Reflection on an Advent Morning

I know the contours of this land as intimately as I know the arc of Advent: the slope of the pasture and height of the ridge, the thick canopy of the pine forest and black deep of the pond. I walk every morning on an unchanging trail, secure in the embrace of these steadfast mountains believed to be the oldest in the world.mountain-valley

But, behold, today, a flock of wild turkeys strutting up the grassy hill. Yesterday, a sparkling mist draped the dark trunks of the oaks, and the day before the heavens opened wide to pour out a cleansing rain. Unexpected gifts. A swirl of red and gold leaves surrendering to an autumn wind. A spider web dripping with dew. Spiny horse chestnuts and mottled black walnuts fallen on the path. A riot of pink ladyslippers poking their heads through the damp spring earth, and a huddle of delicate Queen Anne’s lace nodding in a summer dawn. The insistent call of a red-tailed hawk answered with the operatic song of a wood thrush, echoed in the eerily plaintive cry of a screech owl. A shimmering rainbow spanning the cove, and a pink cloud hovering below blue peaks against a sunset-scarlet sky. Enough to take one’s breath away.

This land is always the same. And always changing. Like Advent.

As we walk once more the well-worn path from Hope, through Peace and Joy, to Love, let us take comfort in the familiarity of the way. Let us light each candle with intention, a signpost to guide us through the gathering darkness. We have been here before. It is all the same. And surprises beyond our imagining await us.

Coyote Calls

I didn’t sleep well last night. I could say that the violent images and roiling emotions of the week kept me awake, but that would be only partly true. It was the coyotes. It was Saturday night and the coyotes were having a party on the ridge.


Bill and I moved into our home tucked into the Blue Ridge Mountains north of Asheville, North Carolina, exactly two years ago. The generous owners of the land next to us give us free access to their 120 acres with pastures, a pine forest, and pond. Trails wind under sheltering canopies of laurel and rhododendron up to a stunning ridgetop view. The first time we climbed to the top and sat reveling in a panorama that gleamed in the rays of a setting sun, I whispered “Coyote.”

“Do you hear one?” Bill asked.

“No. I see one.” She was lean and a surprising beige-yellow color, ambling toward a blackberry thicket and glowing in the golden light of dusk. Continue reading