft tweet-tweets, raspy caw-caws, and the percussive notes of the unseen woodpecker, together sang of the beauty over which they flew.  Never have I heard a more peaceful, beautiful symphony.

I watched, hoping to catch a glimpse of the feathered musicians, and occasionally was rewarded with the sight of a bird flying to a new perch, as the fluttering of his wings joined the chorus.  Often I saw a branch sway with its changing load as birds came and went from the perch it offered.

I moved deeper into the woods, feeling as if I were sneaking backstage, listening in on a private performance not meant for human ears.  Yet this heavenly music is there, falling on the ears of all willing to stop and listen.

Stop.  Listen.  This is the sound of stillness, a stillness so full that even my blood resisted flowing through my veins so as not to disturb it, or possibly to become part of it. 

“Be still, and know that I am God,” we are encouraged by the psalmist.  But what does it mean to be still?  Here was the answer before me.  To be still, truly still, is complete contentment.  Nothing else matters.  All is peaceful.  All is right.  All is beautiful.  Can this be found amid the trials of life?  Only in the presence of God, as the stillness of these woods can be experienced amid the craziness of the world, but only when we take the time to stop and feel it.  I could hear traffic, far off traffic, traffic that did not drown out the sound of the silence.  I was most definitely still in the world, but I felt not part of it in those moments.

Gradually the cold began to invade my solitude in the form of pain in my earlobes and discomfort in my legs.  Still I hesitated to leave.  The stillness I had found was greater than even the pain of the cold.  Yet the cold served to remind me that I could not stay in the woods forever.  I had to return to the house, to life, and a good life it is.

I turned and reluctantly left the wintery woods, the symphony playing on behind me.  One last check in the barn to make sure doors were secure and the animals were content, and I headed back across the pasture towards the house, knowing now where peace resides.

Some Poetry...

My time in the woods, especially in winter, often brings to mind one of my favourite poems, "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening" by Robert Frost.  As I thought about this well-loved poem, another thought occured to me and when I returned to the house I decided to re-write it.  I hope Mr. Frost would be flattered by the attempt and not insulted that I would change his original poem.  Loving the poem as I do, I then had to look up the full original, and did another re-write keeping much closer to the original.  Both are below, along with Robert Frost's original poem.

Whose Woods These Are

Whose woods these are I think I know,
His house is in the heavens, though.
He feeds the birds in treetops tall
He knows each one and if they fall.
The winter stillness, midst the snow,
Falling on all we below,
Fills my heart with peaceful bliss
As snowflakes to the branches kiss.
I wander through these woods so deep,
Wishing all the while to keep
The peace and stillness in my heart
E’en when these woods and I must part.
I long to stay here ‘neath the trees
Drinking in the pine-fed breeze,
But I’ve got promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
                           January 7, 2012

Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening
By Robert Frost 1874–1963 Robert Frost
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
And my version...
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the Heavens, though;
He always sees me stopping here
To rest my weary heart and soul.
And though the world may think it queer
To stop and then incline my ear
To hear the One whose comfort makes
Bearable the darkest time of year.
He holds me close although I shake
Because of guilt o’er some mistake
His promise clear that He will keep
Me ever in His warm embrace.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have strength from Him to keep
Me going on until I sleep,
To live for Him until I sleep.
                               January 16, 2012

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